5 Terrible Ideas That Solved Huge Global Problems
The ability to think outside the box is a valuable skill that tends to bring its possessor fame and fortune. But there's a fine line to be balanced -- if you think too far outside the box, the best you can hope for is that your padded cell is somewhat clean.
Yet sometimes, the most far-fetched, cartoonish ideas are the ones that work best. All it takes is the right idea and the ability to convince somebody to spend lots of money trying it.
Tokyo Decides to Prevent Crime With Mood Lighting
Nearly every city in the world wishes it could flip a magic switch that would cut down on crime, and only one city has a switch that turns on the Bat Signal. The city of Tokyo, however, had heard a rumor that you could cut down on crime with a little bit of mood lighting -- specifically, by turning the street lights blue.
That's the sign for robot prostitutes.
Yeah, right. As if the sight of the color blue is going to make some guy who's about to mug an old lady suddenly change his mind ...
How It Worked:
Oh, wait, it totally did. The Tokyo prefectures where the blue lights were installed saw a 9 percent decrease in crime. You can write that off to a statistical anomaly if you want (maybe that was the same month they also brought on the RoboCops), but Glasgow, Scotland, saw the exact same result. Glasgow wasn't trying to bring down crime when they installed theirs, they just thought it would make the city look better. Then somebody noticed that crime had gone down right after, and the only thing they had changed was the stupid blue lights.
And piped in some smooth jazz.
Next, the Tokyo railroad decided to get in on the blue-light action, though the problem they wanted to solve wasn't so much the crime. Their main concern was the train-assisted suicides that were taking place in their stations. The result after the blue lights were installed? Suicides dropped down to zero.
Seriously? What the hell?
"I just can't leave a world that invented The Smurfs."
There are several theories. First, there's the fact that science has observed for decades that blue is a calming color, as opposed to such "Let's raid shit!" colors such as yellow or red. But there's also another theory, which is that blue is the universal color of "Holy shit! Cops!" and the blanket of blue keeps people on their best behavior because they subconsciously feel that they might be busted by the cheese at any time. Others say just the fact that there was a change at all may have made criminals uneasy -- the fact that the lights had been installed implied that somebody was paying attention.
Either way, it appears that the illusion that Big Blue Brother is watching you at all times is subconsciously enough to keep you honest and law-abiding. And all because of Officer Light Bulb.
You'll make sergeant for this!
And while we're on the subject of seemingly insane law enforcement strategies ...
Georgia (the Country) Fires All Its Cops
There is nothing worse than a corrupt police officer -- just look at the comment section under any taser video on YouTube. Unfortunately for the citizens of the country of Georgia, that was pretty much the only flavor their traffic cops came in. In 2004, things had gotten so bad that the newly elected President Mikheil Saakashvili made it his mission to stop the police from harassing his people.
Saakashvili didn't mess around, either. He fired all the heads of law enforcement and threatened that any traffic cop caught harassing civilians, taking bribes or generally behaving all uppity would be fired or arrested. The police force scoffed at the attempts of this puny "president" person and behaved exactly like they always had, confident that Saakashvili wouldn't touch them. So, the very next day after this announcement, when a whopping 15,000 cops were caught taking bribes, Saakashvili fired every single one of them.
Next he mooned Putin, because with 96 percent of the vote, he could get away with anything.
Then, a couple of weeks later, another 15,000 police officers were caught participating in shenanigans. So he fired them, too. With 30,000 corrupt officers freshly in the unemployment line, Saakashvili had finally succeeded. The police department was finally clean! Huzzah! Only, there was one little problem. There were no traffic cops left.
People just threw all their bribe money at postmen in a confused panic.
Oh, and the firings took place around the holidays, when drinking and driving tends to be an even worse problem than during the rest of the year. It had the makings of Worst Idea Ever.
How It Worked:
The whole country of Georgia promptly fell into a drunken reenactment of Mad Max that is still going on today. Ha, just kidding! Instead of indulging in a nationwide game of bumper cars, everything went just fine -- in fact, even better than normal. And we don't mean that the citizens held themselves together for a couple of days until new cops could be hired. They were without police for three freaking months. And it was fine.
