Thursday, January 31, 2008

Safe Sex On A Budget

Let there be rejoicing in the streets, the pubs, and the hotel rooms. Let glasses be lifted and toasts raised to the Minister of Finance, Brian Cowen.

Today's Finance Bill has ordered that the VAT rate on condoms be reduced, from 21% to 13.5%. Having safe sex has just gotten cheaper, thanks to Mr. Cowen and his wisdom. Condoms will come down in price, assuming that condom sellers take the hint and pass the reduced VAT costs down to their customers.

Who knows how many Irish women were impregnated because they or their partner couldn't afford a condom? Unplanned pregnancies should plummet, now that the ladies (or the bold gentleman who isn't too shy to make the purchase) can splurge on the more affordable contraceptive device.

Labour Youth applauds Mr. Cowen's efforts. The girls can't plead poverty to avoid sex now that condoms are to be had on the cheap. The eyes of unmarried Irish men are surely smiling this evening.

So Many Mistakes, So Little Political Capital

For a time, Peter Hain was at the center of Northern Ireland's politics, working day and night to bring the DUP and Sinn Fein to the bargaining table and then, into Stormont.

Apparently, that would be the last thing that he did properly.

Awarded the plum cabinet post of Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, and Secretary of State for Wales, Mr. Hain appeared to be riding high on the pig's back after he left Northern Ireland. Last week, Mr. Hain resigned amidst allegations of shady dealings and questionable donations.

An innocent mistake, according to Mr. Hain, to accept over one hundred thousand pounds in campaign donations and not declare it. Besides, there's all sorts of strange goings-on regarding Labour and proxy donations, so it's not as if he's the only one engaging in illegal funding. Before long, however, the excuses ran out. For the good of the Labour Party, Mr. Hain fell on his political sword and left his post.

His ignominy is not yet complete. Now the Law Lords have decreed that Mr. Hain's decision to appoint two members of the Orange Order to a commission that was meant to regulate the Orange Order's sectarian parades was not the sort of thing a reasonable person would have done. In other words, Mr. Hain was a feckin' eejit.

There are now two openings on the Parade Commission to be filled. The Orange Order would prefer that the commission be abolished completely, as they don't like anyone telling them where they can spew their bigotry since they've been at it for hundreds of years and they like things the way they are. Residents of Portadown's Garvaghy Road, a Catholic area, were never invited to join the commission by Mr. Hain and would appreciate a bid this time around.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Criminal Part Of The Assets

The Criminal Assets Bureau has intentions of selling John Gilligan's assets, but he doesn't see why.

He didn't kill Veronica Guerin, so why has the Jessbrook Equestrian Center been confiscated by the government? The former drug kingpin has been in court, fighting against the loss of both his beloved horse farm and his other real estate holdings. For an hour, he argued in the High Court that since he didn't pull the trigger, or have anything else whatsoever to do with Ms. Guerin's death, he shouldn't have to suffer.

The problem is, Mr. Gilligan isn't facing the confiscation of his property because of his purported involvement in the murder. He was convicted of drug trafficking, a punishable offense, and his punishment is to have the government take back his ill gotten gains. CAB wants his former possessions because they were paid for by profits generated by illegally selling drugs.

Mr. Justice Feeney tried to keep Mr. Gilligan on track, to tell the court why a receiver should not be appointed to unload Jessbrook and the Lucan homes. The Guerin murder has nothing to do with the matter at hand.

A terrible thing it was, that murder, and on that everyone agrees. As for the drug dealing aspect, Mr. Gilligan would like the court to know that he doesn't own anything at all these days. Jessbrook is in his ex-wife's name, you see, and those houses in Lucan aren't really his either. It was a mistake, made by a bumbling solicitor.

Mr. Gilligan's offspring bought those houses, although daddy helped out. He only wanted his solicitor to work things out so that any financial finagling by the kiddies would be brought to Mr. Gilligan's attention. That explains why John Gilligan's name appears on legal documents of property conveyance, you see? The son was a junkie and the son-in-law was a crook, so any right-thinking father would want to know ahead of time if they were taking advantage of his largesse.

Is there no honesty among thieves, he might have asked. In reply, the court might then ask Mr. Gilligan what part of criminal assets he doesn't understand.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Delaying His Departure

When a man says he has no money, and then manages to pay off $3.5 million in debt, a judge would have to presume that said gentleman may be a liar. Under such a presumption, Mr. Tony Rezko was deposited in jail.

He had told Judge Amy St. Eve that he was skint. Not a flight risk, no Your Honor, as there's not a penny in the kitty to pay for the airfare back to Syria. That's Syria in the Middle East, where the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty and fugitives on the run can easily escape justice.

The money in question was wired from Lebanon to Mr. Rezko's attorneys. From there, the funds were distributed among the many friends of Rezko who had put up cash to bail the lad out of jail while he awaited trial. How thoughtful, the prosecutors noted, since that meant that those who had put up their homes as collateral would no longer stand to lose out should Mr. Rezko make for Syria.

Who was so generous to Mr. Rezko in his time of need? The prosecutors believe that Mr. Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire, funneled the money through one of his companies in Beirut. Mr. Auchi is not unknown to Mr. Rezko, either, having invested in a Chicago real estate investment scheme with Mr. Rezko.

There's the key to the wire transfer, Mr. Rezko's attorneys said. It's a loan, tied to that same sixty-two acre development. Yes, but Mr. Rezko said he didn't have access to overseas funds, you see, and the judge's memory is not so short as that.

An Iraqi billionaire comes to his aid, and you have to wonder if the war in Iraq is hurting or helping Mr. Auchi's business interests. The Clintons will take it a step further and suggest that Barack Obama's stand on the war is a product of a long association with Tony Rezko and Mr. Rezko's indebtedness to Mr. Auchi.

That's the point of bringing up Tony Rezko in the first place. After all, why go to all the bother if you can't stir up a great huge cauldron of steaming doubt amongst the voting public?

Monday, January 28, 2008

First Life Intrudes

Those who lack a life have discovered Second Life, a virtual world that lets them be who or whatever they please. Imaginary beings can traverse through fiction and the real person behind the avatar can pretend to a more enjoyable or more daring lifestyle.

As an avatar, you the sexually repressed bookworm could become an exotic dancer with a voluptuous figure that puts the lie to your own lack of curves. You could be an animated vole, six feet tall, or your could be a gentle little bunny rabbit hopping through Second Life's animated scenery.

You, the avatar, could be stupid enough to fall for a Ponzi scheme that you, the real person, will have to pay for. In Second Life, the First Life has reared up and declared its presence.

