Wry & Dry

American intelligence. Joe flails, Kabul falls, women forsaken. Bank balances.

American intelligence

The right and proper thing for Wry & Dry to do is to focus on American intelligence that failed to predict the speed of the fall of the Afghani government (see more, below).

Wry & Dry wishes to draw to Readers' attention other examples of the failure of American intelligence:

Thanks to David of Hampton for the contribution.

Cartoon american intelligence

Sleepy Joe's bank balance 

The venerable The Economist has reviewed selected US president's first-year-in-office bank balances. Sleepy Joe may have set a record that will never be broken.

Fiscally astute Readers will know that one year's deficit is only one piece of a 30-piece mosaic. The other 29 are the next 29 years of government debt. For example, the Trumpster's massive tax cuts condemned the Yoo-Ess-Ay taxpayer to significantly increasing debt obligations. The cost of the debt will balloon the day after the Fed starts raising interest rates [1].

And Sleepy Joe will wake up one day to find that the credit rating of the Yoo-Ess-Ay has again been cut. It was cut from AAA to AA+ in 2011. [2]

[1] Sort of. It's actually more to do with bond rates.
[2] There are 11 countries rated AAA by S&P: Canada, Denmark, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. 

Joe flails, Kabul falls, women forsaken Part I

"Iacta alea est." [3] 

Sleepy Joe made a decision about the exit of the Yoo-Ess-Ay from Afghanistan, from which there is no turning back. Squillions of words have already been written, from the risible (Trump) to the measured (Merkel). But it doesn't matter. 

People had long pondered which country or group would bring the Yoo-Ess-Ay to be the object of global derision. Russia? China? Cuba?

Err, no. Tiny, but alphabetically powerful Afghanistan [4]. Or, more accurately, an army of about 80,000 tribesmen.

But, it's okay for Sleepy Joe. He has fulfilled an election promise. Readers might consider, as The Economist put it, "the brutal assessment" of Sleepy Joe's judgment by Robert Gates, who was Secretary of Defence under the president both men served, Barack Obama.

He said, “I think he (Biden) has been wrong on nearly every major foreign-policy and national-security issue over the past four decades.” Ouch.

Cartoon biden whoops

[3] The die is cast. That is, there is no turning back. These words were attributed to Julius Caesar by Suetonius, as he led his army across the Rubicon river in Northern Italy. With this step, he entered Italy at the head of his army in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war against Pompey.
[4] On Afghanistan more generally, Readers might also wish to read that most masterful book on the 'Great Game': The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42. By William Dalrymple. It is a brilliant book. Or a more personal one: Flashman. By George MacDonald Fraser. Harry Flashman was the sole survivor of the 1842 British retreat from Kabul.

Afghanistan 101

Just in case some of the folk seen in the above video are also Readers, allow Wry & Dry to present some data on Afghanistan:

  • Land-locked, smaller than NSW, 31m people, mountainous, bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, three 'stans to the north and a 91-kilometre border with China to the north east.  The only navigable way between China and Afghanistan is through the Wakhjir Pass. And then on foot - there is not a road.   
  • Traversed by Greeks (Alexander), Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Russians and Yoo-Ess-Ay (+ NATO).
  • Kingdom until 1973, then President-led. Then 1978 coup. Russia invaded in 1979, retreated in 1988. Civil wars. By 1996 mostly ruled by Taliban. In 2001 US invasion (post 9-11) evicted Taliban from power. who retreated to the south and countryside. In 2021 US retreat. 
  • Population is 99% Muslim, mostly Sunni Hanafi.
  • Economically bankrupt, relies of first world aid. A most corrupt country. Bribery accounts for 23% of GDP. Rich in undeveloped mineral deposits.
  • Afghans, particularly Pashtuns (42% of the country's ethnic groups and the source of the Taliban) are noted for tribal solidarity and high regard for personal honour.
  • The Taliban, or now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, emerged in 1994, consisting of Pashtun students ('talib') educated in traditional Islamic schools. It was largely funded by Pakistan's Secret Service. Becoming more fundamental, it now blends Sharia law with militant Islamism. It is extraordinarily oppressive of women and girls.  For example, the latter, on turning 18, are forced into marriage with, mostly, soldiers. 
  • Cricket and soccer are were the two most popular sports. The cricket team played in the 2015 World Cup. 

