The best of 2023 Wry & Dry
Wry & Dry needs to remind himself, and perhaps some Readers, of the major global events of 2023:
- Jacinda Ardern, the Queen of Woke and Incompetence, gave herself the DCM
- In an outcome that surprised the world, Emperor Eleven was unanimously re-elected as President of China
- In a bullet fired into Tsar Vlad’s foot by Tsar Vlad, Finland became the 31st member of NATO.
- Germany ended nuclear power generation after 50 years, leaving it to the mercy of renewables and Tsar Vlad’s gaseous mood swings
- Charles III and his squeeze Camilla were crowned King and Queen in a subdued ceremony
- Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey was re-elected to a third term, continuing the rebuilding of the Ottoman Empire
- The Titan submersible imploded, adding to the number of graves around the remnants of the Titanic
- The Trumpster’s number of criminal charges hit 91, ensuring his lawyers’ plan for early retirement was brough-forward
- In a blow to investors in bank hybrid securities, failing bank Credit Suisse was sold to UBS. Holders of Credit Suisse’s hybrid securities were wiped out.
- The cinematic portmanteau Barbenheimer was introduced to the lexicon
- In a textbook example of “revenge is a dish best served cold”, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Group leader, was killed when his plane mysteriously plunged from the sky. Tsar Vlad managed a smile.
- Hamas, a terrorist group based in Gaza, massacred over 1,200 Israelis, prompting a predictable and forceful military response from Israel.
- A referendum to give indigenous Australians a ‘voice’ in the constitution failed 60:40, notwithstanding having the support of the federal government, all state governments, the ACTU, major companies and Alan Joyce.
- India surpassed China as the world’s most populous country.
- The Albanese government abandoned its support for Israel in a UN resolution.
And now to the best of Wry & Dry 2023…
1. January (Wry & Dry was on vacation, so here’s one from December 2022)
Chairman Dan’s government will now provide a $3,000 subsidy for purchasers of ‘Zero Emissions (sic) Vehicles’. The subsidy presumably also applies to vehicles powered by wind, as well as those powered by electricity.
Of course, the term ZEV is misleading, if referring to EVs (electric vehicles). If the electricity source is, say, coal, then it ain’t a ZEV. On average, 50% of Victoria’s electricity is fossil-fuel sourced.
They-the-Victorian-Taxpayer is thus providing a subsidy to support Chairman Dan’s farrago of renewable energy policies, rather than actually helping the environment.
2. February: For whom the Pell tolls
It’s normally the death of a princess that takes everything else off the front pages. But the death of a cardinal took a princess (Harry) off the front pages.
Forests of trees then gave their lives for the pages of column inches written about Cardinal Pell. With most words sitting at extreme ends of the barbell.
Much of the wider sympathy for Pell arose because of his shameful prosecution for alleged child abuse. The High Court overturning the conviction 7-0 proved the success of the legal system, eventually. The criminal justice system in Victoria was shown to be incompetent. Chairman Dan’s continuing refusal to countenance such a thought is shameful.
Much of the wider loathing of Pell arose from him being the person most associated with child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in Victoria. The guilty verdict at first instance was gleefully received, not necessarily on the charges made, but for a desire for the head of a Cardinal to be placed on a platter.
The reality is harder to digest. Pell was wrongly charged, wrongly convicted and rightly acquitted on appeal. And his later work in reforming the corrupt fiscal practices in the Vatican, where his heavy tread was feared, was a great success. But management work in Rome is of little consequence to the victims of his paedophilic colleagues.
Pell’s support for convicted paedophile Ridsdale was scandalous. The child sexual abuse royal commission found that he both knew about child abuse and failed to take proper steps to act upon complaints about dangerous priests. And his structuring of the church’s arrangements for managing recompense for victims of child abuse showed an arrogant disregard for the victims, being designed to limit the damage to the church’s coffers and the church’s reputation.
Readers will choose their epitaph. Either a man of huge intellect, muscular Catholicism, resolution and articulation. Or a Catholic leader who placed the interests of his church above those of its Christian faith and their children.
3. March: Unclear on the concept
Princess Princess and Princess Harry have been
evicted from asked to leave Frogmore Cottage, their home in Windsor. They rent it from the ‘Crown Estate’.
Three years ago, they announced that they were leaving the UK and quitting all royal duties. Last year, King Charles asked them to vacate (but well before Princess Harry’s magnum opus).
Should Readers weep? The Princess and Princess are not happy with the decision, having “made that place their home.” Well, it was their pied-à-terre in the UK, after all. And it gave Princess Harry domicile in the UK, which has advantages. ‘Ardship.
