Wry & Dry

Two old men sat down... The bribes worked. Tsar Vlad prods.

As winter descends on a gas-starved Europe and a cognitively starved American president, Australia remains a country united only by sporting success. 

In the ether: Two old men meet to pretend to be friends. Nobody was fooled.

In Victoria: Chairman Dan bribes negotiates with cross benchers to cement personal power. Nobody was surprised.

In Ukraine: Tsar Vlad brings out his 'it's time to prod the West, again' activity book. 

In Yorkshire: It's just not cricket.

Curiosities: Sleepy Joe's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has some seriously weird allocations. 

In South China Sea: Vietnam copies China's reef-occupy-and-build tactic. Jimmy Morrison should do likewise: cheaper than $90 billion on submarines.

In we-the-people world: Polling indicates that the character of PM Jimmy Morrison and of The-Man-Who-Never-Was falls well below previous leaders. Nobody was surprised. 

In America: Memories of Dutch tulip bulbs. 

Habits: Who gets the Picasso? 

Virtual reality

Well, at least they're talking. The virtual summit [1] between Sleepy Joe (aged 78) and Emperor Xi (68) excited some parts of the world. Sort of.   

cartoon this man is dead

The meeting lasted three hours, apparently. How Sleepy Joe managed to stay awake or cognitive for that long remains a mystery.

The single greatest issue discussed was Taiwan. Some facts might be useful for Readers:

1. The US does not have a defence treaty with Taiwan (as it does, for example, with Japan). The former defence treaty was unilaterally terminated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. [2]

2. However, the Taiwan Relations Act states that "the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capabilities". So the US is bound to provide equipment, subject to Congress.

3. Each of China, Taiwan and the US have since 1979 proceeded on the basis of "strategic ambiguity".  Essentially, that means "let's pretend that Taiwan is sovereign and also pretend that it is part of China."

However, Emperor Xi is keen to overturn the first part of the understanding. His reasons for so doing are all to do with him wanting, like all tyrants, to have a place in history. And like all tyrants, he believes that diplomacy is for the weak.

cartoon taiwan

Taiwan will not willingly become part of China. And a military takeover would cost millions of lives, all for the vanity of one man. But it's happened before. This is the only matter for which Sleepy Joe need take his pills. 

[1] The term 'summit' is now commonly used to describe any meeting of heads of governments, especially of larger economies. The term was first used to describe the Geneva Summit of 1955, a meeting of "The [then] Big Four": Eisenhower (US), Eden (UK), Bulganin (USSR), and Faure (France). The term has slipped into the vernacular to describe any meeting of significance between two or more people. Wry & Dry meeting with Mrs Wry & Dry is a summit.
[2] An action widely considered illegal. Under the US constitution, only the Senate can make or break treaties. Carter's action was the topic of the Supreme Court case Goldwater v. Carter, in which the court declined to rule on the legality of this action on jurisdictional grounds, thereby allowing it to proceed.

The bribes negotiations worked 

Readers have to hand it to Chairman Dan. His post-pandemic power grab ran into the rocks of man scorned [3][4] as well as mounting massive public pressure. So, he brings forward to today the end of the last of Victoria's lockdown restrictions, just to divert attention. So the news last night and this morning was all about fully vaxxed Victorians having almost all freedoms returned.

Whilst further consideration of the offensive bill is delayed (but it might be passed by the time Readers read this), allow Wry & Dry to inform Readers of the 90 pieces of silver that Chairman Dan paid to three upper house cross benchers to get their support (as foreshadowed in last week's Wry & Dry).

  • Greens: ban single use plastic bags; introduce 4-bin rubbish recycling; declare wombats protected; establish another safe injecting room; etc.
  • Animal Justice: install CCTV in slaughterhouses; pet groomers allowed to resume work ahead of hair & beauty (wow!); animal pounds to report kill statistics.
  • Reason (formerly Sex Party): axe use of Lord's Prayer in parliament if Labor re-elected; establish medically supervised injecting centre; inquiry (chaired by Reason Party) into use of cannabis in Victoria. 

cartoon peanuts

And now that Votes R Us Somyurek has turned his coat, Chairman Dan must negotiate with other cross bench parties, such as Transport Matters, Sustainable Australia or the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers.

The three highly principled members of parliament that have already taken their 30 pieces of silver are to be admonished for negotiating so poorly. "Declare wombats protected."  Really? Had Barnaby Joyce been in their shoes, he would have squeezed at least a billion dollars for each party to toss at supporters at will. 

[3] Former disgraced minister Adem Somyurek, now sitting in the upper house as an independent, announced that he would vote against the legislation.  
[4] ‘Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”  The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve (1697).

