This week is the most dramatic globally since Rick Blaine said, “I stick my neck out for nobody.” Consider:
- Liz Truss gives herself the DCM so she could break the record for the shortest tenured UK PM
- Emperor Xi gives himself another five years in which to completely subjugate the Chinese peoples
- Tsar Vlad gets grumpy and turns to Plan C
- Chairman Dan goes back to the future and resurrects the Victorian State Electricity Commission
- Albo was doing so well, until a public servant decided that the capital of Israel should be Tel Aviv
- Greens Senator thought nothing wrong with her, err, making arrangements with an ex-bikie gang boss
- Grim Chalmers is preparing his first budget out of thin air
- The Australian cricket captain eschews fossil fuels, but not flying to the IPL
And there is no edition of Investment Matters this week. Paul Grace is on his honeymoon and Craig Shepherd is travelling.
So, enjoy an extended Wry & Dry. A cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
The lettuce won
The Daily Star, a left-leaning British tabloid, was live streaming a lettuce, alongside a photo of UK PM Liz Truss. The caption is “Will Liz Truss outlast this lettuce?”
Liz Truss gave herself the DCM last night and so breaks the record for the shortest ever UK prime ministership.1
The last two weeks have unarguably been the UK’s biggest unforced humiliation since Suez2. After the UK gilt market (the now inappropriate name for the UK government bonds) and sterling (the now inappropriate name for the British pound) collapsed, she was forced to dump her ideological newbie Chancellor of the Exchequer, appointed a former rival and agreed to overturn polices she backed days earlier.
On Wednesday, she was forced to fire her Home Secretary (is there an Away Secretary?) for a breach of cabinet security. It was only then that her parliamentary colleagues began to wake up from their afternoon snoozes at their St James’ clubs. And looked at the latest polls:
She had no choice but to admit that what she thought were only flesh wounds3 was in fact a disembowelment. RIP.
And it will get worse. Borisconi is rushing back from the Caribbean, hoping everyone forgets his lockdown parties. Anyone for a cabbage?
1 Held by George Canning at 119 days. Ms. Truss is currently at 45 days.
2 The 1956 Suez crisis followed the nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Egyptian Prime Minister Nasser. In a crafty scheme, Israel invaded Eqypt, followed by the UK and France, with the aim of regaining control of the canal and removing Nasser. Massive pressure from US president Eisenhower caused the three invaders to backdown and withdraw. The episode humiliated the UK and France, strengthened Nasser, caused UK PM Eden to resign and emboldened the Soviet Union to invade Hungary.
3 With apologies to Monty Python.
There goes the long view
Emperor Xi’s Sunday speech has now made it clear that he has broken away from the traditional Chinese copybook of the ‘long view’ and of patience. He is an impatient man. But with more impatience comes less caution.
And with less caution comes mistakes. And with mistakes comes the problem of him not wanting the Chinese peoples to know of the mistakes. And so, heavier gets the boot on the throat of the media and of the people.
Until the Trumpster started pushing back (arguably one of the Trumpster’s few successes, as far as they went), Emperor Xi had had a good innings at pushing his increasing weight around, either covertly or overtly. And the world was negligently benign.
Externally, now the world is pushing back: Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan are each a matter over which Emperor Xi would like to have total control. But doesn’t.
Internally, his China-covid-free dream is gnawing away at both the economy and morale. The property market is a mess. Economic growth has slowed to a crawl. His Belt and Road Initiative is slowly unravelling. The population is now declining.
Emperor Xi knows that China has emerging problems that are significant. But in trying to manage them all his way, he will end up not managing any of them. And they-the-people will not be happy.
Tsar Vlad turns to Plan C
Tsar Vlad’s plan to invade and annex Ukraine has been on a downward slope since the first reluctant Russian soldier crossed the border.
Plan A was to take Kyiv in two weeks. This was as smart as Hitler trying to take Moscow before it snowed. Careful not to get their vehicles dirty, the Russian drivers stuck to the main road to Kyiv. The conga line of Russian tanks, even stopping at traffic lights, became a turkey-shoot. End of Plan A.
Plan B was to take the southern and eastern provinces where Russian partisans had been infiltrating for more than six years. Emboldened by defeating Tsar Vlad’s Plan A, the Ukrainian army began to push the Russians back in the south and east. Plan B was faltering.
