Monday, August 31, 2009

Amazon Bites The Hand That Feeds It

Who sets prices for books?

It would appear that Amazon, the behemoth vendor, has control over what you'll pay for your e-book.

The Kindle is theirs, and theirs alone. In effect, Amazon holds a monopoly on e-books, and as the sole owner, they have a great deal to say about pricing and what they think the market will bear.

Arnold Nourry of Hachette Books sees the death of the hardback at Amazon's hands. The world's biggest bookstore, as they once styled themselves, could kill off the very product that launched it to success.

Amazon never asked the big publishing houses what price structure should be put in place for e-books. $9.99 is more than a reflection of the savings realized in non-paper production. The people who work for the publisher still have to be paid their usual salaries, the book still must be edited and type-set, and the author still must be given an advance, which is growing ever smaller.

With Sony coming on-board and iPhone teaming up with Barnes & Noble to deliver books to reading devices, a publisher can only expect to see the price of books go down even further as the competitors do battle to win market share.

What can the publishing house do to cut costs with the decline in income that's expected? Stop producing expensive hardbound books, lay off the printers and mothball the presses, and there's expenses slashed.

The publishing houses aren't the only ones to see an effect if e-books take over the reading world. Building contractors won't have to construct elaborate panelled libraries in the future. There won't be any books and there won't be any need for elegant shelves and fine joinery. The public library will be a website for downloading and the librarian will become as extinct as the dinosaurs.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Census Information On Line

In a continuing effort to make census records available, the National Archives of Ireland announced the digitization of the 1911 census.

The older style form, hand-written by the head of the household, can now be viewed by those researching their Irish ancestors.

As part of the process to put the data into the public domain, numerous search terms can be used to locate long lost relatives. Genealogists can hunt by name, and they can refine the search to particular counties or townlands. There's an option to search by location, so that you can see who was living in the neighborhood and how large the families were.

Since this was the last census taken before the 1916 Rising, anyone with an interest in history can browse through and get a sense of what Ireland was like in a time of bubbling unrest in the late Edwardian period.

What sort of jobs did people have, did they have many servants, and did many people still speak Irish? All that can be found in the census.

For those whose ancestors migrated long before 1911, of course, they can scan the records to see what might have become of those who stayed, of the brothers or sisters or cousins who chose not to try their luck in America but stuck it out in Ireland.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making University English Departments Relevant

A degree in English isn't considered a ticket to a bright future. Under pressure to be relevant, university English departments must find a way to appeal to the young, to show that a study of words is not a mindless pursuit for those not clever enough to major in engineering or pre-med.

Professor Scott Calhoun of Cedarville University in Ohio has found a modern approach that avoids the pitfalls of Moby Dick or The Scarlet Letter. Old stories don't have the messages that resonate with the modern college students. They've found other spokesmen for the current generation.

All are welcome to an academic conference scheduled for October 2 at North Carolina Central University in Durham. No coincidence that U2 will be performing in Raleigh, NC, that weekend. The academic conference is all about U2.

U2: The Hype and the Feedback will feature guest speakers delivering lectures that relate to English literature studies, but without the great white whale.

The conservative tone of U2's lyrics will be expounded upon by Stephen Catanzarite of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. A paper entitled The Meme of Surrender is on the schedule of events, along with talks by Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone magazine and Jim Henke of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

A major in English doesn't have to be all about dusty tomes and long-dead writers. It can be rock and roll lyrics as poetry, rock bands as chroniclers of the modern era.

But a degree in English still isn't a ticket to a bright future unless you want to be an English teacher.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Agent With A Potential Opening

From Dexter Township, Michigan, comes news that author Lisa Reardon has been arrested and charged with assault. It seems that she drove to her father's house and got off a round or two into his arse.

Chances are, Ms. Reardon will be busy defending herself and won't have much time to write another "redneck noir" novel for some time.

This is your chance, if you can fill Ms. Reardon's shoes (in a literary sense). Agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of William Morris Endeavor just might have a slot for you.

Prove yourself and you won't get dropped when Ms. Reardon returns with yet another novel of incest, betrayal and such. It's a tough act to follow, especially when an author writes what she knows and her stash of knowledge includes shooting a family member, getting booked and sitting in a jail cell.

