Saturday, October 4, 2008

How Many Mackerels Would It Take To Bail Out the Banks?

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on prison economics and a series of execrable puns by Justin Sheck. See if you can find them all. "Mackerel Economics" is the least of your worries.

Interviewing an impressive array of white collar crooks, from lawyers to computer hackers, Sheck gets straight answers to good questions. The irony that the story oozes like mackerel oil is all between the lines.

It appears that since cigarettes have been banned by federal prisons, plastic foil pouches of Mackerel, (tins were phased out because they could be weaponized) worth roughly a dollar at prison commissaries, have become the new currency. Unlike cigarettes, they are useless outside of prison, and convicts trade them purely as units of exchange: there are very few who actually eat them.

Even stranger is that gifting or even possessing large quantities of Mackerel has become an offense, because it is evidence of an economy that the prison cannot control. Something neither the prisoners, nor the prisons, nor the federal government can control is a weakening of the mackerel in these hard times. Though this has been slightly offset by a mackerel shortage in the fisheries. The Global Economy dizzies.

So, yes, prisoners pay for . . . all sorts of things . . . with mackerel. They even play poker for mackerel. If a guard comes by, they say they are playing Go Fish.

I'm sorry. I had to.

(thanks to The British Marine Life Study Society for the photo)