Joe flails, Kabul falls, women forsaken Part II

Readers might consider six outcomes of Sleepy Joe fulfilling an election promise. And Wry & Dry is sure that he considered each of them.

Cartoon biden statue

Firstly, a massive increase in heroin volumes. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's illicit heroin. As Afghanistan is bankrupt, the poppy crop will become critical in financing the country. Barnaby Joyce would be envious of such an economic primacy of agriculture.

Secondly, over a million Afghani refugees. This means more problems for refugee-welcoming countries. How will PM Jimmy Morrison and those to the far right of his soup spoon react to the first boat to wash up on WA's north west coast? Will the WA premier lockdown the entire state just in case one of the refugees might have covid?

Thirdly, more terrorism. The reality of the 'war in Afghanistan' is that it was not really a civil war. It was a war against terrorists who happened to pitch a tent in Afghanistan. The awful hydra of al-Qaeda will reappear. A new generation of jihadists will now be emboldened. Will Chairman Dan be on the front foot and lockdown latent terrorist cells in Victoria?

Fourthly, the humiliation of Yoo-Ess-Ay foreign policy, and its incompetent execution, is now complete. Will a spine re-emerge to stand alongside Taiwan, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Israel or Japan? Sleepy Joe has entombed the Truman Doctrine. [5]

Fifthly, Emperor Xi and Tsar Vlad are (a) laughing out loud; (b) advancing plans for their respective next prods at American foreign policy; and (c) carving up the mineral rights of Afghanistan.  Each still has its Kabul embassy open.

Finally, and most heartbreakingly, the 18 million women and girls of Afghanistan will be time-transported back to the seventh century. The Taliban have a clear and unyielding view of females: childbearing chattels. Step out of line and it's sharia law, Taliban-style: half buried and then stoned to death. 

Where are the voices of the leading women's rights leaders in the Yoo-Ess-Ay? Kamala Harris, unusually, is silent. Nancy Pelosi, unusually, is silent. 

Black lives matter. Dark brown, female lives also matter, don't they? 

[5] The Truman Doctrine, 1947. President Harry S. Truman established that the United States would provide political, military and economic assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces.  President Kennedy followed; Readers would have read his inaugural speech: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

Meanwhile, in Victoria... 

Fast forward to 2028. The webcam vision is of Melbourne airport, the scene resembling that of Kabul airport 2021 or of the US embassy, Saigon 1975. Thousands of Victorians have stormed the China Airlines terminal (the Qantas, International and Virgin terminals closed in 2026, sold to repay Victoria's China Belt & Road Initiative debts).

By-passing the statue of Emperor Xi hand-in-hand with Chairman Dan, they rush the RQAF (Royal Queensland Air Force) rescue plane sent by Queensland Premier, Sir Barnaby Joyce. 

These Victorians have cried "enough" and are trying to escape Chairman Dan's latest incarceration. In revenge to suggestions in a weekly subversive email that he is autocratic, he had locked down the entire state for four weeks. 

Security police, sent from Hong Kong, are trying to stop people from getting to the aircraft. One sees the web-camera and raises his rifle. And fires. Webcam transmission abruptly ends.

...and back in Hong Kong... 

Four student leaders at the University of Hong Kong were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of 'advocating terrorism'.

The quartet had held a moment of silence to remember a man who stabbed a policeman and then killed himself.

Wry & Dry wonders if China will offer asylum to Afghan refugees to live in Hong Kong. And if so, would the Afghanis accept it. 

Emperor Xi's Big Build

Emperor Xi wants to do better than Victoria's Big Build. China has announced that it will build an airport on reclaimed land in the Taiwan Strait, less than 100 kilometres from Taipei. 

Wry & Dry feels confident that it is being built to be a hub for tourist flights in the region...

Readers will know that the Yoo-Ess-Ay does not have a defence treaty with Taiwan - there was one, but President Jimmy Carter unilaterally cancelled it in 1979 [6].  In response, US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, the primary purpose of which was/is to ensure the US' Taiwan policy cannot be changed unilaterally by the president (a poke in the eye to Carter) and ensure any decision to defend Taiwan will be made with the consent of Congress.

The act states that "the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capabilities". 

It's all rather vague - but is designed to be. It's called 'strategic ambiguity'. Which would suit Sleepy Joe.

