Enjoy Wry & Dry: a cynical and irreverent blend of politics, economics and life.
Seven stories you may have missed
- Trumpster smashes own record
- The Phoenix Team
- US credit downgrade
- Italy’s mess
- Victorian comedy
- Green & Gold TGV?
- No vacancies
Trumpster smashes own record
World record holders always delight in breaking their own world records. And so it is with the Trumpster.
The record he held (of being the only US president to be charged for a criminal offence) he himself broke earlier this year. And this week he again broke it. Amazing, three times he will be in the dock as a criminal defendant. Wearing a horizontally striped suit. And there will be a fourth before the month of August is over.
This man is the GOAT1. This is Hall of Fame, Legend Status, stuff. This record may never be broken, and if so, perhaps only by himself. If this were an African republic, statues would be erected. Streets renamed.
Whilst outwardly he displays gravitas, inside, he’s loving it. These are headlines any candidate for any office would die for.
His first indictment (relating to payment of hush-money to a pornstar with whom he, err, made arrangements) and second indictment (making a personal library of highly classified documents) are dwarfed by the latest charges: conspiracy.
But what proud citizen of the USA would not want a president who admitted to a business relationship with a pornstar? Really, it’s about free speech. And free trade.
Or one whose high intellect and sense of history meant that building a personal library of really historic documents was really understandable.
And now, conspiracy. Really? What’s the fuss? Who in politics hasn’t conspired before, during or after office?
The key matter is, of course, about lawyers and money. This is, after all, America. In what must be the largest GoFundMe drive to date, by Monday, he had already raised and spent US$40m of campaign funds on his lawyers. And this for a man whose net wealth, according to Forbes magazine, is worth $2.5 billion.
Whilst everyone is getting so excited about the prospects of a third trial, the reality is that it is unlikely that any trial will be concluded before the presidential elections next year. And what really matters in the election race is the number of felony charges a candidate can display. Felony charges convey instant credibility.
The Trumpster has over 40 separate charges. Sleepy Joe has zero, so he’d better get to work.
Otherwise, the Trumpster will win the election. Then will pardon himself.
1 Greatest Of All Time. Which puts him in the same league as Wayne Gretsky, Don Bradman, Rod Laver, Tom Brady and Robbie Flower.
The Phoenix Team
Wry & Dry awoke on Monday to the radio’s news headlines that the Australian women’s football (i.e. soccer) team had defeated Canada to reach the Final 16 in the World Cup.
The last item on the news, just ahead of Melbourne’s weather and train delays on the Frankston line, was the news that Australia had lost the final cricket test of the Ashes series.
The suspicion is that the relegation of such news to a post-script was not so much Australia losing a cricket match, but that it was to England.
Returning to women’s football, if both Australia and England win on Monday night, and win their quarter-finals, then they meet in the semi-final on Wednesday 16 August.
If Australia wins that game, then on Sunday 20 August the expectations of an entire nation will fall upon the shoulders of a small number of fine women. They will be the Phoenix Team.
US credit rating downgrade
Just as the world was focussed on the Trumpster’s legal bills, Fitch Ratings (a lookalike Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s) has downgraded the credit rating of the USA from AAA to AA+.2
With hindsight, this was coming. The simple maths is that the Democrats are happy spending money and the Republicans are happy to lower taxes.
But astute Readers would have noticed words in Fitch’s reasoning. It cited (a) the government’s growing debt burden and (b) “a steady deterioration in standards of governance over the last 20 years.”
The first is evidenced by the following chart of the US’ interest costs. Yes, of course the US can pay a trillion dollars each year in interest. But as long as that figure increases greater than GDP there will come a day of reckoning.
The second by the malevolence of Congress. The only thing on which the Democrats and Republicans can agree is closing time. Every issue is bitterly contested, and any resolution is heavily compromised. It’s like a game of chicken with somewhat large stakes.
It is the second issue that is most worrying. Government debt is one problem – but that the total bifurcation of Congress reflects the broader USA is bigger.
