Tarzan Trump swings. Senate farce. Crypto-currency shambles.
Tarzan Trump: swings from one tree to the next
Fresh from his chest-beating and ally-beating performance at the G-7 meeting in a maple-tree in Canada, Tarzan Trump swung to the Singaporean banyan tree for a photo-opportunity with a five foot two North-Korean in flared pants; thence back to the home tree to (a) incarcerate 2,000 children and then (b) impose even more tariffs on China. Cue to sound of Johnny Weissmullar's Tarzan call .
What's going on? Well, Texans have a description: all hat, no cattle.
Work with W&D on this.
Firstly, Tarzan Trump and tariffs on friends. It's sort of weird using national security legislation to impose tariffs against your allies. But then again, we are talking about a man with an ape sized brain - or maybe that's an injustice to apes. And that is what the boy has done, in targeting Canadian, German, British, etc, exports. Trump claimed, "we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100%." Err, no. Not quite. In fact, not even close. EU's average trade-weighted tariff is about 3% and Canada's 3.1% compared to 2.4% for the US. Sure, different sectors in each economy have different measures of protection, but, hey, not many match the US' 25% tariff on imported light trucks.
Sketch from W&D's man at the G-7 Summit
Secondly, Tarzan Trump and Russia. It's sort of weird that 'put America first' became 'put Russia first'. Trump called for Russia to be re-admitted to the Group, which makes zero sense. Russia's GDP is modest: about the same size as Spain's. And Russia is still subject to trade sanctions because of its belligerence in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. W&D can only assume that Tsar Vlad has some personal hold over Tarzan Trump. W&D awaits the photos.
Thirdly, Tarzan Trump and North Korea. It's sort of weird that an agreement that in reality binds neither party to anything other than good intentions received the attention that it did. And even if it were binding, is less than that agreed by earlier US Presidents with earlier Kim generations but each time abrogated by those Kim generations. By the way, will the Trump administration require compliance by North Korea on its promises to the same exacting level to that agreed by former President Obama on Iran? Trump got his photo splashed all over the world, again. But, critically, Kim Jong Un appears to have achieved political legitimacy without surrendering his capacity for global blackmail. And the loser is ...
Fourthly, Tarzan Trump and incarcerating 2,000 children. It's sort of weird that it took the wife of a former US President to finally get Trump to understand what the rest of the world was thinking: locking up 2,000 children for the possible sins of their parents is a modern nightmare of earlier incarcerations of children by tyrannical leaders. What was he thinking?
Finally, Tarzan Trump and tariffs on China. It's sort of weird, the economic game that Trump is playing with China. The tit-for-tat impositions of tariffs makes no economic sense for either side.
So W&D looks for other issues. Aside from Trump's desire to be seen to be a successful bully, it might be that all he wants to do is to get China to pull its horns in. And that tariffs are not the real issue, it's China and its various ever reaching economic and business tentacles that are wrapping around the throat of the world.
Err, no. That is a subtle game. And Trump and subtlety are not synonyms.
What W&D sees is that Tsar Trump has morphed into Tarzan Trump. Emboldened by a small cohort of chattering, sycophantic monkeys, he swings wildly from tree to tree, with little thought for others in the forest.
But the real Tarzan was, as Readers recall, a gentleman.
Snippets from all over
1. The Federal Court has approved CBA's $700m penalty for breaches in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Is it too late to get back from CBA's former CEO, Ian Narev, on whose watch the transgressions occurred, the $44.8m he was paid in his six year tenure?
W&D's comment: CBA got off lightly.
2. General Electric Corp, once the world's most valuable company, has shrunk so much that it has been kicked out of the Dow Jones Index.
W&D's comment: owning a company just because it's big is not always a good idea.
3. Tax cuts are coming! The first part is for low-income earners from 1-Jul-18; part two will be from 1-Jul-2022 and the final part from 1-Jul-24. The government relied on the very wise cross-benchers to get the legislation through the Senate (see more below).
W&D's comment: Be excited! Err, well, not just yet.
