Wry & Dry

Smarter than the average panda. Tsar Vlad polishes boots. Sultan of swing.

As the retail world cons the consumer world into believing that Black Friday is a time to buy items the consumer doesn't need, Wry & Dry focusses on the bigger issues: 

In Beijing: Emperor Xi tries to appear cuddly to ASEAN leaders. But they are smarter than the average panda.

In Moscow: Tsar Vlad polishes his boots before flying to the border with Ukraine, where he will don a suit of armour and lead his troops. 

In Ankara: Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey seems determined to swing the axe on interest rates. Oops.

In Berlin: The crazies take over. 

In Canberra: There's an election train coming.

In Melbourne: Chairman Dan dangles. 

In New York: The CEO of America's largest bank prostrates himself before Emperor Xi. 

In Paris: Michel Barnier, the head of the EU negotiating team on Brexit, is now a Wannabe President of France. And in so doing has turned his principles' coat.

Habits: Local mayor of guess where gets the gig as the new Chairman of Infrastructure Australia. 

Smarter than the average panda?

Really, did he think them fools? Apparently.

Emperor Xi organised a 'special summit' on Monday to mark the 30th anniversary of China's 'dialogue relations' with ASEAN. Readers will know that ASEAN is a soft target: it is united only by geography and a willingness to discuss big issues but not do anything about them. 

Emperor Xi poured on the honey: "China's [enjoys] relations with a region that was united by oriental culture and Asian values"  and "China will never seek hegemony, still less bully smaller countries."  

cartoon size

No-one was fooled. Least of all ASEAN's biggest fool, Philippine President Duterte, who said, "We abhor the recent events in the Ayungin Shoal [1] and view with grave concern other similar developments."

Indonesia is most grumpy about ongoing illegal surveillance by a Chinese survey ship in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone bordering the South China Sea. Ditto Malaysia.

The Emperor has refined lying propaganda to an art not seen since Joseph Goebbels said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it."  

[1] A shoal in Philippines exclusive economic zone but now occupied by China.  There was a minor skirmish between their navies.

Tsar Vlad polishes his boots

Wry & Dry's man person in Moscow had his eye to the keyhole and ear to the wall in the Kremlin. He recorded the following on his mobile phone:

Tsar Vlad: Riding boots! You expect me to ride a horse into battle?

Butler: My apologies, Your Majesty. You did say you wished to lead the troops into Ukraine in the 'manner of Napoleon'.

Tsar Vlad: You idiot! That doesn't mean I need to ride a horse like he did. It was a figure of speech.

Butler: I'm not sure I know what speech to figure, Sire. But... what footwear does Your Majesty desire?

Tsar Vlad: Well, it's going to be mid-winter, you clot. So, bring a fur-and-silk-lined pair of boots. And make sure that they look like the boots a private would wear. I'll need to inspect the troops before they invade and I want to look like one of them. It's going to be too cold for me to take of my shirt and show off my massive chest and pecs.  

Butler: Yes, Sire.

Tsar Vlad: And whilst you are at it, better pack my ski-gear. I might then sneak away to my dacha in Sochi [2], for a bit of skiing.

Aide (entering room): Sire, we've worked out that if you invade Ukraine, the Germans won't buy any natural gas from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline [3].  We'd have to write-off the €9.5 billion cost, plus we miss out on any future gas sales.

Tsar Vlad: What! Now you tell me. There goes my superannuation. I mean, err, there goes Gazprom's profit. We'll have to invade somebody else. How about Japan? Stalin started in 1945 with their northern islands and didn't finish the job. I could be greater than Stalin!  

[Internet fails].

