Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Ten stories you may have missed…
- Optus: J’Accuse …!
- Inflation: brace yourselves
- Netherlands: right turn
- W.A: the search for votes
- Italy: stop the train
- Global: 2024 – elections aplenty
- Colorado: hollow victory
- US: Sleepy Joe/ Goes low(er)
- History: the grassy knoll
- US: $77m payout
1. Optus: J’Accuse…!
It took an hour for Marie Antionette1 to be taken from her cell to the Place de la Révolution.2 On the way to the guillotine, she was jeered and abused by the Parisienne Mob. The Mob wanted a head on a platter. And it got it.
More recently, it took three days for Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin to go from appearing before a Senate Committee to self-decapitation. For those three days, and earlier, the Mob was baying for her head. And it, the head, was presented on Monday morning to the Mob across a myriad of media channels.
The straw that broke Ms. Bayer Rosmarin was the shameless performance by the Senate Environment and Communications Committee. Led by Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens), Karen Grogan (Labor) and Sarah Henderson (Liberal), the questioning was all about political grandstanding rather than forensic analysis. None of the three amigos have any experience in telecommunications: respectively charity worker, shop-steward and journalist. Their inquisition had not quite the magnitude of the Dreyfus Affair3, but the same direction.
And that is the way it is, these days. Curiously, the Mob had not built-up animus toward her in the way they had with former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Joyce not only failed Qantas’ customers, he also plundered the corporate coffers. For Ms. Bayer Rosmarin, it was more that she represented Optus and Optus failed.
Which leads Wry & Dry to ask, if the baying Mob gets its way and a CEO’s head appears on a platter, why don’t we see more politicians’ heads on the Wedgwood platter?
1 The last queen of France before the French Revolution. The story that she uttered the words “let them eat cake” is apocryphal. Her husband Louis XVI was guillotined six months earlier.
2 The present-day Place de la Concorde. It is located at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. Both are being redesigned for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
3 A scandal, where, essentially, a Jewish French army officer was wrongly accused of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on the notorious Devil’s Island. It was writer Émile Zola’s open letter J’Accuse…! that forced the case to be reopened. Dreyfus was pardoned in 1906. It remains one of the most pointed examples of miscarriage of justice and anti-Semitism.
2. Inflation: brace yourselves
Michele Bullock (Chief Teller of the RBA) is just a tradie. She has one job to do: ensure inflation lies between 2% and 3%. And to achieve that task, she has just one tool in her toolbox: interest rates.
The popularity of the role is barbell-shaped: loathed as rates rise, loved as rates fall. Mind you, Wry & Dry is sure that Ms. Bullock couldn’t give a toss about the mood of the Mob. She made it clear in two recent speeches that interest rates will continue to increase.
The first speech was that of the long-term position: inflation would not come down sustainably until productivity growth returned. Well, that’s the end of the penny section. Immigration of 600,000 this year + increased featherbedding of
government employees4 + proposed new industrial relations legislation = flat (at best) productivity growth.
The second was short-term: it’s not supply-side stuff (e.g. oil prices) that’s now the problem. It’s domestic demand (or “home-grown”, to use her words). There’s too much of it. Government spending has been out of control for five years and superannuation retirement payouts are booming. There’s nothing she can do about either.
Readers can expect even more interest rate increases.
4 Readers will have noticed this morning’s news that the Victorian Public Sector Union is standing firm on its demand for a four-day working week (a trial, of course, which will fool nobody) and a 20% pay increase.
3. Netherlands: right turn
The folk of the Netherlands5 have elected a ‘far-right’ Prime Minister, who will have to form a coalition government – which may take some months. Geert Wilders is a nationalist, anti-elite politician, whose main policy is anti-immigration.
More than 50% of voters named asylum and migration as the key issues. The country had net migration in 2022 of 220,000 – which seems a lot in small country (18 million people in a country about the same size as Gippsland, a region in eastern Victoria). They-The-Dutch clearly blame the housing shortage and costs on migrants.
This result reflects a fragmented trend across Europe: a weakening of political power of Greens and elite left/centrist politicians. The resulting division is not the legacy Marxist battle of Workers v. Capitalist, but Elite & Inner-City (‘Elite Street’) v. Regional, Rural and Less Well Off (‘Main Street’).
The problem for the emerging Main Street is that whilst the political power of the Elite Street may be waning, Elite Street has a stranglehold on the bureaucracy. The entrenchment of Elite Street attitudes, processes and biases in the servants of the people has taken over a decade. And is delightfully represented in Yes, Minister.
Main Street might win elections, but Elite Street will silently squash, impede and modify their policies.
Politicians may come and go, but public servants remain.
