Monday, January 28, 2013

That's all right sir, I've had a belly full too

Marketing just ain't what it used to be

...of course neither is England.

HT Marginal Revolution

In 2007, Eurostar ran adverts in Belgium for its trains to London depicting a tattooed skinhead urinating into a china teacup.

Good news, bad news, until you look at the scale...

...then it's all really bad news.  Consumer indebtedness has been falling fast as a percentage of disposable income at the same time that Federal indebtedness has been rising rapidly.  So they cancel each other out, right?  Think again.  Take a closer look at the scale: personal indebtedness has fallen by a few points of disposable income while during the same time period the Feds have exploded their debt by almost 40% of the much larger GDP.  There's probably twenty times more Federal debt growth than personal debt reduction.  Once again private virtue is consumed by public venality.  With barely a burp.

Obligatory WHO disclaimer lyrics

Just a reminder: it isn't the label that steals your freedom, it's the belief in the glorious all competent state.  And our body politic is riddled, shot through with that destructive credo.

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again

Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fall that's all
But the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no! 

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie

Do ya?

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old bos

Why the next four years won't be any better than the last four

Zero Hedge explains why employers aren't hiring but the most amazing chart is the spectacular growth of finance as a percentage of the economy.  Really horrifying how Wall Street has taken over Washington and used that to enrich themselves.  And I'm not a Occupy Wall Street guy, I'm a libertarian.  Mega government will generate mega-crooks.  That's why we need to break it up, break it all up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The best illustration of how independents make policy judgements.

I know that there are smart, well informed independents out there but in my experience they are few and far between.  The typical 'independent' is a weather vane.  Literally in the case of global warming beliefs.  I suspect their other beliefs are equally unconnected to fact or logic - it's just that fundamental irrationality is harder to measure for economic policy than the weather.

Yet these are the people who decide who rules us.  My God, my God, why have You forsaken us?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Well this just...unchaps my butt.

Moisturizing jeans.

Drill Baby Drill

According to some experts, the US government is sitting on technically recoverable oil and gas reserves equaling $128 Trillion.  Now if we can only persuade our masters to allow us to exploit this bounty.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pop will go the Weasels

Surprise:  The Fed is inflating another massive derivative bubble - this one betting directly on....what Big Ben Bernanke's latest wheeze will be.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  More here.

Today we are witnessing an increasingly divisive tension between high-profit activities conducted at trading desks for big money-center banks and next-to-nothing returns offered to average savings account holders. The Fed’s aggressive liquidity injections are showing up as asset bubbles in sophisticated global financial markets even as domestic consumer price indices show only modest increases; this two-tier effect favors “whales” who can wager millions on exotic credit instruments while stiffing modest savers with negative real returns.

According to the latest semi-annual report issued by the Bank for International Settlements, the gross market value of outstanding over-the-counter derivatives is $25.4 trillion​—​yes, trillion​—​with 75 percent of the contracts linked to interest rates: forward rate agreements, swaps, options. In June 2008, shortly before the crash, the gross market value of outstanding OTC derivatives was $20.4 trillion, with 46 percent linked to interest rates.

So what has actually changed since the pre-crisis financial situation? Instead of tamping down speculative betting on interest rates in favor of rational market pricing of loanable funds, the Fed’s monetary policies are stimulating it. No wonder traditional financial intermediation​—​the kind that used to channel depositor funds toward promising new businesses​—​is now oriented toward gaming various hunches about the Fed’s next move. Even smaller banks are learning to churn their Treasury holdings rather than make loans to private-sector borrowers​—​especially since federal regulators are evaluating their portfolios.

The problem is that there is nothing to be done except wait for the crash.  God help the poor and weak.

What is income inequality?

What is inequality?
Everyone talks about income inequality but no one defines it.  There's the technical definition which is called Gini - the coefficient of dispersion around the mean value for all incomes.  But that really doesn't do it.   Because equality is not just a statistical phenomenon, it's a status - the experience of equality if you will.  It's the same sentiment that causes 90% of Americans to describe themselves as 'middle class'.

