Wry & Dry

Boris' Brexit. Just plain bad manners. Just reflectin'.

Just reflectin'...

...that the world held its breath and prayed for the Thai-cave rescue to have a happy ending.  And, in the end, the world gave a thankful sigh.  But it will be mostly forgotten in 12 months' time.

On the other hand, the economic carnage created by Tarzan Trump, that ignorant, ignoble, ill-mannered and chaotic creature of political self-indulgence, will linger for years.

Read on for what has been a pandemonical week.    

1.  Pandemonical Brexit

Readers will be aware that UK foreign minister Boris Johnson quit his post on Tuesday, in a pique over PM May's Brexit proposals.  Johnson sees himself as a modern day Churchill.  And he did write a highly readable biography of Churchill.  But that is where the comparison ends.

Johnson is an extreme Brexiter - hating Europe with theatrical EU-phobic flourish.  Johnson, like so many of his witless extreme-Brexiters, has never presented a serious view of what Brexit would look like.  The myriad of complexity (e.g. the very thorny issue of Northern Ireland's border with the Republic of Ireland) was always aloofly waved away.  Glib but quotable one-liners spun from his lips with all the ease of a man whose eloquence is much higher than his IQ.

Boris for PM

PM May knows that the majority in Westminster and in the UK do not want a so-called 'hard Brexit'.  That has simplistic appeal, but zero logic.  And so May has slowly moved towards a realistic Brexit, using the ambiguity given by the referendum. 

She also knows that it is not possible to please everybody.  Her compromise (released in a White Paper last night) isn't too bad: keeping close to the EU on traded goods (sensible because of the integration of many disparate companies in others' supply-chains), separate on services (and the sky won't fall on London's financial-centre status) and managing its own immigration and refugee decisions.

The reality is that the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019.  In spite of all the fuss of Johnson's resignation (and that of the preceding resignation of David Davis, the Brexit minister), the fact is, as Michael Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator stated, "After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80% of the negotiations.”

PM May's problems with some brainless but indulgent party colleagues are similar to Croesus Turnbull and his Triple A+J pests (Abbot, Abetz, Andrews, Joyce).  But, at the end of the day, UK Conservatives will come together to ensure that the idiotic Jeremy Corbyn doesn't become PM.  Whereas Triple A + J would be happy to see Shorten in the Lodge, because he is not Turnbull.

2. Pandemonical tariffs

W&D has lost score.  Whose turn is it to raise tariffs: China or America?  And the billions of dollars of trade affected is, err, what figure?  

Err, frankly, m' dear, etc, etc.

What W&D has been trying to work out is Tarzan Trump's strategy.  What is his end game?  Is it to neuter China?  No mistake, China is a long-standing flouter of international trade rules, notwithstanding its pleas to the contrary. It steals intellectual property, illegally subsidises some industries and dumps products on the open market.

Weirdly, China is still termed a 'developing economy' by the World Trade Organisation, allowing it to have higher trade barriers than developed countries.

But instead of planning and implementing a clever strategy to tackle China, one that would allow China to back-down without losing face, Trump sees trade enemies everywhere.  And abuses his allies, using 'national security' as his ratio decidendi

 

 

Trump French word for tariff

Tarzan Trump would have done better to work with Canada and the EU to confront China.  It's unlikely that the cowards in the EU would risk unilaterally increasing tariffs on China as Trump has done, but jointly with the US the story might be different.

What will now happen is that China and the US will appear to back down, China will make superficial undertakings, and Trump will appear a winner.

Of course the reality will be that not much will change.  And Trump's voluminous hot air will have achieved nothing except rust on his rusted-on supporters even more. 

November elections? What November elections?

3.  Tarzan Trump dresses down

Tarzan Trump gave the downcast NATO leaders a dressing down about their defence spending.  And that they needed to not rely so much on the US.  As W&D pointed out last week, this is one of the few areas that W&D is in furious agreement with him.

Germany, in particular, is recalcitrant.  And all the leaders looked contrite and nodded agreeably in the meeting.

But after the meeting the true colours came out, led by the (new) Italian Prime Minister, Mr Conte, "My government inherited spending commitments to NATO, commitments that we do not change, so no increase in spending."

Said like a true welfare beneficiary.

4.  Tarzan Trump dresses up

The above is as far as W&D's support of Tarzan Trump goes.  Readers will have seen photos of he and Mrs Trump at the State Dinner given by UK PM May at Blenheim Palace.  Good grief, why doesn't he do up his dinner jacket.

