Some more info:
When the laptop starts up, ndiswrapper gets called, and the link light comes on solid, and the Act light is off. That makes sense since there's nothing going through the card.
I go to my terminal, and trigger my iwconfig line:
sudo iwconfig wlan0 essid XXXX key xxxxqqqqxxxx
The Act light starts blinking non-stop, and the Link light goes off.
I can do:
sudo ifconfig wlan0 up
sudo dhclient wlan0
but the dhclient command gives me:
Listening on ...
Sending on ...
DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67 interval 6
No DHCPOFFERS received.
No working lieases in persistent database.
All the while the Act light is blinking, and the Link light is off.