Wry & Dry

A drowning man will... Realpolitik: China shows Australia. Bernie's back!

A drowning man will clutch at a straw

W&D sipped the 2007 Perrier-Jouët Champagne Belle Epoque.  And pondered the drowning man clutching at a straw.  

Readers will instantly recognise the drowning man as the Liberal-National government.  The straw was the opinion polls of last weekend that showed the government's formerly dismal polling figures had changed to be a competitive 49/51, a mere bee's whisker from electoral victory.  And with a sensible preference allocation by those nuttzo Queensland One Nation voters, it would be a 51/49 outcome to the government.  Happy days?

Well, W&D hates to dash the hopes of centre/ centre-right/ right/ to-the-right-of-the-soup spoon Readers against the rock of reality.  But, he will.  For two reasons.

Firstly, any poll has the fine print.  And the fine print is that there is a margin of error 3 percentage points on polling outcomes.  So, if this poll is a rogue poll, then in extremis, the government's vote could be 46% and the Oppositions 54%.  "Damn!" W&D hears Readers exclaim.

Secondly, clearly the voting public read W&D's article last week on the so-called Medivac legislation, where W&D made it clear that the motives of both the legislation's promoter and some of her independent supporters were questionable.  That is, the whole thing is about them getting re-elected rather than a sensible policy to deal with a particular issue.  And so the public have expressed their dismay at such malevolent behaviour and decided to support the government on 'border security'. 

Cartoon lets see if they have sickie notes

Call Bill Shorten what you will.  He is arguably the most ambitious wannabe leader since Julius Caesar when crossing the Rubicon [1].  Readers will remember the reason that eventually led to Caesar getting the DCM, in what was a most messy manner [2]. 

But Shorten and his clearly superior election fighting machine know how to fight elections and will do whatever it takes to ensure that border security becomes an electoral non-issue.

W&D's prediction: If the polls remain close Shorten will cancel Labor's shabby plan to abolish cash refunds of excess franking credits.

[1] Julius Caesar's crossing the Rubicon river was an event in 49 BC that precipitated the Roman Civil War, which ultimately led to Caesar becoming dictator for life and the rise of the imperial era of Rome.  
[2] For his ambition, Caesar was stabbed 23 times by a group of Roman senators.  He died.  "The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious: if it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answer’d it." From Mark Antony's famous "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" speech: Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. 

Bernie's back!

That ageing rock-star of American politics, Bernie Sanders is back.  The 77-year-old has announced that he is running for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2020.  This is the 12th Democrat nominee.   Good grief: a field more crowded than a Melbourne tram in peak hour.

Readers will remember that Bernie, who reminds W&D of a blend of movie characters Billy Mack and Doc Brown [3], filled the anti-Hillary vacuum in 2016.  Readers with long memories will remember the vacuum Eugene McCarthy filled in early 1968 (anti-Johnson [4]).  And, as with McCarthy, the anti-favourite vacuum was a fleeting opportunity for Bernie; he seized it and was then gone. For a moment, it took Bernie to the heart of a buzzing, sparking madness. And, much as McCarthy’s moment ended with Nixon, the Sanders moment faded with the weird, flawed figure of Trump in the White House.

Bernie is a 1960's throwback.  And very much like the UK Labour Party's leader, Jezza Corbyn.  Bernie, who is to the left of the fish fork, captured the imagination of young Democrats by appealing to their hip pocket (no university fees), sense of justice (universal healthcare), etc.  In the end, he split the party.

In much the same way as Jezza has done in the UK (see Snippets from all over, below). 

[3]  Billy Mack was played by Bill Nighy, in the gentle chick-flick Love Actually. W&D, a softie, can admit to enjoying the restaurant scene.  Doc Brown by Christopher Lloyd in the 1985 movie Back to the Future.
[4]  Lyndon Johnson ('LBJ'), the president who succeeded the tragic John Kennedy.  Johnson's bid for re-election stumbled because the Democrats split over its Vietnam war policy.  McCarthy won the nomination, but was trounced by Republican Richard Nixon.   

