13May W&D Cover

Wry & Dry #39: 13 May 2022

Cryptocurrency and its store of value. Lesser of two weevils. Consider.

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

  1. Cryptocurrency and its store of value
  2. Tsar Vlad and custard
  3. Lesser of two weevils
  4. A busy week
  5. Voters: the oestrogen evidence
  6. Ukraine tourism update
  7. Tactical electioneering
  8. The women smiled, the men did not
  9. Millennials job interview
  10. At the bookies’
  11. History:
  12. People:
  13. Habits:

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Cryptocurrency and its ‘store of value’

A friend last year advised Wry & Dry to invest in cryptocurrencies. For three reasons, cryptocurrencies are:

  • a store of value
  • lowly correlated with other major asset classes
  • a hedge against inflation

Wry & Dry declined. Now, recalling (a) that inflation is rising and (b) that major asset classes’ security prices have collapsed, then (c) the following chart suggests that Wry & Dry’s decision had all the characteristics of the wisdom of Solomon. Well, not quite. But res ipso loquitur1.

The market value of all cryptocurrencies has fallen by 57% since peaking in November. Not quite a store of value.

Perhaps peak cryptocurrency should also be seen as peak idiocy. Until the next time.

1The fact speaks for itself.

Tsar Vlad’s primary objective turns to custard

Borisconi has signed security pacts with Finland and Sweden. Which means that British troops will defend those countries in the event of an invasion by Russia (who else?).

Borisconi became the first western leader to explicitly pledge military support to both. Some say he needn’t have bothered, as each is poised to join NATO2, but the domestic headlines were useful in the face of his tanking domestic popularity. The reality is that Finland and Sweden needed the security before announcing anything, in case Tsar Vlad took assertive pre-emptive action.

Finland is expected apply to join NATO next week. NATO will accept. Tsar Vlad will get grumpy. And rattle his rusty sabre. But if Russia’s 200,000 strong army couldn’t capture Kyiv against a manic but dated army, it’s not likely to be able to take Helsinki.*

Whilst NATO’s current borders with Russia are tiny (Norway 195 kilometres, Estonia 324, and Latvia 270), Finland adds a further 1,340 kilometres.3

Thus, Tsar Vlad’s desire to curb the expansion of NATO by invading Ukraine has achieved the exact opposite, and gone down his gold-plated toilet.

The Swedes, without a border with Russia but just 350 kilometres away as the blow flies, are taking a little longer to decide.

2 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is an intergovernmental military alliance between, currently, 28 European countries and the US and Canada. Essentially an “attack on one is an attack on all.” The local equivalent is ANZUS, where if the US is attacked, New Zealand will come to its aid.

*Both Sweden and Finland have highly effective, well-equipped militaries that are already training with NATO forces.

3 Russia invaded Finland in 1939 (see below). The Finns then fought like the Ukrainians are currently, and repelled the Russians for two months, inflicting massive casualties. But Russia fought back and the countries signed a truce; Finland was forced to cede a portion of Karelia, the entire Karelian Isthmus and land north of Lake Ladoga. The area included much of Finland’s industrialised territory. Some 9% of Finnish territory was lost. Finland also lost 30% of its economic assets. Twelve percent of Finland’s population, 422,000 Karelians, were evacuated and lost their homes. Finland lost 25,904 men, Russia 167,976. There is no love lost.

Which is the lesser of two weevils4

The depression gets worse.

Wannabee PM Tony Albo once again shows that his grasp of fundamental economics is at the level not seen since Gough Whitlam was prime minister5. Impulsively backing basic pay rises to match inflation (“absolutely”) he unwittingly backed higher inflation and higher interest rates. Quick decisions made when you’re hanging by a thread on a cliff are one thing. But when all you need to do is keep the flies from getting in your mouth it’s a bad thing. Even the Spencer Street Soviet6 was aghast.

Meanwhile, PM Jimmy Morrison continues to flail his arms, believing people think he is happily waving, when they know he is drowning. He is not listening to people who tell him that people are no longer listening. Reeling off economic data or promising $15m to build a hospital on every corner is no longer meaningful.

As former PM Paul Keating once said, “It’s time to throw the switch to Vaudeville.” Wry & Dry doesn’t mean Jimmy should start playing his ukulele in the town square (but that might help). Rather to (a) switch, from the past (“we are better economic managers”) to (b) show people something they haven’t yet seen but want. Wry & Dry would suggest more images and ideas; and less piecemeal programmes and handouts.

4The term was used in the movie Master and Commander, as a joke played on someone choosing the lesser of two boll weevils.

5Whitlam was a reformist Labor PM of the early 1970s, who inherited a stale economy and a stale government from the idiotic Liberal PM Billy McMahon. He had no idea about fiscal matters and allowed his various ministers to do as they wished, without heed of the consequences. He was given a landslide DCM in 1975, to be succeeded by Malcolm Fraser. Fraser also had no idea about money matters, but compounded this ignorance by not having a reformist bone in his lanky body.

