Wry Dry 28

Wry & Dry #27 of FY-24. Navalny. Border dogs. Barnaby.

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Reminders: Tsar Vlad’s malevolence is never far away
  2. Dogs: Australia’s Border Force
  3. Barnaby: tops the charts
  4. Leverage: Trumpster’s end-game
  5. Time: only goes forward
  6. Save the date: 25 March 2024
  7. Passing: murder she wrote
  8. Nickel: beware
  9. Brand: what is the value of a Trump building?
  10. Power: the blame game

1. Reminders: Tsar Vlad’s malevolence is never far from the surface

The world was distracted by the Trumpster’s court-imposed penalty, the Super Bowl and the mess in Gaza. Then the murder of Aleksei Navalny1 awoke the world to the evil that is Tsar Vlad. At least for a short time.

The circumvolutive explanation of Navalny’s death from ‘sudden death syndrome’ would be laughable if it didn’t turn back the clock to the awful era of Stalin. And if pro-democracy activists who placed flowers at a memorial to Navalny weren’t arrested and the men then summoned to report for military duty.

All of this from the man whom the aspiring president of the USA calls a ‘great man’. Indeed, the Trumpster has not uttered a word of admonition to, or about, Tsar Vlad.

It is right to applaud the courage of Navalny, who for years risked so much to shine a light into the darkness of Tsar Vlad’s regime.

Readers of history will know of the terror of Stalin’s years, more recently of the actions of Beria and the dreaded Lubyanka2 and the Gulag camps3. Tsar Vlad is reconstructing that era.

But the deeper issue is not Navalny. It is that in a month Navalny will be forgotten. Tsar Vlad’s geopolitical ambition will slip to just below the surface, like a crocodile, with only the eyes visible. And the danger will seem past.

And the world will be surprised when the crocodile resurfaces further down the river to drag another victim in. Then Navalny will be remembered. And someone will remember Chechnya’s destruction. Another will remember Crimea’s annexation. Another Ukraine’s invasion.

Err, why didn’t someone do something?

1 Navalny started as an anticorruption blogger and then mobilised a generation of young Russians by researching and publishing investigations into Russia’s elite. In so doing, he became a burr under Tsar Vlad’s saddle and effectively Russia’s opposition leader. He was the subject of an attempted assassination (by poisoning) and has been in jail since. He died in an Artic penal colony IK-3 Polar Wolf.

2 Lubyanka is the popular name for a building in Moscow that housed a KGB prison in which, under Stalin, thousands were tortured and executed.

3 Gulag was a system of forced labour camps in the Soviet Union. Some 18 million people passed through Gulag’s camps between 1923 and 1961, of which some 1.6m died in captivity.

2. Dogs: Australia’s border force

Last week 39 asylum seekers/illegal immigrants came ashore in a remote part of Western Australia. Australia’s air and sea border forces failed to detect them.

But two camp dogs did: Marley and Smokey, residents of the remote Pender Bay tourist camp. The dogs alerted locals at about 2am local time with loud and ceaseless barking, to what were clearly not tourists.

The clearly-not-tourists were handed over to the not-so-local police later that day.

The issue is a little bigger than the increasing number of arrivals of clearly-not-tourists. It is if these clearly-not-tourists can berth their admittedly small vessel undetected, what if the next vessel that arrives undetected has on board passengers of more menacing intent?

Wednesday’s news about planned increases in naval capability suggests that Readers will have to wait some years before a more, err, modern Border Force capability is available.

In the meantime, perhaps furnish our coastline with watchdogs.

3. Barnaby: tops the chart

Recently, a former Deputy Prime Minister was photographed making a phone call whilst lying on the ground.

It seems that They The People of Australia didn’t like what they saw. And have decided to give Barnaby Joyce the worst net approval rating of anyone in Canberra, by a margin wider than the Trumpster’s mouth.

4. Leverage: Trumpster’s end-game

Join the dots: the Trumpster will do whatever it takes to become president. Any action that looks like success for Sleepy Joe is to be opposed. Sleepy Joe wants more military aid for Ukraine. If the House (of Representatives) agrees to the aid, it’s a win for Sleepy Joe. The Trumpster doesn’t want a win for Sleepy Joe. The Trumpster controls key Republicans in the House. So he tells them to oppose the aid measure.