Ginko Financial exists, or it used to at any rate, as a bank for avatars in Second Life. The problem arose when Ginko Financial accepted cash from the first life, with a promise to turn that money into profits of 40%.

In the real world, you'd walk away, knowing that if something sounds too good to be true, it isn't. Not so in Second Life, where everyone is your friend and no one would stoop so low as to defraud a bunch of innocent playmakers. Several people were scammed by Ginko Financial, to the tune of $75,000 in first life money.

So what did Second Life's creator do? Linden Lab promptly shut down the bank system, sending Second Life avatars into crisis. The little avatars protested in their fictional world, while those who lost some real cash learned that no one really knows who Ginko Financial is in the real world, and there's precious little hope of finding the missing funds.

I sense the need of some virtual contractors in Second Life. Someone to take on a job, take the deposit, and then disappear into cyberspace. Wouldn't that make Second Life just that much more like the real world the rest of us live in?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

How They Get The Fig Out

How do they get the fig in Jacob's Fig Rolls?

They've been making their biscuits in Tallaght for thirty years, and for thirty years, they've toyed with us. How do they get the fig in those tasty biscuits?

Jacob's has been a fixture in Ireland for over one hundred years. Their range of products was considered high quality, the sort of thing you'd serve to important guests while the little chislers got the cheap goods. If you want to give yourself a treat, buy a tin of their Afternoon Tea assortment and enjoy.

The manufacturing plant in Tallaght is set to close for good within a year. The twenty acre site where the factory sits is now in an area ripe for redevelopment. It makes economic sense to outsource production and sell the land, reaping the rewards of owning a parcel while the city grew up around it and the land grew in value.

There's more than mere real estate speculation in the decision to close the plant. Jacob's can manufacture their sweet nuggets of sugary pleasure for less money elsewhere. The cost of labor is high in Ireland, and there are plenty of other places to go that supply a work force willing to take less per hour.

What will be left in Tallaght? Administrative offices will remain, to provide sales and marketing and finance to the outsourced operations. They plan to do research and development there, always in a hunt for new products and innovations to make existing biscuits better.

The 220 biscuit bakers made redundant will get training for other jobs, but you can't turn an assembly line worker into a computer programmer in a few weeks time. Chances are, many of those who lose their jobs may never find another.

It's been said that the Jacob brothers, heeding their Quaker faith, founded their biscuit bakery in 1850 to help the starving Irish Catholics during the potato famine. Now that charity is being taken elsewhere, to provide employment to another population in need of work. Do you imagine that the people working at the Jacob's facility in 1850 England were up in arms over the outsourcing?

Friday, January 25, 2008

No Catholics Need Apply

It's all peace and harmony in Northern Ireland since 1998, when the Good Friday agreement was signed. Hillary Clinton's gotten the backing of several Irish politicians for the role that Bill played in bringing the Provies and the Protties together.

Pity that no one thought to tell the UDA about the peace. They managed to get a couple of Catholic hotel managers sacked on the grounds of religion in 2005, long after sectarianism was declared dead.

Days Hotel in Belfast is within stone-throwing distance of Sandy Row, where Catholics most definitely do not tread. Riccardo Cafolla and Stephen Mooney worked as managers of the hotel, and you'd think that a man's religion would have nothing to do with his job managing a hotel. The Ulster Defense crew thought differently.

Hotel managers have to discipline staff on occasion, and on at least one occasion, the slacker was Protestant and he or she went on to complain to the UDA about the treatment. How dare a Papist criticize a Free Presbyterian?

A rumor was spread that the Catholic general manager was out to cleanse the hotel of all Protestants, and the next thing the hotel owners knew, their place of business was targeted. That sort of thing being bad for business, Andras House Ltd. decided to get rid of its Catholic managers, thereby appeasing the UDA and putting an end to the attacks. Brilliant solution, is it not?

As it turns out, it wasn't a good idea at all. The Fair Employment Tribunal has ordered Andras House Ltd., owners of Days Hotel, to compensate Mr. Carolla and Mr. Mooney. The tribunal pointed out that it was unjustified to fire the Catholic managers rather than the Protestant employee who was making all the trouble. Putting an end to one employee's vendetta was not grounds for dismissal.

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have been on the road, hoping to drum up business for Northern Ireland. Sectarianism, unfortunately, is not good for business.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Salvation At Hand

"In a country where the written word is slowly dying, Indiana is the state where they will draw a chalk line around the corpse."

So says fellow blogger Mr. Termineus, a native of Indiana. Yet there is a light at the end of that dark, dark tunnel. It is the inviting glow of iUniverse.

Not dead yet, the written word in Indiana. Bertram Capital, the owner of Author Solutions, Inc., parent of iUniverse and AuthorHouse, has looked at Bloomington, Indiana, and found their new home. If it suits the likes of John Mellenkamp, it'll do for the expanding vanity press.

Folks in Bloomington are pleased to learn that there will be a few new jobs coming to town, when they might have feared the loss of employment. Last September, iUniverse merged with Bloomington's AuthorHouse, to make a vanity press juggernaut that can boast of printing one of every seventeen titles in 2007. That's a great deal of vanity, and there's money in it.

The move to Bloomington will be Lincoln, Nebraska's loss, however. Current iUniverse cornhuskers will have the option to move and become hoosiers, but if you've been to Indiana you'd know that's not a step up.

Come to think of it, this boon for Bloomington won't do a thing for the fine art of reading. AuthorHouse churns out whatever drivel is handed in. They don't make money off of the reading public; their profits come from authors who have a dream of success that is not based on real publishing.

Where's my chalk?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Niche That Doesn't Need Filling

There are times when vanity publishing it the way to go. Your book might be so specifically targeted to a small market that it would make sense to do it yourself.

Then again, it's possible that the book you think has a market doesn't have a market at all.

Kendall Svengalis thought that the world needed a photographic memory book of Gary, Indiana. It used to be a booming metropolis at one time, when steel was still made there. Clearly that would be a niche book, appealing to Gary residents both past and present -- a situation calling for self-publishing.

He compiled a 450 page behemoth because he wanted every single picture to be immortalized. No cutting, no editing down to a manageable size. This was to be a coffee table book, after all, and that's where you want your substantial tome to reside for all the neighbors to see.

Gary, Indiana: A Centennial Celebration not only weighed in heavily, it had a price tag to match. Pictures are costly to reproduce, and the big book came in at $50 per copy. A high price for Gary residents to pay, no matter how complete the coverage might be.

The book is not selling through. It's expensive, and it isn't getting much publicity. That's the problem with vanity presses, you have to push the book yourself and it's not easy to do. So far, Mr. Svengalis has sold 2,000 out of his 4,000 print run, and it would appear that he'll be stuck with the remainder.

