The week was not quiet in the Empire of Emperor Xi. And Dan is to be immortalised. Melbourne not so liveable. Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Rebellious delusion 1
There is more delusion in the world than the Trumpster believing that he won the 2020 US election.
Consider the optimistic media articles written this week about the mini-revolts by thousands across China, protesting at Emperor Xi’s drastic zero-covid policy. Photos of thousands of demonstrators excited the world into thinking that this was the beginning of the end for Emperor Xi.
Think again, dear delusional dreamers.
On Monday, the China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which oversees domestic law enforcement, said it was “necessary to crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces in accordance with the law”.
[This is a classic algorithmic sentence of autocracies. It contains the usual inflammatory words: necessary, crack down, infiltration, sabotage, and hostile forces; linked by prepositions and conjunctions. And concluding with ‘in accordance with the law’. Grade: A+]
By Tuesday, the major cities had more riot police lining the streets than Chairman Dan had during Melbourne’s lockdowns. Online censorship was heightened. Families were threatened. Phones confiscated. Protesters roughed-up and then locked-up.
It’s not quite Tiananmen Square, yet. Readers will remember ‘tankman’.1
But the reality is that Emperor Xi is not for moving.
1 Tank Man is the name given to an unidentified Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, the day after the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on the Tiananmen protests. See the foot of this week’s Wry & Dry.
Rebellious delusion 2
Equally, in Iran. Thousands of mostly women have been protesting because of the death of woman at the hands of the ‘morality police’. She had failed to correctly wear the hijab.
The headscarf is not a fundamental pillar of Islam. Many Muslim women choose to wear a head covering of some sort, because they wish to. And many outside of Iran choose not to.
But inside Iran there is no choice. It is a power mechanism of the ultra-conservative leadership. And many Persian women want freedom from this control.
The country-wide protesting gave hope that the iron and brutal grip of the Ayatollah and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the good folk of Persian was slipping.
Nuh. Does anyone really think that these ultra conservatives will surrender power to sate the desires of the people?
Readers will know that Victorian premiers can be memorialised by a statue at we-the-taxpayers’ expense after 3,000 days in office. Chairman Dan can hardly wait until 21 February 2023.
Nor can his “I-Stand-with-Dan” acolytes. They and their descendants will be able to stand with Dan’s statue into eternity. Or until the Suburban Rail Loop is paid off, whichever comes first.
See footnote 2
And already the state’s sculptors have ordered online their marbles pieces from Carrara3 so as to be prepared for the weighty commission. They did so knowing that Chairman Dan would wish to be somehow distinguished from other premiers, who have been cast in pigeon-proof bronze.
But more than bronze, he wouldn’t wish his likeness to be made of the same cheap material as Henry Bolte’s. Or even Tommy Bent’s4, whose corruption was an exemplar for future premiers.
Or course, the marble may take some time getting here. There is high demand from China to immortalise Emperor Xi. Perhaps a package deal might be arranged: two twin-statues. One for Melbourne, the other for Beijing. Each with a benevolently smiling Emperor Xi looking down upon his protégé.
2 The quote is from Ozymandias, a sonnet by Percy Shelley. It is meant to convey the inevitable decline of rulers and their pretensions to greatness. Ozymandias is the Greek word for pharaoh Ramesses II. Wry & Dry recommends Readers search out the poem.
3 The quarry of choice for Michaelangelo. Roughly 100 kilometres north of Florence, it was the source of the marble used in his statue of David. It also sourced marble for Marble Arch in London, the Oslo Opera House, the sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and the Duomo in Siena.
4 A turn of the 19th century Victorian premier of prodigious corruption. “Bent by name and bent by nature” was said of him.
One of the most closely watched global surveys is The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Liveability Ranking of major cities.
The good folk of Melbourne basked in the glow of being #1 for seven successive years to 2017. And then watched silently as the rating started sliding. And this year Melbourne clings onto the bottom rung of the top 10 (shared with Osaka):
The above table shows the factors in the decision. The appalling nature of Victoria’s health service is there for all to see. But outcomes for education and infrastructure are excellent. ‘Stability’ is about crime, terrorism and violence.
And Wry & Dry wonders why all of the Top Ten are western-style democracies.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that leaders become addicted to power. Just look at Emperor Xi, Tsar Vlad or Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Well, to no one’s surprise, except to the man himself, former PM Scott Morrison has been accused by a close ally of “being addicted to power.” That ally also said that Morrison treated people badly after his 2019 election victory and made other very, very nasty comments.
