Global Action: Hurricane Gustav Unites Social-Media Activists
BY Mark A.M. Kramer  /  August 31st, 2008

“At around 5:24pm on August 30th, 2008 a storm of social-media activity was launched by Andy Carvin, National Public Radio’s senior product manager for online communities.  Using “Ning” Andy was able to lay the foundation for the Gustav Information Center (GIC) social network to help in the coordination and dissemination of information relating to Hurricane Gustav.  The GIC community is very diverse and possesses volunteers who have come together in an incredibly short period of time through announcements on Twitter.  There are GIC volunteers from within Louisiana discussing potential ways to harness social media tools with colleagues from all points of the United States including many volunteers from the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and South America.

On behalf of Smart Mobs, I would like to encourage all our readers and community members to take a moment and think about how you can do your small part in this effort to help those affected by Gustav.  Join in the efforts of the Gustav Information Center, volunteer with your local American Red Cross Chapter or take action in any effort you feel comfortable being a part of. Let us join together and harness the social-media tools offered us to open lines of communication and cooperation to make certain we are not unprepared for Gustav to prevent another disaster like we faced with Katrina. Please visit the Gustav Information Center (GIC) and join other social-media activists in coordinating efforts to help our brothers and sisters who will be directly impacted by Gustav.”

















More than 75% of Gulf oil on lockdown  /  August 31st, 2008

Opportunities missed in preparing for Gustav  /  August 31, 2008

If there were a Nobel Prize for “I told you so” it might go to Louisiana State University Professor Ivor van Heerden. He warned of the catastrophic consequences a major hurricane would have on New Orleans long before Hurricane Katrina. LSU Professor Ivor Van Heerden foretold Katrina’s damage. Now he’s pointing out missed opportunities to prevent a repeat of the disaster. And as Hurricane Gustav approaches, he says there were many lost opportunities to strengthen the region’s defenses in the three years since Katrina and Rita.

Among them:
*state and federal officials could have done a lot more to assess the weak links in the levee system, from New Orleans to Morgan City, Louisiana.
*more of an effort should have been made to repair damaged areas on levees. In many places, he said, there is bare soil, no grass at all on the levees.
*both before and after Katrina, he said the Army Corps of Engineers has not allowed enough outside experts to work with them to make improvements

But perhaps the greatest neglect has been restoration of the wetlands off the Louisiana coast. It’s estimated that the cypress swamps and barrier islands are disappearing at the rate of a football field every half hour. “For 14 years we’ve been trying to get the state to start a more large scale effort to rebuild the barrier islands,” said van Heerden. These islands act as speed bumps with an approaching storm. “If the existing barrier islands were a little higher and wider, it could knock two to three feet off the storm surge. It would have been about a $200 million dollar project, it could have been finished by now,” he said. While coastal authorities in Louisiana did complete some restoration projects, van Heerden said bureaucratic snags kept many others from ever being started: everything from a limit of what companies could dredge in the Gulf, to the cutting and selling of cypress trees for garden mulch. “This storm has the potential of being a huge economic blow to Louisiana, the United States and it will be felt internationally,” said van Heerden. He predicted the price of gasoline could go through the roof because of the enormous oil and natural gas interests in the Gulf of Mexico. But he said the human toll would be greater. “Who is going to suffer? Not the decision-makers. It is the poor Louisianans. If the [weather] models are correct, Gustav will destroy what Katrina and Rita did not. This is going to be flooding of a much larger area than Katrina,” said van Heerden.

Ivor van Heerden
email : ivor [at] hurricane [dot] lsu [dot] edu

BY Greg Palast  /  08/24/2007

The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005, the White House withheld from the state police the information that New Orleans was about to flood. From almost any other source, I would not have believed it. But this was not just any source. The whistleblower is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state on saving lives during Katrina. I’d come to van Heerden about another matter, but in our talks, it was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one. He charged that the White House, FEMA, and the Army Corps hid, for critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding New Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city. Understand that Katrina never hit New Orleans. The hurricane swung east of the city, so the state evacuation directors assumed New Orleans was now safe — and evacuation could slow while emergency efforts moved east with the storm. But unknown to the state, in those crucial hours on Monday, the federal government’s helicopters had filmed the cracks that would become walls of death by Tuesday.

Van Heerden revealed: “FEMA knew at 11 o’clock on Monday that the levees had breeched. At 2 p.m., they flew over the 17th Street Canal and took video of the breech.”

Question: “So the White House wouldn’t tell you the levees had breeched?”
Dr. Van Heerden: “They didn’t tell anybody.”

Question: “And you’re at the Emergency Center.’
Dr. Van Heerden: “I mean nobody knew. The Corps of Engineers knew. FEMA knew. None of us knew.”

I could not get the White House gang to respond to the charges. That leaves the big, big question: WHY? Why on earth would the White House not tell the state to get the remaining folks out of there?

The answer: cost. Political and financial cost. A hurricane is an act of God — but a catastrophic failure of the levees is an act of Bush. Under law dating back to 1935, a breech of the federal levee system makes the damage — and the deaths — a federal responsibility. That means, as van Heeden points out, “these people must be compensated.”

The federal government, by law, must build and maintain the Mississippi River levees to withstand known dangers — or pay the price when they fail. Indeed, that was the rule applied in the storms that hit Westhampton Dunes, New York, in 1992. There, when federal sea barriers failed, the floodwaters wiped away 190 homes. The Feds rebuilt them from the public treasury. But these were not just any homes. They are worth an average of $3 million apiece — the summer homes of movie stars and celebrity speculators. There were no movie stars floating face down in the Lower Ninth Ward nor in Lakeview nor in St. Bernard Parish. For the ‘luvvies’ of Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to replace the beaches. But for New Orleans’ survivors, there’s the aluminum gulag of FEMA trailer parks. Today, two years later, 89,000 families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo — with no plan whatsoever for their return. And what was the effect of the White House’s self-serving delay? I spoke with van Heerden in his university office. The computer model of the hurricane flashed quietly as I waited for him to answer. Then he said, “Fifteen hundred people drowned. That’s the bottom line.”

La. Report Blames Corps of Engineers for New Orleans Levee Breaks
BY Janet McConnaughey  /  March 23, 2007

Decades of mistakes – some as basic as not knowing the elevation of New Orleans – led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to believe its levees and floodwalls would protect the city from a storm as strong as Hurricane Katrina, a report released March 21 concludes. The corps used obsolete research to design flood-control structures that were built too low and improperly maintained, a group of engineers and storm researchers called Team Louisiana said in its 475-page report. The report was commissioned by the state Department of Transportation and Development. The system was intended to be strong enough to handle a Category 3 hurricane like Katrina, which devastated New Orleans when levees broke. Two major studies last year looked at the engineering problems that caused the 2005 breaches, but the new study also closely examines whether the problems could have been foreseen when the flood-control system was created. The report said the errors date to the original plans in 1965, which relied on land height measurements from 1929. Because the city had sunk over the years, the plans called for levees that were 1 to 2 feet too low. “This mistake was locked in” for continuing construction by a policy adopted in 1985, even though scientists knew how fast New Orleans was sinking, the report said. By the time Katrina hit, the levees were as much as 5 feet too low. The report also said the corps never used a storm surge model released in 1979 by the National Hurricane Center. “If they had, they would have realized that their levee system wasn’t high enough for a Category 3 storm at all,” said team leader Ivor van Heerden, a Louisiana State University professor, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center and a corps critic. Additionally, he said the corps ignored its own models that suggested that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a navigation channel completed in the early 1960s, would funnel storm surge into St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans. The corps also should have known two canals would fail when water levels reached 10 feet. Van Heerden said that “a back-of-the-envelope calculation” would have alerted engineers to a problem with one of the canals, and that a soil strength analysis available since the 1950s would have highlighted flaws in the other. The corps was preparing a response, spokesman John Hall said. Van Heerden said almost all the problems could have been avoided if independent engineers had reviewed the corps’ plans before construction started. Before Katrina struck, he said, he and fellow researchers had found sagging levees. He enlisted his students to ask the corps about them, and the agency responded by saying “‘These were federal levees built to federal standards and they’re not going to fail,”’ he said. The report recommended an independent planning process for hurricane protection, and an independent, bipartisan panel similar to the Sept. 11 Commission to investigate why levees failed. The corps is expected to release a study soon tracing the decision-making process.

Levees built incorrectly, Army Corps says  /  December 1, 2005
Steel reinforcing didn’t go as deeply as called for – leaving the flood walls too weak – and government engineers can’t explain why

(New Orleans) – Government engineers performing sonar tests at the site of a major levee failure found exactly what independent investigators said they would – that steel reinforcements barely went more than half as deep as they were supposed to, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. “We’ve come up with similar results” to those from earlier tests performed by a team of Louisiana State University engineers, said Walter Baumy, the corps’ chief engineer for the New Orleans District. Baumy said the corps is unable to explain the disparity between what its 1993 design documents show was supposed to be there and what has been found. The documents indicated that the steel reinforcements in the levee, known as sheet piling, went to a depth of 17.5 feet below sea level. Sonar tests indicated the pilings went only to 10 feetbelow sea level, meaning the flood wall would have been much weaker than advertised.

The LSU team is working on a report for the state Department of Transportation – due out in January – that will say that there were serious, fundamental design and construction flaws at both the 17th Street and London Avenue canals. Both broke during Hurricane Katrina, allowing floodwaters to pour into the city’s western and central neighborhoods and encroach on downtown. The team’s leader, Ivor van Heerden, said Wednesday that the levee design ensured failure under the type of water pressure exerted by Katrina’s storm surge. The team’s computer modeling showed that the designs failed to account for loose, porous soils such as sand and peat that were prone to allowing water to seep from the canal through to the dry side of the levee. Much deeper steel pilings driven well below the canal bottoms likely would have stopped seepage to the dry side of the levees, engineers have said. But the bottom tip of the pilings, at 10 feet below sea level, did not even reach as deep as the canal bottoms. “Now that we’ve done the soil strength calculations and looked at the actual design, the design wasn’t up to the task,” van Heerden said. “You have a section of canal that wasn’t covered by sheet metal.” LSU computer models showed that even if the pilings had gone to 17.5 feet below sea level at 17th Street as design documents said they should have, they still would have failed. Engineering studies before construction of the flood wall were performed by Eustis Engineering, Modjeski and Masters Inc. and the corps. Members of van Heerden’s team have expressed shock that all three could have missed what they characterized as fundamental flaws. Calls put in to Eustis, and Modjeski and Masters were not returned Wednesday. However, van Heerden said the federal government bears ultimate responsibility. “The
federal government built the levees, the federal government supplied that security, the security system failed, as a consequence these 100,000 families have lost everything,” van Heerden said. “In our opinion, the federal government needs to step up to the plate.”


If it keep on raining, the levee’s gonna break
If it keep on raining, the levee’s gonna break
Everybody saying this is a day only the Lord could make

Well, I worked on the levee, mama, both night and day
I worked on the levee, mama, both night and day
I got to the river and I threw my clothes away

I paid my time and now I’m good as new,
I paid my time and now I’m as good as new.
They can’t take me back unless I want them to

If it keep on raining, the levee’s gonna break
If it keep on raining, the levee’s gonna break
Some of these people gonna strip you of all they can take…


A.(1)  Whenever a prisoner sentenced to a parish prison of any parish of the state, by any court of competent jurisdiction, or a prisoner in a parish prison awaiting transfer to a state correctional facility shall be willing of his own free will to perform manual labor upon any of the public roads, levees, streets, or public buildings, works, or improvements inside or outside of the prison, or in or upon the buildings, other improvements, or property of any organization which has qualified for tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3), 501(c) (19), or 501(c)(23), the sheriff may set the prisoner to work.

“Levee camps arose throughout the post-Civil War South as large numbers of manual laborers (typically African American) were gathered, sometimes by force, to build and maintain systems of earthen levees that held rivers in their channels, thus making more farmland available and (theoretically) minimizing the hazards of annual flooding. Frequent locations of group work-song singing and solo field hollers, they were notoriously difficult and violent places to make a living.”


“Prison labor is used frequently by the District and there exists a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Madison Parish Detention Center to provide that labor.  The agreement requires that the District provide meals and necessary clothing (i.e. boots) not normally provided by the Detention Center while performing services for the District.  Prison labor is used during flooding to help maintain the levees.  Recently one trusty has been utilized regularly to do maintenance on the District’s equipment.  There were no records available to track which prisoners worked where and when.  A review of meal receipts provided no information on the number of prisoners fed and merely showed costs of $6 to $12.50 a day for food.”


In 1927, blacks were forced to work on levee camps in order to help curtail and control the flooding. Tents were set up along the levee camps and the workers were forced to stay in them. Moreover, blacks had to work without pay for the Red Cross and on the levees in order to receive food for themselves and their families. The National Guard ordered blacks in the camps to work like slaves under the threat of being shot. The Chicago Defender ran a column by Ida B. Wells-Barnett during the crisis in which she ran stories from refugees who had escaped the slave camps. The following is an excerpt from one of Wells-Barnett’s columns in which she includes a narrative from one of the refugees:

Meanwhile John Jones (that is not his [real] name), 28 years old, came to my door Friday evening. He was in his shirt sleeves and had a cotton blanket rolled up under his arm. He had just escaped from the government camp in Louisiana. He was born and reared in that state and when the high water came about 300 of them were taken to the camp. All the men were put in one long tent and the women and children in another. He was there 15 days and was not permitted to associate with his wife and children in all that time. They had to lie on the floor with a piece of canvas only under them and no covering. Of course they slept in their clothes and had no change. He said: “The first thing they do is to line you up and give you a ‘shot’ then they give you something to eat and tell you to lie down for a day. The ‘shots’ make you sick and sometimes are fatal. I saw one man drop dead as soon as he had received the injection. He was about 40 years old. Over 25 people died in our camp from these shots.”

“The next morning the gong rang at 5:30 o’clock and we got a breakfast of salty bacon, one egg, bread and some brownish water they called coffee with no sugar. Then the boss man arrived and told us that we were to go to work on the levee and would be given $1 a day and board. He has a gun and you know its useless to argue or refuse to go, so you say you all and take the shovel and go.

“At noontime they gave us navy beans, bread, and more of the stuff they called coffee with no sugar. Then back to work until night, when we get potatoes, corn beef, hash and more of that same so-called coffee.

“It was chilly without any cover so I asked for a blanket, but they wouldn’t give me one. Then I said I would pay for one out of my wages and got it. I have it here. It is all I got for my 15 days’ work. ”

The refugee went on to share his plight of telling his “boss man” that he wanted to stop work and leave the camp, but was told if he tried to leave then he would be shot. He ended up getting shot by the guard in his attempt to leave, and he afterwards hitchhiked from the levee camp to Illinois before sending for his wife who stayed behind in the camp. This refugee story represents the horrendous struggles experienced by tens of thousands of blacks after the 1927 flood that ignited condemnations from people all over the country. In addition to being forced to toil on the levee camps, blacks were also forced to labor as garbage collectors. While white areas of flooded regions were undergoing relatively rapid clean up (done by blacks), the black neighborhoods became the dumping ground for all the trash from the white sections, which rendered these sections as disease breeding and uninhabitable. Thanks to media outlets such as the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier and the NAACP magazine Crisis, people all over the country condemned both the handling of blacks in the region as well as the government for their racist treatment.

Background of the levees
The construction of levees was a lucrative endeavor as white developers and engineers were competing and lobbying for profitable government contracts since the 1860s (while the laborers who actually built the levees were paid nothing). However, higher and stronger levees that were supposed to prevent flooding also eroded wetlands because they thwart the natural dispersal of sediment to the marshland, which then causes more severe hurricanes and flooding (because there is less land to buffer and weaken the incoming hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico to inhabited areas). In sum, the Mississippi River is meant to flood naturally, but because of corporate interests to control its flood waters in order to maintain crop production and accumulation, we have an extensive system of levees and dikes that in the end increases the pressure on the river, erodes coastland, and can cause even more disasterous flooding. Although corporate interests operate against the welfare of people, oppressed persons have consistently organized to resist such injustice.

Responses and Resistance
The black newspaper Chicago Defender had a special correspondent in the flood region and Ida B. Wells-Barnett also wrote special columns during the disaster. In one of her columns, Wells-Barnett posed the following question: “Why can’t the Race, who are 90% of the actual flood sufferers, share in that $14,000,000 relief fund which the country sent freely to the flood district?” After she shared the first-hand accounts from refugees who escaped the slave camps, Wells-Barnett made a call to action; she urged the black community to ask similar questions, demand answers, share this information with the whole country, and then act for change. She tells all black people to “pass resolutions asking for investigations of these camps and recommending better protection for our Race in their clubs, churches, lodges, and fraternal societies and send them to President Coolidge, Secretary Hoover, the National Red Cross…” She urged people to keep crying aloud until something is done and added that “it will require the combined influence of all our people in the North, East, and West, where our votes count, to put a stop to the slavery that is going on right now in the government camps in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.” Wells-Barnett and other writers were critical of the black bourgeoisie who they felt had traded out the poorer persons of their race by hiding the true brutish conditions of the refugees in the camps. For instance, Wells-Barnett and DuBois lambasted the Colored Committee Report spearheaded by Moton as not depicting the actual reality of the slave camps and, in response, the NAACP sent their own investigator to the area.