And here’s a radical thought. If they wish for a base in the UK, they don’t have to wait to be given another one by the Firm. They might want to buy one themselves. Now there’s a radical thought.
Of course, the $20m, nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom home in California in which they spend almost 95% of their time is not their home. Really.
4. April: Dumber and Dumber
Chairman Dan has his feet up on his desk and can comfortably get on the beers. For the next decade.
The main issue is not that a newbie Liberal MP (Moira Deeming) has decided to lawyer-up against her leader (John Pesutto, leader of the Liberal Opposition), although that could be a moment from Dumb and Dumber.
It’s that she is being cheered on by a weird collective of ideologically motivated right-wing nutters and ageing others who think that Robert Menzies is still Prime Minister and speed limits should be in miles per hour.
This collective dreams of overthrowing Pesutto; somehow finding a new leader who will comfortably defeat Chairman Dan at the next election; and then turning Victoria into an English-speaking equivalent of Hungary.
All of this when Chairman Dan is at his most vulnerable in nine years.
The Liberal Party in Victoria is slow marching towards extinction.
5. May: Important fact
The ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand has dipped below 5:1 for the first time since the 1850s. The ratio peaked at 22:1 in 1982.
In Australia, the ratio is 2.6:1. And is increasing, with more people self-identifying and acting as ovine.
6. June: On the road to Damascus
Early this freezing morning Wry & Dry, whilst walking from the car park, happened upon a homeless man. He was prostrate, in a pool of blood. Whilst waiting for the ambulance, Wry & Dry tended the man and witnessed the horrible sight of the man coughing up vast amounts of blood. And the obvious distress and pain.
The ambulance people arrived, and Wry & Dry’s work was done. Other than to reflect: why is Chairman Dan spending $125 billion on a circular railway that won’t be finished before turn of the century when this sort of thing is happening on Melbourne’s streets? Wry & Dry is sure this morning’s episode was not an isolated incident.
Not quite the road to Damascus. But as close as.
7. July: Some of it was cricket
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a batsman who is unhappy with the method of his dismissal will cry that the dismissal wasn’t “in the spirit of the game.”1
And so it came to pass that in a recent cricket Test match, at an historic but very shabby ground called Lord’s, English batsman Bairstow was silly enough to leave his crease when the ball was still in play. He was correctly dismissed (“stumped”).
An outburst of outrage not seen at Lord’s since the Great Pimm’s Shortfall Crisis of 1926 then exploded. A blend of ignorance of the laws of cricket, bad-loser mentality, boorishness, entitlement and an excess of cheap, before-lunch claret caused some Marylebone Cricket Club Members to bring Shame & Disgrace upon themselves and Their Club. As the Australian cricketers moved through what is called The Long Room for luncheon, unsporting and unseemly behaviour from the egg & bacon be-tied Members occurred.
Meanwhile, in the English undressing room, the English captain and the English coach met to consider What Do We Now Do? This pair of Antipodean-born men had one choice of two alternatives when later fronting media.
Firstly, each might carefully phrase their disappointment at any dismissal that might seem controversial, but add “we shall move on.” Secondly, to bleat. Both chose the latter. And bleated to the media after the match. They brilliantly inflamed a situation the flame of which might have readily died.
The English media enthusiastically took up a cause célèbre not seen since a former Princess of Wales stated on BBC television, of all channels, that there were three people in her marriage. A, well, crowded situation, if not inconvenient.
The media knew this cricket crisis would stir the patriotic passions of every Englishman who was fed up to the back false-dentures with all the strikes, the inflation, the interest rate increases, the shambles of the NHS and the ongoing decline of the UK economy to a smoldering pile of, well, ashes. And now the likelihood of not regaining the Ashes.
Meanwhile, in gentlemen’s clubs in St James the gentlemen snoring gently in comfortable leather chairs in after-lunch oblivion, were woken from their slumber by waiters with news. “What! Huh. What! Bad news? What ho? Has Jerry2 invaded? Has Maggie3 died?”
“Neither, sir. It seems that the Orstralians have behaved badly at Lord’s.”
“Good grief, man. That’s not important. Now be a good chap and fetch me a gin and tonic. And peel me a grape.”
By the way 1, Australia didn’t win the game because of this incident. It’s not like it was the last over with nine wickets down and two runs to win. Australian won comfortably by 43 runs.
By the way 2, Bairstow himself has attempted such a dismissal in this series. His coach, the New Zealander McCullum, has himself dismissed batsmen4 in a similar manner when he kept for New Zealand.
