Cartoon-I-dont-hold-a-hose

Year of the RAT. Borisconi awaits. Ukraine requests weaponry, Germany sends?

Happy New Year! Wry & Dry’s returning Bumper Edition saves Readers the task of finding out what happened whilst they were standing in a three-hour covid-testing queue to wait three days for the promised one-day result turnaround. Much occurred.

Whilst pouring your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

PM Jimmy Morrison turns the Chinese Year of the Tiger into Year of the RAT.

Borisconi awaits the DCM, but it’s not about a warm beer and cold-sausage-roll-fest on his back lawn.

Ukraine requests defensive weaponry to help resist Tsar Vlad. Guess what Germany sends?

Emperor Xi welcomes the Winter Communist Party Public Relations Event Olympics to Beijing.

Paul Keating had a bad attack of RDS.

Victoria’s finances are so dire that Chairman Dan’s police are now for hire.

Sleepy Joe wants to appoint a black woman to the US Supreme Court.

Chairman Dan, with OPM, bailed out a public company to the tune of $1.9 billion.

What if they had an election, and nobody voted?

Wry & Dry visited Los Angles, London, and Singapore (briefly): the world is very different outside Oz.

…now enjoy your Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque…

Year of the RAT

For PM Jimmy Morrison 2022 will indeed end up as the Year of the RAT. Because that very clever pathology device – hygienically wrapped; with easy-to-read instructions and yielding a result within 15 minutes – will be his downfall. Or, rather, the inability to provide plenty enough, soon enough, to voters who have had enough.

It’s rare that just one event causes the fall of a PM (contra Borisconi, see below). And so, it will be with Jimmy Morrison. The roll-call: the new decision-criteria (does it pass “the pub test?” [1]); turning a medical crisis to not-a-race; fleeing to foreign climes when flames cooked the eastern seaboard; clumsily making a straightforward immigration issue into a political event; etc, etc. And it will be the RAT that breaks the (camel’s) back.

Generally sound policy decisions, especially from Treasurer Frydenberg, have been obscured. The media have been happy to turn up the volume of the increasingly shrill cry of entitlement and complaint. And ignore (a) that by international comparisons Australia is the vanguard of anti-covid success; and (b) the policy-free zone of The Man Who Never Was [2].

Jimmy’s Press Club speech on Tuesday was pointless and gutless. Where was the narrative that excites voters? Where were the election trailers (in the movie sense) on technology, AI, new education themes, frontiers of medicine, productivity, etc.

His words fell on ears deafened by the flapping wings of vultures circling what will soon be a carcass.

[1] An as yet undefined experiment conducted in a public house. Is it a coin toss, a quiz night or a variation of Survivor? Or perhaps a chemistry experiment conducted in a Petrie dish.

[2] Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese.

Borisconi awaits

Beer bought from the local Dan Murphy’s and Patties sausage rolls spread on a fold-out table pinched from Bunnings. It could have been anywhere.

But it wasn’t. The setting was the lawn at the back of the world’s most famously numbered building. [3]. And a hush-hush garden party was morphed into a very British parliamentary scandal. Not for them midnight burglaries, transfers of cash into deep pockets in faraway jurisdictions or murder most foul. Ladies of flexible but profitable morals were nowhere to be seen.

Readers will recall that Borisconi was a driver of Brexit and of a thumping 80-seat majority in the Commons. But the Brits elect PMs for straightforward tasks, such as winning wars or introducing universal healthcare. And once the task is done, the PM gets the DCM, as hitherto obscured flaws become more apparent. [4]

Borisconi’s flaws are many. And it took a scorned ex-ally, Dominic Cummings, Borisconi’s former Svengali, to expose the biggest, yelling, “I will have vengeance, in this life or the next.” [5] The dish best served cold was an email allegedly confirming Borisconi’s knowledge of that garden gathering at the height of UK’s covid-lockdown. Such gatherings were, at the time, proscribed. [6]

Wry & Dry considers that Borisconi will eventually fall on or be pushed onto his sword. Not because of the irresponsibility of the warm beer and cold sausage rolls. But because, like Churchill, Attlee, Eden, Macmillan, Wilson, Thatcher, and Blair, he will have out served his usefulness.