"Don't worry, boys, any day now the dope addicts and double parkers will turn this country into a charnel house."
Saakashvili's administration quickly realized this was because it had been the cops causing most of the trouble all along. A remnant from the Soviet era, they'd treated the roads as their personal piggy bank, administering their very own brand of expensive justice at will and causing mob-style chaos as they did. When they were taken out of the equation, not even a hint of disorder was left because they had been the disorder.
It took three whole months to find enough reliable replacements, but with some help from the United States in recruiting and training the new police force, Georgia got back to normal.
Seems about right.
Norway Reforms Convicts by Giving Them Insane Amounts of Freedom
Our prison system is far from perfect, but it's not like we have better options. Plus, the criminals totally deserve to rot in jail, with all the punishments and confinement and horrible food the judicial system can throw at them. The criminal element has to be punished somehow, and every country in the civilized world agrees that criminals should be dealt with in this way.
Apart from every spring, when they're set loose into the countryside.
Except, that is, for Norway. They have come up with a prison system that actually treats the vast majority of its population nicely -- to the point that it seems like inmates might as well be in summer camps rather than correctional facilities. In Bastoy Prison, for example, residents (don't call them "prisoners" -- that's not sensitive) sentenced there actually seem to live the good life. Convicted pedophiles, drug dealers and even serial killers have access to a movie theater, tanning beds and even an occasional game of football with the guards. Also, their cells look like this:
Meanwhile, we are planning to build a west wing to our cardboard box out of a smaller cardboard box.
During the summer, Norwegian prisoners go horseback riding and have barbecues. In winter, they freaking ski jump. And if they don't like the food the prison offers them, they're allowed to cook for themselves -- they're even issued knives.
And then there's Halden Prison. It's the second-largest prison in Norway, yet overcrowded cells that smell of feces and man-rape are nowhere to be found. Instead, the prison smells like orange sherbet of all things, and has a sound studio, jogging trails and a two-bedroom house where prisoners' families can spend time visiting.
And spend time scaling walls, which obviously has no real-world application.
See? This is what you get when you put a bunch of bleeding hearts in charge. With no deterrent in place, crime is probably through the roof!
How It Worked:
Extremely well, actually.
Norway has an incredibly low recidivism rate -- within two years of being released from jail, a Norwegian offender is only a third as likely to commit another crime as criminals from, say, the United States.
We'd say this reminds us of college, but no one here can ever remember seeing the original color of a dorm wall.
This is because unlike the U.S. justice system, which relies heavily on retribution, the Norwegian system believes in rehabilitation. The whole point of their prison system is to fix the criminal and turn him into a productive member of society. And, when you look at the statistics, it's working like there is no tomorrow. It's weird, it's almost like the shankings and man-rape in American prisons aren't teaching criminals to walk the straight and narrow.
But a place that allows rampant vandalism of ugly blank walls is a slippery slope into liberalism.
And although teaching criminals how to behave in society by allowing them to live in relative comfort might insult our sense of justice, think which one you'd rather face on a dark alley: a person who served his sentence in a Norwegian prison, or one who rotted his term in the piss-soaked hellhole that is a U.S. prison and was then thrown back into the bright, normal world, wary and blinking?
The CIA Fights Communism With Modern Art
It's not exactly a secret that capitalism and communism had a bit of a tiff after the end of World War II. Even less of a secret is that many of the CIA's actions during the Cold War were rather ... inspired. Indeed, when it fell upon them to undermine the USSR using subterfuge, their first action was to jump straight into the insanity pit, balls out and screaming.
What followed were spy operations featuring kitty cats, assassinations via exploding cigars and general covert warfare using the Wile E. Coyote approach. Most of their more insane plans unsurprisingly fell flat, which is why you wouldn't hold out much hope for a plan to undermine communism with the power of modern art.
Mark Rothko's "Red Is a Dirty Communist Color" is clearly tearing down the Iron Curtain here.
