Gambling School’s physical facility is substantially different than that of Poverty School. The prison colony in its entirety is securely enclosed under one vast corrugated tin roof, which leaks. Everywhere throughout the acres under that roof are seemingly endless hundreds of gambling devices—one vast casino stretching from end to end of the colony. The walls, of thick reinforced concrete, contain no windows and but one door, which is heavily guarded. The roof’s many leaks are never directly over the gambling machines.

This uninsulated place is poorly heated in winter, unremittingly hot in summer. There is no privacy and no place to hide. There are no bedrooms and no beds. A few flimsy tables hold gambling devices, but none at all are available for eating the usually soggy food available only from undersized and poorly maintained dispensing machines, which are few, hard to find, and frequently moved about. There are no chairs anywhere, as all activities in the casino are designed to be accomplished while standing. A few urinals and unpleasantly cold metal prison-style commodes, insufficient in number for the inmate population, are affixed to the walls in open public areas every hundred fifty feet.

With inmates and other contents, Gambling School’s casino is crowded. It is impossible to go from any point to any other point without passing through endless confusedly winding corridors densely packed with slot machines, electronic roulette, blackjack, and dozens more of the normal accoutrements of gambling casinos so routinely rigged to favor the house. In Gambling School, rigging to favor the house is triple the usual fix.

Inmates consist entirely of white collar criminals—primarily but not exclusively Ponzi artists, speculators, vulture capitalists, ex-corporate CEOs, CFOs and bright boys from the rarified world of stock and futures trading and investments, reinsurance, hedge funds and suchlike—all indicted and convicted after displaying pervasive predatory behavior (PPB) such as insider trading and/or selling an incredible variety of manipulated stocks, securitized derivatives and other outrageously unethical and criminally deceptive devices, and/or acquiring obscene wealth (defined as a ratio, prescribed by periodic national referendum, of total acquired personal monetary value relative to the combined average annual per capita  income of all Americans subsisting below the official poverty line, plus the middle class) primarily through devious corporate mergers, hostile takeovers, raiding the wealth and eliminating the jobs from newly acquired subsidiaries, unearned free stock options, and irrationally golden contracts which were wholly unrelated to corporate performance much less to serving the public common good.

As defined in law, “outrageously unethical and criminally deceptive devices” have five things in common:  they 1) did nothing whatsoever to benefit the common good; 2) produced nothing whatsoever of value other than sterile profits to the perpetrators, 3) often destroyed the value of prospering companies and the jobs of their employees, 4) harmed other persons by depriving them of otherwise minimally at-risk stocks, bonds, securities, investments and simple savings subject to the vagaries of Wall Street and comparable free trading arenas around the world, and 5) harmed the entire populations of the United States and other nations by precipitating or materially contributing to the bust cycles by which routine capitalist activities and incentives are distinguished at frequent but not precisely predictable intervals averaging about twelve to fourteen years. Public prosecutors strongly favor these five legal definitions, as any combination of them generally ensures conviction in court.

It is understood by all concerned, except the inmates themselves, that the convicted inmates have been found guilty of creating more poverty and havoc than previously existed, have displayed pervasive predatory behavior (PPB), and made trouble where there was no trouble. All are further agreed that, since law breakers so convicted self-evidently cannot possibly have felt any empathy for the distress and misery felt by so many of their fellow humans as a result of the poverty, havoc and trouble they have caused, it therefore is desirable that they learn firsthand to feel and internalize such distress, misery, poverty, havoc and trouble within themselves in order that they may, as in Poverty School, perhaps become more human and thereby not be tempted to so harm others ever again…maybe (which also means maybe not).

Each arriving inmate is given a small one-time handout of cash, which is substantially inadequate for acquiring a subsistence level of such food as may be available in the vending machines at any given time, but which might be increased by gambling. Most inmates quickly learn that might also means might not. Begging is frowned upon. Within the casino there are no laws, so as in Poverty School nothing is illegal. But here, too, there are three rules:

The Left-Ear Rule. Every person convicted and sentenced to the casino will, during the first day after arrival in the casino, have his left ear tattooed bright red.

The Right-Ear Rule. A recidivist who is convicted and sentenced to the casino a second time will have his right ear tattooed bright blue immediately after arrival in the casino. Thereby, every other inmate may plainly see that the now red- and blue-eared inmate has repeatedly violated the educational intent of Gambling School, which intent is reflected in large colorful posters placed ubiquitously throughout the casino depicting a red- and blue-eared person in prison garb bearing the slogan: “What, you didn’t hear us again?”

The Permanent Fix Rule. Any person convicted and sentenced to the casino a third time is, upon arrival, placed in a steel-barred open-air cell called The Ayn Rand Selfish Room, which is located immediately inside the entrance for all to observe. Twenty-four hours later and without explanation that person is removed, ushered into a nondescript panel pickup and driven away, never to be seen or heard of again. Where such prisoners are taken is widely thought to be Top Secret, but—by various discrete psychological devices—the Department of Corrections encourages a rumor mill whereby inmates are led to speculate on whence their late colleague has disappeared, and the nature of his fate.

Deftly insinuated into these gossipy speculations is a widely believed rumor that an amputation treatment has been exacted, involving that procedure, widely abhorred by human males, whereby veterinarians render male dogs more pleasant, more tame—more “neutral” as it were—vis-à-vis their instinctive competitive drive for dominance, which so often leads to ill tempers, getting into fights, selfishly hoarding bones, and indiscriminately peeing on vertical things to self-validate what they perceive as their territory. Rumor asserts that this dread measure applies to all who evidence failure to learn empathy for the wellbeing of their fellow man.  In a further and unique blending of physiology with behavioral psychology, the rumors discreetly encourage inmates to believe such treatment may (might) extend to any remaining genitalia of more than two and one-half inches length at half-staff. This rumored procedure is said to be mandatory for third-time convictions that include one or more counts of selling short.


Where hedge funds place unusually large short bets, the sheer weight of downward pressure on a stock or an index can make it fail; in times of stock market crisis—in the autumn of 2008, for example—some stock exchanges introduced temporary bans on short selling to prevent…collapsing. These moves caused fierce debate, with some arguing that the market should be allowed to operate freely; others maintained that short-sellers are invariably also short-term players who should be discouraged.

Daniel Conaghan and Dan Smith, The Book of Money



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