What stops the nation. Parallel universes. New Ziland's failed market economy.
Stopping a nation
The folk who run the Melbourne Cup horse racing carnival have for years championed the slogan that the Melbourne Cup is 'The race that stops the nation'.
Well, let Wry & Dry give those folk the whisper: the way this country is going, it doesn't need a horse race to 'stop the nation'. It's got politicians.
The nation is well and truly stopped; bogged in a morass of political incompetence, indulgence, ineptitude and indifference.
And it's not just the current, drifting government (see more, below). For ten years politicians have led this country downhill, as the inevitable gravity of reality has overcome the hubris of power. Liberal, Labor, Nationals, Greens, One Nation, Xenephon are all guilty.
Oh, give W&D a benign dictatorship!
Parallel universe #1
The good citizens of Catalan, from that exciting triangle of wannabee-independence in the top right-hand corner of Spain, must be feeling a little disappointed in their heroic leader. He's fled to Belgium, of all places. It's not quite, "Take me to Cuba."  But just as fatuous. Trying not to make it look rehearsed, Carles Puigdemont was welcomed in the exciting city of Brussels by an expert-on-political-asylum-lawyer and then announced that he was forming a 'government-in-exile'.
Good grief. Carles' parallel universe now continues out-of-office.
Wry & Dry wouldn't want to cast aspersion on Carles' motives. But perhaps his flight and declaration are somehow related to possible charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of funds (always a good catch-all for prosecutors: 'follow the money') from the real government in Madrid. And a possible 30 years in the slammer.
Both Carles and his lawyer denied at a news conference on Tuesday that he had travelled to Belgium to seek asylum; he said he was there "for safety purposes."
Meanwhile, back in Catalan, the central government took over the running of the place. And the citizens went about their daily tasks as though nothing had happened. Except for eight former-ministers of the wannabee-independent country. They are now in the slammer, accused of rebellion, sedition and... misuse of public funds.
Parallel universe #2
Just when Croesus Turnbull thought that things couldn't get any worse, the President of the Senate, Liberal Stephen Parry decided that he was, after all, a dual citizen (Australia + UK). And so he quit. He had heroically remained silent all these weeks of the High Court ruminations.
Prior to becoming a politician, Parry was a funeral director and President of the Australian Funeral Directors' Association. In view of the corpse-like activity of many Senators, W&D consider that such a role made him an ideal person to be President of the Senate.
The practical effect of Parry's self-outing is zero, as he will be succeeded by Richard Colbeck, who was relegated to an unwinnable position on the Liberal's Tasmanian Senate ticket by the faction controlled by Eric Abetz. Abetz, the extreme right-wing controller of Liberal matters in Tasmania, hated Colbeck for supporting Croesus Turnbull against Abbott. And so had him dumped on the Senate ticket. Abetz, as in the nature of such people, is a good hater. Some years ago he did the same to now-former Senator Guy Barnett for having the impudence to challenge him for top-spot on the Senate ticket.
Abetz has always operated in a parallel universe. But clearly so had the dopey Parry. Who now finds himself down at Centrelink. Or maybe not. W&D understands that there are always vacancies for experienced funeral directors.
And perhaps this is an omen for Croesus Turnbull. If they weren't already, the political funeral directors are now preparing his memorial service, grave and headstone. All that remains is for the voters of Australia to switch off the life support.
W&D noticed that US team the Houston Astros won the World Series baseball championship. The peculiar thing is that only a US team in the Major League Baseball league can win the World Series. So, perhaps it's not quite a World Series, but what the heck, let's go global. Or, rather worldly.
But that's neither here nor there. Readers who watched the final game would know that it took 3 hours and 37 minutes from go to whoa. Good grief.
This prompted W&D to investigate actual live action in four sports and compare to Australia's Australian (rules) Football.
W&D has seen MLB (at Yankee Stadium, where the main action is not on the field, it is watching overweight spectators devouring hots dogs, chips and Coke at the same time), and it is as boring as watching paint dry. And clearly NFL is even worse.
AFL's only problem is W&D has to tolerate the tattoo-ed and toothless, moccasin wearing supporters from ...oh, never mind.
New Ziland's failed market economy?
Some Readers have put quill to paper and complained that W&D has been very hard on New Ziland's new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Allow W&D to put some flesh on the bones of his viewpoint. Readers will recall Ms Adhern's election night speech, where she said:
"When you have a market economy, it all comes down to whether or not you acknowledge where the market has failed and where intervention is required. Has it failed our people in recent times? Yes."
New Ziland a failed market economy?
Hold the phone!
Ms Ardern has a degree in Communication Studies (something at which she clearly excels). But has never worked in the private sector. Her CV is a litany of idealistic political activism. And hence the following data may be difficult for her to understand, but Readers may find it useful to assess her claim that the market economy has failed New Zilinders.