4. Former tennis great Boris Becker, pursued by bankers and lawyers for repayment of debt, has claimed diplomatic immunity by becoming the Sport and Cultural attaché to the EU for the Central African Republic.
W&D's comment: Nice work, if you can get it.
Warm, warmer, warmest
The Lowy Institute just released its 2018 Poll (see here). And amid a myriad of findings (e.g. Australians trust UK Prime Minister May (68%) more than Macron (61%), Trump (30%) or Putin (19%)) was that we feel 'warmest' toward New Zealand.
Now, that might be because there are so many Kiwis in Australia that enough were polled and gave the thumbs up to their home country that the results are biased. Just sayin'.
That's one small step...
Announcement: 11th February, 1999:
"Private wealth manager First Samuel Limited announced it will not pay or receive commissions of any type."
Announcement: 20th June, 2018:
"[Westpac owned] Fund manager BT Financial Group has surprised the market announcing it will voluntarily terminate all remaining trailing commission arrangements with 140,000 customers."
W&D notes that it has taken Westpac just 7,069 days to follow First Samuel's lead into the world of ethical behaviour. What will be Westpac's next ethical step?
Readers will be aware of Freedom House, the independent think tank that produces the Freedom Index. Well, this week its annual ranking was published. W&D is pleased that Australia comes in at #6, with a score of 98 out of 100 (equal, inter alia, with New Zealand, and behind Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands).
- Taiwan has a score of 93, whereas China has a score of just 14
- Russia scores 20
- USA ('home of the free') scores 86, just ahead of Greece (85)
- Turkey scores 32, a fall from 66 in just 10 years
W&D might have missed something, but there seems to be an inverse correlation between 'freedom' in a country and if W&D has called its leader a Tsar, Sultan or Emperor.
Russia: World Cup?
Whilst the Australian media wept over Australia's loss to France in a game of soccer somewhere in the depths of Russia, W&D focused on bigger issues.
Firstly, the capitalistic instincts of Moscovites have re-emerged. The locals are renting their apartments to visiting fans. Not since Napoleon’s invasion have so many Muscovites fled Moscow. The place is empty.
Secondly, why is the World Cup in Russia in the first place? Tsar Vlad is not a fan of soccer. And he wasn't of ski-ing. So why the massive funds spent on international sporting events? It's all got to do with the most successful policy of Roman emperors: 'give them bread, provide them with circuses'. The average Dmitri is not concerned with Tsar Vlad's malevolent international reputation. But his chest swells with pride at Russia's success in hosting world stage events.
Readers will know that the word 'Tsar' is derived from the Latin word for Caesar. Roman emperors called themselves Caesars .
Senatorial farce continues
The august Australian upper-house, once touted as a 'house-of-review', has descended even further into farce of Italianate character. Readers will recall the recent resignation of Queensland Senator Brian Burston from Pauline Hanson's ever-shrinking One Nation party. Well, the good Senator is nothing if not alive to his electoral chances at the next coming of the ballot box. As an independent in Queensland and at a half-Senate election the boy has about zero chance of being re-elected.
So, keen to ensure the continuation of a $200,000 p.a. stipend from we-the-taxpayer, plus a comfortable office, plush work-chair and benefits, he has joined up with Clive Palmer, former head of Clive Palmer United Party, to form the Australia United Party. The still well-upholstered Palmer, still not short of a dollar, will fund Burston's re-election campaign. Small details: W&D notes that (a) the AUP is not yet registered as a political party; and (b) Pauline Hanson used to run the United Australia Party (UAP), with Hanson as President and the Vice-President being ... Brian Burston.
Meanwhile, W&D is struggling to keep track of who's who in the upper-house zoo. Fraser Anning, who replaced One Nation's Malcolm Roberts, and became an independent, has joined Bob Katter's party; Steve Martin, who replaced Jacqui Lambie, became an independent and then joined the Nationals; Lucy Gichuhi replaced Family First's Bob Day, became an independent, but now is a Liberal; Tim Storer, who replaced NXT's Sky Kakosche-Moore, is now an independent and formed his own party; NXT's Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick have re-badged themselves the Centre Alliance. Of the 20 cross-benchers elected in 2016, only 11 remain.
