Brexit closer? Shrinking to greatness. Not cricket.
From the sublime to the ridiculous
It's been one of those weeks. From the sublime to the ridiculous. And in the middle? Tarzan Trump: TT.
The sublime was the 4-country tour of the antipodes by a duke and duchess. W&D is no raging monarchist, but no presidents, politicians, pop stars or footballers could have pulled in the crowds as those two did. And with such affection. He's a caring, modern man (like W&D, but with a bit more dosh) and she a strong, modern woman (like Mrs W&D). Hats off to them.
In the middle was, well, Tarzan Trump. TT's cluelessness about the world was again on display. What is wrong with this man? A gunman kills six at a synagogue. And TT, in his first response, didn't utter a word about anti-semitism. Instead he parroted the National Rifle Association's solution: armed guards. Not that armed guards could do much against a nutter with an AR-15 assault rifle.
TT has lent legitimacy to a dangerous and paranoid way of thinking by his support for conspiratorially minded nationalists. This attack on Jews on American soil will not be the last.
The ridiculous was the behavior of the now ex-Chairman of Cricket Australia. Mr Peever exhibited intelligence and awareness of the-jury-of-public-opinion normally reserved by W&D for Queensland politicians.
Building societies #1
It's bank profit reporting season. And no doubt Readers have been hanging around the telex machine waiting for the financials.
Let W&D give Readers the whisper. The financial outcomes don't matter. The banks' fiscal years were so compromised by costs of Kleenex to wipe tears from executives whose bonuses were slashed, etc, as to be meaningless.
The keen eyes of Readers should be focussed on the structure of the banks. And what is left after they have sold off the non-home loan silver (Asian businesses, wealth businesses, some insurance businesses, rats and mice).
Err, well, not much. The assets sales were accompanied by CEO management speak: each bank is now going to be 'a simpler, better balanced bank.' Or, as one commentator, put it, 'shrinking to greatness'.
W&D sees that the banks are returning to their roots. So to speak. That is, deposit taking and property & business lending.
Which means the general economic trends of the economy will drive profit growth. Until seeming low-hanging fruit in other markets will be too much for the next generation of deal-starved executives and directors.
And then it will be 'diversify to greatness'. And the whole cycle will again start. Sigh.
Building societies #2
Speaking of bank CEO management speak, W&D just had to laugh. Each of the bank CEOs have recently spoken about 'challenging times' and 'challenges facing the industry'.
You call these challenging times? Wait until the bad loan losses of the banks rise, as higher interest costs begin to bite and when unemployment rises. The current actual and provisions for loan losses are minuscule compared to history.
Not that there is a recession in sight. And the 1980s and early 1990s were periods when the banks suffered (self-imposed) from extraordinarily risky lending.
But sooner or later...
And remember in the GFC Australia didn't have a recession. And yet the banks cut their dividends by 25%. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
RDS hits Abbott, again
In the space of two days last weekend, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had bad cases of Relevance Deprivation Syndrome. The problem of RDS amongst mostly ex-politicians is now known. And it was only a matter of time before Mr Abbott's latent condition flared again.
His episodes of RDS were thought to be under control. But sadly, no. Giving the UK Prime Minister gratuitous advice about Brexit ("go for a hard Brexit") and then calling for unity within the Liberal party ("I call for unity") were each considered extreme episodes by a specialist with whom W&D spoke. The latter episode was, in particular, seen to be a very extreme event, in view of his previous "I call for disunity" actions.
Readers will know that there is no known cure for RDS, although there can be long periods of seeming remission (as shown by John Hewson, whose RDS flared-up after years of remission).
W&D wishes Mr Abbott a speedy recovery.
Mid-termism is almost here
The Yoo Ess Aye goes to the polls on Tuesday - the same day as a horse race in Melbourne. W&D admits that he has more interest in the former than the latter.
The feature race on Tuesday is the Melbourne Cup, which would be a great race but for the fact that the horses carry different and additional weights, called handicaps. The objective is to give, one imagines, every horse a fair chance of winning. Nags with a history of winning major races are given heavier weighs to lug around the 3.2-kilometre course. W&D sees this as socialism at its worst. Why handicap success?
Meanwhile, in the Yoo Ess Aye, voters who wish to vote will vote in what are called 'mid-term elections'.
In as much as the Melbourne Cup has the massive problem of handicapping horses, so too do the elections in the US have the massive problem of voluntary voting (as do other countries). The result is that to get dedicated party followers (i.e. those most likely to vote for you) to come out to vote you must present policies more extreme than might otherwise be the case. Hence the idiocy of Trump v Clinton.
One of the many great things about Australia is that with mandatory voting we don't get such extremes - with the exception of Queensland.
W&D's prediction? Democrats to control the House, Republicans to control the Senate. And Tarzan Trump to imagine he controls the world.
