Wry & Dry #40-24 The lesser of two weevils. Al Capone. Bad dream.

7 June 2024

Ten stories you may have missed

  1. Remember Al Capone?
  2. Sleepy Joe’s nightmare
  3. Albo’s bad hair fortnight
  4. No-one trusts Tsar Vlad
  5. South Australia cuts taxes!
  6. Nvidia who/ what?
  7. Tripping
  8. UK landslide
  9. Liberal infighting
  10. Humour, North Korean style

Introduction: The lesser of two weevils

With each passing hour, it is becoming clearer that voters in the US have an awful decision to make on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

A corrupt, narcissistic, megalomanial, neo-Fascist, vengeful, sociopathic populist felon; or

A creaky, well-meaning, stubborn, weak, peri-demential, ideologue.

1. Remember Al Capone?

One of America’s most notorious mobsters was Al Capone, with dozens of murders to his name during the Prohibition era.1 He frequently and violently broke the law but somehow escaped conviction. Eventually, he was arrested, convicted and jailed… for tax evasion.2

Which brings Wry & Dry to the Trumpster, who was convicted last week of… a minor paperwork felony.

But the Trumpster’s crime is not about his bankruptcies, business corruptions, infidelities, oblate narcissism, disrespect of law and political tradition, lying, [insert Reader’s observed crime here]. All of which he has hitherto escaped.

The Trumpsters hasn’t murdered anyone. But his crime is that he has killed the operation of the American political system by taking personal control of the Republican party and condemning, excoriating, expelling, etc those who do not show fealty to his Fascist-like programme.

Mussolini had his ‘blackshirts’, Hitler has his ‘brownshirts’. Trumpsters has his deep MAGA acolytes. And social media instead of jackboots. For now.

The Trumpsters was tripped up by a minor paperwork felony. Rather like Al Capone.

This week, the Trumpster was proclaiming that Sleepy Joe’s administration had “weaponised the Justice Department.”

Hold the phone. Didn’t the Trumpster politicise the Supreme Court with the three right wing appointees?

And the company he keeps? The following members of the Trumpster’s cabal are all convicted felons: His campaign chairman, deputy campaign manager, personal lawyer, chief strategist, National Security Adviser, Trade Advisor, Foreign Policy Adviser, campaign fixer, and his company CFO.

Sigh, memories of the Nixon years.3

1 1920 to 1933, when the United States prohibited the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. It brought about a massive amount of crime and gave a boost to organised crime.

2 The key to Capone’s conviction on tax charges was not his spending, but proving the source of his income. In 1931 he was sentenced to 11 years in the slammer. He died in prison, of syphilis.

3 The following members of Nixon’s team were jailed: H.R. Haldeman and John Erlichman (White House staff); John Dean (White House legal counsel); John Mitchell, Attorney-General and Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP); Howard d Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy (ex-White House staff); Charles Colson, special counsel to the President; and James McCord (Security Director of CREEP). Nixon was pardoned.

2. Sleepy Joe’s nightmare

Sleepy Joe dreamt that he was the only person left in the US who didn’t speak Spanish.

And then he awoke to the reality. Three years into his presidency, he has finally realised that illegal immigration into the US is a massive problem. At last, he was convinced to look at the below data…

That’s about two and a half million attempts at illegal entry per annum, since he rented the White House.

Sleepy Joe’s action this week is to block migrants seeking asylum at the southern border when the average number of daily encounters between ports of entry hits 2,500 over a week.

Hmm. Who is going to keep the daily score across the 3,145 kilometre border4 and ring the bell when it reaches 2,500 in a week?

This catastrophe is of Sleepy Joe’s making. He has listened to the noisy voices on his left, and allowed an avuncular benevolence to temper the reality of uncontrolled immigration.

The point is not the policy itself. It is that it’s another sign that Sleepy Joe is irresponsibly stubborn about some critical matters. And too proud to change. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Which is why he decided to re-contest the top gig. Rather than pave the way for a younger, more agile leader.

4 That’s a long way. Melbourne to Cairns is 2,800 kilometres.

3. Albo’s bad hair fortnight

It’s been a shocker of a fortnight for Albo.

