Thursday, 30 April 2020

World's tiniest violin

From The Telegraph:

"Coronavirus means I'm losing £4,100 per month" (1): how landlords' businesses are under threat

Coronavirus means some tenants are breaking contracts (2), cutting landlords' cash flow and leaving them with empty properties they can't fill

For Jamie Moodie, a landlord in south-west London, the fallout from corona virus has hit hard.

His monthly income from his portfolio of 23 properties (3) has dropped by £4,100 since lock down began.(1)

Some of Moodie's European tenants left the country before lock down (4), leaving two properties empty (5). He has little hope of getting back the lost rent, as currently he “can’t fill those properties, I can’t show them to anyone”. Some of his tenants have also lost their jobs and are no longer paying rent. (6)

He is one of many landlords feeling new pressure. The outbreak is set to cause lasting damage to the sector that could mean disastrous problems for renters further down the line (7).


1) Not clear, is he actually making a loss of £4,100 a month, or has his income fallen by £4,100?

2) The landlord is no longer providing what was agreed, i.e. a home close to well-paying jobs, a nice local park, a good local school. So the contract has no substance.

3) He expects sympathy?

4) Sensible thing to do, you can't fault them for that.

5) If he doesn't like owning empty homes, he can just sell them. It's a free world.

6) But who cares about somebody losing their job? Pfft! The landlord is not collecting rent, that's the tragedy here!

7) Our old friend, the Missing Homes Conundrum makes a late appearance.

And landlords aren't businesses, they just own too many homes. The homes are not "under threat", whatever happens, they will still be there when this is all over.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Best of luck with that, you insufferable twats.

From The Telegraph:

A landlord is taking legal action to shut down Pizza Express over unpaid debts, sparking new fears for the future of the ailing chain.

Grainrent has filed a winding-up petition against the business in the courts as high street tensions grow amid a collapse in business during the lockdown.

Unless Pizza Express pays back what it owes, this process would normally lead to a hearing on whether to liquidate the company - putting as many as 14,000 jobs at risk in 627 restaurants.

Gainrent's parent firm London and Cambridge Properties said it remains open to compromise with the chain.

The legal action began on Friday ahead of new rules that came into effect on Monday banning the use of winding-up petitions if a company cannot pay rent bills due to coronavirus.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (27)

From The Independent:

51 per cent of the public also support a universal basic income, "where the government makes sure everyone has an income, without a means test or requirement to work". Just 24 per cent are unsupportive of the idea, with 9 per cent saying they do not know how they feel.

The idea a basic income has been backed by dozens of MPs from across the political spectrum as a solution to workers falling through the cracks of the current government support scheme - including the self-employed. Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has however criticised the idea, suggesting it would be a disincentive to work during the crisis (1) and would be badly targeted (2).


Christ on a crutch.

1) The whole point of the lock down is to disincentivise people from working! If you are furloughed, you are forbidden to do work for your employer. (Note: I got talking to a builder recently who is on furlough from a large construction project; he's now working part time for his dad instead. Good for him). The majority of adults are still in paid work; receiving a state pension; or are already on some state benefit or other. They clearly wouldn't get anything extra.

2) Compare the UBI with the Furlough Scheme, which his own government introduced. The cost to the taxpayer of a furloughed worker on an average wage is £1,260 per month - the more that person was earning beforehand, the more they get now - a kind of negative means-testing. Means-testing is bad enough, but negative means-testing is worse. That's really badly targeted. A sensible UBI would be in the region of £300 - £400 per month, just enough to live off, assuming there is a rent/mortgage freeze, i.e. very well targeted. It does the job at minimum cost.

Monday, 27 April 2020

The sound of a dentist's drill

Most people find this sound unpleasant, the usual explanation is "because you associate it with something unpleasant - having your teeth drilled".

I think it is more fundamental than that. Humans, and presumably most mammals, have an evolutionary and instinctive dislike of mosquitoes and midges. When you hear one, it really puts you on edge; you can't relax until you've killed it or it's gone away. It's hardly surprising that a dentist's drill has the effect.

The same goes for garden strimmers. Lawnmover, power drills etc are annoying simply because they are loud and monotonous. But they don't annoy me half as much as the sound of a much higher pitched strimmer.

Good news from Australia...

From The Daily Mail:

The Victorian Government is reportedly considering scrapping stamp duty in favour of annual land tax payments. Often considered a growth-killer by economists, [stamp duty] is paid to Australian state governments when a home-buyer purchases a property.

But with a huge decline in the housing market, Premier Daniel Andrews is examining new ways to stimulate the state's real estate sector. While the price of the tax varies in different states and cities, in Melbourne where the median residential home is $819,611, the cost of stamp duty is $46,383.36, according to Core Logic data.

