Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shafts Of Sunlight That Pierce Global Gloom

What with all that is going on in the world, the Ukrainian mess, the tragedy of the capsized Korean ferry, large jets that disappear into thin air, plus seeing measles and tuberculosis making comebacks owing to anti-vaccination action on those afflicted by superstition, well, it's all too much.

Nothing to do but to head for the Mall.

Accompanied by my minder, Irving, (three execution fatwas call for some discretion) we sallied forth, and were soon cheered by the bright lights and people of all sorts and sizes happily enjoying the fruits of capitalism. Not that these folks were entirely unaware of the darker side to such getting and spending, for I spotted one Tee shirt on a portly gentleman containing the words "Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell."

Encouraged by this, I went on a type of Tee shirt scavenger hunt, and came up with the following.

On a tee worn by a lass, likely a student by the books she was carrying, I read, "If you try to fail, and succeed, what have you done?"

One can only hope she intends to major in philosophy.

Then I encountered an elderly gentleman whose Tee read "I don't believe in superstitions. They're bad luck."

Well, you can't win them all.

Next I came across a rather vivacious twenty something, in a purse section of an upscale emporium, having difficulty choosing between a Louis Vuitton or a Fendi. Poor thing, but her Tee script caused me to revise my opinion. Somewhat. The Tee read, "Sex on television can't hurt, unless you fall off."

Enough, or too much. But it was good to see that, at least on some level, the general public was well aware of life's little ironies, an awareness that tends to escape politicians completely.

Of course, I also felt I should participate, and succumbed to purchasing a bright yellow Tee and, in homage to the film Jurassic Park, had the following words put on: "The objects in this sweater are larger than they appear."

To quote the Comte de Rienville when he first saw the garment, "Cheri, c'est merveilleux. C'est aussi vrai."

He really is a wonderful man.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whose Money Is It Really?

A friend of mine, Carlita Diaz, is an accountant in the U.S. Federal Reserve. She was in town to attend the funeral of Jim Flaherty, Canada's former Minister of Finance, and I had invited her back to the Manor after the ceremony.

We were sipping Cosmos in the conservatory.

Carlita had been somewhat taken aback at what she had witnessed. "This," she stated "would not have occurred anywhere else that I can think of. Amazing, really."

"Well," I said, "the service was well done, yet I can recall --"

"I'm not talking about the service, Simone, although that was impressive. No, I mean all the people lining the streets and clustered around the front of the cathedral. My God, the man was a Minister of Finance! I have seen other funerals of such officials being hissed at, with public anger all too evident, but there was none of that. They were paying homage, even honouring him. Our lot at the Fed respected his financial acumen, but this was something different. What gives?"

I thought carefully before responding.

"What gives," I began, "is the public's awareness of Jim Flaherty's respect for their tax dollars. For instance, the man never said, in announcing a policy, that government money was involved. He always said that the monies belonged to the electorate, that the Ministry of Finance had a stewardship role, and that the program being discussed was intended for public benefit. The final aim, of course, was to make every effort to achieve a balanced budget year after year."

"Hmm", said Carlita, "that didn't seem to go too well. As I recall, Canada went deep into debt. Only recently does it look like the country will be able to balance its books."

"Now Carlita," I suggested, "a great many countries went down the tubes financially, including one just south of the border. Stimulus funds were absolutely necessary to ward off a depression. So yes, Flaherty proved he could spend when he had to. But he also has proved that he could tackle the deficit, and he has done it. Now in the U.S. -- "

"I'd rather not talk about that. Instead, let's talk about this Province, and look at Ontario's -- "

"Now I'd rather not talk about that. So let me refresh our Cosmos, and how about a discussion,...oh, I don't know...."

"You see the last installment of Game of Thrones?"

And we were off.

Friday, April 11, 2014

When Comes Such Another?