Australia’s GDP grew at a meagre 1.1% in the year to end March, the worst, outside of covid, in 30 years. [Readers should, after finishing Wry & Dry, read Investment Matters, below, for the real story]. What’s worse, GDP per capita fell by 0.4% in the quarter, its fifth consecutive quarterly decline. Treasurer Grim Jim blamed high interest rates.

The NDIS announced that 90% of NDIS providers “showed signs of fraud and drug sales” and that it is spending at least $2 billion per annum in error. Minister William Shorten blamed the Coalition (partly fair, but he has had two years to try to fix the problem).

Immigration minister Andrew Giles just won’t stop digging a hole for himself over the ‘Direction 99’ directions he had made. He blamed his department for the problems.

Treasurer Grim Jim threw Industry Minister Husic under the bus over the latter’s suggestion to lower the corporate tax rate.

Productivity Commission chief Danielle Wood said that cutting Australia’s company tax rate from 30% would be a better policy than Albo’s industry policy.

Inflation increased to 3.6%, higher than expected.

William Shorten was found to have paid a speech writer $620,000 over the last two years. Apparently, neither of the two speechwriters (maximum salary of $140,000 p.a.) in his 201 strong media department were up to scratch. Wry & Dry assumes that the two have been given the DCM…

Albo himself is still locked out of his electorate office, because of pro-Palestinian protests.

Christmas can’t come fast enough.

4. No-one trusts Tsar Vlad

Wry & Dry wonders if Tsar Vlad will lose sleep over the following survey results:

Err, maybe not. The survey was published on Monday by the Lowy Institute, which surveyed over 2,000 adults, Australia wide.

The curiosity is not so much that Tsar Vlad and Emperor Eleven bring up the rear in the trust stakes, or that the US is ho-hum, but that France not only gets a guernsey, but also rates very highly.

The same survey found that 61% of Australians support Australia using nuclear energy to generate electricity. Uncle Fester Dutton is still doing cartwheels.

5. South Australia cuts taxes!

Older Readers will remember in 1978 when the then premier of Queensland abolished death duties in his state5, it came to pass that other states (and the Commonwealth) followed suit.

Well, look out! This week the premier of South Australia announced that his state will completely abolish stamp duty for first home buyers buying a new home. Purchases of existing homes will not qualify for the abolition.

This is very smart politics and very smart economically. The question on Readers’ lips will be which state will be last to follow South Australia’s lead?

  1. Western Australia
  2. Queensland
  3. New South Wales
  4. Tasmania
  5. Victoria

Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is e. If Victoria isn’t the last state, Wry & Dry will eat his bowler hat.

5 The premier was the irascible Jo Bjelke-Petersen. By 1982 all states had followed. And Australia became the first wealthy country in the world to abolish death duties. Israel abolished the taxes in 1981, New Zealand in 1992, Portugal in 2004, Sweden in 2005, and Austria and Singapore in 2008.

6. Nvidia who?

People have been slowly realising that Nvidia is not only a US public company but also a chip designer6. And then the realisation that its chips are an integral part of driving the AI boom.7

The penny dropped of Nvidia’s fame this week when its market capitalisation exceeded $3tn. Thus, surpassing Apple as the world’s second most valuable company. Only Micrsoft is ahead.

Curiously, speaking of journalists, a finance journalist at the Melbourne Age/ SMH stated that if Nvidia was a country, it would be the seventh largest country, ahead of France’s GDP.

Err, no. Market cap measures the value of a company, whereas GDP is effectively the total of final sales of goods and services in a country.

The value of Nvidia is $3tn. The value of France would be incalculable, but the value just of French companies listed on Euronext Paris is over $5tn. Toss in the land, the wine and Moulin Rouge, and France dwarfs Nvidia.

Back to Nvidia: it was initially built around chips used for computer games. It started in 1993, when three men met in a bar in what Americans call a roadside diner (Denny’s, in San Jose). They tossed around ideas for a new company, as their existing employers (LSI Logic and Sun Microsystems) were thought not to be innovative. The company started with $40,000 in the bank and its name was derived from ‘invidia’ Latin for ‘envy’.

