Saturday, February 28, 2009

Patience Is A Virtue But I'm Not Virtuous

Wait. Don't send a query yet. The manuscript's not been re-written all the way through.

Resist the temptation to get those opening pages in front of an agent. Sure, the critique group liked them, but they liked them the last time and not a single agent agreed.

Hold off until you've read every word, looked carefully for errors and little slips in continuity. Don't hit that send key. Don't do it.

Just three agents, that's all, I swear to Jaysus only three agents who want the first few pages in the query. If one of them bites, well, the first three chapters are ready to go in their new and improved condition. How else will I know that I've taken the novel in the right direction?

I know better than to query before the manuscript is finished, but I did it anyway. A test run, to see if I've managed to compose an intriguing hook paragraph and a synopsis that explains the key points of a convoluted comedy.

It's the waiting, that's the problem. Waiting for the agents who are sitting on fulls and partials of another manuscript, and maybe this other novel is the better one to break into the business with. It's all the short story editors who've been thinking about some of my pieces for months and months, going beyond their average time so that I don't know if there's a chance for another publication credit or the paperwork got lost.

I need something, some action, some reaction, some reinforcement. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I haven't been good, quietly waiting and working on something else like I should. What's the penance? Three agents ignoring my query? Can't I just say three rosaries instead?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Another New Agency To Query

Sandra Dijkstra made her name when she took a chance on Amy Tan, and the rest is ethnic fiction history.

Her agency expanded, but now her agency has contracted.

Agents Jill Marsal and Kevan Lyon have gone off on their own, and Ms. Dijkstra can no longer accept submissions of romance (Ms. Lyon's specialty) or mystery (Ms. Marsal's niche).

Operating under the assumption that a new agency needs more clients than those who followed the exiting agents, I'll be sending a submission to the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency as soon as I can decide which manuscript to query.

They'll be getting swamped with those of us who know how to take advantage of that particular angle, so I'll need my most effective query letter, the one that has the strongest hook in the first paragraph.

But do any of my query letters have such an intriguing, must-keep-reading opening? Or is it more a matter of having the right story that either Ms. Lyon or Ms. Marsal know that a particular editor is looking for?

I'm voting for the right story. The newly aligned pair has to generate cash, and quickly, to pay the bills, and they won't have a spot for some beautiful prose that won't garner much of an advance, even if they could find someone to buy it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

About The Taxes On The Royalties, Bono

Taxes? We don't pay no stinkin' taxes......

Paul O'Toole would like everyone to know that he wasn't exactly doing a tribute to Bono yesterday. He wasn't celebrating the release of the new album by singing his modified version of Where The Streets Have No Name outside of the Department of Finance offices.

As a protester with Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, he'd like everyone to know that Bono is a flaming hypocrite.

The man who travels the globe and tells world leaders that their countries should give more taxpayer money to the poor is doing a very good job at dodging the taxes on U2 royalties.

For a time, Irish artists could earn without paying because Irish artists didn't earn much. Then U2 hit it big, and the government put a cap on the tax-free income.

What did Bono et al. do? They sent U2 Inc. to Holland, where the tax rate is lower, and Ireland can stand on the shore and watch all that money sail away. Buy U2's new album and the Netherlands gets a cut of the profit. All Ireland can claim is their portion of the individual band members's salaries. Not quite an equal split.

Asked to comment, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan stated that Ireland will be making a complaint to the EU about small, below-sea-level countries setting up tax havens that cause financial harm to other EU nations.

We'll all want to check The Irish Times tomorrow, to find out what sort of excuse Bono and the lads have concocted to rationalize their tax dodge. Will Bono explain how he dares to goad foreign leaders into giving more when he's giving as little as possible?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Oranges, Now The Newspaper

Close your eyes and come with me back to 1984. We'll take a walk down Henry Street to Dunnes Department Store.....

Dunnes Stores were selling oranges in their shops, but the fruit came from South Africa. Apartheid was the law of the land, and Irish unions had declared a boycott of South African goods.

Dunnes Stores wouldn't honor the boycott, so the Irish people boycotted Dunnes. Needless to say, Dunnes backed down and cleared the bins of South African produce.

