Wry & Dry #2, FY-24: Cue cards. Emperor Eleven Jinping. Robo-debt.

Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life; from a grumpy older gentleman.

Seven stories you may have missed

  1. Cue the cue cards
  2. Robo-debt what was missed
  3. Emperor Eleven Jinping inside UK
  4. Where’s Prigozhin
  5. Unclear on the language
  6. Sleepy Joe fact
  7. Amazon: Oh, for another pandemic

Cue the cue cards

It must be tough being a US president. So many things to remember. And all of those names and faces. And this on top of the shocking ailment that affects some 50% of the people on the planet: being male.

So perhaps it was understandable that when Sleepy Joe went into his meeting earlier this week with UK PM Rishi Sunak, like the boy scout that he might have been, he was prepared.

Of course, an earlier hurdle loomed when he alighted from his massive personal bunker-on-wheels when it stopped in Downing Street. Would he knock on the right door? Number 10 is, well, into double figures.

Well, he need not have worried, the UK PM came out of one of the doors and greeted him. And then it was noticed: Sleepy Joe had a cue card half hidden up his sleeve. A photograph of the card was taken by presidential paparazzi – it showed:

It must have been so difficult to remember these six items. Readers should consider his problem with the complexity. How to remember as many as seven words: NATO, Turkey, Atlantic Alliance, AI and [unclear].

What the photographer missed were further cards. Each had one just line:

  • You are the President of the Greatest Nation on earth. Next card.
  • You are in London. Next card.
  • The young Indian-looking man opposite you is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Next card.
  • We have a ‘special relationship’ with the UK. Last card. Smile.

Wry & Dry wonders how he finds his way around the White House. His home has 132 rooms and 32 bathrooms. There are 412 doors. How does he remember which door to open? Although Bill Clinton sometimes had trouble remembering into which bedroom he was entering.

Sleepy Joe is aged 80 and is the oldest person ever elected to the US presidency.

Emperor Eleven Jinping inside UK

Wry & Dry doesn’t wish to be alarmist. But a report by the body that has oversight of the UK’s famed MI51, MI62 and GCHQ3 was published this morning.

The report concluded that “Britain was being subjected to a whole state assault by China,” which had targeted politicians, sensitive infrastructure, the military, private companies and the academic sector.


According to The Times, the report outlined in devastating detail how successive governments, industry and academics have dropped the ball for years, as the push for lucrative Chinese investment was allowed to trump, as it were, security matters.

The problem now is that the Englishman-in-the-street, or in the Members’ stand at Lord’s, will see a spy in every Asian-looking person.

Readers should wait for the reaction of a former Australian PM (see more, below).

1 Military Intelligence, Section 5 is the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency.

2 MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), is the foreign intelligence service of the UK. This is the home of James Bond. The other MI sections have been discontinued i.e. MI1 – code-breaking; MI2 Russia & Scandinavia; MI3 – Eastern Europe; MI7 – propaganda; MI8 – signals; MI9 – European resistance. Well, we’re told the other MI sections have been discontinued.

3 Government Communications Headquarters is the UK’s cryptology and intelligence agency. Its work continues that of the Bletchley Park team.

Robo-debt – what the Royal Commission missed

By now Readers would have perused the 662 pages of the Royal Commission into the so-called Robo-Debt scheme. And the cccxl pages in the Appendix.

Yes, the Appendix numbering is in Roman numerals. For younger Readers unused to such enumeration, cccxl (and not CCCXL) is not the latest model of very fast car, but is, in fact, the number 340. Wry & Dry was delighted with the use of this enumeration. And actually wished for a smattering of Latin maxims throughout the Report.

The media headlines of the Robo-Debt scheme report (Wry & Dry gave a day of his twilight years scanning it – it is an amazing document of forensic thoroughness and clarity) focussed briefly on the scheme itself.

And then moved to name names of those whose heads should be placed on spikes at the city gates.

Wry and Dry would be well pleased to see one particular head on a spike: the minister who originally approved the scheme in his attempt to prove that he was “a tough cop on the beat” (his words). And who wanted any overpayments repaid.

In brief, the scheme was an automated debt recovery scheme, where over 200,000 Australians were told they had a debt when they didn’t. By definition, people on Centrelink benefits are ‘needy’ (a concept that escaped the minister and his successors), for example many with mental illness or were victims of violence. Each alleged debtor had to enter into the labyrinth that is DHS to try and find out what had happened. Good luck with your projects. And then try to repay the alleged debt. Some ‘debtors’ in despair committed suicide.

The scheme collapsed in 2020. The government refunded $720m of incorrectly repaid debts and agreed a $1.2 billion class action settlement. The Royal Commission found the scheme to be “crude and cruel” and “neither fair nor legal.”