The NAACP played an active role in relief and advocacy during the Great Flood. As the Delta area began experiencing immense flooding, African Americans all over the country began writing letters to the national offices of the Urban League and the NAACP, as well as to black newspapers, demanding that they investigate the allegations of peonage and forced labor. Initially, Walter White, the assistant secretary of the NAACP, was hesitant to act on false rumors, but as he realized the accuracy of the reports from the region, he paid a visit to the area and disseminated his findings in publications such as the New York Times and The Nation. White accused the wealthy landlords in the Delta of using the disaster as a pretext to hold black people in peonage. The NAACP also helped collect funds for aid that would go directly towards the black refugees. Many African Americans suspected donating money to the Red Cross, because they feared that the funds would not go to help the black flood victims. In response to these suspicions, the New Orleans branch of the NAACP consented to receive flood relief funds for the black victims and said “the New Orleans branch will handle anything for the flood sufferers.” In addition to efforts by the NAACP, the black media made attempts to ensure that black refugees were getting appropriate assistance.

The Associated Negro Press also demanded that Coolidge appoint a ‘colored’ officer to work with whites in administering relief so that the relief would correctly go to the refugees who are 90% black. Further, the black newspaper Pittsburgh Courier was also deputized by the Red Cross to collect funds for flood refugees. This newspaper also reported on the Special Conference on Flood Relief in which social worker executives offered to train “Negro social workers through the National Urban League…for organizing Negro flood sufferers for relief and family rehabilitation.” Although the government did respond to such demands by appointing black people to lead relief efforts, such as Moton’s committee, these blacks, who were typically bourgeois, were also criticized by more radical activists such as Wells-Barnett and DuBois for taking bribes by white businessmen and landlords in exchange for convincing poor blacks to be subordinate and stay in the Delta region.

The refugees forced to work in the levee slave camps engaged in forms of resistance against their oppressors. Rebellions would often occur whenever a guard or overseer inflicted some form of violence against a refugee. For instance, the Chicago Defender reported that a near riot occurred in Mississippi when the police arrested and jailed a woman named Mrs. Nancy Clark Peters when she objected to her husband’s forced conscription to work on the levee. Another near race riot occurred when an overseer beat a 19-year-old refugee with a gun because he asked for a rest break. This incident caused the levee night workers to quit ‘cold’ in addition to the near race insurrection. A substantial uprising almost occurred because of the death of James Gordon, a levee worker in Greenville, MS who was shot by a white police officer for refusing to return to work during his shift off. Gordon’s death sparked intense anger among the black community that unloading of supplies, cleaning of white businesses, and other labor performed by blacks came to a halt, while both blacks and whites armed themselves. Even the African-Americans on the levee kept shovels, hoes, and knives within reach. Will Percy was able to superficially fan the flames of anger in the black community, although the rage continued to linger within. These instances exhibit the solidarity of the black workers such that when one of them was abused, the entire group would rise up in protest. The actions that sparked the riots typically involved a black person standing up to the authority of the police or army either by not agreeing to follow orders or contesting their use of force. The riots are a form of protest perhaps less theatrical than the ones of today (such as rallies and demonstrations). In considering riots as a form of resistance, it is important to consider this question: to what end did the black people rebel and what was the impact of their rebellion? I would like to argue that this form of rebellion on the part of levee workers was a collective form of resistance because blacks were defying the forced labor conditions that the state imposed on them through using intimidation; so this resistance represents a challenge to the state-sponsored coercion. The nature of protest involving riots is characteristic of the collective nature of living and work conditions that black people experienced at that time.

New Orleans Prisoners Abandoned After Katrina
By Matt Gnaizda  /  Oct 01, 2005

The horrors of the Superdome have become the epitome of the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims, but in one New Orleans facility, victims may have fared even worse. In Orleans Parish Prison, one of the nation’s largest and most notorious jails, hundreds were left for days in flooded cells without food, drinking water, or supervision. One month later, over 500 of them are missing. “We were strictly abandoned. They just left us,” said Dan Bright, one of the prisoners, in a radio interview with the radio show Democracy Now! “When we realized what was going on, it was too late. It was total chaos. The water was up to our chest… No one came to our rescue.” Democracy Now recently brought together former detainee Bright, Human Rights Watch Researcher Corrine Carey, Louisiana defense attorney Phyllis Mann, and a criminal defense lawyer to discuss the fate of prisoners during the hurricane and the grueling relocation process.

According to the interviewees, just before Katrina hit, an additional 2,000 prisoners had been evacuated from nearby prisons to Orleans Parish, which normally housed 7,500 to 8,000 inmates at a time. As floods following the storm hit this overcrowded facility, the water level began to rise. “There was no air circulation, and the toilets had started to back up. So the stench was unbearable for these prisoners,” said Ms. Carey from Human Rights Watch on the radio show. She said that the Orleans Parish sheriff, Marlin Gusman, didn’t call the State Department of Corrections for assistance until 18 hours after Katrina struck. “We started to see people…hangin’ shirts on fire out the windows. They were wavin’ ‘em,” an Orleans Parish Prison officer told Human Rights Watch. “Then we saw them jumping out of the windows.” Some inmates were trapped in their cells in deep water; others managed to kick open cell doors and escape to higher ground.

The guards had left the facility prior to the storm, and no evacuation plan was implemented. While most prisoners were evacuated by the next day, the 600 prisoners in the Templeman III building were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after the storm hit. Many of them had not been convicted of a crime, and were housed there awaiting court hearings for misdemeanors or city violations, said defense attorney Phyllis Mann. During the evacuation and relocation, prisoners were dispersed to facilities throughout New Orleans and Texas. Mr. Bright said he and hundreds of other prisoners were left for days on a field of wet grass at Hunt’s Correctional Center near Baton Rouge. There were no toilets, and guards came once a day to throw peanut butter sandwiches over the gate to the hungry, rowdy prisoners, some of whom were death-row inmates. Some were there for as long as a week, said Mr. Bright. He was later transferred to another prison before he saw a judge and was released. Human Rights watch compiled two lists of prisoners from the Department of Corrections: one of those present before the storm, and the other of those evacuated. As of the Democracy Now! interview on September 27, Human Rights Watch said that 517, including 130 from the Templeman III building, were still unaccounted for. One veteran Orleans Parish corrections officer told Human Rights Watch, “Ain’t no tellin’ what happened to those people.” Orleans Parish Prison officials could not be reached for comment, because phone lines are down.

Katrina Exposes Orleans Parish Prison’s Flaws
BY Matt Gnaizda  /  Oct 16, 2005

In August, Mr. Addison was sentenced to ten days in OPP for trespassing and disturbing the peace. He was due to be released on the morning of Monday, August 29, the day Katrina struck. Not only was he not released, he says, but he was bounced around to different facilities over the course of the lengthy evacuation process, and he was not released until a full 31 days later. Mr. Addison claims that the guards at OPP abandoned prisoners
immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Juveniles, misdemeanor offenders, and convicted felons were all mixed together. He and other prisoners had no electricity, food or fresh water for several days; meanwhile, the floodwaters, which he described as “nasty, nasty”—full of urine and excrement—rose at first to knee-level, and eventually so high that all the prisoners in his first-floor cell had to climb on the top bed bunks for safety. On the third day, they were moved outside to the bridge, where they had to wait out in the sun, still with no fresh water. Eventually, guards tossed hotdogs to them.

OPP, which is the equivalent of a county jail, is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, even though New Orleans is far from one of the most populous US cities. It holds 6,000–8,000 people at any given time in its ten buildings. “The stories [from Orleans Parish Prison inmates] are so unbelievable that people look at them and think, ‘This can’t possibly be true,’” says Human Rights Watch researcher Corrine Carrie. New Orleans has some of the least prisoner-friendly laws of any US city, says Rachel Jones, a trial lawyer at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center. One can be detained for up to 45 days for a misdemeanor before seeing a judge or a lawyer, even if the charges are completely unfounded, she says. “They do the bare minimum of what the [US] Supreme Court requires.”

Ben Cohen, a New Orleans capital defense lawyer who has been doing pro bono work on behalf of impoverished pre-trial detainees, highlights a problem that he calls a “system of indentured servitude,” where petty-offenders who want release are encouraged to plead guilty in exchange for time served. They are often unaware that they’ll be saddled with court-costs and probation fees of $40 per month for up to five years, or a total of $2,400—no small potatoes for a minimum-wage earner. “It creates a cycle of incarceration where poor people are routinely sent back to jail for no other offense, except that they couldn’t pay their fines and fees.” Ultimately, the fines and fees are what Cohen describes as the “crack cocaine” of the criminal justice system: the judges, court reporters, and defense lawyers for the poor need the fees imposed or to get paid, but its an “easy high” that undermines the integrity of the process. It is a system, Cohen says, that “lets the judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys off easy, all on the back of poor people who carry the burden of an under-funded system.”

The evacuation of OPP was perhaps the largest prison evacuation in U.S. history. While OPP was prepared to withstand the hurricane itself, says Ms. Lapeyrolerie, it was totally unprepared for the levee breaks which flooded the buildings up to seven feet deep. It took three 24-hour days of evacuations to load prisoners onto boats and busses. They had to call the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections to get additional boats and SWAT team personnel. Human Rights Watch claims that several hundred prisoners who were imprisoned before the storm are still unaccounted for. Ms. Lapeyrolerie says Sheriff Gusman “categorically denies it” and that everyone has been accounted for. But later in the phone interview she revealed there may actually have been some escapees, just not from the maximum security building.


Many of the men held at jail had been arrested for offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted. But at Templeman III, which housed about 600 inmates, there was no prison staff to help the prisoners. Inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch varied about when they last remember seeing guards at the facility, but they all insisted that there were no correctional officers in the facility on Monday, August 29. A spokeswoman for the Orleans parish sheriff’s department told Human Rights Watch she did not know whether the officers at Templeman III had left the building before the evacuation.

According to inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, they had no food or water from the inmates’ last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an
unbearable stench. “They left us to die there,” Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at Rapides Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation. As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility. “The water started rising, it was getting to here,” said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. “We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying ‘I’m scared. I feel like I’m about to drown.’ He was crying.” Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison. A number of inmates told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to get everyone out from their cells. “At best, the inmates were left to fend for themselves,” said Carey. “At worst, some may have died.”

Human Rights Watch was not able to speak directly with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin N. Gussman or the ranking official in charge of Templeman III. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department told Human Rights Watch that search-and-rescue teams had gone to the prison and she insisted that “nobody drowned, nobody was left behind.” Human Rights Watch compared an official list of all inmates held at Orleans Parish Prison immediately prior to the hurricane with the most recent list of the evacuated inmates compiled by the state Department of Corrections and Public Safety (which was entitled, “All Offenders Evacuated”). However, the list did not include 517 inmates from the jail, including 130 from Templeman III.

Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of an interview between
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, and members of the group Human Rights Watch.

Excerpts of Letters from Prisoners Abandoned to Katrina

[Name and inmate number redacted]
LA State Penitentiary
Angola, Louisiana 70712

October 10, 2005

Dear Human Rights Watch; Corinne Carey

I’m a inmate from New Orleans Parish Prison, housed at Conchetta. This facility only housed women. I read your article from the Website and I would like to tell you my story. We women inmates were also left to die, without medical attention, no food, no water. We lived in high waters, the building is 3 floors, “the first floor flooded to the top, that force us to move to the second floor. Inmates were beaten by Deputy’s it was a panic situation. Gas lines broke. Living in contaminated waters for 3 long miserable days. The reason I’m writing this letter is because we women would like to be interviewed also to tell our version. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. We women hope to hear from Human Rights Watch soon.


[name redacted]
[Forwarding address redacted]

* * * * *

[Name redacted], I too was a victim of Katrina. Orleans-Parish Inmate.


To: Whom it may concern;

I am one of the surviving inmates from Hurricane Katrina! I was housed in the CTA Building. One of the last, last, female facilities to evacuate. We were without food, water, lights, and medical attention for over 4 days. I watched a lot of my fellow inmates pass out. We were ingesting all sorts of noxious gasses. To the extent they made you nauseous and lightheaded. I’ve been incarcerated now over 11 months never been convicted or sentenced. A lot of the officers left us there to die. The sheriff stated on national T.V. that the inmates are to remain where they belong! Such a cruel and unjustifiable statement. Besides all of that madness they sprayed some inmates with mace. We have to use the restroom out in the open. They drew guns on us as if we were trying to escape! All I wanted to do was get to safety. Some of us may be guilty of crimes, and some may not. But each life is still precious and all people should be treated equal. We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us such as family pictures! Probably the only ones that could have been salvaged. There is one woman however, stayed with the inmates to the bitter end. Her name is: Colonel Joseph. She was a god sent Angel. So many deputies abandon us. It was a very scary ordeal. So many times I saw my life flash before my eyes. I’ve never been a vengeful person, but something needs to be done because that was definitely cruel and unjustifiable the actions they took in our safety. We had no alternative but to end of drinking toilet water!

[name and inmate number redacted]

Letter also signed by:
[29 other Angola women inmates, names and inmate numbers redacted]

* * * * *

[name and inmate number redacted]
Camp F D4-L
Angola, LA 70712

A Inmate From Templeman Four

“To Whom it may Concern”

My name is [name and inmate number redacted] an inmate that was housed at Orleans Parish Prison, and my location was at Templeman 4. Let me tell some of what I what through well for starters it started Aug, 28, 2005 when the lights went out but the generator came on it was hot we had no water or food we were locked on our dorms with no air for 24 hours. Monday on the 29th the day of the hurricane still no food or water, and no air and on top of all that the water started to rise and rise!! And yet we are still locked down like dogs. The water got as high as to the second bunk before they decided to move us out of the building. That’s when sheriff Marlin Gusman came took us out the Templeman 4 building, and move us to Templeman 2which was no better. That building was dirty where the man had set fires to get out we suffered there until from 4:00am until maybe 2:00pm Thursday evening still no food or water. After that we walk through water up to our chest where we stood in the front of I.P.C. for at least 12 hours!! We were just standing in them infested waters all those hours. Still no food or water. After that we walk through more water to board the boats after standing in that funky infested water at about 12:30 am midnight that is!! From there they brought us to the Broad Overpass where some of the male inmates were out there. We had to sleep on top of the Bridge overnight still no food or water. So then we had to use the rest room right there in the open in front free would people and the male inmates and I think that was truly cruel and don’t talk about the shot guns they were holding on us we couldn’t talk or else we are going to get shot. Wednesday morning some of us started passing out from no water or food for at least four days. So from there the people from D.O.C. came got us from the overpass and brought us to I-10 interstate where we had to wait for transportation. And that’s just the beginning of that horrible nightmare, and just like the make inmates from Templeman 3 said they left us to die they didn’t care what happen to us I believe they wish we would have died. But thank God these people here at Angola La. especially warden Burl Cain if it wouldn’t have been for him and the rest of D.O.C. we would have!!! Oh there’s more but I guess you know already.

Yours Truly,
[name redacted]

* * * * *

[Letter undated, postmarked October 15, 2005]

On September 22, 2005 a petition was written and signed by these evacuated inmates of Orleans Parish Prison plus myself. Concerning our health, well being, also horrific conditions in which we had to survive as opposed to being housed at Avoyelles Corrections Center (Auto Mechanic Garage). Here is a list of the various conditions in which we had to live under.

Signs of all sorts indicating the surrounding as well.

Chemical storage, no fire extinguisher, Caution flammable gas, a car painting and body & fender shop, compressed air, Danger High Voltage, sandblasting shop, Danger No Smoking, oxygen, acetylene, open gated tool shed and supplies, use eye protective equipment in designated area, caution wear eye protection, 120 inmates sharing 2 port-o-let, severely infested with big mosquitos and other insects, limited 4 minutes to eat at least, also 4 minutes to phone call/1 per week, being confined to isolation for talking, walking also speaking, on conditions asking legit questions, and consequences very brutal also severe, physical beating, being gased and left that way for days, put in a cell 85% naked wearing only a hospital gown to be belittled among other men, 3 to a 2 man cell without matts, pillows, or even cover, and personal hygiene items, violating our constitutional rights, add to that the wardens participates as well in just about every event that takes place, only to find it exciting, and amusing, not to mention exciting. We are literally suffering and being treated as if we are animals rather than humans let alone inmates. Justice haven’t been served neither has our rights. Many correction officers played favoritism to the fact that, because we all are from New Orleans that we are all menaces to society. They find any and every reason to manipulated the inmates that require medical attention don’t get it at they time of need. Some of the officers even with held mail outgoing and incoming. They also with held out messages from family members which could have been important just like the mail. They only allowed us 30 minutes for recreation for all 428 inmates. 30 minutes for 2 sides each. Meals are half done. Because we are eating at Culinary Arts. Where our food is experimental meals. When inmates go to the block (isolation) they take our shoes. And the inmates whoever working as the cell block orderly keep them. On sell them to other inmates whoever within there center grounds. One night a bat flew in the Auto Mechanic Garage. There is no clean air circulating also no ventilation very unsanitary and inhumane. And that how our experience as Orleans Paris Prisoners where and still is at Avoyelles Correctional Center (K/A) Cottonport. And these thing shouldn’t be this way.

Can you help in appointing us a lawyer, if you can my phone number is
[phone number redacted]

Or if by anyway you need me for more information my address is:
[address redacted]
[name redacted]

* * * * *

[Name, inmate number, and dorm location redacted]
State Penitentiary
Angola, LA 70712
Saturday, October 15, 2005

To Whom it May Concern:

I had received your address regarding a class action lawsuit against the city of New Orleans and all parties involved from several Katrina Evacuees Inmates who had encouraged me to write to your organization now instead of later.