But since the coronavirus crisis began the state's property market has plummeted, leaving a massive hole in their annual $6billion cash cow... Even before the coronavirus derailed the property sector a report by the Productivity Commission in 2019 urged Scott Morrison to ditch the 'inefficient' tax in favour of an annual homeowners' tax.

"Shifting from stamp duties to a broad-based property tax could leave New South Wales up to $5 billion a year better off, while also improving housing affordability," the report said.

"Stamp duties are among the most inefficient and inequitable taxes available to the states and territories. In contrast, property taxes – which are levied on the value of property holdings – are the most efficient taxes available to the states and territories."


Fingers crossed!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Well, I thought it was funny


Thursday, 23 April 2020

COVID-19 is a leaky exhaust?

This theory appeared recently on Facebook in the form of an open letter to the Australian prime minister. At least I think it did, because Facebook deleted it, it seems, because they are deleting all posts about COVID-19 except official ones. Certainly all of the "I am a medic and this is what you need to know about COVID-19" posts that were so common in the early days of he pandemic have disappeared.

Regardless of Facebook's censorship, the idea that the virus makes us poison ourselves with carbon monoxide is an interesting one. It is not as if anyone else has come up with a mechanism by which the symptoms of the virus arise and CO poisoning has such similar symptoms to COVID-19 that websites of keeping safe from CO describe the symptoms of poisoning as "like COVID-19".

Whilst looking for the censored post, I came across this which is also interesting. It's dated December 2016 and I don't know how far the scientists have got with their cure for CO poisoning, but if COVID-19 kills by CO poisoning and there's a cure for that, then there's a cure for COVID-19.

That is, of course, if it doesn't end up in the "Not Invented Here" black hole.

Herd immunity - it looks like we are half-way there.

From the BBC:

In the study, published in a letter to The Lancet , staff at two hospitals in Newcastle were offered tests, with results returned in two days. Local GPs and paramedics were also eligible.

The staff fell into three groups:
- those dealing directly with patients (nurses, doctors, porters)
- staff who did not see patients but might be at greater risk of hospital infection (cleaners, lab staff)
- non-clinical staff (clerical, admin, IT)

Researchers at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals found no evidence of a significant difference between the three groups, with rates of infection of 15% in the first group, 16% in the second, and 18% in the third.


Making some assumptions (and using my simple S-I-R spreadsheet):
- that the number of those currently infected has been increasing at a constant rate for the past four months;
- that people are infected for, and recover* after, 2 weeks
- these figures are the same in the general population (OK, they might be lower among the slackers working from home or on furlough).

Then the number of people who've had it and recovered is in the same ballpark as the number who are currently infected, i.e. somewhere between 10% and 30%.

After another few weeks (given the weird 'ballistic' way the numbers change), 50% or 60% will have it and/or have had it, which gives us low level herd immunity. This doesn't mean we've all had it and are all immune, or that there will be no new cases. It means that the new infections rate drops markedly - there are simply fewer 'susceptibles' for the infectious to infect. So instead of each infectious person infecting more than one 'susceptible' they'll be infecting less than one, so the number of new cases will fall and the disease will fade into the background, aka 'flattening the curve'.

* Apart from the handful who have died. 118 NHS staff have died with it. If you strip out those over retirement age who should have been politely but firmly told to stay at home, this is not materially higher than deaths for working age adults generally.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

"Climate change: 2019 was Europe's warmest year on record"

From the BBC:

Europe is heating faster than the global average as new data indicates that last year was the warmest on record.

While globally the year was the second warmest, a series of heatwaves helped push the region to a new high mark. Over the past five years, global temperatures were, on average, just over 1C warmer than at the end of the 19th century.




Because as is well known, there are no European temperature records from before 1979. The Central England Temperature record going back to 1659 is an urban myth.

Jeez.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

If only the NHS had employed a few people like this...

From The Independent:

A dystopian novel about a deadly pandemic wreaking havoc across the world that was rejected 15 years ago has finally been published after reality once more proved itself stranger than fiction.

Scottish author Peter May, 68, a former journalist and BBC screenwriter, wrote Lockdown in 2005, imagining London as the epicentre of a global outbreak, only to see his manuscript turned away by publishers, who deemed its subject matter “extremely unrealistic and unreasonable”.

“At the time I wrote the book, scientists were predicting that bird flu was going to be the next major world pandemic,” Mr May told CNN. “It was a very, very scary thing and it was a real possibility, so I put a lot of research into it and came up with the idea, what if this pandemic began in London? What could happen if a city like that was completely locked down?”

