Wednesday, 23 July 2014

UK Users Shun Porn Filters

From the BBC

The vast majority of new broadband customers in the UK are opting out of "child friendly" filters when prompted to install them by service providers.

The industry watchdog Ofcom found fewer than one in seven households installed the feature, which is offered by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

Another whizzo Cameron scheme down the pan.

They were never really going to work because blanket filtering doesn't work. You can filter on PCs quite well. If blocking software stops a child going to a site an adult can easily switch it to be unblocked. With blanket site blocks, if you switch it off then it all gets switched off. Both the site you think the kid should see, and also the freakiest porn around (assuming they go looking for it).

Prefabs sprout

There was mention on the news today of a new answer to the high cost of land in London, the return of the prefab. At first glance it looks like the trend for smaller houses taken an absurd level, with its 280 sq ft of floorspace, but it does make you think, how much space does one person actually need? It is certainly cheap to run, costing under a pound a week to heat and light. Could this be the shape of things to come?

Fun Online Polls: Budget hotels & planning regulations

The results to last week's Fun Online Polls were as follows:

UK budget and mid-priced hotel chains. Thumbs up, thumbs down, what? Multiple selections allowed.

Premier Inn 20 votes

Travelodge 11 votes
Ibis 7 votes
easyHotel 0 votes
Holiday Inn 5 votes
Mercure 3 votes
Novotel 2 votes
easyHotel 0 votes
Thistle 1 vote
Other, please specify 2 votes

'Others' suggested were Days Inn (have smoking rooms!), Comfort Inn and Big Sleep.

Premier Inn got the most reasonably favourable comments, so that appears to be the winner - but perhaps that is because there are more of them, so people are more likely to have stayed in one?
There appears to be some misunderstanding or disagreement as to planning regulations.

In my experience, local councils restrict the amount of buildings which developers can build on any plot; others (NIMBYs, Faux Libertarians and Homeys generally) appear to think that local councils encourage developers to build more than they really wanted to or more than what is appropriate.

It is possible that both are true: suburban and rural councils try and keep densities as low as possible (even when higher densities would make sense) and turn down more planning applications, and that urban councils ask developers to build as much as possible (more smaller units) and nod everything through.

(I'm not talking about the indirect effect on densities or home sizes of high land prices and taxation of profits rather than land values, I mean in terms of how much building a developer can put on a plot.)

So what's your experience/impression?

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

"Loving This, Admit Israel And Hamas"

From The Daily Mash, six years ago (but just as valid sixty years ago and will probably still be relevant in sixty years' time):

ISRAEL and Hamas last night admitted the latest wave of deadly violence was one of the best they had seen in years.

As the international community condemned Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel and the corresponding Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, both sides agreed it was ‘more fun than a barrel of heavily-armed suicide monkeys’.

Israeli prime minister ... said: “You’ve got to hand it to Hamas, they are the dog’s bollocks when it comes to unrelentingly insane terrorist opponents..."

Land Speculation and Housing Design

In an earlier post our host stated:

It's private, profit maximising developers who bash out the tiny homes because they can get away with it; ...

But why?  He then stated that:

...they arise because of the absence of state intervention. If local councils reintroduced minimum room sizes or better insulation requirements, this twat would still be shrieking about state controls and state rationing.

I do not think that this is the full story.  I think that the cri de cour for more state intervention is on top of existing failed state intervention, and policy failures.  Successive layers of intervention cannot surely be the answer?

It is generally observable in the free market that the magic happens and quality goes up as prices fall.  More is done for less every day. Cars are a good example of this.  There is no - as far as I can tell - state intervention in space standards or quality standars for cars.  (I am of course aware of 'safety' and 'emissions' standards).  Competion is pretty fierce between manufacturers.  And I will also concede that the car makers are the recipients of an awful lot of government subsidy, notably GM.

In the comments to MW's piece I related how I had known well two spec. house builders, and both were exercised as to how they could build good houses. The one I knew best, each year as part of his business planning sat down and worked out if he could build what he considered to be a suitable First Time Buyer three bedroom house and make a profit. His standards were close the Parker Morris Standards and were based on the analysis that the first house bought by a young couple may have to be suitable for ten years or so, and that this implied the need for at least three bedrooms to give space for children. By the late 1980's he could no longer do this.

You will recall that the Parker Morris Standards were space standards for public housing which were abadoned in 1980 under MW's favourite P.M.

So what is going on?  As regards house prices/space standards there are seemingly two factors that mitigate against competion delivering its magic.  One, that land is in finite supply and two, state interventions and policy failures.

We on here generally accept that LVT would sort out the unearned scarcity and exclusivity premium enjoyed by landowners.  We also know that existing tax policy favours land over production.

