Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The original Peloton advert reminds of a chapter from Nineteen Eighty-Four

From here:

The telescreen was giving forth an ear-splitting whistle which continued on the same note for thirty seconds. It was nought seven fifteen, getting-up time for office workers. Winston wrenched his body out of bed -- naked, for a member of the Outer Party received only 3,000 clothing coupons annually, and a suit of pyjamas was 600 -- and seized a dingy singlet and a pair of shorts that were lying across a chair. 

The Physical Jerks would begin in three minutes. The next moment he was doubled up by a violent coughing fit which nearly always attacked him soon after waking up. It emptied his lungs so completely that he could only begin breathing again by lying on his back and taking a series of deep gasps. His veins had swelled with the effort of the cough, and the varicose ulcer had started itching.

'Thirty to forty group!' yapped a piercing female voice. 'Thirty to forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!'

Winston sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared.

'Arms bending and stretching!' she rapped out. 'Take your time by me. One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! Come on, comrades, put a bit of life into it! One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! ...'

The pain of the coughing fit had not quite driven out of Winston's mind the impression made by his dream, and the rhythmic movements of the exercise restored it somewhat. As he mechanically shot his arms back and forth, wearing on his face the look of grim enjoyment which was considered proper during the Physical Jerks, he was struggling to think his way backward into the dim period of his early childhood...

Stand easy!' barked the instructress, a little more genially.

Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air.

The instructress had called them to attention again. 'And now let's see which of us can touch our toes!' she said enthusiastically. 'Right over from the hips, please, comrades. One-two! One- two! ...'

Winston loathed this exercise, which sent shooting pains all the way from his heels to his buttocks and often ended by bringing on another coughing fit.

'Smith!' screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.'

A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston's body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the instructress raised her arms above her head and -- one could not say gracefully, but with remarkable neatness and efficiency -- bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers under her toes.

'There, comrades! That's how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I'm thirty-nine and I've had four children. Now look.' She bent over again. 'You see my knees aren't bent. You can all do it if you want to,' she added as she straightened herself up. 'Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. Now try again. That's better, comrade, that's much better,' she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.

Why on earth anybody would pay £2,000 to be subjected to this rubbish is a mystery to me.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Weak "climate denier" argument.

Prompted by Bayard's comment here about water vapour (and the logical impossibility of the CO2/H2O positive feedback effect, without which there can't be Runaway Global Warming. The arch-Alarmist website Skeptical Science admits that CO2 alone can't do much, it needs the CO2/H2O positive feedback effect as well), I did a bit of googling and stumbled across this.

There are at least a dozen sound reasons why I refuse to along with the "climate catastrophe" narrative, but this isn't one of them:

The effect of water vapor on temperature is especially important because of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claim that CO2 can cause catastrophic global warming. 

Because CO2 is not capable of causing significant global warming by itself, their contention is that increased CO2 raises temperature slightly and that produces an increase in water vapor, which does have the capability of raising atmospheric temperature. If that is indeed the case, then as CO2 rises, we should observe a concomitant increase in water vapour...

Agreed so far.

However, Figs. 9.3 and 9.4 show that water vapour (relative humidity) between 10,000 and 30,000 feet declined from 1948 to 2014.

That's his punchline? Here's his mistake - a decline in relative humidity can mean one of two things:
a) Less water vapour at the same temperature, or
b) Same amount of water vapour at a higher temperature.

So those measurements don't necessarily mean less water vapour.

From here, a nice chart:

So if we have 10g of water per 1kg of air at 15C, that's 100% relative humidity. If we warm the air to 25C, it's now only 50% relative humidity.

I'm not clever enough to reverse engineer the calculations, but I wouldn't be surprised if the average 6% fall in relative humidity over six decades means the same amount of water vapour and 1C higher average temperatures, and let's just accept the claim that the average atmospheric temperature has indeed increased by 1C over the last six decades (quite possibly true, quite possibly it's much more or less than that, or even a fall, I'm not sure it's a relevant metric, what matters is whether anything bad happens, down here on the surface).

I would be surprised if there was a significant increase in water vapour (you have to believe this if you are an Alarmist), but I'm not convinced there was a significant reduction, which is the basis of the argument under discussion.

KIller Arguments Against LVT, Not (474)

It's nice to see five time honoured classic KLNs in this morning's City AM, neatly packaged and bundled. I've a nasty feeling that Homeys just choose a few at random from Cue Al Pacino quote.

Should business rates be scrapped and replaced with a land tax, as the Lib Dems suggest?