By then the body bags going back to the Motherland couldn’t be hidden. Then someone blows up a symbolic bridge that connects the Russian-annexed Crimea with Russia. Add to this Tsar Vlad’s tanks were now permanently in reverse gear. So, he allows his fury to get the better of his judgement. And move to Plan C: the kill-the-civilians option.
This week ‘suicide drones’ have been landing on civilian targets across Ukraine.
Tsar Vlad’s Plan C now seems to be to raze the cities of Ukraine, as he did to Grozny in Chechnya in 2000. In the hope Ukraine will sue for peace.
The world will hope that men in white coats will soon knock on the Kremlin door (see Thelma and Louise, below).
Back to the future
Oh, dear. Chairman Dan is running scared. Those three Labor seats at risk of falling to the Greens have called for drastic action.
What better way than nostalgia: bring back the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in the guise of renewable energy.
With breathtaking and brazen chutzpa, he announced, “The Liberals sold off public power companies to private, for-profit companies.”
Yes, correct. The then Liberal Premier had no choice – Victoria was bankrupt after the disastrous fiscal follies of the Labor Cain/ Kirner governments. Even Ms. Kirner knew how bad things were – she had to sell Victoria’s trams and trains and the government owned State Bank of Victoria to reduce debt.
Wry & Dry is waiting for news that the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works and the Gas & Fuel Corporation will also be exhumed.
Rallies: Emperor Xi format
Okay, the speech was only 104 minutes. But woe come upon anyone with narcolepsy or whose eyelids dropped, or heads nodded. Because the next downward-moving head would be a head hitting and then rolled across the floor.
The world watched the Communist Party of China’s quinquennial conference, one unlike those of other climes and other times.
The little Austrian with a little moustache, with a fondness for also making long speeches, preferred the Mass Hysteria Format: a huge rally at Nuremberg, with just one manic speaker.
The US Republican Party also prefer the Mass Hysteria Format: a huge rally anywhere with paraphernalia for sale, with just one manic speaker.
The UK Conservative Party prefers the We Don’t Know Either Format: next speaker unknown.
The Australian Labor Party, inculcated with Whitlam-and-Hawke-worship, prefers the Bring-Out-the-Dead Format: with many speeches, each idolising past leaders. Except Kevin Rudd.
The Victorian Labor Party has the A-Conference-Is-The-Same-as-Everyday-Life Format…
The Liberal Party prefers the Capitalist Conference Format: don’t worry about the speeches or policies – there are none. Just enter the raffle to win a choice of either (a) a dinner with any ex-leader: Howard, Hewson, Downer, Nelson, Turnbull, Abbott, or Morrison; or (b) a year’s free private health insurance.
Teals don’t have a conference, because – eschewing taxis and Uber as being infra dig4, they’d turn up in their BMWs, Audis and Range Rovers, thereby showing their true common
man person and climate change credentials.
The Greens prefer the Woodstock Format: lie back, smoke dope and dream, hoping that someone else will pay.
4 Ifra dig: infra dignitatem – beneath dignity.
Grim Chalmers’ debut
On Tuesday night, Grim Chalmers brings down his first budget.
Wry & Dry will be sorting out his sock drawer.
Tesla, the company most associated with electric vehicles (EVs), was created from nothing.
EVs from VW, Kia, Nissan, Mercedes, etc. were created from an existing motor vehicle capability.
Now Readers can buy an EV created from a company that makes iPhones.
Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing and technology giant (with 42% of the world’s information and technology markets) on Tuesday unveiled two EV concept cars (an SUV and a ute5) with a clear plan to diversify its business. But it will not sell EVs under its own name, preferring to build for other car companies.
This is a fascinating move, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, unlike the iPhone, the EVs will be 100% built in Taiwan, without Chinese components. This indirectly shows supply chain risks to Apple’s core business.6
Secondly, it clearly points to the EV as being a technology device that just happens to be a car.
Wry & Dry is worried that people will become technology devices, that just happen to be human.
5 Ute is an Australian abbreviation for utility vehicle, also known as a pick-up in the US.
6 But note Wry & Dry’s recent article on Apple expanding its iPhone manufacturing in India.
Loving the floods
Even foreign Readers will know that half of the People’s Republic of Victoria is under water.