Trump contesting the US presidency will herald an even more perverted attack on ‘governance’. Wry & Dry has serious fears of a Trump march towards a blend of lunacy and megalomania. Biden competing against him will result in a more left-wing response. An ideological curtain will have descended across America, from sea to shing sea.3
Readers should start praying that men in white coats carry each away before too long.
2 There are only nine countries with AAA ratings from all three major ratings’ agencies: Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore and… Australia.
3 With apologies to Churchill, who owned: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”
Italy’s fiscal mess
It’s only a matter of time before the Italian government again changes.
The most recently elected government, under a seemingly sensible right-wing Prime Minister has run onto the rocks of benefit withdrawal. And the locals are not happy.
The theatre started in 2019, when the then government of populist Five Star movement launched its ‘citizen’s income’ poverty relief scheme. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
However, some 1.7 million Italian households have put themselves onto the scheme, rather than working in a period of labour shortages. The new government wishes to keep the programme, but only for those who need it. As a first step, last week some 160,000 Italians who are considered able bodied and employable received text messages stating that their benefits were to be cut.
In a spirit of European unity, Italians did what the French would do. On Monday, they rioted.
Comedians would have been delighted with the news that Victoria’s upper house (Legislative Council) has established a parliamentary committee to investigate Chairman Dan’s decision to scrap the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
The last time there was an investigation into something the Victorian government did – the covid lockdown hotel quarantine fiasco4 – the Board of Inquiry found that no-one made the decision to undertake the programme. And hence no-one was responsible.
As the upper house cannot compel members of the lower house, such as the Premier, Treasurer or Minister for Major Projects, to appear before it, Wry & Dry has every confidence that the outcome will be that no-one was responsible for the decision to bid for the Games in the first place.
And hence no-one can be responsible for their cancellation.
4 The Covid-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry
Green & Gold TGV?
The federal Minister for
Qantas Transport, fresh from stopping Qatar Airlines eating Qantas’ lunch, speaking in Newcastle this week now wants to ‘get planes out of the sky.’
Her preferred approach is to have a high-speed train between Melbourne and Sydney. Wow! Now there’s an idea. In fact, she said, “This is one of those projects where we’re very determined that it get done.”
Leaving aside her poor grammar, Wry & Dry wishes her good luck with her project.
The plan for a Melbourne-Sydney high-speed train has been around since Moses played full-back for The Pyramids Seconds. The first serious proposal was by a private consortium in 1990, with a cost of $6.6 billion.
The latest proposal is in gestation. Albo’s government legislated a High Speed Rail Authority in December 2022. It commenced search for a CEO last week. It’s first priority is, according to the minister, to provide ‘higher’ speed rail transport between Sydney and Newcastle.
Readers beware. There is no sign that this will be a Green & Gold Shinkansen or TGV.5 It’s about ‘higher’ speed, not ‘high’ speed. The difference is simply that ‘higher speed trains’ proceed faster than existing trains, but not as fast as ‘high speed trains’. Got that?
Either way, Readers should expect a big announcement soon after the Voice referendum or just before the next election.
5Respectively the high-speed trains of Japan and France.
The good folk at the Property Council of Australia have advised Wry & Dry that CBD office vacancies have risen to a near three-decade high.
Time to person the life boats? Well, not yet. But keep the life vest on.
The problem is two-fold. Firstly, too much supply, with Melbourne in particular having more than average supply increases since 2020. And more office towers are expected to be completed over the next three years. Hence the vacancy rate will increase.
Secondly, inevitably, falling demand. Companies are downsizing, as it were, their space needs in the face of an expectation of a recession and more employees working from home.
So what? Well, the ‘so what’ is that the value of office buildings will fall, albeit in the short-term. The other is an outcome of the same falling demand driver: emptier CBDs. Which means fewer shoppers. Which means retailers…, etc. And so it goes on.
Unclear on the concept 1
Zhanna Samsonova, a social media influencer who extolled the virtues of a vegan diet of raw tropical fruit and no water has died. From malnutrition.
Unclear on the concept 2
It’s been such a long time since former Prime Minister Scott Morrison last spoke in parliament that the time-pressured indentations of his, err, buttocks on his seat were not relieved by the absence of his weight.