I had been arrested for bad checks, on my own checking account, at [location and date of the offense redacted], and taken to central booking on Tulane Avenue and Broad Street. I was booked on one charged and stripped of all personal belongings; I wasn’t given my pills for diabetes or any of three pairs of prescription eyeglasses, where I now sit at LSP with blurred vision. I also had my expired [name of ID card redacted] and social security card stolen in my presence while in central booking. I was taken to late night court and bail was set for $2,500.00, then transported to jail (Orleans Parish Prison, aka Concheta or CTA, 3600 Perdido Street), arriving early Tuesday morning, August 23rd. I had never been arrested before and found the whole experience very humiliating.

Bad goes to worse. Hurricane Katrina hits Sunday, August 28th, leaving most of New Orleans under five feet to nine feet of water. From that time on until our rescue on Wednesday afternoon, August 31st, by a three-man team from Angola, O.P.A. population was not evacuated, and there was no talk heard to evacuate. No preparations for food or water were made for us. We went without food, and some inmates found out that on the third floor of the building, there was still water running from a sink; it was warm but drinkable. No food, little water, no electricity, a couple of women broke out two of the three “dormitory” windows for air on our second day of abandonment by the city (we were given a full meal of two sandwiches, apples, cookies, bottled water, and other assorted snacks after our rescue by a three-man Angola team by boats). The toilets had stopped working the second day and the women used the showers for toilet needs. The first floor flooded out and was evacuated to the second and third floor dorms, resulting in overcrowding and “dramas” caused by tempers and not knowing if we would be rescued or not at this point. I was taken to the hospital on LSP grounds within twelve hours of our rescue, suffering severe hemroids caused by an impacted colon and heavy menstrual bleeding, as well as dehydration and treated. We’ve been here since our arrival on Thursday, September 1, 2005. Out of 1,500 O.P.P. inmates, only 750 inmates/”Katrina Evacuees” have been released over the seven weeks since Katrina from this all male penal institution.

Please, add my name and statement to this class-action lawsuit

[name redacted]


From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]




ABSTRACT : A plant growth apparatus comprises a plant pot (10) adapted
to contain soil (12) and a plant (14). Sensors (24, 26, 28, 42)
monitor the instant environment of the plant (14) and feed data to a
micro-controller (44) which compares the conditions with the ideal
growth conditions for the species of plant (14). Deviation from the
ideal is indicated via a screen (18) whereon alphanumerical remedial
actions and/or the expression of a face (20) are provided together
with spoken messages from loudspeaker (32). Controls (30) or voice
recognition via a microphone (34) can select the species of plant (14)
to be nurtured. Nurturing ideal criteria vary with growth of the plant
(14) and with the season. Interrogation of a user allows remedial
action to be taken against degenerative or pathological conditions in
the plant (14). User speech repetition is also provided.

Technical Field / Background
It is known, on a commercial basis, to automatically monitor the
growth conditions of plants and to adjust the growth conditions, again
automatically, to restore them to within acceptable bounds. It is also
known for individuals to monitor instruments such as moisture or
humidity meters and to take appropriate remedial action, based on
their expert knowledge. Neither of these approaches is appropriate for
an amateur. The present invention seeks to provide an apparatus for
growing a plant which causes an inexpert amateur to take appropriate
remedial action, and which does not require costly automatic controls,
nor a knowledge of how to read and interpret instruments.

Toys known as”Tamagochi”exist, where an electronic, fantasy creature
(with no concrete existence), makes demands upon its owner, based on
assumed conditions of nurture, and monitored by a controller. No
worthwhile new knowledge is imparted to the owner since the creature’s
requirements, and the creature itself, are the product of fantasy.

The present invention also seeks to provide an apparatus, representing
a hobby or pastime, based on real life and having real consequences,
whereby the user or owner can gain genuine knowledge.

Disclosure of Invention According to the invention there is provided
an apparatus for growing a plant as specified in claims 1 to 16.

Brief Description of Drain (vs An embodiment of the invention will now
be described. by way of example only, with reference to the
accompanying Figures, in which:- Figure 1 is a perspective view of a
preferred embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 is a cross-section of
Figure 1 along the plane defined by the broken line X-X’ as defined by
the terminal arrows; and Figure 3 is a schematic block diagram of the
entire apparatus.

Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiment Referring to Figure 1
there is shown a plant pot (10) containing soil or compost (12)
suitable for the growth of a living plant (14). The plant pot (10)
includes an outer housing (16) and an inner pot (36). The outer
housing (16) includes a display screen (18), for preference a Liquid
Crystal Display (LCD), but which can also be of any kind adaptable for
the use described. The screen (18) displays images (20) which, for
preference, present at least a pair of eyes which express a
presumed’degree of happiness’or a presumed’state of distress’relating
to the condition of the plant (14), as interpreted by measured
environmental parameters. as will later be explained.

The outer housing (16) also includes a sensor cluster housing (22)
including (see Figure 3) an atmospheric humidity sensor (24), a
temperature sensor (26) and a light level sensor (28). By these means
(24,26,28), the ambient conditions are monitored.

User controls (30) are provided on the outer housing (16) in the form
of buttons. By these means (30), as will later be described, the user
can inform and program the apparatus (10). A loudspeaker (32) is
provided on the outer housing (16), together with a microphone (34).

Figure 2 is a cross section of Figure 1 along the plane defined by the
broken line X-X’ and the terminal arrows. The inner pot (36) provides
the container for the soil (12) and the plant (14), together with
drainage means (38), if required. The outer housing (16) and the inner
pot (36) define a cavity (39) wherein an electronic assembly (40) is
housed, protected from moisture and other contaminants which may be
present in the soil (12). A moisture sensor (42) is situated in the
soil (12) and is connected to the electronic assembly (40) in such a
way as to avoid contaminant ingress into the cavity (39). The
electronic assembly (40) is additionally connected to the sensors
(24,26,28) in the sensor cluster housing (22), and also to the
loudspeaker (32), the microphone (34) and user controls (30).

Figure 3 is a schematic block diagram of the apparatus (10). The
electronic assembly (40) includes a micro-controller (44) which
receives the input from the sensors (24, 26, 28,42), from the user
controls (30), and from the microphone (34). In turn, the micro-
controller drives a speech synthesiser (46) (also part of the
electronic assembly (40)) whose output is amplified and fed to the
loudspeaker (32). In addition, the micro-controller (44) drives an LCD
driver (48) which causes the screen (18) to display a selected image.

The micro-controller (44) is coupled to a read-only memory (ROM) (50)
which contains the information required for the selection of the image
to be displayed, the synthesis details to be used by the speech
synthesiser (46), and the environmental conditions required for the
growth of the plant (14). The micro controller (t14) has an on-board
clock (not shown) which keeps track of the time of day and the passage
of days, together with the date and time in the season.

When first acquired by the user, the plant growth apparatus (10) comes
complete with a young plant (seedling) or with one or more
germinatable seeds, of a known species. The user, on first use,
employs the controls (30) to indicate that the period of growth of the
plant (14) has commenced. The micro-controller (44) consults the ROM
(50) to determine the conditions necessary at that time. The face on
the screen (18) is then adjusted to indicate the relationship between
the immediate environmental conditions that the plant (14) is
experiencing, and the acceptable conditions (within stated limits) as
defined by the ROM (50). If the date is too early in the season, the
face can look perplexed and the loudspeaker can say”It’s a bit early/
late in the year to begin, are you sure ?” The user can then desist,
or use the controls (30) to force the operation. If environmental
conditions are good, the face looks very happy and the loudspeaker
(32) says, for example”everything is fine”. If conditions are poor for
the plant, the face looks very sad or angry, and the loudspeaker (32)
indicates what the problem might be, such as “it is too dark”or”I need
water”or”it is too hot”or”it is too cold”. If things are in an
intermediate state, the face might look moderately happy or moderately
sad/angry and the loudspeaker (32) might say, for example”I’m a bit
hot”or”I’m a bit cold or”it’s a bit humid”or”I’ll need some water
soon”. If it is night-time, as defined by lack of light and/or the
clock in the micro-controller (44), the face on the screen (18) can
look asleep.

When day should have broken, as defined by the clock in the micro-
controller (44), the face on the screen (18) can become progressively
more angry, dependently upon the duration of light deprivation, and
the loudspeaker can say, for example”open the curtains, its dawn”. If
the plant (14) is subjected to artificial light during what would,
naturally, be the hours of darkness, the face can look a little sad
and the loudspeaker might say”can’t a poor plant get some sleep'”.
Upon the morning restoration of light, the sleepy face could slowly
wake up to assume its appropriate expression and the loudspeaker could
say”good morning”and/or”you might have opened the curtains”or “it’s
been very dark in here”or”everything is just great on this fine

So far the description has assumed that a known plant species is
provided with the apparatus (10). However, the user may choose to
select his own plant species. The ROM (50) is provided with
information on the ideal conditions for a plurality of plant species,
and the user can select the appropriate species by use of the controls
(30). In so selecting, the micro-controller (44) interrogates and
instructs the user by means of the loudspeaker (32) and by messages on
the screen (18). The clock in the micro-controller (44) is set for
time of day and date of year. Where appropriate, there can also be a
requirement to indicate in which area of the world the user is
situated so that sunrise and sunset times, and the appropriate season,
can be included.

As well as monitoring the environment of the plant (14), the micro-
controller (44) measures the passage of days and. using the ROM (44),
notes the expected development of the plant (14) and adjusts the
required ideal conditions, so that the needs of the plant (14) are
met. The progress from one set of ideal conditions to another can be
controlled by the apparatus interrogating the user who is required to
use the controls (30) to provide answers. For example, the loudspeaker
might ask”how many centimetres high am I now ?” or”how many leaves do
I have ?” or”do I have any flowers?”. Equally, plants require
attention of different kinds at different times. A germinating seed is
required to be enclosed within a humid housing for the earliest part
of its life. A flowering plant requires to have dead blooms removed.
All these can be accommodated by interrogation and passage from one
set of ideal conditions to another. Perennial and biennial plants go
through different phases during the seasons and between seasons and
require different treatment on subsequent years. This can be
accommodated by interrogation.

The controls (30) can also be used to diagnose other problems.
Symptoms of disease can be communicated to the micro-controller (44)
and advice given for a cure. Finally, and sadly, plant death must be
faced and the interrogation process may elicit the sad message “I’m
sorry my life is over. Thank you for looking after me”or, equally, the
reverse message if death has been caused by neglect or stupidity on
the part of the user! Any message from the loudspeaker (32) can be
displayed alphabetically on the screen (18), as can the current
readings of the sensors (24, 26, 28, 42) and the time, date, season.

The controls (30) can be used to select which form of communication is

The style of the face on the screen (18) is chosen to be appropriate
to the assumed personality of the species of plant (14). An Oriental
plant might have an oriental face, a northern plant might look like a
lumberjack or an Eskimo, and so on. Equally, the user can select the
style of face, and/or the type of voice, using the controls (30).

The apparatus, shown in Figure 1 is in the general form of a standard
European flowerpot. The exact form of the apparatus can be adapted to
reflect the type of plant (14) -a cactus having a green jagged pot, a
tree having a wood-bark effect with optional branches, and so on
according to the wish of the designer of the pot.

The microphone (34) is employed, in a first mode, simply to indicate
to the micro- controller that the user has made a sound. This means
that the user is present, and the micro-controller (44) can respond by
passing messages to the user. In a second mode, the micro-controller
(44) has a degree of speech recognition, and can repeat words, using
the synthesiser (46), via the loudspeaker (32), or recognise a range
of response words when interrogating the user. This last feature can
be used as an alternative to, or an adjunct to, the controls (30).

Variation may be made to the aforementioned embodiment (s) without
departing from the scope of the invention. For example, the apparatus
may be provided with a programmable memory instead of the read-only
memory (50) in order to enable information about uncommon plants to be
entered into the plant’s memory. This may be achieved by downloading
information to the apparatus (10) via a computer using software
supplied with the apparatus, or, for example, from a dedicated
website. Alternatively, the apparatus could be provided with
interchangeable ROMs (50) corresponding to different species of

The outer housing (16) and the inner pot (36) can be formed as a
single unit or, alternatively, the outer housing and associated
electronics and sensors etc could be provided as a separate unit for
use with a”conventional”plant pot. In this case, the moisture sensor
(42) will have to be attached to the electronic assembly (40) using a
suitable attachment means, so that it can be inserted into the
conventional plant pot by the user.




from Main articles: Computer program and Computer programming

“The defining feature of modern computers which distinguishes them
from all other machines is that they can be programmed. That is to say
that a list of instructions (the program) can be given to the computer
and it will store them and carry them out at some time in the future.

In most cases, computer instructions are simple: add one number to
another, move some data from one location to another, send a message
to some external device, etc. These instructions are read from the
computer’s memory and are generally carried out (executed) in the
order they were given. However, there are usually specialized
instructions to tell the computer to jump ahead or backwards to some
other place in the program and to carry on executing from there. These
are called “jump” instructions (or branches). Furthermore, jump
instructions may be made to happen conditionally so that different
sequences of instructions may be used depending on the result of some
previous calculation or some external event. Many computers directly
support subroutines by providing a type of jump that “remembers” the
location it jumped from and another instruction to return to the
instruction following that jump instruction.

Program execution might be likened to reading a book. While a person
will normally read each word and line in sequence, they may at times
jump back to an earlier place in the text or skip sections that are
not of interest. Similarly, a computer may sometimes go back and
repeat the instructions in some section of the program over and over
again until some internal condition is met. This is called the flow of
control within the program and it is what allows the computer to
perform tasks repeatedly without human intervention.

Comparatively, a person using a pocket calculator can perform a basic
arithmetic operation such as adding two numbers with just a few button
presses. But to add together all of the numbers from 1 to 1,000 would
take thousands of button presses and a lot of time–with a near
certainty of making a mistake. On the other hand, a computer may be
programmed to do this with just a few simple instructions. For

mov      #0,sum     ; set sum to 0
mov      #1,num     ; set num to 1
loop:   add      num,sum    ; add num to sum
add      #1,num     ; add 1 to num
cmp      num,#1000  ; compare num to 1000
ble      loop       ; if num <= 1000, go back to ‘loop’
halt                ; end of program. stop running

Once told to run this program, the computer will perform the
repetitive addition task without further human intervention. It will
almost never make a mistake and a modern PC can complete the task in
about a millionth of a second.[5]

However, computers cannot “think” for themselves in the sense that
they only solve problems in exactly the way they are programmed to. An
intelligent human faced with the above addition task might soon
realize that instead of actually adding up all the numbers one can
simply use the equation

1+2+3+…+n = {{n(n+1)} \over 2}

and arrive at the correct answer (500,500) with little work.[6] In
other words, a computer programmed to add up the numbers one by one as
in the example above would do exactly that without regard to
efficiency or alternative solutions.”


“Bill owns a company that manufactures and installs car wash systems.
Magic Wand Car Wash Systems just in case you want to buy one. Bill’s
company installed a car wash system in Frederick, Md. for a gentleman.
Now understand that these are a complete system including the money
changer and money taking machines.

The problem started when the new owner complained to Bill that he was
loosing significant amounts of money from his coin machines each week.
He went as far as to accuse Bill’s employees of having a key to the
boxes and ripping him off. Bill just couldn’t believe that his people
would do that. So they setup a trap for the thief.

Well they caught the thief in the act!
The bird had to go down in the machine and back up to get to the
money! That’s three quarters he has in his mouth! Another amazing
thing Bill told us is that it was not one bird there were several
working together. Once they identified the thief, they found over
$4000 in quarters on the roof of the car wash and more under a nearby



“The goal of this project is to create a device that will autonomously
train crows. So far we’ve trained captive crows to deposit dropped
coins they find on the ground in exchange for peanuts. The next step
is to see how quickly we can get wild crows to learn the system, and
then how quickly they can learn it from each other.

Once we’ve got system down for teaching coin collection we’ll move to
seeing how flexibly they can learn *other* tasks, like collecting
garbage, sorting through discarded electronics, or maybe even search
and rescue. The crows continue to amaze us with their abilities, so
who knows?

In the meantime, the idea of mutually beneficial synanthropy is
gaining ground. That’s the concept that we can have mutually
beneficial relationships with animals adapted to human ecologies.
We’re doing some consulting with companies that have animal-related
problems to find animal-related solutions – instead of just bombing,
shooting, or poisoning them.

Based on established Skinnerian training principles the action of the
device is divided into four stages. These are:

Stage One: Food and Coins Available on Departure.

At this stage the device pushes a few peanuts and one or two coins
onto the feeder tray whenever a crow *leaves* the device. This ensures
that the device always has food whenever it is examined by a potential
feeding crow. It also ensures that both the sound of the device and
its mechanical operation occur in close proximity to the feeding act
so as to aclimate the crow. By having this noise occur as the crow
leaves it prevents startling a potential feeder away from using the

Stage Two: Food and Coins Available On Landing.

Herein the action of the device is identical except that food and
coins are issued when a crow arrives. At this point the crow should be
comfortable with the sound of the device and is now being trained to
wait for its reward when arriving at the machine. Note that the
feeding tray is slanted such that coins will pile up and prevent
peanuts from being available until the crow cleans them away – a
typical behavior of crows is to sweep things out of the way with their
beak, and in this case this causes the coins to fall down the funnel.
This should help reinforce the connection between coins going down the
funnel and peanuts being produced..

