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Trivia: A tax system puzzle December 31, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Gender Issues.
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Paddy Healy’s comment (here) on the post about The future of work looks very much like the past… reminds me of a puzzling piece of data I saw during the year. (Now, there’s a line to make the heart skip with joy!)

A paper by Seán Kennedy (of the Revenue Commissioners) and Yosuke Jin, David Haugh and Patrick Lenain (of the OECD) uses access to the full Irish income tax data to quantify economic mobility in Ireland between 1997 and 2012 (55-page PDF available here).

For those of us concerned with economic inequality, the most interesting tables show the distribution across the population, and the extent of mobility from the bottom 10% percent to the top 10% (and all brackets at 20%, 30%, etc., between) and vice versa. Other tables show more detail on industrial sector, tax type (i.e. PAYE v. self-assessed), etc.

But there is one table which puzzles me. It shows transitions in personal status between 2007 and 2012. I can see how a married couple tax unit would become a widow or widower tax unit (0.7% of the married two-earners and 2.3% of the married one-earner tax units, respectively), and I can understand a single male tax unit or a single female tax unit becoming one of the two types of married tax unit (15.8% of the single males and 8.1% of the females changed status).

Here’s the bit that puzzles: the able shows that 0.6% of the widower tax units in 2007 had become widow tax units in 2012 and 0.1% of the widow tax units had become widower tax units in 2012. What quirk of the tax system produces that outcome? Not only was this before gender recognition, but even if gender recognition had been in place, those percentages would seem unrealistic. (And the same table shows that the change from single male tax units to single female tax units and vice versa was zero.)

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Looking ahead… December 31, 2017

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Le Gach Dea-Ghuí don Athbhliain December 31, 2017

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…to everyone who comments, lurks, reads, helps or writes for the site. Somehow the site is entering its eleventh year and that’s down to input from all of you. Thanks a million – you know who you are and it’s always appreciated. Roll on 2018.

Soviet supersonic behemoth December 31, 2017

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This I only learned of recently on this most interesting site about the Soviet SST programme – the Tu-144.

It was in the early 70’s when the Tupolev OKB (Experimental Design Bureau) began the works for the creation of a supersonic transport of second generation, SST-2. When the first generation of supersonic transport was still not in service, Tupolev decided in 1973 the development of the TU-244 using as the base the experience acquired for Soviet, European and American in their different SST programs.

When the TU-144 and “Concorde” were designed the main target for both projects was to put a supersonic airliner in the sky. This produced many problems that a SST-2 should solve if she wants to occupy a place between the airliners of the 21st century. The design of the new aircraft should be orientated towards these points:

And:

The results of the studies showed that a SST-2 should be capable of to compete with big aircrafts as B-747, B-777, A340 and A380. This only could happen with a passenger capacity between 250 and 300 persons, but supporting a high aerodynamic quality both at supersonic mode as at subsonic speeds, this would provide a low consumption of fuel that would increase the range of flight and, of course, the economic profitability.

It would have been quite something to see.

The Tu-144 was no slouch but its career as a passenger craft was limited to 55 flights and even as a cargo aircraft it was pulled in 1983. Thereafter it became central to the space program.

Sunday and the Week’s Media Stupid Statements…2017 End of Year edition December 31, 2017

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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First up a contemporary one…

Bono has said that music has “gotten very girly”. Interviewed for Rolling Stone magazine, the U2 singer added, “there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that’s not good”.He went on to explain: “When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars.”

Hmmm…where to start with that? Perhaps best to move swiftly onwards.

Looking back across the year so much to choose from, but here’s a few highlights…

From August:

Frankly, when you look at the likes of Corbyn and Livingstone and plenty of their acolytes in this country, you get the impression that they wouldn’t mind having their own little secret police force.

And this from July in regard to Trump and RTÉ correspondent Catriona Perry:

There can be no doubt that the comment that Trump made toward Perry was awkward, a little creepy, and certainly sexist, but crucially it wasn’t in any way damaging.

And this from March:

Tribal passions are putting the centre under severe pressure both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Should this go on, the middle ground will soon give way under our feet.

But if winner there is, and who would want to win, we have the following:

The whole emphasis now will be on painting those who want abortion on demand, and those who want no abortion, as similarly extreme, and the fallacy of the middle ground will be trotted out again and again.
In this view, the “moderate” position is automatically better. People who believe that the middle ground is somehow always morally superior should read Barbara J Field’s work, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century.