[3] 10 Downing Street, London. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is better known as the White House.

[4] Consider recent examples: Churchill, Attlee, Eden, Macmillan, Wilson, Thatcher, Blair.

[5] Maximus Decimus Meridius (played by Russell Crow) in the movie, Gladiator. He succeeded, in this life, just before he passed to the next.

[6] As was Cummings’ famous covid-road-trip to Scotland, but never let the kettle call the pot black.

Ukraine requests defensive weaponry. Germany sends what?

Readers will be aware that Tsar Vlad has been rattling his Tsarist sabre. And giving 145,000 Russian soldiers an all-expenses-paid winter vacation on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The boys in Kiev are somewhat worried. And asked for defensive weaponry from Western countries. The US, UK, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech, Spain, and France have all responded.

Germany, too, has responded. Its contribution? A generous 5,000 helmets.

Wry & Dry sees this as the ultimate post-modern-woke-military aid package, thinking of the safety of the individual soldier. Hang on. A helmet won’t be much help stopping a Russian 152mm 2A65 Msta-B howitzer shell.

Still, it’s the thought that counts.

Will Easter Island Face crack a smile?

Readers will be aware that the Winter Communist Party Public Relations Event Olympics in Beijing commence today. The big question is, will the Easter-Island-statue-countenance of Emperor Xi crack into a smile as he gazes upon the almost empty stadium?

Welcome to Planet Beijing

The images from the last Olympics in Beijing that remain imprinted on Wry & Dry’s mind is of the massed and unsmiling military-like Opening Ceremony performers. Will tonight’s performers be allowed to smile? Will any of them be happy?

But Tsar Vlad will be smiling, having yesterday concluded a massive gas-sale deal with Emperor Xi. At least Russia does have some success in snow sports. Which is more than can be said for Qatar, whose Emir, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, will be there. Perhaps he’s planning for Qatar to bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. Why let the absence of snow be a problem? After all, Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup [7], despite its football ranking of 53 in the world, just ahead of Northern Ireland. [8] And Qatar’s somewhat, err, warm climate.

[7] A sporting event for Association Football, also known as soccer.
[8] Australia is ranked 34.

Keating’s RDS

Former PM Paul Keating had a bad holiday attack of RDS [9]. In a vitriolic exposition of bile, he ranted and raved against a ‘deluded Britain’ and other personal phobias. His hatred of the UK resembles that of some members of his tribe from 40 years ago. They have moved on, but Keating seems locked in a time warp.

The more he allows his prejudices to speak loudly, the less remembered are his successes as Treasurer.

All politicians like to be best remembered for their success. So, Wry & Dry can only conclude that his rant was nothing but an extreme attack of RDS. Bring on the men people in white coats.

[9] Relevance Deprivation Syndrome

Victoria police: a private security company?

Chairman Dan’s police pounced upon a tennis spectator wearing a “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirt at the Australian tennis open tournament. But the public outcry soon got the gurus at Tennis Australia to change their minds.

Wry & Dry’s problem is were Victoria police that told the spectators to leave for wearing the let’s-embarrass-China T-shirt. What right do the police have to evict a person for wearing a T-shirt the wearing of which outside the event would be perfectly legal?

A police spokesperson said that it was doing what Tennis Australia asked.

Whaaaat! So, Victoria police has become a private security company. Available for cash, to the general coffers fill.

Australian household’s vulnerability

Much ado about nothing this week, as the Chief Teller of the RBA did nothing. The cash rate stayed at 0.10%. But he ceased so-called quantitative easing (the buying of bonds to keep longer-term interest rates low). And with inflation picking up, the whole world was watching… Well, not really. The Australian financial industry and media are expecting up to four interest rate rises in 2022.

