Wry & Dry

Frankenstein-cum-Sorcerer. Dante's Inferno. ASIC: bowsy, wowsy.

Zuckerberg:  Frankenstein-cum-Sorcerer

Wry & Dry has studiously ignored that on-line addiction called Facebook.  Why look at photos of the food that friends eat when at a famous restaurant in a famous city?  But with all the media about this social media company, W&D knew that his time had come.  Research was necessary.

The research outcome: Facebook is out of control. 

W&D always thought that Facebook was all about connecting people who knew, or used to know, one another.  Each could become 'friends' with those with whom there was a 'strong tie' or relationship.

But, alas, W&D sees that Facebook has become a blend of Frankenstein's monster and the Sorcerer's Apprentice [1]. 

The reason is that instead of just linking people with strong ties, it has morphed, deliberately, to linking people with 'weak ties', or no relationship at all.  Everyone is everyone else's friend.  So there are now hundreds of millions of people linked in a way that allows those which own or access the data to wield considerable influence.   Power is in the hands of the data-harvesters. 

Zuckerberg 2 farmers data harvesting

So good news or bad, tall stories or true, happy news or sad can almost instantly proliferate the network.  Thereby influencing or affecting the views, moods or feelings of millions.  

Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has become, at one, Frankenstein and the Sorcerer.  He has created a monster and an Apprentice.

Facebook's data-spreading fiasco had led to Zuckerberg fronting US Congress wearing full contrition robes.   "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa," he repeated.  But contrition in Facebook's case won't mean correction.  Facebook is now out of control, and is most profitable because of it.  

Zuckerberg 1

W&D posits that Facebook's Frankenstein-cum-Sorcerer, Zuckerberg, has no intention of restraining his monster or cleaning up the mess he has created.  The cost to his wallet would be too great.

But Readers will recall that Frankenstein's monster in the end sought revenge against his creator.    

CBA: rapped over the knuckles.  Again.

One of the things that make W&D choke on his 2007 Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque is the kid-gloves treatment the Australian banks have received over their breaches of the law in relations to financial planning.

The latest is today's announcement that CBA has "pledged to improve its financial advice after it signed an 'enforceable undertaking' with ASIC' over its failure to provide annual financial planning reviews for 31,500 customers."  The CBA will pay a 'community benefit' of $3m.

This is extraordinary.  And a disgrace.

If a smallish suburban company that provided personal financial advice failed to provide annual reviews to its clients, Readers could bet that it might be at risk of losing its licence.  But not the CBA.  It's just too big. 

CBA has served up a litany of illegal and ethical breaches for many years.  And so it gets this penalty.  W&D suggests that ASIC should have said "enough is enough" and, because (a) CBA is a serial offender and (b) of the massive number of clients affected, should have cancelled CBA's licence to provide personal financial advice. 

ASIC has once again showed itself to be not the corporate watch dog, but instead nothing more than a big puppy dog.  Woof. woof.  Bowsy, wowsy.

Negative quarter? Frankly, m'dear, I don't give a damn [2]

Readers asked why didn't last week's article on negative stock-market quarters focus on the (Australian) ASX, instead of the (US) S&P 500. 

Well, the fuss was that the S&P 500 hadn't had a negative quarter for 11 quarters.  Whereas the ASX had a more recent negative quarter: June last year. 

The full story is:

ASX quarterly

And it's better to view returns through a long term lens.  As always:

ASX since 1938

Say no more.

Dante's Inferno awaits

"A man on a journey of revenge should take two coffins."

 - Chinese proverb (translated by W&D)

The Chinese are great at catchy proverbs.  And long walls.  To say the least (see the most, below).

Work with W&D on this.

W&D has always wanted to know about the upcoming metaphorical coffins for those ace revenge-seekers: Abbott, Andrews and Abetz.  Or will their metaphorical coffins be found in the after-life?  A sort of Dante's Inferno [3].  Readers will know that Dante's Inferno is for those who, inter alia, 'pervert their human intellect to ... malice against their fellowmen'.

Interestingly, Abbott and Andrews are conservative Jesuit-educated Catholics.  Abetz's faith is of the conservative reformed variety: The Christian Reformed Churches of Australia [4].   Each would know of the spectre of the Inferno. 

And the revenge-seeking trio has now become a quartet.  That crack nutter from New England, new backbencher Barnaby Joyce has loudly given Croesus Turnbull until Christmas to get ahead in the Newspoll, otherwise he (Turnbull) should quit.  The quartet could be rightly accused of malice against their fellowmen.

Barnaby Joyce is also Jesuit-educated.  And will also be fully aware of Dante's Inferno.

Having worked this through, W&D now considers that the coffin that will await the revenge-seekers will be, as amazingly described by Dante, the nine concentric circles of torment in the Inferno.  But will this possibility deter the revengers?  Err, no.  W&D considers that each would prefer to see Turnbull (and the Liberals) lose the election and take the chance that the Inferno doesn't exist.

