Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Seven stories you may have missed
- Richer than all his tribe
- When technology fails
- Another country ranking
- Unclear on the concept
- Important fact
- Just to be clear
- Be careful to whom you donate
Richer Than All His Tribe1 Part I
“The government of the state of Victoria, Australia has announced large tax increases in an attempt to reign in massive debt caused by unrestrained spending on public works and government employees.” Blomberg News 5-24-23
Once upon a time there was a country, looking like it was in Africa in the 1960s. It was once prosperous.
In charge was a tinpot megalomaniacal dictator, pretending to act for all his people. But he had plundered the country’s coffers he had inherited, spending randomly to boost his self-esteem. He had spent wildly, giving money to anyone who asked. And was building a massive railway that circled his country. He had promised “a chicken in every pot”2 at the last election.
And he brooked no dissent. The people bowed down before him.
There was another tribe, that wore only blue loin cloths. Within this tribe were two warring sub-tribes of mostly old people and superstitious people. The leaders of the sub-tribes fought daily over whom would lead the tribe and stir their last chicken pot.
These sub-tribes only thought about their own image, looking in mirrors that reflected the tribe as it once was. They dreamed of past glory years.
1 “Richer Than All His Tribe” is a novel by Nicholas Monsarrat. It presciently charts the steady drift of an African nation towards bankruptcy and chaos. It is the sequel to “The Tribe That Lost Its Head”. Monsarrat is best known for writing “The Cruel Sea.”
2 A political slogan used by the Republican party in the US in the 1928 election. Its origin is actually in 17th century France: Henry IV wished that each of his peasants would enjoy “a chicken in every pot every Sunday.”
Richer Than All His Tribe Part II
Then came dark days. The dictator had borrowed heavily. Now the lenders wanted their money back. The unchallengeable dictator came down from his throne and stood before his people, explaining that their country had its wealth stolen. It was all the fault of other people in another country, he said. However, the people should be grateful because he had a plan.
Money will still be spent on his grand circular railway. And he would still employ all of his relatives; and all who asked would receive money. But, he earnestly warned, the coffers must be replenished. So, there would be a new tax: tribespeople with more than one chicken pot would have to pay a special tax.
The cries of those who owned more than one chicken pot were ignored. And so too were the cries of the village elders, who said that the debts would never be paid unless the dictator stopped spending.
But the dictator said everything will be fine. The people should be grateful. And the people were grateful.
Not one asked for his head on a platter, because they were happy because they had been told they should be happy. The village elders shook their heads.
Some tribespeople were not happy and climbed into their canoes and paddled to an island just to the south. It was colder there, but the taxes were lower, the debts lower. Most of the people wore blue loin cloths. And had blue puffer jackets.
And, excitingly, a new football team was about to commence. That would keep everybody happy.
When technology fails
You are the most prominent of the country’s state governors (i.e. premiers). You are about to announce your candidacy for leadership of the world’s strongest country. You engage one of the world’s richest men and his technology company to livestream your global campaign launch.
What could possibly go wrong?
Err, it was a “Houston, we have a problem” moment. The technology failed. Twitter crashed.
The wannabe presidential campaign launch of Ron DeSantis started 30 minutes late. “I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback,” he said. But by then, tens of thousands had gone and put the kettle on, opened a Bud, and switched on Succession.
The Trumpster is still laughing.
Just to be clear…
Readers will be aware that the former head of international tax at PwC, a somewhat large accounting firm, had provided confidential government taxation information to some partners in an attempt to win business.
Well, now the Secretary to the Treasury has asked the Australian Federal police to consider opening a criminal investigation.
When asked to comment, a spokesperson for PwC said: “We note the statement from the Treasury secretary and will continue to co-operate fully with any investigations into this matter.”
Wry & Dry is pleased to note that it has “noted the statement.” Readers can bet the house that internally more than a few PwC people have more than noted the statement. And are moving bricks, as it were.
Wry & Dry also notes that PwC will “continue to co-operate fully…” Really? How magnanimous. It’s as if it has a choice.
Yet another country ranking
On Wednesday, The Economist magazine released a ranking of countries based on how well a country provides for its citizens. The ranking was compiled by Social Progress Imperative. The metrics are other than wealth, and cover 52 indicators across three categories: providing basic human needs, foundations for long-term development, and opportunity.
