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Election? What election? Darkness at noon. History: Tsar Vlad is wrong.

Whilst the world waits for Tsar Vlad to toss the coin, “Heads I invade, tails it was all a ruse”, Wry & Dry hits the week’s highlights.

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Election? What election?

Darkness at noon: Replace 2,800MW of power with a 700MW battery? Seriously?

Olympian costs: Emperor Xi’s fest drains China’s pocket. But it’s all about bread and circuses.

Bitcoin explained.

Emperor Xi responded Canute-like to Wry & Dry’s concern about Hong Kong’s covid problem.

The dog ate my homework: Independent MP blames, well, anybody else.

Geography: Sorry, we are closed today.

History: Tsar Vlad bends history like Beckham.

Habits: She came to a fork in the road…

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Election? What election?

Any doubts that a federal election is looming have been erased. An avalanche of events confirmed that something is going on. Readers might consider four canaries:

Sunday night television. Mrs Jimmy Morrison gave a soft interview on a normally hard-edged (if tabloid) television programme. Wry & Dry was surprised that the soundtrack from the Ten Commandments [1] wasn’t played. Or a clip from Happy Days not shown.

Bash Israel. The Man Who Never Was (TMWNW) must manage his diverse voters. And so, Sue Lines, Labor’s deputy president in the Senate, attacked Israel for “criminal apartheid.” The aim was to please those Labor supporters who wish to see Israel sink into the Dead Sea. Predictably, Labor Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, distanced herself from the remarks. It’s always a tricky balance, isn’t it? But only few were fooled into thinking it wasn’t all rehearsed.

More feet in mouths. The name Jason Falinski is not well known outside of, well, his family. And possibly his Liberal parliamentary colleagues. But on Monday he called for an inheritance tax, notwithstanding his colleagues slamming TMWNW for possibly thinking such heresy. On Wednesday he backed down, saying that’s not what he meant. Too late, the horse has bolted.

Bash private schools. Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said in parliament yesterday that private schools are being “obscenely over-funded”. She quoted data to show that private school funding from all government sources had risen by $3,338 per student in FY-21 compared to $703 per student for government schools. What she didn’t say, neglected to say or forgot to say was that private schools received significant one-off Job-keeper payments during the pandemic. Government schools didn’t. [2]

Barnaby has gone quiet.

[1] The Ten Commandments was one of the great 1950s epics. Charlton Heston played a ripped Moses and Yul Brynner a grumpy Pharaoh.

[2] Government school funding per student rises at 4.6% p.a. compared to 3.6% p.a. for private schools.

Darkness at noon

“Transition” is so seriously non-onomatopoeic. But place it in front of “…to Net Zero 2050” and it becomes alive with meaning. Consider yesterday’s announcement of the early closure of Australia’s largest power station: New South Wales’ 2880MW Eraring power plant, in 2025.

This brought cheers from the Greens, jeers from power workers and a verbal stoush between federal and state energy ministers (both Liberals – a bad week, or is it a month, gets worse).

The announcement is a kilometre-stone marking when Australia’s idealistic journey to net zero 2050 meets the reality of power supply and price.

The NSW minister said the state would build a 700-megawatt battery to replace Eraring. Wry & Dry can understand his federal counterpart’s response: “Anyone who thinks a 700MW battery that lasts for two hours is going to replace a 2800MW coal fired station is delusional.”

The reality is that it should never have come to this. Energy supply and distribution takes years to plan and build. Plan? What plan? The problem is obvious: politicians.

The Greens think that energy transition is costless, like any environmental policy. Labor might have a policy, but, well, wait until after the election. And PM Jimmy Morrison thinks a battery comes in just two sizes; AA and AAA, so how may will it take to create 700MW?

Sigh.

Olympian costs

It’s not cheap to run an Olympic Games. Ask Emperor Xi.

The current fest in Beijing is costing about $8.8 billion. But, well, what the heck. Tsar Vlad spent $51 billion on the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Rather like ancient Rome. When lots and lots of denarius was spent on bread and circuses (e.g. gladiatorial games in the Colosseum) to keep the vulgar happy.

Perhaps Tsar Vlad sees an invasion of Ukraine as having the same effect on Russians as an Olympic games.

Bitcoin explained
Emperor Xi channels King Canute

Readers will be recall King Canute sitting on his throne, commanding the incoming tide not to come in. [3] He failed.