Banks getting belted all over

Never stand between a banker and a bonus.  And ethics won't stand between them either.   Swiss bank UBS has been hit with a record €3.7 billion (A$6 billion) fine and ordered to pay €800m in damages in France after a judge found the Swiss bank guilty of helping rich clients evade paying tax.

Weird, isn't it.  European banks break the law to help their clients.   Australian banks break the law to plunder their clients.

The end of newsreaders as we know them

Good grief! Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled “the world’s first female AI news anchor.”  The virtual reporter is named Xin Xiaomeng.

This is exciting news.  W&D looks forward to these AI people replacing politicians.  A sort of technological Rubbery Figures [5].  

To see Miss Xiaomeng, click here  

[5]  Rubbery Figures was a satirical rubber puppet series that screened in Australia in various forms from 1984 to 1990.

Realpolitik: Huawei or the highway

Readers who scan the international media will have woken to the news that China has reportedly banned coal imports from Australia.  If true, this is serious stuff.  

The reason?  Perhaps poor quality coal?  Late shipments?  Over-charging?  Err, no.  In typical Chinese fashion, a vague statement was released: "China had been conducting a 'risk monitoring analysis program' on imported coal to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment."

This has fooled nobody, except the Greens (who see everything as an environmental issue).

The government of China is unhappy at Australia (and other nations) barring Huawai (a massive Chinese technology company) from using its G5 wireless technology.  And this is a way to express its grumpiness.

This is realpolitik [6] at its sharpest.  The Chinese are masters of this, with a realpolitik genealogy that started with Sun Tzu (who wrote the Art of War) in about the 5th century BC.

W&D modestly reminds readers of his previous observations about Australia relying too much on China as an export market.  And those warnings were not just about coal and iron ore.  Education is an example more readily seen by Readers.

[6] Realpolitik is politics or diplomacy based on consideration of immediate factors rather than explicit moral or ethical premises.  Readers will be familiar with realpolitik exponents such as Machiavelli, Richelieu, von Clausewitz and Bismarck. 

Buy lithium!  Buy cobalt!  And win from the electric car boom!  Err, maybe not.

Traders love nothing more than speculation from the punters.  Be that a punt on Bitcoin, gold, nickel or oil.  Of perhaps a couple of 'exotics': lithium and cobalt.

Three years ago, the punters hadn't heard of lithium.  And cobalt was a colour (cobalt blue).  But these two are critical metals in the making of rechargeable batteries for electric cars (and mobile phones).  And the word was out that the way to cash in on the electric car boom was to buy lithium and cobalt, or companies that mined each.  Be excited!

Err, hold the shovel.

Lithium and cobalt prices

The fact is that lithium is relatively abundant in both Australia (the world's largest producer) and South America (Chile and Argentina).  And the surge in demand for cobalt has been easily met by an increase in supply (DR Congo is by far the world's largest producer (65%), followed by Russia 6%) and Australia (5%)).

Cartoon the great cobalt rush

Punters beware!

Transitions 1

Readers will know that W&D doesn't have much time for Julie Bishop, the former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.  Ms Bishop announced her much foreshadowed resignation yesterday.  W&D finds it strange that she was so popular.

She certainly worked hard for government local members, never turning down an invitation to a local member's sausage sizzle.  

But she was, and is, as vain as a Peacock (especially an Andrew), who, to W&D's mind, clearly hid her shortcomings behind behaving like an expensively-dressed rock-star.  She lurved the world stage - flying comfortably to New York or London or Paris or wherever. 

Cartoon julie was in politics

However, she was most uncomfortable in lifting the more diplomatic-heavy oars of closer to home.  For example: Indonesia, PNG or Malaysia.  Readers will know there is much trouble brewing in an arc of instability just to the north of this sunburned country.  Sadly, Ms Bishop's interest in this area was confined to flying over it, en-route to the glitzier diplomatic capitals.  Where her Jimmy Choo shoes and charming Western ways garnered photos of herself alongside the rich and famous. 

Transitions 2

W&D cannot decide which descriptor to give to Wayne Swan.  Perhaps The Ringo Starr of Australian Politics, that is, one with modest ability who rises to a high level on the coattails of others. 

