Wry & Dry

End of lease, Mr President. From Russia, with love. OPEC - the end?

I.  End of lease, Mr. President

Readers will know that I-Won-I-Really-Won-Trump plans to retire to his favourite shack: Mar-a-Lago, the 126-room, 7 hectare private resort and golf club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Cartoon trump golf course

"Err, sorry, Mr. President [1], you cannot use this place as a private residence."

Y'see, the local council permit he signed in 1993, when he built the members' club, had the fine print.  Which was that he could spend no more than 21 days per year there and no more than 7 days in succession. 

But, wait!  There's more.  As he will no long have the top gig, he can no longer use the Club's lawn as a helipad.

Wry & Dry is scanning Realestate.com for suggestions.

[1] In the Yoo-Ess-Ay, past presidents are given the courtesy title of "Mr. President".  So whilst, after January, there will be one President (Biden) and five living ex-presidents (Carter, Clinton, Bush G.W., O'Bama and I-Won-I-Really-Won-Trump), there will be six Mr. Presidents.  This is the equal record of the greatest number of Mr. Presidents. 

II.  From Russia, with love

In 2013, Wry & Dry solemnly reported that Tsar Vlad has separated from his wife and had secretly taken up with a former Olympic gymnast: Alina Kabaeva.  Tsar Vlad met Miss Alina when she was 18, in 2001.  The Moscow rumour mill has it that Miss Alina gave birth to twins last year, father unknown.

Well, somehow, Miss Alina is now in control of a pro-Kremlin media group and is paid an annual salary of $14m.

Wry & Dry can only assume that after her Olympic career, Miss Alina went into the media industry and, starting from the very bottom, climbed the slippery ladder that is Russian media.  She probably went to business school, doubtless studying at night.  And working at a second job to help pay her bills. Her natural ability to be noticed has obviously been an asset.

Miss Alina is shown below, surrounded by unknown admirers.  The bloke on the left looks, well, captivated.

photo vlad

Readers' must be impressed to see that hard work and drive pay off.  Even in Russia. 

III.  When $818m is not enough

If a Reader was offered $800m in a divorce settlement, the Reader probably wouldn't think twice.

However, Tatiana Akhmedova has thought again.  Her ex-husband, Farkhad Akhmedov, is a Russian oligarch.  Tatiana has done what any woman scorned would do.  She lawyered up.

Cartoon russian no fault divorce

She had been awarded a 41.5% share in her ex-husband's fortune. But he's playing hardball, as it were, as would do any Russian oligarch, transferring ownership of assets to trusts in tax havens.

Wry & Dry is fascinated, not by her commendable search for fiscal justice, but by who pays the lawyers in the meantime?  

The answer is that Tatiana's case is being funded by listed litigation financier Burford Capital.  As someone once said about Watergate: "Follow the money."

This could get murkier.

IV.  Ranking Covid resilience

All the world loves rankings.  Rankings of footballers, movies, golf courses, universities, most liveable cities, etc.  Whatever next?

So, it came to pass that someone or a company would rank the countries of the world is some way regarding their 'Covid resilience': Bloomberg.  

Bloomberg, the electronic financial newswire company, has ranked 53 countries by 10 equally weighted factors.  The factors include one-month covid cases per 100,000 people in the past month; Covid deaths as percentage of cases in the past month; total Covid deaths; Human Development Index; universal healthcare coverage; etc.

Chart covid resilience

Eyeballing the top countries, Readers can sense the mostly common factors:

  • Democracy
  • High 'social cohesion'
  • Investment in public health
  • Effective testing
  • Ability to block borders

Of course, Wry & Dry expects the ranking to change as the northern hemisphere goes into winter.  Australia should leap into second place.  

Wry & Dry also wonders how each of the Australian states would fare.  Six of the factors are common across all of Australia, five are not.  Some states might fare poorly.

Cartoon covid awards

Just askin'.

V.   "OPEC, we've gotta problem"

All is not well in the house of OPEC.

The world's economy and its drivers are changing rapidly.  And beneath the corporate ducks swimming effortlessly across the economic pond, feet are furiously moving, wondering which way to steer.

Y'see, it's not only the massive, rapid and non-linear changes in technology that are disrupting the world, but it's also those changes blended with the outworkings of covid.  The epitome of discombobulation is OPEC, the cartel that tries to control the price of oil.

Cartoon opec tensions

For example, the huge drop in demand for oil forced OPEC countries and non OPEC members (e.g. Russia) to agreed production cuts to assist in propping up the oil price.  See below for how successful that was.       

Chart opec production

The cartel's oil ministers meet on Monday to decide what to do.  And it's not only production cuts that are to be discussed, but also the rumours that the UAE is going to give itself the DCM from OPEC.  This is, well, weird.  UAE is OPEC's third largest producer and a close ally of the largest, Saudi Arabia.  UAE has said that no more production cuts should proceed until all OPEC members have fully implemented their agreed cuts.

Nice try lads, but in the race of life, always back a horse called self-interest.  UAE is tilting at windmills.  Or perhaps oil wells.

Wry & Dry considers that OPEC, like the EU, another dysfunctional agglomeration, will kick the can of hard decisions down the road.  And make seemingly purposeful changes that change nothing.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. [2]

[2] The more things change, the more they stay the same.

VI.  Things are not always what they seem

Wry & Dry was taught chemistry by a teacher who used to mutter that in science: "things are not always what they seem."  The teacher would then prove his words with a bewildering outcome to an experiment, that often ended with what seemed to be a small but uncontrolled explosion.  The words "things are not always what they seem" have remained dormant in the deep recesses of Wry & Dry's mind. [3]  Until now.