Wry & Dry has the same sense about Emperor Xi’s latest diktat to the good folk in Hong Kong: “Make controlling the epidemic as soon as possible an overwhelming priority” and for officials to take “all necessary steps.”

The covid dragon may have bolted. And Xi’s fear might be realised: that covid leaps across the border, unchecked, to the mainland. The Wuhan chicken may come home to roost.

And the Hong Kong locals do not like Carrie Lam, Emperor’s Xi’s handmaiden. In January she went to a locked-down housing estate. Residents opened their windows and showered her with insults from a great height, so to speak. So rude.

But Ms Lam is trying: she has asked hotel owners to provide 10,000 rooms for use to isolate people who have tested positive. Wry & Dry didn’t see the Mandarin Oriental on the list.

[3] Canute was King of England from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018, and King of Norway from 1028 until his death in 1035. The three kingdoms united under Canute’s rule are referred to together as the North Sea Empire. Readers will know that Canute actually told his acolytes that he couldn’t control the tides.

MBA? Go overseas

The august Financial Times has just released its annual ranking of MBA Business Schools. Wry & Dry scanned the table for the highest placed Australian school. It wasn’t until he hit #97 that his eyes lit up: The Melbourne Business School (sort of associated with University of Melbourne).

US schools generally topped the rankings: Wharton, Columbia, Harvard, Insead (France/ Singapore), Kellogg, Stanford, Booth, London, Yale and IESE (Spain) were the top 10.

Why, oh why do Australian business schools rank so badly?

The dog ate my homework

Readers will know that there is a federal legislative requirement that political donations greater than $13,800 must be disclosed.

So, what to do if a cheque for $100,000 comes in the post, from a wealthy constituent and coal investor? Simple, keep it quiet. He’s a big coal investor and, well, it might cost votes. So, split the donation into eight lots of $12,500.

The MP concerned, Zali Stegggall, the vacuous Independent for what was Tony Abbott’s seat, did what any MP would do.

Firstly, blame someone else. In this case her political accountant.

Secondly, plead the Sergeant Schultze defence: “I know nothing.”

Really, Ms Steggall? You become aware of eight donations of $12,500 and do not join the arithmetical dots to add to $100,000.

Even one left-wing journo was moved to put: “Only the most rusted-on supporter could have failed to wince as Zali threw former campaign workers under the bus, and attempted to turn what she called her ”rookie error” into a ringing case for donations reform while professing ignorance of the biggest donation her campaign had received.”

Sigh.

But, it’s okay, though. She will turn up to the next event wearing suffragette white. And still pleading the victim.

Geography

Geographically and politically, Western Australia is part of Australia. Well, that was until covid turned up. The premier of WA pulled up the drawbridge and lowered the portcullis. A hermit kingdom was born.

And so it is today. Readers can go to the US, most countries in Europe and a few elsewhere without quarantine. But not to WA.

And neither can a high-level delegation of senior Australian, UK and US (AUKUS) military folk to view Australia’s main submarine base at HMAS Stirling in Perth. It’s all about the upcoming nuclear-powered submarines.

The delegation is viewing other military installations in those parts of Australia that are open i.e. the rest of the country.

Time to move the submarine base to the Northern Territory? Which also has the advantage of being a lot closer to possible belligerents.

History

Tsar Vlad wrote a book stating that Ukraine was always a part of Russia and he just wants it back where (he thinks) it belongs. Is he wrong?

Yes.

Like many European peoples, Ukrainians have found their land to be a desirable place across which to march. And with their borders shuffled to suit the whims of neighbours and invaders.

The land was a medieval state called Kievan Rus, which was then overrun to become a Mongol Khanate. And morphed into part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Russia and the Habsburg Empire then partitioned and annexed it in the late 1700s. Russia effectively got eastern Ukraine and Austria the west. Russia then moved westwards, occupying ‘right-bank Ukraine’ (essentially the centre of Ukraine). The south remained part of the Ottoman Empire.

The concept of Ukraine as a nation and Ukrainians as a nationality began around 1795. And was more about the people than the borders. The borders from 1795 to 1919 were mostly as a part of Russia, but the people were Ukrainian.

