Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolve

"I know this is a lousy time of the year to receive rejections, but this really isn't what we're looking for right now. Sorry."

Your expressions of sympathy are appreciated, but totally unnecessary. The query that I sent in the middle of September is long forgotten. Chalked up as a rejection, in truth. After three months plus a few weeks more, I'd assumed you weren't interested anyway and I've moved on. There's an entirely new and fresh query letter that I'm using now, rather like a new chapter in a long saga.

I don't honestly expect to get my manuscripts published, but that won't stop me from trying. The right place at the right time and I'm in, so if I give up, I'll never reach the time or place.

There'll come another day when I'll query Fairbank Literary again, and chances are I'll get the same response. Or maybe I won't. That's what makes the querying game so thrilling.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crystal Clear

For years, Waterford Wedgwood's fortunes have been in decline. Recently, the famed crystal maker announced further cuts in payroll and explained that some manufacturing would be moved to countries where labor costs were cheaper. Made in Ireland could consist of someone in Waterford polishing up a goblet that was made in Slovenia.

The firm lost EU29 million in six months time, which doesn't have the ring of a going concern. Half of the workers in Waterford have been made redundant in a bid to cut expenses and salvage the luxury goods maker.

Lazard Alternative Investments LLC must have liked the sound of all that reducing because they have snapped up five million cumulative convertible preference shares and placed two of their own on Waterford Wedgwood's board. That's one hundred million euros of desperately needed cash for crystal, but what's in it for Lazard?

A firm that hemorrhages cash does not seem like a good investment, yet they've invested. Lazard must believe that there is yet a market for fancy glassware and vases, which would sell like mad if only the goods were less costly.

With trends moving away from formal and into casual, will brides ever again register for Wedgwood china? Or will the products be made more cheaply and marketed en masse, with advertising geared to the masses? Dine like the Queen of England in your double wide trailer...sip your barrel wash wine from Waterford crystal....

Or will Lazard tart up the place and then sell it off in bits, to wring a little blood out of the Waterford Wedgwood turnip? Are we witnessing the resurrection of a dying brand or the last gasps before the final exit?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Taking Measure

As you digest your Christmas overindulgence and gaze upon the coming overindulgence of Monday evening, you must surely be wondering how large your carbon footprint is.

In fact, you've been kept awake at night, your brain spinning furiously in an attempt to calculate how much carbon you personally put into the atmosphere. How much do I contribute to man-made global warming, you ask yourself. Next thing you know it's three in the morning and you haven't slept a wink.

Now, gentle reader, you can easily find out what you're doing to ruin the planet. Step over to Repak's site and enter in your particulars. Your questions will be answered and you can once again sleep peacefully.

Have your utility bills handy because the carbon calculator needs a few details.

After answering a few simple questions, you will quickly learn that your consumption is above the average because you don't live in North Korea, where energy consumption is well under the average. In fact, light pollution in North Korea is non-existent, but then again, it's impossible to have all the lights burning when you don't have electricity. Now there's a model for all of us to follow.

The carbon calculator will then give you handy tips, like telling you to turn down the brightness of your television. Turn off as much as you can, in fact, and then turn off your heat because it uses carbon based products. Then stop driving and start walking because your car is doing untold damage.

Or you can simply turn off your computer, which uses electricity that comes from burning coal, and take a page from the North Koreans. They're not wasting a minute of their lives worrying about how much carbon they exude, and look at how happy they are.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Man Of The Year

To read the Irish Echo, you'd think Patrick Fitzgerald could hang his hat on Scooter Libby's prosecution and call it a day. There's the pinnacle of the man's career, they've declared. For that, Mr. Fitzgerald is their Person of the Year.

The Libby business is so painfully insignificant. The press took note of that case, however, because it took place on their home turf. They rarely stop off in Chicago, so they don't quite understand what is going on there and how wickedly significant Mr. Fitzgerald's dealings are in the Midwest.

Citizens of Illinois applaud Mr. Fitzgerald's newly acquired honor. He's the man of the year among the hard-pressed taxpayers and the average guys who don't someone who knows someone. He's the leader of the pack that is rooting out corruption in Chicago, unwinding the most convoluted schemes as he works his way up to the top. Nailing the participants in pay-to-play politics is big game, not the tempest in the teapot that was "Plamegate".

Prosecuting Scooter Libby? Child's play. In Chicago, Mr. Fitzgerald has shown how a heavily polluted piece of land next to Bubbly Creek could be magically transformed into a city park. He has demonstrated how a close personal friend of Mayor Richard Daley made a killing on the transaction. He has turned the screws on the deal makers, successfully prosecuted organized crime leaders, and revealed a connection between the Chicago Outfit and the political leaders of the City of Chicago.

His work is far from over. The powers that be in Illinois would like him gone, and they will support any candidate who promises to fire Patrick Fitzgerald, a man serving at the pleasure of the President of the United States.

Man of the Year because of a small beer trial in Washington D.C.? At the rate he's going, Patrick Fitzgerald will be the Man of the Century to the people of Illinois.

Holiday Cheer Comes To An End

Peace on earth, goodwill and all that....Christmas is over. Your story is rejected.

Waited until after the holiday, so there's the silver lining in the black cloud. Even quality work is often rejected, what with all the submissions. If we printed every good story that crossed our desks, our literary journal would be five inches thick and we don't have that sort of budget.

Sure we checked out your website several times. There was certainly enough time, seeing as we held on to the submission for a month beyond our usual response time. It's just that you made it to the maybe pile, and the other authors we accepted didn't decline the offer so there was no room. A previous publication could have weighed in your favor. Unfortunately, your website content didn't change in that particular area over the course of the five months that we had the story under consideration.

We read it and considered it carefully, but we won't need it. Good luck finding someone else to print the thing.

Sincerely, Literary Journal Editor

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And On The Next Day We Rest

The celebration of St. Stephen's Day is a thoroughly civilized way to recover from Christmas.

Even before the big day, there are days of preparation and shopping and dashing that lead to exhaustion. By the time you've had the last bite of the Christmas pudding you're spent. There's not a drop of energy left and your poor old body tells you to lay low.

But when you've got to get up the next morning and go to work, hung over and riddled with indigestion, you won't be the least bit productive so what's the point? Hence, the St. Stephen's Day ritual of doing absolutely nothing.

All the shops in Ireland are closed so that the employees can rest. You'd not want to be out shopping anyway, not when you've shopped and already dropped. Besides, the crowds and noise would be too much after that last short whiskey you had when you'd already had enough.

Tomorrow is soon enough to meet the world again, refreshed and recharged. Go on, call in sick. Better yet, tell the boss it's a religious holiday and you've simply got to get to Mass and then there's a Rosary after and the Stations of the Cross and you'll be on your knees all day.

Well, some people will be on their knees all day but it's the porcelain god that they'll be worshipping.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Shepherd's Tale

And there were shepherds in the same district living in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of God shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly.

"The poitin's poisoned," Seamus exclaimed. "I'm hallucinating."

They'd been sharing a jar, trying to keep warm, and to a man they were heated through. Wasn't it like Seamus to panic, always listening to the warnings that were issued every year. There's chicken droppings been found in poitin, that was the latest scare meant to put an end to drinking. Cormac knew that his cousin brewed the best poitin this side of Tuam and there were no adulterants.

"Fancy a drop?" Cormac offered the guest.

"I bring you good news," the angel said, and took another wet. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you."

"Grand, grand," Seamus said. He took the bottle back before the visitor polished it off. Clearly this one had no idea how powerful a beverage this was.

"You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger," the angel concluded.

The news delivered, the angel stumbled off, singing of glory and peace to men of good will. Poitin would do that to a fella, put him in a generous state of mind and ease any and all burdens. It also caused the occasional hallucination, Cormac realized, because it looked like the stranger floated up to the heavens and the one voice singing magnified into a multitude like a choir giving voice.

"Let's us go over to Bethlehem," Seamus said.

"Sure and it couldn't hurt," Cormac agreed. "Might be strangers passing through and here's a new babby born and no one about to wet the wee little head."

So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger.

"An angel told me to call his name Jesus," Joseph said when the shepherds asked after the child's health.

Cormac wasn't sure about offering a drop to a man he didn't know, but if ever there was proof that this Joseph had taken drink in his life, this angel business proved it. The men passed the bottle around and offered their heartiest, and somewhat inebriated, congratulations to the proud da.

"I'm not the father, actually," Joseph said.

"No indeed, our boy was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit," Mary chimed in.

"'Tis a sacred thing, missus," Cormac said and he offered the last of the poitin to a woman who must have taken advantage of the medicinal effects of the spirit during her labor.

They admired the baby a little more, paid compliments to the lovely mother and made bawdy jokes with Joseph. Before they wore out their welcome, the shepherds left the family in their temporary lodging, all well warmed by several drops of the cratur.

And the shephereds returned, glorifying and praising. Cormac couldn't wait to tell his cousin how splendid this year's batch of moonshine had proved to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Run-Up To Christmas

With Christmas approaching, few are stopping in to research literary agents or catch up on the latest bit of nonsense and news.

The shopping's done, the eating's begun and the bottles are yet to be drained. No white Christmas this year, the weather service reports, but we'll be happy for the company and not mind the outdoors.

It's a special holiday for those defrauded by Matthew Schachter, seller of phony insurance policies. The Criminal Assets Bureau will be distributing the late huckster's ill-gotten gains amongst his many victims, although it'll be pennies on the dollar. Something is better than nothing, however, and the four million euros will be welcomed.

Still and all, the greatest gift is good health....although having a literary agent wouldn't be half bad.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sadly Ironic

Ken Hendricks lived modestly, in spite of his wealth. Forbes ranked him as the 91st richest man in America.