Stage Three: Coins Available On Landing, Food Available on Deposit

This is the highest-risk segment of the machine’s operation. At this
point coins alone are made available whenever the bird lands on the
perch. However, should a bird peck or sweep coins off the tray and
cause a coin to fall down the funnel, the device then produces some
peanuts. This stage is designed to cement in the crows’ mind the
relationship between coins going down the funnel and peanuts being
made available.

Stage Four: Food Available On Coin Deposit

Finally we shift the device into its intended, and long-term state of
only providing peanuts when coins go down the funnel. Nothing is
otherwise provided aside from coins scattered around the device at the
beginning of the project.

josh [at] wireless [dot] is




“Perhaps Skinner’s best known critic, Noam Chomsky published his
review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior soon after it was published.[23]
The review became better known than the book itself. It has been
credited with launching the cognitive movement in psychology and other
disciplines. Chomsky also reviewed Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and
Dignity, utilizing the same basic motifs as his Verbal Behavior
review. Among Chomsky’s critiques were that Skinner’s laboratory work
could not be extended to humans, that when it was extended to humans
it represented ‘scientistic’ behavior attempting to emulate science
but which was not scientific, that Skinner was not a scientist because
he rejected the hypothetico-deductive model of theory testing, that
Skinner had no science of behavior, and that Skinner’s works were
highly conducive to justifying or advancing totalitarianism.”









Monkey Business
By STEPHEN J. DUBNER and STEVEN D. LEVITT  /  June 5, 2005

Keith Chen’s Monkey Research

Adam Smith, the founder of classical economics, was certain that
humankind’s knack for monetary exchange belonged to humankind alone.
”Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one
bone for another with another dog,” he wrote. ”Nobody ever saw one
animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is
mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.” But in a clean
and spacious laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital, seven capuchin
monkeys have been taught to use money, and a comparison of capuchin
behavior and human behavior will either surprise you very much or not
at all, depending on your view of humans.

The capuchin is a New World monkey, brown and cute, the size of a
scrawny year-old human baby plus a long tail. ”The capuchin has a
small brain, and it’s pretty much focused on food and sex,” says
Keith Chen, a Yale economist who, along with Laurie Santos, a
psychologist, is exploiting these natural desires — well, the desire
for food at least — to teach the capuchins to buy grapes, apples and
Jell-O. ”You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless
stomach of want,” Chen says. ”You can feed them marshmallows all
day, they’ll throw up and then come back for more.”

When most people think of economics, they probably conjure images of
inflation charts or currency rates rather than monkeys and
marshmallows. But economics is increasingly being recognized as a
science whose statistical tools can be put to work on nearly any
aspect of modern life. That’s because economics is in essence the
study of incentives, and how people — perhaps even monkeys — respond
to those incentives. A quick scan of the current literature reveals
that top economists are studying subjects like prostitution, rock ‘n’
roll, baseball cards and media bias.

Chen proudly calls himself a behavioral economist, a member of a
growing subtribe whose research crosses over into psychology,
neuroscience and evolutionary biology. He began his monkey work as a
Harvard graduate student, in concert with Marc Hauser, a psychologist.
The Harvard monkeys were cotton-top tamarins, and the experiments with
them concerned altruism. Two monkeys faced each other in adjoining
cages, each equipped with a lever that would release a marshmallow
into the other monkey’s cage. The only way for one monkey to get a
marshmallow was for the other monkey to pull its lever. So pulling the
lever was to some degree an act of altruism, or at least of strategic

The tamarins were fairly cooperative but still showed a healthy amount
of self-interest: over repeated encounters with fellow monkeys, the
typical tamarin pulled the lever about 40 percent of the time. Then
Hauser and Chen heightened the drama. They conditioned one tamarin to
always pull the lever (thus creating an altruistic stooge) and another
to never pull the lever (thus creating a selfish jerk). The stooge and
the jerk were then sent to play the game with the other tamarins. The
stooge blithely pulled her lever over and over, never failing to dump
a marshmallow into the other monkey’s cage. Initially, the other
monkeys responded in kind, pulling their own levers 50 percent of the
time. But once they figured out that their partner was a pushover
(like a parent who buys her kid a toy on every outing whether the kid
is a saint or a devil), their rate of reciprocation dropped to 30
percent — lower than the original average rate. The selfish jerk,
meanwhile, was punished even worse. Once her reputation was
established, whenever she was led into the experimenting chamber, the
other tamarins ”would just go nuts,” Chen recalls. ”They’d throw
their feces at the wall, walk into the corner and sit on their hands,
kind of sulk.”

Chen is a hyperverbal, sharp-dressing 29-year-old with spiky hair. The
son of Chinese immigrants, he had an itinerant upbringing in the rural
Midwest. As a Stanford undergraduate, he was a de facto Marxist before
being seduced, quite accidentally, by economics. He may be the only
economist conducting monkey experiments, which puts him at slight odds
with his psychologist collaborators (who are more interested in
behavior itself than in the incentives that produce the behavior) as
well as with certain economist colleagues. ”I love interest rates,
and I’m willing to talk about their kind of stuff all the time,” he
says, speaking of his fellow economists. ”But I can tell that they’re
biting their tongues when I tell them what I’m working on.”

It is sometimes unclear, even to Chen himself, exactly what he is
working on. When he and Santos, his psychologist collaborator, began
to teach the Yale capuchins to use money, he had no pressing research
theme. The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what
it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one
inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle — ”kind of like Chinese
money,” he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to
teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of
exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day.
Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented
with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for,
say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin
to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance,
the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would
the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded
rationally to tests like this — that is, they responded the way most
readers of The Times would respond. In economist-speak, the capuchins
adhered to the rules of utility maximization and price theory: when
the price of something falls, people tend to buy more of it.

Chen next introduced a pair of gambling games and set out to determine
which one the monkeys preferred. In the first game, the capuchin was
given one grape and, dependent on a coin flip, either retained the
original grape or won a bonus grape. In the second game, the capuchin
started out owning the bonus grape and, once again dependent on a coin
flip, either kept the two grapes or lost one. These two games are in
fact the same gamble, with identical odds, but one is framed as a
potential win and the other as a potential loss.

How did the capuchins react? They far preferred to take a gamble on
the potential gain than the potential loss. This is not what an
economics textbook would predict. The laws of economics state that
these two gambles, because they represent such small stakes, should be
treated equally.

So, does Chen’s gambling experiment simply reveal the cognitive
limitations of his small-brained subjects? Perhaps not. In similar
experiments, it turns out that humans tend to make the same type of
irrational decision at a nearly identical rate. Documenting this
phenomenon, known as loss aversion, is what helped the psychologist
Daniel Kahneman win a Nobel Prize in economics. The data generated by
the capuchin monkeys, Chen says, ”make them statistically
indistinguishable from most stock-market investors.”

But do the capuchins actually understand money? Or is Chen simply
exploiting their endless appetites to make them perform neat tricks?

Several facts suggest the former. During a recent capuchin experiment
that used cucumbers as treats, a research assistant happened to slice
the cucumber into discs instead of cubes, as was typical. One capuchin
picked up a slice, started to eat it and then ran over to a researcher
to see if he could ”buy” something sweeter with it. To the capuchin,
a round slice of cucumber bore enough resemblance to Chen’s silver
tokens to seem like another piece of currency.

Then there is the stealing. Santos has observed that the monkeys never
deliberately save any money, but they do sometimes purloin a token or
two during an experiment. All seven monkeys live in a communal main
chamber of about 750 cubic feet. For experiments, one capuchin at a
time is let into a smaller testing chamber next door. Once, a capuchin
in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them
into the main chamber and then scurried in after them — a combination
jailbreak and bank heist — which led to a chaotic scene in which the
human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food
bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that
convinced Chen of the monkeys’ true grasp of money. Perhaps the most
distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility,
the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During
the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of
his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of
hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first
observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind.
(Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who
was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

This is a sensitive subject. The capuchin lab at Yale has been built
and maintained to make the monkeys as comfortable as possible, and
especially to allow them to carry on in a natural state. The
introduction of money was tricky enough; it wouldn’t reflect well on
anyone involved if the money turned the lab into a brothel. To this
end, Chen has taken steps to ensure that future monkey sex at Yale
occurs as nature intended it.

But these facts remain: When taught to use money, a group of capuchin
monkeys responded quite rationally to simple incentives; responded
irrationally to risky gambles; failed to save; stole when they could;
used money for food and, on occasion, sex. In other words, they
behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen’s more
traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.

{Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt are the authors of
”Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of


Keith Chen
keith.chen [at] yale [dot] edu



HUMANS ALL WEIRD ABOUT MONEY,0,1195880.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

Why people believe weird things about money

Evolution accounts for a lot of our strange ideas about finances.
BY Michael Shermer  /  January 13, 2008

Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000,
or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get
$250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will
stay the same.

Surprisingly — stunningly, in fact — research shows that the
majority of people select the first option; they would rather make
twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as
they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?

This result is one among thousands of experiments in behavioral
economics, neuroeconomics and evolutionary economics conclusively
demonstrating that we are every bit as irrational when it comes to
money as we are in most other aspects of our lives. In this case,
relative social ranking trumps absolute financial status. Here’s a
related thought experiment. Would you rather be A or B?

A is waiting in line at a movie theater. When he gets to the ticket
window, he is told that as he is the 100,000th customer of the
theater, he has just won $100.

B is waiting in line at a different theater. The man in front of him
wins $1,000 for being the 1-millionth customer of the theater. Mr. B
wins $150.

Amazingly, most people said that they would prefer to be A. In other
words, they would rather forgo $50 in order to alleviate the feeling
of regret that comes with not winning the thousand bucks. Essentially,
they were willing to pay $50 for regret therapy.

Regret falls under a psychological effect known as loss aversion.
Research shows that before we risk an investment, we need to feel
assured that the potential gain is twice what the possible loss might
be because a loss feels twice as bad as a gain feels good. That’s
weird and irrational, but it’s the way it is.

Human as it sounds, loss aversion appears to be a trait we’ve
inherited genetically because it is found in other primates, such as
capuchin monkeys. In a 2006 experiment, these small primates were
given 12 tokens that they were allowed to trade with the experimenters
for either apple slices or grapes. In a preliminary trial, the monkeys
were given the opportunity to trade tokens with one experimenter for a
grape and with another experimenter for apple slices. One capuchin
monkey in the experiment, for example, traded seven tokens for grapes
and five tokens for apple slices. A baseline like this was established
for each monkey so that the scientists knew each monkey’s preferences.

The experimenters then changed the conditions. In a second trial, the
monkeys were given additional tokens to trade for food, only to
discover that the price of one of the food items had doubled.
According to the law of supply and demand, the monkeys should now
purchase more of the relatively cheap food and less of the relatively
expensive food, and that is precisely what they did. So far, so
rational. But in another trial in which the experimental conditions
were manipulated in such a way that the monkeys had a choice of a 50%
chance of a bonus or a 50% chance of a loss, the monkeys were twice as
averse to the loss as they were motivated by the gain.

Remarkable! Monkeys show the same sensitivity to changes in supply and
demand and prices as people do, as well as displaying one of the most
powerful effects in all of human behavior: loss aversion. It is
extremely unlikely that this common trait would have evolved
independently and in parallel between multiple primate species at
different times and different places around the world. Instead, there
is an early evolutionary origin for such preferences and biases, and
these traits evolved in a common ancestor to monkeys, apes and humans
and was then passed down through the generations.

If there are behavioral analogies between humans and other primates,
the underlying brain mechanism driving the choice preferences most
certainly dates back to a common ancestor more than 10 million years
ago. Think about that: Millions of years ago, the psychology of
relative social ranking, supply and demand and economic loss aversion
evolved in the earliest primate traders.

This research goes a long way toward debunking one of the biggest
myths in all of psychology and economics, known as “Homo economicus.”
This is the theory that “economic man” is rational, self-maximizing
and efficient in making choices. But why should this be so? Given what
we now know about how irrational and emotional people are in all other
aspects of life, why would we suddenly become rational and logical
when shopping or investing?

Consider one more experimental example to prove the point: the
ultimatum game. You are given $100 to split between yourself and your
game partner. Whatever division of the money you propose, if your
partner accepts it, you each get to keep your share. If, however, your
partner rejects it, neither of you gets any money.

How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your
game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the
very embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a
free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer
much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.

Why? Because they aren’t fair. Says who? Says the moral emotion of
“reciprocal altruism,” which evolved over the Paleolithic eons to
demand fairness on the part of our potential exchange partners. “I’ll
scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” only works if I know you
will respond with something approaching parity. The moral sense of
fairness is hard-wired into our brains and is an emotion shared by
most people and primates tested for it, including people from non-
Western cultures and those living close to how our Paleolithic
ancestors lived.

When it comes to money, as in most other aspects of life, reason and
rationality are trumped by emotions and feelings.

mshermer [at] skeptic [dot] com

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a columnist for
Scientific American and the author of “The Mind of the Market:
Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Lessons from Evolutionary


Why you should listen to him:

“As founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer has
exposed fallacies behind intelligent design, 9/11 conspiracies, the
low-carb craze, alien sightings and other popular beliefs and
paranoias. But it’s not about debunking for debunking’s sake. Shermer
defends the notion that we can understand our world better only by
matching good theory with good science. Thus, in order to explore a
conspiracy theory that pre-planted explosives caused the World Trade
Center towers to fall on 9/11, the magazine called on demolition

Shermer’s work offers cognitive context for our often misguided
beliefs: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can
powerfully combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear
Satanic lyrics when “Stairway to Heaven” plays backwards, for
example). In fact, a common thread that runs through beliefs of all
sorts, he says, is our tendency to convince ourselves: We overvalue
the shreds of evidence that support our preferred outcome, and ignore
the facts we aren’t looking for.”


“How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-
traders? Why are people so emotional and irrational when it comes to
money and business decisions? Bestselling author Michael Shermer
believes that evolution and evolutionary psychology provides an answer
to both of these questions through the new science of evolutionary

Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain
scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is
established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral
economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and
failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into
emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy.
Employing research from complexity theory, Shermer shows how evolution
and economics are both examples of a larger and still somewhat
mysterious phenomenon of emergence, where one plus one equals three.

Along the way, Shermer answers such provocative questions as, Do our
tribal roots mean that we will always be a sucker for brands? How is
the biochemical joy of sex similar to the rewards of business
cooperation? How can nations increase trust within their borders?
Finally, Shermer considers the consequences of globalization and what
will happen if nations allow free trade across their borders.

Throughout this entertaining and surprising book Shermer considers the
morality of markets in a discussion of what he calls virtue economics.
Although we are selfish and altruistic, cooperative and competitive,
peaceful and bellicose, in the main the balance is heavily on the side
of good over evil. For every random act of violence that makes the
evening news, there are 10,000 nonrandom acts of kindness that go
unrecorded every day. Markets are moral and modern economies are
founded on our virtuous nature. The Enron model of business is the
exception and the Google motto of “Don’t Be Evil” is the rule.”


The Mind of the Market
Prologue — Economics for Everyone

In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, recounted in Matthew 25:14-29, the
gospel author recalls the messiah as saying in the final verse: “For
to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an
abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have
shall be taken away.” Out of context this hardly sounds like the
wisdom of the prophet who proclaimed that the meek shall inherit the
earth, but in context, Jesus’ point was that properly investing one’s
money (as measured in “talents”) generates even more wealth. The
servant who was given five talents invested it and gave his master ten
talents in return. The servant who was given two talents invested it
and gave his master four talents in return. But the servant who was
given one talent buried it in the ground and gave his master back just
the one talent. The master then ordered his risk-averse servant to
give the one talent to the servant who had doubled his investment of
five talents, and so he who earned the most was rewarded with even
more. And thus it is that the rich get richer.

Jesus probably had in mind something more than an economic allegory
about selecting the right investment tool for your money, but I want
to employ the story as a parable about the mind of the market. In the
1960s, the sociologist of science Robert K. Merton conducted an
extensive study of how scientific ideas are discovered and credited in
the marketplace of ideas — in this case treating science as a market —
and discovered that eminent scientists typically receive more credit
than they deserve simply by dint of having a big name, while their
junior colleagues and graduate students, who usually do most of the
work, go largely unnoticed.1 A similar well-known effect can be seen
in how both innovative ideas and clever quotes gravitate up and are
given credit to the most famous person associated with them.2

Merton called this the Matthew Effect. Marketers know it as Cumulative
Advantage. In a broader economic context I shall refer to it here as
the Bestseller Effect. Once a product gets a head-start in sales it
signals to consumers that other people want that product and therefore
it must be good thereby causing them to desire it as well, which leads
even more people to purchase the product, sending more signals to
other consumers that they too must have it, and so it climbs up the
bestseller list. Everyone in business knows about the effect, which is
why authors and publishers, for example, try so fervently to land
their book on the New York Times bestseller list. Once you are on the
list bookstores move your title to the “bestseller” bookcase
(sometimes even labeled “New York Times Bestseller List”) and to the
front of the store where copies of the book are stacked like cordwood.
This sends a signal to potential book buyers entering the store that
this must be a good read, triggering an increase in sales that gets
reported to the New York Times book review editors, who bump the title
up the list, sending another signal to bookstore buyers to order even
more copies, which secures the title more time in the bestseller list
that increases sales even further, and round and round the feedback
loop goes as the richest authors get even richer.3

To find out if the Bestseller Effect is real, the Columbia University
sociologist Duncan Watts and his collaborators Matthew Salganik and
Peter Dodds tested it in a web-based experiment in which 14,000
participants registered at a Web site where they had the opportunity
to listen to, rate, and download songs by unknown bands.4 One group of
registrants were only given the names of the songs and bands, while a
second group of registrants were also shown how many times the song
had been downloaded. The researchers called this the “social
influence” condition, because they wanted to know if seeing how many
people had downloaded a song would influence subjects’ decision on
whether or not to download it. Predictably, the Web participants in
the social influence condition were influenced by the download rate
figures: songs with a higher download number were more likely to be
downloaded by new participants, whereas subjects in the independent
group who saw no download rates, revealed dramatically different song
preferences.5 This is not to deny that the quality of a song or a book
or any other product does not matter. Of course it does, and this too
is measurable. But it turns out that subjective consumer preferences
grounded in relative rankings by other consumers can and often does
wash out the effects of more objective ratings of product quality.