Still, it could be a chance to get your foot in the door at the biggest agency out there. Ms. Walsh awaits your query. Try to convince her that you'd be a better client, causing less problems.

Although it's hard to beat the kind of publicity that Lisa Reardon generated for herself by squeezing the trigger as her da made a run for it. Makes you want to read one of her books, just to get a sense of her experiences and what made her do it.

Illiterates In Literary Pursuits

I don't have much of a memory for book titles. Once I've read a review, I make a mental note to watch for the book at the library, but once I'm standing in front of the stacks of new releases, I don't recall a single title.

To help the weakening grey matter, I've subscribed to Vintage/Anchor's newsletter. That way, I can see what's new from the various offerings under the Knopf/Doubleday/Random House roof, I can read an excerpt, and I can save the e-mail newsletter. Before I go off to the library, it's a simple matter to jot down a title on a scrap of paper that I'm not likely to lose in the short period of time it takes to get to the library.

As much as I enjoy psychological fiction, I can't bring myself to try Matthew Kneale's new release. When We Were Romans is a variation on the coming of age tale, and I do enjoy that kind of quest story.

My problem lies in the excerpt that Random House supplies.

"...those aren’t real sweets their cough sweets, their bad for you..."

An editor approved that passage. An editor, who should know the difference between possessive "their" and contraction "they're" missed one, right at the beginning of Chapter 1.

Of course it could be that the final book is grammatically correct, and that some underling who typed up the excerpt got it wrong. No one's around to proof-read that sort of insignificant project. But if the underling is only typing what's given them, who let such a glaring error slide through?

Did the author miss it on the final galley? Did the author even know that it was wrong? How could a respected publishing house release copy to the public that is so dazzlingly, brilliantly wrong?

Do they assume that those who find Mr. Kneale's prose "substantial and engaging" are too illiterate to catch the flaw?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Apple Outdoes Kindle

A friend who owns an iPhone claims that she prefers reading on it because the phone makes a page-turning sound when she touches the screen to go to the next page.

On top of that, Barnes & Noble has done a deal with Apple to provide books for the iPhone. You don't need a purpose-built device to carry around a load of books. Your commute-time entertainment is available on your telephone.

Now comes word that Winged Chariot Press has developed a child's picture book that will be available to iPhone subscribers.

How many times is a parent searching for something to entertain a child? Whether it's Sunday Mass or a wait at the pediatrician's office, there's a need for small, portable amusements. Parents will have a phone on them anyway, and who could resist a touch-screen interactive story that costs only 59p?

Rebecca Green of the National Literary Trust is all for the new technology.

Whether it's a back lit screen or a hard copy of a book, from a young age a child will be introduced to the magic that is reading. Anything that fosters love of the written word can only benefit authors down the years. How can reading be seen to be a chore if it's got its own app on the iPhone?

Small, portable, and convenient, the iPhone has done Amazon's Kindle one better.

Friday, August 21, 2009


The battle is on in the world of rock, and it's Mrs. Bono vs. Paul McCartney's daughter.

They're fighting over a word.

Ali Hewson is involved in an ecologically correct firm that goes by the name Nude Brand Ltd. NDL owns the trademark NUDE; it's their word when its in capital letters. They make various soaps and cosmetics that are found in high-end shops and would never be sold in Wal-Mart.

The daughter of a Beatle has her own successful fashion business, and she's adding perfume to her line of products. She's calling it STELLANUDE, a name that no doubt resonated with focus groups and Ms. McCartney.

NUDE belongs to Mrs. Bono, so she sued Stella McCartney for trademark infringement.

All things NUDE would be associated with Nude Brand Ltd., hence the use of a trademark.

In the real world, it would be difficult to deny any and all other firms the use of a common word. Legally, if NDL could trademark NUDE, why couldn't they then trademark other words? Why not own the rights to WHITE or BLACK, FRESH or YOUNG? Corner the market on words and the product name becomes absolutely unique to the product.

Mr. Justice Floyd has decided that an injunction against Ms. McCartney's company at this point could do more harm than good. Without the chosen name, it's possible that her firm would drop the perfume line completely, while a later court hearing could find that she's within her rights to use NUDE, at which point the business is already harmed.

Ms. McCartney and Ms. Hewson will have to either reach a settlement or take the case to court.