Now Dunnes has unilaterally decided that they can't pay for their copies of The Irish Times as they have been. That's the end of the weekly direct debit payment, said the folks in the back office at Dunnes Stores headquarters.

That's the end of The Irish Times in Dunnes Stores, so, said the newspaper. All the agents pay via direct debit, and Dunnes can't just up and decide to send a monthly check instead. The newspaper has published a list, county by county, of other places to buy your daily copy. The paper won't be shipped to any Dunnes outlet in all of Ireland until further notice.

And if you want to do your marketing elsewhere as well, The Irish Times won't be writing any heart-breaking prose about Dunnes Stores struggling to make it in tough economic times.

The downside, of course, is that fewer people read the newspapers and if someone wants to know what's going on, they need only go to That's a bit different than 1984, when you had to do without oranges because there was no other option at the time.

Will Christy Moore be writing a new, revised version of his classic song about the Dunnes Stores boycott? Something in support of the troubled newspaper industry?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Instinct Is Sharp

When I discovered that someone at Park Literary Group had dropped by my website, I had a sense that the query was doing its work.

Why else would Amanda Cardinale, or her assistant, have gone to the trouble?

But then I saw that whoever had come to call had only stayed for a very short time. That meant that the opening of the manuscript didn't grab their attention. The whole first chapter is posted, and it takes more than sixty seconds to read ten pages.

No request for more material appeared in the e-mail box the next day, or the day after, or after that. My instincts told me that there would be a rejection.

My instincts have grown sharp with time. The little postcard-sized rejection slip arrived today, a couple of weeks after the visit to the website.

I can make myself feel better by imagining that Ms. Cardinale liked what she saw in the first paragraph, but she was voted down by the other agents in the group. I can be realistic and accept the fact that she didn't like my story or the way I string words together.

So it's off to wait on more responses to the query, and to wait on two other agents who are reviewing the first three chapters. My instincts tell me that it's not going to be good news. There's too much silence for too long a period of time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Who Will Report The News

The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News are officially bankrupt. If the newspapers go out of business, who will be there to report on the doings in the halls of power?

Advertising revenue is declining as businesses cut back because consumers are cutting back, and what money is spent is going to Internet ads. Everyone's on line, and the adverts must follow. Less ad revenue for newspapers means the papers suffer.

Reporters cost money, and investigative reporting is expensive. The problem is, there's no one on the Internet doing the sort of probing that keeps politicians (relatively) honest. How are we to know that friends of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley are reaping the profits of his political control of the city if not for investigative newspaper reporters finding out the facts and then publishing them?

Newspaper publishing companies are struggling with debt that can't be paid off as once expected because no one expected revenues to plummet.

In Philadelphia, the two newspapers will merge what departments they can to trim costs, which means some people are going to lose their jobs. There won't be any big salary increases or generous bonuses any time soon, but who ever said there was money to be made in writing?

Sampling "No Line On The Horizon"

The album isn't out yet, but the Irish Times has been granted permission by themselves to provide short samples from the album.

Point and click your way to the U2 part of the newspaper's site and have yourself a listen.

Don't know why it's the Irish Times instead of the Independent, unless it's the four-star review that sealed the deal.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Frugality Re-discovered

We're not consuming conspicuously anymore, I've heard. The Chicago Tribune has a whole entire article about this latest trend.

Some of us aren't trend chasers so we missed out on the spending craze. Not that we could afford it when it was the thing to do, of course. Even if we could, there was all that Catholic guilt getting in the way.

From buying African babies to dropping pennies in the St. Vincent box, life was all about giving to others so we could get into heaven. If you had more than your neighbor, you'd not want to shame them by showing off your own prosperity, so things were kept quiet. No flash, no glitz. Stuff the mattress and keep a low profile.

With the new mania for frugality comes a new way to boast of one's accomplishments. Instead of flashing a shiny Rolex watch, the doyennes of cheap flash a stack of coupons and brag of the money they're saving.

Those of us who are accustomed to making do and getting by don't rely on coupons, because they're often for products that we don't use. Low price dog food? Who can afford a dog? Ten cents off the luxury brand of bleach? The generic brand is half the price and bleach is bleach.