Markets that traffic in rankings, ratings, and bestseller lists seem
to operate on their own volition, almost like a collective organism.
In fact, this is only one of many effects we shall see in this book
that demonstrate just how much the mind influences the market, and in
a broader sense how markets seem to have a mind of their own. Consider
another economic parable with an evolutionary lesson related to the
Bestseller Effect.

Imagine that you are a banker with a limited amount of money to lend.
If you advance loans to people who are the poorest credit risks, you
are taking a great gamble that they will default on their loans and
you will go out of business. This sets up a paradox: the people who
most need the money are also the worst credit risks and thus cannot
get a loan, whereas the people who least need the money are also the
best credit risks and thus once again the rich get richer. The
evolutionary psychologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides call this the
Banker’s Paradox, and they apply it to a deeper evolutionary problem:
to whom should we extend our friendship? The Banker’s Paradox, they
suggest, “is analogous to a serious adaptive problem faced by our
hominid ancestors: exactly when an ancestral hunter-gatherer is in
most dire need of assistance, she becomes a bad ‘credit risk’ and, for
this reason, is less attractive as a potential recipient of

If we think of life as an economy, and if we count resources as
anything we have that could help others — including and especially
friendship — by the logic of the Banker’s Paradox we have to make
difficult choices in assessing the credit risk of people we encounter.
In evolutionary theory the larger problem to be solved here is
altruism: why should I sacrifice my genes for someone else’s genes?
Or, more technically, an altruistic act is one that lowers my
reproductive success while simultaneously raising the reproductive
success of someone else.

Standard theory suggests two evolutionary pathways to altruism: kin
selection (“blood is thicker than water”) and reciprocal altruism
(“I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”). By helping my kin
relations, and by extending a helping hand to those who will
reciprocate my altruism, I am helping myself. Thus, there will be a
selection for those who are inclined to be altruistic … to a point.
With limited resources we can’t help everyone and so we must assess
credit risks, and some people are better risks than others. Here again
is the Banker’s Paradox: those most in need of assistance are the
least likely to be given help, and so yet again the rich get richer.
But not always, because fair weather friends may be faking their signs
of altruistic tendencies and later fail to come to our aid when the
weather turns decidedly stormy. By contrast, true friends are those
who are deeply committed to our welfare regardless of the potential
for reciprocity. “It is this kind of friend that the fair weather
friend is the counterfeit of,” Tooby and Cosmides continue. “If you
are a hunter-gatherer with few or no individuals who are deeply
engaged in your welfare, then you are extremely vulnerable to the
volatility of events — a hostage to fortune.”7 The worse the
environment the more important it is that we have true friends, and
the environment of our evolutionary past was no picnic.

Evolution, it is suggested, would have selected for adaptations to
work around the Banker’s Paradox dilemmas, including selecting us to

1. seek recognition from our fellow group members for our
trustworthiness and reliability,
2. cultivate those attributes most desired by others in our group,
3. participate in social activities that recognize and reinforce
such pro-social attributes,
4. avoid social activities that lead to untrustworthy actions and
therefore a negative reputation,
5. notice similar attributes of trustworthiness in others, and
6. develop the ability to discriminate between true and fair
weather friends.

Thus, Tooby and Cosmides conclude, the Banker’s Paradox leads us to an
evolved psychology where “if you are unusually or uniquely valuable to
someone else — for whatever reason — then that person has an
uncommonly strong interest in your survival during times of
difficulty. The interest they have in your survival makes them,
therefore, highly valuable to you. The fact that they have a stake in
you means…that you have a stake in them. Moreover, to the extent they
recognize this, the initial stake they have in you may be augmented.”8
Through such augmentation can the poor become rich through the evolved
foundation of friendship.

If this sounds like I have reduced human relationships to nothing more
than credit calculations and reciprocal relations, in my previous
book, The Science of Good and Evil, I demonstrate how kin selection
and reciprocal altruism led to the evolution of deep and real moral
emotions that include love, friendship, and trust, because it is not
enough to fake being a good and faithful spouse, friend, or partner;
you actually have to believe it yourself, and actions follow beliefs.
Thus it is that morality is real and transcendent, and human relations
genuine and deeply ingrained in our nature.

In 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. The
book was so controversial that in 1861 the British Association for the
Advancement of Science devoted a special session of its annual
conference to it. Talks were given, pro and con, with one critic
carping that Darwin’s book was too theoretical and that he should have
just “put his facts before us and let them rest.” In attendance was
Darwin’s friend and colleague, the political economist and social
activist Henry Fawcett, who wrote Darwin to report on the theory’s
reception (Darwin did not attend such meetings, usually due to ill
health and family obligations). Darwin wrote Fawcett back, explaining
the proper relationship between facts and theory:

About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought
only to observe and not theorize, and I well remember someone saying
that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count
the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should
not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is
to be of any service!9

This quote was the centerpiece of the first of my monthly columns for
Scientific American, in which I elevated it to a principle I call
“Darwin’s Dictum,”10 as identified in the final clause: all
observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any

Darwin’s Dictum encodes the philosophy of science of this book: if
observations are to be of any use they must be tested against some
view — a thesis, model, hypothesis, theory, or paradigm. Since the
facts never just speak for themselves, they must be interpreted
through the colored lenses of ideas — percepts need concepts. Science
is an exquisite blend of data and theory — percepts and concepts —
that together form the bedrock for the foundation of science, the
greatest tool ever devised for understanding how the world works. We
can no more separate our theories and concepts from our data and
percepts than we can find a truly objective Archimedean point — a
god’s eye view — of ourselves and our world.

One view that I am writing against in this book, ironically, is the
belief that Darwin and the theory of evolution have no place in the
social sciences, especially in the study of human social and economic
behavior. Whereas scientists are up in arms about attempts to teach
creationism and Intelligent Design in public school biology classrooms
(see my book Why Darwin Matters), and are distraught by the dismal
state of science education and the lack of acceptance of Darwin’s
theory (less than half of Americans believe that humans evolved)11,
most scientists — especially social scientists — have resisted with
the emotional intensity of a creationist any attempts to apply
evolutionary thinking to psychology, sociology, and economics. The
reason for this resistance — understandable at the time — was the
equation of evolutionary theory with Social Darwinism and especially
the extreme hereditarian views that led to enforced sterilization of
the mentally retarded in America, and to the Nazi eugenics program
that led to the Holocaust. As a consequence, post-World War Two social
scientists steered a wide course around any attempts to employ
evolutionary theory to the study of human behavior, and instead
focused almost exclusively on socio-cultural explanations.

A second view that I am writing against is the theory of Homo
economicus, which holds that “Economic Man” has unbounded rationality,
self-interest, and free will, and that we are selfish, self-
maximizing, and efficient in our decisions and choices. When
evolutionary thinking and modern psychological theories and techniques
are applied to the study of human behavior in the marketplace, we find
that the theory of Homo economicus — which has been the bedrock of
Traditional Economics — is often wrong or woefully lacking in
explanatory power. It turns out that we are remarkably irrational
creatures, driven as much (if not more) by deep and unconscious
emotions that evolved over the eons, as we are by logic and conscious
reason developed in the modern world.

A third view that I am writing against is the belief, first propounded
in 1849 by the British historian Thomas Carlyle, that economics is
“the dismal science.” For the next century and a half most people
thought of it that way, seeing only a field bogged down in
mathematical models, financial analyses, and theoretical
representations of people as rationally calculating and maximally
selfish machines. In reality, when we examine all three of these views
together, we find that economics is anything but dismal. First, it is
undergoing the most dynamic revolution since Adam Smith founded the
science in 1776 with his book The Wealth of Nations. Rich
transdisciplinary hybrids are emerging to breath new life into an old
science, such as evolutionary economics, complexity economics,
behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, and what I call virtue
economics. Second, and more important, people, companies, and nations
care deeply and passionately about their finances, and they always
have. On this level, economics has never been dismal. Put a couple of
liberals and conservatives in a room together and ask them to
dispassionately discuss the economics of universal health care, the
privatization of social services, the cost-benefits of foreign aid, or
the relative merits of a flat tax versus a progressive tax, and see
just how quickly the tone of the conversation will escalate into a
state that is anything but dismal.

I have spent thirty years in science dealing with such controversial
topics as evolution, creationism, global warming, Holocaust denial,
racial differences in I.Q., racial differences in sports, gender
differences in cognitive abilities, conspiracy theories ranging from
Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to the JFK, RFK, and MLK assassinations,
alternative and complimentary medicine, reincarnation and the
afterlife, and even God and religion. Yet, it has been my experience
that as ruffled feathers go, economics is second to none in emotive
volatility. If ever we need impartiality in our assessment of the
facts — especially when the facts do not just speak for themselves —
it is in economics. We must study the laws of human behavior in
economies as the physicist, chemist, or biologist studies the laws of
nature; and when we do so, because we are dealing with a subject to
which most people are emotionally invested, we must make a ceaseless
effort not to ridicule, bewail, or scorn human actions, but to
understand them. Allow me to explain how I came to this subject.

In the mid-1970s, I was an undergraduate at Pepperdine University, a
Church of Christ institution with a strong conservative bent at a time
when liberals ruled academe. I matriculated there because I was an
evangelical Christian who wanted to be a college professor, so
theology seemed like the most appropriate field and Pepperdine had a
strong theology department (it didn’t hurt that the campus is located
in the majestic Malibu hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean). I soon
discovered, however, that in order to earn a Ph.D. in theology one had
to master four dead languages — Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic —
and since I found even Spanish to be taxing, this career choice was
problematic. When my advisors also warned me about the questionable
university job market for theologians, and my parents began to wonder
aloud what I was planning to do for a living, I switched to
psychology, where I discovered the language of science, in which I
flourished. Theology is based on logical inquiry, philosophical
disputation, and literary deconstruction. Science is founded on
empirical data, statistical analysis, and theory building. For my
style of thinking the latter was a better fit.

My introduction to economics came in my senior year when many of the
students in the psychology department were reading a cinderblock of a
book entitled Atlas Shrugged, by the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. I
had never heard of the book or the author, and the novel’s size was so
intimidating that I refused to join the ranks of the enthused for
months, until social pressure pushed me into taking the plunge. I
trudged through the first hundred pages (patience was strongly
advised) until the gripping mystery of the man who stopped the motor
of the world swept me through the next thousand pages.

I found Atlas Shrugged to be a remarkable book, as many have. In fact,
in 1991 the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club
surveyed readers about books that “made a difference” in their lives.
Atlas Shrugged was rated second only to the Bible.12 Rand’s philosophy
of Objectivism was based on four fundamental principles:

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality;
2. Epistemology: Reason;
3. Ethics: Self-interest;
4. Politics: Capitalism.13

Although I now disagree with her ethics of self-interest (science
shows that in addition to being selfish, competitive, and greedy, we
also harbor a great capacity for altruism, cooperation, and charity),
reading Rand led me to the extensive body of literature on business,
markets, and economics.

I cannot say for certain whether it was the merits of free market
economics and fiscal conservatism (which are considerable) that
convinced me of its veracity, or if it was my disposition that
reverberated so well with its worldview. As it is for most belief
systems we hold, it was probably a combination of both. I was raised
by parents who could best be described as fiscally conservative and
socially liberal. Products of the depression and motivated by the fear
of falling back into abject poverty, they skipped college and worked
full time well into their later years. Throughout my childhood I was
inculcated with the fundamental principles of economic conservatism:
hard work, personal responsibility, self-determination, financial
autonomy, small government, and free markets. Even though they were
not in the least religious (as so many conservatives are today), my
parents were exceedingly generous to those who were less fortunate —
greed is good, but charity is better.

After Pepperdine, I began a graduate program in experimental
psychology at California State University, Fullerton, by which time I
had abandoned my religious faith and embraced in its stead the secular
values of the Enlightenment and the rigorous methods and provisional
truths of science.14 But after two years of enticing rats to press
bars in proportion to the frequency and intensity of the
reinforcements we gave them, my enthusiasm for practicing this type of
science waned while my wanderlust for the real world waxed.15 I went
to the campus career development office and inquired what I might do
for a living with a Master’s degree. “What are you educated to do?”
they inquired. “Train rats,” I replied sardonically. “What else can
you do?” they persisted. “Well,” I searched, “I can research and
write.” The employment book included a job description for research
and writing at a trade magazine of the bicycle industry, about which I
knew nothing. My first assignment was to attend a press conference
hosted by Cycles Peugeot and Michelin Tires in honor of John Marino, a
professional bicycle racer who broke the transcontinental record from
Los Angeles to New York. I fell in love with the sport, entering my
first race that weekend, and for the next two years I learned the
business of publishing, the economics of sales and marketing, and the
sport of cycling. I wrote articles, sold advertisements, and rode my
bike as far as I could. At the end of 1981, I left the magazine to
race full time, supported by corporate sponsors and an adjunct
professor’s salary from teaching psychology at Glendale College.

One day in 1981, during a long training ride, Marino told me about
Andrew Galambos, a retired physicist teaching private courses through
his own Free Enterprise Institute, under an umbrella field he called
“Volitional Science.” The introductory course was V-50. This was Econ
101 on free market steroids, an invigoratingly muscular black-and-
white world where Adam Smith is good, Karl Marx bad; individualism is
good, collectivism bad; free economies are good, mixed economies are
bad. The course was popular in Orange County, California (labeled by
our neighbors in L.A. County as the “Orange Curtain”), and the time
was right with Ronald Reagan as President and conservatives on the
ascendant. Where Rand advocated for limited government, Galambos
proffered a theory in which everything in society would be privatized
until government simply falls into disuse and disappears. Galambos
identified three types of property: primordial (one’s life), primary
(one’s thoughts and ideas), and secondary (derivatives of primordial
and primary property, such as the utilization of land and material
goods). Thus, Galambos defined capitalism as “that societal structure
whose mechanism is capable of protecting all forms of private property
completely.” To realize a truly free society, then, we have merely “to
discover the proper means of creating a capitalist society.” In this
free society, we are all capitalists.16

Galambos’s story is not unusual in the history of the oft-fringy
libertarian movement. He had a massive ego that propelled him to a
successful career as a private lecturer, but led him to such ego-
inflating pronouncements as his classification of all sciences into
physical, biological, and his own “volitional sciences.” His towering
intellect took him to great heights of interdisciplinary creativity,
but often left him and his students tangled up in contradictions, as
when we all had to sign a contract promising that we would not
disclose his ideas to anyone, while we were also inveigled to solicit
others to enroll. (“You’ve got to take this great course.” “What’s it
about?” “I can’t tell you.”) And he had a remarkable ability to
lecture for hours without notes in an entertainingly colloquial style,
but when two hours stretched into three, and three hours dragged into
four, his audiences were never left wanting for more. Most
problematic, however, was any hope of translating theory into
practice, which is where the rubber meets the road for any economic
principle. Property definitions are all well and good, but what
happens when we cannot agree on property rights infringements? The
answer was inevitably something like this: “in a truly free society
all such disputes will be peacefully resolved through private
arbitration.” This sounds good in theory and makes for a nice just-so
story, but I would like more data from real world social experiments.

Galambos had a protégé named Jay Stuart Snelson, whom I met shortly
after taking V-50. Snelson taught courses at the Free Enterprise
Institute, but after a falling out with Galambos (a common occurrence
in Galambos’ social sphere that also plagued Ayn Rand and other
libertarian leaders), Snelson founded his own Institute for Human
Progress. To distance himself from Galambos and bring his ideas more
into line with mainstream economic theory, Snelson built on the
shoulders of what is known as the Austrian School of Economics, most
notably the work of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Snelson
demonstrated through a series of economic principles and historical
examples that free market capitalism is unquestionably the most
effective means of optimizing peace, prosperity, and freedom, and that
the privatization of education, transportation, communications, health
services, environmental protection, crime prevention, and countless
other areas would produce the greatest good for the greatest number.