I would define 'practical equality' (as opposed to statistical equality) as being able to afford without means tested subsidy the classic 'middle class' lifestyle - 'decent' home in 'decent' neighborhoods with 'decent' schools and able to pay for your own expenses with a little left over for savings and a vacation.   I submit that a society where 80% can afford that lifestyle is more 'equal' than one where only 50% can regardless of what the Gini shows.

And while Gini can be manipulated via higher taxes on the 'rich' or more means tested subsidies to the poor, the only ways that practical equality can be improved is by either increasing wages or reducing the cost of living for the great majority.  And this is where governance becomes so important.

A tale of two cities
Lets compare two cities:  Dallas-Fort Worth and Boston.  Both are about the same size and surprisingly, both have relatively low population densities.  DFW is growing at about 25% a decade, meaning it will add about 1.5 million people in the next ten years, by contrast Greater Boston is growing less than 4% a decade.  Adjusted for cost of living DFW is the fourth richest city in America out of the 49 largest metro areas, behind Houston, San Jose, Detroit and just ahead of Austin*.  By contrast, despite having a gross household income that is $13,000 higher, Boston is 32nd richest out of 49, just ahead of San Francisco and behind Cleveland. You can see the entire list here (scroll to the bottom).

But our question is not who is richer, it's who has more practical equality?  Let's look at three measures:  housing, health insurance, and state and local taxes and try to understand their impact on equality.

In Boston, the median home costs 5.2 times the median income, making it a 'severely unaffordable' market, according to Demographia's annual global housing affordability survey.  DFW's multiple is 2.9, which makes it an 'affordable' market.  The great majority of Bostonians cannot afford the typical home, by contrast, the majority of Dallasites (Dallasians?) can.

Health Insurance
According to online broker, the average individual premium for a family plan in Boston runs over $11,000 per year while the average family in Dallas pays just over $5,000.  The difference in cost is not quite as big as it seems because the Boston plan mandates much more prepaid healthcare with a lower deductible)   The upshot?  Most Bostonians can't afford the average individual health plan without subsidy, most Dallasites can.   Incidentally, Massachusetts has a healthcare system that is a simpler, less irrational version of the 'Affordable' Care Act.

State and Local Taxes
Massachusetts residents on average pay 10.4% in taxes while Texas residents pay 7.9%.  MA has a more 'egalitarian' system with a significant income tax, while TX has none.

Who's more equal?
It's pretty clear that a far greater proportion of the residents of DFW can achieve a standard Middle Class lifestyle than those of Boston.  This is despite the fact that DFW has far, far more immigrants, Hispanics and African Americans as a share of its population.  Not only that but DFW has maintained much lower housing prices and taxes despite having to add housing and infrastructure at the rate of 25% a decade.  This probably explains why so many people are moving to DFW and away from Boston.  I would also observe that DFW's affluence isn't due to oil and gas activity.  I could have compared Houston to Boston but that wouldn't be fair because per capita, Houston is so much richer (42%).

Blue vs. Red governance
Differences in housing policy illustrate the difference in governing philosophy.  Boston has very restrictive real estate controls.  You can see this when you travel there:  outside of a fairly dense inner city the suburbs quickly become sparse - there are lots of houses on large lots (or next to green space set asides which is effectively the same thing).  It's all very pretty but affluent suburbanites consume a lot of space. And that space is maintained by regulation that ensures that no one can sell out to a developer who would put higher density housing on it.  And despite high land costs, it's been my observation that Boston hasn't allowed very many new inner city high rise developments in the last decade.

The DFW area has far fewer real estate controls.  The result is that rich suburbanites in Dallas live more densely than they do in cities like Boston or even New York.  In a city with a free market in land, large plot rich housing is inherently unstable because one's neighbor tends to sell out to a developer who replaces it with much denser housing.  And downtown Dallas has seen a massive high rise apartment boom that in my estimation is second only to that of Chicago's.  Again, the more flexible governance has led to a much greater supply of housing and far lower costs.

The same differences in philosophy can be seen in health care (although with the ACA's implementation I'm afraid we will all look like Boston before long) where Boston has a tops down comprehensive insurance solution that is extremely expensive (and frankly doomed to collapse if ACA didn't come along) while Dallas has a system that is much more laissez faire (and actuarially rational) but accepts a lot more uninsured (although everyone is treated in both cities).

