Wry & Dry

Washington's surprise. Suspicious Russians. Sleepy Joe's world.

Washington's surprise?

"The Taliban promised 'an inclusive government'," said US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken. He was expressing extreme discombobulation that the interim ministry of the government of Afghanistan was made up exclusively of Pashtuns (the tribe from which the Taliban is based and which makes up only 42% of the population of Afghanistan) and contained, shock & horror, no women.

Cartoon afghan ministry

Hello. What did he expect? Jacinda Ardern's government in turbans?

The reality is the new Taliban ministry is exactly what Wry & Dry expected: a couple of designated terrorists with million dollar bounties on their heads, a few close affiliates of al-Qa'ida, and all with Harvard-level terrorist resumés.

So what is Mr Blinken going to say when Emperor Xi uses Taipei as a practice target? 

A nation “is born stoic and dies epicurean” [1]. America is fading into paranoid senility, leaving the spectre of a graveyard of global failure. 

Wry & Dry is pulling up the drawbridge and lowering the portcullis.

[1] William Durant (1885 – 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He became best known for his work The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel Durant, and published between 1935 and 1975. His quote referred to the Babylonians.

Suspicious Russians

With the offer of 'lock-down freedom' for those who have double-jabbed (well, except in WA and Queensland), the disinclination by Australians to be jabbed has halved since April, to about 20%. Save the cheers: only Russia (see later), America (of course) and Germany (unusually) have more unwilling or uncertain folk.

Readers may wish to consider Russia. Despite bad press, its vaccine (the delightfully named 'Sputnik V' - the 'V' is not a Roman numeral, but is short for Vac - Вак - i.e. vaccine) is as efficacious as other vaccines. 

Many Russians cheer Tsar Vlad on the world stage. His metaphorical hairy-chestedness goes down well with a glass of vodka. However, when it comes to government policy penetrating their personal sphere and bodies, they remain suspicious. Wry & Dry posits that there is a government-mistrust legacy from the heady days of the Soviet era that remains deep within the soul of the Russian persona. 

Cartoon 100 years

It is possible that Russia will be unable to reach vaccine levels similar to those West of the Wall, as it were. As a result, Russia will remain far below the level of herd immunity required to save lives.

But, it's okay, Tsar Vlad has had his two jabs. And, as Tsar Stalin put it, "One person dying is a tragedy. A million dying is a statistic."

Sleepy Joe's world

Wry & Dry is nervously awaiting Sleepy Joe's next foray into affairs beyond the borders of The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave [1]. And again affairs above his pay grade. Perhaps he will venture to Ireland.

US presidents sometimes have a 'green' tinge (i.e. Irish nationalist). Bill Clinton’s intellect and knowledge tempered, in this case, his inclinations. Obama had little interest in matters Irish. Sleepy Joe is different.

“Anyone wearing orange is not welcome here,” the then vice-president beamed on St Patrick’s Day 2015 as he welcomed green-tied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to his Washington home. “Only joking,” he added, perhaps seeing that Kenny’s smile seemed strained.

Cartoon biden cars

Readers will know that Sleepy Joe is headstrong but shaky; ambitious but inept. Some self-awareness would ensure that he would confine himself to matters of direct relevance to the USA. But, no. He has actively immersed himself into the Northern Ireland Protocol, taking the side of the south and of the EU. And against Northern Island and the UK.

This is a complex issue (as are most issues involving Ireland and Northern Ireland), suffice to say that the protocol is at odds both with Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and with commonsense. 

Wry & Dry is curious as to why Sleepy Joe would wish to interfere. Perhaps his Irish heritage, or desire for the American Irish vote. Whyever, Lord Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for securing peace in Northern Ireland, has politely asked Sleepy Joe to, err, butt out.     

The last few months have told us something worrying about Sleepy Joe: He’s proud, inflexible, and thinks he’s much smarter than he really is. That’s bad news for the government. It’s worse news for a country that desperately needs to avoid successive failed presidencies.

[1] That is, the United States of America. The words are in its national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The lyrics come from the "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem written by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, then with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort.  The words were not adopted until 1931.  The original 'Land of the Brave and the Free' is, of course, Scotland. 

