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Will the legal ducks be in a row for the referendum? August 24, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Housekeeping.

As you know, we’re having a referendum next year on the 8th amendment to the Constitution, and naturally most of the attention is on the content and political process which will decide it. But there is a gap in the law on referendums that the Supreme Court warned less than two years ago could have “very serious constitutional consequences” and which the government seems to have no plans to deal with.



Exam blues December 8, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Education.

I’ve been back in college since September. It’s part time, postgraduate (diploma for year 1, a masters degree if you add a thesis in year 2) in a subject area specifically relevant to my work, and delivered by specialist body under the academic oversight of one of the universities in Dublin.

I don’t mind the hard work, but I am finding this course a nightmare.

Now, I’ve been at the books on and off for over a decade, including a previous masters degree a decade ago. Last year I did a course at the Law Society. It was a short enough course, but with some tough slogging at assignment time. They had reasonably short turn-around times, and strict word counts. For the early assignments, you needed to critically assess the specific primary materials – usually court judgements. For the final, major essay, you needed to find the relevant cases as well as critically assess the judgements.

The problem with my current masters is the main assessment method: closed book examinations. I had one exam last week, and have three more in the next eight days. My approach to the study has been to delve into the assigned readings, annotate them, and when I can synthesise some points I think are to be drawn from a number of them, do so. But yesterday and today, going back over my marked printouts and my notes, and drafting mini-riffs to have ready for tomorrow’s exam, I find I cannot make it stick in my brain.

Maybe I’ve become lazy in that department. At work, I write a lot of policy analyses, and within the space we operate in they’re good* — my manager doesn’t read my work closely+ any more, and the only feedback from the board for my last project was to correct a single typo. But when I am drafting those positions, I have free access to all of the sources I can find, and don’t need to remember the details.

In my last masters degree, the main assessment for taught modules was by take-home exam: two questions to be returned in two days. The questions were designed to get your analysis, and when we started, we were warned that it would not be enough to summarise the relevant literature.

But this memorising is doing my head in.

*Whether the people we give them to think they’re good is a different matter.

+ Update: Actually, that’s not quite true. She no loner reads it closely before it goes to the board, but she sits me down before a board meeting so she can understand the rationale for all of the points and any possible banana skins.

A 4-year-old deals with epistemology, biology, and ethics December 6, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces.

I went for a swim in the local swimming pool this morning. While showering, I heard the following conversation from the toilets behind the partition:

Man: Have you finished your wee, Darren?

Darren: Yes.

Man: Really finished? You won’t wee in the pool, will you?

Darren: [silence]

Man: Darren, you won’t wee in the pool, will you?

Darren [in a puzzled tone]: I don’t know yet.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, again May 7, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Complete nonsense.

Regarding the title of this post, no, you didn’t miss a previous post in this series.

There’s a knack to being a successful Irish politician. It’s not enough to get things done for your constituency, you need to make sure the voters know that you did it. In fact, the first part of that statement isn’t even true, just the second. (I’ve known some politicians whose technique was to find out what grants, road repairs, housing allocations etc. were scheduled to be announced that day and get a letter out before their rivals could saying they were delighted/happy/pleased to announce that the long-fought for grant/road repair/ housing allocation had been successfully fought for/achieved/agreed, with occasional dips into a thesaurus to put some variety into their letters and press statements.) What you don’t do is promise something that is not in your gift.

Exception 1: you make that kind of promise so you can later resign (the whip or as minister) in order to prove the promise was a matter of principle.

Exception 2: you are Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

In fairness to Aodhán, though, his dud promises aren’t about delivering to his constituents. He has high ambitions for his stint as minister of state. But he doesn’t realise that ministers of state are colloquially referred to as junior ministers for a reason.