His novel centres around a police detective investigating the murder of a child after their bones are discovered at the site of a makeshift hospital, an idea anticipating the opening of the NHS Nightingale at the capital’s ExCeL Centre this week.


As far-fetched as this scenario might have seemed at the time (and still does), it was never beyond the bounds of probability, and you'd think that - like South Korea - health services/governments would at least have some plans in place for a recurrence of Spanish Flu, Hong Kong flu, SARS, swine flu, MERS, bird flu. Not to mention Ebola. There have been five of these outbreaks in the last two decades, and just because we were lucky each time, that was all it was - pure luck.

Even if the NHS didn't stockpile the necessary stuff (they wouldn't have known exactly what to stock pile and how much; they wouldn't know which age groups would be worst affected; you can't develop a test for a virus you don't know about yet etc), they could at least have had contracts in place with the manufacturers and laboratories to churn out however many million bits of kit at short notice; and some plans on what to do if it affects children, pregnant women, younger adults or older people worst etc.

Monday, 20 April 2020

The Alternative Vote System in practice.

A couple of months ago, there was an article in City AM about the upcoming - and since cancelled - London Mayoral elections, which reminded me that the election uses a Supplementary Vote system (fairly similar to Alternative Vote).

From Wiki:

The election used a supplementary vote system, in which voters express a first and a second preference of candidates.

* If a candidate receives over 50% of the first preference vote the candidate wins.
* If no candidate receives an overall majority, i.e., over 50% of first preference votes, the top two candidates proceed to a second round and all other candidates are eliminated.
* The first preference votes for the remaining two candidates stand in the final count.
* Voters' ballots whose first and second preference candidates are eliminated are discarded.
* Voters whose first preference candidates have been eliminated and whose second preference candidate is in the top two have their second preference votes added to the count.
* This means that the winning candidate has the support of a majority of voters who expressed a preference among the top two.


As it happens, it made no difference to the final outcome, Khan won more votes than Goldsmith in the first round and his winning margin was higher in the second round. In the end, only ten per cent of all votes cast were re-allocated.

Interestingly, only about 15% of voters did not bother giving a second preference vote, meaning that 85% did - but in the 2011 Alternative Vote Referendum (which proposed a very similar system), only 32% voted in favour of it. People really are strange - they are stupid enough to vote against something which in practice, they actually quite like.

It also completely puts paid to the project fear scare story that the AV system would lead to candidates from extremist parties being elected.

A) So what if it does, it's a democracy. And how entertaining would it be if we had a couple of dozen Green/Socialist Workers' party MPs and a couple of dozen UKIP/Brexit Party/BNP MPs on the Opposition benches going at each other hammer and tongs?

B) Project Fear also claimed that AV would lead to more coalitions, which sort of cancels out the first claim, as coalitions tend to be more  moderate.

C) As we see in practice, it makes very little difference. The winning candidate was always going to be from one of the Big Two parties.

IMHO, AV is still a good system. It doesn't change the outcomes of elections very much, if at all - what it does change is what sort of policies the winning candidates actually implement afterwards. The only way to 'send them a message' as to what you actually want is to vote for a smaller party with a clear manifesto or a single-issue party. The AV system clearly encourages people to give their first vote to a smaller party and their second vote to one of the Big Two as a fall back.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Last night I had the strangest dream

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To be stupid and even more
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd wreck the economy more

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And clapping for the NHS
and banging pans and standing round

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To wreck us all for evermore


Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.

The above song came unbidden to me this morning. Its been a long time since I felt the need to blog but the extra 1.6 billion pounds that the government is going to give to the local councils ( despite cutting and curtailing their budgets by 3% each year for the last decade or more) just makes me aware that this all could be a nightmare that could have been avoided.
How you ask?




The full link can be accessed here
(it's for medical professionals only). Well its a free country. Everyone should read it. and then take at least 10000 iu a day.

Fact is that 2000-4000 iu is woefully inadequate to beat infections. Your body will manufacture 20000 iu if you strip off and lie in the sun at midday in June until you turn slightly pink and you have enough cholesterol for the UVB rays to turn into Vitamin D3.

A bottle of 360 x 10000iu ( thats right 3.6 million units costs £25* (* average) might be less if you bought in bulk). The economy, work, everything that has happened in this country since the begining of March, need not have happened. We need not be in lockdown. The government could have spent £2 billion, which is a drop in the ocean to be honest considering how much they are flinging around willy nilly with no thought to the amount of debt that this will cause the economy.

Bought us all a bottle of that 3.6 million units and told us to all take at least 20000 iu a day to make sure we didnt succumb to Covid 19 and to boost our immunity and therefore protect the NHS, cure a few subclinical cases of rickets, stave off MS and a few other diseases and other viral conditions in the process.