Sarah Collins, director of RIFT Research and Development, says NO.

At first glance, scrapping business rates will be received well by small business owners. But there’s a problem: it needs to be paid for, and to the tune of around £25bn each year in typical tax revenue (1).

The Lib Dem solution is to tax commercial landlords, which is all well and good until you realise the following.

Local councils are dependent upon business rates to fund local services. Any funding gap brought about by a miscalculation or by landlords simply domiciling their assets elsewhere (2) would leave neighbourhoods bereft of support for things like affordable homes, social care, play areas — all of which the Lib Dems say they stand up for.(3)

These same commercial landlords — the likes of British Land and Land Securities — are also invested in by pension funds (4). Tax them until the pips squeak,(5) and returns will diminish and pension pots will shrink. This will again impact the very same people whom Jo Swinson says she’s looking out for.

While well intentioned, this clumsy policy has potentially disastrous unintended consequences.(6)

1) Yes, it was proposed as a replacement tax, so ought to raise the same amount as Business Rates. Landowners in low value areas will pay less, landowners in high value areas will pay more. LVT is more 'progressive' than Business Rates.

2) We're familiar with the Missing Homes Conundrum. This woman is going one better with the Missing Land Conundrum. Or does she mean that people will re-register their land titles in the name of an offshore entity? Has she not heard of ATED, which is only payable on high-value UK housing owned by an offshore entity, and which has collection rates of 100%? Or does she imagine that if she buys a home in the USA and doesn't pay the property tax, they'll let her off scot free?

3) There is no direct link between taxation and spending. This KLN links Business Rates with Good Things, an interesting twist on the traditional KLN that LVT revenues would be wasted on Bad Things.

4) Totally irrelevant.
a) Pension funds also own shares in weapons manufacturers (and other cartoon baddies like Big Oil, alcohol and tobacco); is this an argument against embargos on the sale of weapons to unfriendly regimes, or against fuel duty, or against preventing under-18 year olds from buying booze or fags?
b) Pension funds also own shares in retailers and other businesses currently paying Business Rates; British Land and Land Securities own land and buildings in low value and in high value areas, so the gains and losses will cancel out anyway.

5) It's a replacement tax. You could increase any tax (apart from LVT) to a ridiculous rate; you could increase  Business Rates until the pips squeak; that's not an argument for or against any particular kind of tax. And in (3) above, she criticised LVT on the basis that revenues would fall.

6) She has named precisely zero adverse consequences.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Well, yes and no.

From The Daily Mail:

A mother has blasted Marks and Spencer for 'false advertising' after her artificial Christmas tree arrived wonky and looking like a 'twig without any leaves'.

Ms Jasionowicz, of Cheshunt Hertfordshire, said:

"I was hugely disappointed because we put a lot of time and effort into putting the tree up. We took it down straight away because it looks awful. It looks like a twig without any leaves. I expected a quality product but that's not what we got. The image on the website does not represent the product and I feel like we were sold short."

"Sold short"?? It looks worse than no tree at all, so well done Ms Jasionowicz for naming and shaming M&S.

But with just over two weeks to go before Christmas the family are yet to find a replacement tree and have been given a refund by M&S following a complaint.

Wot? The shops are full of them.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

This year's Xmas CD cover

This was a collaboration with my daughter, who can share the blame/credit:

The unsurprising impact of scrapping bridge tolls

From the BBC:

Journeys on the westbound carriageway on the Prince of Wales Bridge have increased by 16% in the year since the tolls were removed.

An average of more than 39,000 journeys are being made each day, up from less than 34,000 per day in 2018 when the £5.60 charge was still in place. Highways England said traffic rose by about 32% on the M48 Bridge, but exact figures were not available.

All those journeys mean more economic activity and so on. Tolls mean income for the bridge owner and and equal and opposite cost to motorists, so that is just a transfer of wealth and cancels out. Tolls also depress economic activity, so scrapping them is a clear win overall. Which is why I don't like tolls.

The bad news is, the value of that extra economic activity in south Wales and Bristol largely goes into higher land values, so the total rent collected i.e. land rent + tolls, stays the same.

This bit is interesting:

In the past two years the eastbound carriageway had seen a daily average of 3,000 more journeys than the westbound carriageway, where the tolls applied.

But after the removals of the tolls, the difference has fallen to about 1,000 journeys more eastbound per day since the tolls were removed, with an average of 40,364 trips from Wales to England in 2019.