All this talk of saving money in the shops, but the latest generation of savers is missing out on a little secret that's known to a select few. Instead of buying things, it's possible to make it at home.

A second hand sewing machine, a bit of fabric and what-not, and a lady can have a new outfit for next to nothing. Not someone's discarded fashion from last year, either, but the latest style. The same goes for the kid's wardrobe, and add in a ball of yarn with some needles and Junior can be warm all winter.

Cultivate friends who own nail guns, power tools and the like, and you could remodel your basement on the cheap. All by doing it yourself.

Funny thing, though. Those who came from money, the old money crowd, aren't much for showing off what they have. It was the nouveau riche who fueled the booming consumer economy, thinking that they were imitating the high society crowd. Now they're the nouveau poore, and they're trumpeting their attempts to copy the low society crowd. Once again, they're close, but not quite there.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How Not To Invest

When the little minnow that was Riverdeep swallowed up Harcourt Education, Harcourt's owner was forced to take a stake in the whale-consuming feast. Now Reed Elsevier has loudly declared that their super-sized portion has shrunk down to a mere mouthful.

Reed Elsevier took $300 million and invested it in HMH-Riverdeep-EMPG-et. al. because it was the only way to unload Harcourt Education. That same $300 million has shrivelled up and the stake is currently valued at 127 million euros.

Well, that's up to them entirely says EMPG. The shareholders can peg their investment where they like. And what's the fuss, anyway? Reed Elsevier reported an increase in sales so they're not in any financial pain, are they? Who are they to cry poor when they're turning a profit? Barry O'Callaghan's baby isn't as ugly as all that.

EMPG isn't the prettiest little fish in the pond, however. Standard & Poor's cut the firm's rating from B- to CCC--. That's about as close to a failing grade as one can get without acquiring a "junk bond" appellation.

They're just waiting for the money to drift out of Washington, D.C. EMPG is counting on the big stimulus package to shore up the heavily leveraged firm. More federal dollars for education means more federal dollars for educational publishing materials, or the whale-swallowing minnow is sunk.

The Golden Circle Club

Banks all over the world are reeling these days, and Anglo Irish Bank is in the middle of the death spiral dance.

The government had to rush in to save the institution from total collapse, and bit by bit, some very shady dealings have come to light.

Suddenly, it's come out that ten unnamed persons were invited by Anglo Irish to buy a 10% stake in the bank, shortly before the Irish government stepped in to salvage the operation.

Not wanting those ten special, highly select individuals to be out of pocket, Anglo Irish loaned them the money to pay for the shares. At the time, the deal was worth 300 million euros. Today, the shares are essentially worthless.

The consortium of buyers, having borrowed the money, can walk away from the deal, which means the Irish taxpayer is on the hook for the loan.

Any wonder that everyone wants to know the identity of the so-called "Golden Circle"?

Legally-minded types don't think that the names can be named because there's confidentially in banking matters. Others believe that, since the government nationalized the bank, it's now a government operation and the government can do what it likes since it makes the rules.

In the absence of any concrete evidence, speculation takes hold, and Fintan Drury has already come forward to state that he's not one of the ten. He's a friend of the taoiseach, he was a non-executive director of Anglo Irish Bank, and the notion to sell ten percent of the bank was all Sean Quinn's idea and that was a month after Mr. Drury resigned his position.

So who else had the power and the financial means to buy into the deal? Lists of names are floating around Leinster House. Will the real Golden Circle please stand up?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finding Time

It's quiet around here at five a.m., and with work taking up so much time, I'm trying to rise before dawn. If I can squeeze an extra hour out of the day, I can set aside that hour for writing.

Not much has been getting done lately, and I've been forced to give up on a little sleep if I'm to get my daily word to satisfy a certain addiction.

The fact that I've not been focused on writing is showing in what I'm doing now. The bits and pieces that were put down last month and left aside are not the makings of a strong first chapter. After reading over the old section, to get in gear for writing this morning, I realized that I don't have any direction and the narrative doesn't seem to be flowing towards the second chapter.