It is clear from the Commission’s Report that once the minister (and cabinet) at the time pushed the Go button, the juggernaut that is the public service became unstoppable. But the real matter lies elsewhere.

Ministers see their primary role is to ensure that the government gets elected at the next election (no surprises there). Further, that they look good and retain their ministry, or get a better one; for example, prime minister. And that no ministerial action is too dastardly to achieve this goal.

For all of its detail and analysis, the Royal Commission did not answer the obvious question: how does a prime minister check/ control the over-reach of ministers before it’s too late? Older Readers will remember Whitlam’s problems with Connor, Cairns, etc.

Scott Morrison was clearly out of control. But no-one then noticed. He has since washed his hands of Robo-debt, blaming the public service. But its stain will live with thousands of others.

Where’s Wally Prigozhin

Two weeks ago, Tsar Vlad’s dirty tricks man Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin turned his coat. And attempted a drive on Moscow on a road not much better than Napoleon encountered. The would-be coup, if it were ever one, failed. Tsar Vlad gave a televised address excoriating the well-upholstered, Uncle Fester look-alike, former chef-turned-military oligarch. He accused Prigozhin of “betrayal.” Ouch.

Prigozhin was exiled to Belarus. But he didn’t arrive there. And media that reported 10 days ago he met with Tsar Vlad in the Kremlin. For over three hours. And with about 30 others in attendance.

What’s going on? Well, Readers have one choice of two alternatives.

#1. Tsar Vlad’s war machine is nothing more than a moteley group of unmotivated conscripts. Without Prigozhin and his private army of villains, the Russian army is nowt. Prigozhin is effectively in charge.

#2. Prigozhin has fallen from the fifth floor of an office building. The Kremlin meeting was a fake. All hail Tsar Vlad!

Russia: always a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Unclear on the language

Senator O’Neill has made a name for herself in recent times with her withering and successful smoting of accounting firm PwC.

But perhaps it’s time for her to review her knowledge of the English language. On Wednesday, when speaking about a report on improving Australia’s insolvency laws, she opined, “A fulsome review of insolvency laws has not occurred in decades.”

‘Fulsome’ means “flattering to an excessive degree.”

Perhaps she meant ‘comprehensive.’

Sleepy Joe fact

Sleepy Joe has held fewer press conferences than any president in the past 100 years. His batting average is 0.46 press conferences per month.

Next lowest is Ronald Reagan with 0.48. Readers can join the dots on those two. It probably helps to be awake.

In ascending order, the bottom 10 with average number of press conferences per month are4:

  1. Biden 0.46
  2. Reagan 0.48
  3. Nixon 0.59
  4. Carter 1.23
  5. Ford 1.36
  6. Obama 1.71
  7. Trump 1.83
  8. Kennedy 1.91
  9. Clinton 2.01
  10. Eisenhower 2.01

4 Source: The American Presidency Project (University of California)

Amazon: Oh, for another pandemic

If Readers wished for evidence that lockdowns cause more online shopping (of all things), then here it is:


Yesterday, Trump supporter James Ray Epps (Senior), sued the Fox News Network for having “destroyed” his life and that of his wife.

The suit blames the network for lying to its viewers that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a lie that inspired Epps to travel from his home in Arizona to Washington, D.C., to protest on January 6, 2021. 

Good luck with your projects, Mr. Epps.

Can’t pay

If a Reader were to receive a fine, he/she would be expected to pay. Pronto. No term arrangements.

Well, Readers will remember that Crown Resorts (a casino operator that was found to have breached Australia’s money laundering laws as often as the arm of its one-armed bandits were pulled5) was fined $450m by Austrac (the financial crime regulator).

Crown has offered to pay $120m up front, with the balance in two years. And without interest. Its lawyer said that if Crown had to pay the entire amount upfront it would have “to negotiate a loan.”

Austrac agreed, but the fine had to be approved by the Federal Court.

Justice Michael Lee considered the matter. “A pecuniary penalty of $450 million would be attracting interest. What you’re trying to do is to have a penalty regime that defers penalties, at no interest, which is quite different from a penalty of $450 million.”

Which is what it tried to do. And succeeded. Justice Lee reluctantly folded, noting that there was scant evidence that the fine would cripple Crown as the company claimed. But Austrac’s failure to cross-examine Crown’s CFO meant that this position could not be tested. He said that Austrac was in danger of being “a soft touch,” because it preferred to settle cases rather than litigate.

The $450m penalty is now valued at just $405m. How to save $45m.

5 Oops, no such thing these days, it’s an electronic bandit.

RDS epidemic returns

Readers will be saddened to read that former PM Paul Keating has suffered yet another bout of RDS6.

On Sunday, Mr. Keating issued a media release blasting the Secretary-General of NATO (Jens Stoltenberg, a former PM himself, of Norway) as a “supreme fool,” and “an accident waiting to happen.” This was about the plan for NATO to open an office in Tokyo.

