Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good News and Bad News

First, I'll give you the potential good news:

For those of you weren't told directly by me, I'd given up on literary agents and had begun to send proposals for my new novel, The Toy Cop, directly to publishing executives and senior editors. Within hours, I got three nibbles. Jason Kaufman of Doubleday agreed to look at the sample chapters I'd sent and Bob Loomis, VP at Random House, said it wasn't his cup of tea but consented to pass it along to an acquisitions editor at RH's imprint, Ballantine.

The biggest nibble came from Judith Curr, Senior VP and Publisher at Atria Books (she's the founder), a major imprint of Simon and Schuster. Understanding, as with Jason Kaufman, how frustrating it can be to find an agent, she'd requested the entire manuscript, Apparently liking what she'd read, she tried to hook me up with a literary agent (who'd, unfortunately for her, rejected it with a form rejection letter just nine days prior to this.). Since then, she's passed the book along to Nick Simonds, an acquisitions editor on her staff. As Ms. Curr reminded me, she's not an editor and while she may have autonomous acquisition power with the editorial board, the journey from manuscript to finished book would be a lot less rocky if she had some consensus on the board. I do not know why she'd invest the precious time of a staff editor unless she thought it was worth the time to read all 470 pages.

I've been chewing my fingernails up to the elbow in virtual silence for the last 5 weeks because every time I tell you guys about some promising development, it's as if I jinx myself and it falls apart like a piece of cheesecloth in a thresher.

Now for the potential bad news: First, last Tuesday night/Wednesday morning we lost the free internet access that we'd been using at home since Nov. and since I lost my unemployment benefits last month. We're now living solely on my fiancee's weekly $135 in unemployment insurance, we won't be able to use the local cafe's internet wifi (they generally get cranky when you don't buy something). In fact, I'm here now using their wifi but as the coffee shop closes at 6, this will be it for now.

Since we're now reduced to living on $135 a week, it's only a matter of time before we get evicted either next month or June. Obviously, we cannot afford to get internet access of our own since feeding ourselves is our direst and most immediate challenge. The state Department of Transitional Assistance won't help us since we're neither handicapped nor elderly and the application for SNAP food assistance (aka Food Stamps) I'd requested two days ago takes a month to process (although maybe I can get a hardship dispensation and get my claim processed in a week.).

I have a job interview in a little over 48 hours so perhaps that'll bear fruit but I've been disrespected and disappointed by companies too many times to get my hopes up.

Failing anything positive, Mrs. JP's seriously considering us moving to Texas or Florida on the vague promise of her securing employment. And, having lived in both states, I so incredibly do not want to leave New England, leave the place I fought so hard to get and keep since the Troubles of two years ago. Going back to where she came from would be an admission to her family of my failure, my inability to take care of my own fiancee. Plus, the prohibitive cost of highway gas for a car and a rental truck, plus tolls, would make moving too expensive.

I hate inflicting these constant personal financial troubles on you guys as I realize this kind of embarrassing disclosure borders on the irritating and perhaps even on the intrusive. But I have more than just myself to worry about. I also have a fiancee and a cat to keep fed and sheltered.

I'm sorry if this proves to be an inconvenience or an irritation for any of you but I suspect this is what John Lennon meant when he talked about life getting in the way when you're making other plans. We're slowly going under in spite of my most valiant attempts to keep our heads above water. I was hoping and praying that an advance from Atria would come to rescue us in time but that looks less and less likely. A job interview, let alone an actual paying job, is an utter impossibility. I was lucky to get the one I secured yesterday. I miss the America I knew.

If any of you could help out again or for the first time ever, not only would we appreciate it but if I get the book deal that I believe I'll get from Simon & Schuster, you can consider it a loan and every one of you will be repaid. As it is, we have less than zero chance of paying our $650 a month rent on May Day, much less stay fed, pay the $45+ gas bill that just came in, electric, car insurance, cell phone minutes and everything else that pops up.

Our backs are against the wall like never before, thanks in large part to getting clobbered with $1000 in car repair bills since last winter. There's no other place to go but up and anyone who can help us can consider any Paypal donation a loan they'll eventually get back.

P.S. I just found out I owe the IRS $438 because I couldn't afford to have federal withholding taxes taken out when I was on UI last year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Kathy Nickolaus's Story Doesn't Hold Water

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

"I have not made my decision. This isn't that big of a deal. It isn't worth an argument. This is ridiculous." - Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus to County supervisors when pressed to implement security measures already used all over Wisconsin

If nothing else, Republican activists like Kathy Nickolaus have a twisted view of what can be defined as "ridiculous." What's truly ridiculous is that she could proffer a transparently disingenuous story like "finding" well over 14,000 votes that she forgot to count and doing so with a straight face. Meanwhile, a Nov. 2009 poll showed 52% all self-identified Republicans still believe that ACORN stole the election for Obama while a fifth (21%) don't know whether ACORN did or didn't. That's ridiculous.