He tried to get the local high school students to help sell the book, but they're not interested, despite the fact that the author was willing to donate his proceeds to the school.

Mr. Svengalis realizes that the current residents of Gary can't afford his book. They're lucky to have enough food on the table, given the current economic malaise that envelops the town.

The book was put together out of love for a town that no longer exists. Sadly, only 2,000 people care to re-visit the past, and Mr. Svengalis must make room in his garage for $100,000 worth of unwanted copies.

Running Down The Celtic Tiger

There was a time, and not so long ago, that car ownership in Ireland was not universal. There was a time, within living memory, when the central heating consisted of a small stove in the middle of the house.

Back in the good old days, much less CO2 was sent off into the atmosphere. The time is fast approaching when those good old days will return.

The European Union is determined to cut CO2 emissions, and they're starting with the richer countries first. Thanks to the Celtic Tiger, Ireland has moved up to the head of the line.

Somehow or other, by 2020, Ireland will have to generate 14% more renewable energy than at present. At the same time, carbon emissions will have to drop by 20% as compared to levels generated three years ago. Is the technology there? That's not the EU Commission's problem, now, is it?

The final bill for Ireland should work out to around EU1 billion. Per year. What's in your wallet? It won't be there much longer.

Sure it sounds dreadful, but the numbers have been crunched and the EU Commission has warned that those who use electricity and gas will end up paying even more if nothing is done. Due to climate change, they claim, but they've hedged their bets and put down some of the increases to basic economics. Good old supply and demand, wouldn't you know, and isn't it just like the Chinese and Indians to go and use up our oil? And they're not signing on to the Kyoto Accord, so what do they care?

Everyone in Ireland must change their lifestyle. Stop driving and go back to the bicycle. Pull out the furnace and go back to the cozy peat fire. Light up the paraffin oil lamps and decrease electricity usage.

What about all the businesses that use lots of energy? The government will adjust things accordingly. Wouldn't want them pulling up stakes and going over to China and India to make their steel and cement and such. in countries that won't limit energy consumption.

There's talk of building up in Dublin, constructing skyscrapers to curtail urban sprawl. People will take the stairs, of course, because running an elevator would be cost-prohibitive.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Something In The Water

James O'Shea was a Tribune loyalist, a man sent out to the L.A. Times to bring the recalcitrants to heel.

Sure there's something in the water out there, because Mr. O'Shea bit the hand that fed him and has now been "let go" as they say when someone gets the sack but it's meant to sound like a mutual agreement to part.

Rein in costs, cut the budget in the newsroom, he was told. Instead, he lambastes the Tribune Company for being short-sighted when it comes to the newspaper industry. There's no fat to trim, he discovered, because the L.A. Times was already lean.

How about covering some serious news, Mr. O'Shea has suggested in his closing remarks. News analysis and reportage costs money, his superiors realize. You have to pay reporters while they do research, and where's the advertising revenue in that?

How about giving readers more for their money, Mr. O'Shea suggested, and he re-worked the weekend magazine section and added a bit of fluff for the ladies. Revenues went up. Apparently not enough for Mr. O'Shea's boss, however.

Sam Zell has just bought the Tribune Company, and he's taken a hands-off approach. Makes sense, in that he knows fuck all about the newspaper game. He knows financials and cash flow, while the journalists know how to get the story and how to get it to print.

What the journalists forget is that the newspaper is not the only game in town when it comes to the Tribune Company. The Super Bowl is coming up, and there's high-priced advertising costs to be met. When Mr. O'Shea watches the commercials for and, he will know where Tribune Co.'s priorities lie.

Sixty seconds worth of amusing advertising, or a few more journalists on staff? Which is the better investment?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Please To Step Aside

A man has dreams, he has ambitions, but Enda Kenny can't get where he wants to be. Bertie Ahern is blocking the road to glory, refusing to budge.

With the Mahon Tribunal looking into the financial wheelings and dealings of An Taoiseach, and finding some hinky transactions, Enda Kenny has been front and center, demanding that Bertie Ahern step down at once.....and maybe give the younger lad a chance for once, will yaz, Jaysus....

Voters didn't want the Fine Gael/Labour coalition at the last election, so Mr. Kenny's dream of being the leader of Ireland was dashed. He jumped up and down with excitement when the testimony given at the Tribunal painted Mr. Ahern as a shady character, but still, no one seemed to care about Enda Kenny's vision.

So if the road to the Taoiseach's office is blocked, then Mr. Kenny has determined to go around. Now he's telling Mr. Ahern's coterie of ministers that they really shouldn't be sitting in government with the likes of him, the non-tax-compliant politician.

Be ministers of courage, Mr. Kenny declares, and tell your mate to clear out. Not for the sake of Enda Kenny, but for the good of our beloved nation.

Fine Gael, headed by the same Enda Kenny, has filed a formal complaint with the Standards in Public Office commission, to get them to hound Bertie Ahern and somehow prove that the man isn't tax compliant because he's taken money under the table.

But please don't bring up the source of the five thousand pounds that was lodged in Mr. Ahern's Irish Permanent account back in 1994. It was a gift, it's been said, from his dying mother, and that's the sort of news that generates a favorable backlash for himself and makes Enda Kenny look like a whinger, rather than the next Prime Minister.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Reminder Of Subjectivity

I started off the New Year with a new query and a new round of submissions. Nothing big, just six or seven letters to test the strength of the fresh hook.

Within five days, I had a request for a full manuscript.

From the same round of queries, I received a form rejection from Cara Krenn at Kneerim & Williams. She's taken over for Melissa Grella, who has gone on to better things than reading slush piles in a Boston law office.

Same query. Two different outcomes.

Something appealed to one agent and not another. One agent was looking for new clients and one had a full roster.

Yes, it is indeed a highly subjective business. That's what keeps you going when a normal person would have hung it up long ago.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Let Them Know His Name

Paul Gordon served eight years for killing his father. He's been ostracized by the community for the murder, but now he would like everyone to know why he did it.

Only by sitting in a cell could Mr. Gordon get his thoughts together. It was possibly the first time since he was nine years old that he was sober.

His father was a boozer and Mr. Gordon bore the brunt of the old man's tirades. An altogether wretched childhood, but that isn't the reason why Mr. Gordon ended his father's life.

Coming from a background of alcoholism and abuse, Paul Gordon was a vulnerable little boy, in need of an adult to look out for his welfare. In stepped Brother Gregory of the Marist Order, a predator who recognized an opportunity in the lost child.