Mr. Keating then continued in his now usual China-apologist vein: “[China] has no record of attacking other states, unlike the United States…”

Once again, Mr. Keating has allowed RDS to cloud his world-view. Or is it an anti-Europe, anti-American cloud? Or just a pro-China one?

China attacked Vietnam in 1979 and India in 1962. Further, it annexed Tibet in 1951, has illegally occupied islands the possession of other countries in the South China Sea, has established client states of Laos and Cambodia and is increasingly using its Belt & Road project in the western Pacific (Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) and Africa to add to its influence.

Curiously, Mr. Keating’s media release did not reveal a conflict of interest. That is, he is a member of the international advisory board of the China Development Bank7.

Time for Mr. Keating to return to History 101. Whilst waiting for the men in white coats.

6 Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

7 China Development Bank is one of three ‘policy banks’ owned and funded by Emperor Eleven Jinping. It finances China’s economic development, including financing international Belt & Road Initiative financings. Which explains its offices in Cairo, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, London, Vientiane, Astana, Minsk, Jakarta, Sydney and Budapest.

Ranking – best countries in which to live

Another global ranking has been published, this time of the best countries in which to live.

Too bad for members of the Marylebone Cricket Club: there are twelve countries in which it is better to live.

The top five were:

  1. Singapore (drug-free, everything works)
  2. Australia (never in doubt)
  3. Denmark (must be the Lego)
  4. Netherlands (cheeses?)
  5. Estonia (wow, with Russia as a neighbour?)

France came in at #20, US #23, China at #61 and Russia #70. Victoria was not separately assessed.

Readers interested in the arcane should visit: StIx (


Wry & Dry’s mail bag was full on Monday morning. His article on cricket and the spirit of the game caused many a Reader to ask his/her children “how do I send an email to this fellow Wry & Dry?”

One Reader, clearly with a legal mind, observed: “he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.” The Reader clearly suggesting that the English coach and the English captain had form of bad behaviour. And certainly Bairstow, the English wicket keeper, didn’t come with clean hands. In view of his number of dropped catches, his hands were, err, oily.

Other Readers opined that Bairstow was out: ‘run out.’ Not ‘stumped,’ with one suggesting had that been the case there would not have been all the fuss. This was an interesting observation. But incorrect. Bairstow was dismissed under both Rule 38 and Rule 39 of the Laws of Cricket. However, Rule 39.1 states “The striker is out Stumped if all the conditions of 39.1.1 are satisfied, even though a decision of Run Out would be justified.”

Another Reader asked which of the ten methods of dismissal had Wry & Dry not seen. The answer is ‘timed out’. An incoming batsman must arrive at the wicket within two minutes of dismissal of the previous batsman.

Others were even more arcane.

Snippets from all over

1. Actors down tools

The Hollywood actors’ union approved a strike on Thursday for the first time in 43 years, bringing the $134 billion American movie and television business to a halt over anger about pay and fears of a tech-dominated future. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Tell someone who cares. AI and streaming are here to stay.

2. Cost of riots

Rioting in French cities over the past two weeks has left a trail of destruction costing €650 million, according to insurers. (Le Monde)

Wry & Dry comments: Ah, the freedom to riot, so cherished.

3. China’s grasp on Solomon Islands tightens

Leaders of the Solomon Islands and China have pledged to expand their security co-operation, boosting a relationship that has created alarm over Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The Solomon Islands signed a secret security agreement with Emperor Eleven Jinping in March last year that offered Chinese military forces access to the South Pacific nation.

4. Cruel and unusual punishment

Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, says he has been forced by prison guards to listen to the same speech by President Putin for 100 days in a row. (The Times).

Wry & Dry comments: a fate worse than death.

5. NATO gets bigger

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: [modestly] Wry & Dry predicted before the recent Turkish presidential elections that Sultan Erdoğan would agree to Sweden joining NATO after the election. There’s more to this than meets the rheumy eye. But no-one knows what. The Sultan is keen to maintain an enigmatic image.

6. China deflating?

China’s consumer inflation rate was flat in June while factory-gate prices fell further, fuelling concerns about deflation risks and adding to speculation about potential economic stimulus. (Bloomberg)

Wry & Dry comments: It’s all about excess supply. Of everything.


  1. US inflation fell sharply to 3% in the year to June.
  2. Germany’s inflation rose to 6.8% in the year to June.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“Russia was once the second-most powerful military in the world. Today it is the second-most powerful in Ukraine.”

  • Mike Pence, former vice president of the US and presidential aspirant, writing in syndicated US media.

His key point was actually that Sleepy Joe should give Ukraine more kit now, to get the war over with.

PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.


Anthony Starkins

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