Early entrant for TotY. 'Nation building' follies. US Fed: turning dovish.
Early entrant for Tool of the Year
It's more hotly contested than the Oscars.
It's W&D's Annual Tool of the Year award. This Award is so prestigious that there is no actual award. And indeed sought after, judging by the number of repeat weekly entries by a small number of recidivist Tools. Tools such as Trump, Abbott, Swan and Bishop would spring to Readers' minds.
See below for comments that this week propel the speaker to outright favouritism.
US Fed: turning dovish
W&D feels comfortable with avian similes. Coo like a dove, silly as a goose, eyes like a hawk, etc. And so readily understand when commentators describe complex economic issues in avian terms. And the actions of the US Fed (the central bank of the Yoo Ess Ay) are a case in point.
The Fed is now 'dovish'. A month ago it was 'hawkish'.
Dovish means that interest rates can be expected to remain the same or go down. It's a sort of cuddly simile.
Hawkish means the opposite: rising interest rates to, for example, combat inflation.
This week the US Fed effectively said that there would be no interest rate increases in 2019. A stunning turnaround from the previous position of two rate increases this year.
What's going on?
Well, the Chief Teller at the Fed, Jay Powell, is effectively saying the world is slowing. (Economically that is, the world is still rotating around the sun at 365.25 days per rotation). And that a more accommodating monetary policy (i.e. lower interest rates) is desirable.
This is sort of weird. Sure, the world goes through economic cycles. But fiscal policy in the Yoo Ess Ay is somewhat, err, loose. I-Wanna-Trump's tax cuts have poured billions into the economy. GDP growth is good (~3%) and unemployment is amazingly low (3.8%). Once the Sino-Yoo Ess Ay trade war settles there may be a need to resume interest rate increases.
Yes, the Fed has gone from being a hawk to cooing like a dove. But W&D wonders if Chief Teller Powell is more concerned about keeping the stock market from falling than unnecessarily boosting the economy. Hmm, he might end up looking like a goose.
An election must be soon upon we-the-taxpayers. The tell-tale signs? Promises of a 'Nation-Building' project.
An incoming federal Labor government has said that it will build a 'fast train' from Melbourne to Brisbane. And this is not the already agreed 'Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Railway' (essentially a rail freight track). That project already will enter the pantheon of fiscal-plundering-Nation-Building projects. A feasibility study in 2015 found that such a railway could not pay for itself without government support for the first 50 years of operation.
No, this week's announcement was of a high-speed network, much like Readers would find on their annual vacations in Europe, China or Japan.
Three matters spring to W&D's lugubrious mind.
Firstly, a government report released in 2011 projected a cost of between $61 billion and $108 billion. Gulp.
Secondly, who is going to pay for this? The shadow infrastructure minister, Anthony Albanese, said, "There is strong interest from the private sector with experience in high-speed-rail technology. These consortiums  would bring their expertise as well as their investment."
Err: Expertise: yes. Investment: no. The consorti-aluminati lads are not going to gift dosh to the train travellers of Australia.
Thirdly, and more personally, before a train that would take W&D from Melbourne to Sydney in 3 hours, he would want funds spent to improve on his own, sub-urban and sub-standard, train line. Each night, at the front end of platform number 4 at Flagstaff station, W&D seeks the railway equivalent of 'the upper and sharp end' of an Etihad A380 (388). In vain. The carriage (and this is at 6.45pm) resembles a horizontal Black Hole of Calcutta.
This Nation-Building project will sink without trace once the election is over.
 Did he mean 'consortia'?
The happiest people
W&D continues to be amazed at academics who dream of a project that (a) will get research funding from somewhere; (b) receive academic plaudits; and (c) seems vaguely useful to mankind personkind.
The latest is the World Happiness Report. Predictably, its output shows that (a) Nordic countries are right up the top of the happy tree; (b) the top 20 places are filled by Western-style democracies and (c) that Tsars, Sultans and Emperors don't give a fig about their peoples.
W&D is worried about the ranking of the French (22). Last weekend, 'Yellow Vest' protesters celebrated their 18th weekend with violence on the streets of Paris. More than 80 businesses on the Champs-Elysees were vandalised or torched, with an estimated 10,000 people participating in the demonstrations.
And there is little evidence that the Brits (16) are happy in their sceptred isle, given the Brexit imbroglio.
Astute Readers will notice the ranking of Taiwan (23) compared with China (91). Which might explain why the Taiwanese do not want to be 're-unified' with the mainland.