The top rankings didn’t surprise Wry & Dry: mostly cold, Western-democratic European countries. In order:
1 Switzerland, 2 Norway, 3 Denmark, 4 Iceland, 5 Germany, 6 Finland, 7 Sweden, 8 Netherlands, 9 Canada, 10 Austria.
Australia came in at #14. #18 was France, #19 UK, #31 US, #53 Ukraine, #65 Russia, #87 Turkey, and #107 was China.
More interesting were the big ranking changes since 1990: South Korea +17, Israel -10, Ukraine -15, Russia -16, Brazil -18, US -23, Papua NG -28.
Victoria was not separately ranked.
Unclear on the concept
The Trumpster was recently found by a jury to have defamed a woman. And was ordered to pay US$5m to the woman for the defamation, among other things.
But the Trumpster couldn’t help himself. The day after the woman won her case, he again started defaming her, both on-line and at a CNN forum.
The woman did what any aggrieved American woman would do. She again lawyered-up. And sued for “very substantial punitive damages,” at least US$10m.
The more Trumpster keeps talking, the more she sues.
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.
Be careful to whom or what you donate
There is Black Lives Matter. And Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLM GNF). The former is a name used to generically refer to a movement with the broad aim of eliminating systemic racism. The latter is a different kettle of American fish.
That kettle of fish is the problem. BLM GNF always calls itself ‘Black Lives Matter’ and owns the domain ‘blacklivesmatter.com.’ But it is in fact a front for a far-left, black nationalistic, Marxist organisation. It is the fundraising and distribution centre for over 40 decentralised ‘chapters.’
So, what’s the problem with that, Wry & Dry hears Readers ask?
Well, follow the money3.
- BLM GFN is at risk of insolvency
- The brother of its co-founder was paid US$1.8m for providing ‘security services’
- The father of that co-founder’s child was paid US$970,000 for providing ‘creative services’
- The consulting firm of the successor to that co-founder was paid US$1.7m for ‘management services’
- That successor is being sued for syphoning $10m for his own use
- BLM GFN purchased a mansion in Los Angeles for US$5.8m to be a ‘safe space’ for activists
- In FY-22 it received US$8.5m in revenue, but had expenses of US$17m
And so it goes on.
It seems that not only is there a problem with money, but also with governance. Its charitable registration was out of compliance in at least 10 US states in 2022.
The moral of the story? There are probably organisations like this In Australia. Before making the donation, Wry & Dry suggests Readers check to see to whom the dosh is actually going and what it may be doing.
AUKUS: nasty words
Albo has been as excited as a child waiting for Christmas. In his case, Christmas is when the first of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines lowers its periscope beneath the waters off Adelaide. Which is 10 years away.
Make that X years, where X = 10N years, where N > 1.2 (that is, about 15 years). Y’see, the US government didn’t get to be the biggest in the world because it was efficient.
Apparently, a ‘top’ Australian defence official has blamed technology sharing delays on ‘a permafrost layer of middle management.’
But the nasty words don’t stop there. The Royal United Services Institute, a UK defence and security think tank, described the AUKUS story so far as “a shallow sound bite.”
Whether the first of these submarines arrives in 10 years or 15 years and an onboard party is held, Wry & Dry has no doubt that Albo will still be PM. And will be on hand to be piped aboard.4 And guesses that Paul Keating wouldn’t get an invitation to the gig.
4 A boatswain’s (i.e. bosun’s) pipe is a type of whistle used to convey commands. It is also used as a sound of honour for ‘flag-rank’ officers (i.e. admirals) or important guests boarding or departing a ship. Albo would be in the second category.
Italian ire at the Irish
Ireland, the first country to ban smoking in workplaces and bars, has bitten off more than it can chew. Or, rather, drink.
A decision to place health warnings on wine bottle labels sold in Ireland has caused Italian wine makers and the Italian government to get very grumpy. Very, very grumpy.
The Italian government tried to get the European Commission to block the law. But that failed.
Y’see the new laws go beyond the usual “drink in moderation” and require that all wine and spirits now carry a warning that drinking alcohol risks liver disease, cancers and dangers in pregnancy.
Wry & Dry has written to the Italian winemakers, suggesting they are wasting their time. And it doesn’t matter. The Irish will read the warning label, consider the schedule of risks. And uncork the bottle in any case.
Meanwhile, in Turkey
Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to keep pulling the levers in Turkey. He’s already had 20 years so doing, and wants another five years. And is now in an electoral run-off (if a candidate doesn’t get over 50% in the first-round of voting, the two highest pollers face another election).