Concluding with this:

At the time of the civil war, the state of Maryland had almost as many free black people as slaves and was seen as moderate. In reality, its alleged middle ground status only served to conceal its particular cruelties.
The question is not whether a position is moderate, but whether it is right or wrong. There are times when the middle ground is reasonable and times when the middle ground is unequivocally wrong. Abortion is one of the latter. Either, or all abortion is allowable, as Ann Furedi believes, or all abortion is wrong. Either innocent human life must be protected or it must not.

Science fiction and the right. December 30, 2017

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Many years ago it so happened that the third level educational institution I was in was linked vaguely to TCD. Which meant that we were, should we make the twenty minute walk (or thereabouts) to TCD, be able to join some of their societies. This held zero interest in me bar one. That being the Science Fiction society (actually just thinking of it, were I not in the WP at the time I could have wound up in CPI (M-L), or not, given that there were already two members of that org where I was a student. Wouldn’t that have made this site a bit different. Or perhaps not.).

So of a weekday myself and a good friend who had the same interest in SF would make a journey to the rooms said society had in an old Georgian building on Westland Row. The reason for this was that the society had a small but good library of books which we’d borrow.

I remember on one occasion talking to some of the other members – who seemed to regard us as interlopers and only tolerated us I suspect because we were willing to pay the small membership fee – and the issue of politics came up. I wouldn’t say I was starry eyed about the left. It might have been the new members educationals in Gardiner Place, or perhaps paper sales around the pubs in Kilbarrack and Raheny on a Sunday morning likewise, or perhaps annual collections, or just canvassing the large housing estates of the north side. But somehow uncritical youthful idealism tended to flee the building given all that and the sense of just how much hard work it was. Which I think was a good thing in retrospect. And anyhow, I wasn’t much given to proselytising. That said in the course of a conversation where I was making a case, almost an unthinking case, that science fiction was left-wing it transpired that the society members I was talking to were pretty right wing and baffled by my views.

And you know, in retrospect I think perhaps they had a point. It wasn’t that SF wasn’t at least in part progressive, there were many many writers who were leftist or anarchist or liberals of one stripe or another. Arthur C. Clarke was definitely in the latter camp, Asimov likewise. A tranche of New Wave authors were perhaps more in the anarchist camp, but it was broadly speaking left anarchism. By the 1980s feminist SF was a strong field and again progressive currents in that tended in a left-wing direction – Le Guin, James Tiptree Jnr, etc (one of my favourites from one such writer was a story, whose name I forget where there were no gendered pronouns for characters. It was remarkably effective). The counter culture too had left its mark though as we know at this remove that could tilt left or right.

But then again there was also a weight of authors who, at its most kind, could be termed centre-right. Kenneth Roberts, Edmund Cooper, John Christopher, perhaps even Richard Cowper whose work dipped into the spiritual. And many more. I pick those names because they weren’t hacks. All could when necessary write good prose. Cooper was a man whose writings, while entertaining, had gathered the label of misogyny about them. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate but he sure couldn’t write women characters and the sexual politics were primitive. Roberts was more nuanced but similarly had issues with female characters and there was that sense of reactionary social structures. John Christopher had better female characterisation but had an almost overtly reactionary thread to some of his work (the Death of Grass in particular). And so on. Tellingly both Christopher and Roberts had started out as “school of John Wyndham” writing about often unlikely catastrophes but where Wyndham’s work earned the prefix of ‘cosy’ in front of catastrophe both Christopher and Roberts had a much darker vision, one that, ironically accorded with the New Wave and its upending of science fictional tropes and conventions.

Whether that further inflected their later work is an interesting question. Or was it that this was a functional of generational influences. They’d started writing in the 50s and never quite shrugged off the mores that informed that decade. For them what happened next must have been deeply and profoundly challenging. Still, if you write SF you have to roll with the punches.

But, and I have to admit to an affection for them all in different ways – Christopher and his Tripods novels and other juvenile oriented works. Pavane by Roberts is a fantastic novel. His Kiteworld perhaps less so but even today I remember the emotional response I had to it on first reading it. The Cloud Walker by Cooper is pulpy but fun. Transit – another novel by him – is problematic but interesting. His efforts to engage with race and gender equally problematic but in an odd way fascinating.

