Thursday 31 March 2022

Not worth a try

Are we still doing sinkholes?

"They've built a road on to the Banna park near the disturbance by the try-line, and after digging out a large section at the Brynmawr end have begun to fill it in with more than 2,000 tons of spark-proof stone. When the workers from the coal board saw how deep it went at over 70m their jaws just dropped and so did ours."

Is there a "lost ball" rule in rugby?

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Peaking early?

The Express wonders if the rise in the cost of living is going to bring house prices down. So do a lot of other papers, but to a man, the estate agents are pooh-poohing it and waffling on about "supply shortages" and "high demand". Even though the Express leads with Jonathan Rolande, from the National Association of Property Buyers (WTF are they?) saying

“However, 2022 isn’t shaping up as many had hoped and instead of a potential four percent to six percent rise this year, we will likely see much reduced growth, nationally of around two percent to three percent. This is lower in fact than general inflation will be, so in real terms, this a reduction."

it's soon business as usual with a link to Thinking of selling? Why now is the ‘best ever’ time to sell your property

Now, if people have less to spend and food and fuel cost more, then it is a logical deduction that they will be spending less on housing and that prices will start to fall in absolute terms, as well as in real terms, despite what the agents say. Indeed, there is anecdotal evidence that prices are high, but interest is low, which is a sign that the market has peaked.

Have the Tories finally committed the unforgiveable political sin?

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Humourless twats of the week

Will Smith.

They should have chucked him out there and then and given his Oscar to one of the other nominees. What's even more vomit-inducing is that when Chris Rock made his joke, Will Smith initially laughed along. If his wife doesn't appreciate alopecia jokes, that's hair loss not mine.


Nobody goes to ASDA to buy Waitrose products. TESCO also have a line called Tesco Essentials.

Vlad Putin

I happened to have the telly on when Biden did his speech. It was everything short of a declaration of war. Clearly, Biden - along with half the civilised world - would vastly prefer it if Putin disappeared or were disappeared, by fair means or foul, and he said so. Mad Vlad apparently got all offended and various White House spokespersons (and sadly Big Joe himself) have been backtracking ever since. (Trump would have just said it and then denied that he'd said it. And we would have all moved on with our lives, unsure of what Trump actually meant, but not particularly caring).

Sod that. Mad Vlad has made it perfectly clear that he'd like to get rid of Zelensky and appoint his own puppet President in Ukraine like he did until 2014. Did Zelensky throw a hissy fit and demand an apology? Nope, what would be the point? He's too busy persuading the West to send military and humanitarian aid. If Mad Vlad said that he'd prefer it if Donald Trump were still US President, would Biden throw a hissy fit and demand an apology? I doubt it. He wouldn't get one, for a start.

Friday 25 March 2022

A "contributory" benefit is still a benefit.

From The Daily Express:

'Pension is NOT a benefit!' Furious caller rages at Sunak on Jeremy Vine - 'I paid in'

THE ABANDONMENT of the triple lock this year has left many people in fury as their state pension is not keeping pace with inflation...

[Caller] Jean said: "I have a small company pension because I worked from leaving school at 15, but my pension is £189. As far as I'm concerned, it is not a benefit. It is something I have paid for. I have paid National Insurance contributions since I was 15, it is not a benefit.

"To be told that you're living on benefits and for the this man to stand there and say he has given work to hard working people. I'm sorry we were hard working people from the 1960s."

The comments section is a hoot. DGWGA explains it...

It is a benefit. No one has paid into anything. You may have paid tax, you may have paid national insurance but you have not paid into any fund. You just need to look at the only true measure of the government's finances, The Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) to appreciate that there is no fund, and indeed, there is no liability in the accounts for the perceived "accrued rights" which are estimated to be approximately £4 trillion. That is £4,000 billion.

Surprisingly, he or she hasn't been bombarded by haters calling them a Commie. Presumably cold facts and logic went straight over their heads.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Something else that LVT would sort out

Pity poor Chepstow, dubbed the 'worst high street in Wales' against some pretty stiff competition.