He made a fortune in the roofing business, starting out working with his father and then going into business for himself. In the course of his work, he discovered a niche that needed filling and he filled it. Twenty-five years ago, he formed a roofing supply distribution firm that gave roofers a single source for all the things that they needed.

Today, he was inspecting the roof of his garage at his Rock County home when he fell through. He died of massive head injuries.

A man wealthy enough to pay someone to fix his roof had to do it himself. It's the way he was, not flaunting what he had and not letting money change him. A roofer by nature and habit, he made a mistake that cost him his life. It could have happened to him long ago, back when he was a young man working at his trade, and it would not be unheard of for a roofer to die from such a fall. It's just so ironic that Mr. Hendricks died in this way.

In The Name Of The Father, Again

Back in the dark days of The Troubles, Gerry Conlon was in the wrong place at the wrong time and spent seventeen years in prison for a crime he didn't do. His story was made into a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Powerful stuff, all based on fact and not the only case of innocent people being railroaded for bombings perpetrated by the IRA. You'd think that was all in the past, with the Belfast Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement and the Chuckle Brothers touring the world.

It isn't quite over yet.

Ten years ago, a bomb went off in Omagh, County Tyrone. and twenty-nine people died. The police knew it was the Real IRA who did it, and they promptly arrested Sean Gerard Hoey. All sorts of evidence, they said, and the man was tried and convicted and put in jail, where he sat for almost five years, waiting for justice.

Yesterday, Mr. Justice Weir issued a verdict in Mr. Hoey's appeal. Not guilty on all counts.

And then the judge reamed the police department for bungling the case and worse.

Yes, well, ahem, went the British army witness. Some evidence may have been forensically altered. The black tape you see on the device in the pictures? Wasn't there when the device was picked up at the scene of the bombing.

Yes, well, ahem, went a crime officer. The evidence taken from another bombing that we said linked Mr. Hoey to the Omagh bombing? That looks to have been altered as well. The label on some car bomb evidence had the date changed.

Evidence was stored haphazardly, records of evidence were less than ideal, and that led to the possibility of contamination. So there goes any DNA analysis out the window.

What about the FBI spy who had infiltrated the Real IRA? Sorry, he never said a word about Sean Gerard Hoey in relation to the Omagh bombing, and the man provided 2000 pages of reports and named 100 names.

Sean Hoey lost four years of his life, but the families of the victims have lost their chance to ever see justice for their loved ones. The case was bungled from the start by zealots who were convinced they had their man and manipulated the evidence to suit their aim. What was done with the evidence cannot be undone, and once again, the real killers go free.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Banks Are Unnecessary

All together, just like old times. The Ahern clan gathered to celebrate the debut of P.S. I Love You, the movie adaptation of Cecilia's debut novel. All the stars were out in Dublin last night, enjoying the craic and the Guinness. At least Hilary Swank claimed that she was fond of the black stuff.

Skinny as a rail, that Hollywood star, but doesn't Georgina look as if she's enjoying the Westlife so? Never guess she's the mother of twins. And there's the proud mother of the author, dressed in pink like her literary little girl, while the father looks to be hanging off the edge, falling into the background.

Everyone stood out in the cold to watch the stars go by, but there's another sort of pride that was on display. The movie itself was filmed largely in County Wicklow, among the Wicklow Hills, and won't that do more for Irish tourism than any brochure that Failte Ireland could produce? The film is sure to be a big hit and An Taoiseach is hoping that even more people will come to see the scenery in real life.

It was a pleasant respite for Mr. Ahern, who returned to the Mahon Tribunal today to tell them that he didn't need a bank account back when he was leaving Miriam and the girls. No one knows how much he had stuffed in his safe, or if his mattress was bulging with Irish pounds, so who could say what shape his finances were in back in the day? The missus looked grand at the movie premier. Sounds like himself didn't want to give her a few grand when they separated if he could hide it somewhere.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Whole Thing's Offensive

Good Lord, there's a nasty word in that song, said BBC Radio. Must censor. Must not offend.

It took them all of a day to realize that every lyric in the Pogues' Fairytale of New York is offensive. The song isn't exactly a sweet little ditty filled with holiday cheer. Not familiar with it? You can watch the music video here.

So the word 'faggot' is in the song. 'Merry Christmas your arse' isn't exactly inoffensive, if you think about it. Even UCD professor Terry Dolan thinks 'faggot' was not put into the song to cause offense to those of the gay persuasion. The word is slang, an insult to be flung at someone, and the word is used properly in the song.

While merrily censoring the song, BBC 1 also removed 'slut', although 'arse' was completely all right to keep in because it refers to a part of the body and has nothing to do with sex.

As singer Kirsty MacColl's mother said, it was pathetic on the part of the BBC to try to sanitize a song that tells a depressing story. There's no happy ending; the song isn't trying to tell a cheery tale in the mold of Charles Dickens. Removing words that might offend someone is an exercise in political correctness run wild.

Worried that the kiddies might hear a naughty word? If someone at BBC 1 had taken the time to listen to the song, they'd realize that Fairytale of New York isn't exactly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. After a day of careful deliberation and a great deal of flack, they've reversed course and deleted the bleeps.

Christmas misery for adults has been restored to its rightful place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Passionate Environmentalist

Noah Bunn was a true Friend of the Earth. How he loved our home planet, and insisted that others love it as well as he did....or else.

How best to coerce others into taking your side than to burn them out? This was Mr. Bunn's brilliant scheme when he poured petrol on the furniture of the Jesuit parochial house in Donnybrook and then set it alight. Why did he do such a thing? Because the Jesuits he worked for were not doing enough to protect the environment.

So he started up a fire and dumped untold millions of CO2 atoms into the air.

To protect the environment.

There was no doubt as to his guilt, since Mr. Bunn threatened a Korean priest in residence. Get out or be burnt to a crisp, the arsonist decreed, and one might suppose that the priest would never forget the face of a man who carried a knife in his waistband and threatened to use it. CCTV footage showed Mr. Bunn purchasing petrol and a lighter, so there you have it. Guilty as charged, and the arsonist isn't denying a thing.

Mr. Bunn admitted to the crime and has vowed to never again do such a thing, even though his passion to save the environment continues to burn brightly. Someone must have gotten to him since his arrest and explained how counterproductive it is to burn carbon based materials, like wood, when one is loudly proclaiming against carbon dioxide emissions that lead to man-made global warming. Makes the passionate environmentalists look uncommonly dim.

Monday, December 17, 2007

He Says, They Says

The Irish Human Rights Commission says that the U.S. conducted extraordinary renditions through Shannon Airport. The U.S. says no and Dermot Ahern says no because he believes the U.S.

The issue must be settled, as far as Fine Gael's own Billy Timmins is concerned. After all, the IHRC has no evidence whatsoever beyond a firm belief, and that's a call for investigation. Besides, Fine Gael is in opposition and they have to do something that's contrary. Why not have everyone appear before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee and explain themselves.

As an opposition party, Fine Gael is forced to take the position that the U.S. is lying because Fianna Fail and the Green Party believe the Americans when they say they've never used Irish air space for renditions. What's the point of being on the other side if you don't take the other side as well? Being a clever man, Mr. Timmins is leaving the door open for the IHRC to boldly declare that planes used for rendition have, at some time, touched down at Shannon but weren't rendering anyone at the time. That way everyone can be right.

Not that anyone might have noticed, but there are some seriously pressing issues to be dealt with that are far more important than giving air time to a group that's been foaming at the mouth for months and getting no one to pay them any mind. One hundred girls under the age of seventeen having babies is a bit of a problem, and there's a veritable avalanche of cocaine on the streets. It's a free-for-all in some Dublin neighborhoods where gang members shoot it out and kill innocent bystanders.

Only so many hours in the day, and only so many ways to spend them. Worrying about whether or not the Constitution is being upheld based on gossip? Wasting time is far easier than actually working.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Who Needs Aer Lingus When CityJet's In Town

The uproar was deafening when Aer Lingus said they were pulling out of their Shannon to Heathrow route. It was the end of Ireland's Midwestern region, jobs lost and families thrown out of their homes in foreclosure and they'd be wandering the backroads and the boreens and God help us all.....

Once the smoke cleared, residents looked around and noticed that CityJet was coming to town. The Shannon Airport Authority took a page from Business Practices 102 and cut landing charges by 70% to attract a new carrier, and CityJet said we'll take it.

Beginning in February, CityJet will fly from Shannon to Charles deGaulle, two flights per day and one on the weekend. With that, the Midwest is re-connected to Europe and all the wailing is put behind. Not so bad, is it, to gain a new carrier that flies into an airport with four runways rather than two. And it's not all about the Ireland to France journey, but instead, it's the reverse route that will make a difference.

From Paris to Ireland, come for a long weekend. Play golf. Hike. Visit tourist destinations like old castles and country estate houses. Shop. Spend money. The Irish are a euro-based economy too, unlike England. Your money's good here, no need to exchange a thing.

But let us not forget that Minister Dempsey should be ashamed at having lost the Aer Lingus business, says Fine Gael TD Joe Carey. Sure it's grand that he's worked to bring in CityJet, but don't let that bit of good news spoil it for those who were determined to bring down the current government or at least get some Cabinet members to resign. If that part gets forgotten, then those who were in hysterics over Aer Lingus would look pretty stupid, yes?

Friday, December 14, 2007

U.S. Fiddles While Glaciers Melt

CHICAGO (Rueters) -- European Union ministers have threatened to boycott climate talks in the future unless the United States agrees to a proposal that would see greenhouse gas emissions cut by 25 - 40 per cent within the next twelve years.

