12:34:05 am on
Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

The Silver Lining
David Simmonds

There has to be an upside to the current financial crisis. And this must be it.

Investment banks and mortgage lenders are folding like cheap suits. Their assets are being sold off at bargain basement rates. And you don't have to be Warren Buffett to get your hands on them, although you might have to wait in line behind him.

"This is a free market economy and there is no way we the government are getting into the banking business", explained a senior US Treasury official, with a straight face.

"And we can't let foreign capital grab our assets at fire sale prices. We've got to find solid, solvent American companies, and preferably not organized crime syndicates, to step up to the plate and show just how a market economy can be rebuilt out of a market economy gone to hell in a hand basket. Of course, that limits you a bit."

Among the companies rumoured to be planning major asset bids are the Shirley's Hair, Nail and Tanning Salon conglomerate based in Butte, Montana, and the Pete's Lube and Worms group from Jacksonville, Florida.

And some have already stepped up to the plate and swung the bat for a hit. Take Carl Clemson of Hershey, Pennsylvania. The proprietor of Carl's Classy Cleaning started six years ago with nothing but an idea. Today, he owns 15 dry cleaning outlets and 24 home housecleaning teams, and has a cash pile saved for expansion.

"I considered applying for an NHL franchise", he said "but I wasn't leveraged enough and hadn't been indicted by a grand jury. And then it came to me: why not pick up an investment bank. They're going for next to nothing".

And so, moving quickly, Carl was able to purchase most of the assets of Wall Street's venerable Shaft Brothers merchant bank. The package included about 100 employees, a portfolio of sub-prime mortgages and $45 worth of discount coupons for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Carl is coy about how much he had to pay, saying only "if you discount everything but the doughnuts, it's still a bargain".

Carl is determined to put the employees to work in his housecleaning enterprise. "I'm thinking of starting a sister service called 'Sackcloth and Ashes - Men in suits take the cleaners to you'. If they don't like it, they can have their walking - or jumping - papers. Besides, if they stick with me for six months, they can have their Blackberrys back".

And there are plenty of other market initiatives already being taken, as a result of the financial crisis. For example:

- the yet to be incorporated Miss WIlliams' Sunday School Class organization is in the final stages of negotiations, with two major national publishers, for the rights to sell, an illustrated book for children, to an adult audience entitled "What is Greed, and why is it Bad?";

- a new line of made-in-the-USA pocket calculators is already in production, which will feature the ability to manage an extra nine zeroes so that those at home can keep score; of the numbers involved in the federal financial bailout program;

- a large military service contractor has called upon the US government to outsource its "remorse management" program for executives likely to be fingered in the forthcoming recrimination trials, and is proposing a network of privately operated 'black hole' sites coupled with a rendition scheme.

Sometimes, disaster creates unprecedented opportunities. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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