Wry & Dry

"Locked and loaded." Virtue signalling. Balanced budget.

"Locked and loaded" 

Readers will recall the movie Dr Strangelove, Kubrick's iconic and black comedy about an unhinged US Air Force general who orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union (younger Readers' guidance: nowadays Russia, mostly). [1]

Sigh.  Wry & Dry's recall of that unhinged madman in charge doing malevolent stuff has been heightened by Locked-And-Loaded-Trump's latest tweet.

The US is "locked and loaded", he said, ready to do something in response to the missile and drone attack on the world's largest oil refinery, in Saudi Arabia.  That attack shut down 5% of the world's oil supplies.

Most of the finger-pointing has been aimed at Iran, rather than the fessing-up (Iran-backed) Houthi rebels in Yemen, the country on Arabia's southern border.  The Houthi rebels are Shia Muslims.  Iran is a Shia theocracy.  On the other side of the Muslim coin are the essentially Sunni Muslim states: Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan.  These warring Muslim branches make the Catholic versus Protestant Thirty Years' War look tame. [2]   

Cartoon sonny and cher

Readers will know that Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen.  Whilst Iran clearly wants to support the rise of a Hezbollah-like regime south of Arabia (similar to its client states of Lebanon and Syria), it is also using the proxy war to test Saudi's military capabilities.  And stomach for a fight.  

It would seem that Saudi doesn't have either, of any sort.  It couldn't win a bar-room brawl.  Notwithstanding its massive wealth, Saudi is lowly ranked in terms of military firepower.  And even behind Australia.

Firepower

And it is sort of weird that massive American hardware deployed in Saudi Arabia inside out and outside in – satellites, AWACS, Patriot missiles, drones, battleships, jet fighters – didn’t see a drone, or certainly not in time.  Maybe they were facing the wrong way.

The point is that Locked-And-Loaded-Trump has waded into the Gulf wanting to just kick sand.  And without a plan if the bully kicks sand back.  He has already 'got wobbly' [3] when a US drone was shot down by Iran - ignoring requests for a limited military response.  The Iranian Revolutionary Guard must have laughed.  

Cartoonnot exactly nine eleven arabs

And this week it is laughing, as Locked-And-Loaded-Trump again prevaricated.  And then chose to impose more sanctions on Iran - but there is not much left that is unsanctioned. 

By ignoring small jabs, what will he do when a big punch is landed?  By then it might be too late.

[1] Dr Strangelove was a 1964 film that satirised a Cold War conflict between the Yoo-Ess-Ay and the Soviet Union.  Peter Sellers had three roles in the movies.  George C Scott also starred. 

[2]  Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states, the Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities.   

[3]  Former UK PM Margaret Thatcher famously told US President George Bush Senior after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that, "George, this is no time to go wobbly."

Corporate virtue signalling: a CEO's indulgence?

Readers will have read the media kerfuffle this week about leaders of the corporate world expressing views on social issues.  Wry & Dry feels obliged to add some sanity.

The reality is that CEOs who express views on social issues are essentially using their corporate platform to express a personal point of view.

CEOs are appointed by a board that represents shareholders, to provide a return on invested capital within a regulatory and governance framework. 

[Wry & Dry hastens to add that he doesn't advocate unfettered capitalism.  There are four legs to the successful company chair.  The first is ROE (return on equity).  The second is the employee and the third the customer.  In a world of labour and customer mobility, companies know the benefits of both employee and client satisfaction.  Employees and customers vote with their feet.

And where customer mobility is limited by a lack of competition (e.g. banks, airlines) the fourth leg comes into play: the 'mood of the meeting'/ 'court of public opinion' is a wider restraint. 

But increasingly the corporate heads with loud opinions are springing up above the parapet, to use the voice given to them by their employer.

Some with amazing hypocrisy.  Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, is happy to use the Qantas voice to bash those who express a religious view on a subject that differs to his own, but refuses to countenance unhooking a profitable business alliance with a country that jails homosexuals.

And Mr Joyce is not unknown for hypocrisy.  He is happy with Qantas' virtual airline monopoly in Australia, but not with the monopoly of the airports.