One of his first promises was to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act — the bit of the law that allows religious schools to discriminate in the hiring and firing of teachers. Now, this is not a new issue for him, and he really has worked to get is changed. The problem is that that work was when he was a backbencher, and when Alan Shatter was the cabinet minister with responsibility for dealing with this matter — and, vitally, was also interested in doing it. His new boss — sorry, ‘colleague’ — hasn’t shown the same level of interest as Shatter did, and Aodhán doesn’t seem to be able to move things along while she deals with laws on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

He was also going to sort out direct provision for asylum seekers. He was pleased that a committee — sorry: ‘working group’ — was set up to advise the government — note: not the junior minister — on what ‘improvements should be made to the State’s existing direct provision’. It would be wrong to say that the working group is packed with civil servants who have been happy enough to discourage bogus asylum seekers at the price of letting genuine ones languish in appalling conditions for years, but its membership was carefully crafted to ensure the civil servants do have a majority. And the vehicle of Aodhán’s hopes was shown to be of secondary importance when the cabinet minister introduced legislation to deal with the backlog of cases before the working group had a chance to finish its work (probably because the government needed to demonstrate some action on the disgraceful history in advance of the UN’s human rights body asking awkward questions in Geneva next month).

A third promise was that Traveller ethnicity would be recognised in six months. The six months runs out on 19 May, and I may be premature in declaring that another unfulfilled promise, but the word I am hearing is that the cabinet minister is not as enthusiastic about this as her predecessor was.

Now Aodhán has had responsibility for drugs added to his brief. And I hear that he says he wants to see medically supervised injecting centres for heroin users in place before the next election. I know that linguistically ‘want to see’ is not the same as ‘promise’, but when you’re a minister, even a junior one, that could be seen as a commitment. Forgive me for doubting it will happen. Again.

A headline to behold April 3, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Complete nonsense, Equality.

The Belfast Telegraph’s lead story on its website at the moment is stunning.

Protestant schoolboys left at the bottom of the class – with results only slightly better than Travellers or Roma children

Belfast Telegraph

Of course, what they really meant is: “Traveller and Roma children left at the bottom of the class“.

John Waters on debate, the media, and truth February 22, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Complete nonsense, Equality.

You may have noticed that John Waters’s column has been absent from the Irish Times for the last three weeks. He has, however, provided a statement to GCN. GCN invited him, among others, to be interviewed.
This is his response.

It’s a little late for ‘debate’ when the night rallies have been scheduled and the hate-mongers have been given the run of the playing field. The problem with the word ‘homophobia’ is obvious: it’s a word with a deliberately cultivated demonic aura, which is used not merely to describe acts or words of hatred against gays, but also to demonise those whose positions about family, children or the Constitution appear to be at odds with what the gay lobby is demanding. But, when this is pointed out, the users of the word say that the word means what they say it means, no more and no less. In this they now, it appears, have the full support of an irredeemably dishonest media, together with the full run of the Internet to demonise anyone they say is homophobic – without, it seems, any requirement to produce proof or illustration to validate their assertions. Anyone who tried to speak truthfully about these matters in these circumstances would be insane. We have entered a new era in Irish life, democracy and free speech – and it’s not a nice place and unlikely to change for the better.

CLR in 2013 December 31, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, CLR empirebuilding.

WordPress’s software has generated an annual report for CLR. I don’t know how to make it visible to all, but here are some highlight,

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cedar lounge revolution, cedar lounge, cedarlounge revolution, cedarlounge, and thatcher for one direction fans.

Why would anybody enter that last term in a search engine?

That software had a problem with country names:

Most visitors came from IE. The United Kingdom & The United States were not far behind.

The most commented on post was from Janaury, and was …making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or right

Would you care to guess who the top five commenters were (across the whole year, not that post)?

Saturday’s radio — two items December 29, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Britain, Human Rights.
1 comment so far

I had the radio on this afternoon when the BBC broadcast a repeat of an interview with Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner with the Metropolitan Police in London. You can hear the 17-minute interview here.

She was the “Gold command” officer in charge of operations when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police on 22 July 2005. She has since been promoted, three times. As the BBC notes at the start of the intereview, she was cleared of all blame.

