The Moronverse

I have a twitter account for the blog. I don’t have much interest in social media as it is mostly stupid people aping one another in a ritualized fashion. My first look at MySpace years ago told me it was a fun thing for women and kids. Facebook confirmed it. Twitter, built on a technology popular with ten year old girls, always looked like fly paper for the stupid. Morons grunting at one another. Then all the hipsters decided it was the cool thing and you can’t do anything without being beat over the head with Twitter.

Anyway, I had this exchange with someone who turned up in my twitter feed:

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Colin Daileda is probably a nice young man, but I bet my goldfish knows more about the world. Hiring young people as writers is a cheap way to fill column inches, but no one cares what young people have to say about pretty much anything. The reason is they don’t know anything. In modern times, they are stunningly obtuse due to living such sheltered lives. Unless you were in the service or prison, the typical 20-something is clueless about the realities of the world.

But, the public debate these days is designed to cater to Colin. My sarcastic quip is answered with a link to a second generation race hustler. Poor Colin’s self-beclownment is made all the better by the fact he is blind to it. In the moronverse, it does not matter. The young skulls full of mush just fling crap at one another thinking it makes them seem clever. It is too soon to know, but my sense is it just intensifies the dullness of the participants.

A few years back I had an intern about the same age as Colin. Nice kid who wanted to be a lawyer. I gave him a research task that I thought would be perfect for an internet savvy young person. Google would do the heavy lifting. He just had to catalog the results for me. Yet, he struggled mightily. Working with him, it struck me that all the “critical thinking” and “approaches to learning” had produced a young man who knew nothing of any value.

Yet, he was constantly clicking away on his phone. He was either texting, on Facebook or twitter. I’d sit here imagining what sort of inanities he and the other dimwits were sharing so fast and furious with one another. The worst part of it was he thought he was a smart guy. His teachers all said he was a smart guy. His friends probably thought they were smart too. Yet, I found it nearly impossible to teach him anything. It was that obtuseness that got in the way.

This blend of moral preening and staggering ignorance is best explained by way of example. We wanted to do a small mailing. We do these in-house. We print the letter. Someone signs them and then we run them through a folding machine that then prepares them for stuffing into an envelope. This is a devise a child can master. I gave the intern a basic lesson on how it all worked and he appeared to get it. I left him alone and went about my business.

A half hour later, he is in my office telling me the folder is broken. We go to take a look and I see that he got paper jammed into it some how. I begin to show him how to unjam the thing and I note that he is looking at me like I’m doing magic tricks. He had messed the thing up so bad I had to take off the cover. I sent him to my office to get a screwdriver. He did not know what a screwdriver was, apparently, so I had to explain that to him. To this day I can’t understand how you make it to adulthood not knowing such a thing.

I decided to be the fatherly type and explain to him how the machine worked and how you fix it when it breaks. The look of amazement on his face was incredible. You would have thought I was splitting atoms right in front of him. He asked me how I knew such things and I pointed to the instructions taped to the side of it. That’s when it hit me. His generation has a near total lack of curiosity. When confronted with a puzzle, they expect someone to supply the answer. When none is forthcoming, they move on never having solved the puzzle.

That’s what makes the moronverse work. No one has to know anything or learn anything. They just pass around links, hashtags and pics to one another in the same way monkeys fling poo at one another. It’s a world where everyone is shaking their piety bracelets at each other all the time, jostling for seats on the branches of the tree.

Statistics is not Science

One of the worst things about the fake nerd movement is the belief that statistics is the same as science. Science certainly uses statistics for all sorts of things. Correlations can narrow the search for causal relationships. But, you have to use other tools to reveal those links. That’s no more obvious than in how the sabermetrics crowd completely missed the steroid era. Bill James, the godfather of baseball stat-nerds, was silent on the steroid era. You would think his spreadsheets would have revealed to him what everyone noticed from the stands.

This story on Grantland is another fin example of missing the forest for the trees.

