Wry & Dry

The Italian job. Alitalia: finito Benito? All electric 2040.

The Italian Job

Wry & Dry has always been in awe of how much an Italian mother will do for her son.  Consider this:

  • In the UK, 50% of men aged between 18 and 30 live with their parents.
  • In the USA, it's a little better, with 40% of men between 18 and 30 living with Mamma.
  • In Italy, it's 80% [1].  

Gooda griefa.  Da Mammas looka after da sons.

Which brings W&D to Queensland Senator Matt Canavan.  Senator Canavan, a rising star in the National Party is, it seems, a citizen of a foreign power: Italy.  The curious matter is that he wasn't born in Italy.  He was born in Australia.  

But when he was 25, apparently his Mamma decided that he should become an Italian.  So she filled in some forms, unbeknowns to him, and because he was of Italian descent, he suddenly became Italian.

My mother made me an Italian cartoon

Mamma mia!  Why did she do it?  Is there a pension to be had?  Perhaps an EU passport?

Or is the Senator relying on the Shane Warne 'It-Was-My-Mother defence' [2]. 

But the poor Senator may not be alone in being a citizen-by-descent of another country.  It would seem that as many as 25 Senators and Representatives may be citizens-by-descent of a foreign power, without knowing it.

W&D imagines the new immigration queue at Canberra airport:

Australian citizens cartoon

W&D prays that someone will fill in some forms and make Tony Abbott a citizen of a foreign power.  One of those Gulf States, perhaps.  Or a tax-haven Caribbean country.  Or, ideally, a despotic-sub-Saharan right-wing dictatorship.

Taxing Trusts

Labor Leader William The Meek Shorten is really hopping on the Bernie Sanders/ Jezza Corbyn wind-back-the-clock-to-the glory-days-of-socialism band-wagon.

W&D is massively concerned by William The Meek's tag line of attacking inequality.  Quite a masterstroke - as it resonates with reality and the Australian sense of support for the underdog.  But, most thinking people know that equality of opportunity should be the real focus - otherwise one ends up with an equality of outcomes policy.  Which, if nothing else, destroys aspiration and prosperity.  

The trouble is that Treasurer Jimmy Morrison has taken the bait.  And the hook, the line and the sinker.  And is trying to argue that there hasn't been a decline in equality, rather than arguing that the equality argument misses the point.  Oh dear.

And the skillful Labor pincer movement doesn't stop there.  William The Meek has announced the possibility of more aggressively attacking the the taxation of trusts.  Most Australians see trusts as a vehicle for the wealthy to reduce their taxes.  Which is true - but there is much more to trusts than tax reduction.

Anyway, mentioning Trust and Shorten in the same sentence reminds W&D of...

Shorten trust cartoon 

S&P500 even more over-valued

"No-one rings a bell at the top" (of a market) is an arcane but certain fact.  Woe to he/ she who tries to pick the top of a market.  Of course, W&D is not into such speculation.

But presents the below data without further comment.

SP500 valuations stretched

Readers can draw their own conclusions.

Alitalia - finito Benito?

W&D and Mrs W&D recently flew Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier, from Rome to Abu Dhabi.  The aircraft was a brand new A330.  The service was charmingly Italian: chunky and swarthy young men with enough testosterone oozing from every pore to make Mrs W&D swoon, but not enough IQ to remember a drinks order.  

And there was no hint of the fact that their employer was placed into administration on 2nd May.   That followed the rejection by the workforce of a restructuring proposal made by Etihad Airways, its largest shareholder.  

Well, buyers for Alitalia are now lining up.  Discount airline Ryanair has now joined easyJet and Etihad in making a full but non-binding offer for the airline.  But final offers are not expected until the end of October.  Each of the bidders have made it clear that they require that the commissioners (managing the airline) to firstly restructure it.  That is implement the restructuring that the workforce rejected.  

The workers effectively voted the way they did in the hope that the government would step in and save the airline.  And their cushy jobs and benefits.  Hmm, a high risk strategy.  But, well, this is Italy, where the most effective way of doing business is handing over 'the bustarella' - the little envelope the contents of which grease the wheels of commerce.

W&D is reminded of an encounter between a German and Benito Mussolini (the buffoon of a dictator, who ruled Italy from 1922 until 1943) in Il Duce’s office overlooking Piazza Venezia in Rome.  

Wasn’t it difficult to govern the Italians, asked the perplexed German. “Not at all,” replied Mussolini, “it is simply pointless.” 

UK government to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040

In a policy of amazing consequences, the UK government (and following France two weeks ago) has announced that from 2040 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned.  That gives the industry 23 years in which to get its all-electric act together.

W&D sees the policy move as largely symbolic.  The rapid speed at which electric cars are being introduced and at ever declining costs means that most cars will be electric by 2040 in any case.

The problems are many, of course.  Not least of which is finding the power generating capacity to charge up 36.7m cars each day after evening rush hour.  The boffins tell W&D that it is an increase of 30 gigawatts to the current peak of 61 GW.  That's about 10 new nuclear power stations. 

Still, W&D is sure the Greens will have worked it all out by then.  As will the South Australian government.  

Electic car SA cartoon

Aaaaggghhhh. Sperm counts declined by 50%

Sperm counts in the western world have plummeted by 50% over the past 40 years and are continuing to decline, according to a study.

The research should be a wake-up call, fertility experts said, warning of increasing problems in trying to conceive, especially when combined with women putting off motherhood until their thirties.

Sperm cartoon

Hagai Levine, of the Hebrew University Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Jerusalem, who led the study, said his findings should be treated as “the canary in the coalmine”.

W&D isn't sure about the canary bit.  But with fewer prospective coalmines somehow referring to the "canary in the battery pack" doesn't have the same ring to it.

Elsewhere...

And in this world of troubles, Miscellany will soothe your troubled mind.     

[1]  Inter-generational Transfers and Household Structures: Why do most Italian Young Men Live with their Parents?, by Marco Manacorda and Enrico Moretti, CEP Discussion Paper No. 536.

[2]  In 2003, Test cricket Shane Warne was banned from cricket for 12 months for taking a banned substance (a diuretic).  He initial blamed his mother, who gave him the pill to "deal with his weight problem."  The Warney 'It-was-My-Mother-Defence' is different  to the 'Warney-Joe-The-Cameraman-Defence'.