In the meantime, watch your words.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Make It Official

Say you're tired of being a Catholic and you'd like to quit.

You can't just stop going to Mass. Like any other bureaucracy, there's paperwork to be submitted and procedures to follow.

Imagine ringing up your local bishop and asking questions about leaving the Church. Wouldn't really expect to be given the answers in a straightforward manner, would you?

Thanks to Paul Dunbar, there's a place to go that offers all the help you might need to tell the hierarchy: "I quit".

Before you make your way to Count Me Out, however, and make some rash decision without being warned in advance, Martin Long of the Catholic Communications Office reminds us all that quitting the Church means you might find it difficult to enroll your children in a Catholic school.

You wouldn't be Catholic any more, and it's the Catholic parents who get priority seating for their wee little ones when it comes time for education. As far as Mr. Long is concerned, it's too much of a contradiction to make any sense. If you don't want to be a Catholic, how could you possibly want your child to be educated in a Catholic setting?

Once you've made your protest, you can of course change your mind. The Church is all about forgiveness, the prodigal being welcomed back with open arms and a banquet of veal. If you're defecting because you're outraged over the clerical sexual abuse scandal, you have the option of returning to the fold if and when the Vatican figures out how to deal with sexuality among the celibate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: The Impostor's Daughter

Growing up, we were never allowed to read comic books. Those were for the less educated, the dumb eejits who wouldn't amount to anything because they weren't learning how to read properly.

Along the way to adulthood, I thumbed through the occasional comic book, and tried to enjoy the great classics in pictorial form. Maybe strong prejudices were imprinted on my developing brain and I never developed a capacity to appreciate the genre.

I could stand in front of a Roy Lichtenstein piece and admire the artist's ability to capture the elements of the cartoon. The first thing I read in the newspaper is the comic section. Pictures surely have their place in the universe.

The comic section is but two pages long. Laurie Sandell's memoir, The Impostor's Daughter, runs a full 245 pages.

Her story is certainly compelling. Her father was a pathological liar who mentally abused her, resulting in all sorts of psychological issues that she explored with her therapist. As an adult, she unravelled her father's tales while her own life degenerated into a melange of Ambien abuse and failed relationships with men.

In panel after panel, she comes to grips with her father's inability to tell the truth. She goes into rehab and searches for the answers to her emotional distress. In the end, she discovers God and draws her memoirs, complete with word bubbles, to heal.

Sounds like a substantial tale, but using cartoons to tell it is unfulfilling for the reader. It's not unlike munching on cotton candy, all air and no volume, when you're craving a burger. After you've finished, you aren't satisfied. There should have been more to the meal, but it was only a snack after all. Such an interesting examination of a life deserved more than cartoons. I wanted more, at any rate.

Publishers call them graphic novels or graphic memoirs and if you want an evening's amusement, looking at well-drawn cartoons, The Impostor's Daughter is unquestionably worth the short amount of time you'd invest in going from cover to cover.

If you're looking for a book that will engage your imagination, that will transport you to some other time or place, examining with depth, then comic books in a lengthy format aren't going to do it for you.

Is the graphic novel the wave of the future? Could it be that my mother was right, all those years ago, that comic books were proof that people were being encouraged to be dumb rather than smart? Or is it a sign of a harried reading population, who have no time to make the pictures in their own imagination, and find it quicker to let someone else handle the imagining?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Easing The Minnow's Burden

There's no way around the $7.1 billion that EMPG owes. Barry O'Callaghan's former minnow of a firm, Riverdeep, grew bloated on debt when he swallowed up Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt's Education branch.

There is a way to lift a little of that heavy burden from the minnow's shoulders and spread the weight around. It requires Mr. O'Callaghan to also yield a significant portion of his power in the board room.

Creditors like BlackRock and Guggenheim Partners are willing to take on $1 billion of the over-all debt, but they get 45% of EMPG in return. Mr. O'Callaghan becomes a smaller fish in the sea that he created.

No longer can he vote no on some issue and have his way. That's little enough to give up, however, when the other option is bankruptcy. With the debt-for-equity swap, the annual cost to service the enormous debt will be decreased, and anything that makes it easier to swim out from under water is all to the good.