It would have saved money and also saved the economy. We could have been in a better situation economy wise than Sweden and we neednt have had social distancing . By the way the deaths in Sweden are mostly from the Somali community who cant make Vit D in Sweden because they are so dark skinned and need five hours in optimal conditions with all their clothes off. And anyone who knows what Somalis wear in the height of a Swedish Summer will know that that doesnt happen. There have been countless articles asking why the BAME community are overrepresented in the death statistics. This is the reason.

I can probably guarantee you that most of the deaths above 65 were on statins. If you don't have enough cholesterol you cant make Vit D3 from the sun, there's simply not enough. Why are we languishing inside and not enjoying this sunny springtime weather? Because the government said so? Let me remind everyone that is reading here that every atrocity in Germany between 1933 and 1945 was legally sanctioned. By its government. The government and the health service if they had their heads screwed on should have made sure no one was Vit D3 deficient, for years. They knew that everyone was deficient. There have been countless articles since 2010.

Oh and tablets for a fat soluble vitamin? Do you see Vitamin E in tablets No you see it in oil. caps So tablets don't work.

The reason that the government didn't do this is because the pharmaceutical companies are losing profits and want to make a useless vaccine. There are coronaviruses every year, that are common colds. They've been working on a patented cure for the common cold since the 1950s . Unfortunately the only thing that actually works is a high level of Vitamin D3, which makes no money for the companies.

We've been sold down the river... Why have we sacrificed our economy when it had a simple cheap solution?

THINK! it could save your life. 97% of people in the UK are Vitamin D3 deficient. Start asking your MP about this document and why this deficiency which is widespread hasn't been tackled in the last ten years.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Burning the sap from a cypress leylandii

When is climate change not climate change?

From Eco Watch:

Global heating from the climate crisis is rapidly melting glaciers, revealing treasures underneath the ice from long ago. Retreating ice in Norway recently revealed a lost Viking mountain pass strewn with artifacts, according to a new study in the journal Antiquity.

The first discovery was an 1,800 year-old shirt, which spurred researchers to find what else was strewn around near the Lendbreen ice patch outside the alpine village of Lom, Norway. That led to an exploration that uncovered artifacts dating back to the late Roman Iron Age all the way to the Viking Age and the medieval period, as Scientific American reported.

When the researchers traipsed into the abandoned mountain pass that is rapidly melting due to warmer global temperatures, they found broken sleds, tools and other elements of daily life dating back nearly 2,000 years, as National Geographic reported...

They found nearly 1,000 artifacts that run the gamut from 300 to 1500 AD, with the mountain pass falling out of use after the Black Death in the medieval period. The researchers used carbon dating to pinpoint when each finding is from. The bulk of what they collected comes from the period around 1000 AD at the height of the Viking era when trade and mobility in the region peaked, according to The Guardian.

"A lost mountain pass melting out of the ice is a dream discovery for us glacial archaeologists," said Pilø in a statement, as CNN reported. "In such passes, past travelers left behind lots of artifacts, frozen in time by the ice..."


"Oh no", thinks the unsuspecting reader, "we're all going to drown".

Or are we?

The finds actually remind us that there was a Roman Warm Period and a Mediæval Warm Period (referred to here as 'the Viking era'), when the pass was relatively ice-free and in regular use. They didn't magically drop stuff under the ice, they dropped stuff and the ice then formed and covered it. Which is why the oldest finds are from the RWP and most are from the MWP:

The first discovery was an 1,800 year-old shirt... That led to an exploration that uncovered artifacts dating back to the late Roman Iron Age...

The bulk of what they collected comes from the period around 1000 AD at the height of the Viking era when trade and mobility in the region peaked... with the mountain pass falling out of use after the Black Death in the medieval period.


Now we are in the Modern Warm Period (they seem to come along every thousand years or so) and the ice has retreated to where it was during the earlier warm periods. The Black Death happened around the same time as (and was possibly caused by) the end of the MWP and the onset of the Little Ice Age. But it was the LIA that put an end to the use of this mountain pass, not the Black Death. There are plenty of e.g. Roman roads/routes that have been constantly in use for thousands of years, uninterrupted by the Black Death.

H/t Ben Pile

Friday, 17 April 2020

"Does warm nitrogen emit infra red?"

Is a question I have been asking myself recently. My guess was "yes, of course it does, that's why warm air feels warm" but it's always best to Google this sort of thing.