6The Melbourne Age

A busy week…

1,500 pro-Beijing people on Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing election committee overwhelmingly elected pro-Beijing candidate John Lee to be Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive. He was the only candidate. Eight voters didn’t vote for Lee; Emperor Xi wishes their heads on spikes at the city gates. Lee was responsible for the Hong Kong’s security crackdown over the past two years.

The word popularity doesn’t spring to mind

67 million Philippines’ voters overwhelmingly elected Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos junior to be its new President. Bong Bong is the son of the former president who, with his wife Imelda, stole billions from the general coffers.

Swiss bankers with cases full of numbered accounts are rushing to Manila.

1,400,000 Northern Irish voters gave Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party, the most seats in the Assembly election. It is the first time the party, historically associated with the IRA and a champion of a united Ireland, has won most seats since Northern Ireland was founded in 1921. But Readers shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for a united Ireland. Only 37% of those in Northern Ireland would currently wish it to leave the UK.

Doubtless a significant reason is fiscal. Northern Ireland relies on Westminster for massive subsidies, which Dublin would not be able to match – all other things being equal.

Sri Lanka’s prime minister gave himself the DCM before they the people could give him a more severe version. The country has become an economic basket case, with the worst situation since independence in 1948. There are riots in the street-food shortages, rampant inflation, etc. A state of emergency has been declared. Sri Lanka is a victim of China’s debt-trap. And is well on the way to becoming a client state of China.

Solomon Islands take note (but it won’t).

Some parts of the US have gone nutzo over the draft abortion ruling. The basis of the draft ruling is all about states’ rights. And so some state politicians (from Idaho, Mississippi, Texas, etc) are now demanding the banning of contraception in their states.

If so-called states’ rights get momentum, for some women some states will be like Saudi Arabia.

Voters: the oestrogen evidence

Wry & Dry’s mailbox was crammed on Monday morning.

It was all about his outrageous suggestion that if PM Jimmy Morrison gets the DCM it will be because women just don’t like him. Allow Wry & Dry to add some evidence:

Women rank Jimmy at least 5% worse than do men. QED7.

7Quod erat demonstrandum, i.e. what was to be shown. Actually, statistically, it’s not as simple as that. But it will do for Wry & Dry’s purpose.

Ukraine tourism update

Update from last week’s Ukraine tourism report:

  • The First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, surprisingly added Kyiv to her Eastern European tour, meeting Mrs. Zelensky
  • The First PM of Woke, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, lobbed in Kyiv to participate in an on-line meeting of the G7

Wry & Dry understands that Julie Bishop is still waiting for her visa. And shopping vouchers.

Tactical electioneering

Do Readers wonder why Labor is playing dead in safe Liberal seats where Climate 200 candidates (“Teal”8 candidates) have a chance of winning? It’s all got to do with preferences.

Labor does not want to finish second to Liberal on primary votes, as it usually does in these seats.

There is a very good chance that many Teal voters who were Liberal voters in safe Liberal seats will give their second preferences to the Liberal candidate.

If Teal finishes below Labor on primary votes, those Teal second preferences will be distributed next and will go to Liberal.

But if Teal finishes above Labor then Labor’s second preferences will be next distributed, and will almost certainly go to Teal.

It is in Labor’s (and Greens’) interest to minimise their own vote and maximse Teal’s.

Which is what they are doing.

8 TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) was Air New Zealand’s predecessor. TEAL was initially 20% owned by the New Zealand government, 19% Union Airways, 38% BOAC and Qantas 23%. By 1954 Qantas had increased its shareholding 50%. This was sold to New Zealand government in 1961. In 1965, TEAL became Air New Zealand.

If Teal candidates hold the balance of power, will a hidden Kiwi party emerge?

The women smiled, the men did not

What’s going on in the Russian military?

Readers who watched the Victory Day parade would have noticed the smiles as the female soldiers (all with identical lipstick) marched past Tsar Vlad:

Whereas the lads looked somewhat severe (and no lipstick):

Was it a subtle recruitment drive?

Millennials: job interview9

Interviewer (bluntly): Listen.. you’re the candidate here, but I feel like you’re interviewing me…

Candidate (smugly): All I’m saying is that if I accept a job at this bank I require to work from home two days a week. But I’m happy to come into the office for the other three days.

Interviewer (shocked): Jeez, I don’t believe what I’m hearing. You young people today just don’t have the first idea of what’s needed to work in an investment bank.

Candidate: I’m talking about having work-life balance.

Interviewer (angrily): And I’m talking about having basic math skills. Seven minus two is five…

Candidate (flushed): You expect me to work weekends?

9Taken from Alex, a Peattie + Taylor cartoon published in the AFR.

