Thursday, 25 November 2021

The Party Which Must Not Be Named

From the BBC:

Sweden's first ever female prime minister has resigned just hours after she was appointed.

Magdalena Andersson, was announced as leader on Wednesday but resigned after her coalition partner quit the government and her budget failed to pass. Instead, parliament voted for a budget drawn up by the opposition which includes the anti-immigrant far right.


And who might they mean? Ah, The Swedish Democrats, who are the third largest Party in the Swedish Parliament with nearly four times as many seats as the Green Party, who are mentioned by name several times in the article and not just obliquely referred to as the "pro-immigrant far left".

Sunday, 21 November 2021

"Landlords cash in with £100,000 Cop26 rentals"

Emailed in by MBK, from The Times:

It is billed the “best last chance to save the planet” but Cop26 has given Glasgow landlords a chance to save for the future by charging extortionate rents. Rates have soared above £100,000 for the two-week summit as politicians, scientists and activists vie for accommodation, in what has been dubbed the Glasgow gold rush.

An investigation by The Times found 20 properties on Airbnb and 30 on Booking.com that are going for more than £20,000 for the fortnight. The average nightly price for a rental on Airbnb during the two weeks is over £600, a threefold increase on the same dates in the following two months.


Well of course. Location rents are determined by what's going on in the area, if there's more going on, then rents go up.

What they overlook is that while this an extreme example of landowners cashing in on the efforts of others, their baseline rents also just represent landowners cashing in on the efforts of others. There's no moral or economic difference.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Covid seems to go in four-month waves

We know that each country's Covid reporting is flawed - some over-report, some under-report, for whatever reason. It seems highly unlikely that similar and neighbouring countries (Austria v Switzerland; Czah Rep vs Slovakia etc) would show such large differences. Also, some countries - like NZ - have suppressed real numbers with extreme measures, but they are just delaying the problem.

But if you add up world totals, then all the under- and over-reporting should largely cancel out. Even if they don't, as long as the numbers are consistently over- or under-reported, the real trends are probably fairly reflected.

Worldometers.info prepare exactly such charts, it is pretty clear that:
1. The case numbers for the first 2020 wave were almost certainly under-reported (or were deaths over-reported? Or was the virus much more deadly at the start and then suddenly become milder?), but that's understandable
2. It has been going in four-month waves, it's not just winter peaks (although would be interesting to see Northern/Southern Hemisphere split). That's the interesting bit.
3. The number of deaths relative to cases is declining, but only slowly. That might simply be the effect of the majority of people in wealthier countries having had their jabs.

Monday, 15 November 2021

"It's different this time."

Spotted by Lola. From This Is Money:

The Bank of England is considering easing mortgage rules in a move that could boost house prices.

The central bank, led by Governor Andrew Bailey, will announce next month whether lenders can increase the volume of large mortgages they dish out. Banks are limited in the home loans they can give to borrowers who need more than 4.5 times their salary. These customers must represent no more than 15 per cent of the new loans that banks issue.

The Bank of England referenced the rules in an update last month, saying 'there has been little evidence of a deterioration in lending standards or a material increase in the number of highly indebted households'.


a. This will all go horribly wrong again in 2025-26, just like it did in 2007-08. And in 1990 and 1973, although those busts weren't as bad as 2007-08 because back then we still had some Georgism Lite policies keep a bit of a lid on prices.

b. They appear to be perfectly aware that easing loan restrictions push up prices by the same amount, so actually it doesn't help anybody onto 'the ladder', they buy the same house but with more debts.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

It takes one to know one and causation/correlation

From MSN News:

The climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed Cop26 as a “failure” and a “PR event”. “The leaders are not doing nothing, they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system,” she said.

The last three years of ms Thunberg's life have been a carefully managed and superbly successful PR event.

From the BBC:

Highly shared [Facebook] articles made false assertions that climate change was not confirmed by science or claimed to debunk it with data. Of these, 69% could be traced back to just 10 "super-polluter" publishers - dubbed the "toxic ten" - the campaign group found.