He will almost certainly win Sunday’s run-off. This notwithstanding inflation at over 50%, a currency that halved last year and credit rating the same as Egypt and Kenya. He controls the media beautifully.
Which is why he put down his markers for his next term and made sure that Tsar Vlad heard him say in a CNN interview that, “We are a strong state and we have a positive relationship with Russia. Russia and Turkey need each other in every field possible.”
That comment was not said for the benefit of Turkish voters. It was said to send clear signals.
Firstly, to Tsar Vlad: I’m on your side, let’s keep enhancing the trade. Do you want to invest in one of these properties?
Secondly, to NATO: My veto vote is up for sale. Oh, you want Sweden to join. Let me see, you need my vote. I need [fill in a populist wish-list].
He went to the same media training academy as Chairman Dan.
Borisconi: good news and bad news
On Sunday, Borisconi was delighted to announce that he and his wife Carrie are expecting their third child. The child will be her third. It will be his Xth child, where X > 7.
On Wednesday, he was referred to the police over an alleged breach of his own lockdown rules at the PM’s official residence, Chequers.
Sigh. The ghosts of girlfriends past are always a risk to politicians and bishops. But those of lockdown breaches will definitely get you in the end.
Most Americans had never heard of the word ‘sedition’, much less knew what it meant.5
There is one American who now certainly does. Stewart Rhodes has just been sentenced to 18 years in the slammer for ‘seditious conspiracy’ for his role in the 6 January riots at the US Capitol. These were riots encouraged by the Trumpster in an attempt to change the outcome of the 2022 presidential election.
Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, has a law degree from Yale. So maybe he knew what sedition meant all the time.
PS The Trumpster said that he would not only pardon the January 6 offenders, but would also apologise to them for their treatment.
5 “Language or behaviour intended to persuade other people to overthrow their government, sometimes by using violence.”
Snippets from all over
1. Benjamin Netanyahu caves in
Israel passes controversial budget cementing autonomy for ultra-Orthodox community. (Le Monde).
Wry & Dry comments: Politics is the art of the possible. Far-right and ultra-Orthodox factions threatened to withhold their votes unless more money was poured into programmes under their control. These included millions for a parallel ‘yeshiva’ school system i.e. one that focusses on Rabbinic literature but ignores national standards for math and science. To get his budget passed by the Knesset, Netanyahu caved in.
2. Facebook fined a mere €1.2 billion
Facebook owner Meta was fined a record €1.2 billion for transferring European Union user data to the United States in breach of a previous court ruling, Ireland’s regulator said on Monday. (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: EU regulators have already hit Meta with fines of hundreds of millions of euros over data breaches by its Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook services. It is the third fine imposed on the social media giant this year in the EU and the fourth in six months.
3. Another optimistic Republican
Senator Tim Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, announced his presidential bid on Monday. (Wall Street Journal)
Wry & Dry comments: The current polling with Wry & Dry’s thumbnail comment for each aspirant:
Trump 58% (stark raving bonkers); DeSantis 16% (very far to the right of the soup spoon), Pence 4% (yawn), Haley 4% (the only sensible choice), Ramaswamy 4% (aged 37, businessman), Scott 1% (very socially conservative), others 13%.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Zimbabwe is the most miserable country in the world according to an annual “misery index” that judges nations on mainly economic conditions. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: Victoria, Australia wasn’t eligible for inclusion as it is not yet an independent country.
5. India demonetises
India’s central bank sought to calm the public after its decision to withdraw its highest-value currency notes [Rs2,000 about A$30] from circulation triggered alarm about financial stability. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: This is all about taxation, but dressed up as an anti-drug-financing/ money-laundering measure.
6. Dietary matter
A Michelin-starred restaurant has become the first in Scotland to be targeted by animal rights protesters because its menu is “meat heavy”. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Clearly there is a graded scale that protesters can use to decide whether or not to ruin a restauranteur’s business.
- Germany entered a recession after its GDP fell 0.3% in the March quarter. This followed an 0.5% fall in the December quarter.
- UK’s inflation rate dipped below 10% for the first time in eight months, to 8.7% in the year to April.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“It will be the end of Pratt’s as we know it.”
- An aggrieved member of the Pratt’s, the gentlemen’s club in St James, London, which will allow women to join for the first time in 166 years.
The club inspired the fictional “Blades” 007’s club in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.