At first it looks like a typical tale of declining high street fortunes in the days of internet shopping, but this,

She explained she visits neighbouring Monmouth and Abergavenny and said signs of the pandemic have “almost completely disappeared there”. “But not here..."

suggests the problem is more specific to Chepstow and a glance at the first comment gives a clue,

"Part of the problem I suspect is that Chepstow has become a commuter town so many people who have moved to the area will shop elsewhere."

Yes, it's the removal of the tolls on the nearby Prince of Wales bridge AKA the New Severn Bridge that has done for Chepstow. House prices have gone up and the demographic has changed as the town has become a dormitory town for Bristol, just like that bridge long ago and far away in London where the removal of the tolls simply resulted in all the domestic rents going up to compensate. Meanwhile, no doubt, all the commercial rents on the High St are still at the levels set by the town's previous prosperity.

Sunday 20 March 2022

Belgian Waffle - the magical properties of CO2

In real life on Earth, the physical layer which absorbs most radiation from the Sun and which also emits most (= a lot more than half) radiation to space is the clouds. So the clouds have to reach a certain temperature dictated by SB-Law, and their actual temperature is higher than that because clouds have significantly less than 100% emissivity. Not uncoincidentally, typical average cloud altitude = effective emitting altitude of 5km (link to article with a classic 'let's ignore clouds and pretend that it's CO2 at work' explanation). 

Clouds have to warm up the surrounding air to the same temperature. In turn, the air above and below the clouds is correspondingly cooler or warmer because of the gravito-thermal effect (the trade-off between thermal and potential energy aka the lapse rate, which is g/Cp as adjusted for latent heat of evaporation/condensation). That dictates the air temperature at sea level on Earth.

The extra bit of sunshine that directly hits (and warms) the land or ocean is a side show in these calculations because clouds are constantly moving sideways, evaporating and re-condensing. You do two calculations - what would temperature be with 100% cloud cover and what would temperature be with 0% cloud cover and choose the higher temperature. The air warms up and cools down very slowly and smooths out any extra from direct sunshine. And we have established that the 'greenhouse effect' is much smaller in largely cloud-free areas.

Nobody (apart from me) seems to have bothered doing the calculations, because it would debunk the CO2 theories. The calculations themselves are straightforward, the problem is the values for cloud altitude, thickness, emissivity, they are moving, disappearing and re-forming etc There are no exact or precise answers, it's all ranges, mid-points, averages and estimates. Nonetheless, the general principles are simple enough and we can work backwards from actual, averaged out temperature observations to get values (for altitude, emissivity, temperature, lapse rate etc) that stack up with measurements in real life.
The CO2 theorists tie themselves in knots over this. They have to ignore clouds and reverse engineer an explanation of why CO2 *miraculously* has the same effect as clouds *actually* do. Here is the best they have dreamed up, from (hence the hilarious pun in the title of this article).

Surprisingly, CO2 has another side effect, a cooling effect. Stop yourself, however, if you think this could compensate for global warming. This process has been going on, and has been studied, for a long time already, and clearly, it hasn’t neutralised the warming trend. So, what is going on exactly..?

Carbon dioxide molecules are very efficient at absorbing and re-emitting heat in the form of infrared radiation. In the lower atmosphere, air molecules are tightly packed together, like people at a summer festival, and so the heat that one molecule re-emits is immediately absorbed in the same atmospheric region. This is the greenhouse effect, an overall heating of the troposphere.

The middle atmosphere is much less dense (the middle and upper atmosphere combined only hold 15% of the total mass). Here, the infrared radiation that is re-emitted by CO2 molecules is reabsorbed much less and more radiation escapes out into space. This leads to an overall loss of heat, and thus causes a cooling effect.

Based on these flawed assumptions, you can plot CO2 vs likely temperature thusly:
- No CO2 - no cooling or warming effect;
- Small amount of CO2 - cooling below initial temperature;
- Critical amount of CO2 - no cooling or warming relative to initial temperature;
- More CO2 than that - warming effect relative to initial temperature.

So it would look like this:
That is either a) total bollocks or b) completely contradicts the rest of CO2 theory. Or c) both. Or d) CO2 theory itself is bollocks. CO2 is supposed to absorb radiation and re-emit some that would have gone to space back down to the hard surface. Fair enough. So CO2 can't possibly have a cooling effect. However little there is, it must reflect some radiation i.e. have some warming effect, however slight.

