Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Seven stories you may have missed
- The walking dead versus the crooked living
- Barnaby’s legacy lives on
- The Trumpster doesn’t want publicity. This time.
- He doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus.
- Defence Review: It’s actually not about tanks
- Woke or wise?
- Captain Obvious
The walking dead versus the crooked living
In an announcement that surprised nobody, Sleepy Joe announced that he will spend his retirement years pretending to be President. Like an ageing Soviet Politburo member, he will be fortified by Swisse vitamin pills, a nearby ventriloquist and an unseeable whole-of-body Zimmer frame.
Currently aged 80 years, he is the oldest American to ever launch a bid for retirement presidency. When he was born, life expectancy for the average American was 63 years. He is an exciting 17 years ahead of the clock. Although, anyone will tell Readers that the longer a person lives, the longer his/ her life expectancy1. Statistically, Sleepy Joe will live until he is 89.
But, really? Really? The only way to look at this is that the US vice-president is always a “heartbeat away from being president.” Oh, dear. This will be the truest it has ever been.
No mistake, Kamala Harris is measuring up the White House curtains. And planning how she can replace Sleepy Joe’s vitamin pills with mischievous alternatives. Really, Ms. Harris as the Leader of the Free World? Emperor Xi and Tsar Vlad will be toasting the outcome in champagne pillaged from the Donbass.
Equally alarming, Sleepy Joe’s enemy is probably going to be one who holds the Guinness Book of World Records for writs served and charges laid, overtaking Al Capone. But does that matter?
Consider other democracies where former leaders have had a day or two in court. Think of the French (Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy), Italians (Bettino Craxi, Silvio Berlusconi) and Israelis (Moshe Katsav, Ehud Olmert and now Binyamin Netanyahu) to name a few.
Looking further around the globe, indicting ex-presidents verges on a tradition in Taiwan. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is back in office after a lengthy stint in the slammer. And so it goes on.
Not surprisingly, the Trumpster will see any adverse legal finding as a feather in his size XXOS cap. Even more so those that he actually wins.
Either way, They-The-People do not want either doofus to run in 2024:
1 This is because at birth a person’s life expectancy includes the probability of death during, mostly, childhood.
Barnaby’s legacy lives on
Even in opposition, Barnaby’s legacy lives on.
Readers will recall that Australia’s largest “Nation Building” project is now the Inland Rail, the building of a 1,700 kilometre freight railway line from Melbourne to Brisbane across land of mostly droughts and flooding rains2 (i.e. inland i.e. not via Sydney).
After incessant lobby from Barnaby, the Rudd government commissioned a feasibility study from the Australian Rail Track Corporation (a government owned company, the role of which is maintenance of railway lines). ARTC forecast a cost of $2.8 billion.
Nothing concentrates the mind of government members like the threat of being down at CentreLink the Monday following an election. So, in its death throes, the successor Gillard government pushed the ‘go’ button on Inland Rail, appointing the ARTC to design, build and manage the project. Notwithstanding that the ARTC had never designed, built and managed any project.
National Party leader Barnaby Joyce did everything but walk the path of the planned line to shout its benefits. The following Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments tossed in even more cash, including $8.4 billion over seven years in the 2017 budget. This funding was a result of Barnaby refusing to agree to funding for Sydney’s new airport with Croesus Turnbull unless the dosh was delivered.
Last year, Albo’s government decided that something was rotten about the whole project. And announced an independent review. In early April, the review was released. It found almost everything was rotten about the whole project, with four astounding highlights:
- It was still unclear where the line “will start or finish” (details, details)
- The cost will be at least $31 billion (some eleven times the original)
- It will not be completed before 2035 (fingers crossed)
- The board of the ARTC did not have the skills required to govern either freight rail operations or build a major infrastructure project (good grief!)
Wry & Dry considers that We-The-People will get the first of our nuke-powered subs before Barnaby cuts the ribbon on Inland Rail, if he is asked.