Rather than start from scratch, I'll take a break and send off another couple of queries for the manuscript that got a bit of a revision a few weeks ago. I'll be sure to use those "Forever" stamps, since postage is going up again in May and you can't expect a literary agent to get back to you in less than three months.

And I'll take advantage of the postal rate calculator at Wouldn't want the submission packet coming back to me because of insufficient postage.

The Lord Of The Minnows

If only they'd thought of this two years ago, when the whole world was awash in The Lord of the Rings.

In the hopes that a past fad hasn't died completely, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is holding to their decision to not take on new manuscripts in the adult trade division. Instead, they're going with an old one.

Back when J.R.R. Tolkien was a young man teaching at Oxford, before he put together his impressive saga of Middle Earth and all things Hobbit, he wrote The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. He based his tale on the old Norse myths, those tales of long ago that we all despised when studying mythology at university. Apparently, Mr. Tolkien found something lacking as well, and reworked them into a novel that he never published.

He's been long dead, of course, and his fantasy fiction that did make it into print continues to sell well. Still, after the films came out, the trend ran its course, but could there be some flicker of interest in Tolkien yet?

HMH is banking on it. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is due to be laid down in May, and if all goes well, sales will be brisk and HMH's parent company can pay off some debt and convince Moody's that it isn't on the brink of default.

Better to gamble with a known commodity than take a chance on a new author. Now, if only one of the networks could be convinced to run the three "Ring" movies right before the new novel is released, and if the BBC and RTE would join in the promotion...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Kindle Debate

As big as a trade paperback, she said, but heavier of course. She loves her Kindle.

The books are cheap, she went on, some only five dollars. Sure the Kindle is over $300, but she was spending more than that every year on hard copies so it's cheaper in the long run.

We discussed the Kindle at the book club meeting and opinions were all over the place. One of the members was considering the e-reader for a daughter away at college. How perfect for her, an avid reader, when a Kindle can hold so many books at once. The device is far more portable than a stack of bulky books, and who could argue with that logic.

The size of the font can be varied, to accommodate aging eyes without resorting to reading glasses. That can be a benefit when reading outdoors on a sunny day and you don't have prescription sunglasses, but what about the dangers of blowing sand if you're reading at the beach?

Books on Kindle don't have covers, and that was deemed a great loss. So much of a book is judged by the cover, and that's missing with an electronic delivery system.

And there's no pages to turn. The physical act of reading, the feel of paper in the hand, is missing. One member of our group is dead set against the Kindle because there is no substitute for a real book, no matter the convenience.

What of the library, so? Will there be a time in the future when the library shelves will hold blank Kindles to be checked out? Rather than choose a book, would we browse some kind of display? Would the librarian download our choice and tell us the book's going to disappear from the e-reader in two weeks?

What sort of fines would be levied for keeping the Kindle beyond the allowed time period? Or would we have to buy Kindles of our own?

Finally, there's the author, who labors over every manuscript. There's never been any money to be had as a writer, but will cheap e-books make matters even worse? What kind of royalties could be expected from a book that sells for five dollars? After all, the publisher still has to pay its acquistion editors and copy editors and executives.

I'll weigh in on the side of the Kindle haters. The convenience doesn't outweigh the negatives for someone who'd like to be a published author some day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Sign Of Bad Times

Donald Trump has turned his back. Walked out the door. Left without saying good-bye.

The Trump entertainment empire has gone belly up.

That will happen when a business enterprise takes out loans and then can't pay the interest when it comes due.

About all that Donald Trump had at stake was his name, since he stepped back from his earlier position in 2004 when the company went bankrupt for the first time.

Ever the boastful lad, Mr. Trump has declared that he's not hurt by the failure and he's still worth plenty. Don't be holding a fund-raiser for him, indeed not, he's comfortable yet.

The casino and resort operation had more debt than it could handle, and apparently not enough gamblers sitting at the slot machines. When times get bad, even the poor have to cut back on their cheap forms of entertainment, and that means less time at the casino and less money flowing out of the pocket and into the casino's coffers.

