Wry & Dry

Borisconi's Waterloo...or Retreat from Kabul? Robotic parade. Hong Kong traffic.

Borisconi's Waterloo.  Or retreat from Kabul?

Even moderately narcissistic leaders like to plan how history might view them.[1]  And often act with their place in history in mind.

And some even act in advance of events to plan their place in history.  The most recent example of this was wannabee Prime Minister Bill Shorten and the imperial photographic portrait he had commissioned of himself and his leadership team - before the election. 

Sigh.  Pride cometh before a fall.

With that in mind, Wry & Dry turns to the historical events occurring in the Old Dart.  Are Readers seeing a UK Prime Minister trying to shape a place for himself in history by:

a.  completely faffing up Brexit by incautious and indulgent action - the Retreat from Kabul [2] outcome;


b.  brilliantly rescuing the drowning Brexit process and negotiating with the EU an amazing outcome for the UK - the Waterloo [3] outcome?

Much can be speculated about what will next happen.  Wry & Dry will not add to speculation, but provide a summary:

  • The Brits voted to Brexit
  • UK parliament thrice voted to reject the Deal Brexit 
  • Brexiters know the only way to get a better Brexit deal is to have a No-Deal on the table
  • The EU doesn't want a No-Deal Brexit, as the Deal Brexit is a great outcome for them
  • The Brits are fed up with self-indulgent delays to Brexit
  • Jezza Corbyn doesn't want a general election because he would be trounced, and so has dug a ditch
  • Tory Remainers, the old school elite, believe their cause is a just and Godly cause, and have a dug a ditch

Wry & Dry counsels those who have dug ditches: those who dig themselves into a ditch often die in the ditch.

[1]  Hence the often retrospective revisionism embarked upon by just-out-of-office leaders.  Usually in the form of, well, a flattering and self-indulgent autobiography.  Or better still, getting somebody else to write it.  The Ruddster quilled his own version of events, maybe because no-one else would. 
[2]  The Retreat from Kabul (1842) was Britain's worst military disaster until the Fall of Singapore (1942).  Of the some 16,500 soldiers and civilians who left Kabul for Jalalabad under the blundering command of Major-General Elphinstone only two British soldiers (one of whom was Harry Flashman - eventually General Sir Harry Flashman VC, and later to be the only survivor of Custer's Last Stand) and eight Indian Sepoys made it to Jalalabad. 
[3]  Battle of Waterloo (1815): Wellington's famous victory over Napoleon, of which Wellington later said was, "a damn close-run thing."  

Germany - a shrinking feeling

Last week, Wry & Dry had the impertinence to suggest that Germany might go into recession.  Just sayin'.

But what if it is?  Wry & Dry was captivated by a chart from those clever folk at the Economist.

Germany recession chart

The problem for Europe (aside from Italy, Greece and the rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe) is that where Germany goes, the others follow.  It's a synchronisation problem. 

So, will Germany recede?  Consider that GDP fell by 0.1% in the June quarter, car production fell by 17% over the past 12 months, and its export manufacturing sector has fallen by 17% over the past year.  What's next?

European economies are getting more synchronised. Perhaps if Germany sneezes, the rest of Europe won't say gesundheit. 

Cartoon Germany France white handkerchief

The global cry to Germany will be to use some of its budget surplus to boost its economy. 

Unlikely: parsimony is as German as sauerkraut. 

Upcoming anniversaries

Readers will be aware that 1st October will be the 70th year of the founding of the Peoples' Republic of China.  And everybody in a totalitarian state loves a parade.  This is a great opportunity for Emperor Xi Jinping to show that his parade is bigger than any of his predecessors: Jiang Zemin (50th) and Hu Jintao (60th).  Those two anniversary parades will seem like the Moomba parade [4] in comparison.

The 60th anniversary (1989) parade had the 2008 Beijing Olympics' Opening Ceremony upon which to build: the lads simply replaced the athletes and fans with soldiers and tanks.  And bingo!

