Wry & Dry

Trump: time to move on. Political predictions. Economic update.

The Yoo-Ess-Ay gave us disruptive technology (Uber, Airbnb, etc).  And now it gives us a disruptive President.  W&D guesses that it had to come.  So the world will have to get used to an unpredictable style of leadership normally the domain of African tin-pot dictators.

And so W&D's opening edition for 2017 is a bumper issue.  In it W&D sits back and looks at the world.  And sees a table of multiplying tea-cups, each cup with a Trump-generated storm in it.  Each storm by itself is of little consequence, because it's in a tea-cup. 

But the number of storm-filled teacups is getting larger.  The table is not.  At what point will the cups merge; and the storms merge?  W&D's view is they won't.

It's become a politically correct world, with countries, like people, becoming thin skinned.  Countries, like people, now play the victim very well.  All become aggrieved at slights, whether intentional or accidental.   

Dr W&D's advice about Tsar Trump is: go to Bunnings.  Buy some timber.  Build a bridge.  And get over it.  Image result for cartoon get over it

Mr Turnbull may need counselling after being rejected by Mr Trump

And the AFL season isn't far away.

For example, W&D is moved to suggest, with his pith helmet on, that all the hysteria, foaming and lathering about Tsar Trump's immigration ban badly misses the point.  All the demonstrators, Twitterers, writers-of-letters-to-the-editor, chatterers, wannabee victims, hand-wringers, etc are focusing on the wrong thing.

Work with W&D on this (and please don't throw things).

About what not to worry 

Tsar Trump is doing no more than extending the ban (somewhat clumsily implemented, and without thinking how it would would actually work) that former President Obama signed into law in 2015: the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.  That act severely restricted access to visa waivers for people who had recently visited Iran, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – or held dual citizenship with one of those countries – making it extremely difficult for them to visit the US.  That action met with zero opposition.  

About what to worry #1.  

A much bigger Tsar Trump issue is not the temporary immigration ban, but his expected xenophobic trade policies.  This is not a tea-cup issue.  International trade is the life-blood of economic growth.  Free and open markets benefit both importing and exporting countries.  Tsar Trump risks diminishing not only US economic growth but also that of global trade.

About what to worry #2

The other bigger issue is Russia and Ukraine.  Tsar Vlad has expressed admiration for Tsar Trump.  And vice-versa.  And what the western media has missed in all of its hand-wringing over domestic social issues is a small volcano in Eastern Ukraine.  The day after the Tsars had their lurv-in-phone-chat the artillery of Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists sprung into life for the first time since the Minsk Two ceasefire agreement of February 2015.  And shelled Ukrainian army positions.

Join the dots.  Tsar Vlad is testing the 'loyalty' of Tsar Trump.  Would the US respond with aggressive statements?  Err, no.  In the past, significant escalations of fighting were quickly met by the White House or the State Department with strongly worded statements condemning Russian aggression and supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity. This time it took the US State Department two days to say it was “deeply concerned”; it did not mention Russia.

The temporary immigration ban and Tsar Trumps temper tantrum with PM Turnbull will pass for what they are.  But the economic and geo-political consequences of Tsar Trump may not.  We shall see.  

W&D makes no comment, for now, on his other twitterings.  Other than he's doing what he said he would do.  People should not be surprised.  Unless, of course, you are a US Green Card holder, born in Syria and just got off a flight home to the US from London and find a note blue-tacked just below the Exit to Immigration & Customs sign which says 'bugger off'.

More locally, W&D has read the entrails.  And presents an initial Australian political prediction:  2017 will be the plank for Victoria's flailing and failing Labor Premier, Daniel Andrews.  The governing Labor party in Victoria is nothing if not pragmatic.  

Image result for image walk the plank

W&D's prediction of the fate of Victorian Premier Andrews.

Thirdly, another Australian political prediction: W&D thought that both Australia's Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition would continue to resemble Tweedledum and Tweedledee [1].  Yawn.  But Turnbull seems to have eaten some raw meat over summer.  

