The week was quiet, until action broke out on the Trump front. People searched for Qatar on Google Maps, and much more. Consider…
- Trumpster’s taxing time
- Qatar. Qatar? What?
- The big issues of life
- One pilot, per plane, per haps
- World’s most hollow city
- That ain’t a chicken
- Habits: Emperor Xi’s Canada move
…and more. Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Trumpster’s taxing time
The Trumpster appointed three judges to the US Supreme Court. And, on Wednesday, the court, without dissent, ruled against him. That’s gratitude for you.
Traditionally, US presidents have released their tax returns for public scrutiny. Despite many promises so to do, the Trumpster has always kept his hidden. Of course, he has nothing illegal to hide. Of course.
Well, no more secrecy. The Supreme Court has rejected his emergency request to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee1 from obtaining his tax returns. The Treasury Department will now have to release six years of tax information. US federal law is clear that the committee has the right to examine any taxpayer’s return, including the president’s.
Of course, this is not a release to the public, only to a committee. But political committees leak like the Titanic after an unhappy meeting with an iceberg.
Sigh. The Supreme Court’s decision is another setback for the poor man. Consider that he is facing the following:
- Criminal investigation by the Justice Department into him retaining government records after leaving office
- Civil suit for $250m by the New York Attorney General for inflating property values to mislead banks and investors
- Criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into Trump organisations’ ‘tax-free perks’ to top executives
- Civil suit for defamation by Jean Carroll over rape allegations from the 1990s
- Criminal investigation by the state of Georgia into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result
- Criminal investigation by a House of Representatives committee over his alleged incitement of rioters in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
It seems to Wry & Dry that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But even if there is no fire, his lawyers have already put a deposit on that ski lodge in Whistler.
1 The Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest committee of the United States Congress, and is the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives. It has long been regarded as the most prestigious committee of the US House of Representatives.
Qatar. Qatar? What?
FIFA, the body that runs world football (i.e. soccer), has, since 1978, been the global benchmark for giving lessons in corruption in sport.2
And in 2022, FIFA has set a new global benchmark, providing a host city outcome not previously considered for a global sporting world cup: a lesson in geography.
In 2010, FIFA announced that a tiny Gulf state had won the bid3. The world was asking, “Qatar. Qatar? What?”
Well, not quite. Most of the world knew of Qatar, except for the average American4.
For them, the answer was: “Kwatar? Err, in Africa?”
So, teachers in America have dug out the dusty maps that were last used in the Second Gulf War (“Gulf? Miss Galore, is that the Gulf of Mexico?”) and to show reruns of Lawrence of Arabia.
In colonial days, when the Union Jack was flown all over the Gulf, Qatar was known as the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The Duchy took its name from its founder, Sir Roger Fenwick, a ne’er do well remittance man who was sent down from Oxford for “outrageous behaviour” and who later settled in the Gulf in the early 19th century. The name was changed to Qatar in 1868 and has been ruled as a hereditary monarchy by the House of Thani since Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British government. Sir Roger was exiled and disappeared.5
More recently, Readers will know that Qatar is, by far, the smallest nation to host a world cup. The previous midget being Switzerland, a country in which football is actually seriously played. Qatar also has the world’s lowest unemployment rate, at 0.3%.
2 In 1978, the World Cup was held in Argentina, then in the hands of a junta run by the military. The junta used the event in a manner similar to Hitler’s use of Berlin in the 1936 Olympics. That is, to seek international legitimacy for its regime and policies.
3 Other bidders were the USA (the clear favourite), South Korea, Japan and Australia. In the voting Australia received one vote, and was eliminated in the first round. In the end, Qatar won 14 votes to USA’s 8.
4 The US military certainly know where Qatar is. It hosts the largest US base in the Middle East, the Al Udeid Air Base, which houses over 10,000 US troops and has been used by the US in its campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. In 2014, the US sold $11 billion worth of arms to Qatar. In 2017, Qatar signed a $12 billion deal to buy 36 F15 strike aircraft.
5Just kiddin’. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick is a tiny fictional country used in the satirical 1959 movie The Mouse That Roared, starring Peter Sellers in three roles. Impoverished, the duchy declares war on the US, hoping to lose and benefit from the US’ magnanimity towards countries it defeats. However, the US loses.