Martin Meaney was known as Brother Gregory when he was a cleric, but he's laity now. He's about to serve some time, after being sentenced for the repeated sexual abuse of Paul Gordon. As a teacher in County Roscommon, the Marist Brother committed somewhere in the vicinity of 100 assaults, which earned him twelve years in prison back in 1992. He confessed to abusing the eight-year-old Gordon lad maybe twenty or thirty times in the mid-1970's when Mr. Meaney was teaching at a school in Sligo.

Mr. Meaney is the third Brother from the Sligo school to be charged with indecent assault. He readily admitted in court that he selected the unloved and the uncared for, the weak little lads who were vulnerable to his cynical sympathy. He apologized to Mr. Gordon, thirty-five years too late.

Paul Gordon would like everyone to know that he killed his father for a variety of reasons. The fact that his father took money from another Marist Brother to turn a blind eye to the abuse that Mr. Gordon was enduring must have played a large part in Mr. Gordon's decision to put his father in the ground.

Sometimes you hear things like this and you nod your head, understanding completely how a man could be driven to commit patricide.

Give My Regards To Broadway

The Walgreen Company is pleased to announce their return to Times Square.

They were there before, during the Great Depression. Expect Wall Street to take note and fly into a panic. The markets are driven entirely by emotion.

Besides opening up a two-level shop to sell their drugs and sundries, Walgreen's will construct the biggest video screen ever on Times Square, to promote their new digs and make a bit of money on advertising revenue.

Thousands of tourists flock to Times Square every day, and they'll need plasters for their blisters and aspirins for their headaches. Walgreen's will be there, ready to add to their already robust bottom line.

Don't expect Estelle Walgreen to be in attendance for the grand opening. Like many a divorced woman, she has experienced an economic downturn from her former days as the spouse of a drug store magnate. Her Lake Forest home can be had at auction, for the bargain price of one million and change. Where she and her pot-bellied pigs will go is unknown, but the neighbors are happy that the infamous pigs will finally depart.

Due to some bad investments, she lost a great deal of her divorce settlement and is falling on hard times. Perhaps she should have invested in Walgreen Co. stock instead.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Be A Patriot -- Buy More Stuff

The President and Congress would like to stimulate the economy, which is showing signs of flagging.

In an unusual move, both the White House and Congress agree on something. People need more money to get the economy moving.

The cost of filling the car's gas tank has shot up, and it's not like you can just keep spending more money that you don't have. Unlike the denizens of Washington, D.C., of course, who spend without having to look at the bottom line.

There are so many houses on the market that there's no demand for new construction. No new construction means a down-turn in the appliance industry. The carpet mills slow up production, the paint manufacturers lay off workers, and it goes on down the line.

To help you do your patriotic duty, the government would like to give you a break. You get to pay less in taxes, meaning more money in your pocket, and you take that windfall and buy some stuff.

Cash infusions like that suggested will work. The problem is, Congress won't cut back on their own spending in the face of a decrease in revenues. For a brief moment, the economy can be jolted back on track, but at the cost of more borrowing. The deficit will balloon a little more, and sooner or later, the bill will come due.

By all means, cut our taxes. But don't keep spending money that you don't have.

Ballpark Figures

You'd never let a plumber touch your pipes without getting an estimate first. Chances are, you'd call in a few other plumbers to take a look and give you a figure, so that you could maybe save a few euros.

All the trades work the same way. The carpenter, the lawn service, they're all fully prepared to give you a rough idea of how much a project will cost.

But if you needed legal advice, you'd never think to ask the barrister how much he was going to charge you, would you?

A professional is expected to be honest when it comes to billing. The itemized list that you get after your case is settled will be lengthy, detailing every single minute that your barrister put into settling your difficulty. When he or she spoke to you for five minutes on the phone, when he or she had a letter or brief prepared, and possibly when he or she had a cup of tea with you in the office to discuss strategy.

Imagine getting an estimate before taking on legal counsel. Sounds ridiculous, when you consider how unpredictable a lawsuit could be. Lovely estimate, thanks very much, but how close to reality is it and how many adjustments will be made before the case is settled?

Ireland has decided that barristers must provide estimates to their clients, in a bid to lower prices and increase competition. The problem is, there's too much competition already because of the glut of lawyers hitting the market, which has encouraged junior barristers to undercut their stodgy old seniors in a bid to win some business.

Needless to say, the freshly minted lawyers are thrilled with the new ruling, because their potential clients will know straight off that the legal rookies cost less to hire. Unless you're in need of a prominent criminal defense counsel, you'd settle for the cheaper barrister in your run-of-the-mill action.

There was a time when the law was a gentleman's business. Now they're reduced to the level of a common tradesman. That ought to reduce the number of law school entrants.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dishonored To Be Honored

You're brilliant, Fionnula Flanagan. You've done Ireland proud. The US-Ireland Alliance would like to honor your contributions.

Thanks, she says, I'll be honored to attend the pre-Academy Awards party next month.

Over time, however, things change, and Ms. Flanagan will not be attending the party after all.

What could have happened to cause a complete reversal? Another appointment, something more pressing?

Actually, no. It's because of Trina Vargo, the president of the US-Ireland Alliance. Trina and her outspoken letter to the Irish Times, to be more accurate.

Ms. Vargo put in her two cents about the illegal Irish lobby, which is hoping for personalized legislation that would make it possible for the Irish to come out from hiding in the U.S. Their situation would become normalized, and let all the other ethnic groups hammer out their own arrangements.

In her letter, Ms. Vargo criticized the notion that the Irish were somehow special and deserved a unique deal for them alone, as if they were barging to the head of the queue like V.I.P.s. Niall O'Dowd, who chairs the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, took exception to Ms. Vargo's thesis and a war of words sprang up. The fuss has yet to die down, as one would expect in an issue so emotionally charged.

Ms. Flanagan has taken Mr. O'Dowd's side in the argument. The famed actress wouldn't mind if the Irish got preferential treatment so that they could go home for the weddings and funerals that they have to miss now. With that in mind, she'll not be at the party, lest someone think she's in agreement with Ms. Vargo, who wants the whole legalized immigrant cake and not just the Irish slice.

The Alliance will have to party on without the guest of honor. But if the writers are still on strike, there won't be any Academy Awards Ceremony anyway, and what's the point of a party before an event that isn't happening?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Hard-Earned Lesson

Citi has just written off $18.1 billion in bad loans. No wonder that they had to go begging, on their knees to the oil potentates. That money had to be paid back to the people who had invested it in Citi with an eye to making a bit of interest. The big bank didn't have an option to go back to its clients and say, sorry, we lost it.

Don't go pulling your money out of our bank just yet, Gary Crittenden has implied. We've learned our lesson and we're taking steps to not get so deep in the hole again.

We've learned that it is bad business to loan money to people who are obviously too poor to pay it back. Who would have guessed, right? All along, we thought that extending credit to folks who were maxing out their credit cards was a good thing, and it turns out, it wasn't.

