Wry & Dry

Oh, vanity. Three eggs on face. Wot? No car salesmen?

Three eggs on face.

Egg On Face 1

Readers will recall the Singapore Summit between Kim Jong un and I-Wanna-Trump Lurv Fest, where I-Wanna-Trump declared he had convinced Kim Jong-un to back “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula. 

Well, less than nine months later North Korea is rebuilding a nuclear missile launch site it previously claimed to be dismantling.

Realpolitik 101.

Egg On Face 2

Alongside the Great Wall of Mexico, I-Wanna-Trump's signature campaign promise was to reduce the trade deficit of the Yoo Ess Ay.  Hence the various tariff increases, trade wars, etc.

Well it hasn't exactly worked out that way.  It was announced this week that the trade deficit of the Yoo Ess Ay jumped to a 10-year high of $621 billion in 2018. 

Part of the problem was  I-Wanna-Trump's own tax reduction policies.  These boosted US consumption - and a lot of the increased spending was on imports.  Add to this a slowing world economy and a growing US economy and it is obvious that the Yoo Ess Ay will export less and import more.

Of course, a US recession would reduce the trade deficit.

Egg On Face 3

On Wednesday the Department of Homeland Security announced that unauthorised border crossings into the Yoo Ess Ay had spiked to the highest in 12 years.

Cartoon Trump golf immigration

Note: ICE is the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.   Jess Bezos is the CEO of Amazon. 

Real estate 

There cannot be much real estate left on the face of I-Wanna-Trump for more egg.  Surely.

Wot?  No car salesman?

Readers know that the event most feared in a person's life is buying a new car.  It's not about the choice.  It's about price hassling with the check-jacketed, fast talking, "I'm your best-friend" car salesmanperson: 

"I'll take $500 off the price if you deal today."

"I'm not making any money at this price..."

Well, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, an electric motor vehicle manufacturing company, has done us all a favour.  Again.

His first favour was to sell cars only at a fixed price.  Take it or leave it, son. No negotiation, no discount, no trade-in.

And this week he announced that Teslas would be sold only online.  Just like buying a book or a television online. 

Cartoon Tesla online

It also means cheaper cars.

Market research suggests that fewer buyers actually test drive a new car.  They have made up their mind about the brand and model.  And to avoid those price negotiations buyers focus on the really important things like colour, shape of wheels and number of cup-holders.

Readers will instantly see the hidden benefit to Tesla: the ability to wrap up profitable third-party matters, such as finance and insurance, at the one time.  Tesla will now take the margin on these items, rather than the dealers.

Nice work.

GDP growth slows

Readers would have been aware that the sharp downturn in construction spending and the drought would drag down Australia's GDP growth.  And so it did.  GDP grew by just 0.2% in the December quarter, making it 2.3% for the full year.

Yes, there is such a thing as a business/ weather cycle.

But W&D will now have nightmares.  The ghoulish spectre of former Treasurer Wayne Swan will trespass on his pleasant dreams of sunlight uplands. 

Readers will recall that the extraordinarily inept Swan [1] was in charge of the filled-to-the-brim-coffers when the GFC hit.  The Labor government had just come to office.  And the coffers were quickly but needlessly drained.  Readers know that an instant 3% cut in interest rates and the bounty of a surging Chinese economy saved Australia's bacon, not Swan's munificence with other-peoples'-money.

Well, will history repeat itself?  Labor is about to resume government.  And the economy is slowing.  Aaaaaggghhhh!

What will incoming treasurer Bowen do to boost the slowing economy?  Be sensible, as he seems to be?  Or listen to the Siren calls from those to his left, who will advocate a spending boost to an economy not in need of boosting? 

[1] W&D hastens to add that we-the-taxpayer got the double.  The lugubrious Swan was followed by the bumbling Joe Hockey.      

Move over NBN: there's a bigger disaster bubbling

One of the great advantages of being in government is that the success or failure of major projects occurs after the proponent leaves government.  And after the proponent has been well paid and pensioned. 