But there’s another point that is worth making – there’s been no end of controversy in recent years about who writes SF and what is written. And frankly there’s been incredibly ignorant comments made about what SF is and isn’t. So, for example, some rather self-serving conservative and worse reactionary analyses have sought over the last few years to argue that science fiction that focuses on the political, on race, class, gender and sexuality is not part of the genre. There’s an extension of that argument that seeks to see only very narrow forms of SF as legitimate – space opera being an example. The most absurd iteration of this is found in the recent complaints about the new Star Trek: Discovery being a problem for having lead female and non-white characters which betrays a breath-taking lack of knowledge of Star Trek.

The overall argument is so incorrect as to be risible. SF has engaged from relatively early on with all those and more. But what interests me is that the authors I mention above were doing so from a socially conservative perspective and doing so in the 1960s on. These authors weren’t writing conventional SF. They eschewed space opera and in their focus on the personal, on gender relations, on interactions, much more clearly are positioned, as noted above, in New Wave SF. One may not like their approaches or conclusions, but at the least they didn’t pretend that those weren’t areas worthy of engagement with. And if their engagement was at times clunky or inept, well, they are in and of themselves evidence of social change.

But further, they and their work stand as testament – along with feminist, socialist, racially aware and other works addressed in SF – to the broadness of the genre and, arguably, to its strength, that there’s room for everything bar outright reaction. And that attempting to define SF in narrow and reactionary ways is pointless and counterproductive. It’s a big genre, it deserves better than that.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to…your suggestions for Irish songs and music December 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This year due to a project I was involved in I listened to a lot of Irish music from a broad range of groups and solo artists and across multiple genres. Some I knew before a lot I didn’t.

Here’s a few I liked a lot – some on rehearing them, Clannad, O Riada, the Virgin Prunes and Operating Theatre – others to my shame I only heard for the first time or really paid attention to for the first time which amounts to the same thing.

But what are people’s suggestions for great Irish songs or music? Any or all suggestions appreciated.

Sean O’Riada – Mairseal Ri Laoise

Shaun Davey (Soloist Liam O’Flynn) – The Brendan Voyage

Gavin Friday The Sun And The Moon And The Stars

Donnacha Costello – Blue B

Clannad – Éirigh Suas A Stóirín (Rise Up My Love)

Operating Theatre – Spring Is Coming With A Strawberry In The Mouth

Hat tip to comrade RockRoots for the steer on the next two of these tracks…

Turner and Kirwan of Wexford – Father ‘Reilly Says Goodbye

Real MCCoy- Quick Joey Small

Virgin Prunes – Pagan Lovesong

Jubilee Allstars – Peel Session (11th January 1997) including They’re Not Coming Anymore later on Sunday Miscellany produced by a certain Stan Erraught.

The future of work looks very much like the past… December 29, 2017

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Very very interesting Analysis piece from the BBC recently on ‘who speaks for the workers’ and it points to how workplaces far from being futuristic are becoming more like they were fifty or sixty years ago with low-wages and poor conditions. But the difference is that there were unions then, whereas now, post-Thatcher etc they are much less evident on the ground.

And as it notes in 1979 there were 13m union members, half of all workers, whereas now it’s less than 1 in 4. Now in a way I have to say that 1 in 4 isn’t terrible given what’s happened. But… it means there are defensive postures, etc.

Of course there’s a deeper problem, the private sector is not as heavily represented and moreover currently in the UK unions tend to have many more members who are what once would be called ‘professionals’.

And as to work, contracts are now so complex with workers contracted and sub-contracted so that the people they ‘work’ for most immediately are not their employers. And as the programme points out, that makes the ability to organise more difficult.

Entertaining, in a bleak sort of a way, in its analysis of a Deliveroo ‘contractor’ and how that company regards said contractors as not their employees. As the individual said he wears their uniforms, carries their bags, etc and the only real freedom he has is the route, which ‘is no freedom at all’.

But not at all entertaining was the analysis of the garment industry in the UK which is even more exploitative where people are paid sub-minimum wage rates given they have to work up to 60 hours a week but nominally are being paid minimum wage for 20 to 40 hours.

