Branson ad astra. Get the nails. RDS outbreak.
Branson ad astra
There are two types of headline seekers:
A. Sufferers of RDS  (e.g. The Ruddster, see below; Croesus Turnbull, see below; Princess Princess, just waiting for the next episode) who get headlines from vacuous activity that excites people with nothing else to do ; and
B. Those who get headlines from just doing stuff.
Richard Branson falls into the latter category. His trip this week on a Virgin Galactic craft into the lower reaches of space was certainly well publicised, but was also quite extraordinary.
The journey was a precursor to Virgin Galactic flights with paying passengers, the wallets of whom would have to be in the upper reaches of wealth. Cost in space: a mere US$250,000 for an economy class seat.
Wry & Dry expects that somehow that master (mistress?) of media communication, Qantas, will ensure that QF Frequent Flyer points will be available to those who fly Virgin Galactic.
 New Readers may not be familiar with RDS: Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.
 Wry & Dry is reminded of a saying of Eleanor Roosevelt (doubtless misattributed): Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; and great minds discuss ideas.
Get the nails
Chairman Dan's problem is that Bunnings is closed. And so he will not yet be able to buy the extra nails he needs to hammer into the coffin of Victorian small business.
His desire to express his absolute power by his sudden lockdown of the entire state is now expected, and sadly becoming accepted. He offers no nuance to better avenues of management of coronavirus cases, just the blunt one-size-fits-all.
Last night, as Wry & Dry went with Mrs. Wry & Dry to the local cheap & cheerful for a last supper, the florist next door was closing up. All its weekend inventory was now to be composted. Profits lost, wages foregone - neither to be fully made up by government. How often will this be repeated across the state? And this 75 kilometres from the nearest covid infected person.
At the risk of providing harsh data... the average age of those who have died with coronavirus in Australia is 85 years, above the level of life expectancy. And 73% of those had at least one of pre-existing co-morbidities. So, where should the focus be?
But to suggest such nuances would doubtless be "discriminatory". Chairman Dan's woke view is better that all suffer equally (except those who work for government or not in small business) than the freedoms of a small number compromised.
And to keep peddling on the bike of fear, so that the expression of power is seen to be for the common weal.
RDS is back. Witness the sad episode this week of former PM, The Ruddster. Having been out of the media for a number of weeks, the former career public servant devised a cunning plan to get back into the headlines.
Cleverly blending the coronavirus vaccine rollout shambles with his antipathy for Jimmy Morrison, he picked up the phone (actually it was a Zoom call) and got through to the global CEO of Pfizer, a supplier of one of the vaccines. He requested special treatment for Australia in its vaccine fulfilment. This was a curious request from a person self-represented as a champion of third world countries, whose pandemic problems would suggest a higher need for vaccines than Australia's.
Nonetheless, the next part of The Ruddster's plan was to write to Jimmy Morrison, to let him know of his magnanimous pro-activity to help Australia in its hour of need. He then carefully leaked the confidential letter to the ABC. The ABC, of course, was delighted with the opportunity. And the news of The Ruddster's solo munificence soon took on a life of its own.
Pfizer did what one might expect: issue a statement that statements that "any third party or individual has had any role in contractual arrangements reached between Pfizer and the Australian government are inaccurate."
Of course, that wasn't the point. The point was that The Ruddster got his headlines.
But wait, there's more!
Guess who issued a media release stating: "Thank you (Kevin Rudd) for speaking to the Chairman of Pfizer to secure an earlier delivery of vaccines."
Croesus Turnbull, of course. Never letting the facts get in the way of a display of RDS.
Follow the money
Problem north of Hadrian's Wall.
Step 1: Successfully raise GBP600,000 in 2017 and 2019 to fund a referendum campaign for Scotland to exit the UK. Step 2: In 2021 find less than GBP100,000 in the bank.
Such is the wee problem facing the Scottish National Party under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. Another problem, some of the lads are saying, is that the CEO of the SNP is Peter Murrell, husband of Ms. Sturgeon.
Well, it seems it's now out of the hands of Ms. Sturgeon. And into the hands of the local constabulary. Who will doubtless follow the money. 
 "Follow the money" was the crucial clue to Bernstein and Woodward in tracing the Watergate breadcrumbs all the way to President Nixon. Well, in the film, at least. Nixon gave himself the DCM. Readers may wish to view:
Apparently the Poms got rolled by Romans in the final of football (soccer) series. After no result from 90 minutes of play and still no result after extra time, the outcome was decided by a process called a penalty shootout. 
Good grief. After 120 minutes of running up and down, still no result.
Surely better to save 2 hours and go straight to the penalty shootout. And create a soccer version of speed dating.
This would allow the English fans to hit the turps earlier, get plastered earlier and commence ritual vandalism earlier.
 No-one died.
Much ado about nothing
Real estate agents were excited. Y'see, Ahmed Fahour, former NAB banker and AusPost chief postie, sold his Hawthorn pile for $40.5m. He purchased the property in 2013 for $22m.
Was the deal sensational?
a. You betcha! It's a $18.5m earner!
b. Yes, it does seem good;
c. Yes, that's an 8.2% p.a. return, and CGT free; or
d. Nuh. Do the math.
Close, but no cigar. The correct answer is d. The stock market, including dividends, returned 10.3% p.a. over the same period. Assume that he borrowed to invest (in either the home or the market); his house debt wasn't tax deductible, the market debt was. If he chose to live more modestly (always difficult for Ahmed) and did invest the balance in the market, yes, he would pay CGT. That would reduce his return to at least 7.8% p.a. Add back the benefit of the interest deductions and Readers will get close to the 8.2% p.a.