Like many start ups, Nvidia nearly went bust a number of times8 before being listed on Nasdaq in January 1999. As they say, the rest is history.

Nvidia needed only 180 days to go from $1 trillion market cap to $2 trillion. And only 97 days to go from $2 trillion to $3 trillion. It has single handedly driven more than a third of the gains this year in the S&P 500 index. It’s now trading on a P/E 42x forecast earnings.

And Denny’s San Jose is still going.

6 It is ‘fabless’, i.e. it uses external suppliers for all phases of manufacturing, including wafer fabrication, assembly, testing, and packaging. It thus avoids most of the investment and production costs and risks associated with chip manufacturing.

7 First Samuel clients are fully aware – Nvidia was a major feature in the company’s Annual CIO Dinners in October 2023.

8 Its internal company motto at the time was: “Our company is thirty days from going out of business”.

7. Tripping

Good grief. What a media beat-up.

A journalist wants to get some answers from a company chairman. The journalist, camera in hand, walks backwards, facing the approaching chairman and firing questions. Which are not answered.

Because he is walking backwards and focusing on his prey, he fails to see that he is about to back into a bollard. Which he does.

Journalist falls over backwards, crying loudly that the chairman has assaulted him.

This minor event became a front-page story akin to the death of a queen because the chairman was former Australian Treasurer and current chairman of Nine Network, Peter Costello.

Nine Network owns the Melbourne Age and SMH. Its competitor, the Australian and Herald-Sun and others gleefully gave the incident a DEFCON 1 rating.


Costello is a big blouse, and couldn’t swat a fly. His only crime was not warning the journalist of the approaching bollard. But given the aggressiveness of the journalist, Wry & Dry would have done the same.

8. UK landslide

Readers would not usually associate landslides with the UK. But this week, the headlines were shouting.

Y’see, the latest election polling shows that the Conservatives are going to be buried by a Labour landslide of biblical proportions.

By way of reminder, UK’s Conservative Party is sort-of equivalent to Australia’s Liberals + Nationals. That is, a ‘broad church’ of centre and right-wing ideologies. But the Conservatives have significantly more nutters than Australia’s Coalition. And more members who think that Churchill is still PM than those in Australia who think the same of Menzies.

That is not to say that UK’s Labour Party is not without its problems. Its nutters are more extreme and illiterate than the Conservatives. Readers will remember that this is the same party that had Jezza Corbyn, an anti-Semitic, evolutionary throwback to the 1960s, as its leader.

But after 14 years of monumental Conservative incompetence, the average Brit has had enough.

By the way, the Scottish National Party will implode. Of the 48 seats it won in 2019, it will lose 31.

Labour’s victory will be complete.

9. Liberal infighting

No sooner had Wry & Dry predicted four events9 that would follow the latest state government polling (that showed Labor’s primary vote at 28%), than one of them occurred: “Victorian Liberals will contain their in-fighting no longer…”    

And they haven’t. It all started with the proposed re-distribution of electorate boundaries, which would see the federal seat of Higgins carved up like Metternich carved up Europe in 1815.10  Essentially, some Liberal strongholds in Higgins would now be absorbed into neighbouring Kooyong.           

Kooyong was lost when a Teal candidate defeated former Treasurer Frydenberg at the last federal election, who then stated he would not, in the near future, re-enter politics. Amelia Hamer, a bright young woman, who happens to be the niece of former ‘moderate’ Liberal premier Dick Hamer, subsequently won pre-selection for Kooyong. All was well.

And then came last week’s proposed electorate redistribution.

Allies for Frydenberg ran a flag up the flagpole, suggesting he contest Kooyong in a required new pre-selection: there would not be a better credentialled candidate for any seat.

Predictably, former ‘moderate’ premier Kennett had a sudden case of RDS11 and weighed in, very publicly telling Frydenberg to put up or shut up.

Uncle Fester Dutton, in contrast and counterintuitively, kept his mouth shut. But, no mistake, he would rather see Ms. Hamer in politics and Mr. Frydenberg anywhere else.

But Frydenberg is smarter than the average bear. And announced that of course he wasn’t going to contest Kooyong. Meanwhile, Ms. Hamer continues campaigning.