In fact, our understanding of climate change comes from analyses of millions of measurements gathered in different parts of the world. And multiple independent teams of scientists have reached the same result - a spike in temperatures coinciding with the onset of the industrial era. [Photo caption] Flooding in Indonesia has been linked to climate change- yet some online still deny its effects


Hang about here. If the clever scientists and weather forecasters say that the climate has changed over the past few decades, then I'm happy to accept it. I've no strong opinion on that either way.

What bugs me is the false logic that slightly higher atmospheric CO2 levels are the cause. They might well be the result of higher temperatures or it might be entirely coincidental.

The cornerstone of the Alarmist belief system is that the 33 degree Greenhouse Effect (sea level temperature minus Earth's effective temperature) is entirely due to 'greenhouse gases'. This belief is based on selectively ignoring the existence the cloud cover.

When we calculate Earth's (or Venus') effective temperature, what we are actually calculating is the expected temperature of the cloud cover, so a fair comparison is effective temperature vs actual temperature of the clouds.

If you do the like-for-like comparison (on Earth or on Venus) you observe that the Greenhouse Effect is precisely zero. So if 300 ppm CO2 has no measurable effect, then why would 420 ppm have any effect?

That's the line the Climate Deniers should be taking, not getting into pitched battles over whether the climate i.e. weather patterns are changing.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Calculating the speed of a falling object etc. using the physics approach.

I like doing a bit of mental arithmetic, when I'm in a boring meeting or lying awake at night. A typical challenge is calculating the speed of falling objects; how long it takes them to fall etc. There's one constant, acceleration due to gravity (hereafter abbreviated to 'gravity' for brevity) = 9.8 m/s2 and then you have to work out how to work it out; then remember how to work it out while you actually work it out.

It's surprisingly fiddly, tedious and not much fun. Here's a link to an explanation with an embedded calculator.

It occurred to me this morning that taking the maths approach is a load of bollocks, it's quicker, easier and simply more fun taking the physics approach. You just have to remember a bit of GSCE level physics:
1. Initial potential energy of an object = kinetic energy of the object just as it hits the ground.
2. Potential energy = mass x height x gravity.
3. Kinetic energy = half x mass x velocity squared.

For simplicity, mass is always 1kg so does not appear in the answers (it would cancel out anyway), we're using SI units and we're ignoring air resistance.

Q1: Object is doing 60 m/s when it hits the ground. From what height was it dropped?

A: Closing KE = 1/2 x 60 x 60 = 1,800
∴ Starting PE = 1,800
∴ Starting height = 1,800/9.8 = 183 metres

Q2: An object is dropped from a height of 500 metres,
a) at what speed does it hit the ground
b) how long before it hits the ground?


A: Starting PE = 9.8 x 500 = 4,900
∴ Closing KE = 1/2 x 9,800
∴ Closing velocity squared = 9,800
∴ a) Closing velocity = 99 metres/second
(Calculating square roots made easy here)
∴ b) Time taken to fall (constant acceleration at 9.8 m/s2) = 99/9.8 = 10.1 seconds.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The old fashioned maths approach is probably better (simpler calculation and more intuitive) if you are told time taken to fall:

Q3: An object falls for five seconds before it hits the ground. From what height was it dropped?

A: Closing velocity = 5 x 9.8 = 49
∴ Average velocity = 1/2 x 49 = 24.5
∴ Height = 5 seconds x 24.5 = 122.5 metres

The physics approach would be:
A: Closing kinetic energy = 1/2 x (5 x *9.8) x (5 x 9.8) (no need to calculate the actual number)
Starting potential energy = closing kinetic energy
Height = starting potential energy ÷ *9.8
∴ Height = 1/2 x 5 x 5 x 9.8 = 122.5 (the *9.8s cancel out)

Both approaches boil down to:

Height = 1/2 x time in seconds squared x gravity, but you'd have to remember this extra equation, so this approach is not advised.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Something else that LVT would sort out?

It is difficult to see how to sort this mess out, even with LVT and a free market (as opposed to a crony capitalist "free" market).