If a failure: the project will be forgotten.  Readers may have forgotten, for example, Ord River Scheme, Alice Springs-to-Darwin railway; or Australia's quartet of desalination plants. 

If a success: they will build a monument/ statue.  Think of... err.  Hang on...  Just a minute.  Let W&D get back to you.

Speaking of infrastructure epic fails: move over NBN.

Cartoon NBN complaint

Readers will know that the government has committed to spend some $90 billion over the next X years, where X is a large number, on a naval shipbuilding capability (submarines and frigates).  This will happen in South Australia.  Readers also know that Australian-built ships cost about 40% more than their US equivalents.   By the time the first submarine has been delivered China will have invaded Taiwan, Britain will have applied to rejoin the EU and Chelsea Clinton would have become the first female president of the Yoo Ess Ay. 

Cartoon Australian submarine underwater

W&D reminds Readers of this massive splurge because its proponent was Christopher Pyne, the soon-to-retire as recently-was Minister for Defence.  The overt aim of the project was for Australia to become one of the world's top 10 military exporters.

The covert aim was to protect marginal government seats in South Australia.  

W&D will leave this item with two quotes.

Former Defence Minister David Johnson, who said that he would not trust the Australian Submarine Corporation "to build a canoe." 

Former UK Home Secretary Winston Churchill, who said in 1910, when speaking of the mooted purchase of battleships called 'dreadnoughts', "the economists wanted four, the Admiralty wanted six and the government compromised on eight."

Crypto mystery deepens

Readers will recall that when Gerald Cotton, the founder of Quadriga CX, Canada’s largest crypto-currency (e.g. bitcoin) exchange, died in December he took the passwords of his encrypted laptop to his grave.  No-one could access the 'cold storage' (an offline wallet). 

Cartoon bitcoin

And hence some $200m of crypto-currency was locked up.  Investors panicked.

Auditor Ernst & Young finally succeeded in accessing the laptop, only to find that the 'cold' wallets that had held the entirety of Quadriga’s funds were ... empty.  What’s more, they had been cleaned out in April 2018, months before Mr Cotten’s death.

The dosh has evaporated. 

Sigh.

AOC backlash

There are only two women in recent history [2] who have risen faster than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ('AOC').  Three years ago she was bar-tending and waitressing in New York.  Today, she is the feisty extreme left-wing neophyte Democrat youngest-ever member of the US House of Representatives.

AOC, like many to the left of the dessert fork, believes that everyone should respect her values but she refuses to respect the values of others.  

But the Democrats do have a broader, more centrist and pragmatic base.  And they are getting fed up with AOC.  Southern Democrats have taken to social media to express their resentment of AOC telling them it was her way or the highway.  And this from a 28-year-old on trainer-wheels.

Readers are advised to watch that space.

[2]   Mary Donaldson, went from being a real estate agent in Double Bay, Sydney, to Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in two years.  Meghan Markle, went from being an actress in the Yoo Ess Ay to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex in less than two years. 

No ties an augury?

Readers will know that Goldman Sachs, a large New York-based investment bank, has changed its employees' dress code.  Suits and ties are now voluntary.

W&D recalls that the last time that Wall Street went casual, the GFC soon followed.

Readers read it here, first.

Oh, vanity [3] 

The Greens have plunged to new depths of political idiocy.  And have anointed 'prominent barrister' Julian Burnside as its candidate for the federal seat of Kooyong.

Burnside, who joined the Greens as long ago as February, is as adept at hyperbole as Bruce McAvaney (an annoying Melbourne-based sportscaster).  And is not shy in broadcasting those views in a most articulate manner.

Whilst W&D admires some of his human rights' work, he will have no truck with his contemptible comparison of the government's border protection policies to the fear tactics of Nazi Germany.

His knowledge of history is bad.  His application of history, in this case, is worse, badly mistaken and malevolent.

It is of small change, then, that his desire to have death duties returned to the statute books also shows a wanton disregard for history.  Does he do not realise that Paul Keating did so by stealth in 1985?

Burnside has no political vision or, in fact, any other vision for Australia, other than to see the incumbent, Josh Frydenburg, defeated.