"There is a wrecking crew here in Bali," according to Jennifer Morgan of the Climate Action Network, citing the current U.S. administration for failing to tackle global warming more aggressively.

Unfortunately, it is already too late. Scientists studying the glaciers have detected a definite increase in melting, which will lead to dangerous flooding. In addition, the warming climate threatens the spruce forests that are such a hallmark of Northern Illinois. With this loss of habitat, zoologists predict that the woolly mammoth and the mastodon face certain extinction.

The contours of Lake Chicago have demonstrably been altered by the loss of glacial coverage, and climatologists are warning Wisconsin residents to brace for some dark days ahead. Not only will the Laurentide ice sheet disappear, but the underlying ecosystem will be annihilated. New and unknown plant species will begin to populate areas once covered with ice, while retreating glaciers leave behind pockets of rock, or kettle moraines, that will seriously hamper Pleistocene life as we know it.

Climate sceptics have been arguing that these swings in temperature are normal and due largely to variations in solar activity and the wobbling of the earth's axis. They have gone so far as to suggest that glacial retreat from the Upper Midwest could be beneficial, with the creation of large bodies of fresh water. These "Great Lakes" will host a variety of life, while new "Mississippi" or "Ohio" rivers could become magnets for wildlife that will not include our familiar giant beaver and stag-moose.

Even as global warming is being discussed, the glaciers continue to melt and no real action has been taken to stop this disaster in the making.

By the way, the bits about the glaciers melting and extinctions and all, that happened about 10,000 years ago. Not so very distant, is it, when you consider how old our little blue planet is.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Need Of A Better Name

HM Riverdeep has officially purchased Harcourt Education, Harcourt Trade and Greenwood Publishing from Elsevier.

The proud parents styled themselves Education Media and Publishing Group Limited when they were united, but what might they name their offspring? Something clever? Something creative?

Has the whale of a publishing company come up with a fancy appellation for the newly born Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Education Harcourt Trade Greenwood Heinemann creation?

How about something suitably Irish, like An Soilsiu? The Enlightenment...doesn't that describe what the educational materials publisher is all about? Prefer English? Then what about an acronym perhaps, or a new word that contains pieces of the existing names? Sort of like taking mammy and da's DNA, combining and recombining, and there's your baby.

No. The new child of HM Riverdeep is to be called Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. As dull and staid as that English textbook you tossed away as soon as the class had ended. No sparkle, no life, no excitement that says we can teach your children and they're going to like it.

A dark blue suit and white shirt sort of name...entirely corporate, not a lock of hair out of place, as stiff as you in your First Communion photograph. What better way to appear sound and stable than to plaster a sound and stable label on the whale? After all, it wouldn't be wise to name the company Pequod or Ahab, would it?

A Higher Class Of Friend

There they were, sitting in the pub, talking about Bertie Ahern's troubles behind his back. Your friends would do the same if it were you trying to break it off with the missus. Sure she's trying to wring every last penny out of his hide, they'd say, commiserating with your sorrows and your weak financial position.

Poor, poor finance minister, Dermot Carew said one dark and stormy night. Your man's trying to get rid of the millstone around his neck, and he's on track to become An Taoiseach. Sure and he needs a proper house to call home, if he's to be taken seriously. There's no executive mansion for the leader of Ireland, and how would it look if the President of the United States were to come for a visit? Would you serve a state dinner at the local? Ask him around to the flat where you'd whip up a full Irish for tea?

With 70K already in the bank, Bertie Ahern needed an extra shovel or two of cash to complete the dig-out, so Mr. Carew and a few other friends passed the hat and raised even more money. The Minister of Finance needed a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and that doesn't come cheap.

There's the difference right there. If it was you with 70K in the bank, your mates wouldn't even consider a fundraiser. With that kind of cash, you wouldn't need another hand-out, or so your friends would think. Doesn't that prove that you need a better class of friend?

If you were an influential finance minister on the road to becoming Ireland's Prime Minister, you'd attract a higher class of associate yourself, and you'd not be wondering how you'd pay for the new windows on the dump you already own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Up A Pole

Unfortunately, Judge William Harnett is overbooked these days. Can't get around to Garvan Lynch's pressing matter. Sorry to report, ladies and gentlemen, that there'll be no pole or lap-dancing in Kilkenny this Christmas.

Mr. Lynch, representing Whispers Entertainment Ltd., was in court to get his pole-dancing club a license in the face of local objections. The city council wouldn't give him his license, and the gardai were not keen on his premises being opened.

Look at our fine establishment in Waterford city, Mr. Lynch said, and haven't we been well under the radar? Not a single problem to bring us to the attention of the local Garda. We provide employment for dancers from Ireland, oh, and the European Union as well which is why all the dancers speak with Slavic accents if they speak English at all. The dancers dance, they collect their tips and give us our cut and everyone's happy.

There's to be men as well as women dancing, to provide entertainment for the ladies at their hen parties. So clearly it's not to be a gentleman's club exclusively and don't female clients lend an air of civility to a place?

Garda Superintendent Mangan, no doubt bristling at the idea of a man in a garda uniform taking it off to the hoots of raucous women, has said that this sort of thing creates ripples in the public order. No matter that the dancers are self-employed and Mr. Lynch provides nothing more than a pole and a furnished room with beverages. This sort of activity is not in keeping with the tenets of a basic pub license and Whispers Entertainment isn't running any sort of pub at all, at all.

As much as Mr. Lynch would like to get the girls up the pole by Christmas, it cannot be. Judge Harnett needs more time to review everyone's positions and he won't take up the matter again until January 8th.

Ireland is still Ireland in some parts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Carbon Footprint?

The European Union Reform Treaty is to be signed in Lisbon on Thursday. From that day on it shall be proclaimed the Lisbon Treaty. At least it gives Portugal a bit of a boost, to have one of their cities lending a name to something that covers all of Europe. Not such a tiny, insignificant country any more, is it?

The EU ministers could just as easily have signed the treaty in Brussels, where they are to meet on Friday. Save a trip, save on air miles, save on CO2 what cost? The cost of civic pride, that's what is at stake.

The Portuguese are damned if they'll let Brussels steal away their thunder. The treaty will be signed in Lisbon and that's it. No further discussion. Take your carbon footprint and shove it up your EU arse.

48,000 extra air miles will be logged so that the ministers can jet into Lisbon, sign the treaty, and then fly off to Brussels. All so that a treaty can bear Lisbon's name.

Yet they'll rant and rave at the Yanks for not signing on to Kyoto and deciding on their own what sort of emissions levels they'll allow in their country. So uncooperative, the US, and they don't take man-made global warming seriously.

Hey, EU Emperor...we've gotten a good look at your new clothes and we're not buying.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This Is What A Better Position Looks Like

According to newly elected British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Iraq is in a far better position. In Basra, an area once controlled by British forces, provincial control has now been moved in and British soldiers can all go home.

The job's done, lads. Forty women have been found in and around Basra, brutally murdered and mutilated. Thanks to that local provincial control, women are being killed for the crime of wearing make-up or not covering their hair in a manner deemed suitable by some local provincial leader. But the locals are ready to handle their own security so we're off.

Time to go home and let the provincial controllers take over. After all, what's the life of a few women who have the nerve to put on a dab of lipstick? It's none of our affair if a woman or two get their heads lopped off, is it? After all, it costs the British taxpayers a bundle to cover the costs of protecting the rights of some Muslim women and they're not worth it. Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and head back to England's green and pleasant land.

The locals are saying that their security apparatus is not quite ready to go it alone, but it's time for tough love. The Brits aren't going to be there any more, and it's sink or swim. And don't go out without your hijab, ladies.

A Man Of Letters

Judge Amy St. Eve spent a busy weekend, reading countless letters that attest to the character of Conrad Black. She's to sentence him today, and the man of letters will then become a man of numbers -- numbers like ten to twenty, minus time for good behavior.

Friends of Conrad Black wrote letters to the court in a bid to sway the judge. It's part of the process, in which the convicted man's friends and family compose heart-stirring prose that proclaims the general goodness of the man in the dock. When all is tallied, it is hoped that Mr. Black would be sentenced with leniency, based on the little things that never came out in open court.

He's truly a man of letters, having written a couple of biographies which demonstrate not only his writing ability but his scholarship. Not the best thing to mention, perhaps, because Ms. St. Eve could turn around and say that if he was so wise, he should have known better than to treat corporate cash accounts as his personal piggy bank.

There will be letters that describe Mr. Black as a wonderful husband and father, but everyone gets such letters and there is nothing new and fresh to pique the judge's interest. Someone needs to pen a unique bit of wordcraft and paint Mr. Black as a decent human being who once did something for someone that brought him nothing in return. An act of charity that did not involve a glitzy evening and pictures in his newspapers would help, but is there such an instance?

Ms. St. Eve is bound by sentencing guidelines that give her little leeway when the time comes to mete out justice. Defense attorneys hope that she will lean towards the lighter end of the recommended time, rather than choose the maximum allowed by law.

In the end, all the letters may have no effect, and the one thing that the judge would like to hear will not be uttered. Conrad Black could help his cause by apologizing to those he hurt, but as long as he contends that he did nothing wrong, any hope of leniency is lost amidst the piles of letters that mean next to nothing compared to a simple act of contrition.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Right Back At Ya, Babe

Tyna Marie Robertson threatened to take Michael Flatley to the cleaners with her attempt to extort millions from the man with feet of flames. I'll tell the world that you raped me, she goes, and he says, knock yerself out darlin'.

