The Mail

Numbers game

February 11 2002

The Mail

Numbers game

February 11 2002

The Mail

Numbers game

As a financial adviser, I was happy to read your cover stories on mutual funds (“The best and worst mutual funds,” Cover/Investment, Jan. 28). Where I disagree is with the approach used in picking hot funds. Numbers won’t tell you about the most important part of a mutual fund—the manager. You rate a hockey team on the strength of the players and coach, not on how many games they won the last three years. The same is true of fund managers and fund companies. Who are the strong and weak managers? Who is new and who just left? If a new manager has taken over, what did he (she) do running other funds at her old job? Does a manager follow a consistent investment approach? Is he buying the wrong stock for the wrong reason? These are the tough questions.

Shanahan’s gift

Bert Weiss, Renfrew, Ont.

I wonder if other readers saw as many red flags as I did. Your report ends with the observation that RRSP investors expecting 11.5 per cent last year are now expecting 8.9 per cent. Is this a breath of fresh air, evidence that expectations are now almost in line with a historical average? More likely it is the oddly familiar, musty smell of slow-moving market participants. In the

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market playground of capitalism, people don’t, in general, act until it is too late. We are too trusting of the flow of popular and commercial information or, in short, of the “experts.” Individuals would serve themselves well to bring a dose of skepticism to investing. We could be in a bubble. The Dow is down 15 per cent. That doesn’t seem like much, but there is a problem with the system, an asymmetry. It’s all buy, no sell. And there is no one to advocate for all the ordinary people if we are at a turning point such as happened in Japan 11 or 12 years ago—facing an extended period of negative or no returns.

Tim Rudy, Toronto

The important things

I am writing to applaud Paul Sutter’s piece “Taking stock of life.” (Over to You, Jan 28). As a family physician with a special interest in the health care of the elderly and palliative care, I come face to face, almost daily, with the truly fragile quality of human life. I think we all need a reminder to take a break from the modern-day din of phones, faxes, e-mails, voice mails, cellulars, mutual funds and the like, and take time to realize what is really important in our lives, while we are in a position to do something with this realization.

Dr. D’Arcy Little, Toronto

Jean’s world

In “Power games” (Canada, Jan 28), you seem to have missed the clarity with which Jean Chretien spoke following the swearing-in ceremony for his new cabinet. First of all, he said he had taken a walk in the snow and he had decided to stay. Clearly that means through the next election, which will make him the only Prime Minister to win four consecutive majority governments. He made it very clear why he elevated John Manley as his deputy. From his handling of the Russian diplomat who killed an Ottawa woman while drunk,




Hockey player Brendan Shanahan’s genius has nothing to do with the vagaries of institutional sport, or crowds that cheer or vilify depending on the stats (“Stand-up guy,” Cover/Sports, Jan. 14). Brendan’s gift is soul and an expanding sense of the possibilities, and limitations, in all of our lives—Irish exuberance and whimsy coalescing with Milan Kundera’s “wisdom of uncertainty.” The man would be a fine teacher. Not a high-school graduate? Phooey! Win or lose, he’s a scholar in Team Canada clothing, a Renaissance man in the making. Confronting teammates after a defeat with A Midsummer Night’s Dreamt Believe it: he did Dream in summer school a dozen years ago when he picked up his Ontario Academic Credit (Grade 13) in English.

I was his teacher. I miss him.

Gordon McLennan, London, Ont.

through the Sept. 11 crisis, to the present, Manley has proven himself the most able cabinet member the Prime Minister has had. Finally, Chrétien can turn things over to someone he trusts, and spend his remaining years becoming a world statesman. Given the disarray of the opposition, which will take at least a decade to correct, there is every reason to believe things will unfold exactly as they are meant to, in the world of Jean Chrétien.

Allen Wrigley, Barrie, Ont.

Patronage appointments are not unusual. However, I find the appointment of Alfonso Gagliano as ambassador to Denmark particularly repugnant. My late husband, a dedicated career diplomat, had been named to that post shortly before his untimely death in 1990. He and I were pleased that his years of service to his country were being rewarded, and were looking forward to continuing that service in Denmark. What, pray tell, has Gagliano done to deserve such a reward?

Judith Branion, Victoria

Whither the loonie

As everybody in power, including our finance minister, seems to be baffled by the sinking loonie, allow me—as an immigrant

The Mail

to Canada—to shed some light (“The vanishing loonie,” The Week That Was, Jan. 28). I did not come to Canada because of persecution or poverty, I came because Canada was safe and different from the States. Investors would, will and did invest in Canada because it was close to but different from the States, as people invest in Switzerland, even if the Swiss speak German and French, instead of investing in France or Germany. Our ever-closer relationship to the States, our lack of confidence in ourselves, the lack of political leadership—that is why people do not trust the Canadian dollar. Why buy the copy if you can get the original?

