A new telephone makes headlines. Mon dieu. W&D got mail.
A new telephone dominates world news
Wry and Dry sometimes wonders to what is the world coming?
The major headline of the week was not hurricanes; genocide in Myanmar; North Korea threatening to park a missile on someone's lawn; Tsar Trump or even the upcoming 'marriage equality' plebiscite.
It was about a new telephone.
It seems that a company named after a fruit has introduced an upgraded version of its portable telephone. W&D's curiosity is not in the new features of the telephone. These features include facial recognition, apparently, whatever use that is and a concept called augmented reality, both of which, W&D research suggests, have been around on Samsung telephones for some time.
W&D experience of augmented reality is not via his telephone, but via a bottle of 2006 Aldo Conterno Romirasco Barolo , with Mrs W&D close at hand.
The curiosity is that in a world where almost every product or service upgrade is sold at a cheaper price than the previous model, this fruit-named company can put up its prices. And they-the-people seem glad to part with even more dosh for a product, 75% the features of which will go unused.
But W&D is excited that the company has moved to the more interesting numbering system the Romans used 2,000 years ago. The new phone is called iPhone X (i.e. "ten").
Given W&D's understanding of the American education system, when the next model comes out (model XI?), will Americans call it iPhone ten-eye.? Or perhaps iPhone ten-one. iPhone-eleven won't get a look-in.
W&D got mail – left-wing Fascists. An editorial of sorts.
Well, yes, W&D always gets mail. But this week the mail bag was a little heavier. Not in weight, but in invective. It seems that a Reader, or a Reader's friend, took exception to my observation about left-wing Fascists trying to silence or intimidate No advocates in the upcoming plebiscite on marriage equality.
W&D is travelling as you read this, visiting Moscow to see Tsar Vlad (optimistically), London (to persuade Chuck to DCM) and Zurich (not to see gnomes). And so as a parting comment, asks Readers' indulgence, so as to respond to not only to the personal invective, but also to put personal flesh on the bones of this debate. And with more than a touch of rare W&D disgruntlement.
Firstly, to the Reader/ Reader's friend in question, to state the obvious, don’t look for prejudice where none exists.
Secondly, the extreme No advocates, whilst making their case on sometimes spurious logic or misinformation, are not, to W&D’s knowledge, resorting to violent language and threats.
Thirdly, the ‘virtue signalling’ by companies and organisations supporting the Yes case is manifestly a misuse of their business or organisation role. What will be the next issue that lends itself to forms of mass public coercion? Perhaps these companies and organisations should study history to understand the outcome of the tolerance of such coercion.
Fourthly, the righteousness with which the left-wing Fascists are proclaiming their case (i.e. that they are correct and that no other opinion can possibly be considered) is also a throwback to darker days in the Western world's history.
Fifthly, the fawning by the media of certain Yes advocates who happen to be businessmen is risible. Thursday's Financial Review is case in point, where the Chanticleer columnist applauded the Qantas CEO's donation of $1m to the Yes campaign as 'corporate philanthropy' and 'charity'.
Sixthly, W&D remains deeply concerned at the dismissive attitude of both Turnbull and Shorten to suggestions to guarantee freedom of religious expression.
Finally, in a response to some considerable curiosity about W&D’s position on the matter, W&D discloses that he will be voting Yes. But the reason is not one that has been hitherto stated. W&D’s reasoning is that marriage is a deeply personal matter between two people and their community. It is not a matter for government.
W&D's argument is much deeper, but that is the crux of it.
Now, let’s get back to the upcoming Ashes series.
London still #1
W&D scanned the latest list of the world's top finance centres (Global Finance Centres Index Report Sep.2017). And, surprisingly, Melbourne wasn't in the top 10.
It came in at 13th, up seven places from last year. Sydney snuck into the top ten, at 8th, unchanged from last year.
Not surprisingly, London retained its crown as the world’s top financial centre. It extended its lead over New York and Hong Kong despite ongoing uncertainty about the implications of Brexit.
New York held on to second place, but fell 24 index points overall, “presumably due to fears over U.S. trade,” the survey said.
Other interesting rankings were Moscow at #89 (of 92 ranked - not good, Vlad); and Paris at a mere #26. Predictably, the city has complained about the ranking process.
Saudi Prince-dom: Nice work. If you can get it.
W&D was pondering Malthus  last week-end. Weird, isn’t it. And coincidentally found an amazing article on Saudi Arabia's Prince-dom . And how the fecundity of the Al Saud royal family might one day send it broke. Well, not quite.
But consider this. The Al Saud are a royal family like no other: there are thousands of them, descending from the 22 wives of Ibn Saud, who founded, or more accurately united the disparate tribes of, Saudi Arabia in 1932. W&D thought that there was a Sharia requirement of four wives – max – at any one time. But, well, he was in charge.
And so he was ‘father to the nation’ in more than a metaphorical sense: 97 children, 45 of whom were male. Good grief, imagine Father's Day.
