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Barnaby’s back. Macron goes to Moscow. Hardest place for business.

It was going to be a quiet week. Then up popped Barnaby.

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce confirms his Hall of Fame status.

M. Macron meets with Tsar Vlad to seek peace in our time. All’s fair in love and in an election year.

Chairman Dan’s bailiwick is the most difficult state in Australia to do business.

Emperor Xi’s plaything, Hong Kong, has half-pregnant covid restrictions. The ex-colony is dying.

Apologies aplenty this week. But no sackcloth and ashes. And no forgiveness.

Geography: Now, remind me, where exactly is Ukraine?

History: It was 50 years ago today, that…

Habits: The old girl has done a good job. Pity about the family.

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Barnaby’s back!

For PM Jimmy Morrison, 2022 will indeed end up as the Year of the rat. This rat is not that RAT [1], but the Deputy Prime Minister: Barnaby Joyce.

Textgate, as it were, was yet another traitorous brain fade from Barnaby. Critically, it now gives the compilers of the Oxford English and other august dictionaries the opportunity to insert “Barnaby” into the lexicon. As a noun; in the manner of “Quisling”.

Readers will recall that Vidkun Quisling was the ‘Minister President’ of Norway during the Second World War. His government headed a pro-Nazi puppet regime. After the war, Vidkun was tried for high treason and executed. The term ‘Quisling’ has entered the lexicon as meaning a traitor.

Wry & Dry is not suggesting that Barnaby be executed. Well, not yet. Rather that his name lives on in infamy, just has Quisling’s. What better way than to have Readers’ children’s children continually reminded of Barnaby’s persona.

Barnaby n. a disloyal scoundrel much given to attempting to remove the rungs of those higher on the ladder than himself. And in so doing, not realising that such action renders his own climb impossible.

[1] Rapid Antigen Test.

Macron goes to Moscow

M. Macron, the Eddie Everywhere of Europe, if not the world, and President of France, went to Moscow to meet Tsar Vlad.

Ostensibly, the aim of the meeting was to dissuade Tsar Vlad from changing the winter vacation site of 140,000 of his troops from Russia to Ukraine.

Readers will know the real reason: if Tsar Vlad sends his troops back to barracks, Macron will take the credit for stopping what might have been a war. Outcome: global applause, Nobel Peace Prize and re-election assured.

On the other hand, if Tsar Vlad forces Ukraine back to the bosom of the Motherland, it won’t be Macron’s fault. Outcome: he will wash his hands and blame Australia and PM Jimmy Morrison.

Tsar Vlad and M. Macron in close conversation

Tsar Vlad’s view? He said that the French president had “tortured” him by talking on and on for over five hours—at a vast oval table, and over a dinner of roast reindeer [2] with sweet potatoes and blackberries.

[2] Remove venison from fridge and leave for 30 minutes. Make small incisions evenly across venison and insert garlic piece or rosemary sprig in each hole. Preheat oven to 230℃. Fry onions in butter until softened. Arrange onions in centre of a roasting dish. Place venison on onions and pour oil over meat, ensuring to cover all areas. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast meat for 20 minutes, then remove. Lower oven setting to 180℃. Roast meat for 25 minutes. When meat has been cooked to desired doneness, let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve slices with roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots, buttered sprouts, and sweet onion gravy.

Hardest place for business

Chairman Dan’s bailiwick (Victoria) is not a good place to do business. In fact, it’s the worst state.

A report published this week [3] said that Victoria was/ had the:

  • highest taxing state
  • state with proportionately the largest public sector
  • state with the most red tape
  • most difficult state in which to do business
  • second-lowest proportion of people with trade qualifications
  • lowest state in labour productivity

Which matches the direction of comments by independent economist Saul Eslake that Victorians have become poorer than all other states and territories, except South Australians. [4]

Whilst this should come as no surprise to astute Readers, equally it should come as no surprise that the state opposition has been as silent as an undiscovered tomb on the matter. As was the Spencer Street Soviet. [5]

Sigh.

[3] Reported in the Financial Review on Wednesday, prepared by consultants Nous Group, for Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
[4] Measured by household disposable income per person.
[5] The Age, a parochial tabloid newspaper owned by the Nine Network.

Hong Kong: half covid pregnant

Since Emperor Xi took control of Hong Kong, he has tried to impose on it and its residents, the same boot-on-the-throat version of modern life as is in the mainland.

In the mainland, the policy of zero-covid has more-or-less worked – for now. Extreme lockdowns and lock ins can be readily imposed on a cowed and compliant people.