Nonetheless, members of the press gallery were curious to hear what was going to be said. Was there a headline in the offing? Indeed, there was.
He rose to defend himself against adverse findings that were made against him in the Robodebt scandal. He said the findings were “disproportionate, wrong, unsubstantiated or contradictory.”
Wry & Dry does not have the benefit of being inside Morrison’s mind. And therefore, unable to fathom why he would tread such a treacherous path, a path with only downside. The second rule of politics, if not life, is never, ever portray yourself as a victim of anything. Especially if a Royal Commission says you made others the victims.
There is merit in the old saw: “if you’ve got nothing to say, then don’t say it.”
But Morrison felt he had to say what he had to say. And zoomed past Liz Truss6 to be the least self-aware leader of any western democracy since Lord North thought it would be a good idea to impose a tea tax on the American colonies.7
6 Liz Truss lasted just 50 days as PM, succeeding the hapless Borisconi, who in turn succeeded the hapless Teresa May.
7 He contributed to the outbreak of the American War of Independence because of the tax. France, Holland and Spain all ended up siding against the British in the ensuing war, which also sparked the famous Gordon Riots in London, aka the worst riots in British history. North was the first prime minister to resign following a vote of no confidence.
Snippets from all over
Two Navy sailors in Southern California were arrested and accused of providing military secrets and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers, according to a pair of federal indictments unsealed on Thursday. (New York Times)
Wry & Dry comments: One of them received $5,000 for his efforts. And faces 20 years in the slammer. Just wondering about the trade-off there.
2. Uber’s first ever profit
Uber reported its first operating profit on Tuesday on the back of better control of costs, marking a turning point for the chronically lossmaking company after years of heavy spending in a controversial dash for growth. (Financial Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Since 2014, Uber has accumulated losses of $31.5 billion.
3. Uncle Sam downunder
The United States is to send more troops and military aircraft to Australia, and embed spies within Canberra’s intelligence agencies in an unprecedented peacetime move to counter the perceived threat from China. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Expect squealing from the usual suspects.
4. Polish refugee referendum
The leader of the ruling party wants a referendum on accepting refugees in Europe. (Le Monde)
Wry & Dry comments: The EU has a preliminary agreement for distributing asylum seekers between EU countries – and fining any states that fail to comply. Poland’s current policy is to refuse a forced distribution of ‘illegal migrants’.
5. Meanwhile, in Niger…
Supporters of the coup in Niger attempted to storm the French embassy on Sunday after marching through the capital waving Russian flags and chanting the name of Vladimir Putin. (UK Telegraph)
Wry & Dry comments: Niger is a land-locked country of which 80% is the Sahara dessert. It was colonised by France in the early 20th century and became independent in 1960. It is a Muslim country of some 25 millions. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with per capita GDP of some $1,500. Last week’s military coup is its fourth since independence.
6. Macron points to single parent families
France faces an “immense” challenge, President Macron said after disclosing that three quarters of the children prosecuted over this summer’s riots were from single-parent families or in social care. (The Times)
Wry & Dry comments: Has the horse already bolted?
- Eurozone: unemployment rate hit a record low of 6.5%.
- Australia: the RBA left interest rates unchanged at 4.1%.
- Euro-zone: GDP grew by 0.3% in the June quarter, helped by France and Spain, hindered by Germany and Italy.
- China: factory activity in July fell for the fourth successive month.
- Euro-zone: inflation fell to 5.3% in the year to July.
- UK: The cost of housing asylum seekers in hotels makes up 30% of the UK’s foreign-aid budget.
And, to soothe your troubled mind…
“For some, being the subject of criminal investigation can, à la Rumpelstiltskin, be turned into golden political capital, making it seem more providential than problematic.”
Judge Robert McBurney, of the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Georgia, dismissing an effort by the Trumpster to derail an investigation into his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The Trumpster had claimed that the two-and-half years of investigation had been injurious to him. The judge said bunkum: Trump had gained ‘golden political capital’.
PS The comments in Wry & Dry do not necessarily reflect those of First Samuel, its Directors or Associates.