So what does this failure mean for the good people of Scotland, who are in the middle of having a Trump-operated resort shoved down their haggis-loving throats? Is it possible that the pristine beauty of the Scottish coast will be saved because of an economic downturn? Is there a glint of silver lining in this dark cloud?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The New Agency On The Block

There's a market for books on gambling, and if that's your genre, you'd be wise to send your query to Venture Literary.

For an agent, however, sticking with one non-fiction genre won't pay the bills. There aren't enough manuscripts on the topic that will be bought in any given year. Considering the amount of research needed to write a good book, the stable of authors would be hard pressed to produce enough volumes to keep things afloat, even if the publishers were buying.

For a time, Venture Literary stretched its wings and expanded into fiction, women's issues and other assorted topics. Jennifer de la Fuente joined the team, to scout out different opportunities and represent another type of author.

All things change, however, and Venture Literary is once again a two-man operation, with expertise in gambling. Ms. de la Fuente has gone off on her own.

Fountain Literary is the newest agency to be opened by an agent leaving a group to establish her own agency. Ms. de la Fuente is interested in fiction that isn't romance, along with the traditional staples of parenting, women's issues and the like.

As the sole agent, it's all up to her to bring in the money that keeps the lights on. She'll be looking for new clients, and there's no better time to submit to an agent than when they've just opened up shop and the shelves are a little bare.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And Then There's Flagpole Sitting

Ah, for the good old days of the Great Depression.

Listen to the news these days and you'd think you'd gone back there, except for the lack of stories that are meant to take our minds off the gloom and doom.

Where's the flagpole sitters when we need them?

In this digital age of instant communication, sitting on a pole for days at a time won't do. We want something bizarre, yes, but we want something we can relate to. We want our own idiocy for our own economic melt-down.

We want a pub crawl.....with Snuggies.

Is there anything more absurd than a blanket with sleeves? What kind of mind dreams up such things? More to the point, what kind of person would even think to combine a sleeved blanket with a pub crawl?

The Snuggie Pub Crawl stumbled out of the minds of two Chicagoans who have clearly endured a long, hard winter. Day and time have yet to be determined, but Snuggie weather won't last forever and you'll want to get yours in plenty of time. The idea is to wear a Snuggie while enjoying some of Chicago's finer establishments. Silly, like sitting on a pole, without any purpose, but at least there's alcohol involved and that makes things all better.

Before long, your television screen will be filled with images of drunken sots, reveling while clad in Snuggies. Won't that make you feel good, after you've checked the state of your stock portfolio and spent eight hours at work, worrying about losing the job?

Friday, February 13, 2009

As Safe As The Bank of Scotland

How time flies. It's been four years since the police in Northern Ireland woke up to find that one of their Belfast banks had been robbed. The biggest heist ever, they were proud to note, but who did it and where's the money gone to?

Four years on, and nearly three million sterling was located and its holder charged. The authorities have operated on the presumption that it was the IRA who pulled the caper, to fund a pension scheme for their retiring soldiers in the face of the St. Andrews agreement. Their assumption led them to financial adviser Ted Cunningham, who is now being tried in the Republic of Ireland.

How did Mr. Cunningham come to be in possession of those sterling notes? A mysterious man, driving a Northern Ireland-registered car, handed him a collection of duffel bags stuffed with cash.

How did this mystery man know to contact Mr. Cunningham in the first place?

Phil Flynn sent him. The same Phil Flynn who was the chairman of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland). It only makes sense. If you're dealing with large sums, you'd want a bank chairman handling things. Twenty-five million pounds doesn't disappear quietly, after all, and a certain level of expertise is required. Someone who knows the banking system inside and out. Someone who knows where the loopholes are.

You'll be getting five million, Mr. Flynn is supposed to have said to Mr. Cunningham, and it's a lot of laundry to handle. As it turned out, Mr. Cunningham must have cleaned up almost half of it, since the gardai only found about 2.3 million hidden away in the Cunningham home in Cork.

So where's the other twenty million gone off to?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Except For A Slight Catch

Eamon Ryan has a plan that will put 4000 people to work during 2009. Better ten months of employment than nothing, right?