Sure we should have listened to our grandparents when they told us not to throw good money after bad. We're listening now, aren't we? No more easy credit.

Now, people like certain bloggers who shall remain nameless have good credit histories, and we're sending out e-mail offers to people like them. Get a lower rate, transfer your balances, we'll give you credit. We like you. You pay your bills. You are what used to be called a good risk.

John Garvey of PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken note. Citigroup has a "keen eye on the balance sheet" as they issue credit. Yes indeed, Citigroup has finally noticed that red ink is not an attractive hue on the bottom line.

They won't be making any sub-prime mortgages any time soon, even though those financials looked so good on paper. People with good credit were only paying 5%, while the sub-primers were scraping together 9%. Mathematically it was a no-brainer, except someone forgot to calculate the effect of those loans not getting paid back. Citi took a while to catch on, but they're not going to fall into that trap again. They've learned that if borrowers can't pay back the loan, the bank is left holding the bag.

Makes you wonder what they're teaching at the business schools. Common Sense 101 must have been dropped from the course offerings.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ou Est Rue LaSalle

S'il vous plais, Monsieur Gendarme, ou est le salon de justice?

The French court has come to Chicago to conduct a trial. A French judge, representatives of the French Embassy, and French police officials are in town and they've set up shop at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building.

There's a Notre Dame in Chicago, if they have a hankering to attend Mass. It was built by French settlers on Chicago's west side, back when that part of town was prairie and farm. Should the visitors need more, they can lay a wreath at Wolf Point on the Chicago River, to honor Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Chicago's first non-native settler. Granted, he was Haitian, but Haiti was once a French colony.

Father Jacques Marquette and the explorer Louis Jolliet once trod on Chicago's turf. The French court officials could swing by the Marquette Building, which is located near LaSalle Street. The landmark structure's lobby is decorated with mosaic panels, designed by Louis Tiffany, that depict scenes of the Jesuit himself as the first French tourist to visit Illinois.

Having been made comfortably at home, reminded of Chicago's French past, the judge can get down to the business of deciding if Hans Peterson can be tried for murder.

Hans Peterson was living in Chicago when he brutally murdered dermatologist David Cornbleet. Since he had dual citizenship thanks to his mother, Mr. Peterson quickly high-tailed it to Guadaloupe where the long arm of the law couldn't touch him. Can't extradite a French citizen back to America, you see, because the wicked Yanks have a death penalty for capital murder and that's not allowed.

On the other hand, the French can't very well let a confessed killer go free. What to do?

Yesterday, a French judge interviewed witnesses and reviewed evidence, to determine if Mr. Peterson can be tried in a French court for the murder he committed in Chicago. Dr. Cornbleet's family was told that, under French law, Mr. Peterson would serve 22 years and then be eligible for parole. In the U.S., the same crime would have resulted in life. Any wonder, then, that Mr. Peterson told his French handlers that he doesn't want to be tried in America?

Bienvenu au Chicago, Your Honor. How about a little justice? It's better than nothing, which is what the Cornbleet family has now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

For The Troops

Morale would suffer at HM Riverdeep Harcourt Educational Materials Publishing Group Minnowish Whale if everyone from Harcourt were given the sack. Any good commander knows that morale is everything when going to war. Harcourt's Jennifer Haller has been retained in the children's division, to lead her team in the Harcourt manner, to speak Harcourtese as she rallies her troops for the coming battle.

Irish history is replete with tales of warriors, of great fights waged against impossible odds. Ninety years ago, the Cork Flying Columns struck fear in the hearts of those in favor of the treaty that gave the Six Counties to England and led to the partition of the island. Barry O'Callaghan will have the Cork Flying Columns in his heart as he faces the first big competition war, and wouldn't you know but it's the Brits again.

Macmillan UK has shaken up their education unit. Julian Drinkall will have his fingers on all the buttons in his Oxford office, directing Macmillan Education International. It's a coordinated strategy he's after, and it's educational publishing that's his game. Digital educational materials publishing.

No partition treaty, not for a man from Cork. He wants all the educational materials business, not part of the publishing island.

Time to re-label the sales staff. You're now the HHM Flying Columns. Go sell and show Macmillan UK no mercy.

Ted Fest Returns

Sorry to report that it's sold out already.

This year's Father Ted festival has been extended to a full week, following a wildly successful debut last year. If you don't have your tickets already, you're out of luck. The fest was sold out in half an hour.

Once again, the island of Inis Mor will become Craggy Island for a full week beginning on February 25. In addition, Kilfenora village in county Clare will tout its relationship to the Father Ted comedy series. Several locations in the west Ireland town were used for the show, including the community hall where a special evening is planned.

The Lovely Girls contest will again be featured, as will the ever popular Song For Europe competition.

Let's not forget the World's Biggest Cup of Tea, due to be poured on Inis Mor. Do you want a cup of tea? Ah, go on. Go on, go on, go on.

Come On And Take A Free Ride

"It is the right thing to do to give your grandmother a free ride on a bus" says Illinois's Rod Blagojevich.

Not that he expects you to personally come up with the $90 it costs granny every year to get her reduced fair unlimited ride pass. In Illinois, charity most definitely does not begin at home.

What if your grandfather is a partner in a law firm, lives in Kenilworth, and drives a Lexus? He deserves free rides on the Metra trains, doesn't he? Why should he have to dip into his savings to come up with the cash for his daily commute to the office? And why should you have to buy the old man his rail pass? Isn't that up to the government?

When a politician swears to never raise sales taxes, and it's either eliminate expensive cronyism or raise taxes, you know the taxes are going up. Chicago's mass transit authority is known for wasting money on friends of friends. A pricey piece of real estate was sold to a friend of a friend for $1. Is it any wonder that there's not enough money to pay for the buses?

Wrap a tax increase in an emotional appeal and it can't fail. Problem is, Illinois voters aren't so stupid as that. They see the "free rides for seniors" program as the cynical political manipulation that it is.

Nothing is free. Someone is going to pay for granny's free rides, and it will be everyone who buys anything in the Chicago area. Sorry I can't help you out. I drive up to Wisconsin to shop.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Price of Failure

You had your chance, Macy Headquarters in Minneapolis. Turn things around, increase sales, prove your usefulness. And what happens? Sales fall in the North Sector. You're fired.

As Terry Lundgren continues to re-invent the department store, customers continue to stay away from Macy's. Particularly in Chicago, where Marshall Field and Company once held sway, holiday sales did not meet expectations. Someone has to be made to pay for this fiasco, and it won't be the man who eliminated the Field's name and earned the disdain of loyal Chicago shoppers. Better by far to get rid of the people in Minneapolis.

