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Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets - Wall Street Journal
October 2, 2008 2:01 PM   Subscribe

As dollar flounders, inmates stack mackerel
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (70 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Abalone.
posted by XMLicious at 2:04 PM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


You just posted this for the halibut, didn't you.
posted by yhbc at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Packs of Fish Catch On as Currency, Former Inmates Say; Officials Carp

Are there enough fish-based puns in this story?
posted by hellojed at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2008


I try not to be too shellfish, it would be rude to keep all the puns to myself.
posted by XMLicious at 2:08 PM on October 2, 2008


Best HedCut ever.
posted by ninjew at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead of stripes, they should be wearing herring-bone.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2008


Cripes, the WSJ published this? Complete with the pointillist portrait of the inmate. It's not news - it's some sort of Dada social commentary.
Mr. Roberts, who was released in 2007 after serving eight years on a methamphetamine charge at prisons including the La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution in Texas, says he got busted for various piscine transactions.
La Tuna prison? You're kidding me. I knew this smelt funny.
posted by GuyZero at 2:14 PM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is an awesome story. I love reading about alternative currencies born out of necessity.
posted by grouse at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2008


I'm waiting for the band-name suggestions to come in. Stacking Mackerel seems like a very good one.
posted by kingbenny at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's nothing fishy about La Tuna.
posted by grouse at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2008


There's nothing fishy about La Tuna.

I guess if you gotta do your time in the can, it might as well be in La Tuna.
posted by GuyZero at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2008 [10 favorites]


I hear that the real source of the current crisis in mackerel economics is all of the Cod-platter-alized Dock Obligations and Scallop Default Scrod.
posted by XMLicious at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


@kingbenny

Stacking Mackerel is the midget cover band of Stabbing Westward?
posted by The Power Nap at 2:20 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now ask yourself... Who's the Mack?
posted by porn in the woods at 2:20 PM on October 2, 2008


If you ate the fish, but kept the packaging, do you think it would still be worth as much?
posted by tracert at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2008


"Stacking Mackrel" sounds like an unpleasant prison euphemism.

JOE: Hey, don't go in there.
TONY: Why not?
JOE: Dave's in there... "stacking mackerel".
TONY: Goddamn.
posted by GuyZero at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


I would expect it worthless if eaten - it's a fiat currency. It probably got selected based on the fact that it would stay in circulation for a long time since mackerel kind of sucks (as the article indicates). The dynamics of the prison economy based on mackerel would be very different with mackerel versus cigarettes since it gets consumed at a much lower rate than tobacco. Seems like inflation would be running rampant.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on October 2, 2008


So, this economy is WHOLLY MACKEREL!
posted by brundlefly at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2008 [15 favorites]


I had the same thought as GuyZero. Also, the article mentions that inmates about to be released often "cash out," further adding to inflation worries.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:44 PM on October 2, 2008


Oh man, I wanted to make a fish pun, but I'm floundering....I got nothin.
posted by RussHy at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is brill.
posted by mandal at 2:53 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mackereleconomics? As opposed to Minnoweconomics?
posted by dontoine at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Fascinating article.
posted by ericb at 3:00 PM on October 2, 2008


I see this as a step up from the more traditional bitch-based economy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:03 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mack the Knife?
posted by Bitter soylent at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2008


brundlefly : So, this economy is WHOLLY MACKEREL!

I hate you for this.
posted by quin at 3:17 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hate to pass on a fish pun, but my eye was drawn to the Federal Prison ban on smoking -- I know life isn't supposed to be cushy for men in the pokey, but doesn't this seem a bit cruel and unusual? A man can't have a smoke while hanging around in the yard?
posted by sloweducation at 3:20 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Carp per diam!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:31 PM on October 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


GuyZero:
The dynamics of the prison economy based on mackerel would be very different with mackerel versus cigarettes since it gets consumed at a much lower rate than tobacco. Seems like inflation would be running rampant.