May's mayday  to the EU
The UK PM's request to the EU for a three month delay in the process by when Brexit will occur is not a mayday call at all. And the EU looks as though it will foreshorten the period to the 22nd of May, provided the UK parliament approves Mrs May's deal next week (i.e. before the original deadline of 31st March). Otherwise the deadline is 12th April.
A second Brexit referendum can now be ruled out. As can any attempt to negotiate a deal significantly different to that already on the table.
So, as W&D has been saying for weeks (months?), it will come down to Mrs May's Brexit-deal. Or a no-deal Brexit.
And when it is all over, Mrs May will resign. The world will breathe a sigh of relief. And the EU can then focus on its one or two other problems: Italy, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Romania.
And Readers can focus on the first England v Australia test match, which starts on Thursday 1st August.
 Mayday is the international distress signal in voice communications. It originated in 1923, by a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, who was asked for a word that would indicate distress. As much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the expression "mayday" from the French m'aider ('help me').
The real issue with Brexit
The good folk of New South Wales ...
... go to the polls tomorrow. Yawn.
W&D has little interest in the outcome, except that the possibility of a minority Labor victory would embolden the Greens to go even more fiscally nutzo.
Q. How many mass murders does it take for a country to enact gun control laws?
A. New Zealand: one
A. Australia: one
A. United States of America: N, where N is a large number.
W&D is moved to ask why the Yoo Ess Ay continues to allow mass murders? And there are five key reasons 
1. The National Rifle Association (NRA)
The NRA has some 5 million members and spends some $250m p.a. on 'educational programmes', gun facilities, membership events, sponsorships, legal advocacy, political donations and lobbying. As one Republican congressman put it, " As long as I'm in office, I'm not bucking the NRA."
2. The House: Demographics/ gerrymandering
There are more rural districts with higher levels of gun ownership than there are urban ones. Racking up big pro-gun-control majorities in urban areas does little to change the political realities in the House of Representatives.
3. The Senate: the constitooshun
There are two senators for each state, regardless of the population. So states dominated by big-city pro-gun control voters, such as New York, Massachusetts or California are outnumbered by rural and Southern states with pro-gun sentiments.
4. The courts: the constitooshun
The Second Amendment to the US Constitooshun says that "a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed". The Supreme court has interpreted this broadly, and in 2008 a sharply divided court held the Second Amendment provided a broad right to firearm ownership that prohibits stringent registration requirement for personal weapons.
5. The 'mood of the meeting'
Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence.
The NRA's strategy, and that of pro-gun politicians is to wait out the storm - to delay legislative efforts until attention turns elsewhere and the outcry fades.
Pro-gun politicians offer their "thoughts and prayers", observe moments of silence and order flags flown half-staff. Then, in the quiet, legislative efforts are deferred and ultimately derailed.
I-Wanna-Trump summed it up best of all: "We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by."
As time goes by? It's still the same old story .
 W&D acknowledges that this bit is not all his own work. The good folk at the BBC gave much input.
 As Time Goes By, the song from one of the great movies, Casablanca.
Your taxes at work
Readers will be excited to know that the University of Sydney is researching the “moral, legal and political status” of animals. W&D understands that this is all part of the research being undertaken by 14 researchers who are studying 'multi-species justice.'
This is excellent news to W&D's mind. This will take years. And ensure that these researchers never get into the outside world and disrupt the lives of we-the-people.
The new voodoo economics
Readers will increasingly hear of 'modern monetary theory'. Save yourselves. And ignore it.
Essentially, MMT revolves around the theory that a country that prints and borrows in its own currency cannot be forced to default, since it can always create money to pay creditors. As new money can pay for government spending, tax revenues are unnecessary.
Devotees include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a wannabee world saviour and the US' youngest-ever congressperson. The main proponent of MMT is Stephanie Kelton, an economist from Stony Brook University (the 80th ranked US university). She advised Bernie Sanders when he last ran for President.
Continuing the avian theme: birds of a feather...
Readers might hear a lot more about MMT.
Snippets from all over
1. Down at the car wash
I-Wanna-Trump said he’ll keep tariffs on China until he’s sure Beijing is complying with any trade deal, refuting expectations that the two nations will agree to roll back duties as part of a lasting truce to their trade war.
W&D comments: Quite right, too. As with North Korea, firstly see the proof of compliance, then lift sanctions/ tariffs.
2. Japan's exports fall. Again.
Japan's exports fell for a third straight month in February, suggesting the BOJ might be forced to offer more stimulus to temper the effects of slowing external demand and trade frictions.