Or perhaps the Australian Political Exemplification of the Peter Principle, that is, one who rises to his level of incompetence.

Either way, Readers will get W&D's drift.  Wayne Swan is also quitting politics at the upcoming election.  Mr Swan was the Federal treasurer in the Rudd/ Gillard/ Rudd years and presided over the worst economic mismanagement seen since the Whitlam years.  Readers will well remember Mr Swan's famous 2012 Budget night words, "The four years of surpluses I announce tonight..."  Twelve months later he delivered a $19.4 billion deficit.  Two years later, the budget outcome was a deficit of $48.5 billion.

Cartoon wayne swan gone

Mr Swan also bequeathed to we-the-taxpayer the greatest fiscal sleeper in Australian fiscal history: the NBN.  One day a gutsy government will write-off tens of billions of dollars on the 'nation building' vanity project.   

Snippets from all over 

1.  Australia

Private sector wage growth has failed for the fourth consecutive year to keep pace with public sector pay.  The ABS says that public sector workers received an average 2.5% wage increase last year, compared with 2.3% for those in the private sector.

W&D comments:  Reading the fine print, the 'Electricity, gas, water and waste services' sector had the highest salary increase last year, almost 3%.  "Where there's muck, there's brass".  

2.  They, some of the people of ...

... the parliamentary Labour Party in the UK have quit the party.  Seven in fact.  

cartoon lets quit this sinking ship

They are not happy with Jezza's leadership, especially his seeming acquiescence to the rise of anti-Semitism from the far left of the party.

Cartoon great heroes of the british labour party


W&D comments: The shouts of betrayal and online vilification may make the shouters and writers feel better, but doesn't hide the fact that Jezza has a big problem.  And now three Conservatives have left their party, but not over anti-Semitism but over the Brexit process.          

3.  A folding phone

Samsung, a Korean technology company, revealed its first foldable mobile phone this week.  Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has a 7.3-inch display that can be folded in half like a book, to form a 4.6-inch screen that is used as a regular mobile phone.

Cartoon Samsung folding phone

W&D comments:  As useful as a bicycle underwater. 

4.  Baby bonus hits Hungary

"Demography is destiny" former Treasurer Costello once said, suggesting Australian women have three children (and introduced the 'baby-bonus').  Hungary, where the population is falling, has gone one child further.  It will offer mothers who have at least four children a lifetime exemption from income tax in a bid to boost birth rates.  The government would also offer a subsidy of 2.5m forints (A$15,000) towards seven-seater vehicles for families with three or more children.  The government does not wish to rely on immigration for population growth.

W&D comments:  And to ensure that it doesn't have to rely on immigrants, in 2015 Hungary build a 523 kilometre 4-metre high wall along its entire border with Serbia and Croatia to keep asylum seekers and refugees out.  

Tool of the Week 

Podium finish goes to ... Social-media wielding neophyte Democrat congresswoman from New York: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Ms AOC managed to cheer for the loss of 25,000 jobs in New York, just because she thinks Amazon is a big, ugly, greedy company (which it is).

As W&D exclusively reported last week, Amazon, the somewhat large retail distribution company changed its mind.  And decided not to build its HQ#2 in New York.  The good folk of the city and state of New York had promised some $3 billion in subsidies and tax breaks in exchange for a mini-city with some 25,000 jobs with an average annual salary of $150,000.  (Just over the Hudson River, Newark, New Joisey offered a $7 billion incentive bid.)

But a group of anti-corporate activists kicked up such a fuss that Amazon said goodbye to New York.  And New York said goodbye to $27 billion in tax revenues and 25,000 jobs

The 29-year-young Ms AOC, who in 2018 became the youngest woman to serve in the US Congress, said: "Dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbours defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."

Somewhat costly virtue signalling. 

Deepak, W&D's Uber driver ...

... was hesitant when W&D asked, "What happened.  Has your daughter arrived yet?"

"Yes," responded Deepak.  "She has.  But it's a disaster."