[2] The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia, just over the Black Sea from Ukraine. 43 Russian athletes were found guilty of drug taking and disqualified and banned from the 2018 games. All bar 11 of these had their sanctions overturned on appeal. The games cost over $51 billion, by far the most expensive games ever held.  Australia won two silver and one bronze medals. Tsar Vlad is reputed to own a massive dacha in the mountains near Sochi.
[3]  Completed but not yet certified, Nord Stream 2 stretches for 1,230 kilometres from Russia’s west coast to Germany’s north-east via the Baltic.  It is 50% owned by Gazprom, a Russian majority state-owned energy company.  When it commences operations, most likely after the European winter, it is expected to contribute 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to the continent (the European Union currently imports approximately 400 bcm each year).

Sultan of swing

Readers will know that Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a weird dude. Yes, he is a bully, just like Emperor Xi and Tsar Vlad. However, he doesn't get his kicks from incarcerating one million citizens who are not ethnically the same as him or parking his tanks on a neighbour's front lawn.

He gets his kicks by thinking that he is a Turkish J.M. Keynes, Friedman or Greenspan. [4] He firmly considers that high interest rates cause inflation. Sort of, well, contrary to reality.

The trouble is, his kicks are kicking the Turkish economy. His exhortation to Turkey's central bank to keep lowering interest rates has become almost an executive order.  So on Monday, when he declared that he was "pleased" the central bank had cut rates for the third consecutive month, the currency fell 15%.  It fell another 10% on Wednesday.  That makes it a 40% fall this year. 

Chart showing the Turkish lira in historic retreat

Turkish inflation is now at 20% p.a. (with food prices up 29% in August).  Real interest rates in Turkey are now -6%.  

The Sultan brushed off criticism by saying that Turkey was fighting an "economic war of independence."  This is code for someone else is responsible for Turkey's woes.  Readers would see him as blaming which of:

a.  The international Zionist conspiracy;

b.  The United States;

c.  The European Union; or

d.  All of the above.  Plus anybody else.

Close, but no cigar.  The correct answer is d.  The Sultan often leaves it up to the imagination of his listeners to name in their minds the enemy.  As long as it's not him.

[4] Keynes is probably the greatest of all economists.  Friedman runs a good second.  Greenspan is best known for causing the irrational exuberance that preceded the GFC. 

Not clear on the concept

Sleepy Joe just couldn't help himself.  A jury in Wisconsin acquitted, by reason of self-defence, a white man accused of homicide for shooting two black men during a violent BLM riot.  It was a complex trial.

The trial was sadly portrayed as white-versus-black.  Having read the details of the case, Wry & Dry concluded that, considering the burden of proof required, had both the alleged perpetrator and the victim been of the same colour, the jury verdict would probably have been the same.

Sleepy Joe's view was: "Like many Americans I was angry and concerned at the verdict."   

cartoon verdict

So, is that comment going to ease the white-versus-black image of the trial?  And slow the riots that followed?  Nuh.  

The crazies take over

Readers will recall that Angela Merkel recently gave herself the DCM after 16 years as Germany's Chancellor.  Her successor party leader lost the subsequent election.  The party with the most votes, the leftist Social Democrats, led by Olaf Scholz, spent two months negotiating with the Free Democrats (pro-business) and the Greens (left of the dessert fork) to form a "traffic light' coalition. [5]

Its 177 pages (!) of policies are drawn from each of the three parties.  The potpourri includes:

  • phase out coal by 2030, eight years ahead of planned
  • use 2% of German territory for wind power
  • by 2030 80% of electricity to come from renewable energy
  • by 2030 15 million EVs to be on German roads
  • by 2035 phase out cars with internal combustion engines
  • voting age to be lowered to 16 from 18
  • legalise sale of cannabis

With Germany's budget debt-cap likely to remain in place, how are all of these policies to be paid?  Bingo! Wry & Dry now sees the merit in legalising the sale of cannabis: the government can levy a massive cannabis tax to fund the policies.  

Germans will probably like the new Chancellor: Mr. Scholz is apparently even more boring than Mrs. Merkel.

[5] The parties' colours are red, yellow and green.   

There's an election train coming

Readers will be aware that there is an election coming.  Not only is Jimmy Morrison already in 100% campaign mode but stories on Labor's Very Fast Train project are beginning to seep out.