Whilst Shorten's summer diet of mung beans and turnips have shrunk his significance to that of a fish wearing a fluorescent hi-vis safety vest, flapping on the shore, fighting for relevance. 

Unclear on the concept 1

Readers will remember that the now Tsar Trump met with technology leaders (i.e. of Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon, etc) as long ago as late December and told them he wanted them to create more jobs.

Hold the mobile phone!  The technology industry isn't in the business of creating jobs, it's in the business of the opposite.

Image result for cartoon doing more with less

Unclear on the concept 2

Tsar Trump's Executive Order banned (for 90 days) citizens of seven mainly Muslin countries from entering the U.S. (Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq, with dual nationals included in the ban).

W&D notes that in the past 40 years there has been not one fatal terrorist attack in America carried out by anyone belonging to the seven nationalities targeted by the order.  The 9/11 executioners were Egyptian, Emirati, Lebanese and Saudi and would not have been covered by this week's ban.

Upcoming revision classes for Geography 101 in the White House?

Did I really mean that?

Justin Trudeau, the yet-to-have-a-shave-but-it's-okay-I'm-a-Trudeau Canadian PM, responded to Tsar Trump's knee-jerk Executive Order with a knee-jerk of his own: "To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canada will welcome you regardless of your faith."

As long as there's not too many of them. The Canadian federal government announced five weeks ago (24-Dec-16) that it "will cap new applications for ... Syrian and Iraqi refugees at 1,000 in 2017."

Australia's cap is 12,000.

Unclear on the concept 3

Former PM Tony Abbott confirmed he is suffering from RDS [2] with articles in the Australian newspaper (a) warning his Liberal parliamentary colleagues not to 'split' from the party; and (b) demanding the government scrap the Renewable Energy Target ('RET').

Oh, dear, Tony.  Ponder that

  1. as it is you who is causing the disunity, this call for unity is faintly absurd; and
  2. it was your government who introduced the 20% RET in the first place. 

Of course, there is only one cure for RDS: get a real job outside of politics.  Two chances.  

Nice work, if you can get it

Rex Tillerson, Tsar Trump's new Secretary of State, will relinquish control of over a mere $340,000,000 amassed from working for over 40 years for Exxon Mobil.  To avoid appearance of a conflict of interest, he will sell all of his entitlements to Exxon-Mobil stock.  He will also lose about $10m in cash entitlements. 

W&D guesses that with $340m under the mattress (oops, in a blind trust) Tillerson will give Tsar Trump frank and fearless advice.  

What was she thinking?

Getting we-the-taxpayer to pay for flights to, and accommodation on, the Gold Coast is nice work, if you can get it.  Especially if you are a cabinet minister, because you can always do a snow-job and talk of 'ministerial' duties.  And that the trip was, of course, not about being an apartment shopper.

Err, hang on.  Shopper-gate?  Chopper-gate?  It all sounds vaguely familiar to W&D.

Sussan Ley

Time to drain the Canberra swamp.

Speaking of nutters...

... Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition in the UK, has commenced his 2017 with a most remarkable policy: a maximum wage for the UK.  And he decisively narrowed down the range: somewhere between his own salary (£138,000) and £50,000,000.     

This innovative policy puts him in the same league as President Trump; i.e. having an amazing ignorance of how things actually work.  And this is how Mr Corbyn sees himself...


Communist paradise lost, but not forgotten  

Still on the subject of economic nutters, W&D thought that the "upcoming battle between capitalism and workers" was a catchy image used by Marx and Lenin to attract impoverished and downtrodden workers to a cause.   A cause that would mean they would be even more downtrodden and even more impoverished.    

Clearly emboldened by the more recent example of Venezuela, a faction has been established within the NSW Greens (called Left Renewal) with the aim of ending capitalism. "As workers, whether or not we are waged, we experience perpetual violence and this violence must be brought to an end.  We therefore fight to bring about the end of capitalism," the online manifesto states.