The trouble, presently, is that his descendants all expect, and get, an annual stipend. The members of the Al Saud family receive dosh. Lots of it. The only public data available is dated 1996, from a document stolen from the US embassy. It showed a system calibrated by generation, with surviving sons and daughters of Ibn Saud receiving about A$4m p.a. (equivalent), grandchildren around A$400,000 p.a., great-grandchildren around A$200,000 p.a. and great-great-grandchildren the minimum A$120,000 p.a.
According to the US embassy’s calculations, in 1996 the budget for around 60 surviving sons and daughters, 420 grandchildren, 2900 great-grandchildren and ‘probably only about 2000 great-great-grandchildren at this point’ amounted to more than A$3 billion per annum. And this was in 1996.
The stipends provide a substantial incentive for royals to procreate since – in addition to bonuses received on marriage or for palace building – a royal stipend begins at birth. And this is in addition to other princely off-budget perks.
But Ibn Saud not only begat a family of indulged princes and princesses, he also begat an extraordinarily brutal theocracy. Readers may wish to peruse the article: it gives a very clear picture of the appalling Islamist society that is Saudi Arabia. Especially the treatment of women.
Mon Dieu I
Readers with a taste for fine French wine will know that the 2017 vintage will be smallest since 1945, because of severe frost and hailstorms earlier in the year. The decline is expected to be to the order of 20% overall, with Bordeaux being down by 40%.
The problem will surface after 2020, when the vintage begins to be marketed.
On the other hand, the Australian 2017 harvest was the largest in a decade. Now, W&D is not trying to compare Australian wine with…oh, never mind.
Mon Dieu II
France wouldn't be France without industrial disputes morphing into street violence. And so it was this week. New President M. Macron is seeking to introduce laws to increase the flexibility of the French labour market. W&D has previously written about the absurd rigidity of French employment laws. And in the past well-meaning governments of both the left and right wings have tried to at least make the laws sensible. But the governments always caved in, Vichy France-like, to the unions.
All of this notwithstanding the seemingly perpetual unemployment rate of 10% and a declining economy.
Good luck with your projects, M Macron.
In the UK inflation has jumped to 2.9%; house prices rose 5.1%; and unemployment fell to 4.3%, the lowest since 1975. M Macron must be envious.
Across the ditch, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission gave an upbeat, if romantic, address to the European Parliament. He called for even 'greater integration' in the EU. This means more bureaucracy and centralised powers, of course. And he called on the seven EU members who are not in the euro-zone (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania) to join. Mr Juncker! Mr Juncker! Hello! Please remind us of a country called Greece, that you allowed into the Eurozone.
And, to soothe your troubled mind...
"Juncker is a romantic... When you have visions, go see an ophthalmologist."
- Mr. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, responding to EU President Juncker's call for even more EU integration (i.e. more power to Brussels)..
The Dutch do not like Mr Juncker...
First Samuel client events calendar
Chief Investment Officer Dinners
|Wed-11-Oct||Donovans, St Kilda||Lunch (Filling) or Dinner (FULL)|
|Wed-22-Nov||Donovans, St Kilda||Lunch (FULL) or Dinner (FULL)|
|Wed-29-Nov||Bottega, Melbourne CBD||Filling|
|Tue-24-Oct||Stillwater at Crittenden Estate||Spaces|
Some lightly salted absurdities from all over...
At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve
Kenneth Berger, 58, was riding his motor bike when it ran out of petrol. So he pulled it over, and tried to flag down passing motorists. He had success when a friendly policeman pulled over to help.
Sadly, Kenneth smelled of alcohol. He said, sheepishly, that he had just three beers. The policeman thought he run a breath test, just in case.
The result was 0.255, over five times the legal limit. Kenneth went home in the back of a divvy van.
(Independent Record, Montana)
Bonus: a licence check revealed that Kenneth had five prior DUI convictions. Porridge.
Guess the outcome
Steven Gomez-Maya decided to rob a bank. And walked into the local Toronto Dominion bank, and handed a note to the teller that read, “This is a robbery, give me 5,000 nobody gets shot.” What happens next:
a. The teller handed him $5,000, and he got away;
b. The teller handed him $500, and he got away;
c. The teller told him a two-word message, and he fled; or
d. The teller handed him $500, and he fled. But he left the note behind.
Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is d. The message was written on the back of a payslip, on which were his girlfriend's employment details. The employer was the local McDonald's, who provided the girlfriend's address. Where Steven also lived.
(Metro News UK)
W&D has a thousand questions to ask. Such as, why risk 20 years in the slammer for just $5,000? Or why use a payslip to write the note? Or why keep the proceeds ($500 in crisp, new notes) in your pocket? Or why keep wearing the same emblazoned t-shirt as caught on the security camera three days later? Or [insert your question here]?
Only in America
Headline: "Australians turn in 26,000 guns during amnesty campaign. Americans ask if that's one guy, one family or in one small town."
The website is a cynical look at the world. But with a sharper edge.
Have a wry and dry weekend
 Barolo is a red Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wine produced in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. It is made from the Nebbiolo grape and is often described as one of Italy's greatest wines.
 Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was an English cleric, political economist and demographer. He propounded the theory that as food production grew linearly but as population grew exponentially the eventual outcome would be famine.
 The Saudi Trillions, by Marise Ruthven. London Review of Books, Vol 39, No 17, 7-Sep-17.