Turns out, it does:

The bottom line here is pretty simple. After doing some sky observing, [people at the Mount Wilson Observatory and Washburn Observatory] found a large IR interference from the open sky. This was chased back to a Nitrogen band at 10,300 Angstroms. It varies over the night, dimming as the sky cools, and increases again just before sunrise. It varies with zenith angle too. It is strong and bright.

So my questions are simple and few:

1) Is it not the case that
“That which emits, absorbs” at the same band?

2) Does that not mean Nitrogen is an infrared absorber and emitter?

3) Does that not mean Nitrogen fits the definition of a “greenhouse gas”? (wrong as the term may be).

4) Doesn’t this kind of screw up the whole “Only CO2 Matters!” mantra? (That already ignores water vapor…)

That’s really the whole thrust of this posting. IF Nitrogen (not to mention all its ions and N3 and atomic forms) has a bunch of IR bands, doesn’t that kind of play Hob with the whole CO2 thesis? And there is ample evidence for Nitrogen having a bunch of IR bands.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Car hits house

From the BBC:

A couple who were self-isolating have had to leave their home after a car crashed into it.

Robin Deane, 74, said he and his wife Carol, 66, were in the upstairs bedroom when the crash happened on Wednesday night, in a street in the Cashes Green area of Stroud.

He said it sounded "like a bomb had gone off" downstairs...

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Don't worry lads! The government has finally worked out how to fix the economic crisis caused by their overreaction to the covid-19 scare...

From financialreporter.co.uk:

The Government is in talks with The Home Builders Federation, whose members deliver around 80% of new homes built each year, about extending the scheme to help support the industry after Covid-19 lockdown measures are lifted, according to The Times.

Sorry, what was that first bit... "The Government is in talks with The Home Builders Federation..."? I'm sure the HBF will politely explain the economics of the housing/land market and explain that land prices will always rise to soak up the subsidy and that there are far better ways of spending taxpayers' money.

The shutdown of construction work and sales offices is expected to have a long-term impact on the sector, with Savills estimating that the lockdown will hinder the construction of around 200,000 new homes.

Wot? They are building on average 200,000 homes per year; do they expect the lock down to last a year? (For all of our sakes, I hope it doesn't).

Since the launch of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme in April 2013, 248,075 properties have been bought, with first-time buyers accounting for 81% of total purchases.

That proves nothing. It's an arms race. If other people can bid more because they've tapped into the subsidy, then you have no choice except to tap into the subsidy and bid a bit more as well.

The current Help to Buy scheme is due to end in April 2021. A new scheme will then run for two years, restricted to first-time buyers with regional property price caps.

But finally they've found an excuse to extend it. Phew, I was getting worried there.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Hmm... interesting.

From The Daily Mail:

The Cabinet is divided between 'hawks' and 'doves' over whether to push to ease the lockdown soon, with some saying the public is obeying social distancing too well and must be urged to keep working where possible.

But concerns have been raised that it is impossible to lift the curbs at the moment anyway because the public is so strongly in favour of them staying in place, and would simply refuse to go back to normal.


You do notice that. Some people wear face masks and step into the middle of the road rather than cross you on the pavement; other people just aren't fussed.

I'm genuinely not too fussed, but I do step aside out of politeness, just in case that person is in the 'panic' category.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Keir Starmer

YPP's proposals - how to deal with the corona virus crisis

Joint effort by TBH and me, cross-posted from here.
--------------------------
Our proposals would achieve various things which the government's do not:
- keeping households afloat;
- helping businesses stay in shape during the lock down;
- minimising the cost to the government/the taxpayer;
- recognising that rental values have - temporarily - collapsed.

David Ricardo came up with his famous law of rent in 1809, and it remains one of the most important and firmly accepted principles in economics. The law states that rental values are equal to the economic advantage of using one site over the marginal (rent free) site for the same purpose. In other words, the economic surplus from using one site over the cheapest available.

In this time of national lock down, the "economic advantage" of using one site over another falls to negligible amounts. Imagine you need to rent somewhere for the next three months- would you price central London over rural Devon? Normally, the market does - by a factor of many multiples. Today - we doubt it.

This brings us on to the Governments response to COVID 19- specifically the Job Retention Scheme (aka 'furlough scheme'), but we can include the business loans and a few other policies with the same analysis. For an initial period of 3 months, if an employee is furloughed, the employer must continue to pay the full salary (liable to PAYE as normal) and the government will later reimburse employers 80% of the salaries of furloughed workers (up to a cap of £2,500 per month) (from Taxation.co.uk).

The government initially said it expected 10% of businesses to take this scheme up, but recent figures suggest that more than nine million employees (about one-third of all employees) will be furloughed (from the BBC).