PS:  W&D's research has discovered that the $4 billion coal-fired power station that Abbott wish built at we-the-taxpayers expense would take seven years to design and build, not the four years widely spouted.  And the electricity produced would be more expensive per megawatt hour than the latest wind or solar technologies.

You read it firstly in W&D

Readers will recall some weeks ago that W&D pointed out the increasing and subtle encroachment of China into the sovereign territory of others.  And he was not speaking of China's illegal creation or occupying of islands in the South China Sea, events which were ignored in a most cowardly fashion by President Obama.  W&D was speaking of China making soft-loans to under-developed countries, knowing that the loans could not be repaid.  And then taking a lease of territory in lieu of payment.

As he pointed out, that happened in Sri Lanka.  And is about to happen in Mauritius.

So it came as no surprise that eventually the Australian media would pick up W&D's research.  And have a squiz closer to our shores.  And lo and behold, it seems that New Hebrides Vanuatu is under the spell of the Middle Kingdom.  A soft loan of $54m to build a massive wharf is of such size that it is 6.5% of the country's GDP.  When times get tough, expect China to do as it did in Sri Lanka, take a free 99-year lease on the property in exchange for debt forgiveness.   The port will be a convenient parking place for China's navy.

Vanuatu Chinatown

It's about time that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spent less time at the glamour capitals of Washington, Paris and London and more in the atolls and weeds of the south-western Pacific.  

Choose your victim carefully

W&D noted that a couple of young men in the UK this week approached a man in wheelchair, a certain Roger Mercer, and demanded money, threatening him with a massive knife.

Unknown to, and unseen by, the lads, Mr Mercer was an army veteran of action in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan, a plank of muscle and 2 metres tall. The first assailant was knocked over with single blow and fled.  The second, in a foolhardy attempt to regain criminal-prestige, had a thumb rammed into his eye-socket.  He too fled. 

No news on the thumb-print. 

Shock from latest Newspoll

There was amazing publicity given to this week's Newspoll, in the Australian newspaper.  So W&D was excited. 

And all the publicity was deserved, what a shock: the poll showed that only 45% of women were in favour of Australia becoming a republic.  

Women republic

Readers will know that the poll asked the question of we-the-voter: are you in favour of Australia becoming a republic?

Aside from women responding very differently to men, opposition to a republic was at its highest level in 18 years.  And as just 50% were in favour means that a referendum would comfortably fail (as a majority of voters in a majority of states is required to change the constitution).

W&D wants to know what is it that women like about the monarchy that men do not?  It would be folly of W&D to attempt to answer the question.  But he will stick his neck out (not for the first time) and suggest that perhaps this is an example that men and women are not the same.  And see value or virtue in different things.  Just sayin'.   

Deepak, W&D's Uber driver, was talking about...

...cricket.  "We love cricket in India.  But what is all the fuss about with these three cricketers who have been banned?  Anjali is most worried about the young one."

"Well, there is the on-field stuff, and the off-field stuff," W&D replied cautiously.  "Sadly, the issue doesn't stop on the field, as much as Cricket Australia would want it to."

"What!" Deepak, exclaimed, "does the ball tampering go all the way to the top?"

"Metaphorically speaking, yes it does."  W&D was getting warmed up. 

"So what does that have to do with those at the top?"

"Well, work with me on this.  Remember that Cricket Australia commissioned a review into itself in 2011.  That review was chaired by businessman Don Argus.  The review was into the decline in Australian cricket's performance and culture since 2008.  Mr Sutherland had been CEO since 2001.  He rode the gravy train of the success of Australian cricket, as the extraordinary player ability (Warne, Ponting, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden, etc) then hid the underlying structural problems."  

W&D continued, "When those star players retired, Sutherland's level of competence became apparent.  It was clear there was little.  That review recommended sweeping changes to the organisational structure and employment, and interestingly said that CA should 'hold people accountable for their performance'.  But it wasn't independent, as CA's CEO, James Sutherland, sat in on all the meetings and interviews.  Sutherland was not held accountable."

"So, seven years' later there is another review.  Two, in fact.  One for on-field behaviour, the other for off-field: into organisational culture."

"That must be a good thing,though," encouraged Deepak.

"Except that the Chairman of CA, a Mr David Peever, has said that "James Sutherland is not going anywhere".  What is the point of a 'root-and-branch review' if the top branch isn't also reviewed?"

"Ah, I see," said Deepak unconvincingly.  "Can you give me a corporate example?"

"Sure.  Consider the biggest of the recent CBA scandals, the one involving money-laundering and terrorism-financing.  Did the then CEO of CBA undertake the review?  No.  The new chairman did.  And she fired the CEO - he had to take responsibility.  And heads rolled and bonuses were slashed down the line."

"So what would you suggest?" Deepak looked hopeful.

"I'd ask the head of the Australian Sports Commission to conduct the off-field review.  Someone quite arm's length.  The current plan is a white-wash; and will ensure that each of Peever and Sutherland will not be held accountable."