9   The other three from 24 May were: (a) Pallas quits, (b) Margin seat MPs update LinkedIn profiles; and (c) Albo disappears from Victoria.

10  The Congress of Vienna was a reconstruction of the boundaries of parts of Europe following the defeat of Napoleon. It was complicated, but in brief summary: Russia acquired Poland; Prussia got two-fifths of Saxony. A new Kingdom of the Netherlands for created, which comprised both the former United Provinces and Belgium. Austria was compensated by Lombardy and Venice and got back most of Tirol. Denmark lost Norway to Sweden but got Lauenburg, while Swedish Pomerania went to Prussia.  In Italy, Piedmont absorbed Genoa; Tuscany and Modena went to an Austrian archduke; and the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza was given to Marie-Louise, consort of the deposed Napoleon. The Papal States were restored to the pope, and Naples went to the Sicilian Bourbons.

Those were days.

11 Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

10. Humour, North Korean style

Readers would have read that North Korea has been floating balloons south, across the border.

Trouble is that the balloons are full of excrement and litter. Some 1,000 balloons have arrived in South Korea over the past week.

In a rare display of humour, the North Korean government described the balloons as “sincere gifts.” More likely, it is a tit-for-tat response to the increasing “propaganda” criticising its regime being dropped over the border by South Korean activists.

Wry & Dry assumes that the colour of the balloons would have reflected the colour of North Korean rubbish bin lids relevant for such contents. If the balloons had been sent from Victoria, under the new ‘standardised household recycling scheme’ (which requires householders to sort rubbish into fours ‘streams) that would be red12.

How appropriate for North Korea.

12 Under the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Act 2021, the requirement is that each household utilise a four-bin system: purple for glass; lime green for food and garden organics; yellow for mixed recyclables; and red for household rubbish. A bin colour for recycled politicians has yet to be agreed.

Snippets from all over

1. India’s Modi loses parliamentary majority

India’s nationalistic and populist prime minister Narendra Modi will have to rely on minor parties to govern, after his party (BJP) lost seats in the national election. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments:  Modi has been humbled, not any easy task.

2. Europe lowers interest rates

The European Central Bank has cut interest rates (to 3.75%) for the first time in almost five years. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: Canada also cut interest rates.  

3. Not out

A high court in Pakistan quashed Imran Khan’s conviction on charges of leaking state secrets. The former prime minister had been sentenced to ten years in prison on the charges in January. (The Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: Prior to politics, Khan was a famous and successful Test cricketer, ranked by the ICC as the third best bowler of all time (after Sydney Barnes and George Lohmann and ahead of Muralitharan (4), McGrath & Cummins (=5). Warne is 18th – the highest ranked leg-spinner)).  

4. Emperor Eleven’s gas play

Russia’s attempts to conclude a major gas pipeline deal [‘Power of Siberia’] with China have run aground over what Moscow sees as Beijing’s unreasonable demands on price and supply levels. (Financial Times)

Wry & Dry comments: Approval of the pipeline would transform the fortunes of Gazprom, Russia’s state export monopoly. Having lost western European customers, Gazprom lost US$6.9bn last year. 

5. Oils ain’t oils, but that’s where the dosh is

Five years after its record-breaking initial public offering (the biggest ever), Saudi Aramco, a state-owned oil colossus, launched a secondary sale of shares. It is seeking to raise some $12bn by selling a 0.64% stake. (Economist)

Wry & Dry comments: The government needs the dosh to invest in an ambitious economic restricting plan intended to reduce its reliance on oil.


  1. Australia: The minimum wage was increased by 3.75%.
  2. Germany: Unemployment in May remained at 5.9%.
  3. India: GDP for the year ended 31 March grew by 8.2%, better than forecast.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“They are coming down from where they were when they were higher.”

  • Rishi Sunak, UK’s prime minister, in a response against the wannabe PM, Sir Kier Starmer in a television debate. Sunak had said that hospital waiting lists had come down. Starmer pointed out they had actually risen.

This witty comment will be Sunak’s only win this campaign.


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


Read this week’s edition of Investment Matters.

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