The table compares New Ziland in the ten years of the previous government to Australia, on four critical metrics:
Doubtless there are parts of the economy that have not done as well as others.
But, good grief, Ms Ardhern, W&D hopes that such nonsensical observations are not going to be the harbinger of your future outpourings.
Otherwise, you will take Tsar Trump off the front pages.
Speaking of markets...
...what is the scoop on Amazon, that behemoth of online shopping?
Its share price is now about $1,100 per share, up 30% this year. Its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, now has a net worth of US$93 billion, up there alongside Bill Gates, Microsoft founder.
In the September quarter, its net profit was $256m. That sounds a lot. Well, it's not. Sales were $43.7 billion. That is a net operating margin of 0.58%. And that's a shocker. The average ASX listed company's is between 10% and 12%.
Amazon's current P/E is 267!
Investors are really punting on growth that needs to be extraordinary.
W&D's Uber driver...
...was talking stocks. Well, sort of. Deepak asked W&D about Bitcoins. And other 'crypto-currencies'. And blockchains.
"Not that I'm a speculator," he added. Of course not.
W&D responded by firstly noting some (brief) definitions:
Bitcoin is a digital currency, easily and securely stored and transferred using 'blockchain' technology. Bitcoins are created as a reward to technology developers for finding a new 'block' in the 'chain'. Bitcoin has zero intrinsic value. There are no dividends or interest payments. The value of a bitcoin is what the buyer and seller determine. In that sense, it is sort of like gold - although gold does have limited intrinsic value in jewellery and industrial uses.
Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. It is a decentralised and distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively. Blockchain is the method by which digital currencies (e.g. Bitcoin) are stored and transferred. But Blockchain has significantly wider records-keeping applications.
Crypto-currency is a digital currency that uses cryptography (e.g. Blockchain) for security. The first crypto-currency was Bitcoin, with recent arrivals being Litcoin, Namecoin and PPCoin. Crypto-currencies have zero intrinsic value.
Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a technique used to by a crypto-currency start-up company. Hard currency is exchanged for the crypto-currency, which currency can be invested in a project. It is a cross between a traditional Initial Public Offering (i.e. share 'float') and Crowdfunding. But in Crowdfunding the proceeds tend to go to worthy causes.
Having updated Readers with that tedium, W&D can now report that last Friday, the thinly traded shares of On-line PLC spiked 528% in London. This was not after an oil-strike, massive government contract or takeover offer from Amazon. The company announced the previous day that it planned to change its name to On-line Blockchain PLC. The spike happened solely because it added the words 'blockchain' to its name.
The company said, "blockchain technology and crypto-currencies are a new and exciting area we have been working on for some time.”
As its shares were exploding higher on Friday, the company came out with a statement cautioning that its blockchain product is just at an early stage, upon which shares collapsed two-thirds of the spike, then re-spiked before tapering off and closing up 165% for the day.
This is an example of the hot money that surrounds “blockchain” and crypto-currencies. The temptation to make huge amounts of money in hours – even if it ends in tears – is just too big. W&D remembers Poseiden  (which actually discovered nickel, but the lads got too excited) and was educated about the South Sea and the Tulip Bubbles of yesteryear.
W&D notes the share price of ICO Bancor, has fallen 50% since it listed in June. Over $3 billion of ICO's have occurred in 2017, from more than 200 issues. Don't tell W&D that's not a mania.
Investing in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency or an ICO is nothing more than speculation. And so W&D has a crypto-proverb for would-be users of crypto-currencies, such as Deepak: caveat emptor.
Vigorously defending the brand
As it is exam time in W&D's part of the world, he asks Readers to assume each is a student, sitting a Victorian Certificate of Education exam. The question is:
Compare and contrast the following two penalties:
1. In 2011 a Collingwood player placed a $10 wager on a game in which he was playing. He was suspended for 14 matches.
2. In 2017 a Richmond player circulated on social media a photo of his topless ex-girlfriend wearing his premiership medallion, without her consent. The photo went viral. He was suspended for three matches.
Let W&D save Readers the trouble of comparing and contrasting. The way W&D sees this is simple. The AFL is saying that its virtue signalling is a sham and that its relationship and income from gambling is more valuable than sending a strong message about the consequences of sexual harassment, breach of privacy, etc. (50/50)
Step one: Buy bitcoin worth $3,000
Step two: Wait until it is worth $30,000
Step three: Decide to sell and take a prof.... hang on, what's my PIN again?
Simply click here for the true story of the investor who lost $30,000 of Bitcoin because he lost his PIN and the various recovery codes.
Scrabble doesn't allow the use of proper nouns. But the new name for the country formerly known as Kazakhstan is a beauty: Qazaqstan.