Carlo Testa, Blandford, N.S.

The point of death

The article “When does life end?” (Health, Jan. 28) may leave the impression that I thought my daughter Sandrine might not have been dead. Quite the contrary. I felt totally confident at the time, and still do, that Sandrine was no longer with us and that organ donation was the right and only thing to do following her tragic school bus accident. It is true I did not know why she had to be anesthetized. However, in the 2lh years since Sandrines death, I have learned much about brain death. I now know anesthesia was used to prevent reflex contractions during surgery and help preserve adequate blood flow to the organs. Knowing that six peoples lives were either saved or enhanced by receiving Sandrines organs continues to bring my son and me great comfort. Families should never doubt that brain death is declared only after the most meticulous consideration by a team of expert specialists.

Diane Craig, Dunrobin, Ont.

As a practising anesthesiologist, I hope I can clarify some points raised in the article. One of the primary skills of the anesthesiologist is that of life-support. That skill becomes more important as the physiology of our patient becomes more fragile, either from disease or from the severity of the surgical incursion. During the surgical event of organ harvest, when the other functions of the anesthesiologist (such as the provision of amnesia and analgesia) are unnecessary, life-support becomes the sole service that we can provide. With the passage of time, in the absence of a functioning brain

and brainstem, muscle spasms and profound cardiac and cardiovascular instability and hyper-reactivity become more common. The anesthesiologist occasionally has to compensate for this hyper-reactivity in the operating room. In the presence of brain death, it is not a sign of pain awareness.

Dr. David J. Liepert, Anesthesiologist, Peter Lougheed Centre, Calgary

You have eloquently provided an opportunity for us to think further about the oversimplifications, convenience and arrogance of medical science’s definition of death-—the least understood and therefore still the most frightening and feared of all human experiences.

Suzanne M. O’Callaghan, Mount Stewart, RE.I.

Boxed in

Allan Fotheringham tells us with absolute assurance that Alt, the film, is the best movie of the year. (“The incomparable Ali,” Jan. 28). Two paragraphs later, he informs the reader that he had never heard of the actor Will Smith—“Ali” in the film—one of the best known and most active stars in Hollywood’s tinselled firmament. Perhaps the Foth should leave film reviewing to those who know something of which they write, and go back to doing what he does best. Whatever that is. Thomas Rendell Curran, Ottawa

All’s stature is monumental, but when it comes to boxing, Foth sells George Chuvalo short. He went the distance twice with Ali, though he never did become world champion. But as Grantland Rice, the great sportswriter, wrote: “When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he marks—not that you won

or lost—but how you played the game.” And George played the game very well. James M. Thomson, Orangeville, Ont.

Waving the flag

Why is it that when Canadians finally have found a harmless, yet distinctive, method of proclaiming their nationality —putting the flag on a backpack—somebody, and a Canadian at that, has to decide that it is not a good thing to do (“A Maple Leaf ragging,” The Back Page, Jan. 28)? Experience just once the change in attitude when Europeans realize they are speaking with a Canadian and not an American, and you quickly recognize the power of that little Maple Leaf.

Bob Little, Halifax

Bearing the Canadian flag on your back is not supposed to create an immunity shield, nor grant you safe passage through any border crossing. I wear the flag for two reasons. First, it’s a conversation piece. Second, I am very proud to be Canadian. No matter where, how hungry, tired, fascinated, awestruck or lost I get in the world, I always know where home is.

Greg Siket, Calgary

Taken to task

I have been told by my Canadian contacts and friends that Macleans is decidedly one of the most anti-American mainstream publications in Canada. I’m afraid I must wholeheartedly agree. A sometimes subtle, sometimes overt focus on why people hate, dislike or resent Americans continues to shock this American. In Peter C. Newman’s Jan. 7 essay, “The defining border,” examples of our purportedly extreme differences include references to the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, the treaty banning the use of land mines and the Kyoto Accord. I would like to assure your readers of a simple truth: just because George W. Bush continues to force his unilateral stance on Americans and the rest of the world, that does not mean his personal or political values represent those of the majority of Americans. If Newman would spend some quality time in the United States, he might discover that Canadian and American values are more similar than he chooses to portray.

Cynthia L. Kemper, Denver