Maybe, maybe not. Mackerel is pegged to another currency (the dollar) by the prison commissary. Since prisoners can only get dollars through labor, the injection of new currency into the system is tied to labor. A prisoner might earn mackerel through legitimate occupations (e.g. making license plates) and thus generate more currency. But that's time NOT spent on black market occupations (making pruno, trimming hair) that would earn mackerel and (I assume) be more lucrative per unit of labor. So inflation likely occurs at a reasonable rate that's tied to actual productivity.

As for departing prisoners, that's essentially the same as someone dying and leaving an estate behind. Some small group of people get a sudden windfall, but that hasn't increased the total currency supply, just disseminated it a bit more widely.

Interesting stuff!
posted by xthlc at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hate to pass on a fish pun, but my eye was drawn to the Federal Prison ban on smoking -- I know life isn't supposed to be cushy for men in the pokey, but doesn't this seem a bit cruel and unusual? A man can't have a smoke while hanging around in the yard?

I believe they give them nicotine patches or gum. As someone who's tried both, I have to say this is a very cruel approach. The nicotine pills work a lot better, but maybe some adminstrative person in the prison system had concerns about people using nicotine pills for a recreational high. I mean, when ketchup can get you high, I suppose it's a legitimate concern.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:36 PM on October 2, 2008


I dunno if I believe this. Seems a little fishy to me.
posted by dersins at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2008


doesn't this seem a bit cruel and unusual?

You think they should skate through life? Prison is supposed to be crappie. If someone is lured into crime, it should haunt their breams. They only deserve the opportunaty to mullet over and make peace with their cod.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:41 PM on October 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


Mackerel is pegged to another currency (the dollar)

Really? I thought it was floating.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


The lure of easy money.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2008


Not sure about this story either. I think I'll mullet over.
posted by preparat at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2008


Damn EMRJKC '94! Your comment is several scales better than mine.
posted by preparat at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2008


I know life isn't supposed to be cushy for men in the pokey

It's pokey for men in the tushy :(
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:50 PM on October 2, 2008


Since prisoners can only get dollars through labor

Is this true? I was under the impression that families were allowed to send a limited amount of money to prisoners to spend in the commissary.

I take your point though in that it's no more inflationary than a regular economy where wealth is being created daily. I still think that it's a lot more inflationary than cigarettes where people are literally burning through currency. No one ever had a problem stockpiling smokes I assume.
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on October 2, 2008


I'm really very sorry.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:15 PM on October 2, 2008


What would Ron Paul say about this?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2008


He'd say: Let's Get Tanked!
posted by tommasz at 4:21 PM on October 2, 2008


Thank god these people are under lox and key!
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


What would Ron Paul say about this?

Taking the oft-proferred advice, I googled ""Ron Paul" mackerel".

I found nothing of interest. Poor advice, Ron Paul supporters.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:00 PM on October 2, 2008


Mackerel is pegged to another currency (the dollar) by the prison commissary.

But it's only pegged in one direction: you can buy mackerel at an exchange rate of 1 mackerel/dollar, but you can't ever (directly) sell your mackerel back into dollars.
posted by Pyry at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2008


In the hour or two since I saw this, the pun 'mackerel economics' has set it's fishhooks deeply into my brain.
posted by mwhybark at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2008


Henry Paulson must be all over this shit
posted by matteo at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2008


and by the way, Rupert Murdoch has managed to take a perfectly fine -- except for its cheerfully fascistic editorial section -- newspaper and turned it into The Onion -- an unfunny Onion, that is.

one fears to imagine what he'd do to the already discredited New York Times.
posted by matteo at 5:30 PM on October 2, 2008


blah blah Fish Stock Collapse blah
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 PM on October 2, 2008


Not really surprising that this fish would become the replacement for cigarettes as the currency of choice. After all, you can smoke mackerel. You can even can smoked mackerel, but that's a whole different kettle of fish.

I'll get me coat.
posted by kcds at 6:04 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


DO YOUR HOMEWORK! GOOGLE MRS. PAUL!
posted by swell at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


She's shacked up with the Gorton's Fisherman and Arthur Treacher.
posted by jonmc at 6:29 PM on October 2, 2008


I guess if you gotta do your time in the can, it might as well be in La Tuna.