The monthly cost of a furloughed worker on an average salary (say £2,500 per month) can be estimated as follows (from Listentotaxman.com)
Employer pays £2,500 plus £244 Employer's NIC (unchanged)
HMRC receives £740 PAYE
HMRC then later refunds £2,000
Net cost to HMRC £1,260.
Net cost to employer £744
Net income of employee £2,004

Multiplied by nine million furloughed workers is a net cost to HMRC of £11 billion per month.

The scheme does not cover the self-employed, although the government has said that something similar will be introduced, this will add another £1 billion or £2 billion to the cost. HMRC also expect that there will be significant fraud and error involved (from The Guardian) which will increase the cost further.

So the Government (i.e. current and future taxpayers) is diverting massive sums of cash that could be used in other ways to ensure that affected workers can cope through the crisis. Lovely - except when you look at where most of this largesse will go. For most households, their single largest payment (after taxes of course) is to their landlord or bank in the form of rent or mortgage payments. The payments were negotiated and contracted according to Ricardo's famous law - that is - they reflected the economic surplus available at that time.

But the economic surplus has largely collapsed; and true rental values (or notional house prices based thereon) have also collapsed. So, of all the money being used by the government to keep furloughed workers going will end up in the pocket of landlords and banks, based on the fiction that the economic surplus and hence rental values have not collapsed, however temporarily.

So we are paying surpluses that don't exist to groups that in their role as rent collectors produce nothing. Are we mad? That is above the problems and fraud risks associated with the scheme.

The government has therefore come up with the wrong answer to the wrong question.

The question is not "How do we maintain landlords' and banks' unearned income?". The correct  question is "how much do people really need to live on as a bare minimum during the lock down period, assuming they have no rent or mortgage to pay?". There's no right or wrong answer, the lowest defensible figure is approx. £75/week per adult, just enough for food, utilities, broadband and mobile phone (there are arguments for higher amounts such as £100/week). People do not need extra for clothes, entertainment or holidays at the moment, for obvious reasons. People who smoke or drink will just have to cut back or dip into their savings.

Our proposals answer the right question - making sure funds are directed to where they are needed most in an efficient and simple way and at the lowest cost to the government (i.e. current and future taxpayers)

For the duration of the crisis:
• Suspend the enforceability of rent payments by all tenants: residential, commercial and retail  (except those largely unaffected by the lock down - such as supermarkets);
• Suspend interest charges on all mortgages: commercial, residential and buy to let, except for those businesses largely unaffected by the lock down such as supermarkets. (As a quid pro quo, any deposit or savings accounts currently paying interest will become non-interest bearing.);
• Allow mortgage borrowers to defer mortgage repayments if they wish;
• Offer a UBI of £75 per week to every legally resident adult in the country who is not already receiving welfare payments or a state pension in excess of that;
• The claims process should be as simple and automated as possible. All claimants should have to do is provide their National Insurance number and bank details. Payments can start almost immediately;
• To minimise the number of claims, the quid pro quo of claiming is that a claimant foregoes the income tax free personal allowance and the National Insurance exempt threshold, so would be paying approx. £75/week more in income tax and NIC. So the lucky majority still in paid employment have no incentive to claim, meaning that HMRC and/or DWP can process the neediest claimants first;
• The same general principle applies to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. HMRC pay a total of £30 billion a year for 12.7 million children (from HMRC Annual Report 2018-19). These could be replaced with a flat £45/week for each child (there is no reason for long-term unemployed parents to receive more than the short-term unemployed or furloughed parents);
• A family of four would therefore have a basic income of £240/week, which is surely enough for the basic necessities.

The total cost of YPP's proposal would be less than half the total cost of the furlough scheme, it  would cover the self-employed and it would place a much smaller drag on the economy. The saving to the taxpayer is broadly speaking equal and opposite to the fall in income that landlords and banks will have to bear in the interim. The homes they own and the stock of outstanding mortgages will still be there in a few months time - people's businesses and jobs might not!

The other important question is "how do we ensure that businesses survive the crisis?"

People need jobs to go back to once this is all over. Many businesses will run out of cash to pay salaries long before HMRC start paying out the furlough refunds. Those businesses will fold through no fault of their own, which will set off a chain reaction. It is madness to expect employers to pay the £744 a month cost of a furloughed employee (workings above) for nothing in return, which is the best case scenario assuming HMRC can implement the scheme very quickly.

We will just have to give employers the flexibility to put employees on temporary leave or ask them to cut their hours (with a corresponding salary reduction) with the guarantee that the old terms and conditions will be reinstated once the lock down is relaxed or lifted. This would be similar to Maternity or Paternity Leave. Yes, this will mean a fall in income for many, but there will always be the £75/week per adult and £45/week per child to keep them going.