We also know that planning constraints driven by bureaucratic incompetence and nimbyism further restrict supply.

We also know that bad money and inflation (and that inflation is a function of money) drives asset prices, and specifically land price speculation. (We also know that speculators per se are not a Bad Thing in that in other areas of the economy they act as a form of insurance shouldering risk for others).

And with incipient inflation "honest work and sound production will tend to give way to speculation and gambling. There will be a deterioration in the quality of goods and services and in the real standard of living" [Henry Hazlitt - Man Vs. The Welfare State].

Surely then by removing the interventions and correcting taxation and policy errors developers would not be able to profit from speculation and standards would rise and prices fall.

MW adds: "By the late 1980's he could no longer do this."

Yes of course, because by then full-on Home-Owner-Ism was taking off, banks and building societies were lending higher and higher multiples; rent controls were being abolished; NIMBYism was becoming rampant; council housing was being sold off.

So from 1945 to the early 1980s, builders lived off volume and 'earned' profits (good design etc) not land price speculation. Selling prices were effectively capped (at approx. half today's unregulated prices), but the builders were still happy to build 200,000 - 300,000 new homes per year.

George Harrison memorial eaten by beetles

actually spat tea across my screen when I saw this, from the Indy

A pine tree planted in Los Angeles to commemorate the late-Beatles star George Harrison has died – after being consumed by beetles.
Planted as a sapling in 2004 near the Griffith Observatory, the tree stood 10-feet high but died recently as a result of an insect infestation.
The Griffith Park and its observatory are popular tourist spots in LA, but the trees there have been plagued recently by ladybug and bark beetles, both of which can cause extensive damage.
LA councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area, told the LA Times that the tree would be replanted. The paper said Harrison, who had a well-developed sense of humour, "likely would have been amused by the irony".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spreadsheet Sex

There's been a lot in the news this week regarding the use of accountancy techniques in order to document sexual activity and the excuses for lack of. Which you can read here for more details.

I think the response to the frustrated spouse should have been based on an economic model. Rather than an internet outing. Something like this perhaps.

Faux Lib idiot of the day

A comment under this article in City AM was abbreviated and published as a reader's letter today:

Modern homes, as decreed by modern planners and politicians, are too small, too dark, too inflexible, too crowded and too like C19th slums for them to be bought by anyone in their right mind - assuming they had a free choice of houses within their budget and location.

The sad truth is that 'what the State controls, the State rations' and that has never been more true than for housing and infrastructure.

The solution is blindingly obvious - scrap planning controls and let landowners, builders, developers and buyers have a free choice of what, where and how they want to live.



It's private, profit maximising developers who bash out the tiny homes because they can get away with it; they arise because of the absence of state intervention. If local councils reintroduced minimum room sizes or better insulation requirements, this twat would still be shrieking about state controls and state rationing.

And who built those C19th slums? Was that not private developers operating without state regulations?

And it's the NIMBYs crying out for planning restrictions, I don't think that the government in the abstract sense could give two hoots how much gets built.


Buyers and non-landowning "builders" (i.e. construction workers) will never be on a level playing field with landowners and developers (aka land bankers). They will never have a free choice of where to live or ply their trade

Those land bankers have got plenty of plots with planning, but to maximise their profits, they are just allowing them to trickle onto the market. A load of contsruction workers were laid off back in 2008 so that the land bankers could wait for prices to go back up, so if you are a buyer you have to wait ever so humbly and patiently until they deign to actually build one or an existing homeowner decides to sell one, it's not like you can buy from the competition instead because there isn't any.

Vehicles-crashing-into-buildings News

From The Evening Standard:

These pictures reveal the devastation wreaked by a runaway bus which rolled backwards down a hill and crashed into the front of a family home.

The images, taken by resident Natasha Ottley, show huge cracks in the brickwork in the now "totally unsafe" property after the empty 174 bus hit it.

Eye witnesses claimed the bus was empty at the time and the driver chased after it to get back at the wheel after apparently leaving the handbrake off but it was travelling too quickly.

I'd say the house looks to be in surprisingly good condition, to say it just got hit by the proverbial bus. Hopefully they can get it patched up again fairly quickly.

Top tip: don't buy a house on a T-junction at the bottom of a hill.

Sinkhole News

From The Daily Mail:

It's getting bigger! Massive sinkhole in Florida neighbourhood DOUBLES in size as it becomes tourist attraction

* Crowds are turning up in Spring Hill, Florida, just to peer into the hole
* One resident joked about putting up a lemonade stand to entice visitors
* However it is encroaching on their homes and residents don't feel safe