 So, who is the government working for?
I would submit that in Boston, the government is working for the affluent elites - it is protecting their bucolic neighborhoods and  urban sight lines, driving up the cost of real estate.  To cope with the high, high costs of housing and health insurance, MA (and the Feds) throw a bone via more means tested subsidies to people who if they lived in Dallas would not need them.

By contrast government in Dallas is working for the middle class:  it keeps the cost of housing, taxes and health insurance relatively low so that 'normal' families can afford a 'normal' lifestyle without relying on means tested social welfare benefits.  And somehow government in TX delivers far more tangible improvements like roads, schools, sewers, etc. than MA for far less money.

Why the difference?
A cursory glance will tell you that Massachusetts and Boston politics are utterly dominated by one party.  There are virtually no Republicans.  This means that the affluent in Boston dominate the only source of political legitimacy and manage it so that it benefits them while spouting impeccably progressive rhetoric.  By contrast, despite it's reputation TX and DFW politics are far more competitive -Democrats run the biggest cities and the Republicans run the suburbs and while the Republicans run the State now, it is still competitive.  This means that the rich and powerful of each party contend with each other for control and influence.  And the result?:  the dominant voting block (aka:  The middle class) benefits.  Given these facts it's not surprising that Massachusetts has a much larger class warfare constituency then TX - they really are getting screwed - just not by who they think.

It's interesting that the cities in the US with the highest costs of living and really horrible levels of practical inequality (NYC, SFO, LA, etc.) are all deep blue one party towns where Republicans are all but extinct.  And there simply aren't any major metro areas which have one party Republican governance so we can't know if one party red governance would deliver as bad a (for normal working people) result (I suspect it would be bad in a different way).

Perhaps it's deep blue governance's horrible record of providing a decent standard of living for its citizens that causes them to focus so much on abstract, statistical measures of equality.  When you're doing such a bad job, distraction is the better part of valor.  But one thing is certain: real practical equality - decent people having a decent standard of living without having to grovel to some apparatchik - will not be advanced one iota by more taxes on the rich.  Indeed, the places that tax them the most today are doing the worst.

*The two richest cities by far (Houston, San Jose) just happen to be the global centers for the two mega-industries that the US dominates more than any other.  Detroit's high standing reflects both the collapse in real estate values and to some extent its historical legacy of being the third dominant industry center.  And Austin?  With metro population growing at about 40% a decade, San Jose is hearing footsteps behind it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mencken was right

Some of his most famous quotes.  Hattip Carpe Diem

1. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
2. Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.
3. Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
4. Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.
5. Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
6. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
7. Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
8. If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.
9. As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
10. All government, of course, is against liberty.
Read more here and here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Well at least the Rent Seeking sector is booming

Dulles may close runway to all but private planes.  

Airport officials expect 300 to 600 arrivals in the three-day period leading up to President Obama’s second inauguration on Monday. That’s down slightly from 2009, when there were about 700 landings, which was more than double the previous record, set during President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Investor's biggest lessons of the last five years

I agree except that I would add that regardless of regulation banks will continue to take unreasonable risks and be bailed out by central banks which will lead them to take unreasonable risks and be bailed out which will......

At some point we are going to need to break it up, break it all up.  Before it breaks us.

The Arrogance of the Badge

Many police are nothing more than thugs with guns.  Please don't make the mistake of thinking that they are on your side or care about you at all.  Obviously some are decent and honest but if you assume one is and they're not, they could hurt you.  Badly.