5 Netherlands means ‘lower countries’ – 26% of the country is below sea-level. It is inaccurate to call the country Holland, as technically, that refers to two provinces: North Holland and South Holland. There are 10 other provinces.
4. WA: the search for votes
The most unsavoury legal matter of Bruce Lehrmann suing NetworkTen and television presenter Lisa Wilkinson has produced a telling gem.
On the ‘night in question’ Mr. Lehrmann had been tasked to shore up advisor support (whatever that means) for defence projects in Western Australia. On Wednesday, he told the court: “Senator Reynolds [then Defence Minister] had… great political interest in moving the build of that contract [i.e. building of French submarines] to W.A.”
He went on, “The polling indicated that the Liberals were facing a bit of an election wipeout in that state.”
How sublime! “… a bit of an election wipeout…” And he was right.
Readers will know that Scott Morrison sank the French submarine contract, awarded the substitute AUKUS nuclear-powered contract to Adelaide and lost four W.A. House seats at the election.
But the loss of those seats was more likely caused by base antipathy towards Morrison.
5. Italy: who’ll stop the train?
The Italian Minister for Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida, who is the brother-in-law of the prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, wanted to get off a high-speed train that was running late. So, he did what any self-respecting Italian minister would do: ask the train manager to stop the train. Which he did. And it did.
He duly alighted into his waiting car. And drove to his appointment.
Readers are probably asking “could this happen in Australia?” The answer is: no.
Australia does not have any high-speed trains.
6. Global: 2024 elections aplenty
Those Readers who are psephologists6 will be excited about 2024. Y’see, 2024 is more than about whether the Trumpster gets the top gig or not. There are national elections being held in six significant countries and many others.
USA: Unarguably the most important US election since 1932. Will the Trumpster win from inside the slammer? If Sleepy Joe wins, will Kamala Harris then be America’s first black and female president?
India: Narendra Modi’s BJP should romp home. All cricket stadia in India will be named after him.
UK: The Conservatives and Rishi Sunak will be given the DCM. Borisconi will make a comeback.
EU: People of the EU’s 27 member states will elect MEPs. It will be all about migration.
Taiwan: the pro-independence party is likely to win. Emperor Eleven will be watching. And will run interference.
Russia: Tsar Vlad will win with 105% of the votes.
Also: Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
6 A person who is interested in elections, voting and voting patterns. Often not an exciting person.
7. Colorado: hollow victory
The Trumpster was hailing his win in a “14th Amendment” case as a “gigantic court victory.”
In Colorado, Judge Sarah Wallace found that Trump “engaged in insurrection” by inciting his supporters to attack the US Capitol, but ruled the 14th Amendment to the Constitution banning insurrectionists did not apply to a president.
This is a fascinating decision. And maybe a shrewd one. The biggest issue in the cases so far has been whether the Trumpster’s actions represented engagement in insurrection. By finding he did, but allowing him to otherwise win (on the basis that the 14th Amendment did not apply to a president), it seems the judge has closed a future avenue of appeal (from that court) for the Trumpster. And left a straight-forward one on which the plaintiffs might appeal: does being a president nullify the relevance of the 14th Amendment?
And each of Minnesota and Michigan, which rejected efforts to keep Trump off the Republican primary ballot, did not decide in his favour on the basis that he didn’t engage in insurrection. Rather that the 14th Amendment did not apply to a political party’s primaries (i.e. pre-selections). Both states have not ruled on his eligibility for the presidential election.
Wry & Dry repeats, this will go all the way to the Supreme Court.
8. US: Sleepy Joe/ goes low(er)
Sleepy Joe’s popularity is soaring like the turkey he forgave on Tuesday7. But that didn’t diminish the celebrations for his 81st birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. President. May you live to be 100, but please, please, please retire. They-The-People will all pitch in to buy you a new Corvette, at least before they have to take away the keys.
7 There is a tradition for the president to pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving, thereby ensuring that it doesn’t get the ultimate DCM.
Cartoon footnote: An American con man, George C. Parker, gained notoriety for his repeated successes “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge. He made his living conducting illegal sales of property he did not own, often New York’s public landmarks.
9. History: the grassy knoll
Gen Z and Millennials, or whatever youngsters are called, would have no idea of the significance of the ‘Zapruder film’ or the ‘grassy knoll’.
Which brings Wry & Dry to the fact that Wednesday was the 60th anniversary of the assassination of then US President John Kennedy. Not only was this the most startling death since Julius Caesar’s walk to a meeting of the Roman Senate ended badly, it hasn’t been surpassed, not even by the car chase of Diana, Princess of Wales, that also ended badly.
In each case, conspiracy stories still abound. But only in Kennedy’s case is the source of the cause of death subject to debate.