50,000 homes can be made snug and cozy with the right sort of insulation, and since someone has to produce the insulation and someone has to transport it to a shop and someone has to ring up the get the idea.

With a government investment of 100 million euros, Irish grannies can be warmer than they've ever been. Roll out a few coils in the attic and there's all that expensive heat, trapped inside where it belongs. Why, the homeowner would save enough money to cover the cost of that insulation in seven years time.

Did you think the government scheme was meant to pay for the complete cost of insulating old homes? There's always a catch.

With people facing redundancies and mounds of debt, who is going to come up with the cash to pay for 70% of an insulating project? No matter if the government will give you 250 euros towards the cost. You still have to come up with the rest, so you're still out of pocket and can you really wait seven years to recoup the costs in heat savings? You might be emigrating in five years time and then what?

Labour's own Liz McManus thinks that those who have some money put away will jump at the chance to spend it on insulation if they had some tax incentive, so the proposed program doesn't go far enough.

Anyone with any savings these days is hanging on to it for dear life. Money for insulation? How about money for the mortgage and food and school uniforms and the credit cards that have balances unpaid?

Monday, February 09, 2009

In Search of Hidden Meanings

Someone at the Park Literary Group looked at my website last week.

There's no escaping the watchful eye of stat counters and traceable footprints.

What does it mean, though, that in response to a query there was a visit? An agency-associated person went to the site and looked at the sample chapter that's posted. Evidence exists; there was a hit on that very page.

That was last week.

A week, and still there's been no SASE returned with a form rejection letter stuffed inside.

A week, and there's no e-mail asking for the first three chapters or even the full manuscript.

Someone looked at the sample chapter and it's silence ever since. Was it an agency assistant, told to check out the site to see if it's professional enough? Was it the agent I queried, intrigued enough by the query to want to read the actual novel?

Guesses and second guesses, but it's not unlikely that the query and the SASE were put into the big pile, to be rejected en masse when the intern comes in. Meanwhile, it will sit and I will wait, making guesses and searching for meaning where there may not be any logic at all.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Searching For New Victims

And it's a "no" from the literary agent. The second rejection, the second time he's asked for pages, the second time he's not falling in love with the opening of the manuscript. Two novels, both shot down.

With material still out there, I'm hesitant to query until I get some possible feedback. Of course, there's the chance that I'll get all form rejections, like today's unwelcome bit of e-mail, but what if an agent mentions something that I hadn't noticed before?

It's hard to resist, especially when the query letter is working and I'd like to jump in before things get too busy and before you know it they're all off on their summer holidays and that's it until Labor Day.

There's no better time to query a literary agent than when they're just getting started in the biz. With that in mind, I'll go ahead and send off a letter to Sara Megibow, recently promoted from assistant to Kristen Nelson to full-fledged junior agent.

If I have any luck, I'll catch her in a moment of intense energy, a period of urgent acquisitions. Then again, she might pass on the query, just like Ms. Nelson did months ago.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Six Years Of Rejection

Jack Kerouac's original manuscript for his break-out novel is on display at University College Dublin. All 120 feet of it.

Legend has it, the author taped together pieces of paper until he had a long roll to string into his typewriter. Then he sat down and typed, words pouring off his fingers for twenty days. Then he started the publishing process.

Back in the 1950's, an author could approach a publisher and be rejected straight from the top, which happened to Jack Kerouac. On The Road was turned down, the thick scroll rejected, for six years.

Part of the problem was that Mr. Kerouac didn't want to edit his manuscript, not when he claimed that the whole thing had been dictated to him by the Holy Ghost Himself. Anyone studying the scroll and comparing it to the finished novel will realize that, third part of the Holy Trinity notwithstanding, the manuscript was heavily edited.

Kerouac scholars are salivating over the chance to access the original, to peruse the author's annotations, cross-outs and corrections. What better way to get a glimpse inside the mind of a writer than to study what was changed as compared to what was first put down on paper?

Six years of rejection, though. I have a ways to go.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Light up. Do it for the kids.

Congress passed the new expanded health care program for children and if you don't start smoking more, all the other taxpayers are going to have to pay up. For the sake of your neighbors, and their offspring, have a smoke.

