Wry & Dry

Xenophonism. University employability. Nobel Coach's Award.


Xenephonism (/'zɛnəfənɪz(ə)m/): noun, the quality of hoodwinking voters in one or more electoral constituencies with charismatic and populist policies.

Readers will know that the alphabetically disadvantaged Nick Xenophon, currently Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) leader, is a shy South Australian Senator, elected for a second six-year term in 2013.  Last week he announced his decision to resign as a Senator and seek re-election in the South Australian parliament for the Nick Xenophon's SA-BEST party. 


Xenophon was originally a member of the SA parliament, standing on the Independent No Pokies ticket in 1997.

In June 2017, there were 13,793 poker machines in South Australia.  

Nobel Coach's Award

In W&D's experience of junior sport for almost 20 years (cricket, football, rugby, hockey, netball, rowing), the manager/ coach of a sporting-team generally give two awards for the team: (a) the Best (and Fairest); and (b) the Coach's Award.  The former rewards success.  The latter is, in effect, an encouragement award.

So it is with two groups of Nobel Prizes.

In the first group are the five categories where the winners each year are the best and have achieved great things: Chemistry; Physics; Medicine, Literature and Economics.  

In the second group rests the sole category of the Peace Prize [1].  Unlike the awards in the other five categories, the Peace Prize has become an award for encouragement, rather than success.  Consider the acme of encouragement: the 2012 award to Barack Obama: for what he might do (i.e. making arms control a priority).  Sadly, President Obama didn't live up to expectations.  But didn't hand his Nobel Prize back (although he did give to charities the prize money).   And Readers will recall that in 2007 the award went to Al Gore for his publicity on climate change.  W&D considers that the science of climate change is worthy of consideration in the Physics category, but is hardly a 'peace' matter.

Nobel prize

And this year the Norwegians again swung in the idealistic breeze and gave the Coach's Award Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  Err, anyone been to North Korea recently.

In the decade since it was founded, ICAN has not been able to reduce the world's stockpile of 14,930 nuclear warheads by even one.

It is as idealistic as the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (officially "General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy"), which was signed by such countries as USA, Germany, France, UK, Japan, Italy and the Soviet Union.  In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria, in 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia, in 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Finland, etc. [2]

But W&D dips its lid to ICAN for the number of "prominent individuals who have lent their support... including  Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Jody Williams, the musician Herbie Hancock, the cricket journalist and former player Ian Chappell, actors Martin Sheen and Michael Douglas, and the artist Yoko Ono."  

University rankings: what is really important?

Readers continue to query W&D about the rankings of universities.  And know that W&D has railed against those global university ranking tables that focus purely or mostly on research.  Such methods serve only to meet (a) the egos of the academics, and (b) the demand for research funds from we-the-taxpayer.

Most students couldn't give a tinker's cuss for either.  They wish a decent education that will enhance vocational success.

University rankings again

So it was pleasing for W&D to read of the QS University Graduate Employability Rankings.  And for two Australian Universities to be in the top 10.

University rankings

UNSW came in at number 36; UQ at 49; UTS at 69; Monash at 79, ANU at 84 and RMIT at 97.

That means eight Australian universities in the top 100.  That is the third best result in the world:  the US has 31 universities in the top 100; UK 14 and Australia 8.  Next is Japan (7); Germany (6) and China (5).

W&D hastens to repeat that the basis of the survey is graduate employability.  The same organisation - QS - in ranking universities more broadly (academic reputation; citations per faculty, international students, etc) has a very different table.  This ranking has the following top ten:

MIT; Stanford; Harvard; Caltech; Cambridge; Oxford; UCL; Imperial College; Chicago and ETH.  Seven Australian universities: ANU (20); Melbourne (41); UNSW (45) UQ (47) Sydney (50; Monash (60) and UWA (93) made the top 100. 

Of course, W&D's interest is only academic.

Vigorously defending 

W&D had always considered a 'vigorous defence' to be a sporting term.  Perhaps applied to the rugged and determined safeguarding of territory by manly (and womanly) muddied oafs [3].

But that now daily-in-the-media bank, the CBA, has been sued in a class action for what will probably be over $200m.  And the CBA has said that it will 'vigorously defend this claim'.  W&D applauds their vigour.

CBA digging

This vigour is excellent news for the CBA's lawyers.  The legal action will provide many an overseas trip to splendid but isolated destinations chosen by socially aspirant spouses conveyed in parts of aircraft of which Mrs W&D has only dreamed.

