Cartoon-carrying-too-much

Wry & Dry #41: 27 May 2022

Did Sleepy Joe mean it? So successful, they failed. Gurgle, gurgle.

Whilst enjoying your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Did Sleepy Joe mean it?

Strategic ambiguity used to mean the way a man viewed his relationship with his wife whilst at the same time maintaining a mistress.

Nowadays, it means the USA recognising a ‘One China’ policy whilst at the same time not wanting Taiwan to be a part of China, with hints of muscular support for Taiwan1.

Sleepy Joe has added a new meaning to this ‘strategic ambiguity’. By replacing the word ‘ambiguity’ with ‘certainty’.

But Wry & Dry is getting ahead of himself. His man in Tokyo overheard the following conversation in an onsen2 in Kanagawa, where Sleepy joe was unwinding after his flight:

Sleepy Joe: Waddya mean, Hank, another Aussie prime minister? I’ve spent 10 hours on the plane just rehearsing saying “shlomo”. Shucks, Hank, why do things change?

Hank (an aide): Err, that would be “Scomo”, Sir. But it doesn’t matter anymore. Remember to use the Australian vernacular. And, repeat after me: “Ant-o-nee.”

Sleepy Joe: Ant-nee. Ant-nee.

Hank sighs.

At that evening’s press conference, Sleepy Joe, refreshed after his hot tub, was asked if the US would get involved militarily to defend Taiwan i.e. unlike in Ukraine where it is just weapons and materials.

Sleepy Joe flatly replied, “Yes.”

There goes the ambiguity. Predictably, Emperor Xi had a meltdown. And hit the phones.

Meanwhile, totally unaware of what he had said, Sleepy Joe went on to meet Australia’s new prime minister.

“Howdy, Scomo. How they hangin’?”

1 The actual treaty position is that the US is not bound under any treaty to defend Taiwan. It is, however, treaty-bound to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself. The US terminated its Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan in 1980.

2 A Japanese hot spring for bathing.

So successful, they failed. Part I

Teal is the new black.

Or so it seems. But is this reality? Wry & Dry thinks not.

Notwithstanding all the money spent, all the hours worked and all of the collective thinking, the Teals were so successful in the election that they failed.

Work with Wry & Dry on this.

The aim of the Teals was to sit on the crossbench in a minority government. Thereby being in a position to influence government policy to reflect their own polices.

The fact is that Teal preferences have meant that Labor won two safe Liberal seats: Higgins and Boothby. Thus ensuring that Labor had a majority, or with the support of Labor-lite independents (e.g. former Labor member, now independent Andrew Wilkie).

And in the Senate, where neither major party had or has a majority and crossbench support is necessary to legislate, they do not have single seat. They are powerless as a solar panel on a July day in Melbourne.

The Teals will now have nothing to do in Canberra, other than ride up and down on Canberra’s new light-railway.

Of course this means that each can spend the next three years in their new electorates, locking up the votes of the now 15, 16 and 17 year olds, who will vote at the next election.

So successful, they failed Part II

Wry & Dry applauds the beginning of the overdue overturn of patriarchy. And welcomes independent, intelligent thinking, where change can be represented as an opportunity, not a threat.

But where are the Teals in the heartland of middle or not-so middle Australia? All too hard, it seems.

And so now, with time on their hands, the Teals will jog from secondary school to secondary school in their élite electorates, clad in their active wear, introducing the 15, 16 and 17 year olds to the deep emotional merits of the Teal totem pole. Far, far away from the grubby concerns of those who live a lot further down the economic ladder of life.

Under the teal cloak of progressive policies, what do these folk know of the struggles of, for example, working mothers (i.e. those who need to work to pay the rent, not who work to pay the private school fees)? Or of the small businessperson battling with a myriad of issues from escalating rent, supply chain shortages or increasing power prices?

Wry & Dry has been perusing their impressive bios, resumes and social media forays. It seems that not only is the lens through which they view Australia a very narrow one, but also that their understanding of the lens itself, as it were, is shallow.