Tsar Vlad prods 

Tsar Vlad never misses an opportunity. Just as Sleepy Joe and Emperor Xi were having a virtual hot tub together and Belarus was increasing its trade volumes by importing and then trying to export thousands of refugees to Poland, he quietly masses 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

Well, actually it's difficult to mass troops anywhere without a spy in the sky noticing. No matter, like a little brother, Tsar Vlad will always peskily annoy the West whenever and wherever possible.  So Tsar Vlad's actions are no surprise to Wry & Dry.

Of equal predictability was Macron de Gaulle not missing the opportunity to portray himself as spokesperson for Europe et. al in the Ukrainian 'situation'. What was a surprise was him telling Tsar Vlad that NATO would be prepared to defend the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Really? Seriously? Did anyone tell Sleepy Joe? Or Borisconi? Or even Sultan Tayyip Erdoğan? [5]. 

A couple of matters:

1. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. NATO is under no obligation to defend Ukraine.

2. If Tsar Vlad clicked the Invade Ukraine icon on his iPad, Russian tanks and troops would be on Poland's border by the time NATO sends the carrier pigeons to its 30 members.

cartoon poland

But, if Readers look at a map, Readers will see what worries Macron de Gaulle and friends. Belarus, a former Soviet republic and now a client-state, is a buffer between Russia and the West. Tsar Vlad, a paranoiac, might consider it useful to have another buffer in place. Ukraine, also a former Soviet republic, be afraid. 

map europe 2

Macron de Gaulle certainly has in his bones the words of Charles de Gaulle, "France cannot be France without grandeur." He therefore might suggest that his military be a little better prepared than the last time someone pushed their tanks westward.

[5] Yes, Turkey is a member of NATO.  As is the USA, Canada and almost of all Europe; the notable exceptions being Sweden, Finland, Belarus, Ukraine and, inevitably, Switzerland.

Not clear on the concept

The Chinese propaganda machine needs to work harder. 

Peng Shuai, China's former top female tennis player and world number one doubles player, recently accused (on Weibo, a social media platform) a Mr. Zhang Gaoli of sexually abusing her. Trouble was that Mr. Zhang was once the seventh-highest official in the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Ms. Peng has since disappeared. And all efforts of folk at the WTA to contact her have failed.

Then on Wednesday, the Chinese Global Television Network Europe published the contents of an email that was purported to have come from Ms. Peng to the WTA. The CEO of the WTA responded, "I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote that email..."

She might have fallen from the top floor of that building in Beijing.

Curiosities

Sleepy Joe's US$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will set aside US$1 billion to "address systemic racism in highway design." Well, that's what Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last month.

cartoon roads

Maybe a road is not a road. 

Just not cricket

Those cricket tragics amongst Readers will know that Azeem Rafiq, a Pakistani-born former Yorkshire cricketer, accused the club of racism. The allegations were against not only the club, but also former players, including a former England captain. Following an investigation, many of his allegations have been found to be justified. He made a tearful presentation to a parliamentary committee last week. 

Yesterday it was uncovered that Rafiq himself had previously posted anti-Semitic comments on Facebook and also posted an Instagram meme racially offensive to Africans.

There are no winners in this.   

Island building

Readers will be aware that one of the significant matters that caused Japan, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam to get grumpy with China was Emperor Xi claiming sovereignty over and then building military bases on atolls in the South China Sea.

Well, it was revealed this week that Vietnam has now copied the tactic, and has started building small military infrastructure on three tiny atolls or reefs in the disputed Spratley Group.

Wry & Dry suggests that PM Jimmy Morrison should adopt the tactic. That is, find a few deserted reefs and atolls in the South China Sea and also build military infrastructure.  This would have to be cheaper than spending $90 billion plus on 8 nuclear-powered submarines that won't be delivered until 2040.

Wry & Dry has looked through the latest IKEA catalogue. There are a few items there that might be fit for purpose that even the Australian navy could readily build. Just need the right hex (Allen) key. 

Morrison and Albanese low on character

There was much ado this week about the collapse in voters' assessment of Jimmy Morrison's 'trustworthiness'. [6]

Sort of a Captain Obvious news story. The detail was in a full-page spread, comparing the leaders of each major party on nine characteristics [7], since John Howard.

Allow Wry & Dry to bring Readers the scoop:

1. Morrison's 'trustworthiness' rating of 42% was just below Albanese' 44%.

2. The average of all characteristics for each was more or less the same.

3. Alarmingly, the ratings for both were well below the average of the worst ratings for all former leaders, except Willy Shorten.

This last point is noteworthy. Either voters are just getting more cynical about politicians, or Morrison and Albanese just don't cut the mustard compared to their predecessors.

