Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Five stories you may have missed
- ‘Bunga-bunga’ Berlusconi acquitted of bribing witnesses. Really?
- Scotland’s leader gives herself the DCM. Independence dream recedes into the Scottish mist.
- TikTok (owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company) collects more personal information than any other major social media app. Readers can join the dots.
- Government in action: the race to remove Chinese cameras from parliament. Good grief.
- Another high-ranking Russian dies, after falling from a 16th floor apartment window.
The epitaph for former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi will not be of his time pulling the levers of corruption in government to enrich both himself and his mates. It will be for introducing a term into the global lexicon: the ‘bunga-bunga party’.
A bunga-bunga party was an, err, event arranged by Berlusconi when PM. These events apparently had all the hallmarks, participants, accoutrements and outcomes of a Roman orgy. It is probable that the historical parallel would be lost on Berlusconi. Except the involvement of a self-identified emperor.
It was these bunga-bunga parties that led to charges against him for a variety of, err, questionable activities.
Over the years, he has successfully defeated all charges against him, including the acquittal announced on Wednesday, where he was charged with bribing witnesses who also attended the bunga-bunga parties.
But, like Al Capone, the only successful charge against him has been for tax fraud. But because of his age at the time (76), he was not sentenced to prison, but to do a year’s community service at a care home.
The term bunga-bunga party will live longer than the memory of its progenitor.1
1 Cf: an 1852 issue of Hogg’s Instructor (a Scottish botanical book) states that “bunga bunga” is the name given by locals to a location near Moreton Bay, just north of Brisbane. Good grief.
Scottish independence recedes into Scottish mist
The controversial Scottish First Minister and Wannabe first Prime Minister of the Republic of Scotland has given herself the DCM.
Ms Sturgeon’s reason for the mid-term self-DCM was the same as St Jacinda: “running out of energy.” Like St Jacinda, the reality is very different. It’s about the simple arithmetic of votes: Scottish voters finally realising that behind her charisma and noble, if somewhat doomed, cause of Scottish independence hid a person utterly incapable of governing.
Ms. Sturgeon finally got hooked because of her appalling handling of a transgender issue. The matter is, of course, most complicated, but she made the mistake of not distinguishing matters where a leader has to drive change (e.g. more nuts-and-bolts matters: taxation, defence, health, etc) and those where the leader follows the change (social issues or those where an individual’s values or faith are touched, such as same-sex marriage).
And she lamentably failed to deliver on a couple of, well, important nuts-and-bolts matters: education, health and public services.
There are a number of outcomes of Ms. Sturgeon seeing the writing on the wall.2
- Her transgender legislation is doomed
- Scottish independence movement has been set back a generation
- The concept of self-identification has again hit the rocks of widespread non-acceptance
- The British Labour Party is rejoicing – it is currently seatless in Scotland. SNP voters are welcome
2 “The writing is on the wall” refers to an amazing story in Daniel 5:30-31. The meaning is that doom is inevitable. The ‘writing’ referred to is words appearing on a wall when Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son) is drinking from consecrated vessels that had been looted in the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. The words were “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed … and found wanting.” Belshazzar soon lost his kingdom to Darius the Mede. Note the three common phrases used today that arise from that one text, written in the second century BC (your days are numbered, you have been weighed and found wanting, the writing is on the wall).
Readers may wish to reflect on Rembrandt’s magnificent Belshazzar’s Feast, of 1635, displayed in the National Gallery in London.
Government in action
“Eighty-eight Chinese-made surveillance cameras have been found in the offices of federal parliamentarians, causing the Department of Finance to race to remove them.” The Australian 15 February 2023.
“…race to remove them.” Really? Perhaps just unplug them.
And this is a matter for the Department of Finance. Really? A cost saving matter? Is there not a security department?
Readers will also note that there are 88 Chinese cameras in question. Perhaps the irony of that is lost.
Join the dots
Wry & Dry’s friends believe that he doesn’t use TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Telegram because he is concerned about his privacy.
No, the reason is that he is an analogue man in a digital world. Once a digital device has the prospect of adding a layer of unwanted complexity, the benefits from which are at best intangible and at worst obscure, Wry & Dry bolts and bars the door. Raises the drawbridge. Lowers the portcullis.
He could, however, say that he is worried about privacy. And the threat of an opportunistic geek or government making his life even more miserable than Chairman Dan could.
Y’see, a new report3 has been released that states that TikTok4 is designed to collect more personal information than any other major social media app or messaging service. Apparently, TikTok gathers information on and from all installed devices on a mobile phone or computer.
Ranking each social media app by the amount of personal information collectable, the average score was 34. TikTok is, err, an outlier, with a score of 63.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. In April 2021, the China Internet Investment Fund, a state-owned enterprise owned by the Cyberspace Administration of China and China Media Group, purchased a 1% stake in ByteDance’s main Chinese entity. It ‘placed’ a government official on its board of directors. So, a 1% stake gets a director. Really.
Wry & Dry is now concerned. As he maintains a no-social-media policy, perhaps Emperor Xi will find other ways to peer into his life. As a precaution, Wry & Dry has installed anti-balloon devices on his roof.
3 By cyber-security company Internet 2.0, discussed in the UK Times, 13 February 2023.
4 TikTok: apparently a social media app used for sharing videos.
Another Russian falls from a high rise
Those high-rise buildings in Russia are just not safe. Yesterday, a Russian defence official died from an apparent suicide. She fell from a 16th floor apartment window.
Marina Yankina, 58, played an important role in the financing of Tsar Vlad’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Monday, a Russian general who led a crackdown on opposition activists gave himself the ultimate DCM after being sacked by Tsar Vlad two weeks earlier.
War casualties are not confined to the front.