By the way 3, the fuss over the incident overshadowed the greatest innings seen at Lord’s since Kim Hughes’ in 1980. Stokes, the English captain, scored an amazing 155.
1 Wry & Dry has played nearly 600 games of senior cricket. And still plays. With as much modesty as he can muster… he knows more about cricket, cricket history and cricket lore than almost all cricketers. And certainly, almost all journalists. He has seen nine of the ten ways in which a batsman can be dismissed. He has often seen batsmen dismissed in such a manner as Bairstow. And every time without fuss.
2During the Second World War, members of the German armed forces were known as Jerries or Huns.
3 Former UK PM Margaret Thatcher.
4 Muralitharan, Christchurch, 2006; Mpofu, Bulawayo, 2005; Collingwood, Wanderers, 2009.
8. August: Trumpster smashes own record
World record holders always delight in breaking their own world records. And so it is with the Trumpster.
The record he held (of being the only US president to be charged for a criminal offence) he himself broke earlier this year. And this week he again broke it. Amazing, three times he will be in the dock as a criminal defendant. Wearing an unfashionable horizontally striped suit. And there will be a fourth before the month of August is over.
This man is the GOAT1. This is Hall of Fame, Legend Status, stuff. This record may never be broken, and if so, perhaps only by himself. If this were an African republic, statues would be erected. Streets renamed.
Whilst outwardly he displays gravitas, inside, he’s loving it. These are headlines any candidate for any office would die for.
His first indictment (relating to payment of hush-money to a pornstar with whom he, err, made arrangements) and second indictment (making a personal library of highly classified documents) are dwarfed by the latest charges: conspiracy.
But what proud citizen of the USA would not want a president who admitted to a business relationship with a pornstar? Really, it’s about free speech. And free trade.
Or one whose high intellect and sense of history meant that building a personal library of really historic documents was really understandable.
And now, conspiracy. Really? What’s the fuss? Who in politics hasn’t conspired before, during or after office?
Whilst everyone is getting so excited about the prospects of a third trial, the reality is that it is unlikely that any trial will be concluded before the presidential elections next year. And what really matters in the election race is the number of felony charges a candidate can display. Felony charges convey instant credibility.
The Trumpster has over 40 separate charges. Sleepy Joe has zero, so he’d better get to work.
Otherwise, the Trumpster will win the election. Then will pardon himself.
1 Greatest Of All Time. Which puts him in the same league as Wayne Gretsky, Don Bradman, Rod Laver, Tom Brady and Robbie Flower.
9. September: Russian lose ends
“Never leave loose ends” is on page one of the KGB’s handbook: “Good Spycraft for Dummies.” And as a child of the KGB, Tsar Vlad would well know it.
Usually, the ‘loose end’ accidently falls from the tenth floor or dies whilst in hospital recovering from an ingrown toenail. Other subtle methods include a radioactive isotope slipped into tea or nerve agent smeared on door handles and underpants. And only last week a Russian commander, axed by the Kremlin after overseeing humiliating army retreats in Ukraine, mysteriously died; the second such general to die in unspecified circumstances this month.
But on Wednesday, Tsar Vlad took revenge to a new and very public level. The bombing of the private and comfortable jet of Yevgeny Prigozhin1 with the great man on board was just one step from a Fox News-televised garrotting in Red Square. Coincidently, videos of the plummeting plane quickly appeared on social media. How serendipitous that cameramen were located beneath the flight path of the doomed plane, with lenses pointed to the sky at the right moment.
Quite clearly, the plane was violating air traffic and safety rules. Which is why, err, the bomb was detonated.
The message is clear: no-one in Russia, or elsewhere, should ever embarrass Tsar Vlad.
Prigozhin’s half-hearted and impulsive mutiny two months ago made Tsar Vlad look ridiculous. A man in Tsar Vlad’s position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous2. And so, he took his time, and planned revenge against the man who was described as a rotten tooth in Russia’s military body.
The tooth had to be extracted. And now has been. Perhaps poisonous mushrooms would be just a little bit too quiet.3
1 Head of the murderous Wagner Group. Wagner Group is a state funded Russian mercenary group, which has been active in pushing Russia’s interests in some African states. It has also been instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin himself was a malevolent blend of Himmler and Vlad The Impaler (ruler of 15th century Wallachia, now part of modern Romania).