The wine shops are to be shuttered, along with the food courts. Without people to buy the items, there's no point in paying folks to stand around not selling. Better altogether to have only as many sales staff as sales income can pay for. Sales go down, so staffing must follow.

All those former Field's employees who make big salaries are being enticed to leave. Chances are, they're pining for the good old days and not promoting Macy's as the department store of the future. In a further effort to cut costs, Macy's has shut down the stores where sales are so dismal that there's no point in opening the doors any more. Consolidate departments. Cut costs. Slash. Burn. How better to build a national brand?

At this rate, there will be no employees on the sales floor and Macy's few remaining stores will be entirely self-service. Is this Mr. Lundgren's notion of the department store of the future?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Minnow's Shout

After someone else has bought a round, it's your shout. Thus far, Davy Stockbrokers and Credit Suisse have ponied up to cover Barry O'Callaghan's tab. Now he's declared that it's his turn to buy and he's opened up his wallet.

Forty million of his own personal dollars will be invested, to help cover the cost of buying up Harcourt Education. It's a considerable portion of the $4 billion price tag, and it will have to give some reassurance to Davy's clients. Himself is buying in, they've said, and isn't your money safe in such a scheme as this? Would a man kick in that much money unless he planned to get it back later?

By merging with Harcourt, HM Riverdeep is planning to save $300 million on operations. Judging by the number of high-salaried suits that have left the Harcourt side, you'd have to agree that there is some savings to be had. Whether or not $300 million is a reachable goal remains to be seen.

Davy's clients are being told that they could double their money in two years time, what with the whale-like Education Media Publishing Group planning to turn a profit in short order. A yield of 11% by 2009 has been touted, and that's after the annual interest on the loans has been paid.

Mr. O'Callaghan's investment may not be for the long term. He could sell his shares at some point in the future and count up the profit while relaxing on a sunny beach in Spain. For now, however, his dream of an educational materials publisher has to work according to plan, or he'll stand to lose $40 million.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Play Big

Arms wide, legs apart, the coach used to yell. Play big. Expand the area you take up and intimidate the other players.

HM Riverdeep is playing big these days, intimidating any and all educational publishing players. McGraw-Hill has been the first to flinch.

According to Harold McGraw, the third of that name, the company is well-positioned to capitalize on the long-term trends driving global economic growth. Doesn't the globe need knowledge, and isn't McGraw-Hill the company to deliver it? With that in mind, they've made plans to sack about 600 employees.

HM Riverdeep was created with an eye to the electronic future, where hard copies will lose out to computers. Houghton Mifflin saw it coming soon enough to get bought up by Barry O'Callaghan's little minnow of a firm that was steering a course towards the future of educational materials. The mighty McGraw-Hill, stodgy and set in its ways, may have moved too slowly and HM Riverdeep Harcourt Greenwood et al. passed them by.

McGraw-Hill realizes that it must go digital, but Barry O'Callaghan was already heading off in that direction. All well and good for McGraw to consolidate departments now, after HM Riverdeep Educational Media and what have you has already started streamlining operations. If Riverdeep gets its products into general use before McGraw-Hill develops some killer apps, it will be an uphill slog for McGraw-Hill to win market share.

600 people to be let go, mostly from the educational publishing component of McGraw-Hill. How many will lose their jobs as HM Riverdeep Harcourt and friends trim down to a fighting weight? Who will come out a lean, mean fighting machine, and who will wither away?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Got A Light?

Smoking is bad for your health. You can't light up a cigarette in the pub; you have to take it outside. And from this good intention springs love, along with even more smokers.

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae has observed a most alarming trend among the young in Kerry. They're taking up smoking, not quitting! It's the latest pick-up strategy, and it flies in the face of all the warnings about emphysema and cancer and heart disease.

Say there's a young lady you've your eye on, but try to get within ten feet of her and she's surrounded by her posse. Ah, but there she goes out to the back for a fag and what would the smart young fella do? Go right on out after her and offer to light her ciggie while you're lighting yours. Ice-breaker, yes? While the smoke curls round your head, you get four or five minutes of conversation and a possible relationship that couldn't happen if you didn't take a puff or two.

What does the Tobacco Control office say about this dreadful turn of events? Sure and the ban was meant to protect pub workers, they say, and we don't care if anyone quits smoking at all, at all.

One wonders if the tobacco police are to be found out in the back, trying to pick up girls.

The Bailiffs Are Come

Straight out of Victorian novels, the bailiffs have returned to do their nasty work. What a cold and heartless plot device it was, to show humiliation and degradation and utter embarrassment. All the neighbors, gathering about, watching one's possessions being claimed for unpaid debts. Who would have guessed that there are still bailiffs out there, doing the same task as was written up all those many years ago?

Disgraced solicitors Thomas Byrne and Michael Lynn have provided fodder for the modern novelist who would like to tackle the topic of getting in over one's head. Charles Dickens made a living at that sort of subject. David Copperfield is ready for a modern makeover, if you're up to the task of writing the story.

The Dublin city sheriff (bailiff has such a negative term in Ireland, what with the history of evictions and such) raided Mr. Byrne's flat and Mr. Lynn's home, coming away with various items of value. No Ming vases in this era, but the sheriff did recover a plasma television and cases of French wine.

Knowing what was coming, the solicitors had already absconded with all that was portable, leaving the sheriff with little for his efforts. All the "goods and chattels" that remained were some appliances, some furniture and mirrors. The sheriff left the "matrimonial bed" because second hand beds are worth less than the cost to remove them. One would assume that the Mrs. Disgraced Solicitors were taken into consideration, as they would still need a place to sleep, albeit alone.

What was confiscated will be sold at auction, but the banks that are holding over EU127 million in bad loans won't get much back on the sale. Their best hope of recouping some of the loss lies in the property that they are reclaiming and putting up for sale.

Oh, and if you're re-writing the Dickens classic? Remember that there are no debtors prisons any more. It's just regular, ordinary prison. If the debtor gets caught, that is.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An Interesting Development

What is Ireland about? Democracy? Advancement? Lap dancing?

John Sullivan of Whispers Entertainment has sought an answer to his heart-felt query. He'd very much like a lap dancing club to open in Kilkenny, all in an effort to pursue the glory of democracy and advancement. And let's not forget the rights of women to nudity and physical exercise while unclothed. Surely the ladies are entitled to pursue that right, and get paid for it as well?

It's the small minds of the Kilkenny Borough Council who are trying to stop Whispers from opening their club. They've struggled to find a legal challenge, reaching across party lines to come up with a binding rule that would keep lap dancing out of Kilkenny.