After the First World War, Ukraine declared independence from Russia, in a period of extraordinary chaos [4]. But in 1921, the Bolsheviks succeeded, and Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. The Ukrainians got the bad end of the deal. Stalin’s forced collectivisation of agriculture, and forced grain procurement caused an amazing famine that led to between 3.3 and 3.9m Ukrainian deaths from starvation [5].

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine again became an independent state, formalised with a referendum in December 1991. Over 90% of Ukrainians voted for independence.

Some parts of Ukraine were part of Russia for about 124 years. But Ukrainians were never Russian.

[4] Indeed, in the modern history of Europe no country experienced such complete anarchy, bitter civil strife, and total collapse of authority as did Ukraine at this time. Six different armies-– those of the Ukrainians, the Bolsheviks, the Whites, the Entente [French], the Poles and the anarchists – operated on its territory. Capital city Kyiv changed hands five times in less than a year.

[5] And between 2 and 3 million died in Russia and 1.5 to 2 million died in Kazakhstan.

Habits

A parent comes to a fork in the road when the chickens of an errant and ne’er do well child come home to roost [6]. Disown or pay up.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary didn’t choose the path less travelled. And tipped in £12 million to draw the curtains closed on her son’s notorious play in many acts.

HM probably thinks that this will be the last. However, Wry & Dry ponders that there must be more than a few lawyers pondering that if she stumped up for this episode, there must be more.

Given Prince Andrew’s dangerous blend of (a) high testosterone count; (b) high desirability (as a prince); (c) high sense of entitlement; and (d) low IQ, they are probably right. Noting that in New York, contingency fee rules allow lawyers to generally charge legal fees of up to 33.3% of damages won by their clients. That’s £4 million to be trousered by lawyers for Ms Roberts-Giuffre. Nice work, if you can get it. More will want it.

And whilst Prince Andrew was not being found guilty in a court of law, the court of public opinion gave its verdict in 2019, after his interview on BBC television. In a 2021 popularity ranking of 15 royals [7], Prince Andrew came 15th, comfortably behind Princess Princess. His score of 13% probably represents those who donkey-voted in the alphabetical list.

[6] The phrase was first alluded to in Chaucer’s The Parson’s Tale, but more familiarly in Robert Southey’s The Curse of Kehama.

[7] The top 10 are: The Queen, Philip (postmortem), William, Kate, Anne, Charles, Zara, Sophie, Harry and Camilla.

Snippets from all over

1. Stratospheric rise

Shares of Virgin Galactic skyrocketed by 32% on Tuesday to $10.74. The catalyst was the opening of ticket sales to the general public, moving the company closer to spaceflight commercialisation.

Wry & Dry comments: Investors have a lot to catch up. In June 2021, the share price was $56.

2. Musk gives $6 billion to charity

The world’s richest man gave US$6 billion of stock in Tesla to charity last November.

Wry & Dry comments: That 2% of his net worth. Buffett and others have given away more than 20% of theirs.

3. More crypto-currency pain

US regulators have taken their first enforcement action on cryptocurrency lending, agreeing $100m in settlements with BlockFi, a crypto-currency lender.

Wry & Dry comments: Crypto-currency: ye ha! The size of the settlement suggests that this is a profitable business.

4. Trump’s financial accounts not reliable

Donald Trump’s long-time accountant, Mazars, has told the Trump Organization that a decade of financial statements it helped prepare for the former president should no longer be relied upon.

Wry & Dry comments: Absolutely no surprise there. The New York Attorney-General filed a court document stating there was significant evidence of fraud committed by the family’s property business.

5. Prices up in Australia

The price of a piccolo latte, that definitive CPI benchmark, increased by over 10% this week (to $4.20).

Wry & Dry comments: The survey sample was statistically significant: Wry & Dry’s weekday café.

Data

  • The UK economy grew by 7.5% in 2021, the fastest growth since the Second World War. And inflation of 5.5% was a 30-year high
  • Long-term interest rates in the US (10-year Treasury notes) leapt above 2%, as investor sold government debt on the latest CPI data
  • Australia’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.2% in January
  • The number of murders in the US has leapt in the past two years, wiping out 20 years of progress. The right wing blame more ‘progressive prosecutors’. The left wing blames guns. Maybe too early to tell.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Wry & Dry’s Quote

“Xi orders Hong Kong to halt virus.”

Headline in yesterday’s Financial Review.

Wry & Dry comments: It’s well known that Emperor Xi has autocratic powers. But omnipotent?

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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