To use an analogy, a sheet of normal window glass reflect a tiny bit of light and lets most through - you normally don't notice this when you are looking out of the window by day. If you stack two or three panes of glass, you notice the reflections more. If you stack ten panes of glass, it's like a partially transparent mirror. If you stack twenty panes, you basically have a mirror. What they are saying is that one pane reflects no light at all; a few panes will allow more light through than hits them; if you have 'enough', the two effects cancel out; and if you have more than 'enough', you have a mirror.

There is no such curve for glass (if you plot 'amount of light reflected' vs 'number of panes'), it's an upwards slope and doesn't dip below zero. There is no reason to assume, to the extent that CO2 has any effect whatsoever, that it would be anything other than an upwards slope that doesn't dip below zero.
To sum up, air above the clouds (which the CO2 crowd call the 'effective emitting altitude') is cooler than Earth's 'effective temp' (which in practice is the cloud temp, duh, see first paragraphs above) but this is not because the CO2 is Hoovering warmth away into space. It is because the lapse rate works both ways. Below clouds = warmer, above clouds = cooler.

Saturday 19 March 2022

UBI is nothing radical, it's just an administrative tidying up exercise

Some people are against the idea of any welfare payments whatsoever, there's no point in debating with them, they have missed the whole point. Most people are vaguely in favour of welfare in some forms or in general but oppose UBI.

* The hard left vaguely grasp that UBI is negative taxation, so they want it means tested and focused on low-income recipients; that means that higher earners pay more in tax and/or receive less in UBI (modest tax rebates). I suppose that's intelletually coherent, even though expressed badly and not really thought through.

* The hard right are more in favour of the contributory principle, which is the opposite of means-testing and pointless. If you take this to the logical conclusion, you might as well just tax people less when they are earning and expect them to save up for the bad times. Most will, some won't, tough.

*Then of course there are the outright authoritarians with no grasp of maths or logic who support both means-testing AND the contributory principle.

* Many UBI supporters make a different glaring - and rather embarrassing - error, which is to assume that this would be a radical overhaul and/or would require additional taxes.

Nothing of the sort. The UK's tax and welfare systems, if viewed in the round, are already pretty close to UBI, so the easiest way to introduce UBI is by administrative stealth. The DWP and HMRC could simply merge all working age benefits into a single benefit and do claw-backs via PAYE. They can keep the old names and attach different conditions if they want to maintain the pretence and keep the authoritarians happy, but really it's just UBI.

Let's take a few major working age benefits. How different are they really?

* Income Support and Carer's Allowance are to all intents and purposes the same thing, just with different qualifying conditions. £60 to £75 a week for a single adult. No time limit.
* Statutory Maternity Pay is up to £151 a week for 39 weeks.
* Student Loans are £8,000 - £12,000 a year for up to three years. These loans are supposed to be repaid via a savagely higher tax rate if you are over certain income thresholds, so combine the worst aspects of debt and higher taxes. Maybe only half ever gets repaid, so they might as well just give students £4,000  a year and tell them to keep it.
* Working Tax Credits for lower earners. This is largely smoke and mirrors. To qualify, you have to work a certain number of hours i.e. earn a certain amount of money i.e. they are paying some PAYE and reclaiming a similar amount in WTC. In net terms, it pushes up the tax-free personal allowance up to about £15,000.

What do all these have in common? People who (probably) aren't earning much get a bit of extra money. People are all people; money is just money.

They could simply set the weekly rate for all these benefits at whatever £ amount is required to keep total expenditure on all these groups constant, probably somewhere in the region of £80 a week [see footnote] and pretty much abandon all the qualifying conditions. If you get this £ amount correct, it would of course require no increase in tax rates on earnings (which are far too high anyway).

As to means-testing, if the purpose of this is to minimise total expenditure, then we have to remember the Laffer Curve. If the clawback rate is too high (overall clawback rates of 80% - 100% are not uncommon) then people who can only reasonably expect to earn minimum wage £10 an hour gross won't bother. If the clawback rate is too low, then clearly nominal expenditure will be high.