Mr. O'Callaghan believes that HMH and EMPG are at the top in the educational publishing materials game, and the creditors may or may not think the same. What they are banking on is an upturn down the road, where the investment will pay off at a better rate later than what could be had in a bankruptcy proceeding now.

"The difficult parts of the equity aren't being led by some...deluded entrepreneur..." Mr. O'Callaghan stated when he announced the deal.

He must have been referring to his loss of voting control.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mixing The Races

By now, even the dogs in the street know that President Barack Obama can trace his ancestry back to Ireland.

He's been quite open about his multi-racial background, although he leans towards the Kenyan side and never seems to offer photo opportunities with his mother's relations.

The people in Ennis, County Clare, on the other hand, are aware that Muhammad Ali didn't much care to talk about his own Irish heritage.

Never heard of it before?

The greatest boxer who ever lived is planning a visit to his ancestral stomping grounds in Ennis, where his Irish great-grandfather once resided.

Abe Grady took his name from Abraham Lincoln, they say, to honor the Great Emancipator. In the 1860's, Mr. Grady left Ireland for the opportunity available in America, where Catholics weren't tithed to fund the Church of Ireland. Where he could own land, live free and escape the prejudices that were visited on Catholics by their British masters.

He married an emancipated slave in Kentucky, and his son would later marry a black woman. Their daughter was Muhammad Ali's mother.

When Muhammad Ali joined the Nation of Islam, he liked to insist that his white blood was the result of rape, an evil of slavery. The truth is quite different, and perhaps it took a bi-racial President to make racial mixing by choice an acceptable concept.

Abe Grady loved a woman who happened to be black. His great-grandson will soon meet his fair-skinned, distant cousins. There's a flurry of activity at the Clare Heritage Center, as the local Gradys trace genealogy records to make the connections. It's said that all the Gradys from the Turnpike in Ennis are related and therefore linked by blood to Muhammad Ali.

Like his wife, Abe Grady knew inequality. He lived with discrimination based on his religion. No surprise that they would find common ground on which to start a new life as husband and wife. No need for Muhammad Ali to be ashamed of his roots.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stop Perfecting Your Query Letter

Literary agent Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary would appreciate it if you'd all stop perfecting your query letters.

It's making for a great deal of confusion in the agent world.

He's been receiving some very polished sales pitches, which you might think is a good thing. Haven't agents complained in the past about the dreadful letters that show up in their in-box?

Back in those days, an agent could judge the quality of the author's manuscript by the quality of the query. Those who couldn't write well didn't produce a good query letter, and it was easy to figure out who would get a request for pages and who would get the form rejection.

Times have changed. Aspiring authors can find all kinds of information available all over the Internet on how to write the dreaded query. There's forums to workshop the things, agent blogs to submit to for editing and websites that provide formatting tips.

Poor Mr. Barbara has been led down the garden path with these well-crafted letters, to the point that he's been reading more manuscript pages than ever before, and it's wasting his time.

The query letters don't reflect the author's talent. He's running across some dreadful prose that he once avoided based on the query.

Agents are busy and the more time they waste on writing not worth reading, the less time they have to read the brilliant manuscripts. Yours and mine.

Don't dwell on the query. Dwell on the writing, on the manuscript itself. That's where most of the hard work lies, in the most subjective element of finding an agent to represent you. Of course there's showers of shite coming out of the big publishing houses, but someone thought it was good. You have to read it, like it or not, to see what makes it these days.

Until then, don't bother the folks at Foundry Literary with great queries unless you can back up the promise with stellar writing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Endless Summer

"Pending response" declares Duotrope. Bright red letters blaze on my list of outstanding short story submissions.

It's been far too long, according to Duotrope's carefully tended database, since the story was sent and a response received.

Most of the literary journals are run by universities, with student interns doing the slush reading. They've gone away from school for the summer, to work at jobs that actually pay real money. No one's around to manage the journal's submissions, and so I am stuck with the waiting. I'm tired of waiting. I want summer to end.

Ohio University's English department reads submissions from October through April. I submitted in February. It's August. No response.

The University of Chicago says they read from October through June, but what's become of my submission from March?

Waiting for summer to end, possibly. Blue Mesa Review said as much in an e-mail last May. They didn't finish all the year's submissions but it was time for summer vacation and they'll let me know in September or October when they're back at it.