Ms. Robertson's attorney, Dean Mauro, was disbarred over the lawsuit that he brought on behalf of his client. He tried a bit of the extorting game along the way, and the Illinois Bar Association tends to frown on their members engaging in illegal actions.

The episode was so upsetting to the dancer that he turned around and sued Ms. Robertson for making false claims against him and then trying to extort $30 million to keep quiet. Right back at ya, he says, you sue me and now I'm suing you.

The California Supreme Court believed that Mr. Flatley was wronged, and that Ms. Robertson was guilty of attempted extortion. She has been ordered to pay $11 million to Michael Flatley under a settlement agreement. Mr. Flatley had sued for $100 million.

Not at all what Ms. Robertson had in mind when she concocted her little scheme. She must have forgotten that Michael Flatley was once a plumber in Chicago who dabbled in amateur boxing. Wasn't going down without a fight.

250,000 Apologies

We're sorry. So very sorry. Oh, so very, very sorry.

The Dubliner magazine did what it does best -- publish that which is ", tasteless and deliberately offensive." We should have talked it over with the woman we insulted by our cheap vulgar lie, but don't worry, Mrs. Tiger Woods. We'll never be doing that again.

After creating nude photos of Elin Nordegren Woods last September, and publishing them in their precious rag, the editors of The Dubliner discovered that their wee prank was not so amusing. They were taken to court, where Mr. Justice Eamon de Valera (he is indeed related to himself) presided over a slavering mea culpa.

EU250,000 is the amount of money it will take to make this all go away, and only half will have to be paid if The Dubliner jumps through a few flaming hoops. The portion of the settlement that must be paid will be donated to various cancer charities and dedicated to the memory of golfer Darren Clarke's late wife. Such graciousness only makes the magazine look that much more cheap and vulgar, to say nothing of extremely rude.

Eoin McCullough, legal representative of the defendants, had to read out a long-winded apology as part of the deal to save The Dubliner half the fine. The photo wasn't her, he said, and that bit in the article about other nude snaps being available on the Internet? Complete cod as well. The story was hurtful, the story was false, the story was shameful...there was no excuse.

"Basic decency ought to have prevented the article from being published," Mr. McCullough read into the record, and editors the world over slapped their foreheads and said, "No shit, Sherlock."

The Dubliner has apologized profusely in court, and next they must apologize profusely in print. And then they have to hit the pavement and sell, sell, sell because they still have to come up with EU125,000 payable in two installments.

Bertie Ahern's friends banded together to dig him out from under. Does anyone at The Dubliner have a few close mates with deep pockets?

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Elusive Kyoto Target

Thanks to the Celtic Tiger, Ireland is going backwards when it comes to carbon emissions. All those people making all that money and then spending it on petrol and heating oil. The air over the island is filling up with CO2 when the government promised the world that the Irish people would cut emissions. What to do?

Raise taxes of course. How else to get the attention of the voting public? Make them pay, and then they'd think twice about turning up their thermostats when the cold North winds blow. Charge more for fuel and they'll not be driving all over the place, shuttling children to sports and music lessons and dance lessons and what all.

Being so keen to improve the air, the Irish will jump at the chance to pay more taxes. With that in mind, Green Minister John Gormley plans to introduce a carbon tax so that Ireland will meet its Kyoto target in 2012.

He's taken the first step, with the new vehicle taxes that will come into effect in July. Anyone foolish enough to buy a gas-guzzler will have to pay an additional EU2000, and then Mr. Gormley will toss the euros into the air and carbon atoms will fall out. Isn't that how it's to be done? Why else charge people money for something unless there's a relationship between the cause and the effect?

Mr. Gormley would very much like it if incandescent bulbs were banned as soon as possible, so that mercury-containing flourescents would become the lighting of choice. Then the landfills can become contaminated with mercury and everyone can enjoy a good hearty panic before an expensive solution is proposed. It's either that, or everyone will have to have a special bin for disposal of the bulbs, with new laws enacted that levy heavy fines on anyone pitching a fluorescent bulb in the waste bin. Then the bulbs could be shipped overseas to some poor Third World country for recycling, and let them deal with the mercury.

Is it any wonder, then, that Australia's not signing the Kyoto Accord after all? When reducing greenhouse gasses means taxing the voters, the politicians see a case of political suicide. Don't count on Ireland meeting its Kyoto target any time soon. There's enough doubt about the reality of man-made global warming to make a sceptic of anyone who's being asked to pay up.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Is Coming

You won't hear this played on that endless loop of Christmas songs that's running at that "Lite FM" station. Wouldn't be a proper Christmas without it....

Matt Dillon makes a fine cop, doesn't he?

Luxury Tax

The tax on cigarettes has gone up in Ireland. It's expensive to light up, and it is hoped that the cost will drive some to quit. Therefore, smoking will become a nasty habit of the wealthy. You can afford to smoke? Ah, you must be riding on the pig's back.

How much carbon dioxide does your car emit? We want to bring down the amount of carbon in our footprint, so what better way than to tax the public into compliance. If you buy a new Land Rover after 1 July, you'll pay a premium, on top of the premium you pay for the privilege of driving a Land Rover. In general, the SUVs will be taxed at a higher level because they spew more CO2 than that little Fiat sputtering down the road.

Who will buy big hulking behemoth cars when there's a tax to be paid for their CO2? The rich, of course, who can afford it. And those who would appear rich and can't really afford it, but want to show off anyway.

The arguing and fighting are starting up already in homes across the island. He wants to save a few pennies and get a coffee pot of a vehicle, but she thinks of what the neighbors would say and they have to get something bigger and dirtier. They'll think we're failures, she'll cry, and in the end he'll give in because everyone cares about what the neighbors think of them.

New legislation to tax CO2 emissions may not have the desired effect to reduce CO2 emissions. The government is introducing a new status symbol, the fuel-inefficient vehicle, and sales will no doubt climb. Dublin's streets, already choking, will be bumper to bumper all day and all night as the Celtic Tiger's children parade their wealth. Good news for the Exchequer, because tax revenues will go up and no one will complain, and God knows they need the money.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Agent Done Gone

Has anyone seen Michelle Wolfson?

She's not with Artists and Artisans, Inc. anymore. Does it have anything to do with Adam Chromy's decision to operate the agency as a literary management firm? There's a different approach for managing as compared to agenting, and if she preferred to be a literary agent only, she might have gone elsewhere. But where?

The query I recently sent to Artists and Artisans isn't likely to make sense for a management firm, when I've no star power or platform in need of handling. Might as well move on and expect a rejection (or no response....same thing).

So as I cross Ms. Wolfson off my list of potential agents to query, I have to wonder if it's possible that she came to her senses and got a real job, like acquisitions editor or something with an equally regular paycheck.

Merry Christmas From Abbott Labs

Five hundred people in Galway were thinking about Christmas yesterday. By day's end, they were thinking about Christmas in an entirely different way.

Abbott Labs makes stents for the medical industry. Surgery techniques change over time, and the Abbott stent is not the be-all and end-all for cardiovascular repairs, so the market has gone down. Don't need to make so many stents, and if you don't need to make so many, you don't need so many people to make them either. That would be the plant in Galway, so.

There's a lot of politicians waxing prolific on the bad state of affairs in the west of Ireland, where Boston Scientific recently cut back on production. Michael D. Higgins is calling for meetings to discuss job creation, as if a lot of hot air can generate employment. Galway's mayor, Tom Costello, is upset that the closing of the Abbott manufacturing facility was put out over the news before the employees were told, but the deed's done.

The staff had a notion that the closure was coming because the FDA canceled a scheduled audit a few months ago, suggesting that there was no need to take a look at the facility. The workers knew that all the stents they were making had lost a piece of their market and weren't in demand any more. That meant that their labor wasn't needed as well.

A few might find work at another Abbott's facility in Clonmel, but most are facing a bleak holiday season. With that in mind, could the suits not have glanced at a calendar and scheduled the closing last October? Or could they maybe have waited a month or two and issued the mass redundancies in February? When they look out over their massive corporate campus in North Chicago, Illinois, do they see anything beyond the end of their own noses?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Chuckle Brothers: North American Tour

Live from the New York Stock Exchange, it's Northern Ireland's own Chuckle Brothers.

Not that any American news outlet would call them that, although Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have certainly earned that appellation. The newly minted First and Deputy Ministers of the freshly seated Stormont Executive are touring America, bringing their comedy's not funny, actually, it's dead serious, but they do smile a great deal.

The economy in the north of Ireland is dependent on hand-outs from London, while the economy in the south of Ireland is thriving. How to get a bit of that gilt for Belfast? The man who called the Pope the Anti-Christ and a former IRA volunteer are making the rounds together, putting up a united front. The war's over, can't you see, so come to Northern Ireland and build a factory or open a call center.

No more bombs or bullets. Ignore the loyalist thugs, if you please, and when you come visit Northern Ireland, Mayor Bloomberg, could you schedule your trip to avoid marching season? Other than that, the Protestants and the Catholics are getting along, as witnessed by the camaraderie of the Chuckle Brothers.

The ongoing problem for the ministers, as they try to sell their six counties to the investment world, is one that they cannot yet control. Corporate taxes in the Republic of Ireland are far lower than the rate set by the British Exchequer, and it is very difficult to compete against your neighbor when businesses insist on looking at the bottom line. Stormont tried to convince their overlords to lower taxes, but were denied, putting them at a disadvantage.

Lots of willing workers who speak English (after a fashion), land for construction, and a home-rule government that is playing nice -- that is today's Northern Ireland, presented in a pretty package by two men who were at one another's throats a few years ago.

If they can't attract some foreign investment and get Northern Ireland moving forward, they may well be at one another's throats again.