2 Apologies to Jack Woltz, movie director in the Godfather.
3 All of the Australian state of Victoria has been transfixed by the recent ‘accidental’ mushroom-poisoning and death of three people in the south-east of the state. The cook declares her innocence. Expect a Netflix series.
10. October: Gaza – some history
The massacre and kidnappings of Israelis by Hamas terrorists that occurred just north of the Gaza Strip have rightly sickened most of the world. And the self-righteous triumphalism by Australian anti-Semites has ripped the cover off their latent hatred.
Wry & Dry writes of this subject carefully. And asks Readers to also read carefully.
Firstly, to history. It must be said the submerged logs of media bias have emerged. One simple example: today’s Melbourne Age carried a potted history of the Gaza Strip:
“On May 15, 1948, the day after Britain’s official departure [and when Israel came into existence], war broke out between Israel and Arab countries including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.”
“War broke out.” The fact is Israel was invaded from three sides, by Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Secondly, that historical snippet leads to more history. Those countries, and others, instead of invading Israel, might have helped Palestinians form their own state in the land the UN resolution allocated (i.e. Gaza and the West Bank) – always noting that most of the land Israel was allocated was desert. They chose not to.
Since then, They-The-Palestinian-People have not been helped by those countries, or their own leadership – such as it was. It was often said of Yassar Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, that he “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” for peace.
Consider this. It’s complicated, but in short… in December 2000, US President Clinton, Israeli PM Ehud Barak1 and PLO leader Arafat announced they had agreed a plan. In it, Palestinians were offered a path to having their own nation on roughly 95% of the land in the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip. Under that outline, Israel would also swap some of its own land to compensate the Palestinians in exchange for maintaining 80% of its then settler presence in the West Bank.
The Israeli cabinet voted to accept the plan. Arafat didn’t say no. But he didn’t say yes. Arafat delayed and delayed. It seemed he preferred to be the worshipped guerrilla leader instead of a sensible leader capable of forming and governing a country. Arafat betrayed the Palestinian people, and ensured their future as victims.
Since then, the well of peace negotiations has been poisoned. Hamas, Hezbollah, et al have cultivated the fantasy that Israel will magically cease to exist. That fantasy has caught the imagination of not only many Palestinians, but also many in the Arab diaspora. Hamas, Hezbollah et al have a desire to avenge the wounds of injustice and humiliation without anything remotely resembling a firm plan to improve the quality of Palestinian lives.
For its part, Israel and its settlers have expanded their piecemeal occupation of the West Bank to create buffer zones. Recently, the Israeli Prime Minister’s obeisance to, or is it appeasement of, the small but influential right-wing parties in the government’s coalition has in the last 18 months presented a picture of political idiocy. For example, annexing the West Bank would be folly in policy, impossible to successfully execute and be an invitation to certain massive revenge from nasty elements in the Arab/ Muslim world.
[A second historical article followed].
1 Who had just defeated Benjamin Netanyahu to become PM.
11. November: grounded arguments
Readers will recall that the ACCC is suing the airline that calls Australia home for selling tickets on ‘ghost flights’ i.e. flights that it represented as existing, but in fact had existed. But were cancelled.
Qantas’ lawyers have responded in a novel, one might say ludicrous, way by stating that a passenger, whom shall be called, say, Peter Allen, doesn’t, in fact, buy a ticket from A to B on X date at Y time. Peter is buying a “bundle of services” that is defined as a group of contractual rights that obliges the airline to “do its best” to get Mr. Allen from A to B.
So as long as Qantas is a good Boy Scout and does its best, all is well. Err, no.
Contra Qantas’ lawyers, the law is quite clear. It’s about what Peter thinks he is buying, rather than what Qantas thinks it is selling. It is now up to the courts to agree with Wry & Dry.
By the way #1: Qantas’ argument fails the ‘pub test’. The introduction of that subjective and nationalistic test at the highest level of government was the singular and sole contribution made by former PM Scott Morrison to the life of Australia and Australians.
By the way #2: Qantas has its Annual General Meeting today. One absentee will be the former CEO, Alan Joyce. Rather than having the courage to face the ire of shareholders at what was planned to be his valedictory AGM, he gave himself the DCM some weeks ago. But he will be there in spirit, as his net worth will depend on what happens. That’s what he saw as The Spirit of Australia.
By the way #3: Internal Qantas documents leaked to the Financial Review show that its brand trust by consumers had fallen to 49%. The “so what?” is that Jetstar’s is 47%. Ouch. Virgin’s is 59%. Double ouch.
12. December: Heaven: a busy week
It’s been a busy week at the Members’ Entrance to the pearly gates to heaven. Wry & Dry’s Man In Heaven was there.