The already polarized election for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice was from the start turned into a referendum on the popularity or lack thereof of Gov. Scott Walker's, the state GOP's and, by extension, the Koch Brothers' ceaseless crusade against public unions. But in light of last night's "revelation" by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus that almost 7600 votes for Prosser mysteriously appeared from a private computer to which she had sole access, the election has become a referendum on the electoral integrity of not just Waukesha County, not just of Wisconsin but of the entire nation as Election Day 2012 draws near.

One of Nickolaus's cover stories from last night was that voter turnout was high on Tuesday night but Christian Schneider of the National Review hastens to add,
On election night, AP results showed a turnout of 110,000 voters in Waukesha County — well short of the 180,000 voters that turned out last November, and 42 percent of the county’s total turnout. By comparison, nearly 90 percent of Dane County voters who cast a ballot in November turned out to vote for Kloppenburg.

That says a mouthful right there. 180,000 county residents came out to vote in a midterm year and 42%, or less than two thirds, came out last Tuesday night.

It's hard to tell where the state's Republican machine is trying to assign blame. Nickolaus seemed to place to blame both on her shoulders and on the outdated software she insists on using to tabulate the votes. In the title of his National Review article, the syympathetic Schneider generously calls the SNAFU a "computer error." And if you're to read the semi-hysterical bloviations of the right wingers who dwell in the basement of the comments section of the right wing NR, you'll hear the usual suspects being named: Al Franken to ACORN to Democrats and liberals in the abstract and even Barack Obama (news flash: Franken was elected to the Senate after 10,000 votes were found like a body in the trunk of a mob car. Forget the fact that Franken won by only 225 votes).

What also brings the stench of the 2000 presidential election wafting into the pristine air of Wisconsin is the fact that another well-placed female Republican operative with obvious ties to the Republican candidate, one in a position to hide electoral data and manipulate votes, suddenly makes it possible for the Republican to win after the Democratic challenger had already been named the victor.

But Tom DeLay can save beaucoup bucks on air fare for his protester goons because this election, if the "results" hold, will involve no recount. The 7500 votes that were found like buried pirate treasure in the ancient sands of Nickolaus's outdated computer gives Justice Prosser, the conservative incumbent and the swing vote on any Supreme Court ruling on Walker's antiunion bill, just enough of a lead to avoid the potentially embarrassing (and incriminating) scrutiny of a recount.

Adding to the sweet smell of corruption is the fact that Nickolaus is a woman who inexplicably remains in a position of power and influence over elections in her county despite already having been found guilty of hiding electoral data on her personal computer then just as inexplicably given immunity from prosecution.

This is also a woman who openly "smirked" when pressed by county supervisors to join the rest of Wisconsin in the 21st century by updating security measures then refused to implement those measures. If she had, then she would've been prevented from hoarding electoral data for 29 hours, then disseminating the "newly-found" votes to right wing bloggers and radio talk show sympathizers before the MSM for consensus.

Nickolaus also blamed the outdated Microsoft system that should've been long-redundant in any county let alone her own. Basically, it was the Dog Ate My Homework story and she blamed Microsoft Access for not having autosave. But a quick-witted blogger familiar with MS Access from New Jersey saved the day by telling us:
There's just one problem: When you are entering data into an Access database, it is saved when you move to the next row. You don't have to "press 'save'" Now, when you write (an) application in Access (which consists of a user interface in front of an auto-saving Access database with some Visual Basic code behind it to handle navigation, saving, and calculations, you can turn autosave off and put a save button on the screen. But it's hard to imagine an actual Access application where each record is a single screen AND has autosave overridden AND allows you to just navigate to the next record without doing something, such as pressing another button called something like "Next Screen". Of course if you wrote an app like that, and there was unsaved data, you would probably display a pop-up window alerting the user that there is unsaved data. And even if it was an application that was sloppily written (which is quite possible, after all, Access is part of Microsoft Office and any monkey with rudimentary programming knowledge can write an application with it. And even if this application DID display one precinct at a time, and even if it did have a save button, it's hard to imagine that she would "forget to press the save button" for EVERY SINGLE RECORD.

So much for that argument.

So, while more polite and fair-minded souls are "questioning" the validity of her multifaceted reasons for how this could have happened, I am saying outright that there is Republican fraud going on in Wisconsin and all over the country. Despite the debacle after the 2000 election, we've had two more presidential and three more midterm elections with little if any reform of the electoral process.

