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What you want to say – 22nd October October 22, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

SF, the IRA and another legacy of the conflict. October 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Uncategorized.

It has to be said that the testimony of Maíria Cahill is extremely compelling. The specific issue is grim in the extreme, its implications for broader processes difficult to ascertain.

The question does arise as to where this can go? It’s difficult to see a legal route forward. But that doesn’t predicate against other processes where people voluntarily come forward to assist. There’s a political dimension to this, which is worth discussing further in a different post. But it’s important to untangle politicisation (from whatever quarter) from the core issue of a woman who felt that the experiences she described were marginalised or dismissed or the processes she was subjected to were incomplete and biased.

It is areas and issues like this which have proven so troubling as the armed conflict stage has slipped into the past, as against paramilitary activities as such – which is not to say the latter haven’t been troubling. The interface between internal codes of discipline and behaviour and an external society which where the broader legal framework was – for a significant number – simply invalid has thrown up some deeply difficult contradictions even before we arrive at these events.

It speaks of issues of democratic legitimation for processes that had no societal legal element, and the dangers of relying upon those processes that were internal to organisations. Simply put internal investigations were in and of themselves flawed from the off. It also points up the isolation of those who found themselves in situations like that Maíria Cahill has outlined where there were those who abused what authority there was and there was no alternative authority to appeal to.

A voice of orthodoxy and the Budget… October 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Some may have been surprised reading some thoughts on the Budget to hear the oft repeated line that the income tax system here is uniquely progressive. Stephen Collins, for it is he, in his ‘Inside Politics’ column was very critical of the opposition response to the Budget. Not entirely, but:,

Fianna Fбil finance spokesman Michael McGrath made one of the more sensible speeches, suggesting that the budget “is all about using borrowed money to buy votes” , but the main thrust of his criticism was that the budget was taking from the poor and giving to the well-off.

But, for there is a but…

Yet, as Michael Noonan pointed out in his speech, the top 1 per cent of income earners will pay 21 per cent of all income tax, while the bottom 76 per cent will pay 20 per cent of the total, following the changes he announced on Tuesday.

Now, Collins doesn’t see this as a function of low wages (more on that below). Indeed he misses the point completely.

The outstanding feature of the Irish income tax system that differentiates it from most others is that the lower paid are required to pay very little tax.

Then we are treated to the following:

Ireland actually has one of the most progressive income tax systems in the developed world. The wide pretence that this is not the case simply leads to a phoney political debate in which the public is misled about the real options facing government.

Michael Taft has takes an analytical eye to such analyses – by way of the Nevin Institute

Dr. Micheal Collins and Dara Turnbull investigated the issue in a working paper published by the Nevin Economic Research Institute, based on the CSO’s Household Budget Survey 2009/10. They found that, contrary to the received wisdom, the poorest 10 percent income group pays as much tax as the top 10 percent tax and that our tax system is far less progressive than some have claimed.

And why would that be? Because Collins only focuses on one aspect of tax, income tax and ignores all else. And that skews – to put it mildly, the results:

Collins and Turnbull estimated the impact of all taxation – income tax, USC, PRSI, and (and this is the key innovation of this study) indirect tax such as VAT and Excise, and levies such as TV licenses and vehicle taxes. Previously, claims about the tax contribution of high income groups narrowly focused on income tax and, sometimes, PRSI.

And how much of the overall tax take comes from non-income tax sources?

Over 40 percent of tax revenue comes from indirect taxation. The following shows the extent to which indirect taxation undermines the progressivity of the tax system.

And, crucially undermining Collins argument there is this:

Unsurprisingly, the lowest income groups pay substantially more of their income on VAT, excise and levies than higher income groups. So when this is combined with direct taxation – income tax, USC and PRSI – we get only an overall marginally progressive effect.

Michael notes that the study doesn’t cover all bases. For example, ‘it doesn’t include the benefit of public services’ but that does nothing to invalidate the proposition that the progressive nature that Collins ascribes to the system is very much in the eye of the beholder. One could even, I suspect, argue that any discussion of taxation that simply rests on income tax is… well… a phoney politica debate.

Collins also looks at the following:

The independent public policy think tank PublicPolicy.ie recently pointed to the progressive nature of the Irish tax system and looked at the argument that we should aspire to the “Nordic model” of high taxes and high public spending.
“To reach Nordic levels of income taxation (including PRSI), everybody in Ireland would have to pay more, but the increase would bear most heavily on the bottom half of the income distribution. For example, if the tax rates in Ireland were at the average of the five Nordic countries, a single person on half average earnings would pay an additional Ђ3,200 per year and a single individual on 2Ѕ times average earnings would pay about Ђ2,000 more.”

But hold on, what are the levels of wages in those economies?
As Michael notes here:

Hourly employee compensation is much, much higher in [Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Austria] We’re low paid and still our competitiveness, as assessed by business authorities, lags well behind.

And let’s not even begin to consider the range of services that higher taxation pays for in many of those states. That’d be a pretty good deal this side of the socialist transformation.
As it happens it’s not just genuine social democrats or socialists who broadly contradict Collins arguments, for as noted earlier today, Cliff Taylor writing in the IT has some oddly similar criticisms of the Budget. More on them tomorrow.