On Tuesday Charlie Munger arrived in a limmo longer than a bus. Charlie was Warren Buffett’s conservative investment alter ego. He arrived and immediately began arguing with St Peter about heaven’s recent investments (remembering that time doesn’t matter in heaven): “That St Peter’s Basilica property development in Rome was a waste of money. Better off investing in social housing.”
Yesterday, Henry Kissinger turned up, distributing business cards and immediately ordered St Peter to arrange meetings. First on his list was Metternich1, then Machiavelli2. Later required meetings (with agendas) were with Napoleon (why invade Russia?) and Hitler (why invade Russia?).
St. Peter was most discombobulated by all of this. “Firstly, Adolf Hitler didn’t make the cut. You’ll have to take an elevator to B1.”
“Secondly, you have the temerity to ask about mistakes that people made during their lifetime. What about you and Argentina, Chile, West Pakistan and Indonesia/East Timor? And you selling out Taiwan to China? All of these ungodly actions just for your so-called realpolitik chessboard diplomacy?”
“I’m pondering putting you in the elevator to B1. For eternity.”
Kissinger thought for a while. And then said, “That’s okay. I will have more ex-clients down there.”
St. Peter threw a thunderbolt in anger, “Exactly, especially Mao Zedong. Today Chinese state media paid tribute to you, describing you as an ‘old friend of the Chinese people.’ Actually, that decides it. For what you did to the people of Taiwan, you have no choice. You and all of your baggage are going down.”
“The one-way elevator to B1 is over there.”
1 Metternich was a conservative Austrian statesman who dominated middle European diplomacy during and after Napoleon. His wily moves at the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815 (that rearranged Europe after Napoleon) were all about the balance of power between states.
2 Machiavelli is best known for his clever political treatise The Prince. But his day job was balancing the other city states of 16th century northern Italy to the benefit of his Florence: Milan Venice, Genoa and the Papacy.
Snippets from all over
1. US stocks boom
Stocks rose, with all three major indexes up more than 1%, and bond yields fell after the Federal Reserve held interest rates steady and signaled cuts in 2024. Most Fed officials penciled in three rate cuts next year in projections released after their two-day meeting ended. (Wall Street Journal)
Wry & Dry comments: Happy days are here, again.
2. Congressional Republicans lose integrity
The Ukrainian president delivered an urgent plea for more help for his country in its fight against Russia, only to be told by Republicans that his challenges were not their focus. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The Republicans will give further aid to Ukraine only if their demands for more stringent immigration controls on America’s Mexican border are met. Try and join the dots on that.
3. China not stimulating
China’s top leaders including President Xi Jinping vowed to make industrial policy their top economic priority next year, a letdown for investors hoping to see more forceful stimulus to boost growth. (Bloomberg)
Wry & Dry comments: The vaguely worded “building a modern industrial system” was the offering. Hard to measure, that.
4. Pay day
A British trader who ran oil and metals trading at Goldman Sachs is retiring after making an estimated $100m (£80m) in three years. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: Nice work, if you can get it.
5. Teachers strike after Muslim threats
Staff have gone on strike at a school near Paris saying they fear for their lives after Muslim pupils and parents voiced anger towards a teacher who displayed a Renaissance painting of nude women. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: In 2020 a civics teacher, Samuel Paty was stabbed and beheaded by a terrorist in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, after he showed his pupils a caricature of Mohammed in a class on free speech.
6. French immigrant fiasco
Emmanuel Macron’s government was dealt a humiliating defeat in the National Assembly as opposition parties united to block its long-promised immigration reform from coming to debate on the floor. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: This is delightfully French. The far-right parties opposed the legislation as they thought it too soft and would encourage even more illegal immigrants. The left-wing opposed the legislation because they thought it too harsh.
- Australia: unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, from 3.8% in October.
- US: Inflation rose 3.1% in the year to November.
- US, UK, EU: The respective central banks left interest rates unchanged.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…Quote of the Year
“The failing New York Times story … about a red haired weirdo from Australia, named Anthony Pratt, is Fake News.”
Donald Trump, responding to a media story that he revealed military secrets to Anthony Pratt, the Australian billionaire maker of cardboard packaging.
The Trumpster might have been unhappy with Mr. Pratt because a secret recording released in Australian media quoted the latter as, well, trashing the Trumpster.
Wry & Dry’s quill needs sharpening. And so this is Wry & Dry’s last issue of 2023. And will resume on Friday 2 February 2024.
The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.