It will be different this time.  The aim will be to impress the world with China's military might.  Taiwan and Hong Kong will be expected to pay close attention.  Readers should watch for 20,000 parading soldiers of both sexes but identical in height, weight, shape and appearance. Doubtless a few robots will be interspersed to ensure the mechanical appearance is maintained. 

All looked over by a smiling and benevolent looking Emperor, much like the Pope from his balcony.

[4]  Moomba parade: An archaic annual parade held in Melbourne, that used to attract crowds ten deep. But has become a haven for virtue signalling and protest groups that overwhelm the broader community groups that parade.  It now attracts crowds one deep.     

Traffic problems in Hong Kong

Readers will be aware that the CEO of Hong Kong, Ms Carrie Lam, has been told by the puppeteers in Beijing to kow-tow to the key demand of the Sunday-only demonstrators.  And withdraw the so-called Extradition Bill.

Why the turnaround?  W&D has the answer.   Ms Lam couldn't call for the tanks and troop carriers to be sent from over the border to solve the problem, à la Tienanmen Square 1989.  The reason: the driving requirements in Hong Kong. 

Work with Wry & Dry on this.  In China people drive on the right.  In Hong Kong it is drive-on-the-left [5].  This wasn't always the case.  Prior to 1946, China was just like Hong Kong, with drive-on-the-left vehicles.  But the problem began in 1946: the American-backed Nationalist government in Chongqing ordered China to switch from left to right.

This was Yankee imperialism at its very worst.  

The problem is now that China's tanks are drive-on-the-right, and the tank-drivers would not be used to driving on the left side of the road.  This would cause much confusion in Hong Kong's narrow streets. 

The same would apply to the troop carriers.  This would force the troops to seek alternative means of getting around Hong Kong to quell the riots.  Not even the amazingly efficient (and profitable) MTR (i.e. subway/ Metro/ Tube) would be equal to the task.

Cartoon Hong Kong china tanks

So better that Ms Lam folds her cards.  

[5] Drive-on-the-left countries include:  Australia, India, Pakistan, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, most of sub-Sahara Africa, most Pacific Islands, most of southern Asia, and UK.   

Focusing on the big issues 1

W&D is bemused at the goings on in New South Wales.  Or more especially, the Labor Party in NSW.  It seems that a now-banned Chinaman, Huang Xiangmo [6] turned up to a Labor Party dinner with $100,000 in notes, packaged in an Aldi shopping bag.

There are two questions to be answered here.

Firstly, why didn't someone tell him about BPay?  W&D senses that the poor man was used to doing things as they do in China i.e. cash only.  Officials at the ALP should take a long hard look at themselves for not letting Mr Huang know of electronic alternatives.

Cartoon NSW labor china aldi

Secondly, Aldi shopping bags in those days were made of non-recyclable plastic.  This was a terrible error of judgement from Mr Huang.  Surely a sturdy bag made from recycled paper would have been more appropriate to an ALP event.  This would be ensured a few more preferences from the Greens.

Mr Huang just didn't read the green tea leaves.

[6] Huang has given $2.7m to Australian political parties, either personally, or through his companies.  His donations have been suspected to be on behalf of Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which has been exerting influence on Australia's policies in favor of China through such political donations.  After Huang's permanent residency was cancelled, a letter backing Huang, which appeared on the front pages of three Australian Chinese-language newspapers as a paid advertisement, was signed by more than 120 community groups protesting the decision to effectively bar Huang from Australia. Many of these groups are linked to the United Front Work Department.

Focusing on the big issues 2

Readers may soon be able to walk out of that Michelin star restaurant without having to pay cash or swiping their card.  Amazon engineers are quietly testing scanners that can identify an individual human hand as a way to ring up store purchases

This is getting silly.  A better alternative would be to embed a chip in one's hand.  The chip could be topped up in the same way a Myki, Oyster or Octopus card might. The chip could also replace various cards, such as Medicare, Visa-card as well as containing vital medical history.   