And I'll be back at it myself, sending out more submissions as soon as the journals open up again for submissions at the end of an endless summer.

Friday, August 07, 2009

For The Richness Of Her Experience

Poor Mary Robinson. Coming under fire for her apparent support of Palestinian terrorists when all she wanted was to accept the Medal of Freedom and go home to Ireland.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is up in arms over President Obama's decision to give the former Irish President such a prestigious award. What the pro-Israeli group has failed to consider is the richness of Ms. Robinson's experience as an Irish woman growing up under a theocracy.

Like many Irish people of her generation, Ms. Robinson can relate to the Palestinians. Consider Ireland's past, when it was conquered and then planted with English settlers in a move to drive out the Irish. It's just like what happened in Palestine, except that the Jews were there first but it's a minor point. From the richness of her experience, she equates the occupied Palestinian territories with Ireland under British occupation.

After Ireland won its freedom from England, the country became a theocracy in essence. The Catholic Church was as much in charge as the Dail Eireann. Just like Palestine under Hamas, it's the ruling elite who claim they are doing God's work. Hamas certainly hasn't cornered the market for public corruption. Ms. Robinson can no doubt recall how life was under Charlie Haughey's leadership, when corruption and bribes were the order of the day.

Why else would Ms. Robinson have allowed anti-Israeli elements to take control of the 2001 UN Conference on human rights? Her so-called biased views about Israel came about due to the richness of her experience in Ireland, with the Civil War still fresh and The Troubles raging.

So now the Jews are bullying people, according to Ms. Robinson, no doubt picturing the British bullies who shot and killed unarmed civilians in Belfast during a peaceful protest against occupation. Sure the West Bank and Gaza are just like the six northern counties, and who can forget Benjamin Disraeli's actions of long ago?

Has the richness of a woman's experience become grounds for denying her an honor bestowed because she was the first female President of Ireland and worked tirelessly for women's rights? Would it be better if she were Puerto Rican, rather than Irish?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Paying For Content

Newspapers are watching ad revenue trickle away, off to the Internet where the audience is larger.

News content has followed, with free sites offering the day's articles as written by reporters who are getting paid to write those stories that people are reading for free. Internet ad revenue, unfortunately, is not going to be enough to fund all those employees in the news room.

Rupert Murdoch has made some noise about charging for news content online. What is now free at the New York Post would become available for a fee in the middle of 2010.

He's already charging for most of the Wall Street Journal's online content, but then again, that particular newspaper has never been free. It's also unique, in its renowned coverage of the business world, and it's a top-seller for good reason.

But if something has been given away for free, is it now too late to start asking people to pay? The New York Times discovered that charging for their big-name editorials didn't exactly have folks flocking to their wallets. That particular experiment in paid content proved to be a failure.

There are so many sources of news online, from reliable providers, that it seems unlikely someone would pay for the privilege of reading one of Mr. Murdoch's newspapers when the same news could be had from elsewhere for free.

If readership drops, ad revenue will follow it down, and then Mr. Murdoch will have to decide how much to charge when he's trying to recover costs of production as well as make up for lost ad revenue as readers go elsewhere. What's the limit that will be tolerated?

The horse is already out of the barn, in the form of free news content. Too late to close the door and start charging for the news, not unless every single newspaper did the same, and that doesn't appear likely.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ireland: The 51st State

Not quite, but a step has been taken to make Ireland more like a little corner of America.

Starting today, travelers embarking from Shannon Airport can be cleared through U.S. Customs, and when they arrive for the family reunion in Boston, there's nothing to declare.

Just as if one has arrived from Montana or Oregon, the folks who reach an American airport will not find the long lines of inspectors asking questions and checking documents.

It's all done to encourage more Irish tourism to the U.S., with the promise of no waiting and moving straight to baggage claim and the arms of waiting loved ones.

Maria Kelly of the Limerick Chamber of Commerce sees a bigger benefit. Corporate executives who travel to the west of Ireland to do business won't have to put up with all the fuss of Customs when they get back home to the States. Should they choose to do business in Poland, they'll be facing the inspectors after a long flight when they'd rather be at home with a cocktail.

Even if a traveler hasn't been to Ireland, they might still wish to stop over at Shannon to get the whole Customs business done with. Anything that will increase traffic at Shannon is all to the good for the Irish economy, and for those Irish people in need of work.

