Wry & Dry

Wisc what? China Hustle. "And you can take your job..."

I.   Wisc what?

Well, Readers now know where Wisconsin is [1], even if unable to spell it.  And perhaps Michigan.  'Flip state' has now entered the Australian lexicon - each of Wisconsin and Michigan are states that Sleepy Joe flipped to win the presidency [2].

The big issues on Readers' minds would be (a) how did Virus-What-Virus-Trump get so close and (b) how did the polls get it so wrong?

A lot of trees will give their lives to the additional pages to be printed across the globe this weekend, as experts attempt to answer those two questions.

Perhaps the energy would be better spent on asking: What sort of constipated political system throws up as candidates (a) a huckster and (b) everybody's aging grandfather; with a process that lasts for over a year; for an election where there is no national uniformity on voting; and where the outcome might be more about counting Supreme Court votes than voters' votes? 

Cartoon counting lawyers

Emperor Xi, Tsar Vlad, Sultan Erdogan, et al must each be laughing.

By the way, a young Reader sent Wry & Dry this Bernie Sanders' clip: Click here. If only he had backed his view on Sportsbet....

[1]  Maybe not.  It's sort of up the top, on the Great Lakes and in the middle.  Its population is a little less than Victoria's and it's about half the size.  It's famous for its dairy industry and its 15 Nobel Laureates.  And Frank Lloyd Wright. 
[2]  Plus Arizona and Nevada. Assuming, of course, that he does flip these states. 

II.  China Hustle 

Readers would have read a Wry & Dry piece in April this year (click here), China Hustle, which referred to Chinese companies undertaking IPOs using prospectuses and accounts that were more fiction than fact.

Readers will also be aware of this week's planned IPO of Ant Group, a massive Chinese financial conglomerate controlled by Jack Ma of Alibaba fame.  Ant was to have raised over US$37 billion (a world record worthy of Wee Do Ping, the Chinese swimmer) in a dual listing on Wednesday on Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

Then, on Monday, the phone rang.  "Err, Mr Ma.  Mr Ma.  There's a man from Beijing on the phone.  Something about a delay."

And so it came to pass that on Monday the IPO was postponed, as Mr Ma went to Beijing to get a talking-to from the regulators.  Prima facie, it's all about new rules that might affect a part of Ant's business.  Well, that's what the China Securities Regulatory Commission said.  Which fooled nobody.

Cartoon china Ma

The rumour is that Mr Ma upset someone in Beijing with a speech he made last month.

Which didn't fool Wry & Dry.  The reality is that someone has looked at Alibaba's and Ant's annual accounts and Ant's 'offering document'.  And seen more fiction than in Enron's accounts [3].  A snippet from a forensic and cynical analyst is:

"We compare the financial ratios of ANT Group vs. VISA and come up with some remarkable divergences.  Somehow, in 2019, ANT Group has managed to process more than eight times (8x) the “per Active User/Account” equivalent US Dollar transaction volume as VISA ($21,751.91 vs. $2,588.24).  This figure is nearly three times (3x) China’s per capita GDP vs. just 5% of US per Capita GDP for VISA. Yet, annual Net Income per User/Account is about the same ($3.64 vs. $3.56 per year)."

Someone at the CSRC has read the full article (click here) and said to Mr Ma, We Need To Talk.

Watch this space.

[3]  Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas.  Enron claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion during 2000. Fortune named Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years.
At the end of 2001, it was revealed that Enron's reported financial condition was sustained by an institutionalised, systemic and creatively planned accounting fraud. The scandal also affected the greater business world by causing the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, which had been Enron's main auditor for years.

III.  RBA helps banks, hinders retirees and risks housing bubble

What's going on?  The Chief Teller of the RBA announced a cut in the cash rate to 0.1% (and to hold it there for at least three years).  And a buying spree of $100 billion of government bonds to help hold down government borrowing costs.

The Chief Teller, Dr Lowe, said that the focus was on bringing down the unemployment rate and reducing pressure on the Australian dollar (thereby increasing exports).

Wry & Dry is not sure how lowering interest rates by 0.15% points is going to shorten the queue at Centrelink.  Really, are companies going to rush out and hire any more folk than they already might under the government's generous fiscal policies?

What is going on?  Dr Lowe:

a.  will achieve an asset price bubble (aka known as a house price boom);

b.  will further knife the hearts of self-funded retirees;

c.  wants to prop up the balance sheets of banks (who will not pass on the interest rate cut to home loan borrowers); or

d.  is suffering from RDS (Relevance Deprivation Syndrome) in the face of attention to US politics, Treasurer Josh, etc, and knew this policy would hit the headlines?

Close.  But no cigar.  The correct answer is all of the above.  Which is not a good thing.

Cartoon RBA rate cut

IV.  "... and you can take your job and...."

Readers would have seen that sort-of-stood-down AustPost CEO Christine Holgate has given herself the DCM.  All over the fuss of giving bonuses valued at about $20,000 to executives who nailed a deal to enhance value to we the taxpayer of over $150m annually.  And she decided not to seek a 'payout'.

Cartoon holgate

This woman is smarter than the average CEO.  A sense of integrity; a deft touch of humility; and a mixing of implicit self-interest (she will have little trouble in getting another gig) with short-term fiscal sacrifice are apparent.

All because PM Jimmy Morrison saw a populist door through which to enter. 