Now it's in An Bord Pleanala's lap, so to speak. If this board says that a new lap dancing club constitutes a "development", then Whispers has to apply for planning permission. Fat chance they'd get that.

While the definition of development is parsed, the council will ask Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan to whip up some new legislation to bar the lap dancing club. Time is running out, because the Kilkenny District Court is due to make a ruling today on Whispers Entertainment's earlier request for a license transfer.

If Judge William Harnett decides that Whispers can transfer its pub license to a club license, there'll be lap dancing in Kilkenny. When that happens, you can count on the army of mammies and grannies to be out in front, protesting and shaming any lad who dares to approach the front door.

Didn't they shut down Stringfellow's lap dancing club in Dublin after six months? Never underestimate the power of an Irish woman wielding a cudgel of Catholic guilt.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Be Your Own Agent

Here's an opportunity for you to get your foot a little deeper past the door.

In an attempt to job the system, you've landed a position as an assistant to some literary agent, or you're doing an internship for the benefit of the contacts. Your plan is to become a bit more established so that you can rep your own manuscript. It's nearly impossible to get an agent to look at it, so why not sneak in through the back door?

Liza Dawson might be wanting you. She has an opening for someone who knows the assistant angle and has begun to develop their own stable of authors. Surely you meet the other qualification, that you're knowledgeable about some particular genre. It's the genre you write, of course.

Send her your particulars via e-mail. Compensation isn't the issue, so you don't care what she's paying. This is your chance to get your manuscript in the hands of the editors that will buy your novel. Once you've got the six figure advance, sure and you'll give notice. Step aside and let someone else get a ride on the literary gravy train.

The Saps Of Dublin 4

When one lives in Dublin 4, one does not experience the same sorts of discomforts that are visited on the less well-off. The same applies to trees. If they live in Dublin 4, they are expected to be good neighbors, or they will have to go.

The maple trees are exuding sap, to the consternation of the residents, and causing damage to car finishes and driveways. It's quite unacceptable, and the Dublin City Council must do something about it. Obviously, the simplest solution is to get rid of the offending trees. In the meantime, the Council must pay for the damage caused by the trees that they so carelessly installed.

If you park under a tree the leaves and sap will fall on your car, you great feckin' eejit, was implied by a Parks Department employee who didn't use those exact words but he was thinking along those lines. Live in a leafy suburb and you'll have to deal with leaves and berries falling. The City Council is not going to pay out for something that is naturally occurring and not a legitimate problem. And they're not cutting down the trees, either.

Councillor Sean Kenny (Labour) has picked up the anti-sap torch and has put his reputation on the line with a request that the council not plant sappy trees on the roadsides. A bold move on his part, considering the fact that the council already considers location before planting a tree.

Sap problem, wealthy resident of a high-end suburb? Wash your car.

Problem solved.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Separate But Inequal

Irish Travellers have their own traditions, which largely revolve around travelling. They're part of the Emerald Isle's scenery, wandering the roads in their caravans, being colorful for the tourists. Father MacGreil thinks they need their own schools to help them preserve their culture and banish discrimination of the travelling set.

Black folks in the U.S. should be able to relate to the concept. They had their own schools at one time, yet they failed to see the benefits. How many young men have been accused of acting white when they excel at their integrated school? It's the infusion of Caucasian culture that's the cause, and it wouldn't happen if children of color were attending schools that were segregated.

Conditions for the Travellers would improve if their children weren't in school with everyone else, according to Father MacGreil. If Travellers had their own separate but equal facilities, they could preserve their culture of grinding poverty and illiteracy in peace. While they are there, the rest of us would learn to respect Traveller culture and then, in the future, we could all just get along.

Look at how smoothly the Old South ran, when the black folks had their own place and knew enough to keep it. How much better it could be for the Travellers if Ireland were to take a page from Lester Maddox's playbook.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In A New Light

Let's dance in the streets for joy. Minister John Gormley has decided that the incandescent bulb is to be banned from Ireland. Everyone will be seen in a new light. The national carbon footprint will shrink by the length of a tiny toe.

Sorry, everyone back into your homes. This celebration is premature.

Ireland cannot arbitrarily ban incandescent bulbs because to do so would be illegal. Labour Senator Joanna Tuffy has castigated the hapless minister for not doing his homework, but the high rate of flicker of the fluorescent bulb could do that to a man. Hard to see when your brain is on the verge of seizing.

Ban the bulb in Ireland and there's nothing to stop a light bulb vendor from going elsewhere in the European Union to obtain them. As long as the old-fashioned energy guzzling bulbs are legal in other parts of Europe, Ireland can't up and do away with them.

Nice try. Close, again. Came up short, again. Yes, it is not very easy at all to be green when the neighbors won't cooperate.

Please Don't Share Information

Someone named Jess has commented on an old post but this is too interesting to bury where it belongs. Yet another friend of the WriteHigh Literary Agency has come forward with a glowing testimonial. Problem is, there's still not a word said about manuscripts sold by the agency.
Monique (of WriteHigh) is *my* client, and I believe you should know that the reason that she offers editing services is because that's what she did before she decided to become an agent. She's a full-service agency. I've never met a nicer person than Monique; she's caring, giving, and would never, ever try and 'scam' a client.

She's a lovely woman, I'm sure. She's not scamming, she's only trying to make a living. She means well. And isn't the road to hell smoothly paved with good intentions? Has she sold a manuscript to a publishing house that only accepts agented submissions?

I hope that, through real research into their business practices, you are able to write a more accurate (and maybe more flattering?) review of the agency, because it seems to me that your assessment isn't really constructive...Are you intentionally trying to harm a complete stranger by poorly reviewing their new agency and posting it on the internet without ever having had a personal interaction with anyone in the company?

Not trying to harm anyone at all, at all. Merely trying to protect the novice who's looking for an agent from paying for an editing service when they only wanted an agent to rep them. It's nothing personal. It's business.

If Jess had looked through the Absolute Write thread Bewares and Background Check, he/she would have learned that the repeated mantras of "Money flows to the writer" and "A good literary agent has sold books to places you've heard of" is entirely in keeping with my post on WriteHigh. A literary agent does not have to a scammer to be undesirable. It's all about the sales, not about the editing.
You really should think twice about posting criticism on the internet without having properly researched your facts. I think you'd be surprised at how detrimental it can be to a fledgling business owner.

I did the research on the WriteHigh website and found that no one who is represented by WriteHigh has a sold manuscript to their credit. I also did research at the AAR website, where you too could discover that literary agents offering paid editing services are engaged in a conflict of interest that the association frowns upon. Think of a board-certified plastic surgeon and the dermatologist who took a week-end course on rhinoplasty. Who would you see for a face-lift, so?
I'm sure you won't actually post this comment

Ah, darlin', it's front and center.
But still, please think about taking removing this post until you have more accurate information.