That perusing suggests they know little below the surface of climate change, other than that Jimmy Morrison didn’t do enough. Which is true, but what now? Or what the effect is of ‘net zero’. Ask any to explain how a carbon tax would work and Readers would hear the sound of crickets.

Similarly it seems they know little of the practicalities of a mooted federal anti-corruption body.

As for the gender wage gap, ask any why it is effectively impossible to have a zero gender wage gap, and they wouldn’t be able to explain it.

These six passionate well-off, well-educated, thoroughly white women have given a voice to well-off, well-educated women. But their self-satisfied sense that they are pioneers is misplaced. That is, until they climb down to the lower rungs of the economic ladder and get their hands dirty.

Gurgle, gurgle

It looks as though Emperor Xi’s long-term plan is to turn Pacific island-nations3 into very mini Hong Kongs. Or client states, if you will.

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Minister commenced a Cook’s tour of the eight countries. He will propose that China will provide “intermediate and high-level police training, cyber security, customs and data network support”. And, wait for it, “support for action on climate change.”

As China is the world’s largest producer of fossil fuel emissions, and increasingly so, Wry & Dry senses that as these nations gurgle into the rising Pacific, Emperor Xi will have built them up with useful infrastructure. Such as well-dyked airfields, floating harbours and military bases, as he has done on those atolls in the South China Sea.

The ‘data network support’ will be useful to ensure that only Xibook, XiChat, Radio Xi and Xi TV can be read, heard or seen.

Wry & Dry senses that Penny Wong’s passport will have more stamps from Pacific Islands in a year that Julie Bishop had in a lifetime.

3Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, PNG, East Timor, Solomon Islands

Borisconi’s Bunga-Bunga parties

Wry & Dry has often observed that the Brits elect Prime Ministers to do a single task. And when the task is complete the PM’s weaknesses become apparent. And they then get the DCM.

The exemplar of Borisconi is now before Readers’ very eyes. Having succeeded in Brexit and reducing the Labour Party to a handful of seats under the leadership of the hapless Jezza Corbyn, Borisconi’s failings have been laid bare. By himself.

The so-called ‘lock-down parties’ in 10 Downing Street pale in comparison to Berlusconi’s famous Bunga-Bunga parties in Rome. But the Brits are somewhat more prudish than Italians. In the UK, breaching lock-down restrictions was on par with insulting Her Majesty.

But it’s not only the lock-down parties. It’s the chaotic government. Borisconi couldn’t run a bath, other than the required once-a-week-for-Poms.

The only good things going for him are the distraction of Her Majesty’s Jubilee (the Brits do these things very well); the Russians in Ukraine (the Russians don’t do these things very well) and the weakness of the Labour leader.

Sigh.

Russia: the economic swings

The economic sanctions on Russia are causing grief to western exporters. For Russians, the import substitution scramble will take some time to work. And in some industries just won’t work.

So imports have collapsed. And with oil and gas exports still unsanctioned and booming, Russia’s current account balance is healthy:

Meanwhile, the Bank of Russia has slashed interest rates for the third time since April, to 11% from 14%. The aim is to halt the massive rally in the value of the rouble, which collapsed after the invasion of Ukraine, but bounced with the higher interest rates.

It seems that the increase in rates went too far. The rouble is now at 51 to the USD, its strongest since 2015. In early March it was one third of that value.

The rouble is now the best performing currency this year. At last, a win for Tsar Vlad.4

4 But perhaps not a win he would like. The stronger rouble reduces the domestic value of the euro and US dollar denominated oil and gas revenues. Thus weakening government finances.

Unclear on the concept

Ah, to be 98 years old and have the world hanging off every accented word that fell from your lips.

Especially Tsar Vlad, listening at the keyhole.

And so it was for Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and adviser to Richard Nixon. On Monday he pontificated on matters geopolitical at the World Economic Forum at Davos5. And made the extraordinary statement that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end the war by returning to the “status quo ante”.