Political algorithm

One of the problems of Netflix is that it offers viewers what they want. It has an algorithm that puts together the necessary ingredients of a story, or reviews an existing story, and then builds the synopsis of a movie or series. Or it assesses viewers' past choices and then compiles 'recommended' movies or series.

The outworking of this is that the algorithm can only ever touch what viewers want at that moment. There is no ability to think ahead; creativity and dare are diluted.

Sir Humphrey [2] would like Netflix, as there is little that is 'courageous' in its products [3]. The model is to blend the possibilities to the bland and superficially popular. The aim is short-term ratings. Not to build 'a body of work', and an enduring one at that. 

So it has become with politics.

The algorithm that drives politics is opinion polling. Not the sort that is published regularly by the leading mastheads. But those micro-polls commissioned by government or the party of government.  

The aim is to win the next election. And only that. And not to build a base of enduring policies that will suit the nation's or state's future.

cartoon voting poll

Wry & Dry's lament is, of course, an outworking of the current crop of poll-driven leaders. The only leader in Australia with gonads, so to speak, is, not surprisingly, a woman.  Gladys Berejiklian, premier of NSW, treads on toes, speaks her mind and has a clear vision of the balance of risks that is needed when the going gets tough. And this week's announcement of a clear exit-plan for New South Wales from the covid incarceration is an example.

She has courage.

PM Jimmy Morrison, Chairman Dan, No-Covid-Here Anna, etc. are the worst of Sir Humphreys, managing their in-trays and looking no further than their political algorithms. 

[2] Sir Humphrey Appleby, a fictional character from the British television series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. He is a master of manipulation and committed to maintaining the status quo. New ideas, proposals or policies are described as "extremely courageous."
[3] The Queen's Gambit being an obvious exception. 

Unclear on the concept

The New South Wales Women of the Year 2022 award closes on Friday 17 September. So Readers have one week to get in their nominations. Be excited!

Err, hold the phone. The first item on the eligibility criteria is: "Identifies as a woman."

Whaaat. There is that term, again: "identifies as..."

This is getting silly. Either a person is male, female or, nowadays, non-binary. Wry & Dry pleads for commonsense: don't diminish the quality and essence of being a woman with a person who merely "identifies" as one. Have a Person of the Year, if you must. Even Man of the Year, Woman of the Year and Non-Binary (or agreed non-pejorative term) of the Year. 

cartoon prostate

Sometimes Wry & Dry identifies as being an AFL footballer. He's just waiting for the opportunity to be eligible to win the Brownlow Medal [4].

[4] An award given by the Australian Football league to the 'fairest and best player' in a season. The award is based on votes from a match's umpires, who allocate three, two and one votes to the best three players in a match. The voting system is based on the faintly absurd presumptions that (a) umpires are the best judges; and (b) votes for the best player in a match reflect a performance that was three times better than the third best. 

New Ways To Lose Money 101 

Q.  What is a new way to lose money?

A.  Invest in a new cryptocurrency on the recommendation of Kim Kardashian.

Ms. Kardashian posted her feelings (buy!) about Ethereum Max on 12 June. It's price leapt from $0.000000091689 to $0.000000224979 the next day. Wow! That's a gain of 146%. Happy days.

Err, no. It's price has fallen ever since. It's now trading at $0.000000027096. That's 70% down on its pre-Kardashian spruik. And 88% down on its post-Kardashian spruik. 

This has all of the footprints of a scam. Ethereum Max has nothing to do with the mainstream crypto currency: Ethereum. It's not even a blockchain in its own right.   

But, hey, if Ms. Kardashian says it's okay, what could possibly go wrong?  

When the wind doesn't blow...

... the ship doesn't go fire up the coal power stations.

That's the situation in the UK this week. Energy prices have spiked to a record high after calm weather shut down the country's wind turbines, and there's a global shortage of natural gas. That shortage has caused its price to increase by 500% in 18 months (see chart - NBP is the National balancing Point, the virtual trading platform for UK natural gas).

 Chart gas

Reliance on intermittent energy sources is clearly problematic. But voters won't notice the problem as the pain will mostly be felt by industry.

Barbados

Some Readers may recall that Wry & Dry drew attention to Barbados becoming a republic on 1 December, giving Her Majesty the DCM. Of the 33 when she ascended the throne, there are now just 15 realms left of Her Majesty. [5]

The only changes that the government has confirmed are that the Queen will no longer appear on future issues of banknotes and coins, and the Royal Barbados Police Force will drop the word royal.