Readers might recall the below cartoon from just before the announcement of the 2019 election.  It's like déjà vu all over again [6].

cartoon vft 2019

Wry & Dry recalls that in 2012 the then Labor government promised a feasibility study on the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane VFT.  The study found that it would cost in excess of $130 billion (in today's dollars).  And take 45 years to build.

There might be much about which to argue on the project.  But allow Wry & Dry to again join the dots for Readers on the possible election success of this policy.

Firstly, the Infrastructure Minister in 2012 was none other than The Man Who Never Was, the current Wannabe Prime Minister.  The VFT is in his DNA.

cartoon vft

Secondly, one of the reasons for Chairman Dan's success in getting elected in 2014 was his long-term infrastructure plans, especially involving railway upgrades.  It was the 'vision thing'.

Thirdly, Labor has narrowed the economic policy difference with the government, especially on tax.  It needs to have some exciting Nation Building projects - what could be better than the VFT. 

Finally, Jimmy Morrison couldn't organise a booze-up in a bottle shop, much less sell a decent long-term project.  The excellent and visionary submarine deal ran into the rocks of Communication 101.

[6] Famously said by Yogi Berra, legendary baseball catcher and manager.  Berra was also famous for other malapropisms e.g. "I really didn't say everything I said."  Thanks to our resident cartoonist Patrick Cook for reminding of the 2019 election. 

Chairman Dan dangles

Victorians cannot do anything pleasurable unless doubled vaxxed.  Well almost.  Those unvaxxed are still effectively in lockdown.

Health experts have advised that a 95% double vaxxed figure for those over 16 should provide sufficient herd immunity to the community, so the last 5% can also have freedom.  This is the approach taken in New South Wales.

Chairman Dan has said, "没办法何塞" [7].  

Readers, don't believe it.  Over the next few weeks, as Victoria gets close to or reaches 95% double vaxxed, Chairman Dan will beamingly announce with a contorted visage of benevolent happiness that all restrictions on non-vaxxed folk have also been lifted.

Perhaps... just in time for Christmas.

[7] "No way, José" in Mandarin.

On his knees

For how long will the so-called great and good prostrate themselves before Emperor Xi.  Well, for as long as there is money in it.

On Tuesday, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, America's biggest bank, speaking at a business forum, said, "I made a joke the other day that the Communist party is celebrating its hundredth year. So is JP Morgan. I'd make a bet that we last longer.  I can't say that in China.  They are probably listening anyway." [8]

On Wednesday, Mr. Dimon was on his knees, earnestly apologising.  “I truly regret my recent comment because it’s never right to joke about or denigrate any group of people, whether it’s a country, its leadership, or any part of a society and culture..."

Why the backdown on a joke (that JP Morgan would outlast the CCP)?  In August, JP Morgan won approval to become the first full foreign owner of a securities brokerage in China.  Say no more.

Cartoon dimon

What a spineless weasel.  Mr. Dimon has forgotten the words of the Founder of the original J.P. Morgan, John Pierpont Morgan: "The first thing is character, before money or property or anything else." [9]

[8]  He got that wrong.  It is JP Morgan's 150th anniversary.
[9]  Disclosure:  Wry & Dry was employed by J.P. Morgan Investment for 10 years.  He was retrenched from its Singapore office in 1998 as a result of the Asian financial crisis. His plan to launch the company's investment business in Hong Kong and then into China was rejected "as there was no future there."  Interested Readers should read "The House of Morgan" by Ron Chernow, which traces the original J.S. Morgan through to J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Morgan Grenfell.

EU turncoat 

Readers may remember Michel Barnier, the very stubborn negotiator for the EU against Britain.  Well what happened to him?  

The boy has decided to go into politics.  And be the next President of France.  The trouble is that he is running as a euro-sceptic; for example: tough controls on immigration.  And a restricted role for European courts.  In certain areas, he said, France should no longer be subject to the rulings of the European court of justice or the European court of human rights.