During this time Marino and I (and our cycling partner Lon Haldeman)
turned our cycling passion into a business called the Race Across
America — a 3,000-mile nonstop transcontinental bicycle race — with
corporate sponsors and a contract from ABC Sports. Several appearances
on Wide World of Sports gave me the recognition and confidence to open
Shermer Cycles, a bicycle shop in Arcadia, California. Meanwhile, I
expanded my teaching duties by creating new courses in evolutionary
theory and the history of ideas at Glendale College.17 I also
developed a monthly seminar reading group called the “Lunar Society” —
after the famous eighteenth-century Lunar Society of Birmingham —
centered on discussing such books as Human Action, which inspired me
toward the lofty goal set by its author, Ludwig von Mises: “One must
study the laws of human action and social cooperation as the physicist
studies the laws of nature.” I call this Mises’ Maxim, and it is one
of two principles that guide my thinking in this book.18

In 1987, I decided that if I wanted to make an impact on the world
through ideas I was going to have to give up my competitive cycling
career and complete my graduate studies. I switched fields from
psychology to history, and in 1991 I graduated from Claremont Graduate
University with a Ph.D. in the history of science. I began teaching at
Occidental College, a prestigious four-year liberal arts college in
Los Angeles, and since I was interested in broader issues in science,
particularly the growing threat of pseudoscience and irrationality in
our culture, in 1992 I co-founded (along with my wife Kim and the
artist Pat Linse), the Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, and our
public science lecture series at the California Institute of

The motto of the Skeptics Society is the second guiding principle of
this book, and it comes from the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s
1667 treatise on politics penned just before his death, Tractatus
Politicus, in which he explained his methodology for studying such
emotionally-charged subjects as politics and economics:

That I might investigate the subject matter of this science with
the same freedom of spirit as we generally use in mathematics, I have
labored carefully not to mock, lament, or denounce human actions, but
to understand them; and to this end I have looked upon passions, such
as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other
perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature,
but as properties just as pertinent to it as are heat, cold, storm,
thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere.19

A pithier translation of the key phrase reads: “I have made a
ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human
actions, but to understand them.” I elevated it to Spinoza’s Proverb,
a standard toward which to reach when dealing with such emotionally-
laden topics as science, religion, and morality, which encompass my
belief trilogy: Why People Believe Weird Things, How We Believe, and
The Science of Good and Evil20. It is no less so with this, the
product of an intellectual journey whose purpose is to improve our
understanding of the mental, moral, and material nature of humanity.
To that end, economics is for everyone.

posted by Raquel Baranow  /  January 28th, 2008

“Someone sent me an email several years ago with Rand’s Money Sermon/
Rant without identifying the source. I thought the person who sent me
the email was the author, so I responded, sentence by sentence to
Rand’s Rant here:”

SAMPLE COMEBACK: “Money is made possible by magic. It is intrinsically
inert, unnecessary or no real value (most of the gold and silver
supply is consumed in jewelry).”

Ayn Rand on money
From ATLAS SHRUGGED, by Ayn Rand, page 387:

Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made some sound of indignation, “Don’t let him disturb you. You know, money is the root of all evil–and he’s the typical product of money.” Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Aconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor– your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?

“Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions–and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

“But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is MADE –before it can be looted or mooched– made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.

“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss–the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery–that you must offer them values, not wounds–that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of GOODS. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade–with reason, not force, as their final arbiter–it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability–and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality –the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

“Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth–the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

“Money is your means of survival. The verdict which you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men’s vices or men’s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment’s or a penny’s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you’ll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

“Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

“Or did you say it’s the LOVE of money that’s the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It’s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is the loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money–and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.”

“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

“But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride, or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich–will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt–and of his life, as he deserves.

“Then you will see the rise of the double standard–the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money–the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of DISARMED victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion– when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing –when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors– when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you– when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world?’ You are.

“You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it’s crumbling around you, while your damning its life-blood–money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men’s history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves– slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody’s mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers–as industrialists.

“To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a COUNTRY OF MONEY–and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes- by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being–the self-made man–the American

“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to MAKE money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity–to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.

“Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters’ continents. Now the looters’ credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-as, I think, he will.

“Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.”




‘Soon after his release, Radford described the system that developed
in a classic paper entitled “The Economic Organization of a POW Camp,”
a write-up that’s much appreciated by undergraduates everywhere for
its skill at explaining the mysteries of monetary systems. What
interested Radford the most was the way that cigarrettes, as a means
of exchange, were subject to all of the fluctuations of normal

–  [thanks to]


New currency for space travellers  /  5 October 2007

Scientists have come up with a new currency designed to be used by
inter-planetary travellers. It is called the Quasi Universal
Intergalactic Denomination, or Quid. It is designed to withstand the
stresses of space travel and has no sharp edges or chemicals that
could hurt space tourists.

It was designed for the foreign exchange company Travelex by
scientists from the National Space Centre and the University of
Leicester. “None of the existing payment systems we use on earth –
like cash, credit or debit cards – could be used in space,” said
Professor George Fraser from the University of Leicester. “Anything
with sharp edges, like coins, would be a risk to astronauts while the
chips and magnetic strips used in our cards on Earth would be damaged
beyond repair by cosmic radiation,” he added.

Using any sort of technology that involved sending and receiving
information from Earth would also be impractical because of the
distances involved. Quids are made of the polymer best-known for its
use in non-stick pans. The Quid “coins” have moulded edges so that
they will not damage anything if they accidentally float free in zero

National Space Centre scientists predict that regular trips into space
will be commonplace in the next five years and that tourist facilities
on the Moon are a distinct possibility by 2050. Professor Fraser told
BBC News: “With an inflatable space hotel, from Bigelow Aerospace,
under development in the US, and Virgin Galactic developing
SpaceShipTwo, there will be better access to space than there has

“In the fullness of time we will have to adopt a universal currency if
we are going to carry out serious commerce in space. It’s an
interesting initiative.” Travelex said: “It’s only a matter of time
before people will be walking up to our shops and asking for Quids for
their two weeks in a space hotel.” It is currently quoting the
currency at £6.25 to the Quid.


BY Jesse Walker  /  October 2000

“Artist J.S.G. Boggs is famous for drawing intricate but slightly
skewed versions of the national currency, asking businesses to accept
one of these bills in lieu of ordinary dollars, then asking for the
correct change. Anyone willing to take this leap of faith and accept
the bill will soon find collectors offering him thousands of Treasury-
approved dollars for it. In a sense, Boggs is issuing his own
currency, backed by the full faith and credit of the fickle art
market. If it sounds a bit like a confidence game, that may be because
it’s public confidence that gives money value in the first place.

Critics and journalists love Boggs’ work, but lawmen are sometimes
less tolerant. In 1986, the British government charged him with
counterfeiting, even though he has never represented his work as
“real” money. He won that case, but that hasn’t kept other police
forces from harassing him. Late in 1992, the U.S. Secret Service
raided his workshop, confiscating drawings, receipts, even press
clippings. Eight years later, they’ve neither filed charges against
the artist nor returned his property.

More recently, Boggs has designed an electronic image–or rather, a
rapidly shifting flux of images–for an encrypted online currency to
be unveiled later this year by Blue Spike Inc. And the University of
Chicago Press has published an excellent book about the man, his art,
and the issues his art raises: Boggs: A Comedy of Values, by Lawrence

Q: What’s the status of your conflict with the Secret Service?

A: They confiscated over 1,300 items of my property. But when I went
to collect them, there were only a couple of hundred items in the box–
and they wouldn’t even allow me to inventory them. So I’m going to
have to go back to court.

Q: Isn’t there a sense in which fights like that magnify the point
your art is making?

A: It magnifies several points. One is that art in this country is not
properly understood, respected, or valued. Another is the discrepancy
between what we represent as our beliefs and what we actually
practice. In this country, we’re supposed to have due process, and
we’re supposed to have respect for private property.

Q: If I drew a dollar bill and signed your name to it, would I be a
forger or a counterfeiter?

A: A forger. I don’t make money; I make works of fine art.

Q: Have you ever drawn a currency that was subsequently devalued?

A: Yes.

Q: Did the price of your drawing drop after the devaluation?

A: No–my work has a nasty tendency to keep appreciating.

Q: What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever bought with a Boggs bill?

A: I’ve bought everything with Boggs bills. Hot dogs, watches,
airplane tickets, rent, clothing, jewelry–anything.

Q: Have you ever drawn a campaign contribution?

A: No, but I’ve drawn a charitable contribution. I drew a $1 bill,
which I gave to the New York Dance Company as a donation valued at $1.
They put it up for auction and sold it for $5,000. The person who
bought it sold it for 10,000. Last I heard, the current owner was
offered $25,000 but declined to accept it.



Macaque monkeys ‘pay’ for sex  /  02 January 2008

SEX has probably been a commodity for as long as human society has
existed, and perhaps even longer. The “oldest profession” seemingly
has pre-human evolutionary roots. “When the opportunity arises, male
macaque monkeys groom females to ‘pay’ for sex,” says Michael Gumert
of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Gumert looked at research on a 50-strong group of long-tailed macaques
in Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia, that covered a 20-month period. He
found there was an increase in sexual activity after bouts of male-to-
female grooming. On average, females had sex 1.5 times per hour, but
immediately after being groomed by a male partner, this rate jumped to
3.5 times per hour. After grooming, the female was also less likely to
offer herself to males other than her grooming partner (Animal
Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.03.009).

“My interest in this study stemmed from Trivers’s theory of reciprocal
altruism,” says Gumert. In the early 1970s, Robert Trivers suggested
that an organism will provide a service benefiting another, as long as
it gets something back at a future date. But Gumert suspected that if
the payback involved sex, the value would vary depending on the
context – like all commodities in economics – a finding not predicted
by reciprocal altruism. Sure enough, if there were several females in
the area, the value of sex would drop – a male could “buy” a female
for just 8 minutes of grooming. But if there were fewer females than
males in the area, a male would have to groom his partner for up to 16
minutes before sex was offered.

A two-player interaction, such as is usually considered in reciprocal
altruism studies, doesn’t make sense in this “general mating market”,
says Ronald Noë of the University of Strasbourg, France. Noë and Peter
Hammerstein of Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, formulated
biological market theory to better explain the kind of social
behaviour Gumert identified in macaques. Market forces have a powerful
influence on behaviour, says Noë. “There is a very well-known mix of
economic and mating markets in the human species itself,” he says.
“There are many examples of rich old men getting young attractive

Yet prior to Gumert’s study, the evidence that market forces influence
mating in nature has been scant – the only other clear example was in
wood mice. “Many studies that fail to find biological market effects
were performed in captivity,” says Gumert. “It is quite possible that
the confinements of captivity alter or remove the effects of a social
market.” For instance, there is no migration within captive
communities, so the value of commodities such as sex remains stable,
which makes market forces difficult to identify, he says.

Gumert says macaque males are very “short-termist” in their thinking.
“Some work is showing that monkeys really don’t have the capacity to
wait for long-term trades and therefore trades probably only occur in
the immediate sense,” he says.

Michael D. Gumert
email : gumert [at] ntu [dot] edu [dot] sg

Ronald Noë
email : ronald [dot] noe [at] c-strasbourg [dot] fr


Payment for sex in a macaque mating market

aDepartment of Biology, Hiram College, Hiram, OH, U.S.A.
bDepartment of Psychology, Hiram College, Hiram, OH, U.S.A.
Received 18 September 2006;  revised 26 October 2006;  accepted 13
March 2007.  MS. number: A10560R.  Available online 5 November 2007.

“In primate sexual relationships, males and females can cooperate
through social trade. Market-like trading of sexual activity has been
theorized, but no data have yet been presented that clearly show its
existence. I collected data to test whether biological market theory
could account for exchanges of male-to-female grooming and sexual
activity in longtailed macaques. I explored male-to-female grooming,
rates of sexual activity, and grooming-mating interchanges, which were
male-to-female grooming bouts that directly involved mating. Male-to-
female grooming mainly occurred when females were sexually active, and
males groomed females longer per bout when mating, inspection, or
presentation of female hindquarters was involved. Moreover, male-to-
female grooming was associated with an increase in female rates for
all forms of sexual activity, where in contrast, female-to-male
grooming was associated with decreased rates of mating in the groomed
males. Males did not preferentially mate with swollen females or
invest more grooming in them during grooming-mating interchanges, as
swellings did not seem to be a reliable indicator of female fertility.
Rank status was correlated with grooming payment during grooming-
mating interchanges in favour of higher-ranked males and females. In
support of a biological market interpretation, the amount of grooming
a male performed on a female during grooming-mating interchanges was
related to the current supply of females around the interaction. The
results provided evidence of a grooming-mating trade that was
influenced by a mating market.”

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

How old masters are helping study of global warming

Paintings of striking sunsets show effect of huge volcanic eruptions
on climate
by David Adam  /  Monday October 1 2007

The English landscape painter JMW Turner said his work was not to be
understood but “to show what such a scene was like”. Now global
warming experts are taking advantage of his prosaic nature to improve
their predictions of the consequences of climate change.

The scientists are analysing the striking sunsets painted by Turner
and dozens of other artists to work out the cooling effects of huge
volcanic eruptions. By working out how the climate varied naturally in
the past they hope to improve the computer models used to simulate
global warming.

The team, at the National Observatory of Athens, is using the works of
old masters to work out the amount of natural pollution spewed into
the skies by eruptions such as Mount Krakatoa in 1883. Reports from
the time describe stunning sunsets for several years afterwards, as
the retreating light was scattered by reflective particles thrown high
into the atmosphere. By studying the colour of sunsets painted before
and after such eruptions, the researchers say they can calculate the
amount of material in the sky at the time.

Christos Zerefos, who led the research, said: “We’re taking advantage
of the attitudes of famous painters to portray real scenes they were
looking at. This is the first attempt to analyse this old art in a
scientific way, and tells the story of how our climate has varied
naturally in the past.”

The results will feed into the scientific study of a phenomenon called
global dimming, which is caused by air pollution blocking sunlight.
Some experts believe this has acted as a brake on global warming, and
that climate change could accelerate as air pollution from industry is

Professor Zerefos and his team looked at natural global dimming caused
by volcanoes, the results of which can be severe. The eruption of
Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 threw out so much material that it
triggered the notorious “year without a summer”, which caused
widespread failure of harvests across Europe, resulting in famine and
economic collapse.

The team found 181 artists who had painted sunsets between 1500 and
1900. The 554 pictures included works by Rubens, Rembrandt,
Gainsborough and Hogarth. They used a computer to work out the
relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon.
Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green,
so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers
found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in
the three years following a documented eruption. There were 54 of
these “volcanic sunset” pictures.

Prof Zerefos said five artists had lived at the right time to paint
sunsets before, during and after eruptions. Turner witnessed the
effects of three: Tambora in 1815; Babuyan, Philippines in 1831, and
Cosiguina, Nicaragua, in 1835. In each case the scientists found a
sharp change in the red/green ratio of the sunsets he painted up to
three years afterwards.

Writing in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the
scientists say the redder sunsets seen in paintings “can be
tentatively attributed to the volcanic events, and not to
abnormalities in the colour degradation due to age, or other random
factors affecting each painter’s colour perception”.

The scientists used the red/green ratios to estimate the amount of
airborne dust produced by each volcano. The results, they say, are
remarkably similar to estimates prepared from historical observations,
early measurements and material found in ice cores.

Prof Zerefos’s team is now talking to the Tate in London about
repeating the study with 40 paintings from the 20th century, to see
whether artists have captured the effects of pollution on sunsets
since the industrial revolution.

Big bangs

1783 Laki, Iceland Volcanic eruption spread sulphurous haze across
western Europe, killing thousands.

1816 Tambora, Indonesia Eruption killed 10,000 people directly and
66,000 due to starvation and disease during “year without a summer”
that followed, when temperatures plunged and harvests failed.

1883 Krakatoa, Indonesia Loudest recorded bang in history. At least
36,417 people died. Average global temperatures dropped by 1.2C.

1991 Pinatubo, Philippines Killed 300 people. About 17m tonnes of
sulphur dioxide went into atmosphere, reducing sunlight by 5% and
global temperatures by 0.4C.

Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
President, National Observatory, Athens, Greece
email: zerefos [at] geol [dot] uoa [dot] gr
mobile: +306944570099

Christos S. Zerefos graduated in Physics from the University of Athens
and obtained MSc in Meteorology and Ph.D. in Physics-Meteorology from
the same University. He worked as a post Doctoral researcher at the
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and at the Data
Studies Division, NOAA in Boulder CO, USA, as well as at the National
Hellenic Research Foundation, Greece and the Academy of Athens
(1973-1979). In 1979 he was elected Professor in the Chair of
Atmospheric Physics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, a
position held until 2002 when he has been unanimously elected
Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the honorary invitation of the
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. In 2005 he was elected
President of the National Observatory, Athens, Greece, which is the
oldest Research Institute of that country, established in 1842.

He has served as Member of various Expert Committees in WMO, DG
Environment and other international Organizations. He is also Member
of highly esteemed scientific societies, among which the Institute of
Physics and the American Geophysical Union (Life Member).

His total published work comprises about 500 research papers in peer
reviewed scientific journals and peer reviewed international
scientific proceedings. The majority of his publications have been
published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research
Letters, Atmospheric Environment, Nature, Science and Atmospheric
Chemistry and Physics and others. His work has been acknowledged from
the scientific community with more than 3400 citations.

Atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions as seen by famous artists
and depicted in their paintings

C. S. Zerefos1,2, V. T. Gerogiannis3, D. Balis4, S. C. Zerefos5, and
A. Kazantzidis4
1National Observatory of Athens, Athen, Greece
2Academy of Athens, Athen, Greece
3National Meteorological Service, Athen, Greece
4Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics, Aristotle University of
Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
5School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens,
Athen, Greece

Abstract. Paintings created by famous artists, representing sunsets
throughout the period 1500-1900, provide proxy information on the
aerosol optical depth following major volcanic eruptions. This is
supported by a statistically significant correlation coefficient (0.8)
between the measured red-to-green ratios of a few hundred paintings
and the dust veil index. A radiative transfer model was used to
compile an independent time series of aerosol optical depth at 550 nm
corresponding to Northern Hemisphere middle latitudes during the
period 1500-1900. The estimated aerosol optical depths range from 0.05
for background aerosol conditions, to about 0.6 following the Tambora
and Krakatau eruptions and cover a period practically outside of the
instrumentation era.