The SCHIP program has been extended to include those who could probably pay their own costs for health insurance, but if the government is willing to foot the bill, why pay out of your own pocket? On the down side, it's to be a tax on cigarettes that's to pay for the thing, so don't even think about quitting for your health. Think of the health of the children.

Billions of dollars will be needed to pay for health care for those who are about to discover that there's not enough doctors in America to see them. As things now stand, there aren't enough smokers to fund the whole thing with the tripled tax on tobacco, so more smokers are desperately needed.

Poor folks are more likely to smoke, and they're more likely to quit because they can't afford to pay that additional $1.01 per pack for children's health care. As the population of nicotine addicts declines, the non-smokers are sure to be tapped, and you don't want that to happen when you could save your neighbor a few dollars.

Buy a carton. Light up, enjoy the buzz. Encourage your local politicians to overturn that anti-smoking ordinance so you can smoke in bars and restaurants. It's all tax money flowing into the SCHIP program, isn't it? It's a most worthy cause.

Don't worry about your own health. Now that the kids have national health care, it's just a matter of time before Congress approves health care for adults, and your lung cancer will be treated at taxpayer expense.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em; get 'em if you don't. Have a puff for the sake of the next generation.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Buy American And European Too

Buy American and we won't, says the European Union.

The economic stimulus bill under debate in the U.S. Senate contains a provision to buy American when it comes to steel and other products needed to stimulate the economy. The EU is not pleased, and there's rumblings.

Peter Power, the EU trade spokesman, has said in a most polite way that if the provision passes, the World Trade Organization will get an earful from his side.

It's considered protectionist, to not have free trade, and making it illegal to buy a foreign product violates all kinds of treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory. For the folks at home, of course, it sounds grand. We're stimulating the economy and we're only using our own steel made by our own workers who'll have jobs because the government is buying their products which no one else bought because they could be had cheaper elsewhere, the elected reps will say. To which the EU will cry foul.

Sometimes when you set out with good intentions, you end up paving a road to hell. In these hard times, however, paving a road to anywhere has a certain appeal to those who think what's never worked before will miraculously work this time around.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Government Giveth And The Recession Taketh Away

How about if the lower and middle income earners in the public sector paid in more to the pension levy? That way the government wouldn't have to make cuts in other areas.

No, no, no, no says the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Too painful for our members. Too heavy of a burden. Besides, the other social partners might not agree either and ICTU doesn't want to be left standing alone.

So there's no common ground to stand upon. The Irish Government is desperate to find billions in cuts to expenses, but the trade unionists don't want to inflict the burden on their members.

The sad fact is, the expenses must be cut somewhere because there's simply no money to pay for all the little goodies that the government handed out when times were fat. The lean years are beginning, and no one wants to go on a diet, but someone will have to starve to death if others are to fill their financial bellies.

Brian Cowen will announce his plans later, when he'll detail where he's found two billion euros worth of excess that can be trimmed. It may involve a pension levy, in spite of ICTU's displeasure, and it may involve decreased funding for child care, roads and infrastructure improvements.

The government can legislate national health care, family services, generous social welfare payments, and anything else the public would like. When the bill comes due, however, the public is none too pleased to discover that they have to give up the luxuries they once took for granted. They can vote out Fianna Fail at the next election, to punish them, but that won't bring the money back.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Post Super Bowl Chatter

In offices across the land, people are gathering around the coffee maker or the water cooler and chatting. There's comments and observations being made about the game, questions asked about the lack of brilliant commercials this time around.

Over in the corner, a conversation takes a turn. "Where's Diane Bartoli gone to then," one of the would-be novelists says. Joe Veltre has re-made his agency.

The old Artists Literary Group is now The Veltre Company. It's only Mr. Veltre there now, doing the agenting and the managing and the consulting.

Ellen Pepus, on the other hand, is content with the traditional agent role. She's taken her eponymous agency and expanded by one, resulting in a new name. Having snatched Gary Heidt from FinePrint Literary Management, she's gone from Ellen Pepus to Signature Literary Agency.

Two relatively new agencies in search of talent, and they both like submissions via e-mail.