The prarblem is this. The Chief Teller has been keeping interest rates low to boost the economy. But in so doing has boosted household lending. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet has been borrowing with their ears pinned well back. The result?

Of 45 countries selected by The Economist magazine, Australian households rank 6th most vulnerable to rising interest rates (see table). The dilemma is that increasing interest rates to tame inflation and slow down borrowing also hurts existing borrowers.

Sleepy Joe’s appointment

Readers will be aware that a vacancy on the US Supreme Court has arisen. Sleepy Joe announced that the replacement would be a black female.

Victorian taxpayers to bail out Transurban

In a fit of generosity with OPM [10], Chairman Dan committed We-the-Victorian-Taxpayer to a $1.9 billion bailout of Transurban, the monopoly freeway owner. What’s going on?

Simply put, Transurban came to Chairman Dan with an idea to finance the so-called West Gate Tunnel project. Transurban would finance and build the project in exchange for higher road tolls throughout Melbourne for the next 10 years.

Then the project turned to custard.

The builder quoted too little, there were cost overruns ($3.3 billion in a $5.5 billion project!). And everybody blamed everybody else. In August last year, Jacinta Allen, the Victorian Transport Infrastructure Minister, said that We-the-Victorian-Taxpayer “Would not pay one extra cent.”

Err, no. Just before Christmas, with Chairman Dan on vacation, the well upholstered Treasurer, Tim Pallas, announced that We-the-Victorian-Taxpayer would pay somewhat more than extra cents. We would pay to bail out Transurban.

The 1.9 billion pieces of silver was seen as a fair price to get the project going, so on completion (2026) voters would forget the lockdowns. And the cost. And vote accordingly.

[10] Other Peoples’ Money

What if they had an election…

…and nobody voted.

In a rejection of Beijing’s new direction in Hong Kong, only 30% of eligible voters cast ballots in the territory’s first “patriots-only” election, held in late December. It was the lowest turnout at the polls since the handover to China in 1997.

Readers will know that Emperor Xi has crushed the pro-democracy movement, jailed every prominent opposition leader who hasn’t fled into exile, and shut down media not supporting the government.

Ahead of the vote, Hong Kong authorities characterised casting a ballot as a vote of confidence in the political system. They tried to boost participation.

They failed. Hong Kongers went to Hong Kong Disneyland instead.

Captain obvious

Research released this week [11] confirmed what most people intuitively think: anti-covid lockdowns prevented just 0.2% of deaths in comparison with simply trusting people to do the right thing.

An effective death-prevention measure: closing non-essential businesses was estimated to have lowered mortality by about 10.6%, a fall “largely driven by closing drinking establishments.”

Captain Obvious?

[11] Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, in the US, Lund University, in Sweden and the Centre for Political Studies, in Denmark, said the costs to society far outweighed the benefits and called for lockdown to be “rejected out of hand” as a future pandemic policy.

Property boom – maybe not

Australian media had a surge of post-Christmas mouth-frothing with the breathless news that a Sorrento (four-week-a-year holiday destination 100 kilometres from Melbourne) cliff-top property had sold for…$30m. Aside from the obvious question from Readers: “who cares?” Wry & Dry’s question is “just do the maths.”

The property was bought for $9.5m in 2007. Selling for $30m gives a return of about 7.4% p.a. Pleasant, but not so amazing. And not as good as an active investment manager would have returned.

Yawn.

Habits

Just before Christmas, Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussain, the 47-year-old daughter of Jordan’s former King Hussein, was awarded over £550m in a divorce settlement.

The poor ex-husband is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum – the multi-billionaire ruler of Dubai, prime minister of the UAE and race-horse owner. She was the youngest of his, err, six wives.

Reports are that the sheikh caught wife #6 in flagrante delicto with her London bodyguard. But the UK judge wasn’t concerned with culpability, just slicing the pie. And it was a big pie.