One of the things that makes it such a joy to watch the Chicago Cubs’ rebuilding plan unfold is that the team’s approach is completely transparent. There’s no trickery here, no deceit, no super-secret process that’s inscrutable to everyone outside of the front office.

I don’t simply mean that the Cubs are rebuilding with complete conviction; under the terms of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, that’s really the only way to go.1 Nor do I mean that the Cubs are nearly the extremists that the Houston Astros are. I’m referring instead to the core principle with which the Cubs have been trying to build a championship roster since team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were hired after the 2011 season, a principle that distinguishes this rebuilding project from almost every other one in baseball history: They’re building an offense from within and a pitching staff from spare parts.

This flies in the face of more than a century of conventional baseball wisdom, which states that (1) pitching wins championships, and (2) a team can never have too much pitching. The Cubs’ approach is completely counterintuitive. It’s also completely right.

Again, no mention of steroids. From World War 2 through the eighties, you followed a well known template to build your team. Power at the corners, defense up the middle. Mark Belanger could start at short on a title team with a .228 batting average. Elrod Hendricks could make a career as a catcher, despite a .220 career average. Pitching was a given. It was starts and innings you wanted from the rotation. That 1971 Oriole team had four starters account for 1080 innings.

Then the steroid era happened. Suddenly everyone in the lineup was a masher. Pitchers were getting killed. That changed how teams looked at pitching. Getting hitters was easy. Getting pitchers that could give you 30 starts was rare. Every team shifted resources into getting and developing pitchers. Teams would draft nothing but pitchers some years. Technology was brought to bear to help pitchers compete with hitters who were jacked up on roids.

Now, the steroids have gone away. The stat guys have not noticed, but front offices have noticed. The Red Sox traded four pitchers for hitters at the deadline. They just signed a Cuban slugger. The Cubs are doing the same thing. They traded their two best pitchers for hitters. Those teams that acquired the pitchers, by the way, are now struggling. Oakland has slumped and Detroit is fading. There’s plenty of pitching to be had these days. It is hitting that is rare.

It is why statistics are not science. The over reliance on statistics is good for passing yourself off as a smart guy, like we see with economics. They’re not very good for making decisions unless there is context and an understanding of what drives the statistics.

We Be Stoopiderer

One of the amusing parts of following the Ferguson riots was watching TV people turn themselves into pretzels avoiding the obvious. You’re simply not allowed to notice vast swaths of reality. When it comes to race, you could find yourself living in Steve Sailer’s basement if you slip and notice something. That makes reporting on human activity difficult. This story is a good example.

Technology may be getting smarter, but humans are getting dumber, scientists have warned.

Evidence suggests that the IQs of people in the UK, Denmark and Australia have declined in the last decade.  Opinion is divided as to whether the trend is long-term, but some researchers believe that humans have already reached intellectual peak.

An IQ test used to determine whether Danish men are fit to serve in the military has revealed scores have fallen by 1.5 points since 1998. And standard tests issued in the UK and Australia echo the results, according to journalist Bob Holmes, writing in New Scientist.

The most pessimistic explanation as to why humans seem to be becoming less intelligent is that we have effectively reached our intellectual peak. Between the 1930s and 1980s, the average IQ score in the US rose by three points and in post-war Japan and Denmark, test scores also increased significantly – a trend known as the ‘Flynn effect’.

This increase in intelligence was due to improved nutrition and living conditions – as well as better education – says James Flynn of the University of Otago, after whom the effect is named.

Now some experts believe we are starting to see the end of the Flynn effect in developed countries – and that IQ scores are not just levelling out, but declining.

Scientists including Dr Flynn think better education can reverse the trend and point out the perceived decline could just be a blip. However, other scientists are not so optimistic.

Some believe the Flynn effect has masked a decline in the genetic basis for intelligence, so that while more people have been reaching their full potential, that potential itself has been declining.

Some have even contentiously said this could be because educated people are deciding to have fewer children, so that subsequent generations are largely made up of less intelligent people.