So, while Republicans hoarsely scream about dark people like Ignacio Lopez being given the right to vote for non-Republicans and the un-indicted, un-prosecuted ACORN, Republican moles and cronies of Republican candidates in important elections are still subverting the will of the people.

We shouldn't have to be worrying in this day and age in the bastion of freedom and democracy about our elections getting stolen in yet another decade when all it does is distract us from union rights being stolen with more dirty Republican tricks.

Hijack: Nickolaus

Welcome to the Waukesha County Clerk's Office, where 7500 votes magically appear hours after an election that would've been a disaster for Scott Walker's and the Wisconsin GOP's attempts to thoroughly roger the state's public unions.

The unstuffed ballot box, by the way, gives Justice Prosser just enough of a lead to prevent a mandated state-funded recount. Isn't that convenient? Imagine the hue and cry of "Foul!" that would've arisen from the Far Wrong if this had happened, say, in Cook County during the presidential election of 2008. As it is, this is reminiscent of 2000, except in that election, Al Gore had votes taken away from him and the Bush camp made sure it stayed that way.

Here's the problem: Nickolaus has already been fingered in an ethics probe that found that she had secreted away election data from state computers and servers and had stuffed in a personal computer. Her's, to be more specific.

Here's another problem: Nickolaus used to work for Prosser as a staffer back when the judge was the Assembly Speaker.

Here's yet another problem: After claiming that she suddenly forgot to count any of the votes in the county's second-largest city, she then sat on this revelation for nearly 30 hours before first confessing not to the mainstream media but right wing bloggers and other Republican sympathizers.

This necessarily invites the obvious question: Whether this was an honest, innocent oversight (Yeah, right) or an actual continuation of her sleazy Republican electoral fraud, why is this woman still employed in her present capacity by the county?

I'll be weighing in on this later. Stay tuned. In the meantime, read how Jill at Brilliant @ Breakfast effortlessly deconstructs Nickolaus' lame excuse as to how 7500-14,000 votes could, presto, change-O, magically materialize.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Signs o' the Times (revised and enlarged)

(All captions written by me but created courtesy of the random sign generators at

(New caption)

Tea Party Jesus Says...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love of Labor

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. - The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

Less than 24 hours after uttering these words to an over-packed hall in Memphis 43 years ago, Dr. King was shot dead by an assassin's bullet.

Dr. King was actually more of a Renaissance man than people thought he was. If one mentions Dr. King's name, you'll likely think of civil rights marches, Dr. King's arms linked with those of his aides and supporters. Yet Dr. King didn't merely advocate on behalf of other African Americans but widened his compassionate scope to all Americans and even all people. He was also a vocal and eloquent critic of the Vietnam War.

And, as in the case of Memphis, he was also a vocal and impassioned supporter of the labor movement.

By early April, Dr. King was tired and weary. He didn't want to go to Memphis to speak on behalf of the city sanitation workers who'd been on strike. After all, he had several other projects going on, was flying back and forth the US between speaking engagements and meetings. Plus, he'd been in Memphis just the month before on behalf of sanitation workers who wanted to be recognized by AFSCME. A demonstration less than a week prior to King's return had turned violent when protesters used their signs to break windows of businesses. Looting ensued, 60 were injured, many arrested and one demonstrator was even killed. However, realizing that his voice was needed, the civil rights leader went, anyway, and stepped into tragic destiny.

Specifically, King was there to argue on behalf of the workers' right to collectively bargain. Here's's brief backstory of how this speech was precipitated:
During a heavy rainstorm in Memphis on February 1, 1968, two black sanitation workers had been crushed to death when the compactor mechanism of the trash truck was accidentally triggered. On the same day in a separate incident also related to the inclement weather, 22 black sewer workers had been sent home without pay while their white supervisors were retained for the day with pay. About two weeks later, on February 12, more than 1,100 of a possible 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. Mayor Henry Loeb, unsympathetic to most of the workers' demands, was especially opposed to the union. Black and white civic groups in Memphis tried to resolve the conflict, but the mayor held fast to his position.

The shabby treatment of city union workers and the complete nonchalance of worker safety was as much predicated on Jim Crow racism as on basic anti-union sentiment. Loeb came from a business background and was a staunch conservative, exactly the kind of person who would be utterly unsympathetic to the rights and safety of workers.

Loeb was as obstinate as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and refused help from other unions to mediate and even from President Lyndon B. Johnson. He stubbornly insisted the strike was illegal, operating on the sleazy Catch 22 argument that a city sanitation worker had no right to go on strike because they weren't allowed to join the AFSCME union. He tried to hire scabs and used the Memphis police to brutalize the 1100 striking workers.