The big issues of life
The Australian newspaper6 breathlessly reported on its front page yesterday that the after-dinner chocolates in a leading Melbourne gentlemen’s club had “been tampered with.” The culprits are apparently members wishing the club to admit ladies. The tampering is the insertion of notes into the chocolates alleging sexism.
Good grief. This is a vital revelation, worthy of a front page. Readers should be alert, but not alarmed.
Separately, Wry & Dry is waiting for news from any Melbourne ladies’ club that any of their members wish gentlemen to be admitted.
6 A centrist daily national broadsheet, owned by a lad named Murdoch.
One pilot per plane per…
Readers with a military background will be aware of the saw: “One can, per man, per day, per haps.”
Now some 40 airlines around the world wish to have their version: “One pilot, per plane, per haps.”
In plane language, the plan presented to the International Civil Aviation Organisation is that there will be only one driver at the sharp end.
Wry & Dry’s problem is not only who will drive the plane when the driver is, err, indisposed, but will this minimalisation trend catch on?
Imagine if Chairman Dan decided that Victoria needed just one person to run a government…
World’s most hollow city
The Property Council of Australia has just released the below data:
Say no more.
There was much ado in the Melbourne media this week, with news that a home in bayside Braarton7 had sold for a record $31m.
Why the ado? Aside from the seeming large sum, not much, Wry & Dry would say. Readers might wish to consider the following:
The home was last purchased in 2015 for $22m. Allowing for stamp duty of $1.41m, that is an annual return of 4.1% p.a. Not a great return, even ignoring the imputed rental benefit to the owner.
But if it were an investment property (i.e. not a person’s principal place of residence), because of annual land tax, the return falls to about 1.9% p.a.
And then there is CGT of about $2.1m (assuming no offsets), further reducing the total return, to just under 1% p.a.
Much ado about nothing.
7 An enclave suburb known outside of Braarton as Brighton .
Readers know that the world needs fewer of a lot of things. For example: fewer potholes, fewer mosquitos, fewer politicians, fewer public servants and fewer emails.
Critically, it also needs fewer zeros.
And so, last Friday, the 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures added four new prefixes to the International System of Units (i.e. the metric system):
- ronna (27 zeros after the first digit, at the top end of the measurement range)
- quetta (30 zeros, ditto)
- ronto (27 zeros, at the bottom end of the range)
- quecto (30 zeros, ditto)
This now means that yotta (24 zeros) has been superseded for measurement of large sizes. For example, the Earth’s mass is now about 6 ronnagrams rather than 6,000 yottagrams.
That ain’t a chicken
Next time a Reader bites into a leg of roast chicken, he/ she might consider its, err, provenance.
Y’see, the US Food and Drug Administration has just approved lab-grown chicken for human consumption. Only the US Department of Agriculture approval stands in the way of a wave of start-up companies marketing chicken meat that’s not from a chicken.
But investors beware. Wry & Dry is not saying this will be a crypto currency craze, or a Dutch Tulip Bulb craze. But is merely reminding Readers of the perils of investing: the wannabe “future of meat” title holder has gone from on the grill onto the gas burners. Beyond Meat just announced it would lay off 19% of its staff as revenue sharply falls. It has never been a cash cow (groan) for investors and now is suffering from negative cash flow.
More broadly in the US, retail sales in the plant-based meat industry overall have dropped 10% in the past year.
For Wry & Dry’s delicate palate, it’s got to moo, cluck or baa.
There’s hope for all of us. Sleepy Joe turned 80 this week. People are wondering how he managed to blow out 80 candles on his cake.
Mind you, there have been many success stories of folk aged 80+. Consider:
- Paul McCartney, now 81, who spent 2022 on the road for his “Got Back” tour
- Konrad Adenauer, who was 87 when he retired as the first and finest chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
- George Burns, comedian, who was 87 when he signed a five-year contract with Caesars World casino in Las Vegas: “I can’t afford to die when I’m booked. The last time I played Caesars Palace, it was owned by Julius.”
Sleepy Joe will be 86 if he finishes a second term.
Habits: Emperor Xi’s Canada move
Last week, Wry & Dry alerted Readers to Emperor Xi’s public admonishment of Canada’s PM Woke Trudeau. Now more flesh has been put on the bones.