The chip could be updated to allow the user to readily change static data, such as address, choice of personal pronoun and gender ... 

Cartoon DNA chip I D

Liveable cities

The Economist has announced its 'Most Liveable Cities' list for 2019.

As Readers know, any ranking of cities, countries, cricketers or movies depends upon the factors used and their weightings.  Having said that, let it be shouted that Melbourne, Wry & Dry's home town, is #2 in the world.

Vienna topped the list, Sydney was next after Melbourne.  Then came Osaka, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Adelaide.  Paris came in at 25th, London well behind and New York just in to top band.

Damascus brought up the rear of cities surveyed.  No need for a Lonely Planet for Damascus.  Even a latter-day St Paul (as Saul) would have been on the road to somewhere else to have the scales fall from his eyes [7].  Perhaps Mel.... oh, never mind.

[7]  Acts 9:13-19 is compelling reading.

Snippets from all over 

1.  China to slow

As a result of escalating tariff war risks, Oxford Economics, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Bloomberg Economics have all cut their forecasts for Chinese GDP growth in 2020 to below 6%.

Wry & Dry comments:  This will require a political solution (i.e. a solution to the Trade War), rather than fiscal or monetary action. 

2.  Strong current account, modest growth, no interest

There was a trio of economic news this week: a) Australia's GDP growth for FY-19 was a shy 1.4%; b) it posted its first quarterly current account surplus since 1975 in the second quarter, bolstered by soaring iron ore prices; and c) the Chief Teller of the RBA left interest rates on unchanged.

Wry & Dry comments:  Yawn.     

3.  Curry for India

India's GDP rose 5% in the June quarter from a year ago, the slowest pace in six years and lower than all the forecasts in a Bloomberg survey of economists.  

Wry & Dry comments:  India is used to GPD growth of greater than 7%.  Hmm. 

4.  World's largest IPO is coming to ... 

... Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's oil and gas producer and world's largest company (with twice the profit of Apple, the second largest) is considering Tokyo - instead of previous favourites London and Hong Kong - as the international destination to list its shares.  The IPO will take place over two stages: A flotation on the Saudi stock exchange later this year, followed by an international listing in 2020 or 2021. 

Wry & Dry comments:  Aramco Chairman Khalid al-Falih has opposed listing in New York because of concerns that Saudi assets could be targeted by terrorism-related lawsuits.  A justifiable concern: there are no litigation lawyers in Riyadh and few in Tokyo.    

5. Investment banking revenues plunge

Revenues at the world’s top investment banks plunged to a 13-year low in the first half of 2019 as geopolitical tensions, slowing growth and low interest rates compounded a structural decline that set in after the financial crisis. 

Wry & Dry comments:  But not enough to cancel the first-class travel vacation with the family, plus nanny and driver.

6.  Argentina

Argentina's decision to "unilaterally" extend maturities on its short-term debt constitutes a "default," according to Standard & Poor's, which slashed the country's long-term foreign and local currency issue ratings to CCC - "vulnerable to nonpayment."  

Cartoon Argentina send money

Wry & Dry comments:  Last week's default makes it three times this millennium.  Sigh.  And the problem is not only the massive external debt of US$101 billion, but also a couple of the statistics:

Spot the problem economy 

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...


Last words ...

"If we can get Steve Smith out, we'll be alright."

 - An English cricket supporter, alighting from a tram at the Old Trafford stop. [8]

They didn't.  They're not.

[8] The tram stop replaced the old Warwick Road railway station in 1992.  Readers will recall the measured, if somewhat claret-driven, tones of John Arlott.  Arlott's references to the Warwick Road end referred to the station, not a road. 

A lightly salted absurdity ...

Deepak, Wry & Dry's Uber driver ... 

... was downcast as Wry & Dry swung open the door.