It took King's tragic and shockingly sudden assassination to force a temporary resolution to the standoff but to his own dying day, Loeb was proud of not standing down to what he insisted was an illegal strike and never seemed to acknowledge that he was the mayor of the city in which America's greatest 20th century civil rights leader was murdered. Essentially, if Loeb wasn't so inflexible, Dr. King wouldn't have had to go to Memphis and he could probably still be alive today.

And if he was, Dr. King would be appalled to see all the hard work that brought about the change with which we'd all grown up. King would be rubbing his eyes, scarcely believing that other white right wingers are nakedly trying to catapult us back into the 19th century by smashing public unions, stripping them of collective bargaining rights, forcing them to contribute more heavily to their own benefits, raiding their pension funds then sending out layoff notices to those who didn't knuckle under.

He'd be stunned beyond belief that white conservatives are actually trying to undermine or outright eradicate even child labor laws especially during a time when the labor pool is 5 times larger than the job market.

Dr. King would also be appalled at this latest round of adventurism in Libya and backwards slide of the civil rights movement that had reared its ugly head in 2000 when, in typical white Republican fashion, Secretary of State and Bush campaign co-chair Katherine Harris hired a data-mining company called ChoicePoint based in Dr. King's home state of Georgia to draw up a list of nearly 100,000 names of mostly African Americans. This list formed the basis of these people being denied the right to vote on Election Day 2000. Had these reliable Democratic voters been allowed to vote, the election's result never would've been in any doubt, the SCOTUS never would've been able to get involved, our country, and the world, would be much different today.

But Jena, Louisiana and the virulent, post-Jim Crow Tea Bagger racism we've seen since Barack Obama got elected President would've informed Dr. King that it's as if his legacy and life, all his hard work, never happened. It's almost as if Dr. King never existed, an anachronism that offered an all too brief and temporary stay against the mindless hatred, cruelty and racism that roils beneath the red, white and blue of Old Glory like a festering cancer never quite in remission.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Let's Burn a Bible For Ramadan

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)

"The thing that awoke me to the fact was when I saw the president and the Pentagon and all these world leaders coming out against Terry Jones' [plan] to burn the Koran. I realized that all these murders of Christians go on a daily basis and you don't hear an international outcry. But one guy in Florida — a nobody — says he's going to burn a Koran... and I thought, 'Something is really wrong with that scenario.' To me, it was the biggest, eye-opening thing to see the whole world has sided, apparently, with the enemies of America." - JoBeth Gerrard, unemployed Marietta, GA accountant

We're the most regressive country since Kenya and its anti-gay laws that execute gay people. We're destroying unions, trying to undermine child labor laws, stuffing oligarchs with more money while further impoverishing the poor. Now we're burning books. Welcome back to the early 20th century.

So, in the spirit of book burning and intolerance, here's an idea: Let's burn a Bible for every day of Ramadan that starts for a month on August 1st. And let's make sure that at least one of them is duct-taped to the gnarled hands of Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, an ambitiously-named organization that caters to a few dozen Bible-humping zealots in Gainesville, Florida.

You may remember Jones from late summer last year when he vowed to burn 200 Qurans on September 11th before backing down. Somehow, this pastor of a little dogshit ministry in north Florida became a focal point and a poster child for every inbred, post-literate, Muslim-hating lunatic. President Obama and the Pentagon lowered themselves to get directly involved, pleading with Jones to stop his madness. His bigotry had spread to Great Britain, where a 15 year-old girl was arrested for burning a Koran and posting it on her Facebook page. Earlier last year, several British men were arrested for doing the same thing. And, just a few days after the 9th anniversary of 9/11, a burned Quran was found in a mosque in San Francisco.

Well, last Match 20th (I refuse to link to or show any of the videos on Youtube of the "trial" or burning, for obvious reasons), Jones just couldn't resist the call of the wild-eyed Islamophobia and held a kangaroo court to judge whether or not the Quran could be found guilty of rape, murder, torture, etc. The "trial" was held in the Dove World Outreach church, with Jones channeling Flip Wilson and playing "Here Comes the Judge" while wearing a black judge robe. He sat on a high platform with an open iron pit positioned on the floor to the right of his judge's throne. Yeah, the outcome wasn't predetermined at all any more than are American military tribunals (that is, if we actually held American military tribunals).