The Zapruder film8 is the only known film of Kennedy’s assassination. And the grassy knoll is from where a second assassin is supposed to have been when he (possibly she?) fired the first shot. The famous frame 313 of the Zapruder film allegedly shows Kennedy’s head snapping backwards (implying a shot from in front of him, i.e. from the grassy knoll), before slumping forward (from the shot from behind i.e. from the infamous 6th floor of the infamous Texas Book Depositary).
The point of all this is to advise Readers that a recent Gallup poll in the US showed that 65% of Americans now believe that Kennedy was killed as a result of an assassination conspiracy. Thus, rejecting the lone gunman theory of the official report9.
The usual alternative suspects are all there: the mafia, the Soviets, the Cubans, a secret society and the US government. All boosted by the over 40,000 books that have been published on Kennedy and his death.
What this means is that post-Baby-Boomers know more about Kennedy’s death than his life. Which includes Barnaby Joyce. The former deputy PM announced yesterday that he is a conspiratorialist.
Wry & Dry wants to ask him what happened to Harold Holt. Or where he stands on the moon landing.
8 The Zapruder film is a silent 8mm colour motion picture sequence shot by Abraham Zapruder with a Bell 7 Howell home-movie camera. Zapruder had three copies of his original film made for government investigators. He sold the rights to the original to Life magazine for a reported $150,000.
9 The Warren Commission.
10. US: $77m payout – is there a problem?
Wry & Dry infrequently punctuates his editions with comments on the weirdness of life in the US. And it’s not only the madness of the Trumpster. Consider ‘college’ (i.e. university) football (i.e. American football).
This is not the top tier of the sport in the US: the NFL has an average attendance per game of about 70,000. The Michigan Wolverines average more than 110,000 fans at every home game. Of the world’s 10 biggest sports’ stadium, eight are home to US college teams.
So, winning is everything. And to win, a team needs a great coach. Which is why Texas A & U University10 hired Jimbo Fisher in 2017 with one goal, to win the national championship. When he failed to deliver, Jimbo got the DCM.
The price: a $77m payout: $20m upfront, with an annual payment until 2031. Even if he joins a rival team.
10 Texas A & M University was founded in 1876 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. It has the largest student body of any Amercian university: 73,000. It is ranked between 41st and 74th in America and globally ranked between 130th and 168th, depending upon the ranking institution. Perhaps a focus on academic results might help the ranking. But, well, this is Texas.
Snippets from all over
1. German budget problems
Germany’s government has indefinitely suspended a vote on the country’s budget for 2024, as the constitutional crisis over fiscal policy in the eurozone’s largest economy worsens. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Germany’s highest court had ruled that government plans to move €60 billion to a climate fund broke fiscal rules. Germans like rules.
2. North Korea’s spying debut
North Korea declared the successful launch of its first spy satellite on Tuesday, drawing fierce condemnation from the US which said the “brazen” act risked destabilising the Asia-Pacific region. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Third time lucky. The two previous launches ended up in the sea.
3. Italy: mafia convictions
Italy’s largest mafia trial in decades concluded on Monday with the conviction of more than 200 people accused of being part of, or collaborating with, the country’s most powerful and richest crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta. (Wall Street Journal)
Wry & Dry comments: Difficult dealing with a hydra.
4. Scotland: economical
The Church of Scotland has been accused of disrespecting country dwellers and depriving a rural community of their spiritual home by closing the country’s oldest church. Birnie Kirk’s near 900-year run as a place of religious worship came to an end at the weekend. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: The regular congregation is about 20 worshipers. Protest rallies are planned: BYO Zimmer frame.
5. Italy: avoids being junk
Italian bonds rallied on Monday after Rome avoided a potential downgrade of its credit rating to “junk” status, in a boost to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition government. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: So, it’s a celebration for not being downgraded to ‘junk.’ Surely better to wait until there is a credit rating upgrade. And celebrate that.
6. Cry for Argentina
Argentinians on Sunday chose Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian who has drawn comparisons to Donald J Trump, as their next president, a lurch to the right for a nation struggling under an economic crisis and a sign of the enduring strength of the global far right. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: This guy is a certifiable nutter: he has pledged to slash spending and taxes, close Argentina’s central bank and replace the nation’s currency with the U.S. dollar. He has also proposed banning abortion, loosening regulations on guns and only considering countries that wish to “fight against socialism” as Argentina’s allies. Argentina’s inflation is 143%.
- Turkey: the central bank raised its interest rate to 40%.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“SpaceX rocket suffered a rapid unscheduled disassembly.”
Spokesman for Elon Musk, as his latest space venture failed.
That is to say, the rocket blew up.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.