Cartoon qantas

Wry & Dry wonders how selective Mr Joyce is on social issues.  How would he react if some of Qantas' employees were very public about support for the Hong Kong demonstrators.  Would he publicly support those who express a social view on Hong Kong demonstrators?

Well balanced ...

Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg felt mightily pleased yesterday, when he announced that for the first time in 11 years, Australia's budget balance was 0.0% of GDP.  During those years, Australia's gross government debt grew from about $60 billion to $560 billion.

But Josh would know that the plaudits should go the previous Treasurer, now PM, Jimmy Morrison and to Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister, both of whom kept the purse strings tight.  The other thanks should go to Australia's iron ore companies, whose vaaaast amount of company tax payments did the general coffers fill. 

... but unemployment up

Australia's unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.3% in August.  Predictably, also rose the size of the font on the front pages, demanding a cut in interest rates.  The clamour is loud.  And with the US Fed cutting rates earlier in the week, there is almost a guarantees of another interest rate cut, in October.  Moreover, the government is under pressure to loosen fiscal policy.  The only speedy way to do this is bringing forward personal income tax cuts.  Rolling out infrastructure spending (or pink-batts-type initiatives - sigh) take two or three years to implement.  And by then the business cycle turns upward. 

With the sudden yelping for monetary and fiscal policy largesse Wry & Dry is moved to ask if Australia is becoming a bit of a princess?  Perhaps morphing into a nation entirely of millennials, whose ongoing good fortune has insulated it from even the thought of a little short-term hardship to alleviate longer-term peril.    

Meanwhile, who will meet I-Want-Four-More-Years-Trump at OK Corral [4] 

The remaining Democrat Wannabee Presidential Candidates continue to punch the lights out of each other for the privilege of having their name on the same ballot paper as I-Want-Four-More-Years-Trump.

Cartoon ok corral

The media is saying that the race has narrowed to three.  From the dinner plate moving left to the fish fork they are:

Joe Biden (aged 76): the steady if somewhat sleepy safe hand, who was vice-president to O'Bama.

Elizabeth Warren (70): the smart, telegenic and experienced senator from Massachusetts; socially 'progressive'.  

Bernie Sanders (78): the nutzo left-winger, who captured the imagination of the young by offering to write-off university debt and who forced Hillary Clinton to the left of the dessert fork.

If it were so, I-Want-Four-More-Years-Trump (73) has little about which to worry.  Which is why the right-wing media is saying the race is down to these three.  The Democrat primaries would be Zimmer Frames at 20 paces.  That right wing media would be worried if better candidates appeared.

Wry & Dry senses that smarter folk in the Democrat Party (and there must be some) would agree.  And know that there has to be better candidates, possibly:

Kamala Harris (54): ambitious and street smart Californian senator, with 'flexible' policies. 

Pete Buttigieg (37): seriously intelligent and articulate local mayor and former US naval reservist, an ideas man

Amy Klobuchar (59): smart, coherent centre-left Senator from the mid-west, pragmatic.

The experts will say that Buttigieg can't win because gay support from white liberals will be overwhelmed by anti-gay black conservatives.  Those same experts will say that Harris cannot win because she believes only in what will win votes (hang on, that's politics, isn't it).

Readers will recall that if Wry & Dry were in charge, he'd be choosing Amy.  She has not too much baggage for I-Have-Dirt-On-all-My-Enemies-Trump.  She hails from the mid-west, where the Democrats must win votes (the states behind Warren, Sanders and Harris are solidly Democrat anyway - what hope they in the rust-belt or mid-west).  And she won't try to out-yell I-Want-Four-More-Years-Trump, which is what Hillary Clinton tried to do.

 [4] The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second shootout between lawmen (Wyatt Earp, his brothers and 'Doc' Holliday) and members of a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys that took place in 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It is generally regarded as the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West. 

Unclear on the concept

The mother of a British teen who went legally blind after eating a diet of potato chips, chocolate, fried fish and french fries says she blames the U.K.'s health care system for her son's illness.