But Hong Kong is both more international and its residents are less compliant. Or have been so far. The policy of zero covid has failed almost everywhere globally and that is now the case in Hong Kong.

However, Hong Kong presses on upstream, in its barbed wire canoe. The latest restrictions include banning more than two people meeting in public.

This futility simply reflects the Hong Kong puppets trying to appease the marionettists in Beijing. The cost? Hong Kong is now effectively closed to the world. Its GDP growth is expected to halve to 1.5% in 2022. In 2018 there were than 65 million visitors to Hong Kong. The figure for 2022 is expected to be close to zero.

Go figure.

Apologies, but much missing

Readers may have noticed this week there was a parliamentary apology to those who had suffered from “a culture of bullying, abuse and harassment built up over the decades.” The leaders of all the parties all spoke.

Will that be the end? Err, no. The essences of closure were missing.

Firstly, those apologising spoke mealy words, probably written by others. If the injustices were as great as portrayed, where were the modern equivalents of sackcloth and ashes? [6] Whilst PM Jimmy Morrison should have donned the most uncomfortable sackcloth, there is little doubt that each of the other leaders were pleased, in this instance, that each were not Prime Minister. For each has presided over shameful acts of bullying and abuse in their own party.

Secondly, the victims failed to offer forgiveness. Instead, the next day they, or rather two representatives, took to the pulpit of the National Press Club to morph the offences into statements of personal victimhood.

Their failure to forgive will mean the matter is not closed for them. Perhaps they don’t want it closed.

Wry & Dry is not sure what has been achieved.

[6] Sackcloth and ashes are a public sign of repentance and humility before God. Wry & Dry is struggling to find an appropriate modern equivalent.

PS. Legal question: will PM Jimmy Morrison’s apology to Brittany Higgins (who has accused a colleague of rape) prejudice a fair trial for the accused?

PPS. It’s been a bad week for Jimmy. The government’s amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act fell when five of his colleagues crossed the floor to vote with the enemy. Embarrassment indeed. The amendments represent a massive failure of process by the government in what is a complex issue that has had three years to be resolved. The opposition doesn’t smell of roses, either. But no-one is watching them.

More bullying

Speaking of bullying, Readers will have noted that Lithuanian exports to China fell by 91% in December, compared with the previous year.

Perhaps it’s just coincidental that in 2021 Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius.

WFH (Watching From Home)

Wry & Dry enjoys the big screen. And fails to understand how great movies can be watched on television. But, as with so many things, he is alone.

The Economist had a squiz at the nominations for the world’s greatest narcissistic event: the Oscars. Most of the nominees are for films that are ‘streaming at release’.

Sigh.

Facebook gets a slap on the bottom…line

A company the share price of which falls 26% in one day is likely to be a penny dreadful. [7] But there are exceptions. Last week, Meta (formerly Facebook) announced a dismal profit report and its first loss of users in its 18-year history.

Its market value fell by more than $230 billion. Err, that’s no penny dreadful. What’s going on?

Firstly, last year Apple changed its default settings such that users had to proactively give consent to Facebook (and other apps) to track their behaviour. Many chose, and choose, not to. This means less data for Facebook. And less data to sell to advertisers.

Secondly, Google is stealing Facebook’s advertising lunch. It doesn’t rely so much on Apple for user data.

Thirdly, Facebook is losing users to other, better apps, such as Tik Tok (a name that Wry & Dry thought was either a handy timepiece or a coffee snack).

Is this the beginning of the end of Facebook? Will Readers no longer have the corporate-speak and excuses of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s leader and global technology villain #1)? Yes and no. Yes, Facebook has passed peak-tech. And no, Zuckerberg controls Facebook and has a compliant board. His odium will linger.

[7] Penny Dreadful: Traditionally a cheap, popular story published in the UK, in weekly parts, each costing a penny. Also, a stock usually priced in cents, with little or no positive cash flow and generally full of promises rather than promise. Although, note that Fortescue Metals was priced at $0.007 in 2002. Today it’s priced at about $21.30.

Geography

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” [8]

Which explains why:

  • two thirds of Americans cannot find Ukraine on a map [9]
  • 25% of Americans cannot find Russia on a map [10]

Wry & Dry wonders how many might identify Australia.

[8] Mark Twain
[9] Source: Morning Consult. Ukraine is the 5th largest country in Europe, behind Russia, Greenland, Turkey and France.
[10] Notwithstanding that Russia takes up most of the real estate on the map, being almost twice the size of Canada, the second largest.

History

It was 50 years ago this week that US President Nixon, accompanied by adviser Henry Kissinger, took a plane to Beijing, and met with China’s aging and ailing tyrant, Mao Zedong.