Theresa May and her husband, Philip, with Donald Trump and Melania on the Blenheim Palace steps

 

Moreover, his shirt sleeve cuffs should peek out from the jacket sleeves, as do Phillip May's.  Astute Readers will also identify the guards as Irish (blue plume, buttons in fours) and Scots (buttons in threes).

And, as for his manners, in declaring, amongst other gratuities, that Boris Johnson would make a great UK Prime Minister he confirmed his boorish, narrow view of people.  And offensiveness to his hosts.

Sigh.

Budget good news

The federal budget is much like the making of sausages: don't inquire to deeply [1].  Readers will know that there are three measures of fiscal success or failure: (a) fiscal balance, (b) underlying cash balance; and (c) net operating balance.

W&D runs his personal budget on a cash basis (but with an eye to future Mrs W&D outlays) and therefore considers it wise to look at the government's underlying cash balance.  And the government itself wisely takes the same view.

The government had forecast a deficit of $29 billion for FY-18. But if the 11 months to the end of May are to be used as a guide, the FY-18 deficit may come in at about $9 billion, significantly better than forecast.  So it is entirely possible the budget balance in FY-19 will be a surplus, some two years ahead of forecast. 

Now watch how quickly it will be spent. 

Spending the surplus

AMP Bank - how complicated can it get?

Readers will have seen that AMP Bank, a subsidiary of disaster-prone AMP Ltd, is the first of the large banks to raise home loan interest rates.

Nothing exceptional about that (other than the usual ones).  But W&D noticed that the bank had a double page spread in this morning's rags...

AMP loans changes

...advising customers of the interest rate changes...  to 477 different home loan products.  Trust W&D on this - he counted them.  Four hundred and seventy-seven.  How complicated can a bank make things for customers? And itself? 

How many thousands of AMP Bank worker-bees does it take to monitor all of this, even allowing for a smattering of technology?

What a farce.

Snippets from all over 

1.  Soaring with ... turkeys 

Newly elected Turkish Sultan-for-Life, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has named his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, as economic strongman (head of Treasury and Finance) in his new administration and removed the last member of an investor-friendly financial team.  Mr Albayrak holds an MBA from New York's Pace University, the 322nd globally ranked university.  Turkish equities, bonds and the lira were hammered on the announcement.

W&D comments: Possibly an expensive way to keep his daughter happy. 

2.  Brits now #1 on-line shoppers 

News is that e-commerce accounts for 18% of UK retail sales - the highest in the world.  And double that of the US.

W&D comments: Better put the kettle on, dear.  

3.  Another crypto-currency theft

Bancor, an Israeli startup that facilitates trading in crypto-currencies, said a criminal made off with a $13.5 million cache, mostly comprised of 'Ether'.

W&D comments:  Would someone please remind W&D about the storage security of these crypto-currencies/blockchain.

4.  Nobody talk, nobody shout, coz here comes the judge...

The media were up in arms over Tarzan Trump nominating a conservative judge, Brett Kavanaugh, to the US Supreme Court.  Assuming Senate confirmation, Kavanaugh will replace the retiring and conservative Anthony Kennedy.

W&D comments: Frankly, m'dear, I don't give a damn.  Tarzan Trump's action was entirely predictable, so calm down. 

5.  Indulgent note...

... that this week the Royal Air Force celebrated its 100th birthday.  W&D's father flew in Wellington bombers during World War Two. "An uncomfortable way to travel, but we dropped a few bombs on the square-heads," he would say.  But the 'square-heads' had the last laugh. [2]   

The way to stop...

... another damned foolish thing in the Balkans (see footnote 1) is for the EU to get on with allowing Western Balkan nations to join the Club.

Those nations are Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania.  The furthest advanced, Serbia and Montenegro, are unlikely to join the EU before 2025.  The EU is faffing around.

Why is W&D concerned?  Well, as someone famous once said [3], "nature abhors a vacuum."  And if the EU isn't going to take an interest in these countries, someone else will.  And that someone else will be either Russia or China or both.  Certainly, all Russia seems to want to do is to make mischief (Moscow, for example, backed a coup in Montenegro in 2016), but China's tentacles are more economic, if not ideological.  Remember, much of this part of the world was communist for 50 years.    

Sure, the EU is dysfunctional with 27 members.  And, with respect, some of the people in this part of the world are not as, err, well-mannered as might be.  So, it might be messy.  But if the EU were more rigid in its actions to backsliders (e.g. currently Poland and Hungary) a more united future might be possible.  Will the Habsburgs return?