This would involve Ukraine accepting the Russian occupation of Crimea and agreeing to Russian de facto annexation of two provinces.

So, Tsar Vlad, having invaded an unthreatening neighbour, causing thousands of deaths and billions of dollars damage, should somehow be offered something to make him go away. Let’s think, now, Tsar Vlad. How about a small piece of Ukraine?

In 1971, when Nixon was keen for rapprochement with mainland China to divide the Russia/ China axis and cool the Vietnam war, Kissinger publicly did not support a Taiwan independent from China. As then did Nixon, as this was not what China wanted. But no-one asked Taiwan.

In 2014 as the Russians seemed to threaten Crimea, Kissinger, always on friendly terms with Tsar Vlad, wrote that “it is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea”. A few weeks later Russia annexed Crimea. Three years later Kissinger discovered it was compatible after all. And advised president-elect Donald Trump to recognise the annexation.

But he didn’t ask Ukraine.

Kissinger’s views echo Macron De Gaulle: “We must not humiliate Russia.”

Kissinger epitomises the appeaser’s approach to geopolitical conflict: “The time has come for sacrifices, so I’ve decided to sacrifice you.”

5 An annual gathering of the economically and politically wealthy at Davos, Switzerland.

Bring out your dead, part 2

The laugh of the election was the Liberals disinterring the body of John Howard and pushing it around marginal electorates, hoping that young voters and female voters would somehow see the body as a reason to vote Liberal.

What the young and female saw was a corpse. And they voted accordingly.

But the rot started long before the Liberal election strategists opened the coffin.

Morrison was effective in the Immigration and Treasury ministries as in each he had a narrow mandate that played to his unwillingness to compromise. Sending back the boats and cutting the deficit were straightforward tasks that required no vision, no negotiation, and no imagination.

So, when the Liberal party-room rightly decided to give Croesus Turnbull the DCM, they looked around to see who was up to challenge the pragmatic, blunt, competent but somewhat right-wing Peter Dutton. Julie Bishop clearly didn’t cut the competency mustard. And so Scott Morrison got the gig.

So, from that standpoint, the blame for the election loss should lie across the Liberal federal party for choosing such a dufus.

Where were the wiser heads?

Hawke had spent years negotiating and moderating before becoming prime minister. Howard had been in and out of the opposition leader’s role for a decade and well understood the skills needed for the top job.

Those Liberal wiser heads should have done their homework, and understood that outside of politics Morrison had failed in every job he’d had. And that the skills required for a leader were different to those for a minister.

Not to mention N other issues, where N is a large number.

Trumpster’s spell didn’t work

Much has been made of many wannabee Republican politicians professing fealty to The Trumpster. Recently, The Trumpster’s acolytes have been successful in the various pre-selections, as it were, for the upcoming mid-term elections.

However, The Trumpster’s post-presidency platform has just one plank: that Sleepy Joe stole the 2020 election from him. This simple policy has a short half-life. And its decay is becoming apparent as every week passes.

This week, in key elections in Georgia, The Trumpster backed two candidates because their opponents refused, then and now, to support his claim of the lost election. The Trumpster’s candidates were roundly beaten.

November 2024 is long way off. So don’t count chickens. Yet.

Barnaby’s ‘ardship

Readers may remember when Barnaby Joyce gave one of those Sunday night tabloid television interviews. He wailed at how he could barely pay for his ex-wife, their children, current wife and new child on his $280,000 p.a. parliamentary salary.

This penury probably explained why he sought leadership of the National Party, with its much higher $433,575 salary. But last Saturday’s election outcome, in which he skilfully engineered the Liberal Party’s slaughter, sees his annual dosh slashed to $306,000.

Earlier this week, Barnaby commented that things were tough, especially now with two young sons at the dinner table. His paycheck “was spread so thin.”

‘Ardship. Especially with those three properties to manage.

History: border walls

The Greeks have not been fond of Turkey for, well, a long time. Turkey’s forerunner, the Ottoman Empire, occupied Greece for hundreds of years until the Greek War of Independence ended in 18326. And it wasn’t a happy occupation.