W&D doesn't believe it. But his spies in the UK suggest that the Brexit deal will be finalised later this month.
Good grief! Expect PM May to resign once it is all signed, sealed and delivered. And be succeeded by a person of the next generation.
But Readers won't really know that this saga is over until they are confronted with the book (by Boris Johnson: "Brexit: How I Saved the UK"), the movie (written, produced, directed and starring Boris Johnson: "Brexit: How I Saved the UK"); and the online game (devised by Boris Johnson: "Brexit: How I Saved the UK").
Meanwhile ... in Hyde Park
Canberra challenges Queensland
W&D has always held Queensland in high regard, as the state excels in producing the most risible and idiotic politicians. It's not only Pauline Hanson, those daft Senators, Barnaby Joyce (but now moved to the south of the border) but also those rich characters from history such as Jo Bjelke-Petersen.
But now there is a challenger: the ACT.
Rebecca Cody, Labor MP in the ACT Legislative Assembly (base compensation $164,382) wants to change those street names in Canberra that she deems 'hurtful'.
"I was a hairdresser for 30 years and people were often telling me about some of the hurtful place names that we have in Canberra," she says.
Clearly, the good folk of Canberra do not have to worry about street crime, graffiti, traffic bottlenecks, health, education or even global warming. Gotta change those street signs.
Readers heard it here first
W&D will let Readers join the Italian dots:
1. There is an inconvenient truth: €277 billion of Italian government debt — the equivalent of 14% of French GDP — is owed to French banks.
2. Last Friday, France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, urged the commission to “reach out to Italy” after rejecting the country’s draft 2019 budget for breaking EU rules on public spending.
W&D is perfectly sure of what "reach out to Italy" means.
During the Greek crisis of 2010-11, French and German banks held around $115 billion of Greek debt. That was enough to convince the French and German governments of the day to offer Greece a partial bondholder bailout.
This is all perfectly understood by Italy’s government. The fact is that French, German and Spanish banks are now far too exposed to Italian debt for their respective governments to even think about the idea of pushing Italy to the edge.
Last night, it was announced that Italy's unemployment rate ticked up to 10.1% and that GDP growth in the September quarter was... 0%.
As Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, a former member of the ECB board, delightfully put it: “Italy is going straight into a wall,” he says. “The economy risks tipping into recession in the fourth quarter. The banks have already cut loans over the summer, as soon as the spreads began to rise. The Italian government has not understood this. You can’t see the wall yet, but the crash is going to be violent.”
Bini-Smaghi is also the current Chairman of Société Générale, France’s second-largest bank, which is presumably filled to the gunnels with Italian debt. As such, he probably has even more to fear from a full-scale Italian debt crisis than most.
And the EU is worried about Brexit.
Snippets from all over
1. Jaguar Land Rover up on blocks
UK-based but Indian-owned luxury motor vehicle maker Jaguar Land Rover has launched a £2.5 billion turnaround programme to shed costs and cut planned investment as falling sales in its major markets and concerns over the potential impact of Brexit hit the business.
W&D comments: Falling demand from China has driven this. Too many eggs in that wicker basket.
PS: US auto-maker General Motors has just announced that it will axe 18,000 jobs.
2. House prices on the skids
Australia’s housing slump entered its second year as lending curbs and buyer nerves saw prices fall again in October. Average property values declined 0.5% last month, taking the annual decline to 3.5% - the weakest performance since early 2012.
W&D comments: Sydney down 7.4%, Melbourne down 4.7%. Bricks and mortar also go down in price.
Former army captain Jair Bolsonaro has been elected President of Brazil.
W&D comments: Senhor Bolsonaro policies sit the right of the soup spoon. This will be 'tough love' i.e. extreme populism. Latin American style. Which is worse. And watch the Amazon de-forestation rapidly increase.
4. Down at the car wash
Shares in General Electric, a former darling of the US stock market, have fallen to their lowest price since 2009, as it cut its dividend to one cent per share.
W&D comments: The story has already been commented upon by W&D. But Readers might be curious about the one cent per share dividend. That is all about ensuring that it remains a company that has always paid dividend. Don't worry about the quality, feel the width?
5. Australia's inflation rate: down again
The boffins at the RBA announced that Australia's inflation rate dropped to 1.9% in the year to end September. This is outside the RBA's target band of between 2% and 3%.
W&D comments: Wait until rising oil prices and the falling A$ work their way through the system.
Tool of the Week
Podium finish goes to ... David Peever, the Chairman of Cricket Australia (CA). Readers will know that W&D still plays the great game, being captain and sole-selector (hence guaranteeing a weekly game) of his club's 6th XI. And thus has a great interest in the health of the game.