Richard Lynn, a psychologist at the University of Ulster, calculated the decline in humans’ genetic potential.

He used data on average IQs around the world in 1950 and 2000 to discover that our collective intelligence has dropped by one IQ point.

Dr Lynn predicts that if this trend continues, we could lose another 1.3 IQ points by 2050.

Michael Woodley, of the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, claims people’s reactions are slower than in Victorian times, and has linked it to a decline in our genetic potential.

It has previously been claimed that quick-witted people have fast reactions and Dr Woodley’s study showed people’s reaction times have slowed over the century – the equivalent to one IQ point per decade.

Jan te Nijenhuis, a psychology professor at the University of Amsterdam, says Westerners have lost an average of 14 IQ points since the Victoria Era.

He believes this is due to more intelligent women have fewer children than those who are less clever,The Huffington Post reported.

Dr Woodley and others think humans will gradually become less and less intelligent.

But Dr Flynn says if the decline in IQ scores is the end of the Flynn effect, scores should stabilise.

He thinks that even if humans do become more stupid, better healthcare and technology will mean that all people will have fewer children and the ‘problem’ will regulate itself.

The study referenced in the story does not adjust for race. Logically, if you increase the number of people from low IQ populations, average IQ will fall. The population explosion in Africa and the Middle East probably accounts for most of it. But, you’re not allowed to point out that Arabs, for example, like marrying their cousins, resulting in a lot of pinheads. Britain is now 4% Arab and those Arabs account for a third of the genetic defects.

I do think there is some truth to the argument that smart people are having fewer children than in previous eras. Big families used to be a status symbol for the rich. Then there is the Idiocracy angle. Smart people have made being stupid less risky, thus reducing death by misadventure. Walk around the ghetto and you see lots of people who should have been dead a long time ago. Modern science has mitigated the consequences of their bright ideas.

 

The Evil of Hip-Hop

Apparently, listening to hip-hop causes young Muslims men to go crazy and start lopping of heads.

A British rapper whose father is awaiting trial in Manhattan for a pair of US embassy bombings is a leading suspect in the barbaric beheading of American journalist James Foley, it was revealed on Friday.

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary — who recently tweeted a photo of himself holding up a severed head — was among three Brits identified as possibly being the masked killer known as “John the Beatle.”

Bary, 24, is the son of an Egyptian-born militant who is awaiting trial on terror charges tied to the deadly 1998 bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Also under investigation are the brother of a British doctor once charged with kidnapping two Western war correspondents, and a former gang member who converted to Islam and traveled to Syria, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported.

A dozen American counterterrorism experts are expected to fly to the UK “within days” to help identify Foley’s killer, Britain’s Daily Mail reported.

Former hostages held by ISIS have said he is one of several jihadists they nicknamed “the Beatles” due to their British accents, with two of his cronies referred to as “George” and “Ringo.”

Bary, who went to Syria last year to fight in its bloody civil war, has a build, skin tone and ­accent all similar to those of “John,” according to The Telegraph.

Clearly, we must do something about this hip-hop music before all of our fine young Muslim men run off to Syria.

The Bridge Club Gets The Vapors

The only thing I miss about posting on Marginal Revolution is mocking posts like this one and the idiots who applaud it.

Maybe less than you thought, at least after adjusting for other variables. The Economist reports:

In Sweden the age of criminal responsibility is 15, so Mr Sariaslan tracked his subjects from the dates of their 15th birthdays onwards, for an average of three-and-a-half years. He found, to no one’s surprise, that teenagers who had grown up in families whose earnings were among the bottom fifth were seven times more likely to be convicted of violent crimes, and twice as likely to be convicted of drug offences, as those whose family incomes were in the top fifth.

What did surprise him was that when he looked at families which had started poor and got richer, the younger children—those born into relative affluence—were just as likely to misbehave when they were teenagers as their elder siblings had been. Family income was not, per se, the determining factor.

That suggests two, not mutually exclusive, possibilities. One is that a family’s culture, once established, is “sticky”—that you can, to put it crudely, take the kid out of the neighbourhood, but not the neighbourhood out of the kid. Given, for example, children’s propensity to emulate elder siblings whom they admire, that sounds perfectly plausible. The other possibility is that genes which predispose to criminal behaviour (several studies suggest such genes exist) are more common at the bottom of society than at the top, perhaps because the lack of impulse-control they engender also tends to reduce someone’s earning capacity.

The original research, by Amir Sariaslan, Henrik Larsson, Brian D’Onofrio, Niklas Långström and Paul Lichtenstein is here, here is how the authors report the conclusion:

There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.

There seems to be a trend in economics to take all controversial topics over to Scandinavia. If it is race related, then South Africa is a suitable place. Neither place is representative of anywhere else on earth. Sweden has one of the lowest crime rates on the planet. Maybe that’s why a lot of crime studies done by economists are done in Sweden. There are so few criminals, the researchers can pretend they are casting a wide net.

It also avoids the big taboos. Black crime is different from white crime. For instance, whites commit far more sex crime than blacks. Assault is also more common with whites. On the other hand, blacks commit many more murders. It gets even more thorny when you look at theft. Whites and blacks both prefer to rob white people. When you bring Hispanics in to the mix, it gets more dangerous, because not all Hispanics are the same, no matter how often the Democratic Party says it.

As far as what causes crime, people have known that since human settlement. Criminals cause crime. There’s no fun in that as it takes real science and real intellect to tease out why criminals are criminals. You’re not doing that with Excel and a truck load of jargon. That leaves no room for economists to gas-bag about it.

What I used to love about these topics at MR was how the posters would get upset whenever someone mentioned the obvious. The appearance of Steve Sailer was sure to cause a mass fainting spell. It was as if a stripper showed up at the bridge club and started dry humping one of the grannies.

Maybe less than you thought, at least after adjusting for other variables.  The Economist reports:

In Sweden the age of criminal responsibility is 15, so Mr Sariaslan tracked his subjects from the dates of their 15th birthdays onwards, for an average of three-and-a-half years. He found, to no one’s surprise, that teenagers who had grown up in families whose earnings were among the bottom fifth were seven times more likely to be convicted of violent crimes, and twice as likely to be convicted of drug offences, as those whose family incomes were in the top fifth.

What did surprise him was that when he looked at families which had started poor and got richer, the younger children—those born into relative affluence—were just as likely to misbehave when they were teenagers as their elder siblings had been. Family income was not, per se, the determining factor.

That suggests two, not mutually exclusive, possibilities. One is that a family’s culture, once established, is “sticky”—that you can, to put it crudely, take the kid out of the neighbourhood, but not the neighbourhood out of the kid. Given, for example, children’s propensity to emulate elder siblings whom they admire, that sounds perfectly plausible. The other possibility is that genes which predispose to criminal behaviour (several studies suggest such genes exist) are more common at the bottom of society than at the top, perhaps because the lack of impulse-control they engender also tends to reduce someone’s earning capacity.

The original research, by Amir Sariaslan, Henrik Larsson, Brian D’Onofrio, Niklas Långström and Paul Lichtenstein is here, here is how the authors report the conclusion:

There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.

– See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/how-much-does-poverty-drive-crime.html#sthash.v6zQ8kNY.dpuf

More Libertarian Madness

My chief complaint against libertarianism is that it is a convenient hiding place for people unwilling to take on the Left. If you reject central planning of the national economy, but are afraid to be called bad things by the local lunatics, calling yourself a libertarian is a nice safe haven. It’s most obvious in the homosexual marriage debate. Libertarians choose a third option with no basis in reality, one that makes them sound like anarchists, rather than face off against the Left.

In war, you have to know the guy next to you will do his job, have your back and fire his weapon at the enemy. In the culture war, libertarians will never go over the top and will, once in a while, turn their weapons on their comrades. You just can’t trust them to fight. I recognize that’s not a critique of the ideology, but of the ideologues, but I’ve never figured out how to separate one from the other.

And maybe that’s it. Libertarianism is fine. It’s libertarians that are the problem. A good example that comes to mind is the uncommonly dim Alex Tabarrok.

How does a stop for jaywalking turn into a homicide and how does that turn into an American town essentially coming under military control with snipers, tear gas, and a no-fly zone? We don’t yet know exactly what happened between the two individuals on the day in question but events like this don’t happen without a deeper context.

First off, we know it was not a stop for jaywalking. The giant was walking in the middle of the street. That’s not jaywalking. Second, the giant slugged the cop. As far as the deeper context nonsense, most of life has no “deeper context.” Shit does, in fact, just happen – a lot. In this case, the giant punched the cop because he felt like. Poor people lack self-control and often do crazy shit for no reason. This is the sort stuff a fully formed adult needs to know.

He then quotes himself:

Debtor’s prisons are supposed to be illegal in the United States but today poor people who fail to pay even small criminal justice fees are routinely being imprisoned. The problem has gotten worse recently because strapped states have dramatically increased the number of criminal justice fees….Failure to pay criminal justice fees can result in revocation of an individual’s drivers license, arrest and imprisonment. Individuals with revoked licenses who drive (say to work to earn money to pay their fees) and are apprehended can be further fined and imprisoned.

This guy tends to get the vapors over stuff that most of us just shrug at and move on. That’s not uncommon with hot house flowers. Regardless, if you don’t pay your fine, the fines get bigger and the risk of prison increases. That’s the point. If it did not work that way, no one would bother paying the fine. How can he not know this?

This is the line that makes my eyes bleed.

You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

What an idiot. The people with the fines and warrants don’t have an average crime rate. They commit a lot of crimes, which is why they have all of those fines and warrants. You can be sure that the black crime rate in Ferguson is something like the black crime rate nationally. That’s seven times the white crime rate. The reason the cops spend all of their time in the ghetto areas is that’s where the crime happens.

But, throwing a fit and stomping of in a huff is the libertarian way out of addressing the elephant in the room. That elephant is the massive disparity in crime rates between whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. As soon as you notice that well known bit of reality, you risk being called bad things by the screeching harpies on the Left. That defeats the purpose of being a Libertarian.

Food

I workout daily and I’m a bit obsessive about my diet. At my age, working out means weight training four days a week and various forms of cardio a few times a week. Sports are no longer sensible. I guess cycling is a sport, but I don’t do it competitively. I do 30-40 mile rides at a 20 mph pace. At my age that’s good enough. As far as diet, I track calories, keep my carbs down to about 25% of my intake. That means avoiding take out, fast food and a lot of common snacks like chips and ice cream.

Now, I exercise because I enjoy it. The health benefits, if any, are unimportant to me. An hour of lifting heavy weight gets out the stress of the day and clears my mind. Plus, I can listen to music and not talk to other people. Similarly, cycling and running offer a nice respite from the daily grind. I obsess over my diet because I don’t want to get fat. I have a very slow metabolism. I weigh 200 pounds, about 20 over my fighting weight, and I maintain it on less than 2000 calories a day.

In other words I do these things because I enjoy them. Physical and spiritual health play no role.

Even so, I enjoy ice cream on occasion. I have pizza once a month and cheeseburger on Friday. Life is for living and denying yourself pleasure is just stupid. That’s why I liked this post at Maggie’s Farm.

We have commented on the subject of the human diet and health before, but it’s time for another comment, because the NYT Science Times has written on it.

“Healthy food” has been an on-and-off American obsession, comparable to the obsession with flavor in France.

This is a great point and something I attribute to the German and Calvinist influences. There’s some overlap there, obviously. We got way too many of the tall-serious type of German. I’m kidding about that, of course. It is a strange bit of American culture. Self-denial is always seen as good, while pleasure is always assumed to be decadent and immoral.

Since Rev. Sylvester Graham, a minister, vegetarian, and food-obsessive invented the Graham Cracker in the 1820s to provide “digestive fiber,” Americans have been food faddists and vulnerable to food quackery.

More famously, Dr. John Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, an 1870s charlatan with a diet fad, fooled Americans into thinking that cereal was breakfast food. It is not. In Yankee-land, breakfast is eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, potatoes, fruit and apple pie.

I like oatmeal and some cold cereals, but nothing beats eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and spuds for breakfast. Eggs Benny, maybe. Chipped Beef is a favorite at Che Z, but that’s more out of loyalty to my class than anything else.

Eat what you want, and be happy. All humans are prone to “magical thinking” – aka “wishful thinking.” We’d like to imagine that we have some control over things like health, and that things we put in our mouths will make a difference. There is essentially no evidence for that idea, assuming absence of a disease, or a problem like high cholesterol, or pregnant, etc.

Even being fat doesn’t seem to make any significant difference to health. (Being obese is a bad plan, though.) I advise patients to eat plenty of salmon, trout and char for their magical properties, and whatever else they want; to exercise and work out if they want to be strong and fit but not because they will live forever; to lose weight if they want to look better and feel less tired; to eat all the salt and steak they want; and to avoid magical health diets. Vegetarian? Fine. Leaves more lamb and steak for me. Just don’t imagine that it’s about health. What’s a healthy diet? Any average mix of stuff, but most of all – enjoy it, and don’t fuss about it too much.

Yep. Life is for living.

Self Defense

I was listening to Imus this morning and he was gas-bagging about the Ferguson shooting. He said something stupid, but obviously intended to tell the rulers he was not going to be any trouble on the subject. Since his return from exile, Imus has been extremely careful about anything touching on race. In fact, he has been very sensitive about the whole metathesizing list of official taboos. Gays, womyn, trannies, minorities of every conceivable type now get treated with the honor they deserve.

This is becoming more and more common. As the lunatics get better and better at ruining careers, the people on radio and television become increasingly frightened and cautious. I still watch Red Eye, for example, but it is so tame now I hardly see the point. Every show they do a segment on how much they love homos or trannies now. Once in a  while they worship a black guy. I fast forward through the piety segments, but sometimes that’s most of the show.

Anyway, he said something about how the cop had no right to shoot the big black guy. His argument was that there are no circumstance in which a cop can shoot an unarmed person. I’m a police skeptic and I said from the start that I would need a strong case to justify this shooting. Getting bashed in the face by a giant and then having said giant come back for another shot is enough for me.

In fact, it is enough for everyone in most states. When you get a concealed carry in most states, you learn when you can use lethal force. The first rule you learn is the seven yard rule. When the bad guy is within 20 feet, it is assumed retreat is impossible. About 20 states do not require any retreat whatsoever. Others have laws on the books requiring a citizen to take reasonable steps to get away from the bad guy. Once the bad guy gets close, however, you can do what you need to do to avoid harm.

That rule applies to cops too. This guy is not required to take a beating just because the giant did not have a weapon. Once the giant punched the cop, the cop had every right to assume the giant posed a threat. The only two questions left are how close was the giant when the cop fired on him and was the giant coming forward toward the cop. If the giant was running away or surrendering, then the cop is guilty of murder. If the giant was a block away then the cop is guilty of murder.

What we know so far is that the cop was struck in his car hard enough to fracture his eye socket. That sounds worse than it is as that part of the skull is fragile. Boxers suffer broken orbital bones frequently. Still, it takes a big hit to cause that level of damage. The other thing we know is the giant was shot in the front. Assuming the autopsy report is correct, his arms were at his sides and he was facing the cop. What we don’t know is if the giant was surrendering or advancing. Witness accounts are all over the place and press accounts are full of deliberate lies.