The Clean Plate Club

HM Riverdeep had too much on its plate so it shared the bounty with Cengage. Waste not, want not, and there's students starving for knowledge in university.

What is a Cengage, you might ask, as a name like that must surely have been generated by a computer spewing random letters. It used to be Thomson Learning, which pretty much describes what it does. Cengage still does the same, only with a bizarre name. Marketing majors, roysh.

At any rate, HM Riverdeep had more than it could comfortably digest, financially speaking, and so the Houghton Mifflin component sold off its college and upper level education arm to Cengage, which specializes in that very portion of educational publishing materials. In return, the minnow gone whale acquires $750 million in desperately needed cash.

The Cayman Islands-based firm will not abandon Cengage to its fate, but has agreed to work together to market Cengage products to U.S. secondary schools. The affected Houghton-Mifflin employees need not feel entirely abandoned, as they are not to be cast adrift without a life line.

Cengage will obtain financing from the Royal Bank of Scotland, along with an investment from equity firm Apax Partners. Cengage's current owner, OMERS Capital Partners, is also going to kick in to the kitty, and expects to make some tidy profits when the dust settles. As a pension plan, OMERS will be very much interested in the bottom line, and there's no telling how much they'll care about publishing.

At least Barry O'Callaghan wants to be the head of the biggest educational publishing materials company in the world. If you're keen to produce quality teaching materials, who'd you rather work with?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Time To Discuss Real Estate

The polling world is all agog over the news. Barack Obama has taken the lead over Hillary Clinton. So will she now begin to discuss some rather odd real estate transactions?

The case against mover and shaker Tony Reczko continues in a Chicago court room, but his dealings with Barack Obama have slipped off the political radar. How long will Mrs. Clinton let matters rest before reminding voters that her rival is not so squeaky clean as he would appear?

Back when the Obama family decided to purchase a very posh residence in a very upscale Chicago neighborhood, they found that they couldn't afford both the house and its side yard. Can Mrs. Clinton raise enough questions in voters' minds with the details of the transaction? How was it, she might ask, that Mr. Reczko purchased the side yard at an inflated price, while the Obama family bought the house at a discount? On the same day? And why did Mr. Obama then pay a premium for a slice of that side yard to expand his lot?

If that doesn't catch a voter's attention, Mrs. Clinton might demonstrate a link between Barack Obama and the hot-button murder mystery in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Creating innuendo from current events is sure to generate some buzz.

What connection, you ask? It's all wrapped up in the complexities of the Chicago political machine, the same organization that turned a blind eye to men like Don Tomczak. He ran a patronage army, got out the vote, and made a small fortune in renting trucks to the city. His son Jeff wanted to be the state's attorney in Will County, so daddy sent his workers to get out the vote for his boy.

Jeff Tomczak was the state's attorney when Drew Peterson's third wife had her so-called accident. Besides the eyebrows being raised over that performance, he also presided over the arrest of Kevin Fox, charging him with murdering his daughter and vowing to seek the death penalty. DNA evidence proved someone else did it, and Will County is facing some very unpleasant days ahead. Jeff Tomczak settled outside of court, leaving his former employers (i.e. Will County taxpayers) to clean up after him.

And what of Barack Obama in all this? Do you think that Don Tomczak only raised money and campaigned for his offspring? No, indeed, Mr. Tomczak went to bat for Mr. Obama as well, to make sure that the Democrat was elected to the Senate.

Mr. Tomczak has since been indicted and is now in jail. How long before Hillary Clinton paints Barack Obama with the "guilty by association" brush? How much of it might stick?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Donation, A Dig-Out, A Dilemma

Des Richardson sought donations from some well-heeled pals to contribute to a fund that would help then Finance Minister Bertie Ahern pay legal expenses due to his marital separation.

Or, Des Richardson sought donations from some well-heeled pals to fund Bertie Ahern's constituency, as the minister was pressed for time and couldn't get out to fund-raise.

Padraic O'Connor, one of the well-heeled, donated 5000 pounds to the whip-around.

Or, Padraic O'Connor gave a check for 5000 pounds to fund the constituency, a check that oddly enough had a bogus invoice against it on the ledger sheets. Maintaining discretion is the reason; didn't want anyone to know he was giving money to a Fianna Fail minister on the verge of becoming An Taoiseach. The bill from Euro Workforce Ltd., a non-existent company, was created to hide the political contribution.

Des Richardson was asking for donations of 2500 pounds. Except he now recalls that he asked a few for double that amount so he only had to go to three or four gentlemen instead of six or eight.

Where did the money go? The Mahon Tribunal may be in need of an expert tracker to pick up the money trail, which is so convoluted and confusing that no one could begin to follow it through to a logical end. Political contributions, a helping hand to a rising politician in a time of economic need, or flat out bribes?

Depending on which road you take, you'll come to three different places, but they all merge at one spot. That's the place where you scratch your head and wonder why there are so many stories and reasons and explanations for what should have been a fairly simple and straightforward transaction. Why try to hide a dig-out or a political donation, unless the money wasn't meant for those two things after all?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Keep Holy The Sabbath

There is no soccer-playing on Sundays in Northern Ireland. Can't very well keep the Sabbath holy if you're running around the pitch or cheering on the sidelines, can you?

Reverend Roy Cooper, a Methodist, is distraught at plans made by the Irish Football Association to overturn the ban on Sunday sport. What of the Lord's day, the family, and rest? Church is being set aside, and now the institution of religion is getting a swift kick out of bounds.

Once the referees are blowing whistles on a Sunday, you can bet that Methodist youth will not be permitted to play or watch. Except for those who are as Methodist as an old acquaintance of mine, who snuck drinks behind her mother's back because the Methodists don't indulge in alcohol. All sorts of young men will slip into the stands after telling their parents that they were going out for a pray with the lads.

Rev. Cooper understands that other religions aren't anywhere near as Sabbath-keeping as his particular sect is. Many are called but few are chosen, don't forget, and if those others wish to partake in Sunday activities that do not revolve around sitting in the church half the day, well, they're going straight to hell anyway so leave them to it.

Methodists in Northern Ireland will soon face a tremendous test of faith. Those who abide by church teachings will find themselves at home, alone and bored and forgotten, while the rest of the country runs off and has a grand time. Reverend Cooper will be praying for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting Ready For Christmas

Sure you could rob a bank, but you'd come away with nothing but money, and even that could be stained by an exploding dye pack and there'd you be. Pointless, in the end.

A robber in Dublin stole something far more useful for Christmas celebrating ... and something much more tasty than ordinary currency. He drove a truck into the Guinness Brewery, hitched it to a loaded trailer, and calmly departed into the rush hour traffic of Victoria Quay.

Hosting a party at your place? You don't really need piles of cash, but you do need drink, and what the savvy lad made away with could make for a particularly joyous celebration -- 180 kegs of the black stuff and 90 kegs of Carlsberg, along with 180 kegs of Budweiser that I'd dump in the Liffey myself, but to each his own taste. Gardai estimate the total haul at 40,500 pints. Now that's a party I'd like to attend.

Bad news for Guinness, which is running full bore to get enough kegs delivered to the pubs for the busy Christmas season. Gardai are carefully examining CCTV footage in an effort to identify the perpetrator, but so far there's no sign of the brewery's trailer or the missing kegs. They don't expect to recover the beer. This is Ireland, after all. Slainte!

The Blame Shifts Back

It's all your fault, Brian Fitzgibbon's bosses told him just before they booted him out of his job. The head of home loans at Irish Nationwide Building Society was given the blame for making some very bad loans to a couple of shylock solicitors who are so deeply in arrears there's little chance that their creditors will be fully repaid.

INBS lent solicitor Michael Lynn EU4.1 million for the purchase of a grand pile in Howth, adding to Mr. Lynn's debt load that is thought to be approaching seventy million euro. So it must be the head of home loans who's at fault for lending such a poor credit risk so much credit. Here's the door, Mr. Fitzgibbon, and don't let it hit your arse on the way out.

However, Mr. Fitzgibbon knew full well that he hadn't been the one to grant the loans in question. On the contrary, he said that those very loans should be denied. Who did approve the mortgages? That would be the managing director of INBS, Michael Fingleton. The man who showed Mr. Fitzgibbon the door.

The matter went to court, where Mr. Justice Frank Clarke proved that he is no fool. Not only could INBS not fire Mr. Fitzgibbon, they could not hold a disciplinary meeting against him. Indeed, any sort of inquiry that the building society might make in relation to those who work under Mr. Fingleton would be suspect, since he's the one who signed off on the loans, went around normal channels to grant them, and then canned an innocent bystander.

In its defense, INBS claimed that Mr. Fitzgibbon was let go because of other dealings regarding questionable bonus payments to branch managers. The bad loans to the solicitors were only part of an overall inquiry. No scapegoating here, they insisted, but the facts as presented in court proved otherwise.

As your granny often said, when you point a finger at someone, there's three more fingers pointing back at you. And wouldn't you know it, but a judge might be looking to see where all the fingers are directed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eighty-Six The Fish

Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup sought to cook up a tasty deal for HM Riverdeep, but no one is ordering the fish. The item has been pulled off the financial menu.

Encountering some difficulties in selling $7.15 billion in bonds to finance the minnow's insatiable hunger, the banks have suggested. Riverdeep scarfed down Houghton Mifflin and then tackled Reed Elsevier's Harcourt Education unit, but someone has to foot the bill and bond traders have turned up their noses at the banker's offer.