The arbitrary cartographer… October 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…love maps, and love this as well. From Slate, an article on how the US can be divided up in various ways, to form two, three, five and so on states of equal population. Of course, that’s not quite how it works…but…

“Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.” All the President’s Men,1976 October 18, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is a classic, but pretty flawed at this remove. I don’t think I had seen it in three decades and while it’s very good, I’m not sure it’s great. There’s a degree of repetition in the last half hour that sits oddly with the rest, though in truth that may be an accurate reflection of the reality of newspaper life then Still, there’s a lot to like, from the leads – Hoffman is more interesting than Redford, by quite some distance – through to the supporting cast through to a self-contained and near enough claustrophobic atmosphere that pervades the film but is most evident in the scenes with Deep Throat. The reimagining of the actual break-in that opens the film is superb, not least for the way it shows up how cack-handed the whole affair was. As ever the question of why Nixon allowed matters to get to this pass overshadows these events, given that he was remarkably popular throughout 1971/2 and in the run-up to the 1972 Presidential election.

Got to enjoy the following trailer – ‘at times it looked like it might cost them their jobs’… hmmm. Okay.

And here a scene from the recreated Washington Post newsroom…

Here’s a useful contribution to the water charges debate… October 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From the Seanad yesterday, Independent Senator Sean D. Barrett:

… When a local authority did not function in the past, the Government installed a commissioner to run it. We are getting close to that situation with Irish Water. There are reports of the meetings yesterday of the Government parliamentary parties where the issue was raised. There is surplus staff, a bonus culture, weak regulation by a regulator that pays its own staff bonuses, the inability to communicate, the “take it or leave it” attitude and the off-balance sheet vehicle that is allegedly meant to promote investment. We need to debate what is turning out to be a poll tax. The consumption of water does not change as people’s incomes increase. We used to pay for water through general taxation, even though the first piece of propaganda put out was that we did not. The losses were mistakenly blamed on the consumer rather than the supplier. We must recover from a very bad start in the operation of Irish Water. Will the Leader arrange for a debate early next week in which these alternatives are considered?

And more particularly:

That point about consumption about water not changing as incomes increase is core to this and is something that should be noted again and again. But so is the point about water having always been paid through general taxation. And in the manner in which we are seeing it introduced it is clearly akin to a poll tax. Here’s the IT report on it.

I would be genuinely curious as to what alternatives he might propose.

That ‘new and innovative’ admissions system TCD is using… eh? October 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Well, let’s start with this:

The only thing worse than failure is cowardice. Change can sometimes be frightening, but it doesn’t mean that we should ever be afraid of it. The dinosaurs also believed that they were fine, and that nothing needed to be changed. But they still became extinct.

Doubtful the dinosaurs believed much of anything at all. But be that as it may, how’s this?

The key point about the Trinity feasibility study in admissions is that rather than cursing the flaws in the current points system, it is attempting to provide some light on one of the most controversial parts of Irish higher education. It is testing on a very small scale – in partnership with the CAO – something new and innovative, in a process that is completely anonymous, externally assessed and free from any kind of external influence.


Annual Frank Conroy Commemoration – 9th November , Kildare Town October 16, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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The Annual Frank Conroy Commemoration will take place at 1.30pm on Sunday the 9th of November at the Republican Monument, Market Square,, Kildare Town.  The speakers are Harry Owens and Stewart Reddin.
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this on.

Rhetoric and reality October 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Sometimes I read stuff that just makes me wonder at the sanity of others. For example, on this piece on Slate on the politicisation of Ebola (in the aftermath of it actually reaching the US) as a party political issue in Washington, there’s this:

A quick look at the federal budget makes it clear that the NIH and their fellow experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are being asked, by both parties, to do more with less. Since the NIH began working on an Ebola vaccine in the early 2000s, the institute’s roughly $30 billion budget has held relatively steady, losing about $5 billion worth of spending power to inflation over that time. The CDC’s emergency preparedness budget has been cut roughly in half since 2001, from about $1 billion in 2001 to $585 million in 2013. Total federal spending on Ebola research, meanwhile, dropped from $59 million in 2006 to $42.5 million in 2013, according to Bloomberg News.

So despite all the rhetoric, all the talk about potential terrorist threats and so on to the US, the CDC emergency preparedness budget has been cut in half since 2001?

Israel/Palestine, a change in the narrative? October 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

For those of who still hold to the two-state solution and believe the state of Israel has a right to exist in tandem with the equal right of the state of Palestine ..the following is good to see and hear.

In one of the strongest attacks on the government of Binyamin Netanyahu by a frontline UK politician, Alan Duncan will criticise Tel Aviv for its “reprehensible” behaviour in encouraging and supporting the creation of “illegal colonies”.
The former international development minister – who was given a desk in the foreign office as the prime minister’s envoy to Oman and Yemen after he left the government in the summer reshuffle – said supporters of settlements should be regarded as extremists.

Coming, as it does on foot of the non-binding but not unimportant vote in Westminster where an overwhelming majority of MPs voted to recognise Palestine as a state it is far from unimportant.

And here’s something for those who all too glibly have tried to elide legitimate interests of the people and state of Israel with that of successive government of Israel…

Conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway, who described himself as a strong supporter of Israel, said the recent annexation of 950 acres on the West Bank had outraged him and made him look like a fool.

That, I suspect, is an attitude that is gaining ground. And in this respect, if perhaps not in others, it is quite straight-forward, that there are two states here and the peoples of both have an equal right to security but that it is untenable for one of those states to veto the establishment of the other either by word or deed. Or to put it another way, in order to ensure the full sovereignty of both it is necessary for others, whether the US, the EU, etc to act as genuinely independent arbiters.


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