That’s what makes this post from the increasingly deranged Karl Denninger hilariously stupid. He’s arguing that the cop can only shoot the giant if the giant is actively attacking the cop. Not even the Brits have laws like this. In America, no one, not even the cop, has to submit to a beating in order to claim self-defense. Otherwise, there’s no such thing as self-defense and there’s no reason to give the cops guns.

The Hermit is Right

I’ve said for a long time that the hippies got exactly one thing right. That was dropping out. The whole “turn on, tune in and drop out” gag was mostly nonsense. Sitting around getting high all day is no way to live. Hallucinogenics will certainly make you feel like you are reaching a higher consciousness.  You’re not. You’re just high. Maybe it is a good idea to get in touch with yourself and your relationship to nature. I don’t know. I suspect that if you need to do it, it will never happen for you.

Dropping out, however, has merit. A great deal of what ails the world is due to participating in it. Even if that bit of philosophy is nonsense, active engagement with society brings a lot of misery. This former hermit probably had it right the first time.

A man who lived nearly three decades in the woods now has a job and is adjusting to life back in society.

Christopher Knight, who survived brutal winters in the Maine woods by stealing food from homes and camps, could graduate from a special court program as early as this fall, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said.

After serving about seven months in jail, Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit, was admitted last fall into the program, whose participants receive treatment and counseling.

While in jail, Knight told GQ magazine that he didn’t like the society he was being forced to re-enter.

“I don’t think I’m going to fit in,” he said in the GQ story, which will appear in the magazine’s September issue. “It’s too loud. Too colorful. The lack of aesthetics. The crudeness. The inanities. The trivia.”

Knight never fully explained why he disappeared into the woods, telling GQ that he didn’t have a reason and that it was a mystery to him too. He committed more than 1,000 robberies while he lived as a recluse, he told the magazine.

Maloney declined to say what job Knight had taken and where he was living. Members of Knight’s family couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Maloney said Knight has done everything that he has been required to do in the court program and has done a “remarkable job.”

“He has been working hard to understand what it takes to become part of society again,” she said.

He was better off in the woods.

Weed World

One of the central arguments in favor of legalizing drugs is that it eliminates the black market. At first blush, it sounds reasonable. If you can buy your fix at a legitimate store, there’s no need to go to the street dealer. That drives out the street dealer, the street crime, gang wars and so on and so on. It all makes sense, which is why everyone and his brother is carefully watching what is going on in Colorado. All of these arguments are being put to the test.

This story from the Guardian is interesting.

In these, the curious, infant days of Colorado’s legalisation of recreational marijuana, of shiny dispensaries and touch-screen ordering and suburban parties where joints are passed like appetisers over granite countertops, no one would notice the duplex. Plain brick, patchy grass behind chain link, it appears weary, resigned to what the tenant calls “the ‘hood” and others might call left-behind Denver, untouched by the frenzy of investment that has returned to downtown.

The front door of the duplex stays closed. Sheer white curtains cover the living room window. A basement filtering system vents air scrubbed of the sweet funky smell of the pot growing in the basement. The tenant keeps his grow operation here small. It’s his home. That’s his grandson upstairs watching TV with strict instructions not to open the door if someone knocks. Should the cops inquire, they’d find a frail-looking, middle-age Latino with diabetes and heart problems, talking about his pension and his Medicaid and waving his medical marijuana registry card.

The red card – part of the state’s legal landscape since 2000 when voters approved the sale of marijuana for medical use – allows the grower to cultivate a doctor-prescribed 16 plants. It does not allow him to sell what he does not consume to the underground market. It does not allow him a second grow operation in another rented house where he and a partner grew 55 plants until the landlord grew suspicious. It does not allow him to run his own little corner of a black market that still exists in the state with America’s most permissive legal pot sales.

The grower says he recently sold more than 9kg of his weed – Blue Dream for the mellow, Green Crack for the perk – to middlemen who flipped it for almost double the price.

“I try to keep it legal,” he says, “but sometimes it’s illegal.”