Like the Chicago Cubs, it will be "wait until next year". There's not enough credit to go around these days, especially for deals that have questionable returns. Moody's rated the bonds as B3 with a negative outlook, which is not the sort of rating that would see nervous buyers put up their scarce cash. It's the uncertainty that is hurting the deal, questions as to whether or not Mr. O'Callaghan can achieve the returns he claimed. Will the cash flow be where it needs to be? Will all those mysterious cost-cutting "synergies" be realized? Well, not right before Christmas, at any rate. Too cruel to sack people en masse, er, I mean, realize synergies, during the holiday season.

As far as HM Riverdeep is concerned, the acquisition of Harcourt is going forward, pending a nod from the Department of Justice. With McGraw Hill and Pearson to serve as competitors, there should be enough evidence that the deal would not create a monopoly among educational materials publishers.

Davy Stockbrokers will hit on their clients for $235 million and Reed Elsevier has already agreed to kick into the kitty for the sake of unloading Harcourt. The bankers will be counting on an upswing in the bond markets so that they can sell off the oppressive weight of the minnow's tab. They were burned badly by the mortgage foreclosure fiasco, and they'd rather not take another hit with another round of defaults.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Big Doctor Is Watching You

Within the next five years, Irish scientists expect to fully develop a new fabric that will change the face of national health. This applies to you, tubby, sitting in your chair with the television blaring, your face stuffed with crisps and chips. You'll not be getting away with that much longer.

These so-called "smart fabrics" will be loaded with sensors that will monitor every movement of the obese. How much more palatable socialized medicine would be if all of us healthy folks knew that the fat ones were being closely watched. Benchmarks could be set, to force compliance with healthy eating or risk financial consequences.

Not getting your exercise as prescribed? Pay for your own Type II diabetes medicines in that case. The rest of the taxpayers aren't covering it if you don't make the effort.

All those embedded sensors will send data wirelessly. Obese folks will not be able to tell their physician that they exercised when they didn't, because the doctor would know. Health care workers could download the data that measure heart beat, respiration and even location. They'd know you were in your kitchen, with your head in the refrigerator.

A new bureaucracy will have to be formed to deal with the recalcitrant fatties.

You, in the darkened kitchen. Drop the drumstick and step away from the turkey.

A Book Stall In The Halls Of Congress

A writer of non-fiction must have a firm platform from which to promote their book. What better platform than a resume that includes Congressional membership? Wouldn't a literary agent perk up to receive a query letter from a former Congressman, seeking representation for a political hash-up on all that's wrong with Iraq?

John Hostettler used to represent the great state of Indiana, until his constituents voted overwhelmingly for his Democratic rival in the last election. He served on the House Armed Services Committee, so he spent some quality time in the trenches during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The platform might have been shaky because Mr. Hostettler isn't a Congressman any more, but his past experiences would have an agent on the phone within seconds of reading his query.

Did Mr. Hostettler go that route at all? His tell-all book, exposing all the hidden motives and dirty deals, will be published by Mr. Hostettler himself. He set up his own publishing house so that he could sell his own book.

No need to worry about editing and rewrites and running it past legal to make sure there's no potential for a lawsuit. At the same time, there's no publicity department to generate buzz and arrange talk show appearances. There's no distribution system in place to get the book into stores. Still, whatever Mr. Hostettler sells will be pure profit for him. No need to give some literary agent 15% of something that will sell like corn dogs at the Indiana State fair.

How does a vanity-published author sell their words? Assuming that Mr. Hostettler made a few friends in Congress, he might seek permission to set up a little stall in the Capital Rotunda. Just a small table piled high with his book and maybe a few souvenirs for all the tourists who come through daily. And there's always the busy street corners of Washington, D.C. A box full of books out to serve nicely in lieu of a soapbox.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Persuasive Arguments

Should you find yourself arrested, you'd want a good solicitor. One with a gift for persuasion, because you'd like to not go to jail. Such a man is Evan O'Dwyer. He got his client off and then some.

Thomas Cunningham was charged with causing bodily harm to his father. He murdered his da, or so the prosecutors believed, but until all the evidence was in hand, they went with the bodily harm business so that they could get Mr. Cunningham into custody.

Ah, sure and it's unfair, says Mr. O'Dwyer. In custody since August, M'lud, and such a slight charge against the lad. My client's right to liberty is more important than State Pathologist Dr. Cassidy's overburdened schedule. Just because she can't get the papers to the court in a decent span of time shouldn't be held against this poor young lad.

Out the door went Thomas Cunningham, Jr., but he was quickly re-arrested on another charge. Outrageous, says the solicitor, to arrest my client for the sole purpose of keeping him in custody after the District Court said he could go. Abusing the system, they are, and the man shouldn't be punished in this manner.

Out the door and out of the country went Thomas Cunningham, Jr. Later, the gardai had the paperwork they needed to arrest him on more serious charges that would have kept him behind bars until the trial, but Mr. Cunningham was no fool and he saw the writing on the wall. Wiser by far to not try his luck a third time.

My client is indeed out of the jurisdiction, says Mr. Evan O'Dwyer when the gardai came looking for Mr. Cunningham. Flew the coop, to use a cliche that may or may not indicate the use of an airplane in making his getaway.

You have to be in awe of a man with such persuasive power, to convince Judge David Anderson twice in the same day to turn a murderer loose.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holiday Cleaning

When I whipped up a new, tasty query and sent off a few copies every couple of weeks until the beginning of November, I foolishly hoped for some sort of response prior to the holiday season. Surely the literary agents clean their offices before departing, I says. The rejections will arrive in a timely manner and I can polish the query during the Christmas break when no one's around to read it anyway.

The mailbox is empty. Christmas season has officially begun.

Nadia Cornier is promising new things to come for Firebrand, according to her new blog, but now I'm starting to believe that the new thing will be the 'no response means no' style of agenting. After the stomach's settled again, that's when the office cleaning will start, do you think?

The local post office sorting station has won the top prize in worst overnight mail delivery, so it can be no surprise that the agents at RLR Associates haven't replied. They might not even have received the snail mailed query sent in the middle of September. The whole batch of queries I sent are all in one sack, stuffed in a corner, to be sorted at the postman's convenience. Pity that Nancy Coffey, Sally Hill McMillan and Margret McBride have all been deprived of a good story. Unless they're not yet done with cleaning out their in-boxes. After the stomach's settled, a reply might be in the mail?

The slowest time to get a response has typically been the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's Day, when the publishing industry closes up completely. I'll keep on querying anyway, because I'm tragically addicted to the process, and because I'd like my letter on the top of the pile when the doors open up again in 2008.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Who Owns The Children

A man and a woman met up in England and decided to live together. So in love they were, but not so enamored of one another that they wanted to make it legal. Who needs a piece of paper when they already know they'll be together forever?

The couple had twins, two darling boys. They were a family now, in their own eyes, and who needs a marriage license and it's just a bother to go to the registry office and it's too much effort to lift the pen to sign the book. They'd be together forever.

They went back to his homeland, to Ireland, the nuclear family. The couple got engaged, with the boys just past a year old. They never did tie the knot officially. Things soured between them, the relationship fizzled, and she packed her bags, took the boys, and went back home to England in January of 2007.

He missed his boys. On 9 March, he went to court and claimed that his twins had been abducted by their mother. She took them and never discussed the matter with him, the father; brought them to England and it's far away.

The courts in Ireland declared that it was wrong for the mother to high tail it to England because that breached the father's rights under the Brussels regulations of the European Union. It was wrong for her to go to England, thereby removing the boys from the jurisdiction of the Irish courts. The fact that the father waited over a month to do anything about custody has no bearing on the case, according to the High Court.

The fight over custody will now begin. The couple will, in a different way, be together forever, battling over two boys. The woman who had seen enough of her partner will never be quit of him, not so long as the boys are minor children. Where she lives will be up to the courts to decide; where her children will reside will be a matter for judicial review.

No need of a piece of paper, she believed in love everlasting. Will the girls never learn?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, 2007

For the financial resources that pay for stamps and paper and self-addressed, stamped envelopes and the Internet connection that brings it all together --

For the literary agent who's out there somewhere, just waiting for the very story that I've written --

For the editors of literary journals who heed Stephen King's advice and publish good stories instead of navel-gazing, angst-ridden shite --

But most of all, I'm grateful for my family, for the brother who'll bring the perfect wine, the parents who will reminisce about the old days, the sister who will do all the driving and wave away a second glass of that perfect wine. I'm thankful for a cousin who minds the siblings who are far from home today, putting on a big feed and making them welcome because we are all family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Creative Non-Fiction

Publisher Gill & Macmillan believed everything that Delaney Wilson put in her book, High Society. She had notes aplenty to substantiate her every allegation. This was a work of non-fiction, after all, and not a novel.

RTE put together a two part documentary based on the book, which is the sort of promotion that any publisher would love. The publisher was satisfied that Ms. Wilson could prove her case, which would be necessary down the line. After all, when an author claims that a government minister is a coke head, she'd best have some very solid documentation because the government is going to be inquiring as to specifics and substantiation. After RTE aired the show, the questions from government quickly followed. Can't go off and make such sordid claims about ministers without getting noticed, can you?

Yes, well, ahem, said Gill & Macmillan. We thought that Ms. Delaney Wilson had copious notes, and now she's saying she made audio recordings? Don't know a thing about that. She misled us. As for the notes and the recordings, they've all been destroyed. It wasn't our idea.

Ms. Wilson says that her solicitor advised her to destroy the lot so that she could maintain the confidentiality of her sources. Gill & Macmillan is pitching a fit, since she never asked them if that was a good idea, and they are her publisher.

RTE is feeling the heat, since they broadcast the program that suggested government ministers were snorting cocaine. It would be expected that RTE, in turn, would apply the flames to Gill & Macmillan's feet, while the publisher can only say that they were duped.