Tool of the Week 

Podium finish goes to Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO.  Musk lobbed at the Thai-tunnel rescue with his company's latest gadget; a hastily assembled tiny submarine that he thought should be used in the rescue.  But by then the rescue was well underway.

The crassness of his offer was happily exceeded by the negative publicity he received.  

Deepak, W&D's Uber driver, wanted to hear all about ...

... Facebook's fine for privacy breaches.  "I read it was fined only £500,000 for privacy breaches.  That seems a tiny fine for such a massive company."

"Indeed it is tiny," replied W&D.  "It is the same as the amount of revenue Facebook makes every 5 minutes.  But that is the maximum fine currently allowed under UK law.  And positively not a deterrent compared to the €110m fine the EU gave it last year." 

"So what will the Brits do about it?" despaired Deepak, "and what happens in Australia?"

"Well, the EU have upped the fine to 4% of global annual sales or €20m, whichever is larger.  And that will also apply to the UK. In Australia, the maximum fine is $2.1m."

"That seems ridiculous," observed Deepak.

"Yes, it is," agreed W&D.  "And for a company such as Facebook it is a joke.  Speaking of jokes, err, privacy, is your mother-in-law still sleeping in your bedroom?"

"Yes," said Deepak glumly.  "I'm just not having the time I need with Anjali, if you understand.  I'm thinking Anjali will forget about me in, err, this regard."

"A fatal conclusion," laughed W&D as he stepped from Deepak's car.  "Women will only forget if you allow them to.  Memory in these matters is best maintained by small gifts.  Try it and see.  She might steal into your temporary bed in the middle of the night, whilst her mother is snoring away.  And if she does wake you up, remember that you are not driving your car."

"I don't understand," yelled Deepak to the receding W&D.

W&D turned: "Your car starts instantly when you turn on the ignition.  Anjali is not a car."      

And, to soothe your troubled mind...  

Miscellany 

Last words...

"It's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia...  We protect you against Russia yet Germany pays billions to Russia...  Germany is totally controlled by Russia."

 - Donald Trump, US President, prior to formal NATO meetings. 

Small hyperbole at the end.  The deal was the $15 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.  Germany relies more and more on Russian gas because it is closing its nuclear and coal fired power plants.

German power stations

First Samuel client events calendar

Date 

Description

Details

2018 Events  

Wed-18-Jul-18

NGV Winter Masterpieces Exhibition

Masterworks from MoMa (New York)

Invitations sent

NGV

Tue-14-Aug-18

Annual Forum and Cocktail Party

"Who is giving whom ... the coal shoulder?"

Hear Tony Sennitt, CEO of Diamond Energy, argue the case for renewables

Guests are invited to argue for coal

Invitations sent

Leonda

Various

Chief Investment Officer Dinners

FY-18 was a Year of Harvest and Sowing Seeds for the Next Five Years

Invitations to be sent

Various

Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...

At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve

A young motor-cyclist thought that red meant 'go'.  The mini-van coming the other way thought 'green' meant go.

Click here to see what happens

(New York Post)

Guess what happened next?

You buy a house some distance from the volcano.  In fact there are 670 houses between your home and the volcano, so you feel your home is safe.   What happens next?

a.  The volcano erupts and then splutters out;

b.  The volcano erupts and burns and buries 200 houses, and then stops;

c.  The volcano erupts and burns and buries 400 houses, and then stops; or

d.  The volcano erupts, and doesn't stop at house number 670.       

Close.  But no cigar.  d. is correct.  Hawaiian volcano Kilauea has now burnt and buried house number 671, your house.

(UPI.com)

Volcano:  671   Residents:  0

Ironic

David Miller, a late night liquor store attendant refused to sell alcohol to a young man who was drunk.   The man punched Miller in the head.  Miller ended up in hospital and underwent a brain scan.  

The scan showed no injury from the punch.  But showed a tumor.    

(Miami Herald)

Miller is now okay. 

Have a Wry & Dry weekend. 

Cheers!

Anthony

[1]  Often misattributed to Otto von Bismark, the 'Iron Chancellor', who unified Germany in the latter 19th century.  As famously, Bismarck also predicted the First World War: "Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans will set it off."

[2]  His plane was shot down and he spent five years in PoW camps, including the famed Stalag Luft III.  He escaped in the end, but not in the Great Escape. When he walked into his mother's home back in London, she didn't recognise him.

[3]  Albert Einstein.