"Disaster?  Oh, no!" exclaimed W&D.  "What happened?"

"My life is ruined.  It's a disaster."

"Okay, I get the disaster message.  What has happened?"

"Anjali found out about my Bitcoin investment.  She had such a shock that she went into rapid labour.  We didn't make it to the hospital.  My daughter was born where you are now sitting."

W&D moved uneasily in his seat.

"It's okay, it's okay - the car has been detailed.  I have a mate from Mumbai who does a great job.  I can give you his number."

"Yes, yes," rushed W&D.  "But what about your daughter?  And Anjali.  Are they okay?"

"Well, Anjali is okay physically, although delivering a baby in the back seat of a car is not a comfortable experience - even for a woman as flexible as Anjali.  But she is as mad as hell at me for the Bitcoin investment.  She won't even talk to me.  Not that she did for the first three days.  In India, the new mother and baby are in a sort of confinement for three days after delivery.  This is called the 'sutak' period.  And since then she spends all her conversation with her mother.  And her six useless cousins."

"And how is the baby?  Have you named her yet?"  W&D was most curious.

"My daughter is very well.  And we shall formally name her nine days after her birth, that is on Monday."

"And how are you feeling?"

"Oh, I am very happy.  My daughter is beautiful.  My problem is my wife.  There are no secrets in our house.  Everyone knows about my Bitcoin investment.  Her mother is a gossip.  It's all over our community."      

"Indeed," said W&D carefully, as he unbuckled his seat belt.  "But there is nothing that you can do about it, for now." 

Deepak's gloom continued.  "Yes, it is what it is.  I'll have to worry about that later.  And, also, the problems of the useless six cousins." 

W&D paused and turned.  "Well, turning to happier thoughts, have you narrowed down the list of baby names?"

"Yes, of course.  We thought she should have an Indian name and also a Western name."

"Very wise, in a multi-cultural world," observed W&D.  "What Indian name are you thinking?"

"Amulya," replied Deepak.  "It means 'priceless'."

"Beautiful.  And the Western name?"


W&D smiled as he strode off.   

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...


Last words ...

"It'd be more like a cruise on rails than the 18:03 to Tunbridge Wells"

 - Mark Smith, who runs a London-based train travel website, on the train that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is likely to take from Pyongyang to Hanoi, for the summit with I-Wanna-Wall Trump.

There is no 1803 to Tunbridge Wells from London (Charing Cross).  It's at 1807, arriving at 1906.

First Samuel client events calendar

Events for 2019

Special CIO Client Forum

Responses still being accepted

26th February 2019 - Leonda, Hawthorn

Eat Street

Invitations not yet sent

21st May 2019 - The Sofitel Hotel

NGV Viewing and Cocktail Night

Invitations not yet sent

25th June 2019 - NGV 

Contact Jess at responses@firstsamuel.com.au to RSVP

Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...

At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve

William Graham, 55, a fireman, tried to board a flight from Cleveland to Boston.  But was so drunk he was arrested for abusing a flight attendant at the boarding gate.

The next morning he returned to the airport and boarded a flight to Fort Lauderdale (Florida).  The flight was taxiing but he refused to sit down and began abusing a flight attendant.  Back to the gate: the police were waiting.  But because he was complaining of chest pains he was taken to a hospital. 

Five hours he was released from the hospital, all okay.  But he then returned to the airport and to the same boarding gate and began abusing airline staff.  This time the police put him in the slammer.


Groundhog Day at the airport.    

Guess what happened next?

At a party in Olympia, Washington, a 21-year-old man was arrested for accidentally firing a gun during an effort to impress other party goers.  A bullet struck a mother and her daughter.  He had taken the gun from its owner, who had removed his pants to show party-goers his, err, masculinity.  When the police searched the home, what did they find?

a.  A home bible study group; 

b.  A wine tasting;

c.  A book group; or

d.  Enough ecstasy, marijuana and alcohol to keep open a shop, six drugged out guests and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.       

Close.  But no cigar.  d. is correct.  Some party.      


The mother and daughter survived.  The gun owner had a licence to carry a 'concealed weapon'.