Kerry James, whose son, Harvey Dyer, developed a rare form of malnutrition-based blindness in his early teens, made the comments on the U.K.'s ITV channel on Tuesday morning. 

Wry & Dry doesn't think it's fair to blame the UK's health system.  The culprit is really the EU.

What's in a name? [5] 

Thinking very deeply about nomenclature, Wry & Dry considers that the average Joe in the Yoo-Ess-Ay will not vote for a presidential candidate with a name he/she cannot pronounce.  Or has more than two syllables.  O'Bama was the final straw. 

Readers might consider other recent occupants of the White House: Trump, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter, Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Johnson before getting to the three-syllable-but-pronounceable 'Kennedy'.  Eisenhower was recognisable as a war hero.  Before that, it was McKinley (elected in 1896) who was the last to overcome the three-syllable handicap.  

Cartoon whats in a name

This unique Wry & Dry research shows that Buttigieg and Klobuchar have no chance of nomination.  Equally Ka-ma-la Harris.

Logically, Elizabeth Warren's only chance is if she adopts the diminutive 'Liz'. 

[5]  "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet..."  Juliet, in the balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. 

Focusing on the big issues 

Former UK PM David Cameron, who unleashed two divisive referenda - Scottish independence and Brexit - is now the UK's most disliked politician, according to a new survey.  With a negative opinion held of him by 61% of the population, he comes in just ahead of (or is that behind) Jezza Corbyn on 58%.

And the most popular?  Borisconi, with 33% having a positive opinion, comfortably ahead of Brexit fanatic Nigel Farage on 26%.  

Which tells Readers a lot about the thinking of the Brits: get Brexit over and done with.   

Life in the weird lane

Readers will have read that a young woman in China found that her recent rhinoplasty (i.e. nose job) had altered her face so much that facial recognition software couldn't identify here.  So she was banned from online payment gateways and hi-speed trains.

Wry & Dry sees a massive market opportunity here; interchangeable noses.  Put on the normal nose when you wish to be identifiable.  And switch to a significantly different nose when anonymity is needed.

The technology is surely available, and plastic surgeons and prosthetic-nose makers would make a killing.

Wry & Dry waits for the start-up company.  Noses 'R Us?

Cartoon noses are us

Cost of power

Readers will have a sense that the prices of many things are falling.  Wry & Dry was drawn to the below chart from the Economist, which clearly observes the amazing decline in the price of computer power.

If Readers cannot understand a coloured chart, that's okay.  All Readers need to know is that a megabyte of data storage (about 900 pages of plain text in a book) in 1956 would have cost around US$9,200 ($85,000 in today’s prices). It now costs just $0.00002.

Cost of computing power

 Who would have thought?

Snippets from all over 

1.  Brexit lifeline

Jean-Claude Juncker (effectively the CEO of the EU) has early this morning opened the door to a possible Brexit deal, saying he was ready to scrap the controversial Irish “backstop” if Boris Johnson came up with a viable alternative.  

Wry & Dry comments:  Two matters.  Firstly, someone in Brussels has woken up to the fact that a No Deal Brexit would be a disaster for the EU as much for the UK and that some serious negotiations should be undertaken.  Secondly, any variation to the existing Deal must be agreed by all 27 EU countries.  Ireland is one of those countries.  It's prime minister is interested only in the long game, a united Ireland.  Anything that hinders that will be rejected.   

2.  US rates fall

The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, on Wednesday cut US interest rates by 25 basis points, to a range of 1.75% to 2% and signalled that it could stop there despite uncertainty over trade and fierce pressure from the White House for more accommodation.

Wry & Dry comments:  Predictably, I-Want-Lower-Rates-So-My-Personal-Mortgage-Costs-Go-Down-Trump responded with a carefully crafted response: "Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No “guts,” no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!”  

3.  Apple's Irish tax bill

The world's biggest tax case hits the courtroom this week.  Apple is battling the EU's Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who in 2016 ruled that Apple's tax deals with Ireland allowed the company to pay far less than other businesses.  The EU levied a €13 billion tax bill on the iPhone maker. 

