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ejh in the LRB January 7, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Equality, Ethics.

I see ejh, formerly a regular in this parish, has a piece on the LRB blog saying that chess needs “a little more boycotting”: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/01/05/justin-horton/bad-moves/

Trivia: A tax system puzzle December 31, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Gender Issues.
1 comment so far

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.)

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.

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