Camouflaged amid the legal medicinal and recreational marijuana market, the underground market thrives. Some in law enforcement and on the street say it may be as strong as it’s ever been, so great is the unmet local and visitor demand.

That the black market bustles in the emerging days of legalisation is not unexpected. By some reckonings, it will continue as long as residents of other states look to Colorado – and now Washington state – as the nation’s giant cannabis cookie jar. And, they add, as long as its legal retail competition keeps prices high and is taxed by state and local government at rates surpassing 30%.

I’m inclined to support these experiments in marijuana legalization. I don’t know the right answer, but discovery through trial and error is the way we have sorted these things out for 15,000 years. That said, I find it hilarious that people thought it would eliminate the black market. A highly regulated and taxed legal product will always be more expensive than an unregulated and untaxed product. Unlike cigarettes or booze, there already exists an efficient and sophisticated black market.

“I don’t know who is buying for recreational use at dispensaries unless it’s white, middle-class people and out-of-towners,” said Rudy Reddog Balles, a longtime community activist and mediator. “Everyone I know still has the guy on the street that they hook up with.”

Obviously, legalizing weed was an upper middle-class novelty cause. It was the pseudo-libertarians from SWPL-ville who pushed it through in Colorado. Even a “longtime community activist and mediator” should get that.

This black market boom, the state argues, is a temporary situation. As more legal recreational dispensaries and growers enter the market, the market will adjust. Prices will fall. The illegal market will shrink.

Actually, it will probably grow. Quasi-legalization makes it nearly impossible to police the black market. If you can’t bust a guy for holding, you can’t squeeze him for his dealer. If you can’t bust guys for holding quantity, you can’t squeeze them for the bigger dealers. Then you have the race angle. Busting the black guys in the hood for smoking reefer is not going to go over well when Kendall and Dylan are buying it at the mall with mom’s credit card.

In any case, these first curious months of the legal recreational market have laid bare a socioeconomic faultline. Resentment bubbles in the neighbourhoods where marijuana has always been easy to get.

The resentment goes something like: we Latinos and African Americans from the ‘hood were stigmatised for marijuana use, disdained and disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. We grew up in the culture of marijuana, with grandmothers who made oil from the plants and rubbed it on arthritic hands. We sold it as medicine. We sold it for profit and pleasure.

Now pot is legalised and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records. And here we are again: on the outskirts of opportunity. A legion of entrepreneurs with big plans and rewired basements chafes with every monthly state tax revenue report.

Sing it brotha! Sing it!

Ask someone who buys and sells in the underground market how it has responded to legalisation and the question is likely to be tossed back with defiance. “You mean, ‘Who’s been shut out of the legal market?’” asks Miguel Lopez, chief community organiser of the state’s 420 Rally, which calls for legalisation of marijuana nationally.

“It’s kind of like we made all the sacrifices and they packed it up and are making all the money,” says Cisco Gallardo, a well-known gang outreach worker who once sold drugs as a gang member. For the record, he does not partake. It rattles him a little, he says, to see the young people with whom he works shed their NFL and rapper dreams for the next big thing: their own marijuana dispensary.

In this light, taxation is seen as a blunt instrument of exclusion, driving precisely the groups most prosecuted in the war on drug further into the arms of the black market. In one Denver dispensary, a $30 purchase of one-eighth of the Trinity strain of cannabis includes $7.38 in state and local taxes – a near 33% rate. As Larisa Bolivar, one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalising marijuana, puts it: that $7 buys someone lunch.

“It’s simple,” she says. “A high tax rate drives black market growth. It’s an incentive for risky behaviour.”

It’s not hard to see where the logic is going. The thing is, legalization does nothing for Red Team or Blue Team. Both need an angle so they can pretend to be different. My guess is Red Team is going to be the tax collectors for the weed industry. The Blue Team will go the social justice route demand free weed and subsidies for the poor. Two decades ago, the ruler passed welfare reform which was supposed to start kicking loafers off the dole. Today, one third of the population is collecting. How long before they are giving away free weed in the ghetto?