How is this sustainable? To get from south Wales to Bristol, you have to take one of the two toll bridges, so the number of journeys each way should be the same.

One possible answer is that 1,000 people emigrate from Wales permanently each day, but that can't be right because Wales would be empty by now.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

"The end of the world is nigh"

Comment by OnTheOtherHand here:

The whole [climate change] issue is so complicated that in order to understand it fully, one needs to quit life and study it full time, or one has to pick trusted sources to digest the complexity and summarise. 

Based on the other beliefs that tend to be correlated with climate alarmism - e.g. big government controlling lives rather than freedom, SJW, rejection of most tradition in favour of this replacement new "religion", I tend to smell a rat with the data selected by climate change proponents.

I come from a position that every generation thinks that there is some massive problem that will never be solved - Malthus and overpopulation, global cooling in the 70s, DDT and pesticides, nuclear war, acid rain and forests, ozone layer, AIDS going epidemic in the general population, GM food, bird flu, ebola.

Global warming is one of our problems, but I am sure that it will make more sense to invest in research and innovation and adapt than to bomb our economy now for certain just to slightly reduce the possibility of catastrophic GW theory being right.

The end of the world is nigh. Repent, or at least signal your virtue by campaigning about plastic straws.

At the risk of sounding glib (some of those things were real issues which we actually dealt with; some were real issues which we learned to live with/brushed under the carpet; some were real issues which somehow sorted themselves out; and of course some were just scare stories etc), amen to that.

Jo Swinson's strange accent

The wife watched The One Show on BBC1, which was followed by the Andrew Neil/Jo Swinson interview, so despite myself, I watched the first few minutes.

He asked the obvious question, "Would you agree to a second Indyref if the SNP demanded that in return for supporting a second referendum on Brexit?", which she resolutely refused to answer.

So far, so boring.

What was weird is that Ms Swindon has a Scottish accent most of the time, but she pronounced some words in proper Queen's English, in particular the word "vote".

Did anybody else notice this?
UPDATE: prompted by Staffordshire Man's comment, I subjected myself to the first ten minutes again on BBC i-Player, and he's right. She pronounces words with long vowels (like 'campaign', 'time' or 'voting') not in Queen's English but in the Bristol/south west fashion, with the long vowels slightly too long. Short vowels are straight Scottish, using Andrew Neil as a comparison.

Monday, 2 December 2019

"Here Are Five of The Main Reasons People Continue to Deny Climate Change"

From Science Alert.

Yup, good list, sign me up to all of those five.

Point 1:

Deniers suggest climate change is just part of the natural cycle. Or that climate models are unreliable and too sensitive to carbon dioxide.

Climate or climates clearly exist, and it or they keep changing. The derogatory expression 'Climate Denier' is based on 'Holocaust Denier', people who flatly refuse to accept that there was such a thing despite a huge mountain of evidence saying that it did happen. Even the perpetrators didn't deny that it happened, they just downplayed their own personal roles.

The chart shows that average temperatures have increased by about 1C over the last fifty years. I'm happy to take this at face value. They can say what they like, this is entirely within the normal range of up- and downward fluctuations since we started recording temperatures reliably.

And don't they keep telling us that last time CO2 levels were this high, global temperatures were 3C higher? Which sort of illustrates that there is little correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.

So that whole section falls flat on its logical arse.

Most insulting of all are the sweeping generalisations under point 5:

Deniers argue that climate change is not as bad as scientists make out. We will be much richer in the future and better able to fix climate change. They also play on our emotions as many of us don't like change and can feel we are living in the best of times – especially if we are richer or in power.

But similarly hollow arguments were used in the past to delay ending slavery, granting the vote to women, ending colonial rule, ending segregation, decriminalising homosexuality, bolstering worker's rights and environmental regulations, allowing same sex marriages and banning smoking.

These are not scientific questions, they are value judgments. As it happens, I am, or would have been had I been alive and asked at the time, in favour of everything on that list, except of course the smoking ban. Most of the items are pro-freedom; the smoking ban is anti-freedom.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

"Last Christmas"

It being the first day of December, we put up the Xmas decorations, and Her Indoors and I went to see Last Christmas.

What can go wrong, I thought, it was universally panned by the critics as a cheesy, predictable Xmas rom-com, guaranteeing that you'll be pleasantly surprised, i.e. coming out thinking "It wasn't that bad, really".

What they don't warn you is that it is a real weepie tear jerker, I was welling up for the last ten minutes, thinking about my own mortality and the meaning of life and stuff.