But even more bad news for the CBA.  Not only will it have to vigorously pay those lawyers to vigorously defend itself, but it will have to devote a massive amount of management time to back up the front-line vigour shown by the vigorous lawyers.

Oh, dear.   

Vigorously tax-free

Readers will be aware that Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor died last year.  He was better known as Sixth Duke of Westminster, the UK's richest person.  His Grace left a personal estate of £616,418,184 (A$1 billion) after payment of debts and liabilities.  But the bulk of his fortune (£8.3 billion) was in trusts and so virtually zero inheritance tax was paid.

His Grace made a series of bequests, including £5,000 to the head gamekeeper at his 18,000-acre shooting estate in Abbeystead, Lancashire.

Nice work.  If you can get it.

The sixth Duke's wealth is believed to have been largely passed on to his only son Hugh, 26. His son also inherited his title, becoming the seventh Duke of Westminster.

Mrs W&D thought about hopping on the next plane to... Oh, never mind.

Vigorously confident

Well, almost.  The average Australian consumer, such as Mrs W&D, is feeling a lot more confident.  The Westpac-Melbourne Institute of Consumer Sentiment rose to its highest level in almost 12 months, to 101.4 (a figure greater than 100 indicates that there are more optimists than pessimists). 

But wait!  There's more.  The NAB survey of Business Confidence showed the highest level in a decade!

Good grief.  What has brought about this duet of confidence?  Or is too early to ask? 

Vigorously going broke?

General Motors, the iconic US auto-manufacturer (and maker of Holden-badged vehicles), is once again on a downward spiral.  Although not a bad as 2007 when it went bankrupt and had to be rescued by a government bailout.

Car sales (other than GM) in the US are down 9.4% year-to-date.  GM's sales are down 18.4%.

GM remains stuck in a dinosaur-age of cars.  It has 17 assembly plants in north America, producing a lot of car that no-one wants.  Its branding is still macho, which works for a diminishing number of buyers. 

But it keeps on making money.  And that is mostly on the back of truck sales.

Which is why investors certainly are not shunning the company: over the last five years its share-price performance has matched that of the S&P500 i.e. about 12.3% p.a.

Interestingly, GM's Bolt EV (electric vehicle) and the Tesla Model 3 have similar prices and same driving ranges.  But which one are folk getting more excited about?

What do Western Australia and Catalonia have in common?

All the noise being generated in Catalonia, that triangle of land in the top right-hand corner of Spain, seems to be focused on one principle: that the region pays more in taxes to Madrid than it receives.

Err, well, so what?  In almost every country, perhaps excepting city-states like Singapore or Lichtenstein, there will be some regions that pay more in taxes than they receive.  But that is the deal with being a country.  There are reasons other than fiscal munificence or dependence that hold a country together.

That is, "the things that bind us are more significant than those that separate us".

And so it is in Western Australia, where the squealing about the GST carve-up continues.  This is a complex issue, no doubt.  But the Sandgropers seems to have forgotten that until recently they received considerably more from the Grants Commission on a per capita basis than it residents paid in taxes.  NSW and Victoria have carried WA for most of the last century (and Tasmania, SA and NT to boot).

WA deep mine GST

But that's part of being a nation, with wealth being shared.  For sure, the current arrangements may currently disadvantage WA, but those same arrangements advantaged it for decades.

And for an example elsewhere, the south-east part of the UK (around London) has been subsidising the rest of the UK (especially Scotland and Northern Ireland) for centuries, and by massive amounts.

No suggestion of secession from there.


Most Readers have an interest in airlines if only to either laud or loathe them after an overseas trip.  And so W&D is pleased to note:


In another sign that Turkey is slowly going backwards, over 200 Turkish Airlines' pilots have been forced to leave the airline, to rejoin the Turkish Air Force.  President Erdogan's purge of the military after last year's failed coup has created a shortage of F-16 pilots.  Some 600 combat pilots were dismissed or arrested.  And so pilots who one week were flying straight and level at 10,000 metres over the rolling hills of Europe in a cockpit of a comfortable A340, being attended to by a refreshing flight attendant (so to speak) found themselves the next week flying an F-16 at 1,000 metres over Syria, dodging SAMs.