Only one person is happy: Chairman Dan.
Firstly, it gives him a chance to appear, sans hi-vis vest but in wellies, on television every day. No-one loves a crisis more than Chairman Dan.
Secondly, it will now be impossible for media oxygen to be available to other parties prior to the November state election.
The Liberals have a tractor with traction, but its driver can’t turn on the engine.
The Greens can speak of climate change causing the floods, but every flood victim says “it’s the highest since 2011…” or 1994 or whenever. Really? Floods have happened before?
The Teals can speak of climate change, but photos of their 4WD cars racing through the floods wouldn’t be “a good look.” They will be silent.
Chairman Dan is laughing.
Albo was doing so well…
…and then a petty public servant in the Department of Foreign Affairs deleted sentences on DFAT’s website referring to the previous government’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, whilst retaining Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv.
Albo’s cabinet was hastily convened to confirm the petty bureaucrat’s decision. And confirm Labor’s position. That is, that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, fresh from concluding a defence agreement with Japan, came out fighting. She said Scott Morrison’s original decision was politically motivated to help win the Sydney seat of Wentworth (which has a large Jewish population).
Of course, she didn’t say that her government’s decision was originally and still is politically motivated. To keep sweet with its constituents in other Sydney seats.
US mid-term election update
Normally, the US mid-term elections7 are a big yawn for those in this sunburnt country. Not this time.
The spectre of the Trumpster haunts the outcome. If the Republicans win either or both of the House and Senate, then the Trumpster’s chest will rise. If his endorsed candidates win, his Twitter account will melt-down.
The overall polling looks good for the Trumpster, see below. But these are national figures, not electorate-by-electorate.
Looking at the demographic groups, the Republicans have greater than 50% of the polling with voters who are:
- Aged 45 to 64 (59%)
- White (55%)
- Do not have a bachelor’s degree (54%)
Mrs. Trumpster is already measuring up the curtains for 2024.
7 Held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in an even numbered year. That is half-way between presidential elections. US House members serve terms of just two years. Once elected they immediately begin fund raising for the next election. Senators serve staggered six-year terms, that is one third are elected every two years.
Wry & Dry has quilled many times about the gap in the so-called gender-pay. The gap was not mostly about women getting paid less than men.
Huzzah. Research gurus at Curtain University have researched the issue and confirmed this view.
Men dominate highly-paid sectors (mining, building trades, etc), whilst women dominate in lower-paid sectors (child-care, nursing). Women also prefer or need the flexibility that some lower paid occupations offer.
Wry & Dry has no doubt that there are some sectors where women have compensation less than men undertaking the same work. These seem to be, weirdly, at each end of the trough. Pervasive sexism still exists in the upper echelons of some professional firms. And in some lowly paid casual occupations, women are often paid less because their employers believe they won’t push back against discrimination.
However, it would seem that to close the gender-pay gap to close to zero, 50% of employees working the tools on mining sites and building sites should be women.
Thelma and Louise
Sleepy Joe’s musings at an election fund-raiser this week caused Wry & Dry to ponder.
He asked a rhetorical question: “We’re trying to figure out, what is Putin’s off-ramp?”
Off-ramp? Wry & Dry would have referred to the Gordian Knot8 of the world.
The disaster outcome would be to provide Tsar Vlad with an off-ramp, or a way to cut the Gordian knot. Pressuring Ukraine to cede territory and sovereignty would a) be rejected by Ukraine, as it’s their sand pit; b) reward Tsar Vlad for his aggression; c) confirm western weakness to Tsar Vlad; and d) embolden him to bully other neighbours.
The off-ramp or cutting the Gordian knot of which Sleepy Joe should have spoken should be for Tsar Vlad to find his own, be it:
Plan A: declare victory, change the subject and know that the Russian people will pretend to believe him;
Plan B: declare victory, announce his resignation and thank the Russian people for their love; or
Plan C: fall on his sword.
8 The Gordian Knot is an ancient Greek legend associated with Alexander the Great, who is said to have cut the knot in 333 BC. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (untying an impossibly tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot (“cutting the Gordian knot”).