Old timers in club Essendon drugs

"Oh, dear," sighed Deepak.  "Accountability.  Anjali is holding me accountable for her Facebook data ending up somewhere in the UK, and somehow helping to elect Donald Trump.  As it was I who suggested she respond to the 'This is Your Digital Life' app quiz.  But it was Anjali who filled in the survey.  I don't think I'm responsible." 

"A fatal conclusion," W&D muttered as he got out of Deepak's car. "Two things.  Firstly, you are at the top of that tree - you need to take responsibility.  Secondly, you are the husband - it will always be your fault."

"Oh, me miserum!" wailed Deepak, using his only-known Latin words, as W&D strode off.  But W&D knew that, in spite of being responsible, both Deepak and Sutherland would be safe.

A happier sporting story

W&D was delighted to see that the women's lawn bowls team from Malta won the bronze medal at the Empire Games, being held on the Gold Coast.  And noted that the Maltese team consisted of four Australians, including a mum and her two daughters.

"That's globalisation, Mr Pullings.  That's globalisation [5]."

At least Sir John Monash was qualified

A correspondent to one of the daily rags this week noted that General Sir John Monash graduated in both law and engineering.

Whereas not one of those Monash Forum creatures (Abbott, Abetz, Andrews, Joyce or Kelly) spouting knowledge of power generation hold any graduate or postgraduate qualifications in any technical discipline, such as engineering, science or physics.

Just sayin'.   

Blockchain company sinks as in chains

That didn't take long.

Readers will remember W&D's stories in December last year about a New Jersey company that changed its name from Long Island Iced Tea Company to Long Blockchain Corp.  That was in the middle of the bitcoin/ blockchain frenzy.

The share price boomed to almost $7 on the news.

Long island tea

Yesterday, the company's shares were delisted from trading on Nasdaq.

Say no more.

And, to soothe your troubled mind...  


Last words...

"I don't have that particular fund in front of me... but... the allegations... on that particular fee structure is (sic) absolutely misleading." 

-   Rob Shand, CEO of embattled Blue Sky Investments, on being asked about a document that showed of the $8m raised by Blue Sky for a development, $1.4m went in fees.

This might be Allco all over again.

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Some lightly salted absurdities from all over...

At the extreme left-hand end of the Bell Curve

Jesse Galarza, 32, of Kenner Louisiana, was short of cash.  So he decided to use fake $100 notes.  One side of the note looked the real deal. 

But the other side had the words 'for movie production purposes only' clearly printed across it.  Which was why the shop assistant called the cops.


Sadly Jesse was on probation for robbery.  Now add 'monetary instrument abuse' and theft. 

Guess what happened next

Kelly Killeen bought a McDonald's sausage burrito breakfast Extra Value Meal in Chicago for $5.08.  But she thought the “value” label was deceptive.  What happened next?

a.  Kelly needed to put on the extra pounds, so she ate up;

b.  Kelly was so hungry, she ate the meal anyway;

c.  Kelly is a Bitcoin millionaire, and money doesn't matter, she ate the meal anyway; or

d.  Kelly lawyered up.    

Close.  But no cigar.  Kelly launched a class-action lawsuit that argued McDonald’s was duping consumers because a single “Extra Value Meal” costs more than the sum total of the individual components of the meal bought separately ($4.97).


A federal court judge in Chicago tossed out her claim.    

Only in Yoo-Ess-Aye... 

The couple from Normalville (actual name), Pennsylvania, argued because she wouldn't cook him breakfast.  So he tried to choke her.  So she pointed a gun to scare him.  But she fired.

She hit him in the head.  He lived. She faces charges including attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and child endangerment.


W&D makes his own breakfast.  Just in case...

Have a Wry & Dry weekend. 


[1] W&D's image is of Mickey Mouse in a scene from that most amazing of animated moves, Fantasia (made in 1940), when he, as the Sorcerer's apprentice, puts on the Sorcerer's cap and wields powers over a broomstick.  He falls asleep, only to wake with the castle in a flood caused by out of control broomsticks.  In Fantasia, Disney brilliantly applied cartoon scenes to famous pieces of music.  Paul Dukas wrote the Sorcerer's Apprentice, based on a poem by Goethe.  Other music used in the Fantasia include Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. 

[2] Rhett Butler's final words in Gone With the Wind.  He was not giving a damn about the capricious Scarlett O'Hara (not last quarter's stock-market ).  Scarlett made just about every mistake in the 'how to win a man' book.  Sobs all round.  It was one of the few great romance movies that didn't end happily. Dr Zhivago was another, where Yuri Zhivago also really messed things up. Interestingly, Butler was a 'real man' (i.e. didn't each quiche), Zhivago was a wimp.  Adjusted for inflation Gone With the Wind is by far the greatest grossing film of all time.  Dr Zhivago comes in at number eight. In between comes Star Wars, Sound of Music, ET, Titanic, Ten Commandments and Jaws.

[3]  Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the "realm ... of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen".    

[4]  W&D is 'low-Anglican'; a sort of sensible evangelical hybrid. 

[5]  Readers would be familiar with the scene from Master and Commander, "Over a hundred sea miles and he brings us up on his tail; that's seamanship MrPullings, that's seamanship."