In another sign that Venezuela has gone backwards, another international airline has cancelled its flights to this Latin American bastion of socialist shambles.  Argentine Airlines says that it "has concerns over security" and "increasing criminal violence".  United; Delta; the Colombian airline Avianca; Lufthansa; Air Canada; Aeromexico; Alitalia; Lan Chile; Tam and Gol have all ceased flights.  The remaining major international airlines that fly to Caracas are just four: American, Iberia, Air France and Turkish Airlines.  

And, to soothe your troubled mind...  


Last words...

"What a job the Coast Guard has done throughout this whole -- throughout this whole ordeal." (Applause.)  (Turns to man in uniform) "Would you like to say something on behalf of your men and women?"

-   Donald Trump, PotUS, speaking at a briefing on Hurricane Maria relief, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

"Sir, I'm representing the Air Force."

-   Man in Air Force uniform.

The camera zooms in on a small child in the front row. 

First Samuel client events calendar

See below       
Chief Investment Officer Dinners
Invitations Sent
Tue-24-Oct Stillwater at Crittenden Estate Almost Full
Wed-25-Oct Quaff, Toorak Places
Tue-14-Nov Centenove, Kew FULL
Wed-22-Nov Donovans, St Kilda Lunch & Dinner (FULL)
Tue-28-Nov Elyros, Camberwell Filling 
Wed-29-Nov Bottega, Melbourne CBD FULL

Sometimes cancellations occur, so please call Jess if you now wish to attend.  She will find a place for you.

Some lightly salted absurdities from all over...

At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve

Kristin Betz, a 52 year-old woman from Leesburg, Florida, decided to tailgate the car in front of her.

Sadly, the car in front was police-car, with all the usual police identification.  After a few kilometres, the policeman pulled over and directed Ms Betz to do the same.  He then asked her why she was driving in such a dangerous manner.

She replied, "Because Jesus commanded me."

The Officer didn't think he did.  And neither did the judge.  The judge commanded her to go to jail.

(WKMG ClickOrlando)    

Guess the outcome

Claudia Sierra, 42 and from Houston, Texas, wanted to look like Melania Trump (FLOTUS).  So she consulted a plastic surgeon, saying she wanted (a) liposuction; (b) a Brazilian buttock lift [4]; (c) an eyelid lift; (d) breasts reconstructions; (e) a nose job; (f) Botox; (g) fillers; and (h) injectable treatments.

Her surgeon stood to make between US$50,000 and $70,000 for the work.  But she couldn't afford it.  What did he do:

a.  Tell her "no money, no Melania";

b.  Tell her she was beautiful and she really didn't need the work done; 

c.  Tell her she was ugly and she should go on a crowdfunding website; or

d.  Tell her that he would do the work pro bono if she publicised his work on Facebook Live.

Close.  But no cigar.  The correct answer is d.  It took nine operations.  "I want to feel like the first lady that I know I am inside," Sierra explained in a media statement.   


Just needs half her brain removed to match the brain of... oh, never mind.

Pro tip: have a good night's sleep before the robbery 

Jerry Allen Mills Jnr decided to break into a hotel room in Panama City and rob the occupant.  So he broke into a room. And held the man hostage, threatening him with a handgun.

But Jerry fell asleep.  And the hostage fled.  Jerry woke up to the sound of the door closing and went down to the front desk, where he was confronted by the three front desk clerks on duty.  Mills pulled out the handgun, pointing it at the clerks and pulling the trigger several times while yelling “bang!” The gun didn’t fire.


Jerry was charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, burglary of an occupied dwelling with a firearm, false imprisonment, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and improper exhibition of a firearm in connection with the incident.  On his arrest, police discovered that he had a warrant out for his arrest for grand theft and has seven felony convictions in Florida.  


Have a wry and dry weekend



[1]  The Peace Prize is the only one decided by a Norwegian body.  The other five are decided by Swedish bodies (so to speak). 

[2]  The fine print was that signatory states promised not to use war to resolve "disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them."  Although the Treaty has been ridiculed, relentlessly, W&D considers one of its successes was the creation of the crime against peace.  It was for committing this crime that the Nuremberg Tribunal and Tokyo Tribunal tried and executed the top leaders responsible for starting the Second World War.

[3]  Readers will be familiar with Kipling's 'The Islanders', a fierce denunciation of the British public's priorities (i.e. to not properly equip its soldiers in the Boer War) and condemnation of a nation rendered complacent by bread and circuses.  It was eerily prescient of the wanton waste of soldiers' lives in the upcoming First World War.  The poem ends:

"Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented your souls
With the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals."

[4]  W&D doesn't know what it is, either.