Ports and, to a lesser extent, warehouses enjoy a natural monopoly in that additional facilities are extremely expensive to construct and, as far as ports are concerned, most of the good locations were already taken centuries ago. LVT could tax away the superprofits made from the monopolies, but that's hardly going to be an incentive for the landowners to invest in additional facilities and without effective competition, the free market can do little to make that worthwhile either.

Anyone got any bright ideas? I am sure this must be something creeping up Joe Biden's priority list, what with Christmas coming up and all.

Edit: The Biden administration is already onto it with the predictable government response:

“There are $17 billion in port improvements in the President’s infrastructure bill and they’re urgently needed. This is one of the reasons why we’re eager to see congressional action, and I know my department is ready to put those dollars to work,”

or, in other words, "they own land, give them money".

Is Climate Alarmism a religion?

From the BBC:

Thousands of activists arrived in Scotland's largest city to make their climate change concerns known.

They included Greta Thunberg who was mobbed as she arrived by train in Glasgow. The Swedish activist was surrounded by police, media and activists at the city's Central Station.

Earlier, faith groups making pilgrimages to Glasgow converged in the city as protests build ahead of COP26 which starts on Sunday. Many had walked thousands of miles to join in a procession through the city centre.

Hundreds of people from Extinction Rebellion (XR) Faith and pilgrimage groups converged at the McLennan Arch on Glasgow Green, where XR Scotland's "Blue Rebels" formed a guard of honour for them. The bells at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow led a UK-wide toll from 18:00, offering a traditional warning to humanity to "pay heed to the climate crisis".

Those arriving in the city include Marcha Glasgow, a group of Spanish activists who took a ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth to embark on a 30-day hike to Glasgow. Camino to COP26* members have walked from London and Bristol to Glasgow in just under two months. Young Christian Climate Network activists arrived in the city on Saturday after walking 1,200 miles from Cornwall**.


This wasn't just about getting there, it was about playing the martyr or finding redemption through suffering or some such bullshit. After many similar publicity stunts, Ms Thunberg is now venerated as a minor saint.

* Google Maps says that London to Glasgow is 387 miles on foot, do fifteen to twenty miles a day, you could do it in half the time.

** Did they get lost along the way or is this just poor reporting by the BBC?

Saturday, 30 October 2021

"Oh no, they won't!"

From This is Money, spotted by Mombers:

Forecast rises in interest rates could force landlords to raise rents to meet mortgage affordability criteria, or risk being trapped on higher rates, according to a buy-to-let expert. This is because interest costs across the life of a buy-to-let mortgage would more than quadruple, going from £115 a month in interest now, compared to £479 with the rise in one example.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast a worst-case scenario whereby a 'wage spiral' or energy price shock would require the Bank of England to increase base rate to 3.5 per cent in 2023 to curb inflation.


Nope.

Rents are the Maypole around which house prices dance. Current selling prices and/or what people are prepared to borrow is the Net Present Value of the rental income (for a landlord) or the rent saved (for a first time buyer).

More prosaically, prices will settle at approx. the level where the monthly mortgage payments are about the same as the rental value. So sure, if there is a big interest rate hike, selling prices will fall (all things being equal) so that new buyers' monthly mortgage payments are still approx. the same as the monthly rent.

Landlords can't 'pass on' that fall in value any more than they can 'pass on' higher interest rates, a tenant would just move out and rent from a new landlord who had bought at the new lower price/higher interest rate.

If old landlords could 'pass on' higher interest rates and rents went up, then madness would ensue. The new landlords would be able charge the new higher rent, even though their interest payments were still based on the old lower rents i.e. they would be making a super-profit from Day One which would be competed away almost immediately.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

When being wrong has never made you look so stupid.

From The Evening Standard:

Half of over-50s have had Covid booster jab... At least 6.1 million booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been delivered across the UK.

Half? Really? Clearly, there are about 30 million over-50s in the UK, so that's nowhere near half.

Some outlets read and understood the NHS press release, for example the North West Mail:

NHS delivers Covid booster to half of eligible people aged 50 and over

The key word here is "eligible" i.e. over-50s with underlying health issues, who care for elderly parents, NHS workers and so on.