Businesses would also be exempt from payment of rent or mortgages for the time being (see above). Instead of waiving Business Rates for a year for small businesses, there should be a general waiver of all Business Rates (except for businesses still allowed to trade as normal, such as supermarkets) for the months that the lock down continues. Large businesses are just as much at risk and provide as many jobs as small ones. Under YPP's proposals, businesses would just go into hibernation for a few months and can hopefully pick up where they left off afterwards.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Yes, that's nineteen individual tragedies, but,,,

From the BBC:

Thousands of people in the UK have now died with coronavirus, including doctors, nurses, surgeons and other NHS workers.

The government has said 19 NHS workers have died so far, with doctors who came out of retirement among those who have lost their lives...

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In the general spirit of being factually correct yet controversial...

Total coronavirus-related deaths in the UK so far, 9,875.

About ninety per cent of deaths were people over retirement age, and ten per cent were people of working age (from here, other sources say much the same thing).

So we'd expect to have had about 988 deaths among working age population.

Total working age population (18 to 67) 42 million

988 deaths ÷ 42 million = 24 deaths per million.

Total number employed by NHS = 1.5 million

1.5 million x 23/million = 36.

We could adjust that up or down for various things, for example:

- Just because somebody in the NHS catches it, it doesn't mean they caught it "in the line of duty". They might have been infected by family or friends, caught it on public transport or from a colleague.

- We could refine the exercise if we could split the 24 deaths/million into three categories by relative risk (highest to lowest)
a. "people with underlying health conditions who are too unwell to be in work anyway"
b. "people who are healthy enough to go to work and are still working"
c. "people who are healthy enough to go to work and are staying at home"

- Not all NHS staff are frontline (don't come into contact with patients or general public), so perhaps we should multiply by 1 million, not 1.5 million.

But this would all be guesswork, so let's leave our prediction at 36, which is twice as much as actual 19. I doubt whether the death rate for NHS workers is significantly higher than for everybody else in the category "people who are healthy enough to go to work and are still working". One thing we do know is that the death rate for NHS workers is a lot lower than for London bus drivers.
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Clearly, the NHS senior people have failed their front line staff (and the general public) very badly. It appears that they never bothered with a contingency plan for such diseases, which come along every ten years or so. And every health minister for the past twenty years should be grilled on why they never thought to ask whether the NHS had such plans. The lot of them should be sent into exile. You can't just blame it all on the current incumbent.

The front line staff have my every sympathy and I do not envy them. But, they should be aware that the number of NHS people who have died with coronavirus (so far) is not surprisingly large and appears to be half that of the general working age population.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Weekly deaths, England & Wales, 2018 to 2020 (weeks 1 to 13)

Statistics from ons.gov.uk

I will update this monthly.

"Australia's Fire-Ravaged Forests Are Recovering. Ecologists Hope It Lasts"

From an article at npr.org from a couple of weeks ago. Well worth a read.

The trees are doing what they've evolved to do:

Thursday, 9 April 2020

The Bank Holiday weekend has started

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

It's worse than I thought - leaving your own home is now basically a crime.

From http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made:

STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS

2020 No. 350 PUBLIC HEALTH, ENGLAND

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020...

6. Restrictions on movement

(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.


In criminal law, "reasonable excuse" can be used as a defence against a crime. So if you smash a car side window for the fun of it, that's clearly a crime. If you see a child or dog suffocating on the back seat on a hot day, you are allowed to smash a side window in order to save its life (OK, that might be "implied permission" but same general idea). So, if you need a "reasonable excuse" to do [something], that [something] is a basically an offence, which is restated in para 9.

The full list of narrowly defined "reasonable excuses" is below.

This is completely over the top. On the basis of (questionable) scientific advice, our government, like most governments, wants to reduced infection rates by restricting person-to-person contacts. Fair enough.

If you jump in your car, whizz round for a bit and then park up and go back inside, you don't come into contact with anybody you are not doing against the general spirit of the legislation, so why the hell is it not a "reasonable excuse"? How is that different - in terms of infection risk - to going for a bicycle ride?

The whole section should be re-written to say that you are only allowed to leave your home and come into contact with anybody else in order to [etc].

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—

(a) to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;

(b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;

(c) to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;

(d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(3), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;

(e) to donate blood;

(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

(g) to attend a funeral of—
(i) a member of the person’s household,
(ii) a close family member, or
(iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) are attending, a friend;

(h) to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;

(i) to access critical public services, including—
(i) childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);
(ii) social services;
(iii) services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions;
(iv) services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);

(j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;

(k) in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;

(l) to move house where reasonably necessary;

(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Driving for the sake of driving is apparently not an "essential journey"

The lock down rules have the aim of reducing person-to-person contact as far as possible.