W&D wishes them good luck with their projects.  And reminds them that Marx's claim that all a worker has to sell is his labour is now profoundly incorrect.  The large companies in Australia are now mostly owned by superannuation funds.  Superannuation funds are owned by ... workers.

So W&D points them to the other epitome of that bastion of workers' rights:

Image result for kim jong un

Meanwhile, swinging rapidly from one extreme end of the political spectrum back to the other, W&D, a keen student of history recalls Pope Pius IX, who introduced the doctrine of papal infallibility in 1870.  

W&D now waits the next Executive Order by Tsar Trump, that of Trumpal Infallibility.  Expect the EO to be delivered by a Tweet.

And the day after his  inauguration, there was a massive Women's March, also in Washington.  The vast crowds and witty signs about rights-of-all-sorts were impressive.  And those rights clearly extend to right of garbage collectors to pick up the marching women's rubbish:  

And still in the US, of the ethereal world of economics, W&D noticed that Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman exemplified the layman's view of economists ("on the one hand... on the other hand...").  W&D recalls the riposte of famous economist John Maynard Keynes when asked why he changed his mind, "When the facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do, Sir?"   

Well, Mr Krugman changed his mind as soon as the facts changed.  Just three months ago (23-Oct), when he thought that Ms Clinton was going to win the election, he said "HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] should do years of deficit financed infrastructure spending...".  

But now that they have Tsar Trump, he says (9-Jan) that "Running big deficits is no longer harmless, let alone desirable." 

W&D's usual generous view of the world (after all he "has the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein") doesn't extend to Krugman: the economic facts haven't changed in three months.  Krugman cannot help himself in showing his political colours.  And now has set his groundwork for ongoing and doubtless venomous chastisement of Trump's deficit expansion.

More seriously, readers will know that W&D has little time for the shallow bleeding hearts who compare the death of rock idols with the death of people who really mattered.  In the latter category is Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President of Iran (1989-97), who died in early January.

Mr Rafsanjani was a maker of Iranian leaders and a pragmatic leader himself.  He was relatively moderate and (mostly) spoke wisely.   Of course, Persian [4] is an amazingly elastic language and many of the words uttered by its leaders can have the appearance of profundity; those from Mr Rafsanjani were no exception.  

However, that didn't prevent his more deplorable comments about Israel and its existence - which were perhaps more for political consumption at home.  But he did skillfully balance the hardliners and moderates at the top end of the Iranian government.  

The incumbent President, the moderate Rouhani, has lost his mentor and guardian.  And hence Iran's ongoing rapprochement with the West may stumble, if it isn't already coming to a Tsar Trump-cliff.

And just as disturbingly, and next door, Recep Erdogan, the power-crazed President of Turkey, is seeking to change that country's constitution.   The changes will give Erdogan almost absolute power and allow him to remain in office until 2029.  Which will make it 26 successive years of effective unbroken rule.  Of the 195 current leaders of global sovereign states, there are only 22 who have been in power longer than Erdogan.  

Twenty are a collective of African and central Asian despots.  Two are those Eastern European autachs, President Lukashenko of Belarus and... surprise, surprise: Tsar Vlad of Russia. 

Perhaps Erdogan and Tsar Vlad have this side bet... 

Speaking of Russia and weirdness, W&D notes that Russia is about to de-criminalise wife-beating.  Oh, dear.

And turning back home, it is with curiosity that W&D notes Mrs W&D's concern at the impending failure of a retailing chain named Agent Provocateur.  W&D cannot understand Mrs W&D's interest in what appears to be a vendor of espionage equipment.  But guesses it's all part of the disruptive world in which we now live.

Elsewhere, W&D considers the key elections to be held around the globe this year; whether the US stock market is about due for correction; and some key economic data readers may have missed over the vacation.

And, of course, Miscellany to soothe your troubled mind.

[1] Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fictional characters in an English nursery rhyme in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass.  Their names may have originally come from an epigram written by poet John Byron.  The names have since become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways, generally in a derogatory context

[2] Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

[3] The Weekend Australian Magazine, 2015.

[4]  Often, but incorrectly, termed Farsi.