Greece has a land border of some 200 kilometres with Turkey, separating West Thrace in Greece with East Trace in Turkey. Most of the border is marked by the Evros River. And to prevent refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere entering Greece from Turkey, last year Greece completed 40 kilometres of a somewhat massive fence:

Big, isn’t it? Readers couldn’t buy that at Bunnings.

Now Greece wants the EU to foot the bill for another 80 kilometres of fence. Turkey is not happy.

6 English poet Lord Byron and French artist Eugène Delacroix were some of the many Philhellenists who were active in supporting Greece’s independence. Greece then was a lot smaller than today: the Ionian Island were ceded to Greece by Britain in 1864, Thessaly by Ottomans in 1881, Macedonia after the Balkan Wars in 1913, West Thrace by Bulgaria in 1923, and East Thrace and Ionia were ceded by Treaty of Sevres in 1920 but lost by Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The Dodecanese Islands, which includes Patmos, were ceded by Italy in 1947 – perhaps the Pope wasn’t looking.

Habits: no place for Superman

Superman can no longer save the fine folk of New York from those intent on dastardly deeds. The childhood vision of him racing to the nearest phone booth to change from his crumpled suit to red lycra budgie smugglers, blue lycra body suit and flowing red cape is over.

New York City said goodbye to that superhero changing room on Tuesday, uprooting the last public pay phone in the city from its home on Seventh Ave. and West 50th St.

Superman’s troubles don’t end with phone booths being scrapped everywhere. His nemesis Kryptonite is a ‘rare earth’ element. And becoming much demanded for sustainable resourcing-uses for Net Zero objectives.

Do the Greens & Teals know they might end up killing Superman?

Home: Every home should have one

Gentlemen! Help is at hand.

Dyson, the technology company founded by the billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson, unveiled plans to create cleaning robots that will perform a range of mundane domestic tasks.

The aim is to create the technology to produce a robot by 2030.

Wry & Dry sees this sort of technology as significantly more useful than any number of apps on his phone.

In a first, Wry & Dry has pre-ordered.

Snippets from all over

1. UK government’s windfall tax

The British government said it would use a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies to help raise funds for direct payments to households, to ease the country’s cost-of-living crisis. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: Will new Treasurer Chalmers be tempted? You betcha!

2. Iranian sanctions

The U.S. said it was ready to tighten sanctions and act with Israel and others to
counter the Iranian threat if shaky efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal fail. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: There is no current deal, and not likely to be one.

3. Hungary reverting to type?

Viktor Orban, the newly inaugurated Hungarian prime minister, has declared a state of emergency and announced a broad windfall tax to ‘offset a cost-of-living crisis’ caused by the war in neighbouring Ukraine. (UK Times)

Wry & Dry comments: This has nothing to do with the war in Ukraine, but all about increasing his autocratic powers.

4. Former President Carter, 97, in action

Jimmy Carter, a sprightly 97 years old, has entered a legal battle over a small road in Alaska that could gut an environmental law that he called one of his highest achievements. (New York Times)

Wry & Dry comments: The issue is the increasingly seen as a dispute between conservationists and native Americans. Hats off to Jimmy for still battling for what he believes.

5. Apple to fall far from the tree

Apple is looking to increase its production outside of China, citing Beijing’s zero-COVID policy as one of the primary reasons. (Wall Street Journal)

Wry & Dry comments: No, the reason is to diversify their supply chain in case the balloon goes up in China.

Data

  1. The US budget deficit is expected to fall from $2.7 trillion in 2021 to $1 trillion this year, reflecting lower government spending and faster economic growth.
  2. US April new home sales fell 16% from a month earlier.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

“The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination.”

  • An appellate court’s ruling in New York, upholding a lower court ruling. It means that Donald Trump and his two eldest children must answer questions under oath in an investigation into his business practices.

The Wheels of Justice turn slowly.

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

Cheers!

Anthony

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