But wait, there's more. With the share-market, Ahmed could always sell some shares if he were short of cash (e.g. to pay out an ex-wife). But he couldn't sell a lounge room.
There are morals from the comparison. Firstly, do not look at just the lump sum gain: calculate an annual rate of return after all costs and taxes. Secondly, consider the flexibility of the alternatives.
Finally, never believe a real estate agent. Especially one from Hawthorn.
Wry & Dry's school experiences with Bunsen burners and other chemistry paraphernalia invariably ended unhappily. But he did appreciate the importance of the essentials of the subject.
As did the brilliant Tom Lehrer:
Which is more than can be said for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. The VCAA wants to eliminate study of the periodic table in secondary school chemistry. And, in a salute to virtuous but educational fashion, replace it with the "study of metals, carbon compounds and polymers and how they can be recycled and repurposed in a circular economy."
The VCCA apparently undertook a consultation process and teachers want a "study design that they will love to teach."
Ah, the importance of keeping teachers happy.
The periodic table is one of the fundamentals of chemistry. Next we will see the VCAA deciding to drop addition, subtraction, etc as calculators can do the work.
And the VCAA's use of the words "repurposed in a circular economy" suggests they themselves have forgotten the very bones of the English language.
Protect sales of iron ore
Wry & Dry is delighted that freedom of expression is being curtailed in Western Australia. This is one way to shore up iron ore sales to China.
Readers may have missed that the Perth Theatre Trust, which runs venues across the state, has invoked a policy that it will not accept bookings from individuals or organisations “where the content of the event does not represent the views of the West Australian government..."
The banning of the Australian Christian Lobby got the headlines (the ACL doesn't agree with the WA government's views on euthanasia).
But events related to Taiwan and Tibet have also been banned. Quite right, too. Best to trample on liberty, freedom of expression, etc to ensure the sale of iron ore to the good folk in Beijing. And to ensure that everybody agrees with the views of the WA government.
Nice work, if you can get it
The lot of ex-Prime Ministers should be the subject of a Netflix documentary. In the Yoo-Ess-Ay, it is mostly all about adulation on top of untold riches. Plus the ego-boost of the Presidential Library  and 24-hour Secret Service folk to walk the dog.
In Australia and the UK, there is little adulation (but the UK does dole out knighthoods and above) and fewer riches. Hence, the recurrence of RDS and autobiographies. And schemes to otherwise the personal coffers fill.
Which brings Wry & Dry to the former UK PM, David Cameron. Unlike Tony Blair, who does have a measure of charisma and oratorical skill, with which he can 'monetise', Cameron has neither. And hence he couldn't hit the speaking circuit with success. The lucre was elsewhere: lobbying.
Cameron was paid, according to the venerable Financial Times, more than US$1m by Greensill Capital, the finance company that dramatically collapsed a few months ago, costing investors and banks billions. As he was contracted to work just 25 days per year, that was more than $40,000 per day.
But wait, there's more! Julie Bishop, former Australian Foreign Minister to Countries In The Northern Hemisphere That Have Boutique Shopping, was also on Gravy Train, first class carriage: being paid the equivalent of US$600,000 p.a. by Greensill.
As Arthur Daly would comment, "Nice work, if you can get it.'
 These are edifices financed by supporters of the ex-president and maintained by the US National Archives and Records Administration. There are 13 libraries (from Hoover onwards), one under construction (Obama) and one planned (Trump). Some Presidents prior to Hoover have had libraries built by state governments or other benefactors; these include for Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln.
Snippets from all over
1. Apple Pay Later
Apple is working on a new service that will let consumers pay for any Apple Pay purchase in instalments over time, rivalling the “buy now, pay later” offerings popularised by services such as After Pay and PayPal.
Wry & Dry comments: Another avenue for people to buy things they cannot eventually afford.
2. Australian unemployment lowest since 2011
Australia’s jobless rate fell to 4.9% – its lowest level since June 2011 – dropping from May’s 5.1%.
Wry & Dry comments: The great news will soon be forgotten, we-the-people want to be vaccinated.
3. New Ziland: rates up?
New Ziland’s central bank said it would reduce monetary stimulus by ceasing quantitative easing bond purchases this month, a surprise move that may be a prelude to an interest-rate increase later this year.
Wry & Dry comments: The RBNZ is among the first central banks from advanced economies to begin normalising policy in the wake of the pandemic.
4. US inflation leaps
The US consumer price index jumped 0.9% in June, the largest rise since 2008, and by 5.4% from the same month last year.
Wry & Dry comments: Economists are arguing: "On the one hand, this figure is transitory. On the other hand it is not transitory."
5. Negative interest rates
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority told banks they must have a plan to deal with the possibility of negative interest rates by April 2022, after a consultation showed such rates could pose “operational challenges” in some instances.
Wry & Dry comments: Not to mention 'operational issues' for depositors who rely on deposit income on which to live.
And, to soothe your troubled mind...
“Mr Trump is an impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual.”
- Excerpt, quoted by the UK Guardian, from a Kremlin document, written to assess which candidate in 2016 would be Russia's preferred winner. Russia preferred Trump.
Err, tell us something we don't know.
PS A reminder that the opinions in Wry & Dry do not necessarily represent those of First Samuel, its employees or directors.