As Europe does not yet have the equipment to replace that which the US might provide (which is another problem), the ability of Ukraine to defend itself is significantly diminished. All other things being equal, Tsar Vlad will be victorious. And he then rolls out the next phase.

The behaviour of the Trumpster and House Republicans and their attitude to Ukraine recalls an event of 1938. Neville Chamberlain, UK Prime Minister, in signing a deal with Hitler that permitted Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia, said it was incredible that the UK was preparing for war “because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.” 

The Trumpster could save Ukraine and thousands of lives. But he sees Ukraine as a country of which he knows nothing and can be sacrificed for his political endgame. And vanity.

5. Time: Only goes forward

Time moves in only one direction. It is through this simple lens that Wry & Dry has decided that he can better consider the Middle East. The morass he has been pondered through many a lens.

Trying to unwind the past is futile: Israel is not going to disappear. The idea of ‘decolonisation’ is romantic nonsense, the “from the river to the sea” chant a mindless slogan that tries to force the sands of time back up the hour-glass.

Moralising over past wrongs, perceived or real, is not only a waste of lives. It perpetuates the condition of victimhood. This eats at the opportunity of the future.

Better to assume that a Jewish life is equal to a Palestinian life. And work from there.

Sadly, the last six months have shown the problem unfolded in a most horrendous form: the leaders of, especially, Hamas, do not see one Palestinian life as equal to another Palestinian life. Some 30,000 Gazans have been sacrificed for an ideological struggle of Hamas’ leaders to push the sand back up the hour-glass.

And it is through that lens Wry & Dry can see why Hamas is refusing to release the remaining Israeli hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.

Hamas wants Palestinians to die for Hamas’ cause. That cause would be diminished if the hostages are released.

6. Save The Date: 25 March 2024

Readers should open their Outlook or paper calendars to 25 March 2024. This will be the day on which for the first time a US president will be in the dock, to face 34 criminal charges of falsifying business records.

The Trumpster will be on trial in a Manhatten court over the alleged payments made to buy the silence of porn-actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Readers can expect that scriptwriters for Netflix will be on hand. Imagine the movie: a voyeuristic blend of Wall Street, the Big Short and Debbie Does Dallas.

7. Passing: Murder he wrote

A Russian helicopter pilot and his helicopter defected to Ukraine last year. He was granted a reward of $0.5m. The helicopter was handed to Ukrainian commandos.

The pilot, Maksim Kuzminov, then did what any thinking person would do: disappear with the dosh. And hope for a quiet life.

But Maksim didn’t disappear well enough. His bullet-riddled body was found last week in a villa in Spain.

Another case of sudden death syndrome?

8. Nickel: beware

There was a bit of fuss last week when the Australian government announced that nickel was a ‘strategic mineral’.

This arose from the actions of the Indonesian government (with the help of dosh from Emperor Eleven) to develop its own nickel mining and processing capability, thereby driving down the price of nickel. This in turn caused BHP to shutter its nickel mining operations. Of course, there is a lot more to this story. On which Wry & Dry shall not dwell.

But he will take Readers back into the mists of time, to an event called the ‘Poseidon Boom’.7 This was one of the biggest mining boom-and-busts in Australia’s history.

In the late 1960s, nickel was in high demand because of the Vietnam War. And there was a shortage because of industrial action in Canada. In September 1969 Poseidon NL made a nickel discovery at Mt Windarra, Western Australia. The company’s share price was $0.80. Before the discovery was made known, insiders began to buy the stock and the price rose to $12.30. Nice work, if you can get it.

When the announcement was eventually made the share price boomed. It peaked at $280 in February 1970, that’s a 34,900% boom. It then fell rapidly.

By the time Poseidon started producing nickel, the price of nickel had fallen, and the cost of production rose. The company went into receivership in 1976. It is one of the biggest 10 most ridiculous price bubbles in history.8

There’s a moral in there, somewhere.