Current Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, apologised for not apologising. He didn’t join the parliamentary apology to Indigenous peoples for the Stolen Generations 15 years ago.
His apology for not apologising ignited fury from the usual advocates of Indigenous victimhood.
However, all of this hot air missed the key point all together. From 15 years ago.
And that is there are three parts to an apology. The first is the apology to the wronged and contrition itself. The second is acceptance of the apology by the wronged. The third is forgiveness. Acceptance of the apology closes the wounds so the parties can move on. Forgiveness goes further and ‘cleanses the mind’ of resentment and anger. It doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation.
Wry & Dry is not aware of any expression of acceptance of the apology from Indigenous advocates, much less forgiveness. Which suggests either the advocates do not wish the wounds of the Stolen Generations to be healed, or the apologies themselves were seen to be disingenuous in the first place.
The resentment and anger will continue, Wry & Dry guesses.
Nice work, if you can get it
How bad is the recession in England?
Well, if Readers look at the boom in the country’s major league football (i.e. soccer), the EPL, they would consider it was booming.
Consider that during Europe’s January transfer window, English clubs spent €830 million, almost double the previous record. Chelsea alone spent more than all the top-tier clubs in Italy, Spain, Germany and France combined. And the total club revenues from the EPL are over twice that of other major leagues.
So, does all this data suggest England’s economy is in good shape?
The major EPL clubs are owned by either Middle-Eastern petro-states or US billionaires. They fund the losses.
Workplace Health & Safety
Good to see that the UK is sending tanks to Ukraine that fully comply with the UK’s Workplace Health & Safety regulations. Astute Readers will have seen the two fire extinguishers stored on the front of the tank.
Notice that each is within easy reach and also meets the required international standards for extinguishing a fire on this type of tank.
Wry & Dry guesses that if the tank were undertaking its actual role in its workplace, then perhaps a larger fire extinguisher would be needed. So, the UK also donated to Ukraine the latest in tank-support vehicles, to follow the tank. See below.
Notice how the truck has a massive water cannon – this allows for dousing the flames from a distance.
Lonely as a cloud…
The Financial Review published yet another survey this week. The latest was about the workplaces at which graduates wished to consider working.
It was not surprising that accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, EY and PwC) filled the top places. Then came ANZ and NAB.
Curiously, the ATO came in at #8. What’s going on there? But the NSW Government got a good gig at #11. The federal government’s ranking of #25 probably reflected geography. But Queensland government was at #26.
But the big news was the massive dent to Chairman Dan’s ego. The Victorian government came in at #70 of the 100 companies ranked. Why would graduates wish to work at 69 companies ahead of the Victorian government? It’s a mystery.
The boffins at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out).
It seems as though everyone’s weather balloons but our very own BoM’s are getting blown out of the North American skies by latter-day Mavericks.
Wry & Dry’s spy in Canberra understands that the BoM wants one of its balloons to float up over the equator and into American/ Canadian airspace to join in the balloon shootathon.
But, of course, there is no guarantee that it will end up over North America:
Snippets from all over
1. Mon Dieu
French gastronomes are kicking up a stink after not a single one of the country’s famed fromages made it into the top 10 of the world’s best-rated cheeses by a global food web site. (UK Telegraph).
Wry & Dry comments: Only two of the top ten were not from Italy: Bundz, a Polish cheese made from sheep’s milk, and Queijo Serra da Estrela, a semi-soft cheese made from the milk of two types of local sheep in Portugal. Not one British cheese made the top 100, which would have been the only outcome to please the French. Australian cheeses also didn’t rate.
2. US to default?
The US government risks an unprecedented default as soon as July if the debt ceiling is not raised, the Congressional Budget Office has warned. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Save the newsprint. Of course, the debt ceiling will be raised. Sigh.
3. Inside Russia today
A 20-year-old Russian girl is under house arrest for posting anti-war comments on social media. Olesya Krivtsova faces 10 years in prison for ‘justifying terrorism and discrediting the Russian armed forces. (BBC)
Wry & Dry comments: She was dobbed in by a fellow student: “Denunciation is the duty of a patriot,” the dobber posted on a group chat site.
4. History repeating
A survivor of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was locked down during a shooting at Michigan State University on Monday in which three students were killed and five others wounded. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The Michigan attack was the 67th mass shooting in the US this year. And its only 17 February.
An investigation into the origins of Covid-19 has been quietly shelved by the World Health Organisation. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: Readers couldn’t be less surprised.
6. ABT v 2.0
The Club for Growth, a Republican super political action committee which has given $130m to Republican candidates in the past two election cycles and supported Trump in the 2020 election, is one of several conservative groups that has turned its back on the former president. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Last week it was the donor network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. These guys like winners. But when will the Trumpster see the writing on the wall? And only 627 days until the election.
- Australia’s unemployment rate rose to 3.7% from 3.5%.
- Each of ANZ’s and Westpac’s surveys of consumer confidence returned disappointing results, with the former at its lowest since 2020 and the latter lower than in the GFC.
- The EU is forecast to avoid a recession with 0.8% growth in 2023.
- Inflation in the US fell to 6.2% in the 12 months to January, from 6.5% in December.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“You have got 10 or 11 candidates who are scared to death of Donald Trump. The only one that shows any courage or leadership is the one that jumps out of the foxhole first. But, it’s always the first one out of the foxhole to get shot.”
- A donor to the Republican party, responding to Nikki Haley’s announcement of running for the 2024 Republican nomination for US president.
The Trumpster actually appointed Haley to be the US’ ambassador to the UN, where she performed very well. She is smart, telegenic and has many of Trump’s policies without the deleterious personal characteristics.
Her only chance of winning the nomination is for Trump to give himself the DCM early in the race and then back her.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.