Even An Elderly, Grieving Husband Is A Potential Drug Criminal
Radley Balko writes at Huff Post about how utterly out of hand the paranoia has become that someone will pop a pill they were not prescribed and get high. He quotes this story from Utah, by Dennis Romboy, in the Deseret News:
A man says Vernal police disrupted an intimate moment of mourning with his deceased wife of 58 years when they searched his house for her prescription medication without a warrant within minutes of her death.Barbara Alice Mahaffey died of colon cancer in her bedroom last May. Ben D. Mahaffey, 80, said he was distraught and trying to make sure his wife's body would be taken to the funeral home with dignity, when he says officers insisted he help them look for the drugs.
"I was holding her hand saying goodbye when all the intrusion happened," he told the Deseret News.
Barbara Mahaffey died at 12:35 a.m. with Mahaffey, a Navy medic in the Korean War, and his friend, an EMT, at her side. In addition to police, a mortician and a hospice worker arrived at the home about 12:45 a.m., Mahaffey said. He said he doesn't know how police came to be there.
"I was indignant to think you can't even have a private moment. All these people were there and they're not concerned about her or me. They're concerned about the damn drugs. Isn't that something?" Mahaffey said.
Mahaffey said he was treated as if he were going to sell the painkillers, which included OxyContin, oxycodone and morphine, on the street.
Balko puts it in perspective:
Note the utter lack of compassion, the inability to see a grieving husband as anything other than a potential drug dealer. Note the priorities on display. The most important thing the cops had to do that day was get those drugs out of that house. Preventing someone from using Barbara Mahaffey's pills to get high, or preventing Ben Mahaffey from--God forbid--using pain medication not prescribed to him at some point in the future, was more important than giving a widower a last moment of dignity to say goodbye to his wife of 58 years.
RelatedBloomberg practicing "legislative medicine" to keep pain pills out of the hands of people poor enough to go to public hospitals

Whole Foods CEO says Obama healthcare law is ‘more like fascism.’

The ruling class are going to struggle with this one:  do you punish Whole Foods for blaspheming the glorious Federal Superstate and give up convenient fresh organic produce at reasonable prices?  Or do you keep eating the free range goat cheese and risk social and political damnation?

Hmmm.  Tricky.  Life is so unfair.

Details here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reichstag 2014

During the healthcare debate President Obama claimed that passing his 'reform' would lead to the typical family's health insurance premiums falling by $2,500 by 2013.  Instead they have risen by $3,000 for a net negative swing of $5,500.  Pretty bad, huh?

Well not nearly as bad as what is going to happen next.  Read this piece by Matthews and Litow.  In it they cite health actuaries from Oliver Wyman who point out that overall ACA will immediately drive individual and small group rates up another 40%.  In fact, all responsible (e.g. those not working for the Federal superstate or its enablers) health actuaries agree that the community rating and guaranteed issue provisions, when coupled by expanded coverage mandates virtually guarantee a massive increase in rates that effectively wreck the health insurance market.

Matthews and Litow (rightly in my view) predict that this massive increase in rates will lead to an enormous backlash against the insurance companies who will be pilloried by our leaders and an ideologically compliant press.  They will call for a 'single payer' system and once they get that they will call for detailed regulation of health care delivery to help reign in the out of control costs caused by the single payer system.

It's pretty obvious that this was the President and the Democrat leadership's plan all along - indeed, the President frequently admitted that he preferred a 'single payer' model but he couldn't persuade the country to go along.

So he followed what I call the "Reichstag Fire" strategy.  If you recall, the Nazi's had won control of the Reichstag or German Parliament.  But they didn't have complete control and their opponents remained very powerful, so they engineered the burning of the Reichstag building and used the ensuing public and press furor to round up their opponents and destroy their political power.  This despite the Nazis never, ever having the support of the majority of the German people.

While I am not claiming that Obama is a new 'Hitler' or anything remotely close to that, I do believe that the Obamacare program follows the Reichstag Fire model.  The Democrats, with a supermajority passed a law that they knew based upon the experience of states they ran (NY, NJ, MA, etc.) would drive massive cost increases and wreck the health insurance market.

In essence they have organized a conspiracy to burn down the insurance markets and blame it on the insurance companies.  They plan to use the uproar caused by this to ram through measures that take complete control of the health care financing and ultimately delivery systems.  This despite the Democrats never, ever having the support of the majority of the American people to do so.

"Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Income Inequality: The problem of cost

Critics of the US point to its higher level of income inequality arguing that this proves that America is an 'unfair' country.  Indeed using the Gini index - a measure of income dispersion, the US scores a taxes and transfers adjusted 39 versus a 31 for more egalitarian Sweden.