Rumours that Prince Andrew would become President have been denied. 

[5] Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu and UK.

Nice work, if you can get it

Readers will recall that Crown Resorts, owner of Crown casinos, is in a bit of strife. Three Royal Commissions have unearthed more breaches of more laws and regulations than the Hayne Royal Commission into superannuation.

So what happens next? For those executives who got the DCM, one last scoop from the trough on the way out of the door, of course. The former CEO banked $6.7m; former head of Australian resorts: $4.7m; former head of strategy: $6.6m; one former executive chairman: $2.5m; another former executive chairman $1.3m; etc.

Wry & Dry is surprised that aggrieved shareholders haven't lawyered-up.  

Typhoon tax?

Wry & Dry's eyesight is failing. And for a moment he thought that those fairies at the bottom of the garden, The Greens, had shown some meritorious imagination.

It has released its plans for a 'power-sharing agreement' with the Labor party, in case the federal parliament is hung after the next election. It wants the Labor party to agree to 'non-negotiable' policies. As Readers might expect, it's all about increasing taxes. And there in the fine print were the words 'typhoon tax'.

How innovative. Put a tax on really nasty weather. Especially that which tends to mostly hit No-Covid-Here-Queensland. And consider the impact on climate change.

Think of the money that could be raised. Wry & Dry was about to dip his lid to the Greens.

Hold the phone! A perusal of the Greens website showed that it wasn't a typhoon tax, but a 'tycoon tax'.

cartoon the greens cave

Wry & Dry sends a thousand apologies to The Greens for the misunderstanding. But the website perusal revealed economic inanity. Consider: "Australia's billionaires did very well out of the pandemic, increasing their total wealth by 34%."

Wry & Dry assumes that for statistical certainty, it was referring to the fiscal year and getting data from companies' annual reports.

Well, as the Australian market [6] returned 30.2%, it wouldn't be too difficult for a seriously wealthy person, with a bit of leverage, to get a return of 34%.

The Greens' website really makes for entertaining economic lunacy, especially in a lockdown when re-runs of Gilligan's Island are wearing thin. Wry & Dry will not be drawn on its other policies. But, really, one would expect a better analysis from a wannabe government partner.  

[6] All Ordinaries Accumulation Index.

Snippets from all over 

1. Borisconi hikes taxes

Boris Johnson raised taxes to their highest level since the Second World War to reduce National Health waiting lists and tackle the social care crisis, in the process abandoning two of his election manifesto promises.

Wry & Dry comments: Borisconi replied that the covid pandemic was also not in his election manifesto.

2. No change

The Chief Teller of the RBA left interest rates undisturbed on Tuesday.

Wry & Dry comments: Yawn.

3. EY: Swiss egg on face

Big Four accounting firm EY failed to raise the alarm over multimillion-dollar jewellery purchases and approved huge payments to opaque offshore companies at Zeromax, which became Switzerland’s second biggest-ever corporate collapse. 

Wry & Dry comments: Ernst and Young's audit CV doesn't make for good reading: Wirecard ('the Enron of Germany'); Stagecoach; NMC Health, Lucky Coffee; and WeWork. EY says it will invest $2.7 billion over three years to improve the quality of its audits. Look, there's a horse, bolting down the road.

4. Fossil fuels

World primary energy – (fossil fuels grossed up to 100% of primary energy) – rose to 7.2% of world GDP, its highest level since October 2014.

Wry & Dry comments: Don't panic, yet.  It's got to do with economic recovery following the covid downturn.

5. More bounce to the ounce

BMW, a German motor vehicle manufacturer, now has contracts for more than 20 billion euros ($23.8 billion) worth of batteries, to meet demand for its EVs that grew to more than 11% of deliveries in the first half of this year.   

Wry & Dry comments: BMW is spreading it eggs between China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. and EVE Energy Co Ltd., South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. and Sweden’s Northvolt AB. 

And, to soothe your troubled mind...

Last words...

"Men overwhelmingly populate the realm of the extreme nerd.”

 - Madeline Grant, one of the few women to compete on the UK's quiz programme, Mastermind, when asked why so few women enter.

"Realm of the extreme nerd." What a delightful phrase.

 

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

 

Cheers

Anthony