Captain obvious headline
“Report: covid response wreaked economic and social havoc.”
– Yesterday’s page one headline in The Australian.
Unclear on the concept
Australian cricket captain Pat Cummings doesn’t want a fossil-fuel related company to sponsor the Australian cricket team.
Wry & Dry guesses that, in the spirit of consistency, he will now narrow his playing venue options to where he can get to by not flying. That is the environs of Sydney. No more millions from IPL, Pat.
But perhaps thousands from where he can drive only using an electric vehicle powered by renewable energy and manufactured using renewable energy. And built of renewable materials.
Or would he prefer a gambling company as a sponsor?
Guess the sacrifice people will make for net zero
There is no doubt that we-the-taxpayer will have to adjust to a lower standard of living to meet net zero by 2050. Not many people have asked by how much. Probably because no-one knows the cost.
However, the good folk of New South Wales have indicated how much they are willing to sacrifice to reach net zero by 2050: an average of $4.75 per week. The price of a cup of coffee, in Sydney.
Actually, it’s worse than that. As many as 76% of the respondents to the survey want New South Wales to achieve net zero but only if it didn’t cost them anything extra.
Well, too late. It’s already costing plenty. And will cost more.
Ah, the problem with the universal franchise.
Rolls Royce will start selling its first fully electric vehicle next year.
At between A$450,000 and A$900,000, Wry & Dry might not be a buyer. As he couldn’t afford the prerequisite to be an owner. That prerequisite? As exquisitely implied in an early owner’s manual, if anything goes wrong with a Roller: “Instruct your driver to…”
It’s the cost of the driver that’s the problem.
Snippets from all over
1. That’s not a fence…
Finland is expected to build a fence along its 830-mile land border with Russia to keep out illegal immigrants should Moscow try to flood the country with asylum seekers. (The Times).
Wry & Dry comments: It’s a fencer’s dream: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia began fencing off their borders with Belarus, and Estonia started work on a 2.5m-high barbed-wire fence that will ultimately stretch across half its land border with Russia.
2. Amazon 1 Unions 0
Amazon employees at a warehouse outside Albany, New York voted nearly two-to-one to reject the formation of a union, dashing hopes that a grassroots effort to organise workers would spread across the ecommerce giant’s facilities. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: This is faintly weird. Amazon is not known as a great employer.
3. Macron under the pump
Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris on Sunday to protest rising living costs, amid an increasingly tense atmosphere marked by strikes at oil refineries and nuclear plants that threaten to spread further. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: This will be a real test of Macron’s spine. History shows that French leaders fold when the going gets tough.
4. Putin flexes his muscles in West Africa
Moscow has revealed its next target in resource-rich west Africa, where a deteriorating security environment is helping the Kremlin wrench influence over former French colonies from Paris. Niger and its uranium mines are next, a series of pro-Putin voices have declared via the Telegram messaging service. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Russian-backed mercenary group Wagner, is now operating in nine African countries.
5. Ukraine has gas
Ukraine is in talks with US drillers to pump gas from its vast untapped reserves to Europe and ease the region’s energy crisis by the end of the decade. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: “First, catch your hare.” That is, most of Ukraine’s gas reserves are under land east of the Dnipro River. That land is currently occupied by squatters.
6. EU turns off Polish tap
Brussels is ready to freeze payments of regional aid to Poland because of threats to judicial independence, as the stand-off over rule-of-law violations hangs over funding lines worth tens of billions of euros to Warsaw. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Part of being in the EU and getting vast amounts of aid is a requirement to meet certain ‘rule-of-law’ policies. Poland, with a somewhat right-wing government, has subjugated the judiciary to the executive.
- Turkey’s inflation rate hit 83%.
- Turkey lowered its interest rates by 1.5% points to 10.5%.
- UK inflation rose to 10.1% in the year to September, a 40-year high.
- China delayed release of GDP data, no reason was given.
- The IMF now expects Russia’s economy to shrink by 3.4% in 2022, down from -8.5%.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“Climate change means not enough water would flow into them to make them worthwhile.”
- Dan Andrews, Premier of Victoria, speaking in 2019 on why no new dams should be built in Victoria.
Sorry, Chairman Dan, that is not what climate change means. Back to school?
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.