In an earlier post I explained why comparing income inequality in a smallish, homogeneous country like Sweden to the US is flawed and showed that by comparing individual US states to European countries a lot of the so called 'income inequality' gap vanishes.  Indeed on a more 'apples to apples' comparison of the entire EU versus the USA, the EU scores a 41 which is worse than the US.

But there's another factor that affects both the US and Europe and that tends to seriously overstate income inequality:  differences in the cost of living.  For example, here is the cost of living among the ten largest metro areas:

New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA 220
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA CSA 148
Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, IL-IN-WI CSA 113
Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV CSA 137
Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-RI-NH CSA 134
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA 172
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX CSA 92
Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD CSA 124
Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX CSA 91
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, GA-AL CSA 97

So a mid-level executive in NYC who is moving to Houston (which are the number 1 and number 2 most common Fortune 500 headquarters cities) would find that his standard of living had more than doubled.  The difference is a little more pronounced when  you include all metro areas.  The cheapest metro area in the nation (Harlingen, TX) has an index of 80.

This means that a significant proportion of the difference in wages in the US may be due to differences in the cost of living.  For this to be true wages would have to track cost of living which is broadly but not completely true (for example, TX has a higher standard of living than NY or CA despite having lower average wages).  On the other hand, we don't have information on the cost of living of rural areas which is no doubt lower than that of most if not all metro areas.  So in general I would say that the differences in costs reflected above are representative of the difference in wages nationwide (and no I'm not up for doing the damned analysis -  do it yourself if you think it's so important).

So what?  Well, I calculated the Gini coefficient for cost of living among the 366 MSAs in the US (don't be impressed, it took about 1 minute and no technical skill).  In other words, I measured the dispersion of cost of living in the US and compared it to the index for dispersion of incomes.  Not surprisingly, it was lower, the index was 7 versus 39 for income inequality.

Another way to say this is that a little over 20% of the variation in after tax and transfer incomes in the US is accounted by the difference in costs of living between the various places that people live. This helps explain why some rich small countries typically have lower Ginis:  the costs of living vary far less within a Denmark or Sweden and therefore so do wages.

There is also evidence that this cost of living differential has been growing over time.  The biggest driver of cost differentials between cities is the cost of housing.  Cities like San Francisco and New York have seen explosive housing inflation over the past 30 years.  Cities like Dallas and Houston have seen very little increase in the cost of housing despite a population that was growing much faster.  This reflects very different philosophies of governance - a 'Blue' versus 'Red' model, if you will.

There's a lot more I would like to say about the difference in costs of living between cities and how it represents the Blue versus Red approaches to governance and inequality but I will save that for later.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bernanke Bucks are going to blow this economy up

Bill Frezza tells the story here.  Money chart:

Does Gail Collins think we're stupid?

In a NYT column bemoaning the fact that as more and more of the population are abortion survivors the procedure gets less and less popular states the following non-sequitur:

They’re caught in the middle of a political fight over a deeply personal issue that leaves most Americans feeling uneasy. If you want to rack up a real positive response on a poll, ask people whether the women or the politicians should make decisions about their pregnancies. One of the surveys commissioned by Planned Parenthood showed 83 percent of likely voters picked the women, including 64 percent of those who called themselves pro-life.

And I'll bet that more 83 percent would also say that mothers (and fathers) should make decisions about their children.

They just assume that making decisions doesn't extend to killing them.

Abortion is a barbaric relic from a pagan past.  It's fitting that it is embraced most enthusiastically by our modern pagan class of which Ms. Collins is a leader.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

He's really not very bright, is he?

The fatal conceit of the Obami is that their Maximum Leader is a 'genius'.  This is obviously not true.  They will follow their 'genius' to the gates of hell - and to their surprise will be duly processed therein.  Michael Graham on what constitutes 'big thinking' by the administration on guns:

The position of the anti-gun activists in the Obama administration is “guns are icky.”
The media consider them the intellectuals in this debate.

This lunacy will go on until we break the Feds up and return their power to the states

Megan McCardle on the Trillion Dollar Coin debacle:    An ADHD day trader with a cocaine habit and six months to live has considerably more long-term planning skills than our current congress.

And compared to the President, they look like long term thinkers.