Older Readers will remember that then China was not recognised by the US, with the government in Taiwan (Republic of China) seen as the legitimate China.

Whilst history might look kindly upon Nixon’s moves to end China’s isolation and to recognise the obvious (China is a big place with then about 20% of the globe’s people), Wry & Dry sees things differently.

Nixon’s below-the-fold objectives were:

  • Embrace a weak China to unsettle a (then) powerful Soviet Union
  • Hasten the end of the Vietnam war by encouraging China to slow-down its provision of massive aid to the North

Mao and Zhou Enlai out-witted Nixon and Kissinger. They happily accepted the end to isolation. And were happy to ‘triangulate’ against the Soviet Union. But nothing was done, in the end, about China’s help to North Vietnam.

All Mao and Zhou wanted was the recognition that Taiwan was a part of China. They got it: Nixon happily betrayed an ally (the Republic of China i.e. Taiwan) for his domestic political ends.

Mao & Zhou had the weaker hand. But played it better than Nixon/ Kissinger. Nixon wanted the massive media coverage (which was truly amazing) and the plaudits for the initiative. He wasn’t going allow the trip to fail because he and Kissinger didn’t push hard enough on Vietnam and stand firm on Taiwan.

Nixon is remembered more for a felony [11] and less for his vanity. It was that vanity that has led to the current crisis. [12]

[11] Watergate.
[12] Interest Readers may wish to read: Nixon’s China Sell-Out – The Diplomat

Habits

The old girl has done a good job. Managing the egos of 14 Prime Ministers [13] over 70 years would be the easy part. But consider the very public problems that Her Majesty’s family have caused her? Spot the common theme:

Uncle David, the Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, who made arrangements with a divorced woman, who in turn did not offer him, err, exclusivity.

Sister Margaret, a woman whose heart was irreparably broken when told she couldn’t marry her only love [14] and so turned to the very racier side of life. And bore the consequences.

Son Charles, who was virtually forced into marriage with a woman he didn’t love and so he undertook, umm, alternative transactions.

Son Andrew, whose IQ matched the age of a variety of women with whom he shared a toothbrush. As it were.

Grandson Harry, who inherited his mother’s intelligence and insecurities. And so was easily beguiled by the wiles of a cunning gold-, silver-, platinum-digger.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary has served her subjects with grace, patience and dignity for 70 years. Sadly, her successor will also have to manage many known unknown family issues.

[13] Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Home, Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson.
[14] Group Captain Peter Townsend. He was a divorcee.

Snippets from all over

1. US inflation surges, again

Inflation in the US surged to 7.5% in the year to January, its highest rate in 40 years.

Wry & Dry comments: It’s now not a matter of “if” but “when” the Fed raises interest rates.

2. Musk loses 40 satellites

Up to 40 satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company are expected to burn up in the atmosphere after tumbling out of orbit during a solar storm.

Wry & Dry comments: “To lose one satellite, Mr. Musk, may be regarded as unfortunate: to lose 40 looks like carelessness.”

3. Bitcoin billions

The US government seized about AUD5.05 billion in bitcoin stolen during a 2016 hack of the Bitfinex currency exchange – the largest financial seizure ever.

Wry & Dry comments: Bring back bank notes. Difficult to steal $5 billion of the folding stuff.

4. China fails

China fell more than $213 billion short of its commitment to increase purchases of US goods and services that it made to then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

Wry & Dry comments: Absolutely no surprise there.

5. Tesla’s bitcoin investment

Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacturer, has revealed the value of its Bitcoin holdings stood at $1.99 billion at the end of last year.

Wry & Dry comments: That value is $1.79 billion today. But what’s $200 million between friends?

Data

The august Economist Intelligence Unit has again ranked 167 countries based on five measures of democracy. Australia comes in at #9.

Norway is #1, followed by New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland.

Taiwan comes in at #8, Canada 12, UK 18, France 22, US 26, Hong Kong 85, Turkey 103, Russia 124, and China 148. Afghanistan won the wooden spoon, just behind Myanmar and North Korea.

Wry & Dry is struggling to see why Taiwan doesn’t want to be a part of China.

And had the sausage sizzle been one of the five democracy measures, Australia would have been #1.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Wry & Dry’s Quote

“…ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

U.S. Republican (Party) National Committee, explaining what the mob was doing on 6th January when it invaded the US Capitol (i.e. the U.S.’ parliament house).

Wry & Dry comments: Some discourse. The US Justice Department has arrested 725 people in connection with the riots. Perhaps they saw something that the RNC didn’t.

PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees or directors.

Cheers

Anthony

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