Final Revised Paper (PDF, 846 KB)   Discussion Paper (ACPD)

Citation: Zerefos, C. S., Gerogiannis, V. T., Balis, D., Zerefos, S.
C., and Kazantzidis, A.: Atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions as
seen by famous artists and depicted in their paintings, Atmos. Chem.
Phys., 7, 4027-4042, 2007.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

“Each year, farmers in the town of Inakadate in Aomori prefecture
create works of crop art by growing a little purple and yellow-leafed
kodaimai rice along with their local green-leafed tsugaru-roman
variety. This year’s creation – a pair of grassy reproductions of
famous woodblock prints from Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji – has
begun to appear (above). It will be visible until the rice is
harvested in September.”

Hokusai woodblock prints:

“The residents of Inakadate have been drawing pictures with rice since 1993.”

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]×17.pdf

“The Graffiti Report Card is a mechanism that you can use to judge
graffiti. It’s a sticker with an arrow on it that points to the
graffiti. The sticker has a number of categories you can judge the
graffiti on as well as a space to write your own comments. The way you
use the Graffiti Report Card is you:

1: Find a piece of graffiti you love or hate.
2: Print out the PDF I’ve included in this article
3: Fill out the graffiti report card with your comments
4: Stick it up on the wall next to the graffiti
5: Take a picture and send it to me or post it to the Graffiti Report
Card Flickr Group

What is the background of the Graffiti Report Card?

It’s a project I started a couple of months ago after seeing my
neighborhood (The Mission District of San Francisco) receive an
amazing amount of ugly, large, and talentless graffiti. I wanted a way
to combat the ugly graffiti while at the same time give praise to the
talented graffiti writers who I feel make the streets more beautiful.
It occurred to me, that many of our local taggers don’t realize how
ugly and talentless their graffiti is, so I wanted to give them some

I did some research and found the perfect project called the Graffiti
Critique. The Graffiti Critique is a form you use to critique graffiti
which suited my purposes well. I contacted Drew Heffron, the person
who created the Graffiti Critique who was supposedly giving out this
form as a PDF. I really love the design and execution. I had no luck
getting the form though, so I just created my own.”

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Banksy Was Here
The invisible man of graffiti art.

by Lauren Collins  /  May 14, 2007

The British graffiti artist Banksy likes pizza, though his preference
in toppings cannot be definitively ascertained. He has a gold tooth.
He has a silver tooth. He has a silver earring. He’s an anarchist
environmentalist who travels by chauffeured S.U.V. He was born in
1978, or 1974, in Bristol, England—no, Yate. The son of a butcher and
a housewife, or a delivery driver and a hospital worker, he’s fat,
he’s skinny, he’s an introverted workhorse, he’s a breeze-shooting
exhibitionist given to drinking pint after pint of stout. For a while
now, Banksy has lived in London: if not in Shoreditch, then in Hoxton.
Joel Unangst, who had the nearly unprecedented experience of meeting
Banksy last year, in Los Angeles, when the artist rented a warehouse
from him for an exhibition, can confirm that Banksy often dresses in a
T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. When Unangst is asked what adorns the T-
shirts, he will allow, before fretting that he has revealed too much
already, that they are covered with smudges of white paint.

The creative fields have long had their shadowy practitioners, figures
whose identities, whether because of scandalous content (the author of
“Story of O”), fear of ostracism (Joe Klein), aversion to nepotism
(Stephen King’s son Joe Hill), or conceptual necessity (Sacha Baron
Cohen), remain, at least for a time, unknown. Anonymity enables its
adopter to seek fame while shielding him from the meaner consequences
of fame-seeking. In exchange for ceding credit, he is freed from the
obligations of authorship. Banksy, for instance, does not attend his
own openings. He may miss out on the accolades, but he’ll never spend
a Thursday evening, from six to eight, picking at cubes of cheese.

Banksy is a household name in England—the Evening Standard has
mentioned him thirty-eight times in the past six months—but his
identity is a subject of febrile speculation. This much is certain:
around 1993, his graffiti began appearing on trains and walls around
Bristol; by 2001, his blocky spray-painted signature had cropped up
all over the United Kingdom, eliciting both civic hand-wringing and
comparisons to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Vienna, San
Francisco, Barcelona, and Paris followed, along with forays into
pranksterism and more traditional painting, but Banksy has never shed
the graffitist’s habit of operating under a handle. His anonymity is
said to be born of a desire—understandable enough for a “quality
vandal,” as he likes to be called—to elude the police. For years now,
he has refused to do face-to-face interviews.

Having fashioned himself as a sort of painterly Publius, Banksy
surfaces from time to time to prod the popular conscience. Confronted
with a blank surface, he will cover it with scenes of anti-
authoritarian whimsy: Winston Churchill with a Mohawk, two policemen
kissing, a military helicopter crowned by a pink bow. Typically
crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is
able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His aesthetic is clean
and instantly readable—broad social cartooning rendered with the
graphic bang of an indie concert poster. Since street art is
ephemeral, he occasionally issues books filled with photographs of his
work, accompanied by his own text. He self-published his first three
volumes, “Existencilism,” “Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall,”
and “Cut It Out.” His latest, “Wall and Piece,” was published by
Random House and has sold more than two hundred and fifty thousand

As his renown has grown, Banksy has parlayed his knack for reducing
ideas to simple visual elements into what a critic recently termed
“red nose rebellion.” He is both a lefty and a tweaker of lefty
pieties. At a London antiwar demonstration in 2003, he distributed
signs that read “I Don’t Believe In Anything. I’m Just Here for the
Violence.” Later, he produced revisionist oil paintings (Mona Lisa
with a yellow smiley face, a pastoral landscape surrounded by crime-
scene tape) and, disguised in a trenchcoat and fake beard, installed
them, respectively, in the Louvre and the Tate. For the Natural
History Museum, it was Banksus militus vandalus, a taxidermy rat
equipped with a miniature can of spray paint. In 2005, Banksy
travelled to the West Bank, where he painted the security fence at
Bethlehem with a trompe-l’oeil scene of a hole in the concrete
barrier, revealing a glittering beach on the other side; it looked as
if someone had dug through to paradise. Banksy sometimes satirizes
even his own sanctimony. “I have no interest in ever coming out,” he
has said. “I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying
to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.” Still, he
posts news clips on his Web site, alongside video footage of
successful stunts.

Whoever he is, Banksy revels in the incongruities of his persona. “The
art world is the biggest joke going,” he has said. “It’s a rest home
for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak.” Although he
once declared that “every other type of art compared to graffiti is a
step down,” in recent years he has produced his share of traditional
works on canvas and on paper, suitable for hanging indoors, above a
couch. His gallerist in London, Steve Lazarides, maintains a warm
relationship with Sotheby’s, authenticating Banksy pieces that the
house offers for auction, and thereby giving Banksy’s tacit
endorsement of their sale on the secondary market. In February,
Sotheby’s presented seven works by Banksy in a sale of contemporary
art. “Bombing Middle England” (2001), an acrylic-and-spray-paint
stencil on canvas, featuring a trio of retirees playing boules with
live shells, was estimated to bring between sixty and a hundred
thousand dollars. It sold for two hundred thousand. (“Bombing” is
slang for writing graffiti.) Last month, a painting titled “Space Girl
and Bird” sold at Bonham’s for five hundred and seventy-five thousand,
a Banksy record. Ralph Taylor, a specialist in the Sotheby’s
contemporary-art department, said of Banksy, “He is the quickest-
growing artist anyone has ever seen of all time.” Banksy responded to
the Sotheby’s sale by posting a painting on his Web site. It featured
an auctioneer presiding over a crowd of rapt bidders, with the caption
“I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.”

Such antagonism goads people, as it is designed to. For a while, the
Wikipedia entry for Banksy began, “Banksy is a nancy boy. Banksy is a
rip-off. Banksy is a bloody sod.” Diane Shakespeare, an official with
the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, told me, “We are concerned that
Banksy’s street art glorifies what is essentially vandalism,” while
Jonathan Jones, of the Guardian, recently wrote on his blog, “I think
there’s some wit in Banksy’s work, some cleverness—and a massive
bucket of hot steaming hype.” But for every litter freak or culture
purist driven to indignation by Banksy there’s a person who is
entranced. While setting up the show in Los Angeles, Banksy ordered a
pizza, ate it, and tossed the box in a Dumpster. Within weeks, the
pizza box was sold on eBay, for a hundred and two dollars. The seller
suggested that a few anchovies that had been left inside might yield
traces of Banksy’s DNA.

Banksy’s first formal exhibition was in 2000, at a Bristol restaurant
whose owners he knew. Soon enough, he had established a comer’s
reputation among cool kids and tabloid editors, but it was not until
three years later, with an event called “Turf War,” that he attracted
the attention of the London art world. A Barnumesque spectacle, staged
at a secret location, it included live pigs and a heifer spray-painted
with Andy Warhol’s likeness. Queen Elizabeth II, who had just
celebrated her Golden Jubilee, was depicted in a portrait as a chimp.

For his next show, “Crude Oils,” Banksy stocked a Notting Hill gallery
with two hundred free-roaming rats. Rodents are a favorite motif.
“Like most people, I have a fantasy that all the little powerless
losers will gang up together,” Banksy wrote in “Existencilism.” “That
all the vermin will get some good equipment and then the underground
will go overground and tear this city apart.” His most famous street
paintings are a series of black-and-white stencilled rats, the
majority of them slightly larger than life-size. Each is different,
but they all possess an impish poignancy that made them an immediate
hit with London pedestrians. One, a “gangster rat,” painted on a wall
near the Smithfield market, wears a peace-sign medallion and carries a
sign that says “Welcome to Hell.” Another pleads, “Please love me.”
Cheyenne Westphal, the chairman for contemporary art in Europe at
Sotheby’s, told me, “My first experience with him was in October,
2004, when he left a piece outside a party we were throwing for Damien
Hirst.” It was a rat, holding up a placard that read, “You lie.”
Banksy, typically, was flipping off the art world and begging it to
notice him at the same time.

Pleasing crowds, not cognoscenti, however, remains his stated aim.
“The last time I did a show,” he said, before the Los Angeles opening
last September, “I thought I’d got a four-star review, then I realized
they said, ‘This is absolute ****.’ ” He elaborated: “Hollywood is a
town where they honor their heroes by writing their names on the
pavement to be walked on by fat people and peed on by dogs. It seemed
like a great place to come and be ambitious.”

Banksy and his confederates (a team of “fun-loving Englishmen,” Joel
Unangst said) work flexible and light. Their m.o. is stealth: drop in
on a city, perform reconnaissance, erect—in the style of a World’s Fair
—a temporary gallery, and, almost before anyone knows they’ve been
there, break it all down and get the hell out. Unangst recalled, “Some
people I work with called me up and said, ‘Can they come and look at
your warehouse?’ We set up a meeting in the middle of the night.
Banksy rolls up in an S.U.V. and looks around. He asked me if I had
any problems with him bringing in a live elephant, and I said, ‘No,
it’s cool.’ ” Unangst was instructed to refer to Banksy by an alias,
which he refused to divulge, except to say that it was “a regular male

In February, Unangst showed me around the warehouse, a twelve-thousand-
square-foot former fruit-and-vegetable depot. “This is where it all
happened,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a quaint little art

Friday, September 15th, was the first day of the exhibition, titled
“Barely Legal.” Its location was not announced until that morning; the
warehouse, situated downtown, off I-10, is not easy to find. Still,
Keanu Reeves and Jude Law had shown up at a V.I.P. preview the evening
before, as had Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who bought several
pieces. “These days, everyone is trying to be famous, but he has
anonymity,” Pitt told reporters. “I think that’s great.” The irony may
have been lost on Pitt that one of Banksy’s publicists had invited

By Saturday, Los Angeles’s many animal-rights activists were
registering their displeasure. Banksy was displaying an eight-thousand-
pound elephant named Tai, whose hide he had painted red and
embellished with gold fleurs-de-lis, to match the wallpaper of a
parlor he had constructed. (The elephant in the room, a handout
proclaimed, was global poverty.) The activists said that the paint was
toxic. Ed Boks, Los Angeles’s general manager of animal services, said
he regretted that his office had issued a permit and, after visiting
the show, wrote on his blog that looking into the elephant’s eyes
“nearly brought me to tears.” He eventually ordered the animal hosed
down. The L.A. Times, which had not planned to review the show,
published two stories. Al Jazeera reported on the controversy. Other
people were angry about a large portrait of Mother Teresa overlaid
with the words “I learnt a valuable lesson from this woman. Moisturise
everyday.” By Sunday, thirty thousand people, waiting in lines five
blocks long, had seen the exhibition.

I asked Unangst what more he could tell me about Banksy, and he
replied, “The only thing I can say is he’s like everybody, but he’s
like nobody.” And so began the koan of Banksy, whose own talents as an
aphorist—“Never paint graffiti in a town where they still point at
aeroplanes”; “Only when the last tree has been cut down and the last
river has dried up will man realize that reciting red Indian proverbs
makes you sound like a fucking muppet”—seem to inspire all who cross
his path. Banksy has convinced nearly everyone who has ever met him
that promulgating his image would amount to an unconscionable act of
soul robbery.

“Banksy is a genius and a madman,” Unangst continued.

“He’s a guy from Bristol,” someone who knows him told me later.

“I’m not obliged to say more than I’m obliged to,” another loyalist

Cheyenne Westphal was in Los Angeles during “Barely Legal,” attending
a dinner for the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. “Everyone there was
saying, ‘Who is this Banksy?’ ” she recalled. During his time in
California, Banksy did not meet with any potential patrons, but he
managed to “get up,” in the argot, a few works of art for the
enjoyment of all Angelenos. Along with graffitiing several local
buildings, he bought a blowup doll and dressed it in a hood and an
orange jumpsuit, as a Guantánamo prisoner. Then he sneaked into
Disneyland and installed it along the path of the Big Thunder Mountain
Railroad ride, where it remained for ninety minutes. A week earlier,
he had created five hundred doctored copies of Paris Hilton’s début CD
and distributed them in record stores all over the U.K. Hilton
appeared topless on the cover, and her song titles included “Why Am I
Famous?” and “What Am I For?”

Unangst wandered behind the warehouse, toward what looked like a
rusted-out paddy wagon. It was parked against a wall. Banksy had
tagged the side that was obscured with a pixillated Dorothy, from “The
Wizard of Oz,” a noose in her outstretched hand. I wrote down a phone
number from a painted decal—“How’s My Bombing?”—on the truck’s bumper,
hoping that it might offer a hint about the Banksy mystery. It
connected to a Navy recruiting station in Arizona.

Even on Banksy’s home turf, it’s hard to know what to look for, or
where to look. For many of his admirers, that’s the fun of it:
scouring a city for him, or his art works, invests a potentially
monotonous activity with the possibility of discovery. When I arrived
in London, in March, my only clue to who Banksy might be was a series
of pictures, posted on the Internet in 2004, by a Jamaican
photographer named Peter Dean Rickards. That year, so the story goes,
Banksy flew to Kingston to work on a project. He visited the reggae
singer Buju Banton, at his studio, and Rickards documented the
occasion. Eventually, he became disgruntled. “Banksy swanned around
Jamaica as if he owned the place,” he told the Evening Standard, to
which he sold the images. “He’s too much of a pussy to protest having
his picture taken once he found himself in Kingston, Jamaica—nowhere
near the nice, safe media offices . . . that he’s accustomed to,” he
wrote on his Web site, in a rant that accompanied the pictures, which
have since been removed. Steve Lazarides confirmed to the Standard
that Banksy had been in Jamaica, but said that Rickards had the wrong
guy. When I contacted Rickards, he said that he wasn’t at liberty to
discuss the incident. “The best I can do is to tell you,” he wrote in
an e-mail, “that they don’t call him BANKsy for nothing.”

Buju Banton, reached on the telephone, did not dispel the notion that
the man in the pictures was Banksy. “Rickards tried to ruin something
that has a mystique, and that isn’t cool,” he said. “Banksy’s an
artist that not everyone should have a piece of,” he added, and then
started laughing.

Colin Saysell, an anti-graffiti officer in Bristol, who has been
tracking Banksy for years, concluded that the photos were legit. So
did Simon Hattenstone, a writer at the Guardian, who met Banksy, or at
least a Banksy decoy, in 2003, before Banksy swore off the press. I
showed him a makeshift lineup of supposed Banksy photographs—there
have been several others—and he gravitated toward the Rickards shot.
“That picture is definitely Banksy,” he said. Elizabeth Wolff, who is
now a reporter at the Post, was with Hattenstone, as a summer intern,
for the Banksy encounter, which took place over pints of Guinness in a
Shoreditch pub. She, too, said the Rickards picture was “definitely”
Banksy. “He was the grimiest person I’d ever met,” she said. “He
looked like someone from one of those British industrial towns from
the nineteenth century. There was a layer of grit on him.”

Steve Lazarides’s gallery is housed in a former sex shop on the ground
floor of a four-story brick building in Soho, in London. Lazarides,
like Banksy, grew up in Bristol. His mother was a housewife; his
father sold kebabs. Lazarides and Banksy did not know each other as
kids, but friends introduced them when they were in their twenties,
and Lazarides began taking pictures of Banksy’s graffiti. (Lazarides
was a professional photographer for a time, having also worked mixing
concrete and plucking chickens.) He gained Banksy’s confidence and
began serving as his fixer, gatekeeper, and, eventually, agent. As
their fortunes rose, Lazarides was able, in 2005, to establish his

The gallery’s motto is “Art by People,” but its affiliates exhibit a
caginess toward anyone outside their circle of trusted accomplices,
many of whom work in semi-symbiosis. Banksy, for instance, illustrated
the cover for “Think Tank,” a 2003 album by the band Blur, of which
Damon Albarn is a member. (Banksy later declared that he’d never do
commercial work again.) Albarn went on to found Gorillaz, a band whose
public face is represented by four animated characters. Remi Kabaka,
who provides the voice for the band’s drummer, works at the gallery as
a sort of majordomo. At a recent party at a bar nearby, his name was
the password for entry.