They could offer to return the purchase price, a la James Frey, but this particular work of creative non-fiction may lead to deeper trouble. Delaney Wilson is on holiday in New Zealand, at the other end of the world. Her publisher would very much like to talk to her when she comes home.

A Stumble On The Long Road

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was arrested at Dublin Airport recently, charged with being drunk and disorderly. He had just appeared on Tubridy Tonight, to promote his new film, and managed to take a big feed of drink between that appearance and his arrival at the airport.

Yesterday morning, the actor's mother passed away in Cork after a brief illness.

The Irish-born actor has admitted to a drinking problem, and spent a short time in rehab. As any reformed alcoholic knows, there are often stumbling blocks along the road to recovery. If you don't have someone to ease you over, you'll fall.

The gossip columns will make much of the arrest. The Irish courts will not. There but for the grace of God, you see.

Doing Something About Darfur

The U.S. is busy in the Middle East, making sure that oil flows and the western world's economy can chug along as per usual. Enormous volumes of hot air have been blown out of the UN and the EU in an effort to get the Yanks out of Iraq and into Chad, where a humanitarian crisis is brewing. Look, it's been said, there's problems with Islamo-fascists in Africa, won't you please come and shoot them up.

Stretched to the limits, the US said, and why don't you go into Chad yourself and, you know, actually do something besides complain about the humanitarian crisis.

Ireland is on the verge of sending its troops into Chad, to create a safe haven for refugees and protect those who are trying to distribute aid. The United Nations said it was all right to go, and the European Union has given its blessing. The final key to unlock the door to Chad will be provided by the Dail, where Minister of Defense Willie O'Dea is soon to request Ireland's stamp of approval for the mission.

All those years of buying African babies, but will Irish politicians allow their young men to journey into harm's way? It's easy to talk about the needs of the Darfur refugees, but voting to send someone's son to a war zone is another matter entirely.

Will there be more hot air billowing out of Dublin? Perhaps a call to other EU member nations, to send some of their children to face mortal danger, and why must it be us doing all the heavy lifting? Or will the elected officials have the courage to walk the walk after talking the talk?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sittin' On The Corner Watchin'

After An Bord Pleanala allowed the Poolbeg waste incinerator to move forward, Minister for the Environment John Gormley stirred.

Steady on, he was heard to say, I intend to change national waste policy. Any day now, I'll have a well-considered, thoughtful plan to reduce waste. When that day dawns, there'll be no need for this giant waste incinerator in Poolbeg. The nation won't produce 600,000 tons of waste per year, which is the expected capacity of the new incinerator. Why, the whole island won't generate but 400,000 tons and this monstrosity at Poolbeg will be redundant and it will have to close. You don't want to be building something that will lose money in the end, do you?

Been there, done that, the planning board was thought to be mumbling to themselves. It's been five months since the Green Party went into coalition and it's been five months that Mr. Gormley's been promising a new waste management strategy. Five months gone, and it's the same rhetoric, and there's no reduction in waste. Build the incinerator before we're buried up to our necks in garbage.

The residents of Poolbeg put Mr. Gormley in office so that the incinerator would not be built in their neighborhood. They've had more than enough, thanks ever so much, of the stench of their local sewage treatment plant and they'd prefer not to have to smell the garbage.

Mr. Gormley promises to fight on, to see that the incinerator doesn't get built, even as the world moves along without him. Construction is scheduled to take place 24/7, in a mad rush to put the thing up and get it running.

Moving at a snail's pace, the minister may well be leading protests on the day of the Poolbeg incinerator grand opening. By that time, he will have to switch tactics and vow to his constituents that he will do all in his power to have the place dismantled, even as plumes of incinerated garbage waft over his head.

Shopping For Your Author Friend

The gift must be unique, one of a kind, and it must suit to a tee --- how about a t-shirt?

Over at, the gift-giving season has begun and some old classic designs are being re-issued. Even if you don't have an author to buy for, you can find something unique there.

Each design was created by an artist who received a monetary award for their work. Can't go wrong when you support the arts.

Best of all, there's no long lines when you shop on-line and you won't be putting too much carbon into the atmosphere. Except for your breathing, of course. And maybe methane, depending on what you ate last night. There's some pollution created in the production of electricity, so this isn't a carbon neutral activity by any means.......

Monday, November 19, 2007

Running Dry

Billions have been written off recently, as high risk loans go into default and shaky mortgages are foreclosed. The money stream is running low, a time of fiscal drought that could be a problem for the whale-swallowing minnow that has become HMRiverdeep-Educational Media-Harcourt-and what all.

Should HMRiverdeep get approval from Washington for their acquisition of Harcourt's educational media arm, will the deal still get done? Where's the money to come from?

Paul Finnegan of Madison Dearborn Partners believes that leveraged financing is still alive, although the investment bankers will ask for a higher premium to cover their exposed arses. He adds that cash flows have to be demonstrably strong as well, since the bank wouldn't like to take on a risky venture with the mortgage fall-out still resounding. It would then be up to Barry O'Callaghan to convince the bankers that he's their man and his merged entity is a lean, mean publishing machine.

If he can show good performances at HMRiverdeep, he has a better chance of attracting investors to buy his commercial paper. So what of Mr. O'Callaghan's original projections? As suggested by Patricia Lane of Foley & Lardner, such a deal could come at a higher price than originally calculated. Before the fall, investors were snapping up bonds that arose from leveraged buyouts, but those same investors were burned and are not quite so ready to jump back into the fire. They'll want more in return for taking another chance. There's also the risk that they won't want to buy at all, as happened to JPMorgan's attempt to sell bonds for Clayton Dubilier & Rice's acquisition of ServiceMaster. JPMorgan had to eat their own paper, and an investment bank doesn't much care for a $1.15 billion feast.

Selling bonds to finance HMRiverdeep's buyout of Harcourt Education could take a lot longer, given the state of the market and the hesitancy of the investment banks. However, there is money out there, estimated to be in the range of $263 billion, and a smaller deal has a better chance of going forward than a mighty whale of a leveraged buyout. $7 billion is such a small portion of the bigger pool, a drop in the bucket you might say.

The Rhythm Method

In a move that will bring down the wrath of Ireland's bishops, Minister for the Environment John Gormley has not condemned the suggested use of artificial contraception. Years of religious education and it's all forgotten, the Church's teachings abandoned in a bid to control the immigrant population.

Ireland is being over-run by grey squirrels, those foreign invaders who have made themselves at home, and at the expense of the native red squirrels. Something has to be done, clearly, or the Irish species will be wiped out. Mr. Gormley is keen to preserve the reds, and he is ready to work with his colleagues in the north to craft a workable solution.

The only way to save the red squirrel is through an all-island initiative, but one proposed solution is not in keeping with Catholic beliefs. Artificial contraception is essentially forbidden, and putting grey squirrels on the Pill would be tantamount to a sin of some sort.

It has been suggested that the grey squirrels be poisoned with warfarin, but the use of deadly chemicals is banned in Northern Ireland. Greys might also be shot but hunting is not popular with members of the Green Party. Trapping could be effective, but once caught, there is no place to send the pesky varmints but to their death, and again, such a plan would prove unpopular.

To find the best way to deal with the overabundance of greys, local squirrel groups may be established to observe and monitor the reds, encouraging them to be fruitful and multiply. The most basic method to beat the greys is via reproduction. Such a concept worked well for Sinn Fein in the north, where the Catholic population has steadily increased since the partition. In addition, a red squirrel action plan steering group could be set up to spread research money around, all in an effort to boost the red population.

The Republic of Ireland must maintain their Catholic ethos and find a grey squirrel behavior expert, in the hopes that someone could instruct the immigrant rodents in the Church approved rhythm method, thereby regulating the population through natural means. Grey squirrels in the north would, of course, find artificial contraception readily available at their local chemist's.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Even Better Than The Real Thing

The Protestant Ascendancy sat back while millions of impoverished Irish starved during An Gorta Mor. In spite of such abuse, the average Dubh is interested in preserving the plethora of Georgian architecture that was constructed during that troubled era. For good or ill, the Georgian buildings are tightly woven into the fabric of Dublin and few would like to see the old facades come down.

Bono and The Edge have something even better than the past. They have big plans for the old Clarence Hotel in the Temple Bar area. It's a posh enough address, with the likes of Bill Clinton spending the night on Saturday. He was in town to raise money for the missus, tapping into the coffers of well-heeled American ex-pats or Irish green card owners. Earlier in the day, he met with Bertie Ahern to talk Northern Ireland and peace. No mention of whether or not An Taoiseach had a suitcase filled with money to slip into Bill's hands, but what are friends for if not to come to a friend's aid? One dig-out deserves another.

The Clarence Hotel is small, too few rooms to generate much profit from the tourist trade. That being the case, U2's front men asked for, and just received, permission to tear down four neighboring buildings, each one of them listed as a Georgian treasure. Can't put up an eye-popping spectacle of a tower without the space, and surely that's enough reason for Dublin City Council to green light the project. The law is clear, that only exceptional circumstances will allow for the destruction of a listed structure. Nothing more exceptional than U2, is there?

The former head of An Taisce, Michael Smith, is outraged that four listed buildings will disappear forever. City Conservation architect Clare Hogan is on record as recommending a no vote on the demolition, claiming that the circumstances aren't the least bit exceptional.

Anthony Abbot-King has a different opinion. The senior executive planner believes that the owners (Bono and The Edge) have demonstrated exceptional economic reasons and doesn't the west end of Temple Bar need a good tarting up? Besides, the Georgians are old and rundown and there's going to be this magnificent new tower all aglow so it's out with the old, in with the new.