[6] The Constitooshun of the Yoo-Ess-Ay makes it clear that only the Senate can ratify or cancel treaties (which is why the Yoo-Ess-Ay didn't sign up to the League of Nations, the Senate defied President Wilson).  Carter defied the Senate. Senator Goldwater, and others, sued Carter (Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996 (1979)). The case was dismissed as non-justiciable.

Unclear on the concept

Chairman Dan, announcing tighter lockdown restrictions: "There will be no removal of masks to consume alcohol outdoors."

Clear on the concept

The CEO of CSL (a specialist bio-tech company), Paul Perreault, said that Australian governments should stop aiming for zero covid cases because that will never happen, unless the nation stays shut forever.

Cartoon zero

QR code

A female sex worker in Melbourne has contracted covid. Wry & Dry wonders if she made her clients digitally sign in? Err, QR code, that is.

Cartoon go hard

If so, Wry & Dry assumes that this would make her premises a "tier one site". If so, might an unsuspecting bloke get a phone call from one of Chairman Dan's tracing people.  And would the unsuspecting bloke be asked to explain to his unhappy partner why he was self-isolating? 

And what if her premises were mobile, as it were? Or, to use an archaic VFL phrase, if she only ever wore the white shorts?

Hell hath no fury...

Phillippa Copleston-Warren, 46 from London, got very grumpy when given the DCM by her boyfriend, who then replaced her with a younger model, so to speak.

Phillippa had retained the former household's apps for the CCTV and Alexa device controls and the password of his Facebook account. And so she did what any modern woman would do:

  • change the password on his Facebook account so he couldn't access it
  • uploaded on his Facebook page stills of motions of a naked him and her naked successor
  • used Alexa to switch bedside lights on and off during the night

She might think the expected two years in the slammer worth it.  

Cartoon alexa

Champagne wars 

Lockdowns all over may have prevented Readers from seeing the movie/ documentary "Sparkling: the Story of Champagne."

But when the jailkeeper unlocks the prison door, Readers will need a light and entertaining interlude to celebrate the escape. What better way than to watch "Sparkling" with a Waterford encasing some 2007 Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque.

One of the many curiosities from the movie is that the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, a trade organisation, stipulates that champagne must be produced in the French region for which it is named. Climate change has led Taittinger and Pommery to buy vineyards in England.

At a blind tasting in 2016, Parisian restaurateurs preferred English sparkling wine over the traditional stuff.

Which upends the old joke about how many people it takes to drink a glass of English champagne. Four, in case Readers wondered: three to act as muscle, and the victim. 

Snippets from all over 

1. Biden's popularity plummets 

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that 9% of Democrats regret their 2020 vote and 12% of moderates regret their vote. Only 37% of the population would vote for President Biden now, down from 45%.

Wry & Dry comments: Bring back Trump?  Really?  

2. Unemployment falls, surprisingly

Australia's unemployment plunged to a 13-year low of 4.6% in July.

Wry & Dry comments: The data is before the wave of lockdowns.

3. Wage growth slow

Wages growth was 0.4% in the June quarter, on par with the depths of the GFC, Australian Bureau of Statistics data show.

Wry & Dry comments: Wry & Dry's wages growth was consumed by lockdown-palliating shiraz.  

4. No vax, no service

Starting last Monday, New York City imposed a vaccination requirement on dining, fitness clubs and performances held indoors, making it the first major U.S. city to implement such restrictions. Employees of those venues will also be required to be vaccinated

Wry & Dry comments: Tourists are exempt.

5. UK unemployment

The unemployment rate in the UK has fallen to 4.7 % as the economy bounces back from the Covid-19 crisis.

Wry & Dry comments: This is down from a peak of 5.1% last December.

And, to soothe your troubled mind...

Last words...

Q: Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

The president: No, it is not.

Q: Why?

The president: Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.

Q: Do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam, with some people feeling ——

The president: None whatsoever. Zero. … The Taliban is not the South — the North Vietnamese Army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy. 

Q: Mr. President, how serious was the corruption among the Afghanistan government to this mission failing there?

The president: Well, first of all, the mission hasn’t failed, yet. There is in Afghanistan — in all parties, there’s been corruption. The question is, can there be an agreement on unity of purpose? … That — the jury is still out. But the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.

    -  Excerpt from the transcript of a White House media conference on 8 July. The 'president" is Joe Biden.

Never send to know for whom the bell tolls...

 

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

 

Cheers

Anthony