Oh, vanity.

[3] "O vanity, how little is thy force acknowledged or thy operations discerned! How wantonly dost thou deceive mankind under different disguises! Sometimes thou dost wear the face of pity; sometimes of generosity;" - Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding.  This is a complex book; and in this piece Fielding suggests that the deceptions of vanity are problematic, not merely because the vain end up acting immorally but also because they disable the ability of the vain to make accurate judgements.  Mr Burnside QC AO, come on down!

Snippets from all over 

1.  Down at the car wash

US manufacturing employment has risen for 18 successive months, the longest stretch of gains since 1994.

W&D comments:  Doubtless I-Wanna-Wall Trump will take the credit.  More possibly it's the long-term trend of industries adjusting to automation, combined with a steadily growing economy.

2.  Italy turns east

Italy is preparing to sign up to China's One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative.  This would make Italy the first G-7 country to join up with China.    

W&D comments:  And the EU is worried about Brexit.      

3.  EU plods

GDP growth in the EU grew by 0.2% in the December quarter.  Both Greece and Italy went backwards.  For all of 2018 GDP growth in the EU was 1.1%.  

W&D comments:  See item 2., above.   

4.  Ya, ve think that its speed chood be lower

Volvo, a Swedish based but Chinese owned motor vehicle company, is to restrict the top speed of all of its cars.  To ... 180km/h.  

W&D comments:  As useful as the fold-able mobile phone.

5.  In W&D's backyard I

Australian cars sales fell in February to their lowest level in seven years, down 9.3%.  The Peoples' Democratic Socialist Republic of Victoria had the steepest fall: -11.7%.  

W&D comments:  Perhaps punters keeping cash available for the latest folding mobile phone.

5.  In W&D's backyard II

The RBA Chief Teller left official interest rates unchanged at 1.5%.

W&D comments:  The clear aim is to protect (a) investment property buyers who now have negative equity; and (b) the financial institutions that lend to them.

Tool of the Week 

Podium finish goes to ... former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for stating that, had she been Prime Minister, she would have defeated Bill Shorten at the upcoming federal election.  

Cartoon Julie Bishop in the bar

W&D observes three things:

1.  She's not, so who cares;

2.  Move aside John Hewson, Jeff Kennett, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.  You now have a competitor for the Person Most Suffering From Relevance Deprivation Syndrome; and

3.  Wait for the book.  

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

... left a text message for W&D.  He is still in India, in Kashmir.

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...

Miscellany 

Last words ...

"I suspect his time arguing fruitless legal cases will prepare him to embrace and advocate the ludicrously insane economic platform of the Greens"

 - Chris Corrigan, former CEO of Patrick Corporation, a stevedoring company. 

In the famous 1988 waterfront dispute Burnside acted for the MUA (the waterfront union) against Corrigan's Patrick Corporation.  The MUA won in the High Court.  But the dispute led to the reform and restructuring of waterfront labour practices.

First Samuel client events calendar

Events for 2019

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

A Florida man’s plans to bring a military rocket-propelled grenade launcher back home were shot down after security screeners at a Pennsylvania airport spotted the weapon in his checked bag.

The launcher and a grenade were found on Monday when an alarm went off as the bag passed through security equipment at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, about 96 kilometres north of Philadelphia.

He was advised to send the items by courier.

(APNews.com)

So, you can own military rocket-propelled grenade launcher in the US?  Sigh.

Guess what happened next?

Ayub Abdulrahman, from Orange County, Florida, had his car impounded.  What did he do next?

a.  Pay the $300 to have it released; 

b.  Tell the pound that it could keep his car as it wasn't worth paying $300 to get it back;

c.  Break into the pound at 3am and steal his car back; or

d.  Lob five Molotov cocktails at the car from over the pound's fence.      

Close.  But no cigar.  d. is correct.  He successfully set alight his car.      

(KFIAM640)

All rather weird, as he had paid the $300 to get his car back. 

... and the world breathes a sigh of relief

Cheers

Anthony