HAPPY NEWS YEAR
Two thousand and six has quietly slipped behind the curtain of time and we will now refer to it as Last Year. Two thousand and seven has entered stage left as This Year and we wait expectantly for its prologue. Can we hope the awful killing and maiming of innocent people in the War on Terror might stop early in the first act?
George W. Bush described the botched execution of Saddam Hussein as “a milestone in Iraqi democracy.” Another inane statement from the team that brought you “shock and awe” and “winning the hearts and minds of the people.” The execution, whatever it signified, had nothing to do with democracy, as I understand it. If the judicial killing was to be democratic, the Iraqis should have had a popular referendum on the issue. Whichever way the vote had gone, I am sure the majority of Iraqis would have preferred the execution took place on some other date than the first day of Eid ul-Adha, one of the holiest festivals in the Muslim calendar.
Saddam was hanged for “crimes against humanity.” He had been found guilty of causing the death of thousands of his own people and hundreds of thousands of foreigners. These same charges could equally apply to George W. Bush. It would be a real “milestone in democracy” if Bush ever had to answer the charges in an open court.
STONE THE CREWS!
An interesting thing about the sum of all the money in the world is how it seems disproportionately to end up in the pockets of a few. Of course Mrs Thatcher’s “trickle down effect” means some sawdust from the massive logs of the rich might end up on our tables while the privileged few accumulate whole forests.
Successful individuals who accumulate indecent amounts of money often feel it necessary, at some point, to buy a boat. Before this decision they are rational, intelligent, far-seeing money-grabbers, guided by free market principles and good old-fashioned greed. On any given day of their lives, they can tell you the overnight interest rate on Mongolian yurts to the nearest point, the closing coffee numbers in Costa Rica, and the 120-day-price of titanium in Belarus. They spend more time with their accountants than they do with their third wives or their children by previous marriages and have computer terminals in every room of their limousine. These are supposedly smart dudes.
Then they buy a boat. This decision is so irrational in a profit motive sense I am surprised the American Government does not impose sanctions on them. Here are people who know intimately every cent they own in 60 different currencies. If the Indonesial rupiah slips a point, they are up all night transferring their rambutans into pig belly futures in New Guinea. They value their wealth more than their health and never make a decision that is not geared to maximum gain. Then they buy a boat and throw all their instinct, training and experience to the wind. They acquire an asset that will eat up their money faster than termites get through an outside loo in the Australian outback. An asset, in the vaguest sense of the word, that will see them transfer loads of money to other people for its upkeep and maintenance without any gearing possible. They will soon find the derivatives market, a dangerous place to paddle in, is relatively safe compared to the boat business.
After paying a great wad of money from their Cayman Island account for a three-decked, gleaming motor-yacht with two 1500 horsepower motors and a pink marble Jacuzzi they first coveted at the Monte Carlo Boat Show, they initially lose about a third of the yacht’s value in depreciation as soon as they take delivery. They then have to find a marina where their new boat, christened something like Hedge Fund, can be left safely amongst similar vessels. The monthly mooring costs mean they will have to forego their weekly visits to Madam Claude and the girls on the Rue Fabourge.
The new boat owner will also have to employ a crew. This often means a captain, an engineer from the Phillipines, a cook and/or hostess and a couple of deckhands, usually stocky New Zealanders with ear-rings and attitude. The wage bill will set the owner back more than his leased Gulfstream and it will have to be paid every month whether the boat moves or not. And because of the peculiar nature of boats, every few minutes something costly will go wrong and have to be repaired/replaced/upgraded/serviced/configured/stripped /sanded/polished/painted/varnished/recut/ enlarged/reduced or refitted at exorbitant expense.
The boat will probably have to come out the water for painting before the summer and a boatyard will reluctantly (they are always busy) do the job for about the price of a used Stealth bomber. There are “teams” of people available in the boatyard who will remove the very expensive coatings applied a few months ago and replace them with even more expensive coatings – at 200 US dollars an hour per person plus materials. The boat, once out of the water, is like a tied-down Gulliver and will be climbed upon by hundreds of the little people who are drawn to large boats like hyenas to a kill: riggers, painters, welders, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, technicians with skills in refrigeration, hydraulics, electronics and communications, plus other miscellaneous craftspersons who will sew cushions and covers, clean carpets, dry clean anything, write signs, work underwater, print stationery, supply provisions, service life-rafts, deliver fresh flowers and recommend masseurs and personal trainers. The final bill at the boatyard will be astronomical, and naturally has to be paid before they will put you back in the water on their “no cash, no splash” insistence. This is because most sensible people would motor quickly away as soon as they saw the final bill, if their boat had already been launched.
Each of the fourteen days holiday in August the owner might spend on his boat (i.e. total yearly expenses divided by 14) will work out at a figure so absurd he will send his Blackberry away for checking. The porcine Robert Maxwell was so shocked at what his boat was costing him he tried to swim to shore one night so he did not have to pay the latest bills. Unfortunately, he was 600 miles from the coast and the tide was going out. But at least he did not have to face the next year’s yard bill.