Y’see, Canadian broadcaster Global News broke a story earlier this month:
“Based on recent information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Beijing’s efforts to undermine Canada’s democratic process allegedly involved payments through intermediaries to election candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), placing agents in the offices of MPs in order to influence policy, seeking to co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and mounting aggressive campaigns to punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views as threats to its interests.“
The Canadian media placed much pressure on Woke Trudeau to beat up Emperor Xi about it at the recent G-20 luv-in. Which it seems he did. And reported back to Canadian media that he did.
Which caused the bee in Emperor Xi’s bonnet. And a scowl on his hitherto inscrutable face.
Canada doesn’t have the foreign interference and espionage laws that Croesus Turnbull legislated for Australia in 2018. And remember the kerfuffle that started all of that?
Chairman Dan’s signing of Emperor Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative for and on behalf of the residents of Victoria. At some time in the future a book will be written…
Don’t worry about the prices of fuel, groceries or energy.
In the US, it’s all about the price of turkeys. Up 17% in a year, this is the highest turkey inflation since 1981.
As most Americans purchase the bird to roast for a family meal over Thanksgiving, giving thanks this year will not be cheap. What item will Americans forgo to pay for turkey inflation? A new mobile phone perhaps? Or even that seventh streaming service, to add to Netflix, Disney, Amazon Prime, HBO Max and Apple TV?
Meanwhile, in the country named Turkey, inflation is a bigger problem, with prices up 86% in the year to end October.
By the way, there is a state election in Victoria tomorrow.
Readers will have their own views. And it is not Wry & Dry’s place to trespass on those views.
Other than to say that Wry & Dry’s pet Chairman Dan folly, the $125 billion Suburban Rail Loop, has somehow had its cost reduced to zero.
Or so it seems. It is not in Chairman Dan’s budgets or promises. How about that: $125 billion of costs reduced to zero.
Hats off to Chairman Dan for this outstanding political worm on a hook. And to most of the media for swallowing not only the worm, but also the hook, the sinker and the line.
Snippets from all over
1. Nothing to see here
Iran’s Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] has been ridiculed for claiming the country has developed a cure for blood cancer, the world’s largest telescope and a new hypersonic missile. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: Hmm, trying to distract attention away from the riots? The cancer cure is a copy of a method already in production by two multinational companies, the telescope is no larger than the 40th in the world and the hypersonic missile is yet to be seen.
2. iPhone city locked down
Zhengzhou, home to Apple Inc’s largest iPhone factory, will be largely locked down for five days after officials in the Chinese city said the Covid-19 pandemic had entered a critical phase. (Bloomberg)
Wry & Dry comments: The government wants to impose ‘mobility controls’ (a euphemism for a lockdown) on the city of 10 million folk. The locals are not happy. And have rioted.
3. In for a Pence, in for a …
The [US] Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The Trumpster will try to limit Pence’s testimony on the grounds of ‘executive privilege’.
4. France to the rescue
France has announced an aid package of €100 million for the vulnerable former Soviet republic, whose security is considered crucial in the context of the war in Ukraine. (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, landlocked between Romania and Ukraine, has had its gas supplies cut off by Russia and Russia’s razing of Ukraine power generation capability has left it without electricity.
5. Scotland the naive
Britain’s leading judges have “demolished” the notion that Scots are an “oppressed” people or that Scotland is comparable to a “colony” being subjected to British rule against its will. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: This is about the SNP’s drive for Scottish independence and a massive Scottish-egg-on-face for its leader, Nicola Sturgeon. But she will continue her Quixotic quest for a Scotland independent of the rest of the UK. And independent of fiscal common-sense.
6. Turkey saved
Saudi Arabia is discussing a deal to inject $5bn into Turkey’s central bank in a move that would shore up Ankara’s foreign currency reserves and mark a further sign of rapprochement between the regional rivals four years after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Turkey’s dire fiscal circumstances have forced president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to mend fences with the region. He has spent months trying to repair relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A $5 billion deposit is a sign of success. But what will be the quid pro quo?
- New Zealand’s central bank raised interest rates by a record 0.75% points, to 4.25%.
- China’s daily new covid infections lifted to a record high of 31,444.
- Warren Buffett donated $758m of Berkshire Hathaway stock to charities.
- GBP150m is the amount David Beckham will earn over 10 years as a ‘Sports Ambassador’ for Qatar.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.”
- John Ray, brought in to manage the carcass of FTX, the failed crypto currency exchange.
And he should know. He was the guy who was brought in to make sense of Enron.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.