Wry & Dry comments:  Preliminary rulings are scheduled for 24th September.  If the case goes against Apple, I-Wanna-Protect-American-Companies-Trump will go nutzo.    

4.  China's slowdown deepens

China's industrial output growth weakened to 4.4% in August, the weakest in 17.5 years. 

Wry & Dry comments:  Premier Li Keqiang said it would be "very difficult" for the economy to grow at 6% or more and that it faced "downward pressure."  Perhaps that is an understatement.  It might be more like a long-march. [7]

[7] The Long March (October 1934 – October 1935) was a 6,000 kilometre military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of today's People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) army.  The Long March began the ascent to power of Mao Zedong, and today is still glorified.  There is little doubt that Mao's role was mythologised to the point where it seemed he had single-handedly saved the Red Army and defeated Chiang Kai-shek. 

5. Tax cuts

President Trump said his administration would unveil a tax overhaul plan aimed at middle-income households in 2020. "It will be a very, very substantial tax cut for middle-income folks, who work so hard," he declared.

Wry & Dry comments:  Of course, he will finance the tax cuts by slashing government expenditure.  Of course ...

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...

Miscellany 

Last words ...

"I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they're just as dishonest as anyone else."

 -  Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, speaking before the House Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday.

Wow, that's being honest about being dishonest.

A lightly salted absurdity ...

Deepak, Wry & Dry's Uber driver ... 

... had arrived back from his rescue mission in Delhi, where he successfully emancipated his troublesome mother-in-law.

“And? Did Anjali cook the vindaloo?” asked Wry & Dry as he jumped into Deepak’s jalopy.

Deepak grinned and patted his ever so slightly inflated girth.

Thinking of Mrs. Wry & Dry's signature apple pies Wry & Dry chuckled, smacked his lips and observed, “you must be back in town.”

“A knight in shining armour indeed has a large appetite” Deepak announced proudly.

“Certainly,” replied W&D his mind now happily drifting to the spoils of another kind.

“Mr. Wry & Dry, I actually have a new investment.  Horses.”

“Horses?” Wry & Dry asked, peering out the window to hide his alarm.

“It so happened that Anjali’s cousins got us front row tickets for the Delhi Races.  Right next to the bookies!” Deepak said, his voice trembling with excitement.

“Let me guess, you won?”

Deepak grinned, “Absolutely.  Which allowed some dosh to assist in the release of my mother-in-law.  And not only that,” he lowered his voice conspiratorially, “We’ve got a consortium, the cousins and me, that is.  And we’re going global, Happy Valley, Melbourne Cup, the sky's the limit! And I’ve been told that I have an eye for winners, far better than cryptos too,” he said tapping his nose for effect.

Wry & Dry raised his eyebrow.

“And with the cousin’s connections, we know everyone who is worth knowing on the track,” Deepak quietly added.  "Some of the information they collect seems straight from the horse's mouth.  It is so accurate."

“I'm sensing that you are obtaining information that in my business would be called inside information.  That's just a hunch.  Just be careful, Deepak.  I suggest you keep a low profile,” Wry & Dry suggested.

“Oh, no.  We’re getting our name out there. We’ve called the consortium The Templars, speaking of us all being rather like knights and things,” Deepak said through thinly veiled modesty.

“And what does Anjali have to say about all this?” Wry & Dry prodded.

“If she finds out she will be thrilled.  Think of the winnings Mr Wry & Dry.  And of course I’ll tell Anjali she can have a new dress for Elms Day, I think they call it.” Deepak said, confidence oozing from every pore.

“A fatal conclusion, Deepak," Wry & Dry observed as he unbuckled his belt. "I suggest that you do some homework, Deepak.  Explore Fine Cotton."

"Cotton?  I'm now into silk," cried Deepak as Wry & Dry alighted.

Wry & Dry shook his head as he strode away.  How to tell Deepak about the Fine Cotton racing scam?

 

Cheers.  

Anthony 

 

First Samuel client events calendar

EVENTS FOR 2019

First Samuel 20th Anniversary Investment Forum

Tuesday 24th September

with Special guest
Hon Josh Frydenberg, MP, Federal Treasurer

Invitations sent

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