2 The opening line of Dorothy McKellar’s famous poem “My Country” is not “I love a sunburnt country,” as Wry & Dry was incorrectly taught in primary school. It is: “The love of field and coppice,” as he discovered when reading to his then tender-aged offspring.
The Trumpster doesn’t want publicity
The Trumpster is happy to be the eternal gift to the media.
In early April, his arraignment on 34 charges relating to hush money he paid to a woman with whom he made extra-marital, err, arrangements, brought forth an historic and unprecedented use of the words ‘historic’ and ‘unprecedented’. How useful for breathless and content-starved American viewers that CNN provided an online-tracker so they could follow the path of The Trumpster’s plane from Florida to New York City.
He loved the show. Especially his live-streamed-around-the-globe 34 responses of “not guilty” to each of the charges. That show will resume in November or thenabouts. He cannot wait.
And the District Attorney investigating his attempts to overturn the presidential election vote in Georgia has said she will announce possible criminal indictments after 11 July. Another opportunity for him to gather both supporters and raise campaign cash.
Elsewhere, he has lost an emergency appeal to prevent former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying about their direct communications to a special counsel’s investigation into the post 2020 election fracas. This is another problem for the Trumpster as a) this is a criminal investigation; and b) Pence will likely give damning testimony to a grand jury. He’s waiting for that announcement before hitting his mobile phone keys.
But this week, he lowered his profile. His lawyers again found themselves in court, because a lady alleges The Trumpster raped her some 30 years ago. The Trumpster doesn’t have to attend court and probably won’t. He said he will not attend the hearing because he doesn’t want to disrupt New York traffic with his motorcade.
The truth is probably very different. His lawyers would have told him that the very subject is nasty enough for him to find himself elsewhere. Although, as it is a civil case and he cannot end up in the slammer, the post nominal ‘rapist’ wouldn’t look ideal on his presidential campaign resume.
But this is America. A new NPR/PBS poll on Tuesday found that two-thirds of Republicans would still vote for Trump even if he is found guilty of a crime.
“…he doth bestride the world…”
Wry & Dry stands in awe of Chairman Dan’s ability to control not only his political party but also the messages the media gives out. “Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus…”3 Consider some recent activity.
Firstly, he went to China in the week before the Aston by-election, ostensibly to promote Victoria’s tertiary educational attractiveness. Not everybody thought that the trip wasn’t about education. The dogs barked, but the Dan caravan moved on4.
Secondly, he went cap-in-hand to the federal government asking for dosh. Thereby confirming the floorboard of Victoria’s coffers was now visible. Not everybody thought that the cash shortfall was because, as he said, of the money that was spent keeping Victorians safe during covid. The dogs barked. etc.
Thirdly, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission report found the Andrews government improperly awarded a Labor-affiliated union a $1.2 million contract. Not everybody agreed when he said that the report was just ‘educational’. The dogs barked, etc.
Every week, the dogs are increasingly barking at Dan’s caravan, but no-one is listening. What will it take for that to change?
The answer is for him to retire, and pass the orb and sceptre to his deputy Jacinta Allen. She is less formidable, but the state opposition is enfeebled by its increasingly hardline conservative membership. This group wants Victorians to reflect its will, not the other way around.
Wry & Dry senses that Victorians will never again see a Liberal government. The only opportunity for centrist liberals is to form a new political party.
In the meantime, the dogs bark at Dan, but the Dan caravan moves on.
3 Cassius, speaking of Caesar in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
4 “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on” is an old Arabic proverb. It refers to caravans traveling through the desert; dogs barked as the caravan passed, but their bark was not enough to stop it from reaching the end of its journey.
No longer invade between the flags
To much fanfare, Defence Minister Marles released a heavily censored Defence Strategic Review (DSR, not to be confused with DRS5). That review found that instead of waiting until the enemy invaded between narrowly set flags, it would be met offshore, in the sea that girts Australia.
Hence the nuke-driven subs and new ships and long-range missiles and drones, etc. And, inevitably, the DSR recommended further reviews.
But to Wry & Dry’s rheumy eyes (and on some wider reading), the key recommendations were not about whether or not to buy more or less tanks.
Firstly, there was a recognition that defence wasn’t just up to the armed services. Rather, it was a whole-of-government responsibility. All governments (i.e. state and federal) and all government departments needed to be concerned about Australia’s security. This is an excellent, albeit vague observation: err, what now?
Secondly, it’s about the boring matter of process.
The legacy process, it seems, had key failings. For example, there is in Russell Hill (Defence HQ) a ‘deeply ingrained’ doctrine of a balanced force, that is, each service gets more or less the same, without dynamic risk assessment. Similarly, with its like-for-like replacement policy.
And, overall, there is not a culture of imagination or innovation, much less ability to effectively guide Australia’s defence capability. “Australia’s isolation and size has bred civil and bureaucratic complacency…”
5Decision Review System, a cricketing technology used to determine whether a batsperson who refuses to walk is in fact cheating.
Woke or Wise?
Readers will be aware of the passing of Barry Humphries, Australia’s greatest ever comedian. Hard not to miss, really. But his passing brought back the churlish, ignorant and narrow-minded decision of the Comedy Festival to remove his name from the award for the Festival’s best comedian. He was ‘cancelled’, as it were.
Work with Wry & Dry on this. Some Readers may find the following uncomfortable.
There are two matters here.
Firstly, what he said. In 2019 Humphries referred to trans-gender identification as being a “fashion” and gender-affirming surgery as “self-mutilation”. Activists at the Comedy Festival leapt upon those comments without trying to understand them. Or think a little more deeply. And successfully lobbied for an award named in his honour to be renamed.
Allow Wry & Dry to make it clear that gender dysphoria is a reality. And that those who have gender-dysphoria often experience not only discrimination but also wicked persecution.
Equally, there is now sufficient evidence that medically diagnosed gender-dysphoria has morphed into fashionable self-identified gender-dysphoria with many young people. It is not unreasonable that consequential gender affirming surgery following a fashion can be justifiably described as self-mutilation, to use Humphries’ blunt description.
Secondly, the dismissal of brilliance or contribution in a field of endeavour because of expression of a personally held view that a few might find offensive. It is now commonplace (fashionable?) for the often genuinely hurt feelings of the offended few to be leveraged for whatever motive drives them or their advocates. Wry & Dry doesn’t doubt the sincerity or reality of many of those hurt feelings. But that doesn’t provide a licence to allow those feelings to override a greater good, common sense or context.
The irony that the Comedy Festival has itself become a follower of a fashion (cancel culture) would be lost on it.
“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States… is unacceptable…”
- US President Joe Biden, speaking at a visit to Washington by South Korea’s Prime Minister.
Wry & Dry is pleased that that has been made clear.
Wry & Dry asks how is it that two post-Second World War newly-created states with no natural advantages have not only succeeded but economically surpassed most other countries?
Those countries are Israel and Singapore.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of modern Israel. Wry & Dry offers its congratulations. And last week Wry & Dry was in Singapore and marvelled at its success.
Wry & Dry answers his own question: the resilience, ingenuity and hard work of its people. Neither has been able to rely on exports of wool, coal and iron ore for its success.
Silicon Valley Bank ATM
Wry & Dry journeyed to California to check out the solvency of the Silicon Valley Bank (the bank that turned to custard soon afterwards). And found that he couldn’t withdraw cash from one of its ATMs.
He was most discombobulated:
Wry & Dry’s fact checker
Readers may have read about Emperor Xi’s ambassador to France, Mr. Lu Shaye. In an interview on French television, he questioned whether Crimea was part of Ukraine and said that post-Soviet countries did not have a right to exist (including the three Baltic states). Wry & Dry will ignore this ignorance.
And instead focus on his revisionist approach to history, especially of Taiwan. He said, Taiwan has been under Chinese administration since 230 AD, at the time of the Roman Empire in Europe. Well before the emergence of France.”
Taiwan appears to have first appeared in Chinese records in 239 A.D., when an emperor sent an expeditionary force to explore the area. But it was already populated by indigenous peoples. China showed no further interest, until the Dutch colonised part of it in 1624. China annexed Taiwan in 1683 and then ceded it to Japan in 1895, after the first Sino-Japanese war.
In 1945, Taiwan was ceded back to China after the Japanese defeat in the Second World War. After the victory of Mao Zedong’s Communists during the Chinese civil war, the Nationalist troops retreated to Taiwan in 1945. Oddly, each regime then claimed sovereignty over both the island and the mainland.
But in 1971, the UN recognized Beijing as the sole representative of ‘China’. Since then, Taiwan no longer has a seat at the UN, but still retains all the attributes of a state. For its part, Beijing has never ceased to reaffirm the principle of one China and considers Taiwan a rebel province.
Conclusion: there has been limited and partial sovereignty by Beijing over Taiwan for a little over two hundred years. But the current regime in China, led by the Chinese Communist Party, has never administered Taiwan.
Snippets from all over
1. Preparing for a Cold War
China and Russia have signed an agreement to strengthen their co-operation on maritime law enforcement in the Arctic (The Times).
Wry & Dry comments: In a geographical transpostioning, China has declared itself a ‘near-Arctic state.”
2. Pope gives women a vote in synod
Pope Francis will give women the vote at his next meeting of bishops as he tries to end the male hegemony in the leadership of the Catholic church. The Vatican said that 70 priests, consecrated women, deacons and lay Catholics would join bishops at a synod meeting in Rome in October. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: A small step for women… Synods, introduced by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, are a chance for bishops to vote on policy recommendations submitted to the Pope for his approval.
3. US banking woes continue
Shares in First Republic dropped almost 30 per cent on Wednesday as regulators, big banks and potential bidders for its assets all held back from stepping in to help the San Francisco-based lender. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: The share price cannot fall much further – that’s now a 95% fall this year.
4. Singapore’s astronomical increase in stamp duty
The stamp duty for foreigners buying a property in Singapore will increase to 60% from 30% (Bloomberg).
Wry & Dry comments: Chairman Dan is on the next plane to Singapore to see how it works.
5. Original idea
Faced with a doctor shortage, a maternity hospital in the northeastern town of Sedan [in France] is threatened with closure. The town hall has launched an original recruitment campaign: Any doctor hired will have a street named after them. (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: Now that is a fine idea. Perhaps it could be adopted by the Victorian Liberal Party – any potential candidate with an IQ greater than 80 and not to the right of the soup spoon will, on election, get a suburb named after them.
6. Trumpster’s other court case
A nine-person New York jury heard claims that Donald Trump raped a journalist in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s and publicly disparaged her, as a civil trial the former US president has repeatedly attempted to delay, began on Tuesday. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Note that this is a civil case. Hence the standard of proof of the plaintiff’s claim is “on the balance of probabilities”, and not “beyond reasonable doubt”.
- Australia’s inflation rate fell to 7% from 7.8%.
- US GDP grew by an annualised 1.1% in the March quarter, sharply down from forecasts of 2%.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“Something clearly went wrong.”
- Anthony Fauci, former head of the US government’s infectious diseases body, speaking on Tuesday of the response of America to covid.
Perhaps an understatement. In March 2020 he forecast “as many as 200,000 deaths.” Actually, as many as 1.1 million Americans have died because of covid.
“Sir, you will have to come with us.”
- Prince Andrew’s security detail, advising him that HM the Queen had summoned him after reading the transcript of the pre-recorded interview he gave on BBC about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. It was a DCM meeting.
Andrew reported after the interview that he thought, “it had gone jolly well.” The background to this, and much more, will be revealed in a UK television series, The Problem Prince, on 1st and 8th of May. Entirely coincidentally, Andrew’s brother’s coronation will take place on 6th May.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.