I hear they pack them in like sardines there.

Am I really the first person to bring up sardines?
posted by TedW at 6:40 PM on October 2, 2008


and by the way, Rupert Murdoch has managed to take a perfectly fine -- except for its cheerfully fascistic editorial section -- newspaper and turned it into The Onion -- an unfunny Onion, that is.

The WSJ had the traditionally silly center column before Murdoch bought the paper. When he got the journal and moved it to smaller format paper, the center column seemed to go away. This is more of a throwback to the good old days.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:38 PM on October 2, 2008


"Cripes, the WSJ published this? Complete with the pointillist portrait of the inmate. It's not news - it's some sort of Dada social commentary."

"and by the way, Rupert Murdoch has managed to take a perfectly fine -- except for its cheerfully fascistic editorial section -- newspaper and turned it into The Onion -- an unfunny Onion, that is."
Yeah, as bltr0t points out, this is the A-hed. Here's some history.
posted by Jahaza at 8:11 PM on October 2, 2008


I still think that it's a lot more inflationary than cigarettes where people are literally burning through currency.

I think, though, that the less-desirable cigarettes that no one wants to smoke are the currency cigarettes.
posted by Airhen at 8:16 PM on October 2, 2008


"if you gotta do your time in the can, it might as well be in La Tuna."

This is a tagline in need of a movie.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:24 PM on October 2, 2008


The real story here is the deplorable state of USA's inmate population. The mackerel is just a red herring.
posted by headless at 9:23 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't have a pun, but I'm hoping that a silver lining on our failing economy would be a chain of fish restaurants called Dollar Flounders.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:14 PM on October 2, 2008


This is now the strangest bit of trivia I know, considering that it doesn't even relate to a country I live in. I will attempt to seed some conversations with it but... people will think I'm joking.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:41 PM on October 2, 2008


(best maybe then to rail. I'M TELLING YOU PEOPLE THEY'RE USING MACKERAL IN PRISONS AS MONEY! MACKERAL MONEY!)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:43 PM on October 2, 2008


I think, though, that the less-desirable cigarettes that no one wants to smoke are the currency cigarettes.

There are no less-desirable cigarettes.
posted by ghost of a past number at 10:44 PM on October 2, 2008


Mackerel sky, Mackerel sky,
never long wet, never long dry


thin stripy clouds, like the stripes on the side of a mackerel, mean that there's fast air aloft, indicating a change in the weather.

This whole thread is reminding me of a wet dream.
posted by Araucaria at 11:17 PM on October 2, 2008


Actually, it's too bad they don't use herring instead. It's the best overall source of Vitamin D and Omega 3 oils, while being relatively low in mercury.
posted by Araucaria at 11:20 PM on October 2, 2008


I think a diet including fish is probably more healthy than one without.
posted by grouse at 11:29 PM on October 2, 2008


I found this bit interesting: That's what Mr. Levine did when he got out of prison last year. Since then, he's set up a consulting business offering advice to inmates and soon-to-be prisoners.

I guess the US prison population is big enough to make this a viable business?

On an unrelated note: Here in Norway, canned mackerel in tomato sauce is a popular sandwich spread. My four-year-old loves the stuff.
posted by Harald74 at 11:38 PM on October 2, 2008


$700 billion bait-out.
posted by Elmore at 11:53 PM on October 2, 2008


When I was a poor college student, I used to feed myself and some poorer young neighbors on rice and mackerel. I'm rather fond of the stuff, actually, but these days, I seriously limit how much fish I eat.
posted by Goofyy at 12:28 AM on October 3, 2008


It probably got selected based on the fact that it would stay in circulation for a long time since mackerel kind of sucks

Fruitcakes proved to be too bulky.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:56 AM on October 3, 2008


They could have used playing cards.
posted by QIbHom at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2008


.
posted by jackmakrl at 11:18 AM on October 3, 2008


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