Some useful material on union organisation amongst low paid carers in the US. And in the UK – and the point that besuited essentially public sector unions are simply not fit for purpose.

And a point is made in answer to a question ‘why do breaches in labour laws require unions’… ‘because there is no enforcement of labour laws’.

National identit(ies) December 29, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’ve a lot of sympathy with Rosemary Jenkinson, the author, in this article in relation to how she feels having a Protestant, British and indeed Irish identity (and by the way she makes some excellent points I think re how certain dynamics in education pushed, understandably so, young Unionist/Protestant people in Northern Ireland to England and Scotland from the North).

I come at this from a different direction. Born in London, one English parent, growing up in Dublin in the 70s and 80s. I had an odd somewhat English accent, so West Brit occasionally came my way as a jibe,as did ‘posh’ but not too frequently. That didn’t bother me too much (though one Protestant from the South in comments notes how his childhood could be pretty miserable for not dissimilar jibes).

But Jenkinson’s sense of multiple identities is very familiar to me. Irish, yep, English, ish – to an extent, not British for me, Protestant and Catholic, well a direct experience of both in my immediate family was certainly positive for me (and politically immediate family were active in the BLP in the UK and others formerly in SF in the Republic so that was pretty mixed too – though less so). But then unionism right into the 20th century never wrestled with Irishness in quite the way Ulster Unionism did later. For Carson et al it was a given that they were Irish and British.

I wonder was it that localisation into Ulster that both accentuated a non-Irish aspect to it and exaggerated a sort of British (or was it English) aspect? That somehow Ulster could be seen as a place apart in relation to Irishness and Britishness that the rest of Ireland couldn’t be?

State paper release December 29, 2017

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This is depressing, from the IT:

British officials raised the prospect of erecting a physical border along the entire frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic 30 year ago, declassified files show.
At a meeting between officials of both governments, the British said the idea of erecting a physical border along the lines of that separating East and West Germany was being considered.
The Irish officials responded strongly against the suggestion urging the British to drop it immediately.

This from RTÉ is pretty good, an overview of some of the more interesting ones.

“In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer…he asked us to execute you,” so read a letter purportedly penned by the UVF and sent to the Taoiseach Charlie Haughey in August 1987.

After 30 years it has been released in the State Papers published today.

The correspondence signed by Capt W.Johnston makes the sensational claim that the UVF had been supplied with details of Mr Haughey’s cars, his trips to Farranfore airport in Kerry, his private yacht, the Celtic Mist, plus aerial photographs of both his homes in Kinsealy in north Dublin and Inishvickillane off the Kerry coast.

Charlie Haughey’s son Seán has revealed that his family was aware of a threat from the UVF around this time and it was taken seriously.

A very interesting account of attitudes in relation to the AIA:

[Thatcher] did not expect unionists to be so disaffected when the agreement was signed two years previously and “it is not logic but emotion that governs their actions.”

The Taoiseach attempted to reassure Mrs Thatcher and told her that she was the first Prime Minister who indicated to unionists that there must be progress. He said, “You have stood firm and that is an historic contribution to Anglo-Irish relations. You must not forget.”

But the Prime Minister believed as a result of the agreement “the minority community would not harbor the IRA. But the security situation has got worse. It is all very worrying.”

The Taoiseach agreed and suggested that when things settle down the two leaders should look at ways of making progress and ways to “placate the unionists.”

Then there were…

“the strongest reservations” about sanctioning repairs in an Irish dockyard of what were described as “support vessels to the Soviet Navy”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs f official warned that the North Atlantic was a “highly sensitive area of naval operations” and it should be turned down on the basis of our neutrality.

More on the Border…

In December 1987, the Department of Foreign Affairs contacted the British authorities to ask them about reports of a British Army incursion south of the border.

The British authorities responded that they were “greatly embarrassed” by the incident involving a pilot who had just arrived in the North.

Before being sent on a surveillance exercise in a beaver aircraft, the pilot asked his commanding officer if he was “cleared for the border”.

More and more to come tomorrow from all media.

And this from the UK… one could build an interesting counterfactual around it…

JAs the USSR entered its final months of existence, the chancellor of the exchequer, Norman Lamont, warned Major in September 1991 about the risks of becoming financially involved. “The view shared among G7 countries,” he said, is “that now is certainly not the time to be risking large sums of public money in the Soviet Union.”

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