This issue is not about what it says about Ms Holgate (although, that is clear, in spades), but what it says about Australia's chances for some gutsy but needed economic reform.  And that is: Readers won't see any under a leader whose decision-making framework is based on the pub-test rather than the public-interest-test.    

V.  The wisdom of the years

Many Americans look back wistfully to the days of John Kennedy as President.  He was 43 years old when elected and gave an image of energy and optimism.  Even his 1960 opponent, Richard Nixon, was then relatively young, at 47.

The leader of China then was Mao Zedong, aged 67.

Today, the position is reversed.  The average age of America's leaders is over 77, that of China's is just 66 [4].

Cartoon reaganChart age

But let not the wisdom of the years be dismissed.  The aspiration for public service by talented Americans is quite rightly blocked by wiser, older folk.  These older folk clearly add much to the leadership of the Yoo-Ess-Ay, using their experience to good advantage. 

The oldest 10 Congress people are all over age 83, a tribute to America's respect for the aged.  And shows the bipartisanship of senior people.  They are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats and almost evenly between men and women (6/4).  The oldest, the ironically named Don Young, has been in Congress for 53 years. He entered Congress in 1973, when Richard Nixon was president.

Imagine the benefit that he brings to his electors. 

[4]  Averaging the age of (a) the presidential candidates and the leaders of the House and Senate; and (b) the top four Politburo members.

VI.  Hurt feelings

Readers will be aware that China has, effective today, banned imports of another six key Australian commodities: wine, lobster, sugar, coal, timber, wool, barley and copper.  The economic coercion continues.

The mandarins in Beijing seem bent of punishing Australia for calling for an inquiry into the source of coronavirus.

Is it time to ban exports of iron ore to China?  Stuff they cannot get from elsewhere on the same terms and quality.  Of course, it might cause a few squeals from the government of Western Australia.  But it's Realpolitik. 

VII.  The name's Bond.  James Bond. 

Death comes to us all.  Even James Bond.  Sean Connery was a delightful blend of character and corn, whose physique (he was a body-builder), good looks and deep Scottish lilt caused women (and men) to swoon.  

It was all of that which caused the founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, to want to use him in its advertising campaigns.  Readers may not have seen the below, sent by a young Reader.

Image james bond

Actually, the letter is a fake, published in 2011 by satirical website Scoopertino, which spoofs on all things Apple under the motto “All the News That’s Fit to Fabricate”.  Scoopertino's greatest spoof was: "Vatican shocker: Cardinals tap Siri as next Pope."

Connery remained true to his heritage.  But could never see the irony in his unstinting and very public support for Scottish independence, whilst, at the time of the referendum, living in Spain.

VIII.  What could possibly go wrong?

Just putting it out there...

1.  Choose a seasoned and unobjectionable moderate candidate.

2.  Campaign on the fundamentals of public health and prosperity.

3.  Amass a bank vault of campaign money.

4.  Deploy raw material of opponent's unethical and maladministrative record.

5.  Leverage inability of opponent to campaign on his terms (mass rallies).

6.  Milk your candidates 80% media support for all it's worth 

Q: What could possibly go wrong with Wry & Dry's forecast of a landslide for Biden?  Well, Wry & Dry forgot that Americans want a leader, not a manager. 

Cartoon putin rigging the polls

Snippets from all over 

1.  Putin immunity

President Putin is expected to gain lifelong immunity from prosecution for any alleged crimes committed before, during and after his time in office under a proposed law to be discussed by Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament. 

Wry & Dry comments:  What took him so long?

2.  Best bar

Connaught, London’s stylish hotel lounge, was named on Thursday the World’s Best Bar. It unseated Dante, in New York, which fell to No. 2 from the top spot last year. [5]

Wry & Dry comments:  The irony is that Connaught Bar cannot properly celebrate its victory until 1 December, as a new four-week coronavirus lockdown takes effect in the U.K.

[5]  Sydney's Maybe Sammy was Australia's best, coming in at #11.  Melbourne's best was The Everleigh at [cough] #73.

3.  US exit left, err, right

On Wednesday, the US formally withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.

Wry & Dry comments:  The US is the first country to exit the 189-nation agreement that aims to limit global warming. If Joe biden becomes President, the US would quickly rejoin.    

4.  Uber Uber

Californians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of 'Proposition 22', a ballot measure that would exempt drivers for app-based transportation and delivery companies (e.g. Uber) from being classified as employees.

Wry & Dry comments:  Essentially, Uber drivers are 'contractors' not employees.  However, Uber, etc will have to pay occupational accident insurance and healthcare subsidies for drivers who drive more than 15 hours a week.

5. Pot the winner

Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota have jumped on the recreational marijuana train, meaning 1 in 3 Americans now live in a state where adult pot use is legal. 

Wry & Dry comments:  More drug-related initiatives were also decided across the nation, with Oregon becoming the first in the nation to decriminalize the possession of hard drugs

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...


Last words ...

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win.”

 -  Donald Trump, current President of the Yoo-Ess-Ay, speaking at 11am, Melbourne time, today.

Setting up, if there was ever any doubt, a Supreme Court challenge on the validity of postal votes.

A lightly salted absurdity ...

A notorious Vancouver COVID-19 conspiracy theorist is in custody for repeatedly breaking mandatory quarantine after returning from a Flat Earth conference in the U.S.

Mak Parhar is charged with three counts of breaking the Canada Quarantine Act, according to court records, and made his first appearance in court on Tuesday.

  -  CBC.ca