And French influence in Europe needed to be reasserted, in the face of an unacceptable level of German domination.

Good grief. 

The response has been fierce.  The leftwing Libération newspaper noted: “His rallying behind a Frexit but dare not speak its name amounts to a political suicide, given that his European ‘brand’ was his selling point [against the UK].

M Barnier started as a Jacques Delors [10] and has ended up as a French Boris Johnson.”   

[10] A former President of the European Commission, passionate Europhile and Frenchman.  Readers might recall a UK tabloid press headline "Up Yours, Delors" with a vertically raised finger alongside.


Mr Col Murray has been appointed as the new Chairman of Infrastructure Australia.  Who?  Allow Wry & Dry to join the dots for Readers.

Col is the mayor of Tamworth [11].  Tamworth is in the electorate of New England.  The federal member for New England is Barnaby Joyce.  Barnaby Joyce is the Infrastructure Minister. 

Col seems just perfect to be Chairman of such an important body.  IA has priority projects valued at $59 billion.  Smart and experienced leadership will be needed for the role.  Col's LinkedIn bio shows his education as being Farrer, which presumably is Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth.  There follows a blank space, suggesting no further education.   Perfect. 

Cartoon qualifiactions

His 'experience' is listed as 11 years as mayor of Tamworth Council.  Prior to that his bio is silent.  Perfect.   Although, he is noted as being a 'retired businessman' in the council's website.   

Wry & Dry congratulates Barnaby on such an astute appointment. And awaits the feasibility study of a Very Fast Train line through Tamworth.

[11] Tamworth is a delightful regional city in northern New South Wales, of about 45,000 folk. It is known for being the first city in Australia to use electric street lighting; Australia's country music capital; and the birthplace of the Tamworth Twister - cricketer John Gleeson.  Current test bowler Josh Hazelwood is also a local.

Snippets from all over 

1. Short term

Sweden's first female Prime Minister lasted less than one day in the job before being forced to resign.

Wry & Dry comments: The junior coalition partner, the Greens, quit the government in a fit of pique.  An item in the budget was drafted with the help of a right-wing party. 

2. RBA changes tune

The Reserve Bank says record low interest rates have heightened the "risk of a sharp correction down the road."  This was where "investors bid up the price of risky assets to the extent that risk may no longer be adequately priced."

Wry & Dry comments: A Captain Obvious observation.  But better late than never.

3. UK to boom, but...

UK industrial orders jumped this month, hitting their highest level since at least 1977, when records began.  On the other hand, price expectations among manufacturers also rose to a 44-year high.

Wry & Dry comments: Be careful for what you wish.

4. No change at the Fed.  Well, almost

US President Joe Biden has reappointed Federal Reserve Chairman Jeremy Powell to the job.  He also appointed Lael Brainard as Fed vice-chair.

Wry & Dry comments: Interesting moves.  Firstly, Sleepy Joe gave political autonomy to the Fed by re-appointing a Republican appointee.  Secondly, Ms. Brainard is a German-born daughter of a diplomat, she is well-known and liked in Europe.  The EU will be happy.  Except Macron de Gaulle, who would wish she were French.  

5. Bitcoin City

El Salvador is doubling down on its bet on Bitcoin, detailing plans to build a modern Alexandria called "Bitcoin City." The metropolis would be circular, and will feature a central plaza designed to look like a Bitcoin symbol from the air.  It will issue bonds worth US$1 billion, half to pay for the new city, the balance to invest in Bitcoin.

Wry & Dry comments: Wry & Dry couldn't make up this stuff.

And, to soothe your troubled mind...

Last words...

"We are going to ask for extra help from the British because these men and these women don’t want to get asylum in France”

 -  M. Macron, President of France, on the increasing problem of refugees trying to cross the English Channel from France to England.  

Macron de Gaulle missed the irony of his comment: why do refugees prefer England to France?

PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees or directors.