Has WriteHigh sold any manuscripts to agent-requiring publishing houses since the original post? Supply the information, Jess, and I'd be happy to post it. Until then, the warning stands. If you're looking for a literary agent, try AAR first.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Nobody Came

How embarrassing to throw a party and then no one comes. We were expecting seventy-five guests to our Global Campus, said University of Illinois President B. Joseph White. Only fifteen showed up.

Universities are reaching out to the non-traditional students, looking to attract those who might like to continue their education but who cannot get to campus and cannot take the time to go to university full time. Harness the power of the Internet, hitch it to the U of I, and anyone could get a degree.

As long as the degree they wished to acquire is a Bachelor's in nursing, that is. That's really a very practical offering on the surface, but limiting the degree choices to nursing or online education would seem to limit the potential audience.

This being Illinois, the program was not marketed until October, and this for coursework that would commence with the New Year. The education party was off to a bad start from the first.

Again, this being Illinois, the original concept was to run the Internet University at a profit, while the faculty who would do the actual teaching work were dead-set against it. As it stands now, tuition has to cover the costs and the program is supposed to break even. Hence, the disappointment when only fifteen people take advantage.

Thus far, U of I has invested $2.8 million on the Global Campus and they expect to sink $13 million in the program before it turns a profit, based on projections of future student population. What they may not have considered is the fact that tuition at the University of Illinois is outrageously expensive for a state school when compared to the likes of Iowa or Kansas. The very people that the U of I is trying to attract to the Global Campus can't afford to attend.

Maybe some friends of the boy governor who made money off of state contracts could be convinced to fund some scholarships for the needy?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Word Diet

After the holidays, you're feeling a bit larger than usual. Too much food that's high in fat and sugar and precious little nutrition has caused your waistband to shrink, and you've resolved this New Year to drop a few kilos.

Sure you could try some difficult to follow diet like Atkins or South Beach. You could swallow any and every get-thin-quick powder and pill. Or you could write.

Imagine the literary agent getting Julia Cameron's latest manuscript. What genre might this be? Stephen King's On Writing meets the dieting book. How could The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size possibly miss?

You're a writer yourself, aren't you? And being engaged in a solitary and sedentary occupation, you're battling the bulge. There's little time for writing, what with the need to make a living and all, so where are you to find a minute to spare for exercise?

Ms. Cameron has it all figured out. Sit down and write, and watch the pounds drop away.

Get so involved in your words that you don't have time to eat. What could be simpler, and so highly productive? It's possible to get down to a very svelte weight while composing a charming historical romance novel, so that by the time you're out on the book tour, you're more attractive and you'll sell more copies. Sell through and your next book deal will come with a bigger advance.

This is a can't miss approach to weight loss. How do you feel this morning? Write it down, instead of soothing the ache in your heart with a glazed donut. What are you thinking about after he walks out on you? Write it down, and skip the pint of ice cream that usually eased the pain. Suffering from writer's block? No indeed, you're thinking about food instead of words so sit down at the keyboard and express your inner emotions.

Other literary agents are no doubt groaning in anticipation. Once you've got all those feelings and angst written out, you'll be looking for a publisher, and the romance reps will be swamped with an even bigger pile of weepy slush.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Fish Or Cut Bait

Let it never be forgotten that it was Houghton Mifflin buying Harcourt, and not the other way around.

Hence, a Harcourt employee finds his way to the street. Dan Farley of Harcourt Trade will go, as there is no need of two presidents when one will do for the newly merged entity. The ladies of Houghton Mifflin will bump up against the glass ceiling, with Bridget Marmion (a fine Irish name, that) and Mia (any relation to Macho?) Camacho moving into vice presidential posts, while Laurie Brown is representing for Harcourt's turf. Don't want the newly acquired Harcourt folks thinking that they're all on the chopping block, as that is bad for morale and bad morale is bad for productivity.

The educational publishing whale has begun its swim towards profitability, combining departments and eliminating duplicate positions. The synergies are commencing, and Barry O'Callaghan has his eye fixed on the bottom line. That's what the all-important financial houses are observing closely.

Happy New Year -- Turn Off The Lights

Is environmental minister John Gormley's house in darkness today? Has he dialed down the thermostat to a temperature just about freezing? Time to get those greenhouse gas emissions down, Mr. Minister.

The Kyoto Protocol comes into effect today. Ireland must reduce its carbon footprint to a level that is 13% below the amount of carbon dumped into the air back in 1990. Where might the nation be today? Spewing 25% more than it did in 1990. Clearly there's a sizable carbon mountain to climb.

Damn the Budget for not including a levy on fossil fuels. The average citizens would then have had to pay a premium for their excessive usage, and how better to bring home the whole man-made global warming problem than to hit folks in the wallet? Too much worry about damaging the economy, taking a page from the non-Kyoto agreeing Yanks, and so Ireland will have to pay.

The people of Ireland will have to pay, actually, since the government gets its money from the taxes that the public provides. Don't reduce the gasses to Kyoto limits and Ireland will have to buy EU100 million in credits.

Who gets that EU100 million exactly? Who benefits from the Kyoto accord? The amount of carbon being dumped doesn't go down at all, does it? But some other country or government or business entity makes a profit. Any wonder, then, that the U.S. didn't sign on? Must have been all those University of Chicago economists having their say....and a good laugh.

Have You Seen This Man?

Granted, he's thirty-six years older these days, and chances are, he's dead, but the F.B.I. would still like to know if you've seen him lately.

The sketches were drawn up after the gentleman to the left hijacked an American plane and held the passengers hostage. Their descriptions provided the fodder for the drawings, so that law enforcement could find and locate the perpetrator. You'd think he'd stand out in a crowd anyway, since he also had $200,000 in $20 bills. That was what he was given as a ransom, along with a parachute.

The passenger manifest listed him as D.B. Cooper, not his real name. He took the money and jumped from the plane, only to disappear into the dense woods of the Pacific Northwest.

Nine years after the event, a young boy found some of the cash in the woods, quite a bit worse for wear. Neither the culprit nor the rest of the money ever turned up. Now the F.B.I. has taken a renewed interest.

They have but little to do with themselves these days and must turn to a cold case to keep busy. While the rest of the public believes Mr. Cooper to be dead these many years, the G-men draw no conclusions as they sift through the evidence and apply new technologies to old material.

You, the general public, are key to solving this crime. The F.B.I. needs leads to follow. Any of your relations go missing in 1971? Know anyone who appeared to be suddenly wealthy back then? Someone overly fond of skydiving?