Allow W&D to remind Readers that three Australian cricketers in a test match versus South Africa were caught cheating by ball tampering (there is an overlooked IQ issue here, using a subtle approach, sand-paper to scuff one side of the ball). There was an international outcry, letters to the editor written, a gnashing of teeth and the three were suspended.
It slowly dawned on CA that something was amiss and so it instigated a review of the ethics and culture of cricket in Australia, by The Ethics Centre. The Ethics Centre presented its Review to the Chairman of CA some weeks ago.
Coincidentally, Peever was up for re-election last Friday, for another 3-year term. But he said that he would not release the Review prior to the election, but on the Monday following. He was re-elected.
On Monday the 145 page Report was released, damning CA for sins more multitudinous than for which there is space in this issue. To W&D seasoned eye, there has never been a more brutal review of a company or sporting organisation. The review makes the Royal Commission into banking look a tame affair. Those sins were more of CA's doing than the players: the Review puts much of the blame for cheating squarely in the lap of the administrators.
At the subsequent media conference, on Monday, Peever said he was responsible, but wouldn't resign.
But, wait. There's more. Yesterday, he was told by 'major stakeholders' to resign. And he did. No, he didn't jump. He was pushed. He didn't fall on his sword. He was pushed onto it. He probably still cannot see the problem. Himself.
Let W&D leave you with two other troubling matters:
Firstly, less than 25% of first-class players responded to the Ethics Centre questionnaire. So, 75% of players just didn't care enough about the most damaging incident to occur in Australian cricket since 1932 .
Secondly, the saddest thing is that but for the actions of an eagle-eyed South African cameraman, the originating incident would have passed unnoticed. The cheating would have continued and Australian cricket would have slowly eroded to a miserable, broken and unrecognisable carrier of the spirit of the game. But the players and administrators would have been well paid.
Deepak, W&D's Uber driver...
... didn't want to about the US mid-term elections. "I have news," he said, gravely.
"Is this about Anjali? Has she recovered?" W&D was worried.
Deepak's face turned to bewilderment. "It's complicated," he said in hushed tones. "I had to take her to the hospital to see if she was okay. And they wanted to do a scan to see if the baby was okay."
"And?" said W&D carefully.
"Well... Well..." He paused.
"The baby that..." he stuttered, "that was to be my son, isn't my son anymore. It's a girl. There was a mistake with the first scan."
"That's great news," enthused W&D. "Daughters can be ratbags in their teenage years, but they come out the other side."
"But I've told everyone it will be a son," wailed Deepak. "My family and friends will be disappointed."
"A fatal conclusion," W&D responded, as he got out of the car. "You will have to tell them of the mistake. They will love the outcome. And that you will have a daughter who will look after you in your dotage."
"So it will be okay," said Deepak, lightening up.
"Of course," said W&D as he receded. "But, I should tell you that girls are much more expensive that boys."
Deepak went white.
And, to soothe your troubled mind...
"I'm just giving birth.”
- An unnamed woman, who gave birth in a supermarket in Omsk, Siberia, to the cashier who helped deliver a healthy boy.
Customers carried on shopping a few metes away. Anxious supermarket staff initially tried to clear the shop of customers, but having failed to do so, they opened another checkout to compensate for the one that was closed because the woman was lying in the aisle.
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Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...
At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve
Gerald Grant, from Detroit, Michigan, should have got his licence plate light fixed. After all it was 2.30am and dark out there. And so a passing police car spotted the not-working light and pulled Gerald over.
Y'see, Gerald had 41 warrants out for his arrest. And he had 340 prior traffic convictions. And his licence expired in 1999.
A few years bed and breakfast at the expense of the local city.
Guess what happened next?
Andres Rodriguez shot somebody seven times in a road rage incident. And was charged with attempted murder. Out on bail, he applied for a job as middle school teacher. What did the school do:
a. Tear up his application;
b. Refer him to a psychologist (i.e. "you have to be nuts to think that you'd get a teaching job with your record");
c. Tell him to come back after his trial; or
d. Hire him.
Close. But no cigar. d. is correct. Lyons Township School District 103 employed Andres: all his qualifications were in order.
But it's okay, someone found out - he's been fired.
The ultimate doing-yourself-out-of-a-job
Party President Blair Longley is furious. "We don't agree with the cannabis industry being stolen from the people who made it and maintained it for decades, given to big international corporations to run with," he says.
Have a Wry & Dry weekend.
 The infamous Bodyline series, when the English captain, Douglas Jardine, instructed his fast bowlers to continually bowl at the batsmen's bodies , especially at Bradman's. England won the series. The series gave rise to one of the great quotes, from the Australian captain, Bill Woodfull, who marched into the English dressing and said to 'Plum' Warner, the English manager, that, "There are two teams out there. And only one is playing cricket."
Bodyline: a typical field. And no helmets.