The "defense" was supposedly presided over by Sheik Imam Mohammed elHassan, supposedly president of an Islamic center in "Texas, USA". Mr. elHassan was described by JoBeth Gerrard, who blogged about the event on Dove Outreach's blog, as " a devout Muslim" who ran for President of Sudan last year. There was indeed a man named Muhammed elHassan who ran for the presidency of Sudan last year but there doesn't seem to be any mention of him on the internet as the head of an Islamic Center in "Texas, USA" or anywhere else outside of this "trial." Photos of him in English judicial regalia on the International Judge a Koran Day Facebook page and this video shot by the Imam last year show a superficial resemblance until you look at biometeric differences (pay particular attention to the height of the ears and you'll observe some inconsistency). But whether this "defense attorney" was an imposter or not, one thing remains:

This mock trial resulted in Afghan rebels invading a UN compound and killing 12 aid workers and guards in revenge for what Jones and his inbred lunatics had done a week and a half ago. Now, in spite of JoBeth Gerrard's assertion that the slaying in Afghanistan and the Quran burning were not connected, Pastor Jones seems to think there is a correlation and is calling for retribution, according the New York Times.

In other words, an escalation in hostilities, since the aid workers and four Nepalese guards who were killed were such close friends of Pastor Jones and all.

As I said, I will not link to the video but you can find it easily enough on Youtube and elsewhere. Toward the end of the 8+ minute-long video, you can hear a teenage boy say, "We should tell her to put some marshmallows and hamburgers on it", referring to the burning Quran in the fake courtroom that conjures up memories of that other fake courtroom in Pennsylvania last November.

Now they're shocked, shocked, that some Muslims would take offense at having their holy book burned after a joke of a trial. Without showing any evidence, some church members claimed they'd received "a stack of death threats" and have taken to carrying guns. Here's a direct quote from a parishioner in the NY Times article:
“We have a huge stack of death threats,” Ms. Ingram said. “We take precautions. I have a handgun. A lot of us have concealed weapons permits. We’re a small church, and we don’t have money to hire security.”

This is a typical reaction from evangelical, knuckle-dragging, post-apocalyptic yahoos who have delusions of speaking for all Christianity (the Youtube video of the Quran's burning earned a whopping 1500 views and the attitude of other parishes in Florida was to ignore it).

But we can't afford to ignore or laugh off the End of Days dickheads on account of one thing: The mainstream media.

The MSM had, starting with Sean Hannity and Fox "News", and continuing with the NY Times, the LA Times and a whole host of major media outlets, turned this smalltime asshole whose congregation makes Fred Phelps' at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas look like the Roman Catholic Church in comparison, into a rock star for every mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Islamophobe in Sarah Palin's "Real America."

The actual trial and "execution" of the Quran may have been largely ignored by the other parishes in north Florida but it was quickly picked up on by the MSM that is ever ready to sow the seeds of post-911 bigotry as long as post-911 bigotry is a sexy lead story.

We should've relegated this lunatic to the dustbin of history and denied him even his 15 minutes. After all, this congregation that can be counted in the dozens does not speak for all Christianity any more than Sunnis, Shi'ites or Sufis speak for all Muslims.

This man is the hideous side of the Butterfly effect, someone who burns a single Quran as an empty, symbolic gesture and eventually got a dozen people, UN air workers, killed half a world away.

So when the month-long Ramadan fast begins on August 1st of this year, let's burn a Bible every day in August. If the nine major Crusades proved anything, the Bible and adherents like Jones are even more responsible for the slaughter of countless millions of innocents. For good measure, let's throw in all of Sean Hannity's or Anne Coulter's NY Times bestsellers.

And let's make sure Jones is holding one of those Bibles as we burn it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy April Fool's Day

Jersey Shore's Snooki is getting paid $32,000 by Rutgers University for a speaking engagement... $2,000 more than Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison.

Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, not once but twice turned down the chance to make a dying child happy through the Make A Wish Foundation before relenting and offering her services. The family told her to sautee in Hell.

Teabagger Republicans like Mike Lee and David Burns and Jane Cunningham and self-confessed candy thief Paul LaPage and Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli are actually trying to repeal and/or undermine child labor laws.

Paul LaPage can't distinguish between the Maine Labor Bureau and the Maine Chamber of Commerce.

The United States is defending the interests of Libyan radicals who had engaged and killed our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.

Republican Rep. Judy Biggert was all for talking about jobs before she was against it.

A 14 year-old rape and assault victim in Bangladesh was convicted of adultery, sentenced to 101 lashes and whipped to death. The initial autopsy report ruled her death a suicide.

It's now April and central Massachusetts has 9 inches of snow 48 hours after a 54 degree day.

And none of these, folks, sadly enough, are April Fool's jokes.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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