So why not set the official clawback rate at 40%-odd, which is
a) close to the tax-raising/expenditure clawback maximum on the Laffer Curve and
b) happens to be total clawback PAYE rate, including income tax and two layers of NIC, for basic rate taxpayers? We wouldn't need a separate means-testing system. UBI claimants just get a BR PAYE code (with an extra tick in the box for 'liable to NIC on all earnings') which means they get 40%-odd deducted from their wages at source.

For mothers with young kids, it's a two-edged sword, the weekly amount would be maybe half as much, but they could extend the qualifying period of 39 weeks up to 36 months (or until youngest child has reached school age or whatever), and also roll the Childcare Element of WTC back into Child Benefit and make Child Benefit £50 per child per week (instead of a miserly £20-odd for most people plus £60-odd WTC for the lower half), so overall, what they lose on the swings they gain on the roundabouts.

Once people have wised up to this, claimants wouldn't go through the bother of... claiming pseudo-SMP and having to provide children's birth certificates; claiming pseudo-Carer's Allowance and providing details of the elderly or disabled person they are 'caring for' for 35 hours a week; claiming pseudo-student grants and providing proof of what course they are doing at what Uni etc.

They'd just all go for the pseudo-WTC/Income Support option by ticking the box saying "I expect to earn a gross wage of less than £1,250 a month for the remainder of this tax year", provide home address, NI number, copy of passport or driving licence (for checking identities - the only possible fraud in a UBI system is multiple claims by one person) and job done.

And if pseudo-WTC claimants are lying and they know they are earning more than £15,000? So what? Most would be stupid to do so, as the extra PAYE/NIC they would have deducted would be slightly more than their pseudo-WTC. Some people would voluntarily do this if they know they will be working part-time, seasonally, on zero-hours contracts etc. At least they have some regular income, however small - the fact that they extra earnings when working are a bit less than otherwise is a price worth paying, a kind of self-insurance.

Of course, there are some people who currently don't bother working because their spouse or partner earns enough for both of them, they could claim as well. Again, so what? This is much the same as a transferable personal allowance, assuming the couple pool their income, it's like giving the working partner a double-personal allowance (most countries still have joint-taxation of couples). And if claimants 'waste' their £80 a week on going to the beauty salon or dining out more often, that's good for the lower paid people in beauty salons and resturants (so they'd be paying more tax and the government gets most of it back indirectly).

To keep the authoritarians and meddlers happy, they could make the forms seem really complicated, do occasional spot checks and occasionally throw some claimants under the bus to generate the required headlines for the bloodthirsty Daily MailExpressGraph crowd and the Guardian/Mirror hand-wringers. This is all smoke and mirrors - apart from genuine admin screw-ups, the worst that can happen is they stop somebody's pseudo-Carer's Allowance or SMP and pay them pseudo-WTC instead.

And because the claw back rate is relatively low, they can generate a lot of positive statistics showing how many claimants are actually working and how much this saves the taxpayer. That should keep most people happy.

Here endeth this week's rant. Why do so few people undertand all this?

Footnote: Quite how high you think the weekly £ amount 'should' be depends largely on where you sit on the political/economic spectrum and whether you would roll in housing related benefits. I personally would go for about £120/week and scrap Housing and Council Tax Benefit. If you are hard right, the weekly amount would be £zero.

Sunday 13 March 2022

Covid 19 - four month waves (part 2)

Original chart from

I overlapped a four-month zig zag, clearly it's not a perfect match, second half of 2021 was two lower peaks either side of where they 'should' have been (initial impact of the vaccinations 'flattening the curve'?).

Looking at that, I won't be surprised if there's another peak in June 2022. They'll blame it on the Ukraine war or the resulting commodity price hikes/shortages, but who's to say it's not somehow pre-programmed by the typical speed at which the virus has mutated enough to go round and infect everybody again?

Obviously I hope that there won't be any more peaks and it will all fizzle out, but we'll see.

Saturday 5 March 2022

"Better off dead"

This whole Ukraine/World War III is really getting me down. I responded the only way I know how: