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Wry & Dry #32: 18 March 2022

“Save me from inflation.” Wuhan won’t go away. Tsar Vlad’s cork already popped.  

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Readers will know that Wry & Dry and technology are antonymonical. This will be apparent as First Samuel’s new website and associated Wry & Dry technology is launched. Wry & Dry therefore asks forgiveness for any errors that follow.

This week:

  1. Save me from inflation. Let the taxpayer pay. 
  2. Wuhan won’t go away.
  3. Tsar Vlad has popped the cork already.
  4. Borisconi gets the cold shoulder.
  5. “Whatta we want?” “Submarines.”  “When do we want ‘em?” “Now!”
  6. Unclear on the concept: How to bomb Russia without anyone noticing.
  7. Money: Oligarchs and crooks.
  8. History: Fertility.
  9. Geography: Cover 168,000 square kilometres of Australia with solar farms…
  10. Habits: Dog’s collars are in.

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Save me from inflation. Let the taxpayer pay.” 

The Chief Teller of the US central bank surprised no-one on Wednesday. He hoisted US interest rates by a modest 0.25 of a percentage point. This is the first increase since 2018. And is a response to the highest inflation in the US in 4 decades.

But no-one in the US is asking the US government to save them from this inflation. There are no demands for cuts in this tax or that tax to relieve ‘cost-of-living’ pressure.

However, Australia is not only in another hemisphere, it is also on another planet. Readers will have heard the cries: “Oh, woe is upon me. I want the government to ease my cost-of-living pain.”

Hence the demands from all quarters for a cut in the petrol excise (i.e. tax) to relieve cost-of-living increases. Readers would have read that the premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have jointly and loudly called for this action. Err, would they prefer a cut in GST instead? This would share the benefit much more widely, that is amongst all consumers, not just road users. Of course, it would also cut revenue to the states1.

This is egregious bleating. A cut of just one cent a litre would cost we-the-taxpayer $500 million per annum. And be wiped out by a fall in the value of the Australian dollar. Or another increase in the price of oil.

Wry & Dry didn’t hear a cacophony of cries to increase the petrol excise when petrol prices were falling.

Why didn’t PM Jimmy Morrison instantly announce that the government will not cut the petrol tax:

a) he hadn’t had a chance to ask Jenny;

b) he hadn’t had a chance to conduct a pub-test;

c) he was too busy washing someone’s hair; or

d) he was too busy playing his ukulele.

Close, but no cigar. The correct answer is all of the above.

1 As states and territories are the beneficiaries of the GST.

Wuhan won’t go away

Emperor Xi has spent and will keeping spending billions on getting China to overcome the “century of humiliation”. This humiliating period was more or less from the mid-nineteenth century to 1949. [There is merit in curious Readers reading the final footnote*. It goes a little way to explaining Emperor Xi’s persona.]

Most of this spending is on economic development, leveraging the transformation of the economy to quasi-capitalism that commenced under Deng Xiaoping. But under Emperor Xi huge amounts have been spent on military expansion.

Perhaps Emperor Xi might have been wiser to spend less on guns and more on getting his subjects vaccinated. For example, according to China’s Centre for Disease Control more than 60% of Chinese aged over 60 years (150 million people) have not had a booster jab.

He might have also been less insular. China has developed its own vaccinations, Sinovac and Sinopharm, that have much reduced effectiveness against Delta and Omnicom. But rather than give approval for mRNA vaccines (such a Pfizer or Moderna) it encourages local medical companies to develop a Chinese version.

These are reasons for Emperor Xi’s fervent and now failing zero-covid policy.

China is closed to the world. But Readers know that once covid gets over the moat and through the portcullis, it’s hard to stop. Currently more that 50 million Chinese are in lockdown.

This is beginning to seriously hurt China’s economy and people. How long before Chinese folk begin to get grumpy?

Tsar Vlad has popped the cork already

So. Your army has been amazingly incompetent, with Keystone Cops leadership, robotic coordination and third world logistics. Four of your generals have been killed. Your army has lost massive amounts of equipment. And has lost more soldiers killed in three weeks than America lost in all of its time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your enemy has fought tenaciously and tellingly. A three day operation is now into its third week.

Your chain of command has failed.

You have become a pariah of the world, both at home and overseas. Your economy is being smashed.

What do you do?

Autocracy 101: Press on. Tsar Vlad is not going to back down. He will have his boot on the throat of Ukraine, whilst his body sustains massive flesh wounds elsewhere. He is not going to cut his losses.

Pictures of humanitarian plight in Ukraine might move Readers to either anger or tears. But won’t crack the Easter Island-stony visage of Tsar Vlad.

Readers will remember what he did to Grozny2 in his first year in office (2010). He reduced it to dust by relentless airstrikes and heavy artillery. Thousands of rebels and tens of thousands of citizens were killed.

In Grozny Tsar Vlad had no Plan B. So it is with Ukraine. Tsar Vlad will not need the mooted 1,000 extra tanks or 50,000 fresh soldiers. He will just blast Ukraine to rubble.

Tsar Vlad popped the cork from a bottle of Shampanskoye some time ago.

2 The capital of Chechnya, a tiny Muslim republic in southern Russia. It had sought independence from Moscow. And had been granted a degree of autonomy by Yeltsin. But wanted more.

Borisconi gets the cold shoulder

Borisconi went cap in hand to Riyadh.

The aim was to get Saudi Arabia (and the UAE) to produce more oil to help wean the west off Russian oil. The Sheikh3 was inscrutable, of course. But said no.

Readers will remember and The Sheikh will not forget that the West blamed him for the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Sleepy Joe in particular in his election campaign was very critical of The Sheikh.

Now the west needs The Sheikh. Hmm, maybe The Sheikh will look east rather than west. In fact, he has: on Tuesday he invited Emperor Xi to Riyadh. As Riyadh is hardly a tourist destination, Wry & Dry imagines that the conversation will be about… oil.

3Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince.

“Whatta we want?” “Submarines.”  “When do we want ‘em?” “Now!”

Wry & Dry was prompted by an ad in Wednesday’s newspapers to browse eBay.

Alas, no submarines for sale. Clive Palmer will have to look further afield.

Wry & Dry suggests he visit www.mysubmaraines.com, which has some beauties for sale.  He should consider this gem:

Just ideal to deal with that nasty Emperor Xi. Readers will notice the terrifying prow.  And the bright orange colour – the closest colour to UAP yellow.  This will also make it more difficult to detect among the tropical fishes of the Barrier Reef.

This little honey costs just USD74,000. 

Unclear on the concept

In an attempt to keep in the headlines with idiotic comments, Donald Trump last week suggested that America bomb Russia with American planes disguised as Chinese ones.

Specifically, Trump said the U.S. could “put the Chinese flag” on F-22 fighter jets and use them to “bomb the s**t out of Russia.”

“And then we say, China did it, we didn’t do it, China did it, and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch,” Trump said.

Trouble is, he was only half joking.

Money

The term ‘oligarch’ entered the lexicon many years before it was applied to Russian business tycoons who rapidly acquired wealth in the 1990s4

Readers will know that the term is derived from oligarchy, from the Greek, which means ‘rule of the few or rich’.  Aristotle was fond of the term.

But nowadays, it seems to refer exclusively to about 70% of Russia’s 120 billionaires. However, there are oligarchs everywhere. The Economist suggests that an oligarch is a billionaire who operates in ‘crony’ markets.

Of course, crony billionaire Russians’ wealth leads the way in the Global Oligarch Rankings, as a percentage of GDP. Note that Malaysia and Singapore oligarchs are also pretty dominant. And Ukraine is not far behind.

4This was via the privatisation of assets of the Russian government following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

History

Before the war (a term Wry & Dry hadn’t heard for, well, a long time), Ukraine had the lowest fertility rate5 in Europe, at 1.2.  Europe’s average is 1.5, a population’s replacement rate is 2.1.  Ukraine’s population had already been falling.

Now, Readers might now also consider that it has been estimated that up to 40% of Ukraine’s women will have fled the country by the time the war ends6.  It is entirely possible that Ukraine’s demographic decline will alarmingly accelerate.

Perhaps this is Tsar Vlad’s secret plan of Lebensraum7, a shocking policy of Hitler.  Tsar Vlad has already shown other remarkable similarities to Hitler: democratically elected (well, sort-of), increasing oppression of freedom of speech; increasing leadership by propaganda; reliance on faux historical destinies to justify actions; annexation of surrounding territories; etc. 

5The number of children to which a woman is likely to give birth.

6The Economist.

7“Breathing space.” Lebensraum became an ideological principle of Nazism and provided justification for the Nazi territorial expansion into Central and Eastern Europe from 1941.

Geography

The dream at the bottom of the garden, where the fairies reside, is to make Australia a net zero-emissions exporter.

That is, replace the current levels of exports of thermal coal, LNG, iron ore, bauxite and alumina with zero-carbon alternatives.

The how is quite simple, really. Cover 168,000 square kilometres of Australia with solar panels and wind farms. And build a 62 gigawatts of cable capacity to export electricity to markets such as Singapore.

Or so has said the gurus at Australian National University8.

This is magnificent modelling. Imagine the paved roads across central Australia that Barnaby Joyce (Infrastructure minister) could build.

Of course, this was an academic exercise by academics. So it assumes that this can be done without cost.

8 Source: Australian Financial Review 18-Mar-22

Habits

Dog’s collars are in (not dog collars9).  So are cats’ collars, sports’ bras, meat-free sausages and anti-bacterial wipes.

It’s all about the measures of inflation in the UK.  The ‘basket of goods’ is a representation of the good and services that consumers typically spend. And is used to calculate CPI.  The basket varies from country to country.

Out are dictionaries, thesauruses, and atlases.  Excitingly, doughnuts are also out.

Wry & Dry wonders what significant changes will occur in Australia’s CPI basket update, due in December.  Ties, men’s dress shoes & shirts and cinema tickets will probably be out.  And anything from Bunnings will be in.    

Dictionaries, books, etc all went many years ago.

9A dog collar is a euphemism for a clerical collar. This is a seamless, white collar that closes at the back of the neck. There is nothing biblical about a clerical collar; it was invented in 1865 by the Reverend Donald Mcleod, of Church of Scotland (i.e. Presbyterian) minister.   

Snippets from all over 

1. France defied Russian sanctions

France continued to issue dozens of arms export licences to Russia after the EU imposed an embargo on weapons sales to Vladimir Putin’s regime in 2014

Wry & Dry comments:  Of course it did.   

2. No dignity in death 

Hong Kong is running out of coffins as it fights a devastating surge in coronavirus deaths. The city will use up its remaining 300 coffins in the next three days.

Wry & Dry comments:  And the Russian army has used up all of its supply. 

3. Get me outta here

Demand for flights leaving Hong Kong is up as much as 306% on the same time last year as residents pack their bags.

Wry & Dry comments:  Singapore is the popular destination.

4. China intervenes

China’s top economic official intervened on Wednesday to reassure investors, saying Beijing would take measures to support the economy and financial markets after a sharp sell-off that has accelerated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wry & Dry comments:  China’s benchmark CSI 300 Index closed 4.3% higher after his comments. Prior to this the index was down more than 19% this year.    

5. More electric cars

Maserati, a luxury sports car manufacturer, will make an electric version of all of its models by 2025. These include the MC20 supercar (petrol versions costs USD212,000), electric Levante SUV ($150,000) and electric Quattroporte sport sedan (USD110,000).

Wry & Dry comments:  Wry & Dry won’t be in queue.  

Data

  • The US Federal Reserve increased its cash rate by 0.25 percentage point to 0.25%.
  • Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 4%, the lowest since 2008, with female unemployment at 3.8%, the lowest since 1974.
  • The Bank of England increased its cash rate to its pre-pandemic level of 0.75%.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Wry & Dry’s Quote

“The new realities will require deep structural changes in our economy. And, I won’t hide it, they won’t be easy. They will lead to a temporary increase in inflation and unemployment.” 

–   Tsar Vlad, telling the government in a videoconference on Wednesday

Wry & Dry comments:  Define “temporary”.

*It’s a bit complicated. In short, China closed itself to international trade from the 10th century. This was in spite of China being the zenith of socio-cultural dominance and being the forerunners in transferring technology for products such as paper, porcelain, silk, cast iron, the compass, and gunpowder. It completely missed the opportunity of international trade. European powers, especially the British wanted to trade. China was wide open for exploitation, not having a developed mercantile class and having an autocratic and dysfunctional government in the form of the Qing Dynasty.

The exploitation of China began in about 1830:

  • Defeat in the First Opium War by the British (1842)
  • The unequal treaties (Hong Kong to Britain, Macao to Portugal, Taiwan to Japan (noting that China annexed Taiwan in 1683), etc
  • Defeat in the Second Opium War by British and French forces, including ceding Outer Manchuria to Russia.
  • The partial defeat during the Sino-French War, losing suzerainty over Vietnam.
  • Defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War by Japan
  • The Russian invasion of Manchuria
  • The Treaty of Versailles (German territory in China was handed to Japan)
  • The Japanese invasion of Manchuria
  • The Second Sino-Japanese War (1945)


PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees, or directors.

Cheers

Anthony   

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