Things are not what they seem in relation to carbon emissions of electric vehicles (EVs). As a result, Wry & Dry's love for EVs may be broken.  UK research [4] shows that an electric vehicle has to be driven for some 80,000 kilometres before it has a better carbon footprint than a petrol model.  This is because of the greater energy used in its manufacture.

The research looked at the Volvo XC40 and its electric equivalent (Polestar 2).  The EV Volvo delivered 24 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in its making, compared to 14 tonnes for the petrol Volvo.  The carbon footprint gap between the petrol car and the EV diminished over the driving life of the cars.

Wry & Dry will stick with the tram.  

[3]  Those words were the only thing that Wry & Dry learned in chemistry.  He failed the subject in Year 11.
[4]  Commissioned by Honda, McLaren, Aston Martin and Bosch.  The research used the current European electricity energy mix (45% carbon-based, the balance carbon-free). 

VII.  Brexit clock still ticking

Readers now live in a post-Trump world.  By that, Wry & Dry means that the Trump world, at its core, was one where in a negotiated outcome there has to be a winner and a loser.  As the world now knows, because Trump set up this binary paradigm for himself, he would do almost anything to ensure that he was the winner.  Or appear to be the winner.

The world doesn't work like that.  And with this in mind, Wry & Dry, like many Readers, is watching the Brexit clock tick down.  The tabloid media on each side of the Channel have taken xenophobic positions and will search for clues in the negotiated outcome to shout either "rule Britannia, etc," or "vive la France et l’Union européenne".

Borisconi has many things to worry about.  His tiered lockdown of England is causing considerable grief.  Brexit is the least of his worries at the minute.  And, at least, he has hosed down the yelling at the EU. 

Cartoon brexit lockdown

The Brexit negotiators are smarter than that.  A deal will be done.

Firstly, aside from a handful of noisy but brainless hard-Brexiteers and a boatful of belligerent French fishermen people, there is no powerful constituency opposing a deal.

Secondly, there is no single big issue (such as agriculture used to be) causing heels to be dug in or to cause masses to come onto the streets.  The EU has a memory-chips full of creative ways to kick pesky issues down the road (witness the Greek and Italian fiscal rescues).

Thirdly, with Where-Do-I-Now-Live-Trump scouring realestate.com for a place to live, each of the UK and the EU need to restore ties with Washington.  The former knows that the EU matters to Biden and the EU knows that the UK's ties with Washington are far deeper than its own.

As one experienced EU negotiator said, “There’s plenty of time. We have 24 hours left. What are you worrying about? This is when the EU starts negotiating.” 

Snippets from all over 

1.  Pot luck

Cannabis tax revenues in the September quarter collected by the State of California soared by a record 80% year-over-year, and by a record of $136 million year-over-year, to a $307 million, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration reported Monday afternoon

Wry & Dry comments:  If only California could somehow levy a tax on vapid virtue-signaling comments made by actors and actresses.  Think how much money it would raise. 

2.  Death of Australian who bestrode the financial globe

James D. Wolfensohn, who escaped a financially pinched Australian childhood to become a top Wall Street deal maker and a two-term president of the World Bank, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.

Wry & Dry comments: When the Chairman of Schroders, the UK leading merchant bank (along with Warburgs) in the 1970s and 1980s, resigned to become Chairman of the Bank of England, Schroders' board had two choices:

a.  James Wolfensohn: a brilliant, visionary Jewish Australian banker, who had rapidly risen the ranks at Schroders; or

b.  David Ogilvy: the 13th Earl of Airlie, a member of the British aristocracy, who had more slowly risen the same ranks.

Close but no cigar.  The correct answer is a.  After Schroders, the Earl went onto to become Lord Chamberlain of the Her Majesty's Royal Household.  The Earl was actually a thoroughly charming, down to earth gentleman, as comfortable in a pub as a palace.  He was understated and easy to under-estimate.

3.  Who want's to be a billionaire?

Driven by another surge in Tesla's share price, Elon Musk's net worth soared $7.2 billion to $127.9 billion on Monday, passing Bill Gates to become the world's second-richest person.

Wry & Dry comments:  Tesla's market cap gain this week is about the same as the total market cap for Ford Motor Co.   

4.  Worst UK recession in 300 years

The UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% in 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, forecast in the government's annual budget

Wry & Dry comments:  This is the worst economic year since the Great Frost of 1709.

5.  Swedish life expectancy falls

The life expectancy of Swedish men has already fallen to 80.8 in the year through August, from 81.3, Statistics Sweden said. For women, it fell to 84.4 from 84.7.

Wry & Dry comments:  Yes, yes, it's all about covid. 

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...

Last words ...

“This election is a fraud.” 

 -  Donald Trump, speaking yesterday.

It's now time for the men in white coats to appear.

A lightly salted absurdity ...

An Ohio man refused to wear a mask in a Walmart store.  He then refused to leave when asked.  The police were called.  What did the man do?

a.  Ask for a refund on his purchases;

b.  Quietly leave the store;

c.  Put on a mask and continue shopping; or

d.  Put on pair of brass knuckles and threaten police.

Close, but no cigar.  The correct answer is d.  Does this look like a man who would do such a thing?

Ohio man pulls out brass knuckles after refusing to wear mask in Walmart

 - NY Post