7 The company was named for a racehorse that in 1906 won the Melbourne Cup, and not for the subject of ancient Greek myths, namely of one of the Twelve Olympians presiding over the sea, storms, earthquakes and horses.

8 The other bubbles included those of: UK railways; Florida land; Japanese land; TheGlobe.com; The South Sea; uranium; Tulipomania; and Bre-X minerals.

9. Brand: what is the value of a Trump building?

“What’s in a name. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”9

Well, it seems that the Trumpster’s brand is not as valuable as it was once. The Trump rose is on the nose: the value of his eponymous apartment buildings (condominiums) is now less than in comparable buildings.

It looks like he may have to sell some of his property assets in a falling market. After all, he has to somehow find about US$500m to pay penalties for losing recent corporate fraud and defamation cases.

9 Juliet, speaking in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

10. Power: the blame game

In much the same way that no-one was responsible for then Chairman Dan’s hotel quarantine covid lockdown fiasco, so too no-one is responsible for the power losses in Victoria last week.

Readers will recall that a bit of a storm in Victoria caused transmission towers to topple and falling trees to flatten local power cables. Well, it’s now over a week later and thousands remain without power. The usual sectional advocates were quickly onto social media as to who to blame. Who should Readers blame:

a. Joan Kirner, Labor Premier, who commenced power-asset privatisation in Victoria in 1992;

b. Jeff Kennett, Liberal Premier, who continued the privatisation;

c. Uncle Fester Dutton, leader of the Federal Opposition, for not believing in climate change;

d. Zealot Bowen, federal minister for Climate Change and Energy, for believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden;

e. Joe-the-Linesman, for not telling Tom-the-Tree-Lopper to lop tree branches anywhere near a power line; or

f. Lily D’Ambrosio, state minister for Energy, for saying, “Crisis? What energy crisis?”

Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is: a. Joan Kirner. Had Ms. Kirner and her predecessor not bankrupted Victoria, power assets would not need to have been privatised. And so that monolith of public service efficiency and customer service, the SEC, would have remained as the organisation responsible for power generation, distribution and retailing.

Err, hang on. That would mean that no-one would have been responsible.

Snippets from all over

1. Back on the moon

For the first time in more than 50 years, an American spacecraft has landed on the moon. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The lander, named Odysseus, was built by Intuitive Machines of Houston. It is the first privately built spacecraft to land in one piece on the lunar surface.

2. United resumes flights to Israel

United Airlines is the first US airline to resume flights to Israel, after they were suspended from the route following the outbreak of war in October last year. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: A gutsy move.

3. Eiffel Tower on strike

The Eiffel Tower closed after employees went on strike over pay conditions and the poor maintenance of the Parisian monument. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: So caring for the employees to be concerned about maintenance of the tower. Such a pity that the people responsible for the towers that support the cables that convey electricity across Victoria that fell over last week were not concerned about maintenance.

4. A for Airbus, B for Boeing and C for C….

China’s state-backed aerospace company has showcased its narrow-body passenger jet at the Singapore Airshow, marking the first time that Comac’s C919 aircraft has ventured beyond Chinese territory. (The Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The C-919 will be a competitor to A-320neo and B-738 Max 8.

5. Marbles, anyone?

A fashion show that took place in front of the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum showed “zero respect”, Greece’s culture minister said. (UK Telegraph)

Wry & Dry comments: Sigh, why compromise the claim with trivial “hurt feelings”.


  1. Israel: GDP fell by 5.2% in the December quarter.10

10 Ignore the alarmist headlines stating a 19.4% fall. That19.4% is an annualised figure, that is, it assumes, more or less, that the economy shrank at 5.2% each quarter of 2023. In fact, Israel’s economy grew by 2% in 2023.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Meanwhile, in the sandpit:

“We have a crazy S.O.B. like that guy Putin, and others, and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict.”

  • Sleepy Joe, speaking to reporters.

“It is clear that Mr. Biden is demonstrating Hollywood cowboy-style behavior to serve domestic political interests.”

  • Dmitri Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, in response.

Very nasty words, indeed.


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


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