The reason is that the country is abandoning its Cyrillic alphabet (i.e. that used in Russia) to the Latin alphabet (i.e. the one we use). Readers will know that the Kazakh version of Cyrillic has 33 Russian letters and nine Kazakh ones, while the Latin script only has 26.
Confused? It gets worse for the Kazakh people. Kazakh is a Turk-based language: originally it was written in Arabic. Enter the Soviet Union, which in 1929 did away with Arabic and introduced Latin. Only to 11 years later shift to the Cyrillic alphabet, to have the republic more in line with the rest of the USSR.
Readers will know that the Latin alphabet is used by 133 languages, whereas Cyrillic is used by just 12 languages (including, notably, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian).
1. The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street (i.e. Bank of England) raised UK interest rates (by 0.25% points to 0.5%) for the first time in a decade. And signalled two more rate rises.
2. Tesla, the electric car maker darling, reported its worst ever financial results for a quarter: minus US$619m. Ouch!
3. NAB, an Australian bank, announced it was going to sack 6,000 workers and boost technology investment. It also reported a skinny 2.3% annual profit increase and an unchanged dividend. The end of the anni mirabiles?
And, to soothe your troubled mind...
"All of our leaders have flaws. Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy. That doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country."
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary.
Really? Sarah's flaw seems to be that she thinks that JFK and Kennedy were two different presidents. Now, moving on to the current President..oh, never mind.
First Samuel client events calendar
Chief Investment Officer Dinners
|Wed-22-Nov||Donovans, St Kilda||Lunch & Dinner (FULL)|
|Wed-29-Nov||Bottega, Melbourne CBD||FULL|
|Sometimes cancellations occur, so please call Jess if you now wish to attend.|
2018 Events (Invitations not yet sent)
Eat Street - food & wine fest
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
Diana Marini, 28, thought she'd rob a bank. But couldn't find anyone to mind her 6-year-old daughter. So she decided to take her along with her.
But she forgot about getting to the bank and getting away. So she hired a taxi, went into the bank, handed the teller a note demanding cash, got the cash and ran out of the bank into the waiting taxi. But the taxi driver was slow to move off, as thinking Diane had gone into the bank to undertake legal activity, he was in no hurry and chatting to the daughter. Allowing bank officers time to see the taxi, get the details, etc.
Charges include not only robbery, etc, but also endangering the welfare of a child.
(NY Daily News)
There goes the Mother of the Year possibility.
Train extends undefeated streak, sets truck challenger on fire for good measure
The 34-year old truck driver decided to take a shortcut. And ignored 'road closed' sign. The road was closed because there was construction work being done on the railway level crossing. What happens next?
a. Nothing, it was an old sign and the level crossing was working properly;
b. The truck didn't get close to the crossing as the road was badly broken up;
c. The truck stopped at the crossing before the goods' train sped by;
d. The truck driver tries to cross the crossing, but the truck gets stuck in the construction work. A goods' train comes along and totals the truck.
Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is d. The truck caught fire and was pushed over two hundred metres along the tracks by the momentum of the train. But the truck driver had got out of the truck before the train hit, and walked home. Police found him an hour later, at his home.
The truck driver underwent an IQ test. And was found to ...oh, never mind. Just kiddin'.
Guess the outcome II
Jeffrey Rekowski, 30, and Jesse Odell, 21, tried to rob Julius Heidt, a 66-year-old pensioner, in his home. They burst in, brandishing knives. But Julius grabbed a rifle he had stashed, just in case. But the two kept on coming. And so he fired a warning shot into the ceiling. But the two kept on coming towards him. What happens next?
a. Jeffrey and Jesse see the problem posed by the loaded gun, and turn and run;
b. Jeffrey and Jesse rush Julius and knocked the rifle from his hands, and robbed his home;
c. Julius fires his rifle at Jeffrey and Jesse, but missed. But they ran away; or
d. Julius fires his rifle. The first shot hits Jesse, sending him to meet his Maker. The second hits Jeffrey, who had turned to run, in the butt.
Close. But no cigar. The correct answer is d. Jeffrey got 10 years in the slammer, including time spent in a hospital getting the bullet removed. Julius was not charged with any offence.
(Bay City News, Michigan)
Have a wry and dry weekend
 "Take me to Cuba," was the cry of people who high-jacked aircraft, mostly, between 1968 and 1972. In 1968, 23 American commercial airline flights were high-jacked and flown to Cuba. In 1969 the number increased to 33. In 1970 the number dropped to 14. From 1974 until 2004, the number fell to an average of one per annum. The last was in 2007. The doozy was in 1968, when John Reese stole a plane from Florida Keys Marathon Airport with the reported intention of delivering a pizza to Fidel Castro in an attempt to kidnap the Cuban leader.
 Poseidon nickel boom. In September 1969 share-price = $0.80. February 1970 share-price peak = $280. By March 1970 the share-price crashed to just over $50 and then drifted down until it was delisted in 1976.