Misguided or not, that's a clear enough basic principle.

So no more going on holiday by 'plane or train (fair enough); work from home if possible (fair enough); try and cut down on your shopping trips (one big shop a week instead of popping out for what you need - fair enough); no driving to beauty spots for a walk or picnic (too many other people there - fair enough). They classify this as "non-essential travel".

There is no earthly logic that says simply driving round in a circle for the joy of it goes against the basic principle (especially on empty roads with petrol at 102.9/litre). You get out of the house - with significant benefits for your mental health (doesn't mental health count as 'health reasons'? The alternative is hitting the booze much earlier in the day) - and you come into contact with precisely nobody.

In terms of person-to-person contact, driving is better and safer than going cycling or walking (which people still do in groups). Driving to your holiday home does not increase the number of person-to-person contacts so does not go against the basic principle either. But if you are employed by killjoys and banstubators, you have to toe the line I suppose.

A copper at a roadblock in the middle of Epping Forest yesterday informed me in no uncertain terms that joy riding is "non-essential" and therefore basically against the law - which they just made up on the spot. The logic is arse-backwards. Even more galling was the fact that said copper was standing well within two metres of me; and the road block was near a car park full of people going for walks or cycling.

There aren't expletives enough in all the world's dictionaries to describe the mentality of whoever decided that joy riding goes against the basic principle (which it clearly doesn't). According to The Telegraph, Mr Loophole even says that you might be void your insurance by doing so.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

"Basic Income During Quarantine: The Only Way To Avoid Societal Collapse"

John McCone explains on his blog why only Basic Income, Combined With Freezes In Rent, Mortgage and Debt Payments Can Stave Off Calamity.

This is not the usual landlord-bashing. Fact is, at present, the rental value of most business premises is zero as they can't be used; residential rents are set by local average incomes - if average incomes have plummeted everywhere to the same low level (the level set by UBI for most people), then residential rental values are to all intents and purposes zero as well.

The same goes for mortgage payments; they come out of the rental value, and if that is effectively zero, then there's no income to cover mortgage payments (for owner-occupiers or for landlords).

Friday, 3 April 2020

Fun with numbers



The clever bit is...

1. Call the four numbers a, b, c and d.

2. One of the answers is a x c (2) and one of them is b x d (6). Multiply these up is a x b x c x d (12).

3. One of the answers is a x d (3) and one of them is b x c (4). Multiply these up is also a x b c x d (12).

4. You find these by trial and error, which doesn't take too long.

5. The multiple of the other two pairs, c x d (5) times a x b (?) must also = 12. So a x b must be 2.4
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Just to check whether I had understood it all properly, I ground out the answers:

(also for the benefit of Shivam Shukla)

6. We know that b x c = 4 and a x c = 2, so b = 2 x a.
a x b = 2.4 (from 5. above).
So a x 2a = 2.4.
So 2a^2 = 2.4
So a^2 = 1.2
So a = sq root of 1.2, or sq root of 6/5.

7. To find b:
b = 2a (from 6. above)
To multiply the sq root of a fraction (sq root 6/5) by a whole number (2), you:
- multiply the top number (6) by the number (2) squared (4) = 24.
- leave the bottom of the fraction (5) as it is.
So b = sq root of 24/5.

8. To find c:
a x b = 2.4 and a x c = 2.
So c = 2/2.4 x b = 5/6 x b
To multiply the sq root of a fraction (sq root of 24/5) by a fraction (5/6) you:
- multiply the top number (24) by the top number of the fraction squared (25) = 600.
- multiply the bottom number (5) by the bottom number of the fraction (6) squared (36) = 180
- 600/180 simplifies to 10/3
So c = sq root of 10/3.

9. You find d the same way you found c.
It is c x 3/2.
c = sq root of 10/3
d = sq root of 90/12 = sq root of 15/2.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Fun With Numbers - the NHS

From the BBC:

The government has confirmed that 2,000 NHS frontline staff out of half a million in England have been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak began.

Half a million? And how many people does the NHS employ in total?

Factcheck says about 1.2 million in England.

So it's not a health provider with a minority of necessary non-medical staff - admin people, IT geeks, cleaners, maintenance. It's a large bureaucracy with a minority of nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers etc.

By the way, I am still a big fan of the general idea of the NHS, somehow it seems to work well in practice, but how much better could it be?



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

This shut down does have its upsides...

Tesco Edmonton, a couple of days ago. It might have gone up or down since then:



Surprisingly, the petrol stations in my area, which are always about 10p/litre more expensive than Tesco are holding out, and are still asking for about 120p/litre.