“Mr. W&D…” Deepak began with a tremble in his voice, “I’m in terrible trouble.”

“Whatever is the matter, Deepak?” asked Wry & Dry, genuinely concerned.

“It would seem that I have put my mother-in-law in jail. But it wasn’t all my fault…” he said, his voice faltering.

“I did remind you that the Taj Mahal of a granny flat you are building for her in your back yard, should, under the building code and with any sense of fairness, have windows…”  W&D chastised.

“No, it’s worse!  My mother-in-law is being held in custody in Delhi awaiting extradition by the East Africans who think she is part a dark-web ring who are hacking bitcoin accounts.”

“You mean your bitcoin account… that your mother-in-law may have used the login details that you left so casually about,” W&D corrected.

“I never thought when I reported her to the Seychelles Police Department that they would take it all so seriously, and of course by then she was in India visiting her auntie.” Deepak explained between sniffs.

“A fatal conclusion.  And Anjali?” W&D asked with bated breath.

“She left for Delhi last night with Amulya. She didn’t even say goodbye,” Deepak wailed.

“I’d say it’ll be awhile before she cooks you her special vindaloo, if ever,” W&D said under his breath before forging on: “Mother-in-laws are a special breed, you see Deepak, and while incarceration is at times a very tempting option, it perhaps isn’t great for ongoing relationships,” he continued, drumming his fingers on his reassuringly overpriced but nevertheless substantial Ted Baker notebook.

“But Mr W&D, you are so wise. What am I to do?” Deepak asked.

“Deepak, women love a hero, and now is your moment to be a knight in shining armour.  You must rescue the damsel before extradition, it could get messy after that,” W&D announced spiritedly.

“Not Damsel, my mother-in-law’s name is actually Damshi.  It would be dreadful to rescue the wrong mother-in-law,” he retorted, ungrateful for W&D’s sage advice.

W&D sighed and decided to take a more direct path.

“Deepak, I was thinking of Anjali’s cousins and all their political connections.  After all that free rent they swindled off you, it’s time for them to return the favour I’d say.  Where are they now?”  

“Delhi!” Deepak said, brightening a little.

“Excellent,” said W&D, as he unbuckled his seat belt.

“I’ll make some calls” said Deepak, a plan slowly emerging in his mind.

“Also book a flight, Deepak, you can’t be a knight in shining armour in absentia, as it were. And if anyone needs some credit, you do.  Anjali’s opinion of you at the moment, is as bankrupt as your bitcoin account, I’d say.”

“But do you think the political-connections might work?” Deepak cried optimistically.

“Politics is murkier than the Ganges at Varanasi, Deepak.  And I suggest you advise Anjali's cousins, whatever they do, not to use an Aldi shopping bag.   Anyway, you’ll be eating Anjali’s vindaloo within the week I’d say,” W&D said enthusiastically.

“And don’t forget to pass on my regards to the damsel” W&D called as he stepped from the car.

"It’s Damshi, you dimwit,” cried Deepak, forgetting himself.   But W&D ignored the slight.  And grinned from ear to ear as he strode away.




PS  Did Readers notice this was an I-Wannabe-Famous-for-Something-Trump-free edition? 


First Samuel client events calendar


First Samuel 20th Anniversary Investment Forum

Tuesday 24th September

with Special guest
Hon Josh Frydenberg, MP, Federal Treasurer

Invitation sent

Please let Jess know if you are interested in bringing your children along to hear Mr. Frydenberg speak

Chief Investment Officer Dinners

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Venue Seating Date & Time
Chin Chin - Melbourne CBD Dinner 10th September 6 pm (Dinner fully booked)
The Botanical Hotel - South Yarra Lunch & Dinner 11th September 12pm & 6pm (Dinner fully booked)
Many Little by Polperro - Red Hill Dinner 17th September 6pm 
Elyros - Camberwell Dinner 18th September 6pm (Dinner fully booked)