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?