W&D comments: Ah, if in doubt, blame the Sino-Yoo Ess Ay trade war.
Attempting to soften the blow from a damaging political crisis, Canada's government has presented a pre-election budget that offers over $10B in new, short-term spending, spread across a range of constituencies. After leading the G7 in 2017 with growth of 3%, Canada’s economic expansion slowed to 1.8% in 2018 and is expected to remain below 2% over the next two years.
W&D comments: Ah, if in doubt, blame the Sino-Yoo Ess Ay trade war.
4. Australia: Men (and women) at work.
Australia's unemployment rate fell to 4.9%, the lowest in eight years.
W&D comments: "Blast!" said the RBA, "There goes the excuse to lower interest rates." It didn't, really. Say that, W&D means.
5. Italy: taken for a ride
Yesterday Xi Jinping, the president of China, arrives in Rome to welcome Italy into his 'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI), a programme of infrastructure projects spanning Eurasia and Africa. Italy’s prime minister hopes the agreement, due to be signed on Saturday, will boost Italian exports to China.
Meanwhile... down in Sicily
W&D comments: Hold the phone: the memorandum does not guarantee Italian firms access to BRI projects or specific investments. Well, the Italians fell for Berlusconi, so they might as well fall for this three card-trick.
Tool of the Week
Podium finish goes to ... Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the despot of Turkey, who, in a breathtaking display of an unmitigated toolishness, sought to link the murder of 50 New Zealand Muslims to his own political and economic fortunes. Readers will now know well of his threats to Australian and New Zealand tourists who might speak out against Muslims, "Your grandparents came here … and they returned in coffins. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers."
As despots often do, he poured petrol on flames with: “You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn’t make you, we know how to make you pay one way or another.”
W&D's take on this is to ask Readers to study history. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whilst known as the victorious leader at Gallipoli, was more importantly the founder of the Republic of Turkey. And was almost single-handedly responsible for, after the First World War, turning the routed Ottoman empire into an independent, modernising and secular country. He saw that a hereditary and despotic theocracy (as the Ottoman Empire was) restricted the freedom to live, create and prosper.
Sultan Erdoğan as Ataturk's successor as head of the Turkish peoples has failed to learn from history. He is returning Turkey to a despotic (mostly) and creeping theocracy.
His toolish outburst couldn't be further from Ataturk's magnanimous words of the fallen ANZACs: "You, the mothers who sent sons from faraway countries, wipe your tears; your sons are lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives in this land, they have become our sons as well."
 Tool: noun. A person with an over-inflated ego, who, in an attempt to get undue attention, will act or speak in a boorish, self-deluded and self-indulgent manner that he/ she thinks will make him/her look more important, clever or attractive than is objectively the case.
Deepak, W&D's Uber driver ...
... wasn't there to pick up W&D.
And, to soothe your troubled mind ...
Last words ...
- Judith Collins, New Zealnd MP and former police minister, to the National Rifle Association of the Yoo Ess Ay.
Collins said that when she sought to introduce gun law reforms during her two stints as police minister, she was inundated by lobbying from a small, vocal and passionate group of lobbyists from New Zealand’s gun industry. The material used by these lobbyists had been provided by the NRA.
First Samuel client events calendar
Events for 2019
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|21st May 2019 - The Sofitel Hotel|
NGV Viewing and Cocktail Night
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|25th June 2019 - NGV|
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Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...
At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve
Jordanne McLaughlin ordered a £100 wedding bouquet. But she said it didn't arrive. And so she claimed her money back, which the florist cheerfully but curiously did.
The florist later checked Jordanne's Facebook page. And there were plenty of photos of Jordanne holding the missing bouquet.
Jordanne refused to pay up, until threatened with police action.
The photos on Facebook will now show the bride with egg-on-face.
Guess what happened next?
Jonathon Aledda, a North Miami (Yoo Ess Ay) SWAT Officer shot Charles Kinsey in the leg. Kinsey, an African-American man, had been retrieving his autistic 23-year-old patient, who had wandered from his group home. Police encountered the pair while searching for an armed suicidal man. Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands in the air and trying to negotiate between officers and his patient when he was shot.
Both Kinsey and his patient were unarmed.
Aledda was charged with attempted manslaughter and culpable negligence.
What did the Florida jury find?
a. Guilty of attempted manslaughter;
b. Guilty of manslaughter and of culpable negligence;
c. Guilty of culpable negligence; or
d. Not guilty.
Close. But no cigar. d. is correct. The Florida jury acquitted the white policeman.
(New Times, Miami)
New Yorkers are always willing to help ...