The new facility at Shannon is the first of its kind in all of Europe. And doesn't that prove just how special Ireland is.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

With The Speed Of U.S. Mail

I thought that the query re-write was more effective than the one I'd sent out two weeks before to no acclaim. Cleared up the protagonist's motive, composed a better hook, and improved things in general.

Why not try Pilar Queen, formerly at ICM and currently toiling at McCormick & Williams. She's interested in women's fiction.

Friday afternoon, I dropped the query into the mail box. The agents at McCormick & Williams are strictly snail mail and I'm always one to follow directions.

On Monday, I had my answer.

Ms. Queen must have answered the query as soon as it arrived at her desk, with the speed of the U.S.P.S. behind the snail mail. The rejection came via e-mail, a no thanks with all the usual words of encouragement that befit a boiler plate letter.

Now that is one fast response. Already, after only a few days, I'm wondering if the revised query is any good at all, or if the subject matter wasn't of interest, or my lack of publishing credentials worked against a very good query letter.

Back to waiting on the other agents who received the same letter. With the Labor Day holiday and traditional publishing vacation times coming, there's not much point in obsessing over the query until September. Might as well go work on another manuscript.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Rags To Rags Story

Sean Johnson was homeless.

He had a little hovel to call home, in the well-to-do enclave of Highland Park, Illinois. No one bothered him at his residence under a highway overpass. It wasn't much, but he liked it.

One would assume that a homeless person would be hard-up for money, and therefore rather short on material possessions. Little wonder, then, that the local police found it odd that Mr. Johnson would have a very expensive mountain bike at his humble abode.

When questioned, the vagabond admitted that he had taken the bike from an open garage. Perhaps he felt that the people he stole from were wealthy enough to replace the bicycle, while he was destitute and in dire need of transportation.

Perhaps not.

He also said that he had taken another bike before, but discarded it. What good would a bike do him if the tire went flat or the chain broke? Toss it away, since he couldn't pay to have it fixed, any more than he could buy the part to fix it himself.

Oh, and there were other bikes. He sold them. On line.

Quite the entrepreneur was Sean Johnson. He got himself over to the local public library, where he could create an e-mail account and post a notice on E-bay or Craigslist. Very clever, to open up a used bicycle shop via the Internet. Just like that, Mr. Johnson created himself an occupation that brought in some much needed cash.

The shop wasn't open for long, as the vagrant has been charged with theft. He'll end up in the local jail, where he'll have food and lodging without having to resort to theft.

Should he find a jail cell preferable to a makeshift encampment under a bridge, he just might be back at his old job as soon as he's served his time, in an attempt to return to the comfort and security of the jail.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

No Pills Today

In an effort to control spiraling health care costs, the Irish government announced a cut in reimbursements to pharmacists who dispense medicines to those without private insurance.

Rather than accept a 34% cut in pay, hundreds of pharmacists across Ireland have informed the Health Service that they won't accept the government health card when someone turns up at the pharmacy to pick up their pills.

You want your medicine? Go find a pharmacist who's willing to work for less. Good luck.

The Health Service assures everyone that there's plenty of pharmacies around that will take their medical cards and dispense the prescription. If your local drug shop isn't in on the latest scheme, then there's surely another one nearby.

Welcome to nationalized health care. It's all good on paper, until one part of the medical engine goes on strike. No surprise, then, that developer Owen O'Callaghan sees profits in the construction of a private hospital, for those who can afford to pay for private care.

A shiny new 100-bed hospital will be constructed in Cork and run by a Swiss firm. Mr. O'Callaghan promises a state-of-the-art facility, with the latest innovations in the surgical suites and intensive care unit.

According to Mr. O'Callaghan, several doctors have shown interest, and plenty of people who can afford to by-pass the government plan will be delighted to take their illnesses to a hospital where they can have a private room that's actually clean. And no sick people on trolleys in the halls when the supply of beds can't meet the demand.

Health care was supposed to be equal for all, but we all know that some are more equal than others. After all, why wait to see a doctor if you can offer him greater compensation for letting you cut to the front of the queue? And if you can buy into a queue that's shorter and has comfortable chairs to sit in while you wait, what's the point in accepting the government program?