At the bookies’10

It looks as though Jimmy Morrison should be lining up interviews at Centrelink:

	            This week	Last week
		
Coalition majority	$5.50	$4.00
Coalition minority	$7.00	$5.50
Labor majority	        $1.60	$1.90
Labor minority	        $3.90	$3.75

10 Source: Sportsbet

History: The Great Patriotic War?

Tsar Vlad, looking like a warmed-up corpse, spoke for 11 minutes at Russia’s Victory Day Parade11 on Sunday. It was underwhelming, Wry & Dry’s Man in Moscow reports. Especially with his focus on Russia’s victory over the Nazis in the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War.

Hold the phone, the Second World War was 1939-45. Err, not according to Tsar Vlad’s revisionist history, Russian soldiers didn’t fight in the Second World War, but fought in the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

It’s almost true. Russia mostly fought Germany after it invaded Russia in June 194112.

But Tsar Vlad’s memory plays him false. Russia was at war also in 1939 and 1940.

In August 1939 Marshall Stalin agreed a ‘non-aggression’ pact with Hitler, which also secretly included, inter alia, the partition of Poland. Hitler invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939 and Stalin invaded from the east on 17 September, the latter in violation of the 1932 Soviet-Polish non-aggression pact.

Russia went on to invade parts of Finland, annex Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, and invade parts of Romania.

11 Wry & Dry watched the rehearsal of one of these a few years’ ago. And it was impressive. The locals were puffing out their chests with pride. Tsar Vlad had just annexed Crimea.

12 It wasn’t until 9 August 1945, after the war in Europe had been won and on the day of the dropping of the second atomic bomb, on Nagasaki, that Russia opened a fourth front and invaded Japanese occupied Manchuria and Japan’s four northern islands.

People: Eurovision

Wry & Dry’s interest in a musical contest called Eurovision ranks close to his interest in watching re-runs of colonoscopy videos.

But this year, there is a buzz about the contest. The Ukrainian entrant, Kalush Orchestra has made the finals.

Wry & Dry can hardly wait for the final.

Habits: Lego Masters

On Sunday night, the debate between PM Jimmy Morrison and Albo drew 950,000 television viewers.

There were 998,000 television viewers who watched Lego Masters.

Which says it all (Wry & Dry continued sorting out his sock drawer).

Money

A 58-year-old silkscreen print of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol sold at auction for US$170 million. Not surprisingly, it was the record price for a 20th century work.

Logically, the so-called ‘buyer’s premium’ was also a record. A tasty US$25 million goes to the auction house. Which also gets the vendor’s commission.

Nice work, if you can get it.

Snippets from all over

1. Oh, what a feeling: no cars

Toyota said that profits slumped by a third in the first three months of the year as China’s zero-Covid policy and a shortage of semiconductors hit production. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Shanghai is in its sixth week of lockdown. The broader lockdown has also been blamed for Tesla’s sales dropping by 98% in April from a month earlier.

2. Feds pursue Trump

Federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents that ended up at former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home were mishandled. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Really? Of course they were. But does it matter?

3. Sleepy Joe versus inflation

U.S. President Biden said solving inflation was now his top priority, and to that end he is considering
eliminating the Trump-era tariffs on China as a way to lower prices for goods in the United States. (MacroStrategy)

Wry & Dry comments: He should have eliminated them on taking office.

4. United Nations knows how to party

At the United Nations, two officials had a problem. The little-known agency they ran found itself with an extra US$61m, and they did not know what to do with it. Then they met a man at a party. Now they have US$25m less. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The funds were meant to be used to aid the developing world. See Charlie Munger’s quote, below.

5. What the Helios!

A small solar panel operator in Texas asked the Commerce Department to investigate whether Chinese solar panels were being illegally funnelled through other Asian countries to avoid US tariffs. The threat of retrospective tariffs has driven up prices and frozen imports. (Morning Brew)

Wry & Dry comments: Emperor Xi heavily subsidises solar panel production – hence the tariffs. And the attempts to avoid them. Sleepy Joe’s goal of halving the cost of US solar electricity by 2030 looks dead in the water.

Data

  1. US consumer price inflation rose at an annual pace of 8.3% last month…staying at a 40-year high.
  2. Britain GDP fell by 0.1% in March.
  3. Chinese property developer Sunac China, the nation’s 3rd largest property developer by sales, missed the deadline for an interest payment on a USD742m offshore bond and said it doesn’t expect to make payments coming due on other bonds.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

1. “There are only three ways a smart man can go broke: liquor, ladies and leverage.”

  • Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner, speaking of the dangers of borrowing to invest.

Perhaps the wording is a touch dated; he might have referred to just liquor and leverage.

2.  “People thought: ‘We won the cold war. Now, that’s the end of naked human aggression. Excellent! Let’s go start a unicorn petting zoo and everything will be fine.’ And it didn’t work.”

  • Richard Aboulafia, a US aerospace consultant.

Clearly signalling that the last 30 years of relative peace were an aberration.

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

Cheers!

Share this article

Share on print
Share on email