Nice work. If you can get it.

Traveller’s Tales

To assess global issues for Readers, Wry & Dry did a lap of the globe over summer. Here are his scratchings:

Los Angeles
  • No-one cares about China, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, UK, or Australia; or anything outside of California
  • Sleepy Joe is now seen as an embarrassment: “What were we thinking?”
  • Veep Kamala is out of her depth, even though the pool is shallow
  • Americans are more concerned about their constitooshanal rights than dying in a mass shooting or dying whilst unvaccinated
London
  • Borisconi will be given the DCM; his moments were Brexit and the election, which are now passed
  • The Brits seems buoyant, but the economy is spluttering after Brexit
  • No-one likes Macron or ‘the French’
  • UK quality newspapers remain world-class
Singapore

Singapore enforces an amazing and very complex anti-covid border-control regime. What follows is true: Wry & Dry was “denied entry” (aka deported) because a minor administrative error. He was locked in a windowless room for 24 hours with a policeperson guarding outside. And eventually put on a plane to Melbourne. Consequently, no assessment of Singapore could be made (although Mrs. Wry & Dry, who was Singapore compliant, could give a review of Singapore shopping).

Overall
  • The Americans and Brits don’t worry too much about covid – it’s accepted as a part of life. Contrast Australia: populated by covid-worried petals conditioned to be anxious by governments that like it that way
  • Tsar Vlad is a man for 18th century Russia; tragically for us, he lives in the 21st century
  • The USA remains a federation of self-interested states, themselves riven by partisan politics
  • Australia has done better than most countries in managing covid, but the communication has been woeful

Snippets from all over

1. EVs overtake diesel in Europe

Sales of electric cars in Europe (20% of total) overtook those of diesel models (18%) for the first time, in December.

Wry & Dry comments: It’s because of government incentives, tough low-emissions regulations and increasing range of EV models.

2. Australians’ life expectancy lengthens

Deprivations during the covid pandemic gave Australians an extra eight months of life expectancy. Compared to 29 other countries, Australia’s longevity gain on 0.7 years was the greatest.

Wry & Dry comments: Women will still live about 4 more years than men. It’s tough being male.

3. Slow growth

The World Bank has predicted the sharpest slowdown in world growth since the 1970s: 4.1% in 2022 and 3.2% in 2023.

Wry & Dry comments: It’s all about covid, inflation and supply-chain bottlenecks.

4. Crypto scams up

Cryptocurrency investors lost almost $US3 billion ($4.2 billion) last year in an emerging scam known as the “rug pull”, where fraudsters lure investors into dodgy digital coins and run off with the proceeds.

Wry & Dry comments: One cannot save people from themselves.

5. China’s fewer babies

The number of new-borns in China fell for a fifth straight year in 2021 to the lowest in modern Chinese history.

Wry & Dry comments: Births of 10.6 million, down from 12 million in 2020. Deaths were 10.1 million. Join the dots: the date is ever closer when China’s population starts to shrink.

Data

  • Inflation in the UK hit 5.4% in 2021, the highest since 1992. Eurozone inflation was 5%.
  • Australia’s unemployment rate hit a 13-year low of 4.2%.
  • Australia’s inflation rate leapt to 3.5% in 2021.
  • US GDP grew 6.9% in 2021, the best since 1984.

And, to soothe your troubled mind…

Wry & Dry’s Quote

“I call on the Queen of Britain, Elizabeth, the leader of the Commonwealth, to intervene and protect the human rights of my son Novak Djokovic and to stop the political prosecution that has been carried out against him since he came to Australia.”

Srdjan Djokovic, mother of Novak Djokovic, when he was awaiting the appeal against his deportation.

Wry & Dry comments: How touching. Royalists would delight in her image that Queen Elizabeth II still has the powers possessed by her namesake Queen Elizabeth I.

PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees or directors.

Cheers

Anthony

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