Monday, January 07, 2013

We've become our own 'Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys'

The Economist has our number and that number is negative zero.

Vive l'stupidite!

A 'Good Gig'

Increasingly reality is becoming more like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It turns out that the world has become far greener in the last thirty years, with accelerating tree growth and green area expansion caused by warmer, more humid conditions and higher levels of CO2. It's what Douglas Adam's Disaster Area (a plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones) would have called a 'good gig'. See below for the specific references.

Disaster Area

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy notes that Disaster Area, a plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, are generally held to be not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but in fact the loudest noise of any kind at all. Regular concert-goers judge that the best sound balance is usually to be heard from within large concrete bunkers some thirty-seven miles from the stage, whilst the musicians themselves play their instruments by remote control from within a heavily insulated spaceship which stays in orbit around the planet - or more frequently around a completely different planet.

Their songs are on the whole very simple and mostly follow the familiar theme of boy-being meets girl-being beneath a silvery moon, which then explodes for no adequately explored reason.

Many worlds have now banned their act altogether, sometimes for artistic reasons, but most commonly because the band's public address system contravenes local strategic arms limitation treaties.


Down on the dry, red world of Kakrafoon, in the middle of the vast Rudlit Desert, the stage technicians were testing the sound system.

That is to say, the sound system was in the desert, not the technicians. They had retreated to the safety of Disaster Area's giant control ship which hung in orbit some four hundred miles above the planet, and they were testing the sound from there. Anyone within five miles of the speaker silos wouldn't have survived the tuning up.

If Arthur Dent had been within five miles of the speaker silos his expiring thought would have been that in both size and shape the sound rig closely resembled Manhattan. Risen out of the silos, the neutron phase speaker stacks towered monstrously against the sky, obscuring the banks of plutonium reactors and seismic amps behind them.

Buried deep in concrete bunkers beneath the city of speakers lay the instruments that the musicians would control from their ship, the massive photon-ajuitar, the bass detonator and the Megabang drum complex.

It was going to be a noisy show.


On a different frequency, the sub-ether receiver had picked up a public broadcast, which now echoed round the cabin.

' ... fine weather for the concert here this afternoon. I'm standing here in front of the stage,' the reporter lied, 'in the middle of the Rudlit Desert, and with the aid of hyperbinoptic glasses I can just about make out the huge audience cowering there on the horizon all around me. Behind me the speaker stacks rise like a sheer cliff face, and high above me the sun is shining away and doesn't know what's going to hit it. The environmentalists lobby do know what's going to hit it, and they claim that the concert will cause earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes irreparable damage to the atmosphere, and all the usual things that environmentalists usually go on about.

But I've just had a report that a representative of Disaster Area met with the environmentalists at lunchtime, and had them all shot, so nothing now lies in the way of ...'

The Belcerebons of Kakrafoon Kappa had an unhappy time. Once a serene and quiet civilization, a Galactic Tribunal sentenced them to telepathy because the rest of the galaxy found peaceful contemplation contemptuous. Ford Prefect compared them to Humans because the only way Belcerebons could stop transmitting their every thought was to mask their brain activity (or its readability) by talking endlessly about utter trivia. The other approach to dampening telepathic communication was to host concerts of the plutonium rock band Disaster Area. Thankfully, during the concert, an improbability field flipped over the Rudlit Desert, transforming it into a paradise, and cured the Belcerebons of telepathy.

 A Disaster Area spokesman said that this was "a good gig".I

Friday, January 04, 2013

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Our Maximum Police State

The US stores more information on each of us than the Stasi did on East Germans.  The right is the progenitor of the police state and the left is now its enabler.  If they don't like you they can find a reason to put you away again and again and again.  Welcome to the Federal Superstate.  More here.

in the Federal Superstate there is no such thing as justice. Just prosecutorial impunity.

When everything is against the law and the prosecutor can both seize your assets without due process and file an infinitely complex prosecution against you, there is no justice.   Harvey Silverglate points out that if the Feds want you convicted, you don't stand a chance.  Here.

Our Federal Superstate is out of control.  And with the explosion of administrative law under Obama it's getting much worse with each passing day.

It's all so progressive.