I was just beginning to write of something bordering on legal nonsense when an event occurred that forced a change of topic. What I had intended was giving information on three Canadian residents who are not yet citizens. This trio desires to sue in order to avoid having to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.*

They, however, have no problem swearing an oath of allegiance to Canada, a country they readily admit they admire. Thus we have a nonsense.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, and hence,  by swearing allegiance to Canada they automatically swear allegiance to the reigning monarch, in this case Her Majesty Elizabeth II. Legally, this is a case of mutatis mutandis, and that should be the end of the matter.  Judges reviewing the case should have no difficulty in ruling against these three, unless the aforesaid judges missed a class in Grade Eleven English, or barely scraped through the bar exam. 

But enough of this. It was in the middle of such ruminations that I learned of the passing of the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Canada's Minister of Finance until recently. This was a shock, for Mr. Flaherty was one of those rare politicians who always kept the welfare of Canadians first and foremost. Moreover, he knew well that the monies he dealt with as Minister of Finance were not his, nor even the Government's, but belonged to Canadian taxpayers. This was an insight that very few Ministers of Finance have. Or, indeed, few other politicians.

Mr. Flaherty knew when to spend, and did so during the economic downturn caused by a number of banks making fools of themselves and causing havoc among American and European citizens. Actions by him as well as the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, kept Canadian banks away from the more egregious fiscal nonsense seen in American and European banks and investment houses. This spending also enabled jobs to be kept and infrastructure projects to be started.

Spending -- that was the easy part.

Much more difficult was reigning in that spending, after the crisis began to abate. It is in this area that most Ministers of Finance come to grief, finding it simply too politically tough to do. Here Mr. Flaherty shone, and given the support of his Prime Minister, put in policies that aim to balance the budget by 2015.

Such a policy is critical to achieve, as Jim Flaherty knew. Why on earth would he want to assign children and grandchildren to a life of penury?

Why indeed, and so I write:

When comes such another?


*It is unclear at this time of writing just who this lot wants to sue. It also may not be possible: the matter is not a legal one but a constitutional one, and hence more in Parliament's court than in a court of law. -- Ed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ukraine Shuffles The Deck

To Kiev, where my plantation manager, Bohdan, had arranged a number of meetings with Ukrainian officials. My object was to ensure that my sugar beet operation could continue as before, although I was not averse to a slight rise in corporation taxes. Putin would be putting the screws to Ukraine, and they would need all the capital they could get.

I first met with the Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was fresh from a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister and was rapidly becoming a big fan of Canada. It helped that (a) he spoke good English, that (b) he really liked sugar beets and that (c) he was a big hockey fan.

Things proceeded well, and the meeting went a great deal more smoothly that my encounters with the previous Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych. I also invited him to the Manor should he travel to Canada in the future, something I would never have offered Viktor. I honour people, not puppets.

My next meeting was a bit unexpected.

In the corridor just outside Mr. Yatsenyuk' office I was buttonholed by Yulia Tymoshenko. Now while I was glad that she had escaped the clutches of Yanukovych, I nevertheless would have preferred not to get involved with the woman, given her rather chequered history. Corruption and Yulia were no strangers.

I decided to take the bull by the horns. I am, as I knew she was, fluent in Russian, so language would be no barrier. After minimal pleasantries, I stated, "So I understand you would be supporting others in the upcoming election. This, Yulia, is wise on your part, and the Ukrainian public will be grateful. You'll be a kind of heroine -- "

She interrupted me at his point. "Oh no, Simone, I intend to run. I still have much to offer."

And much to take, I thought.

"Oh, well, just my advice to you. I always find it better to be thought well of, than have to suffer the vicious slings and arrows of politics."

"What are 'slings and arrows'?" she asked. Shakespeare was not her strong suit.

I saw this was going nowhere fast, wished her well, and said goodbye. I will give her this, however. She had removed that irritating peasant braid from her head, a wise move. Yulia Tymoshenko was about as far away from a peasant as you could get. It would be like saying John of Gaunt was actually some kind of serf.* Not on, but even braidless, I doubt Yulia will succeed.

After all, one's past is, in a certain context, one's future.

Isn't it?


* The Lady's reference here recalls that excellent text, 1066 And All That, and the "exam" question, "What makes you picture John of Gaunt as a rather emaciated grandee?" Priceless, that. -- Ed.