On a Friday morning, a crowd had gathered on the sidewalk in front of
the gallery, an increasingly common problem for Lazarides. “The
hookers get really upset if you block their doorway,” a neighbor told
me, pointing upstairs. The gallery was supposed to open at noon, but
the doors were locked.

Peregrine Hill and Dan Mitchell, partners in a London law firm, were
among those on the sidewalk. Worried that the show would sell out
before they got there, they had cut out of work. They were dressed in
suits and ties and had come armed with a P.D.A. and a computer

The night before, Lazarides had thrown an opening party for Faile, a
graffiti collective from Brooklyn. “They’re probably all hung over,”
Mitchell said of Lazarides and his crew.

“We need to get ourselves invited to the previews,” Hill replied.

Eventually, a young man with lime-green high-tops and messy hair came
bounding down the street, rolling a cigarette. He was not, it turned
out, a Lazarides acolyte but another anxious collector.

“Pictures on Walls got sold out of Nick Walker prints,” he said,
striking up a conversation with the lawyers. (Nick Walker is another
graffiti artist from Bristol. Pictures on Walls is the Web site
through which Banksy sells, and invariably sells out, his limited-
edition prints, which go for under fifteen hundred dollars apiece.
“When we sell prints at below their true market value that is done at
the artist’s request, not because we’re stupid,” the Web site reads.)

“That was rubbish!” Hill answered. He then asked, in the manner of a
Beanie Babies enthusiast, “Did you get one?”

“I missed it. Dickhead!”

The next to arrive was Caitlin Stapleton, on spring break from
Northeastern University. “Me and my sister are here visiting, and I’m
obsessed with Banksy,” she said. “I’m like, I’m going to go on an
actual trip and find things by him.”

A woman arrived, unlocked the door to the gallery, and disappeared
inside, without acknowledging the crowd.

“Even if I just found one of his little rats, it’d be awesome,”
Stapleton said.

Eventually, an assistant named Sam materialized and began rehashing
the previous night’s events. “It was insane,” he said. “People were
fighting—‘I want this, I want that.’ ”

I was supposed to have a meeting with one of Lazarides’s deputies. He
didn’t show. Eventually, Lazarides called in. I’d heard that he kept a
secret office nearby. Someone handed me a cordless phone. “We let the
art speak for itself,” Lazarides said, gruffly. “I don’t want to be
Banksy’s spokesman.”

“All these little lads look at Banksy the way the youngsters who are
into football look at Beckham—he’s their hero,” Denise James, the
director of an organization called Bristol Clean & Green, said
recently, sitting in a café on the top floor of a Bristol motorcycle
dealership. Clean & Green is charged with cleaning up graffiti blight,
which costs the city more than three hundred thousand dollars each
year. “It annoys me, it frustrates me, because it’s just so ugly,”
James said.

The graffitist’s impulse is akin to a blogger’s: write some stuff,
quickly, which people may or may not read. Both mediums demand wit and
nimbleness. They arouse many of the same fears about the lowering of
the public discourse and the taking of undeserved liberties. Graffiti
aficionados like to say that the form is as ancient as cave drawing,
and Banksy takes a similarly romantic view. “Imagine a city where
graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever
they liked,” he once wrote. “Where the street was awash with a million
colors and little phrases. . . . A city that felt like a party where
everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big
business.” Detractors of graffiti, however, can trace its spread as
assiduously as epidemiologists mapping an outbreak of diphtheria.
Colin Saysell, the anti-graffiti officer, explained that graffiti had
first appeared in the U.K. around the same time as the Rock Steady
Crew, the Bronx hip-hop group, in 1983. “They went on a European tour
and brought with them a number of very famous graf writers from New
York as a fringe act,” Saysell said. At the end of the eighties, he
said, there was a crackdown, which succeeded in squelching local
graffiti culture for a moment. “Since 2003, it’s been going crazy

If Bristol is, as James told me, “the graffiti capital of England,”
then Banksy is its patron sinner. One morning last June, citizens were
surprised to find a new mural downtown, on the side of a sexual-health
clinic. It depicted a window, a perfect imitation of others nearby.
From the sill, a naked man dangled by his fingertips. Inside, a fully
dressed man scanned the horizon, next to a woman in dishabille.
Directly facing the fake window are the offices of the Bristol city
council, which, in a departure from policy, decided to put the mural’s
fate to a public vote. Of about a thousand respondents, ninety-three
per cent said the mural should stay. So it did. (In late April,
however, London authorities whitewashed Banksy’s famous “Pulp Fiction”
mural, which showed John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson holding
bananas instead of handguns.) “Banksy’s latest work of art is superb,”
a man wrote to the local paper. “If the council wants to do something
it should cut down that dreadful shrub which is obscuring the piece.”
Gary Hopkins, a councilman, told me, “I think we undermined his street
cred by making him mainstream.” Even James admitted to a grudging
affection for Banksy. “I like the one where he’s got a picture of a
stream and a bridge and he’s just dumped a shopping trolley in there,”
she said, referring to a painting that Banksy did in the style of
Monet. “I can relate to that, because we’ve got a problem with
shopping trolleys.”

Municipal lawmakers are not the only Bristolians to have taken a
faddish interest in Banksy: in a run-down part of town called Easton,
where Banksy is rumored to have lived in the nineties, a couple named
Sarah and David Anslow were trying, on behalf of an “anonymous party,”
to sell one of his early murals. The mural, which is spray-painted
freehand, with bubble letters and looping “wild-style” arrows, and
bears less resemblance to Banksy’s recent work than to something you
might see on a PATH train, adorns an exterior wall of a crumbling
Victorian terrace house. For a minimum bid of four hundred thousand
dollars, a buyer would receive the mural—with the house thrown in “for
free.” The Anslows, who have an art gallery in Devon called the Red
Propeller, announced the offer just after the February Sotheby’s

When I met Sarah Anslow at the house this spring, she began by making
a confession. She and David were the actual owners of the house. They
had bought it and several others in the neighborhood in the early
nineties, as investments. She said that they had decided to come out
as the owners only after a local reporter called them on the charade.
“We had been concerned that it could get reported in the wrong way,”
she said. “‘Greedy Owners Try to Cash In on Banksy Mural.’ ” Anslow
talked about her and David’s passion for street art. “We want to get
hold of Banksy,” she said. As she detailed their dreams of becoming
the Medici of graffiti, it was easier to see why Banksy makes himself

A white station wagon pulled up. Its driver, in an orange trucker hat,
rolled down a window and regarded us warily. When he asked who we
were, Anslow did not identify herself as the owner. The man introduced
himself as Ben Bloodworth, and wondered if we knew that, a few days
earlier, a city contractor had tried to destroy the mural.

“The guy said, ‘If you can get a group of more than twenty people to
come down, then maybe that’ll be enough to stop me,’ ” Bloodworth told
us. Twenty people, at least, had shown up, as had news cameras. It was
Bloodworth’s opinion that the incident was part of a publicity ploy by
the sellers. (Two weeks ago, the mural was defaced with a bucket of
red paint.)

“The house is fucked. It’s completely shabby. That’s why they can’t
sell it.” He launched into an impersonation of the putative landlord:
“‘It’s this really lovely three-bedroom shithole in Easton, but it’s
got a masterpiece painted on the side.’ ” Bloodworth said that he had
been interviewed on the BBC about the showdown. Banksy, watching, had
phoned a neighborhood friend and got him to put Bloodworth on the
phone. “He said, ‘It all came across very well. I owe you a pint.’ ” I
showed Bloodworth the Rickards picture and asked him if its subject
looked familiar. “Naw, that guy looks like De Niro,” he said, with a
shake of his head.

A few weeks earlier, Anslow had attempted to reach Banksy through his
Web site. Someone named Dean had responded with an e-mail: “Mr. Banks
is away polishing one of his yachts.”

“Fings have gone a little bit nuts lately,” Steve Lazarides said, with
the burry inflection of his native city. “Suddenly, it’s become all
right amongst the proper art world to collect street art.”

It was April, and Lazarides had agreed to meet me at the gallery,
where he would be setting up an exhibition by a thirty-six-year-old
sculptor named Mark Jenkins, who makes anthropomorphic figures from
packing tape. I arrived at the gallery first. Hip-hop was blasting
from the speakers; an empty Red Bull can had been tossed on the floor.
After a few minutes, a slight man with a shaved head burst through the
door. He was wearing jeans and carrying a camera. It was Lazarides—
he’d been around the corner snapping pictures of a tape sculpture that
Jenkins had planted on the sidewalk. Lazarides seemed elated. “It’s a
proper piece of street art!” he yelled.

Lazarides talked to an assistant for a few minutes about preparations
for the evening, and then swept out the door and around the corner,
into a bookstore. He bounded up a few flights of stairs: the secret
office. It was furnished with stained leather gym mats and loads of
art. There were fake Picassos signed by Damien Hirst, packing-tape
babies, a Banksy canvas of a monkey wielding a gun. Near a window was
a vending machine stocked with prosthetic limbs. “I get all the crazy
shit, basically,” Lazarides said.

After a few minutes, he scooted out of the building and into the
vestibule of another, where he rang a buzzer. A hostess opened the
door. It was a private club, where we were to eat lunch. After
ordering lamb chops and a glass of white wine—“whichever”—Lazarides
talked about his path to art-world dominion. “It wasn’t open to us, so
we just decided to open up a different branch of art,” he said. “It’s
a bit like being a d.j.—you’re in the club and they’re playing nothing
you like. All of a sudden, you have to put on your own club night.” He
went on, “To be honest, I have no idea how I got made the designated
gallery owner, out of everybody.”

Across town, meanwhile, amid the fashionable shops of Knightsbridge, a
show titled “Banksy” had been mounted by a gallerist named Acoris
Andipa, a descendant of what he says is civilization’s oldest art-
dealing clan. “The Andipa family was first recognized in 1593 in
Venice, although our history actually goes back much further, to the
time of the Bible,” he told me when I visited.

Sitting at his desk, dressed in a pin-striped suit, Andipa
acknowledged that this was an unusual show for him. “Being urban art,
I thought it was a little too far away, but I decided to test it on
the back of a Damien Hirst exhibit we did,” he said. “Four out of five
Banksys were snapped up in the first hour. That then satisfied me
artistically, and then, frankly, we went to a twenty-four-hour-a-day,
seven-day-a-week focus on putting together a major collection that
would be worthy of making a big noise about.” Cheyenne Westphal, from
Sotheby’s, confirmed that the market for Banksy has exploded over the
past year. “I feel in many ways that we are only at the beginning,”
she said. Michael Fischer, a hedge-fund manager who collects Banksy,
put it this way: “He’s gone from zero to a hundred in, like, three

Andipa does not represent any artists, so all his shows are privately
sourced. “At first, we had Banksy followers, if you like, telling us
it would be impossible,” he said. He had called Lazarides, but the
conversation “lasted a minute.” I asked him if he thought Lazarides
was unprofessional. “Let’s just say we have picked up a lot of clients
with the way we do business,” he said.

For his show, Andipa had instituted a no-street-art policy—although he
saw some “cracking good pieces,” he said, “street art must remain on
the street”—but he managed to acquire fifteen signed canvases and more
than thirty signed limited-edition prints. Having previewed the show
in Gstaad, he had now, a week after its opening, sold nearly half of
the pieces, which he was offering at prices ranging from ten thousand
to two hundred thousand dollars. Twirling a pen, he reported that walk-
in traffic at the gallery had increased fifteenfold. “We’ve had a lot
of youth, and we’re not talking about well-heeled youth,” he said. “A
lot of street kids, the kids who sort of hang around and hang out and
what have you. They’re all very polite.” Andipa said that he would
love to know what Banksy thought of his efforts. “In theory, he’s anti-
art establishment, and here I am in this Knightsbridge art gallery,
but I would also like to think, deep down, that he would be proud to
think of his work being surrounded by Picassos.”

Banksy is so intimately tied to Lazarides’s success, and Lazarides to
his, that, of people who care about these things, more than one has
speculated that Lazarides is Banksy. This seems unlikely: fielding, or
refusing to field, all the world’s questions about Banksy is
occupation enough for one man. Still, Lazarides is in deep. When I
asked him, over lunch, about a statement he’d once made, denying that
he and Banksy meet in person for the delivery of art works—“I get a
phone call and go pick ’em up, back of a supermarket”—he admitted it
wasn’t quite true. It is that kind of stagemanship that led a British
observer to describe him to me as “exactly like Malcolm
McLaren.” (Lazarides is no rube: type “Banksy” into Google and ads for
Laz Inc. come up.)

Whatever guile Lazarides possesses is offset, however, by a winning
ingenuousness. He was not happy about the Banksy exhibition at Andipa.
It was “piracy,” he said. He mentioned that Andipa had tried to reach
him. “He called me Stavros, and I called him a cock,” he said,
breaking into a grin. “Nothing I love more than failing aristocrats.”

Lazarides’s cell phone, which he had politely ignored for two hours,
buzzed with a text message: “Bloke on Neal Street doing a roaring
trade in fake Banksys.”

That night, I went to the Jenkins opening at the Lazarides gallery.
For the first hour, Lazarides and Jenkins hung back, drinking Tiger
beers on the sidewalk across the street. When Lazarides finally
ventured inside, he was approached by a serious-looking man in
important glasses. “What drew you to Mark’s work?” he asked.

“It’s fuckin’ funny, man.”

During a phone conversation in March, Lazarides had insisted that
Banksy was “lying low” for at least a year. An edition of his “I Can’t
Believe You Morons Actually Buy This Shit” painting had been released
on Pictures on Walls that month, crashing the Web site for five hours,
but, aside from that, he had not been heard from.

One Friday at the end of April, when I checked my e-mail there was a
message from Banksy.

“Hello there,” it went. “Thanks for taking an interest in my stuff.”

Banksy agreed to answer some questions over e-mail. He was wryly
eloquent, but his banter seemed less playful than it has in the past.
“I don’t think art is much of a spectator sport these days,” he began.
“I don’t know how the art world gets away with it, it’s not like you
hear songs on the radio that are just a mess of noise and then the
d.j. says, ‘If you read the thesis that comes with this, it would make
more sense.’ ”

I’d heard that Banksy had become “increasingly paranoid,” and I
wondered whether the accusations of hypocrisy had worn on him, and
whether he was able to enjoy his success. “I have been called a
sellout, but I give away thousands of paintings for free, how many
more do you want?” he wrote. “I think it was easier when I was the
underdog, and I had a lot of practise at it. The money that my work
fetches these days makes me a bit uncomfortable, but that’s an easy
problem to solve—you just stop whingeing and give it all away. I don’t
think it’s possible to make art about world poverty and then trouser
all the cash, that’s an irony too far, even for me.” He went on, “I
love the way capitalism finds a place—even for its enemies. It’s
definitely boom time in the discontent industry. I mean, how many
cakes does Michael Moore get through?”

“Why do you do what you do?” I asked.

Banksy replied, “I originally set out to try and save the world, but
now I’m not sure I like it enough.”

We discussed his mural in Bristol (“I think because it turned out
there was a sexual-health clinic on the other side of the wall helped,
which just goes to show—if you paint enough crap in enough places
sooner or later one of them will mean something to someone”) and the
city council’s decision to preserve it (“I think it’s pretty
incredible a city council is prepared to make value judgments about
preserving illegally painted graffiti. I’m kind of proud of them”).

Banksy has always had a fatalistic streak: in one of his books, a pair
of lovebirds is juxtaposed with the dictum “As soon as you meet
someone, you know the reason you will leave them.” In another, a
little girl releases a heart-shaped red balloon: “When the time comes
to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make any fuss.” Recently,
the London Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak wrote that Banksy’s
“chief achievement, and I believe it to be a mammoth one, was finding
a way to operate so successfully outside the art world,” signalling,
with the use of the past tense, that his era of underground
credibility had come and gone. The game of anonymity must also have
its limits, and its limitations. “What happens if you are found out?”
I wrote.

For a cipher, Banksy was surprisingly direct: “Maintaining anonymity
can be kind of crippling. I gave a painting to my favorite pub to
settle a tab once, which they hung above the bar. So many people came
in asking questions about it I haven’t been back there for two years.

“In retrospect getting your work in the newspapers is a really dumb
thing to do if what you do requires a certain level of anonymity. I
was a bit slow there. Brad Pitt told a journalist ‘I think it’s really
cool no one knows who he is’ and within a week there were journalists
from the Daily Mail at the door of my dealer’s dad’s chip shop asking
if he knew where they could find me. All the attention meant I lost
some of the element of surprise. A few days after the show in Los
Angeles opened I was painting under a freeway downtown when a homeless
guy ran over and said, ‘Hey—are you Binsky?’ I left the next day.”

At the bottom of the e-mail, Banksy had appended a file. I opened it,
and the screen filled with a black-and-white image. An artist—shown in
profile, with proud posture and Vandyke whiskers—sits in the shade of
a parasol. Next to him, propped on an easel, stands a canvas covered
with graffiti. The artist’s fingers are gnarled, like a rat. ♦