In the evening, I had switched station to Lyric FM, and had Blue of the Night on. Among the songs played was ‘Hollow Point’ by Chris Wood.

Bits and Pieces: contemporary cinema and Summer blockbusters, gender and Science Fiction, President Gore and more June 8, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bits and Pieces.

Sitting at an iMax during the week watching the trailers before “Star Trek: Into Darkness” in 3D I was struck by a comment John Patterson made in the Guardian last weekend. Writing about how Soderbergh’s ‘Behind the Cadelabra’, his film on Liberace, has not found a cinematic release in the US due in no small part due to the craven attitude of the distributors to the fact that Liberace was gay he notes that:

…presumably because they figured the Red States wouldn’t take to its central gay relationship or its queasy 70s Vegas excess. In any case, they had already endured Brokeback Mountain.
That reluctance is sadly reminiscent of the old studios’ near-total reticence on racial matters until the late 1960s, for fear of alienating the Jim Crow moviegoers of the Deep South. Hollywood congratulated itself to death over Brokeback Mountain, years after Will & Grace had put a gay man smack-dab in the centre of the primetime lineup and the American living room. The studios are still like the Republicans on gay issues, actively hostile or paying lip-service of the wrong sort; TV is, like the Democrats, open-minded but not unmindful of expanding the demographics and upping the profit margin. All of which suggests that Soderbergh and Douglas should forget about Oscars and start valuing Emmys, those things they give to Mad Men, The Sopranos and The Wire, and not to fluff like Argo.

And he comes to the conclusion that:

Are we near the moment when the initiative in American film-making passes from movies to television? TV is getting all the respect these days, and absolutely deserves it. While the studios are fixated on tumescent pubescents and the Comic-Con demographic, cable TV is remembering the rest of us, normals and weirdos alike. And, let’s face it, the moviegoing experience has entirely lost any glamour it ever had and become just another fast-food experience.

Watching the trailers for Pacific Rim, Superman and something so useless I’ve already excised it from my memory simply proved his point about the Comic-Con demographic. Now, okay, it is the Summer and that is the time of 3D CGI laden excess – even Star Trek cannot escape being roped into that category, although, although, it has at least the virtue of being part of a cultural strand stretching back five decades now. But it was just depressing to see the man-child/child-man fighting stuff of Pacific Rim (sure, delivered to us by Guillermo del Toro, and with Idris Elba in there too, but even so), and yet another run-through of the Jor-El (it appears that there is now some sort of sulphurous compact that every generation must labour under the weight of its own interpretation of the Superman mythos).

As for Star Trek:ID, well, colour me Cumberbatched, but it was the first time I’d seen 3D that I really liked, and while far from perfect the film itself was more than good enough, and vastly superior to the last few outings of the ST:TNG cast.

If I have a problem it sort of relates back to Patterson’s initial complaint (and it’s possible that due to daily exposure to the cinema and television tastes of the five year old creature at home that I’m more sensitive to this than I might otherwise be because it is chilling how pre-programmed those can be). And having seen in no particular order but all being recent big budget films, the Hobbit, Skyfall, Avengers Assemble, and one considerably lower budget but distinctly genre (and excellent) Cabin in the Woods amongst others it is troubling to report that Cabin and Skyfall seemed to me to be the most adult of the lot. Don’t get me wrong, Avengers was an excellent genre run-through. But… but…

Meanwhile found this during the week, two posts here and here that raise interesting issues about gender balance in Science Fiction.

This is far from academic in the world of SF. There was (rightly IMO) a controversy over the non-appearance of any women SF writers or writers from non-white backgrounds in the The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction. No question that’s a major fail. No Tiptree Jr./Sheldon, no Le Guin, no Delaney, no… well look it’s not as if in 2013 there isn’t a long long list of people to call upon.

Speaking of SF, what of a female Doctor Who? The possibility arrives with the news that Matt Smith, perhaps the best Doctor since Tom Baker, is leaving at the end of the year. I’m kind of agnostic on the issue. Gender determinism in a character who can regenerate appears a little beside the point, and it would make a most interesting experiment both conceptually and in terms of execution.