Meanwhile, in the Senate Petrie Dish...
Crypto-currency shambles 1
Readers will know that W&D likes the touch and feel of cash. Crisp new bank notes not only serve as a medium of exchange for Mrs W&D but are also works of art. And the flourish of a muscular signature (W&D's) on a personal cheque lends personality to the value of the cheque. Only the demands of his café to pay for his piccolo café latte by waving his credit card at a box on the counter has led W&D to use the latest payments systems. Well, the penultimate.
The ultimate payment system, Readers will be aware, is the so-called crypto-currencies. Of which Bitcoin was the first, using a 'distributed ledger' system of record keeping called Blockchain. But there are now 1,349 crypto-currencies, most created by Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
Well, at last someone has belled the cat. The Bank for International Settlements (the Basel-based central bank to countries' central banks) has issued a damning report on both crypo-currencies and Blockchain.
Firstly, BIS said, crypto-currencies are too unstable, consume too much electricity and are subject to too much manipulation and fraud to ever serve as bona fide mediums of exchange in the global economy.
Secondly, the decentralised nature of crypto-currencies (Bitcoin and its imitators are created, transacted and accounted for on Blockchain, a distributed network of computers) is a fundamental flaw rather than a key strength. Soberingly, if Blockchain underpinned the digital retail transactions currently handled by national payments systems, it would eventually overwhelm everything from individual smartphones to servers.
The short story: It's simply too risky on a number of levels to try and run the global economy on a network without a centre.
Crypto-currency shambles 2
Not only is the central bankers' central bank putting the boots into crypto-currencies, so are investors.
Firstly, the price of Bitcoin, the first-mover, is now down to $6,400, somewhat shy of its almost $20,000 in December. And it was at one stage over 80% of the crypto-currency market. Its now at about 40% market share.
So much for Bitcoin being the gold standard for crypto-currencies.
Secondly, how many crypto-currencies does W&D need? At last count (this morning) www.coinmarketcap.com listed 1,349 crypto-currencies. Bitcoin is the largest, at a market cap of US$110,862m, with Poly AI at the bottom of the pack ($289).
Poly AI launched in December at $18 and last traded at $0.000127. That is a price collapse of Wagnerian magnitude.
Deepak, W&D's Uber driver, wanted to hear all about ...
... W&D's trip to China. "You must have found it interesting"
"That's an understatement", said W&D hurriedly. "Shanghai was amazing, Beijing more so and Hang Zhou sensational."
"And did you see it all: the Bund, Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, etc?" asked Deepak.
"Yes, did the lot in the big cities. What was just as interesting were the people, though," W&D responded.
"Like India," interrupted Deepak.
"Yes, crowded. But there was a sense of 'I'm being watched' from our tour guides. One said she didn't know what we were talking about when we asked about the Tiananmen Square Massacre . Another said the older generation knew about it, but no-one speaks about it. And there apparently is no mention of it in any history books. But they all very much like Emperor-for-Life Xi Jinping; he's seen to be doing a good job. And his wife, a former singer, is very popular."
"But what about human rights," asked Deepak, aggressively. "Media control, no freedom of the press, arbitrary justice, etc. Does anyone care."
"The point is that the average China-person doesn't know. And everyone to whom we spoke ranked their life priorities and worries as one: family; two: employment; three: housing. They do not worry about the environment, human rights, Trump or North Korea."
"Okay," persisted Deepak, "what about their past leaders?"
"Deng Xiaoping, who changed China's economy from communist to capitalist (sort of) is highly revered. Zhou Enlai, who was instrumental in opening up China to the west, is also highly regarded."
"That leaves Chairman Mao," said Deepak, saving the best until last.
"The best response to that we had was that "no-body's perfect" from a more mature guide. She said that everyone recognises that Mao Zedong founded modern China, and also knows, and accepts, a little about the tens of millions that were killed in the so-called Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. I think that the Chinese can reconcile the good and the bad more readily than westerners. Just because a person (or country) did wrong things in the past doesn't mean that the good things done are overlooked. We should learn from that."