First, they set up the not-at-all-Orwellian-sounding Congress for Cultural Freedom as a front for their meddling with the art world. Through it, CIA spooks infiltrated each and every aspect of modern culture, from film to music to, yes, modern art. The CIA loved themselves some squiggly lines, and sank millions of public dollars through front companies to promote it. In fact, the Congress for Cultural Freedom directly sponsored artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning, who in essence got to showcase their mind-bending talents for the U.S.A. thanks largely to the Company.
That seizure you're having is just your mind being expanded. Also the carbon monoxide.
Yes, the CIA made Jackson Pollock's career to undermine communism. It makes a strange kind of sense when you think about it, doesn't it?
No. No, it doesn't.
How It Worked:
It was an ideas fight all along. The CIA knew modern art showed the world that America didn't play by anyone's rules. The underlying message was this: "We're not squares like those commies. We can just vomit paint at a canvas like we don't care and call it art, and there's not a thing you can do about it."
Despite this apparently ridiculous line of thinking, the CIA's plan worked like a dream. Modern abstract art made big leaps forward while the communists' socialist realism style was pushed back.
The only way this would be realism is if Stalin were smacking them around a little.
Shows in Europe began to feature abstract American art and deemphasize communist artists with their boring pictures that people could actually understand. Even communist artists themselves started to surreptitiously rebel by sneaking abstract elements into their paintings.
Down with capitalism! And well-defined jaw lines!
But surely this was just some minor slice of insanity, one of many the CIA was toying with? Nope. As one of the head honchos of the art operation has said: "I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War."
Keep that in mind the next time someone drags you to an art gallery. Those blots and squiggles? They're blots and squiggles of freedom.
Lady Liberty has never looked so beautiful.
The U.S. Intimidates North Korea ... by Cutting Down a Tree
This is one of those stories that's so stupid it's actually difficult to explain. But to understand how the U.S. military decided that they needed to embark on a huge 800-man mission to assassinate a tree, you need a little context.
The tree was a complete bastard.
In 1976, the border between North and South Korea was even more tense than it is today. There were numerous outposts in the Demilitarized Zone, the unofficial border between Cool Korea and Crazy Korea, and there were constant violent incidents between the soldiers manning them.
In the middle of that powder keg stood a tree. It was a huge tree that was blocking the view between two South Korean outposts, meaning one could be attacked by the North without the other outpost realizing anything had gone wrong (and in fact that had happened more than once). So the South Koreans, with their U.S. cohorts, decided to give the branches a good trim.
Starting from the trunk.
The North Koreans, however, were in the mood for a fight, so they came up, too, barking orders. You can probably picture the cartoony mess that followed. Shots were fired and, after the dust settled, two American soldiers were killed. Kim Il Sung, father of Kim Jong Il, mourned this mainly by patting the responsible soldiers on the back and making neener-neener noises across the DMZ at the Americans and South Koreans.
He basically looks like an overgrown 9-year-old anyway.
The U.S. was in an impossible situation. They couldn't let the attack go without a response, but they didn't want to trigger World War III either. So they came up with an operation that they thought would make Kim Il Sung back down. Its name? Operation Paul Bunyan.
Their target? That damn tree.
How It Worked:
The equipment they sent for the task included an armed platoon, 27 helicopters, some B-52 bombers and -- because why the hell not? -- a bunch of freaking martial arts experts, presumably just to make cool poses with their backs turned to the explosions. The operation involved 813 men total.
Together, they wiped the tree off the face of the earth with extreme prejudice, in full view of the North Koreans. Then they went up to the charred site, built a small monument in memory of their fallen comrades, gave the North Koreans a long look ... and walked away.
You can't see it, but there's a dick carved into the North Korean side of the trunk.
Well, that probably just confused them more than anything, right? What good could possibly come from something so aggressively pointless?
How about this: Kim Il Sung came forward and expressed regret for the original killings that day.
He also wrote a letter to the Americans, pretty much telling them that he would never attack them. Within days, the formerly so arrogant Kim had also agreed to an official partition of Korea along the demarcation line. Killing that stupid tree had solved everything.
It's now on display as a warning to all perennial menaces everywhere.
You can visit Eddie's website here.