An Bord Pleanala has yet to weigh in on the case, but if they approve, there will be a fight in court to protect buildings that were supposed to be protected.

It's largely a matter of opinion as far as preservation goes. Bono himself brought up the lingering emotional pain of the Great Famine that is woven into the Irish psyche, and he may be glad to see four more reminders of British cruelty removed from Dublin forever. One need only take another look at the artist's rendering of the proposed hotel complex, and examine carefully the recording studio that has been described as a space ship suspended in the air. It's not a spaceship at all. It's a giant spud, towering over the quay, as the Celtic Tiger thumbs its nose at the once mighty Empire.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Life On Line

NBC will begin a new experiment, one that weds the Internet to old-fashioned television. Wouldn't you know that the series making its debut in February focuses on a wannabe writer.

The show will be run in short spurts on MySpace before hitting the airwaves. What could be the point, except to lure Internet users to their dusty, unused televisions? That's where the commercials are, the source of money that pays for the programs, and if no one is watching, the advertisers aren't interested in buying air time.

Quarterlife will have its own dedicated website where viewers can pick up streaming video of the program, but it gets better. The site is going to become a social network destination for "artists, thinkers and doers." That describes all of us in the literary community, doesn't it?

Blogs are hot, hot, hot, and the lead character in Quarterlife is blogging away. He wants to be a writer, so he writes what he knows, which is all about the fascinating lives of his twenty-something friends. Picture Seinfeld, but on line, or Friends, but with computers.

The show won't make it unless the lead's friends have some interesting events to report. Face it, a writer's life is not the least bit interesting. You sit in front of a computer, hands on keyboard, or you pick up a pen and put it to paper, and then you compose sentences. For at least an hour every day if you're to get anywhere. Who'd watch that on television, let alone on line?

There could be dramatic moments. The wannabe writer gets a request for a partial manuscript and experiences elation. His partial is rejected with a form letter that suggests the partial was never read and he experiences deep depression. Might as well blog about the mates, who are having a much better time of it, unless his colleagues are wannabe Broadway actors or dancers. Then everyone's having a miserable time of it, and there's a limit to the entertainment value.

What of the website, the social networking place? Will it be a variation on the Zoetrope theme that Francis Coppola put together? Will it be a new and improved forum akin to WritersNet? One thing is certain. It will be a new place for potential novelists to waste time when they should be writing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Travails of Travel

The Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, Co. Kildare is a charming little boutique accommodation, family owned and operated.

What could be more of a bride's dream than a wedding in Ireland, with a festive reception in such lovely surroundings? Looking for a hotel that's off the beaten path of Dublin? Look no further than the Clanard Court Hotel, where guests can find in-house entertainment and more things to do than days to do them in. Tour Whites Castle, the Athy Heritage Centre Museum, the Waterford Crystal factory....the list goes on and on.

Don't forget your Uzi.

The hotel was raided last night by four men in balaclavas, armed with shotguns and one sledgehammer. The latter was used to bash in the front door, which the night porter had locked against the criminal gang.

Local gardai were called and arrived promptly. Within minutes, the armed robbers had their guns trained on the unarmed law officers and had stolen their Garda van. Makes for a much better getaway, one must suppose, than any other stolen vehicle. Not to blame the gardai, of course, because if anyone were to point a gun at a man's head and demand the keys to the van, you'd expect him to hand over the keys without complaint.

The crooks made away with about 150 euros of petty cash, a truly pathetic haul for a job that required so much work to pull off. Add in the cost of increased jail time for robbing a garda and thirty-seven euros fifty is hardly worth the effort to lift.

As the hardened criminal has taken to carrying weapons, and the members of An Garda Siochana do not, the savvy traveler should consider protection of their own when wandering the boreens of Ireland. Enjoy your trip!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Please Continue To Hold

Thanks ever so much for submitting, the editors of the Carolina Quarterly said. Can you continue to wait for a response?

According to their submission policy, the literary journal will not accept simultaneous submissions. In other words, if you wish to submit your short story to them, you are not supposed to submit it to other journals at the same time.

I asked after a short story submission a few months back, but the submission was made a year previously and I thought that the packet was lost in the mail and the journal never received it. How wrong I was. The manuscript was in a slush pile of enormous proportions, so swamped were the editors. They had yet to get to it, sorry, but if I wanted to withdraw and try my luck elsewhere, just drop a line.

Of course, I was submitting the story to other places during the year, prepared to withdraw the submission if the folks at the University of North Carolina accepted it by some off chance. Why not let it ride and see how things played out?

Just the other day, a new type of rejection arrived, with an additional .02 postage courtesy of the university. It wasn't a no, it wasn't a yes.....

Rather like being put on hold, waiting for the next available customer service representative, only to be told that you've waited entirely too long so please call back. The slip of paper in the SASE stated that the editors could not get to the manuscript in a timely fashion. They simply were too overwhelmed with other submissions to read it at all. Please resubmit in September....cross that off. Make it January of 2008. Send it again, won't you? And get back in the queue?

Thanks for the offer, but I don't submit to journals that require exclusive submissions. Tie up a story for over a year and limit the chances of getting published? I felt too guilty skirting the submission rules, Carolina Quarterly, and I'm a believer in casting a wide net.

Good Location, Needs Work

A house and five acres in Howth is about to go up for auction. If you lived there, you'd have the likes of Riverdance's Moya Doherty and John McColgan as neighbors. Good location, you'd say. Add in a splendid view of Dublin Bay and a private beach, and you're looking to secure a mortgage already.

Sadly, solicitor Michael Lynn must sell his dream home, which he purchased only last year. As it turns out, he has three or possibly four mortgages taken out for the property, which he bought for EU5 million. The bank will start bids at EU4.5 million and hope to get some of their money back. A couple of other banks are still in court, hoping to get some sort of judgment against Mr. Lynn so that they, too, can get a few pennies back on their loaned euros.

The bargain price reflects the sorry state of the home, which is in the midst of a major remodeling that involved the removal of internal walls. To say that the place needs work is a bit of an understatement. However, the grounds are splendid and the house was known for its gardens. Having an address in Howth tells the world that you've arrived, you're successful, and such a bragging point will have to be desirable to you, the potential buyer, because that's about all you'd have. The house is not inhabitable.

Mr. Lynn is around EU70 million in arrears on a number of mortgages taken on a several properties. As a solicitor, he was able to take advantage of a lack of regulation and oversight of the property conveyance system, building up a sizable debt portfolio by mortgaging the same parcel over and over again. What better way to fund your lavish lifestyle than at the expense of others?

Who are the others? They would be the average, ordinary people who go to the bank to obtain a mortgage and can't get one because credit is too tight because too many mortgages are in default and there's not enough money to go around.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Smear Not

The world long ago learned that Judith Regan carried on an affair with Bernard Kerik in an apartment that was meant to be used by rescuers at Ground Zero. Lovely flat, great location. Mr. Kerik was the police commissioner, after all, and he was as entitled as anyone else to drop in for a bit of rest and relaxation with his memoir's publisher. New York City's the publishing capital of the world, after all.

Is this the sort of thing that Judith Regan regards as a smear? She is suing former employer News Corporation (owner of HarperCollins) for $100 million, claiming that the company set out to sully her reputation and then fired her without cause.

Why was she so hard done by? Because Roger Ailes is an old friend of Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Ailes runs Fox News, which is owned by News Corporation which is owned by Rupert Murdoch who everyone knows is an evil media baron who wants to run the world by controlling the output of knowledge. Ms. Regan, as the paramour of the recently indicted Bernard Kerik, had the goods on Rudy Giuliani (pillow talk, wouldn't you know), and if she ever spoke up, poor Rudy would be up the flue.

So, to sum up, Judith Regan was given the sack so that Rudy Giuliani could run for the presidency without being assaulted with past peccadilloes. Ms. Regan was smeared to keep her quiet, to prevent the campaign from running off the rails. And she'd like $100 million to cover the damages.

Her imprint, Regan Books, was making money. She caused a scandal when she tried to publish O.J. Simpson's crime tell-all, but any publicity is good when it comes to book sales. No reason at all to fire her, except for all the dirty little secrets that Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Ailes feared she held in her head.

News Corporation says there is no merit in Ms. Regan's lawsuit. But news coverage of the case will make for fascinating reading.

Bring Your Own Mop

Not that I'm fond of hospitals, but the uncle was recovering from his second heart attack and we went to cheer him up.

The cleaning lady came through while we were chatting, so we danced around her mop. Next thing, she's going after every flat surface with a dust cloth and then it was time to wipe down all solid objects that might have come into contact with a patient. The room was spotless when we arrived, and it was even more spotless when we left.

Contrast that with a recent inspection tour of Irish hospitals, which resulted in poor ratings when it came to hygiene. Should you fall ill in Ireland, you'd best be advised to bring along your cleaning supplies, because the cleaners don't clean very well.

Reports of dusty beds, dusty pipes and dusty floors is bad enough. Recovered or not, you'd want to be released as soon as possible, before dust bunnies landed in your recently sutured wounds. Far worse to learn that the intravenous pumps aren't being cleaned. You'd rip out your own I.V. rather than risk getting an infection from the previous user.

A recent assessment of hospital hygiene determined that no one is minding the store when it comes to the cleaning crews. They are paid to clean, and management assumes that the job gets down. Obviously, no one from management ever walks into a ward to look under the beds or verify in any way that hospital patients were getting what their taxes paid for.

Just another joy of national health care. Bring along your own mop, and if you can afford it, you'd want to provide your own medical supplies and equipment.