Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Short Christmas Break

The good Lady has decided that a Christmas holiday is in order. This decision was made a tad easier by her reception of an invitation, all expenses paid, to address a Conference on the importance of poetry within a context of politics.

I was not surprised that she accepted the invitation. Lady Simone has always believed that a politician skilled in the knowledge of poetry would be a far more effective server of the public than one from a background in the law or worse, political science -- to her an oxymoron.

She has entitled her address, riffing on Alexander Pope, "Poetry is Politics, to best Advantage dressed / What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed."

The fact that the Conference is in Honolulu I'm sure did not affect the Lady's decision to give the paper.

On the other hand, given Toronto's slow recovery from a vicious ice storm, perhaps the decision was affected just a teeny little bit.

The Lady will be back in form next week.

-- The Editor.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Little Exploration on the Number Forty

While I now try to consciously avoid any thinking about the current fiscal mess now rampant in Ontario, now and then something so bizarre breaks through that it is impossible to ignore.

Such is the case with the that jewel in the Liberal Party crown, the Ontario Power Generation Company (O.P.G.) and its use of the number forty.

Now "forty" has a long history. There is, for instance, the forty years Moses and the Israelites spent in the wilderness, or so the  Bible tells us. In the present day, we speak of a nap of "forty winks", and a score of forty-forty in tennis -- three wins apiece --  is equal to "deuce", at which point a player must take two consecutive games to claim victory. And Canadians of a certain age will remember Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins belting out "She'll be back home in forty days."

For our purposes today, however, I will draw on yet another reference, to wit: the Arabian tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

This careened into my mind when I, more by accident than design, stumbled upon the fact that the OPG management included FORTY VICE PRESIDENTS.*

This was hard to believe, and became even harder when I learned that while all made salaries in the six figure range, there were no titles to go along with the term aside from three: VP, Finance; VP, Operations and VP, Human Resources.**

What would the others be called? VP, Alternating Current would be one, which would lead to VP Direct Current. There could be a VP for Isotopes,  a "Heavy Water" VP, a VP that looked after certain flora and fauna that had become radioactive -- well, the list could go on, and I will leave this little exercise in the hand of my capable readers.

Given the horrific state of OPG finances, and the frightening electricity bills that are starting to be delivered to Ontario homes and businesses, I don't think I'm far off the mark when I draw attention to a slightly updated version of the old tale, as with "Kathleen Wynne and the Forty Thieves."

There. I'm done.


* I was researching a number of American Vice-Presidents at the time. Isn't it interesting that the most powerful nation on earth only requires ONE Vice-President, while the OPG requires forty. --LSS

** The term "Human Resources" is fairly recent, and replaces the term "Personnel Department." Very much a step backward in my opinion. Resources can be used, then thrown out. It is a titch more difficult to do when you cannot escape the fact that these are people with whom you are being so cavalier. -- Ed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ukraine: A Modest Proposal

Bohdan, who manages my sugar beet holdings located near Kiev, was somewhat concerned about the recent protest movement that has erupted in Kiev's main square. This revolt had led to certain logistic difficulties with respect to sugar beet exports, and my bottom line was beginning to suffer.

I agreed instantly with Bohdan that this was unacceptable. A world without sugar beets? Unthinkable. 

The cause of all this fuss can be directly traced to Ukraine's leader, Viktor Yanukovych, and his decision not to engage in closer trade ties with the European Union. (E.U.)

Instead, he has sought the dubious comfort of Vladimir Putin's Russia, feeling more at home in the grip of the Russian bear than in the E.U.'s democratic embrace. The fact that Putin had threatened to turn off the gas of course had nothing to do with the decision.

This decision, Bohdan tells me, was greeted with approval in the eastern part of Ukraine, while those in the western part were appalled. And herein lies the grounds for the modest proposal referred to in the title of this report.

"East is East and West is West" wrote Rudyard Kipling, "and never the twain shall meet." Taking these words to heart, I would suggest that Viktor could appease the Russian bear (at least for the moment -- it is, after all, a Russian bear) by agreeing to sit down with the protesters and negotiate TWO SEPARATE COUNTRIES.

Think about it. Eastern Ukraine always has been closer to Russia than those in the Western half of the country, speak Russian more than Ukrainian, and are extremely conservative in thought and deed, totally content with not much happening at all. In Russia, but not of it, as it were. And Viktor could, a la Putin, be some kind of President for life. Happiness forever.

This split may not go down with a number of young people in the East. They can, however, follow newspaper editor Horace Greeley's advice: "Go West, young man." and move. The West speaks actual Ukrainian rather than Russian, and even is sticking a linguistic toe into English. An agreement with the E.U. would suit many just fine, and while there is some distance to go, the best way to learn how democracy works is to practice it.

Worth a try, anyway.

Oh, and while we're about it, let Yulia out of prison. If Viktor is happily reigning in the East, he, like Rhett Butler, frankly wouldn't give a damn.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Runaways, Or A Brief Look At Premier Wynne and (ex) Premier McGuinty.

I don't watch a great deal of television, but one program caught my eye, a scientific exploration of electronic entanglement and Bell's Theorem, dealing with what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance". In another post, I might get into just what that's all about, but for this week's topic, I was quite taken with one of the commercials.

The advertisement shows the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, clad in jogging gear and running, running, running in the countryside, the message being to show she is fit and able.  Then something else struck me. I could barely make out, towards the edge of the screen, the leading edge of a horde of enraged Ontario taxpayers, pitchforks and torches in hand, in hot pursuit.

Now the ad made sense.

Yet Kathleen's running was not the whole story. The ghastly deficit position of Ontario was partly her fault -- she signed off on stuff she shouldn't have -- but it was her superior at the time, Dalton McGuinty, who must shoulder most of the blame. This did not come about because he was evil or unscrupulous, but rather that he had put his faith in those who (and I am being kind here) didn't repay that faith with sound projects and good policy.*

McGuinty in this context is an almost too perfect example of W. H. Auden's The Average Man. There the subject of the poem, raised to be a Number One, finds himself in the following position:

So here he was without maps or supplies
A hundred miles from any decent town;
The desert glared into his blood-shot eyes;

The silence roared displeasure: looking down,
He saw the shadow of an Average Man
Attempting the exceptional, and ran.

And run he did.


* Here one thinks of the e-Health fiasco, the Ornge helicopter fraud, and the horrific expenses incurred in the gas plant removal in order to retain Liberal seats. Costs to taxpayers have amounted to some billion and a half dollars. No wonder there's so much running away. Poor Ontario.