Deepak wasn't convinced. "Huh, and what about their territorial ambitions?"
"Ah, you've come to my favourite topic," warmed W&D. "But we're at my office. Let's chat next time. By the way, how is Anjali?"
"She hasn't been well lately, she's been a bit sick in the morning. And the mood swings are higher than normal," responded Deepak. "I think she's got a stomach bug."
"A fatal conclusion," laughed W&D as he steeped from Deepak's car. "I suspect the night you bought her flowers has led to greater things."
"I don't understand," wailed Deepak through the closed door.
"From what you've told me about your mother-in-law, your life is soon to be very crowded," responded W&D as he strode into the distance.
And, to soothe your troubled mind...
Last words I...
"The trouble with Pauline Hanson is she’s looking for three senators with lower IQs than her – it’s an impossible task.”
- Clive Palmer, former federal MP and former head of the collapsed Clive Palmer United Party, on the launch of a new party: United Australia Party.
The launch coincided with UAP's drafting of former One Nation Senator Brian Burston as its Senate candidate. Palmer and Burston are both from Queensland. QED.
Last words II...
"It was all we could do to watch it without throwing a brick at the TV."
- Natalie Joyce, estranged wife of Barnaby Joyce, former Deputy Prime Minister, telling of her feeling on watching the TV interview of 'Barney' and his current squeeze.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?
First Samuel client events calendar
NGV Winter Masterpieces Exhibition
Masterworks from Moma (New York)
Forum - guest speaker TBA
Some lightly salted absurdities from all over ...
At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve
Police in Yuma, Arizona, said they responded to a case of a fraudulent return on Wednesday afternoon in which a person bringing a computer back to Walmart had allegedly removed parts of the computer before putting it back in the box and taking it back to the store.
Upon investigation, the Yuma Police Department found out the same man had pulled the same scheme at a different Walmart earlier in the day.nd caused a monetary loss of "approximately" $1.3 million to Walmart.
Couldn't find AI in the box?
Guess what he did next?
Daniel Burns, 35, of Santa Cruz, California, wanted to go on short crime spree. So he stole a Jeep Cherokee and crashed into several cars and then abandoned it. What did he do next? He then:
a. Called it a day and went home;
b. Burgled a house, stole a set of kitchen knives, set fire to the house; and then called it a day;
c. Did all of that and then slashed the tyres of 12 cars, car-jacked a car nearby, stole goods from a convenience store; and then called it day; or
d. Did all of that and then stole an SUV.
Close. But no cigar. d. is correct. He then surrendered to police. He then called it a day.
What! You expect us to be responsible for our 4 year-old child?
“My children are well supervised but all people get distracted,” said Sarah Goodman. Err no. Her four-year old son had just caused $132,000 damage.
The parents may be stuck with the $132,000 bill after their child damaged a sculpture inside the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.
Surveillance video shows the child hug the sculpture, then seconds later, it fell. Have a look right here.
“We heard a bunch of commotion and I thought, 'Whose yelling at my son?'” Goodman explained. “This glass mosaic torso is laying on the ground and someone is following me around demanding my personal information.”
Have a Wry & Dry weekend.
 Johnny Weissmuller was an Austro-Hungarian-born American competition swimmer and actor, best known for playing Tarzan in films of the 1930s and 1940s and for having one of the best competitive swimming records of the 20th century. Weissmuller was one of the world's fastest swimmers in the 1920s, winning five Olympic gold medals for swimming and one bronze medal for water polo.
 Caesar is derived from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator. The change from being a familial name to a title adopted by the Roman Emperors can be dated to about AD 68/69, the so-called "Year of the Four Emperors". The name caesar is derived from Latin 'caesarieas', meaning hair. But Julius Caesar was anything but hairy. He was almost bald at a young age, and combed his hair forward. Hence the modern men's haircut, the 'Caesar cut'.
 The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, were student-led demonstrations in Beijing. The protests were forcibly suppressed after Chinese Premier Li Peng declared martial law. In what became known in the West as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with automatic rifles and tanks killed at least several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square.