Morrison’s self-description of being a ‘bulldozer’ was almost correct, it seems. Actually, a ‘bully’ might be closer to the truth.
All of which puts another brick in the wall of Wry & Dry’s view that senior Liberals in Canberra didn’t have the cojones to tell Morrison that it was time to self-DCM. And if they didn’t have the cojones to do that, how could we-the-people expect them, collectively, to have the cojones to make hard policy decisions? (See, below, Join the Dots).
We-the-people couldn’t, and they the Morrison government didn’t.
And now the chickens are coming home to roost for Morrison: yesterday federal parliament ‘censured’ Morrison for him quietly appointing himself to five ministries. Morrison’s defenders are calling the censure motion a ‘stunt’.
Which indeed it was. But this is politics. Readers might remember when Morrison brought a lump of coal into the House…
Woe: The Trumpster
Just a few items to bring Readers up to date:
- Two far-right election deniers who attacked the US Capitol have been found guilty of sedition5 and conspiracy – the latter fact confirms that conspiracy existed
- A U.S. District Court judge found that the Trumpster’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election are not covered by presidential immunity
- Mitch McConnell, the leading Republican congressman, said that the Trumpster is not suitable to be president, after the Trumpster hosted dinner for two well-known anti-Semites
5 Sedition: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.
Join the dots
It’s sort of weird.
Albo did not go to the 2022 election with an industrial relations policy to re-introduce multi-employer bargaining. That is, there was no mandate.
And then, after winning the election, he held a ‘Jobs and Skills Summit’. At this talkfest, multi-employer bargaining was announced as a way to boost Australia’s limp productivity. And it became government policy.
[Aside: Australia’s low productivity, in part, is because three successive Liberal governments – Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison – thought that productivity increases just happened. And so did nothing to stem its decline.]
This week, the Senate swing-man, independent David Pocock, was persuaded to back Albo’s legislation because IR minister Burke said it would “boost wages”. The light on the hill of increased productivity became enveloped in fog. And disappeared.
Wry & Dry cannot join the dots on this. There is no evidence that multi-employer bargaining will improve the nation’s productivity. In fact, it will reduce productivity by reducing flexibility and increasing bureaucracy.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index ranks Australia overall 16th in the world. But on critical productivity measures: 57th in labour market flexibility; 39th on pay & productivity, 95th on flexibility of wage determination and 97th on labour tax rate.
The Liberal governments failed to take action. And there is no evidence that Albo’s mob is doing any better.
… Israel, Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s party has signed another agreement with another far-right party to lock in a parliamentary majority.
Readers will remember Wry & Dry’s article some weeks ago that he had signed an agreement with the far-right Jewish Power party, part of which was to give its leader the National Security ministry.
But wait, there’s more. On Wednesday he signed a deal with another right-wing party, Noam, a religious-nationalist, anti-Arab and anti-LGBTQ party that argues for a strict interpretation of Jewish religious laws in Israel.
It looks as though he will lead the most nationalist and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history.
Much has been written about last Saturday’s state election in Victoria. Much of it naïve nonsense. Wry & Dry’s mature observations are:
- Labor’s primary vote fell 5.8% points, the Coalition’s and Green’s were virtually flat
- Two-party preferred it was a 3.5% swing to Liberals
- But Labor had a massive crumple zone, the 2pp outcome was Labor 54% to 46%
- As at close last night, Labor had won 2 seats (Ripon, Hastings); lost 5 (Pakenham, Bass, Hawthorn, Nepean, Richmond (to Greens)) – a hollow victory
- Liberals picked up far fewer seats than the dire state of the state would suggest: the culprits being (a) an unpopular leader; (b) an election-fighting administration that took a sword to a gunfight; and (c) a hangover of federal climate change policies (which drove Teal preferences to Labor)
- Greens’ election night hysteria was not reflective of reality: it gained just one House seat, and that win by Liberal preferences
- Teal candidates, without multi-million-dollar donations (prohibited under Victorian law, but not federally) failed to win a seat
- In four years’ time students who are now aged 17 down to 14 will vote. Their bias will be to Teals. Budget deficits don’t worry them as someone else always pays.
Labor will again win.
“I’m sorry if people listened to what we’d said and acted on what we said and regret what they’ve done.”
These words were spoken this week by whom:
a) Scott Morrison, on persuading colleagues to vote for him in the Liberal Leadership spill of Croesus Turnbull in 2018, and who are now still down at Centrelink;
b) Donald Trump, on inciting right-wing supporters to storm the Capitol, and who are now in jail;
c) Tsar Vlad, on telling the troops that Ukraine would be a pushover, and who are now corpses in Ukraine; or
d) Philip Lowe, Chief Teller of the RBA, on interest rate forecasts, and those who borrowed more than they should at low interest rates?
Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is d), Philip Lowe. With this mangled agglomeration of words, he sort of apologised for people listening to what he said, and hence acting on what he said, and hence now feeling regretful. He said that interest rates would not rise until 2024.
He should apologise for the apology.
Readers know that Wry & Dry’s view on Albo’s The Voice is unpopular but carefully considered. And that is it will be little more than a gravy train for lawyers, freeloaders and rent seekers and will do nothing for the plight of many Indigenous people.
Well, the federal National Party has this week agreed, although with finer words. It will oppose the referendum.
Why is this significant?
Well, not so much for the decision itself. That stands on the merits as the National Party sees them. The significance is that the baleful invective has resurfaced. Once again opponents of the Voice are accused of being racist. Sigh.
And read the comments of a lad named Danny Gilbert, a lawyer and director of the Business Council of Australia.
Cited in the AFR, “…the Nats are arguing for the status quo, which means they support continuing with the country’s efforts to end the disadvantages experienced by Indigenous Australians.”
As a lawyer, Mr Gilbert should know better. Denigrating an opponent is not the same as making a cogent argument. Which, if the piece in the AFR is accurate, is not something that Mr Gilbert has done.
Like the government, he has failed to explain how the Voice will improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. Much less what it actually is.
Pursuits: Crypto fraud
If Readers thought that crypto currencies were a ‘store of value’, perhaps they might think again.
In the UK, almost half a billion pounds has been lost to crypto currency scams in the past three years, according to Action Fraud. AF is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. It’s run by the City of London Police.
The good news is that that data is for periods to the end of June. The average crypto currency has lost over 70% of its value this year (ouch!), mostly since June.
So, the scammers will now get 70% less.
Snippets from all over
1. Vlad’s war no longer popular
Support for the war in Ukraine has fallen dramatically in Russia, according to a leaked Kremlin poll. Just 25% are now in favour of keeping Russian troops in Ukraine, down from 57% in July. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: Not sure that Tsar Vlad pays any attention to opinion polls.
2. Late delivery
The delivery of weapons to Ukraine has exacerbated a backlog of American supplies to Taiwan. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The American armaments industry is late in delivering an estimated $18.7 billion worth of US armaments to Taiwan.
3. Crypto currency contagion
Bankrupt cryptocurrency lender BlockFi is suing Sam Bankman-Fried over shares in Robinhood that the FTX founder allegedly pledged as collateral earlier this month. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The FTX contagion is spreading faster than a virus from Wuhan.
4. Buddy, can you lend me a dime?
Ghislaine Maxwell’s appeal against her 20-year jail sentence for sex trafficking is on the brink of collapse after her estranged husband refused to pay her legal fees. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Scott Borgerson has ignored her requests to pay a $0.9m legal bill and a further $1.49m to challenge her conviction. The money is actually hers, in a trust he controls. Borgerson is, naturally, trying to improve his wealth in any divorce settlement.
The French baguette – “250 grams of magic and perfection,” in the words of President Emmanuel Macron – one of the abiding symbols of the nation was given UNESCO heritage status on Wednesday, November 30. (Le Monde).
Wry & Dry comments: The baguette joins other 2022 cultural heritages as: the oral tradition of calling camel flocks (Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE); bear festivities in the Pyrenees (Andorra, France); beekeeping (Slovenia); playing the Oud (Iran); and ‘knowledge of the light rum masters’ (Cuba).
6. Sleepy Joe sleep talking
President Biden said he would talk with President Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader expresses a desire to end his invasion of Ukraine, but Mr. Biden said he would only do so in consultation with NATO allies. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Must be a slow news day in Washington. He said the same last month.
- Australia’s inflation rate in October dropped to 6.9% from 7.3%.
- The price of oil (WTI) has fallen 35% to $77, from a high of $119 on 9 March.
- Eurozone inflation fell to 10% in November, from a record 10.6% in October.
- Alex, Amazon’s voice assistant is on track to lose $10 billion this year.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“He was arrested for his own good, in case he caught covid from the crowd.”
- A police spokesperson in Beijing, on the reason why they arrested a BBC journalist taking photos of the anti-lockdown demonstrations.
Which also explains why he was beaten up.
Tiananmen Square, June 1989:
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.
PPS Wry & Dry needs a break! Hence, the final 2022 and bumper, edition will be on Thursday 22 December. The first edition for 2023 will be on Friday 3 February.