Saturday, March 29, 2008

Celia's loan - @ just 2% pa interest rate

According to today’s Irish Times, the loan of £30k (€38.1k) to Celia Larkin in 1993 was repaid as €49k in January 2008.

That equates to an annual compound interest rate of just 2%.

Clearly, the Bank of St Lukes was the place to get your mortgage.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Never marry a jerk

Today’s “Morning Ireland” on RTE featured an interview with retired Professor Linda Hirschmann, in Dublin to address a conference in Trinity College on why women are less successful in business that their male counterparts.

This coincided with another discussion item on the programme; “Boys continue to trail girls in exams”, which discussed the routine finding that girls do better in the Leaving cert than boys.

So the question, discussed between female guest and female interviewer, was why the cleverer sex continues to trail the dumber one in terms of top jobs.
It turns out that Prof. Hirschmann has a set of golden rules for successful women to follow, which includes the following gem: “Never marry a jerk”.

That got a laugh in Montrose. I even laughed myself. But if a male guest in a similar discussion had offered “never marry a cow” as a golden rule for successful men, he’d have been immediately jumped on by the interviewer and doubtless RTE’s switchboard would have melted with calls from outraged females. Undoubtedly, Trinity College would have been pressurised to withdraw his invitation to speak at a conference.

So let’s consider the undisputed fact that girls do better academically than boys, but men do better than women in the workplace.

Women have consistently diagnosed this as a result of endemic prejudice against women in the workplace, the infamous glass ceiling.

But the reason may be far more straightforward and simple.

Could it just be that Women are generally better in theory, but men are generally better in practice. ?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buffett tops the funny list too!

Warren Buffett (78) is, according to the 2008 Forbes Rich List, the wealthiest man in the world, his personal wealth valued at $62bn. He’s also a man with a good sense of humour.

In a recent letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders he revealed that "I've reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the portfolio after my death, abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term 'thinking outside the box'."

You just can't see Bill Gates coming out with that cracking line, can you?

Tackling Anti-social behaviour - a points system?

Plenty of coverage in the media in the past week regarding drink-fuelled anti-social behaviour, ranging from drunken revelry to rioting to serious assault. Today’s Irish Examiner quotes CSO figures that show a 57% rise in Public Order Offences in the past 5 years.

There’s a growing frustration among the majority of peaceful citizens that the minority can apparently engage in persistent anti-social behaviour and petty crime, without fear of falling foul of the justice system.

The current system seems to be incapable of dealing with many such offences, which may be individually relative minor, but which can make life intolerable for others and which may also lead the perpetrators to become more and more out of control, leading ultimately to more serious offences.

It’s quite understandable that the gardai are reluctant to take legal action in the majority of cases of anti-social behaviour. Scarce garda resources would be tied up in paper-work and court appearances, the court system would be jammed up, while the perpetrators would generally walk away with a slap on the wrist. Young offenders are well aware of the limits and the slim possibility that they’ll receive a custodial sentence and, indeed, the age limits which apply to such sentences.

Possible Solution - The Points System

However, we already have a system, currently applied to a different area of the legal code, which might provide a template for a revised approach to anti-social behaviour and petty crime.

The Points System targets drivers for offences which, individually, would not merit disqualification from driving. However, persistent offenders will accumulate points within a 3-year period and are likely to be ultimately disqualified from driving.
In addition, fines are levied each time such points are awarded. It is possible to appeal the imposition of points for an offence through the courts, but unsuccessful cases trigger a doubling of the penalties, essentially to deter people from wasting garda and court time.
A further financial penalty is likely to be incurred, as annual motor insurance will probably prove to be more expensive, even though the offender hasn’t yet reached the disqualification points level.

It should be possible to create a schedule of appropriate “public order offences”, each with a standard tariff, both financial and penalty point, which can be applied as a “spot fine” by the gardai.

Offenders will accumulate points for each offence and, on reaching a pre-determine level, will face a custodial sentence or other appropriate punitive measure.

Points will lapse after a 3-4 year period.
Unpaid fines will be deducted from any social welfare payments made to the offender, or his/her family if no direct payment is being made to the offender.

I see the main benefits of such a scheme as being:
1. Gardai can take immediate action, imposing fines and penalty points, without having to jam up the court system.
2. The cumulative effect of points makes any public order offence potentially one which will result in a custodial sentence for persistent offenders.
3. The carrying forward of points over a number of years creates a mecahnism for dealing with more juvenile offenders, who currently know that they are too young to face a custodial sentence.
4. Imposing unpaid fines on family welfare incomes will, hopefully, concentrate parents on taking more responsibility for the actions of their “dependant” children.

Footnote: published as a (very long) letter in the Irish Examiner. Also, a sizeable extract aired by Pat Kenny on RTE. I've also emailed it to Charlie Flanagan, FG's Justice spokesman, who has acknowledged it and promised to give it due consideration.