Just on Doctor Who Smith left at the right time. Short enough that he would be missed and he’d avoid typecasting (one hopes). Perhaps four years was about as much as he could take. There’s been a lot to like about his tenure, and not just him.

Meanwhile, here’s an odd one, from New York magazine from three or so years back, Memories of the Gore Administration.

Ten years ago this month, a Supreme Court ruling ushered in George W. Bush as our 43rd president. We asked five (sometime) novelists to imagine the past decade as if the election had gone the other way. America: This is your parallel life.

It’s kind of fascinating to read some of them, though Glenn Beck’s contribution…

Bits and Pieces May 25, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bits and Pieces.

This is fascinating, the plume from the Pavlof volcano in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska as seen from the International Space Station. As Phil Plait notes on Slate, the interesting thing about this is, well, okay, the useful thing, is that you can view objects from an oblique angle giving them both scale and depth. And as he says, it is incredibly dramatic. Look at the way in the first photograph the mountain peak beside the volcano pokes up through the cloud base and in the second how the plume (six kilometres high!) stretches in a curve for… well, I don’t know how far. Plait suggests hundred of kilometres ( and the curve is due to it being blown by the wind ). Stunning stuff.

Meanwhile should you wish to know the answer to the question how many people are in space right now, simply go here.

Funnily enough every time I think of the Aleutian islands I think of this particular aircraft, the Grumman Goose flying boat, for when I was a kid it was synonymous with Aleutian Airways.


Kind of equivocal about the following from 2005 or so. Deep Dish good – and Fleetwood Mac too, come to think of it, but what, if anything, new is brought to the song?

For those who like the 1970s series UFO, strange hybrid Gerry Anderson creation that it was, here are some interviews with the actors of the show. This from George Sewell who played Alec Freeman is almost endearing in the way there’s no pretence that this was other than a job for him. In a world of Cons and internet coverage and so on and a fuzziness between actor and role that’s sort of refreshing. Ed Bishop who had the role of Commander Straker plays the game a bit more. Starlog #55


As is customary, let’s end with a libertarian reference. There was some discussion here recently about the way in which workers have little or no autonomy in workplaces. And what’s this? A piece from the UK based Libertarian Alliance whose overall thrust is in agreement with that idea, even if it scurries off to a utopian position at the end. It’s actually quite an interesting leaflet on Classes, Rights and Interests, even if unfortunately it gets quite a bit wrong in terms of analysis of the left and class.

I noted earlier that capitalists have an advantage over workers in that they can earn more wealth from the productive assets which they control. They also have another advantage in that the sources of their income are more secure. The average wage-earning worker is in an insecure economic position because his entire income depends on supplying one single service to one single customer, namely his employer, and if his job is threatened for some reason, his whole livelihood is threatened. A capitalist, on the other hand, can spread his risks by holding shares in several different companies, which gives him an income from several sources. A capitalist has a further advantage in that he can sell some of his productive assets for cash in the event of some crisis in his life, while a worker cannot sell himself or part of himself into slavery.

The economic insecurity of workers is significant because, in a free market, changes in consumer demand and advances in science and technology mean that the pattern of employment is constantly changing. Old industries are constantly declining and being replaced by new industries, with the result that some jobs disappear and new jobs appear in their place. If, however, a worker’s entire livelihood depends on his present job and he has no alternative source of income, it is very tempting for him to demand state intervention or even resort to violence in order to preserve the present pattern of employment at all costs. This has been demonstrated very clearly by events in the British coal and newspaper industries in the 1980s. A worker who is also a capitalist is in a better position to adapt to economic change because he has the income from his investments to fall back on while he is looking for a new job.

Sadly the author doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion from the above which is that given the dubious merits of the system he proposes why would any worker choose a libertarian right system that would even by his own lights perpetuate such instability and imbalance in regard to power relationships with capitalists. Full marks for trying, though.

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