Wry & Dry's conclusion: the next election will see a record vote for minor parties (i.e. ex Labor, Liberal, National and Green).   

Chart leaders

Nota bene: The Ruddster's ratings in his first term as PM averaged well over 70%. His second ego trip term sharply dragged down perceptions of his character. 

[6] The Australian Tuesday 16 November.  
[7] Experienced, understand issues, likeable, decisive, caring, trustworthy, vision, arrogance, in touch with voters.  'Arrogance' was excluded from Wry & Dry's analysis as it is a negative.  The most arrogant leader was The Abbott: 77%; the least was The Man Who Never Was (Albanese): 37%. 

Dutch tulip bulbs [8]

Readers will remember Wry & Dry recently noting that Rivian, an EV truck maker 25% owned by Amazon, had just floated on Nasdaq at an IPO price of $77.91.

Well, this week its share price hit $172. That's a value of $153 billion, now higher than VW's market cap. This makes it by far the largest US company by market capitalisation with zero revenue.

Just as ridiculous, Lucid, a luxury sedan EV run by former Tesla executive Peter Rawlinson that floated in July, now has a market cap of $91 billion ($12 billion more than Ford).  Its IPO price was $24.25, last night it traded at $44.88. Lucid actually has revenue, but made a $524m loss in the three months to September.  

This is getting ridiculous. Investors are looking for the next Tesla, now valued at over $1 trillion and with a P/E of 328. At least Tesla has a positive P/E i.e. makes a profit.

Wry & Dry ventures that investors are not interested in whether the energy used in EVs is renewable or not. As long as the share prices rises.

cartoon dutch bulbs

[8] The Dutch Tulip Bulb Market Bubble was one of the most famous asset bubbles and crashes of all time. At the height of the bubble, tulips sold for approximately 10,000 guilders, equal to the value of a mansion on the Amsterdam Grand Canal. Tulips were introduced to Holland in 1593 with the bubble occurring primarily from 1634 to 1637

Habits

Harry Macklowe and Linda Burg, his wife of 60 years, got their divorce underway. But they couldn't agree on a value for the artwork and who should get what.  

This being New York, each lawyered up. The judge, like Solomon [9], decided to split the subject matter. And ordered an auction of the collection.

So neither got to keep their favourite works.

Cry Wry & Dry a river. The Pollock, a Picasso, two Warhols (one of which was his Nine Marilyns), a Rothko and assorted others brought a mere US$676m. That total was the most valuable single-vendor art auction ever.

But wait! There's more. That was just Part I. Part II, the balance of the collection, goes under the hammer in May.

The winner: Sotheby's. Buyers' premia would be close to $100m, so far. Sotheby's guaranteed a minimum of $600m for the collection.     

[9] Solomon became famous for his wise judgments. In one case, two women argued over a baby boy, each claiming to be the mother. Solomon ordered that the baby be cut in two and that half be given to each woman. The first woman agreed, but the real mother at once pleaded that the child be given to the other woman. Solomon then gave the baby to the real mother. 1 Kings 3:16-28.

Snippets from all over 

1. UK inflation booms

The headline annual CPI rate of inflation in the UK rose by 4.2% in October, according to the Office for National Statistics

Wry & Dry comments: Hmm, is there a trend here?  

2. Royal Dutch Shell no longer Dutch

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell has announced it will simplify its dual share structure and consolidate into a company based in London.

Wry & Dry comments: Shell is the latest big Anglo-Dutch company to relocate to London, following Unilever and Relx, formerly Reed Elsevier.

3. RBA Chief Teller cools expectations

RBA Governor Philip Lowe pushed back against market expectations of a rate hike: “The latest data and forecasts do not warrant an increase in the cash rate in 2022.”

Wry & Dry comments: He reminded everyone that the RBA's remit did not cover house price increases, just inflation and economic growth.

4. China slows 

Three big banks, Goldman, Nomura and Barclays have all cut 2022 growth estimates for China to below 5%.

Wry & Dry comments: Below 5%? A figure not seen since 1990.

5. Unhappy US consumers

University of Michigan said that US consumer sentiment fell to 66.8, the lowest since 2011 and down from a 6-month average of 74.7 and a 5-year average of 90.5.

Wry & Dry commentsAnother nail in the coffin of Democrats' mid-term election success.

And, to soothe your troubled mind...

Last words...

“We are taking this matter extremely seriously." 

 - Adam Blumenthal, Executive Chairman of EverBlu Capital, a microcap stock-broker. The "matter" was the AFP raiding his office and home.  

Mr Blumenthal perhaps has no other choice. Just sayin'.

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

 

Cheers

Anthony