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The four - Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

A new book that I have been reading recently, and I might deal with again in future blogs, is called "The four – the hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google".  These are the biggest companies in the world at the moment and on the one hand they are incredibly useful to us, and most of us use some of them a lot of the time and on the other hand, not everything about them is perfect.  For now, and without going into too much detail about some of the individual companies, which I will deal with in my blog at a later stage, he points out that for all they do they include:

  • A computer company that withholds information about terrorism from federal investigators.
     
  • A social media firm that analyses images of your children activates your phone as a listening device and sells the information to Fortune 500 companies.
     
  • An ad platform that has 90% of the market, but avoids anti-competitive regulation through aggressive lawyers and by hiring lobbyists.
     
  • A retailer that is famous for treating its employees badly, has destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs in competing companies and refuses, on top of everything else, to pay sales tax.

In other words, there are many different ways at looking at the sites and the companies that you love and we now have four companies that governments and other businesses are almost unable to challenge anymore.  The book goes on to explain how, for example, Apple has put some computer businesses out of business even though those businesses were only charging a 6% profit margin on their computers and Apple adds on 28%.  For those of you who are not all fans of Apple – although remember this applies to all of the companies – he says that people outside the Apple cult see it for what it is – “a rationalisation for something a lot closer to lust”.  He says that the marketing for Apple is essentially that the message of Apple is that it will “make you better than your sexual competitors:  elegant, brilliant, rich and passionate.  You will be perfection:  cool, shit together, listening to music in your pocket and swiping through pics of your latest trip that look professional that you took on your phone.  You will have the ultimate earthly life.”  I will leave you with that taste – where he basically says that buying the Apple phone is irrational when you could have a similar phone for a fraction of the cost!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 11-Dec-17   |  Permalink   |  14 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Davis Tax Committee and wealth taxes

The Davis Tax Committee is headed by Professor Dennis Davis.  I had the pleasure of having him lecture me when I was at Wits University and I have to say he is an incredibly smart man.  That is not something that most wealthy people are going to enjoy and I do hope, while convening his Tax Committee on taxes for the wealthy, that he thinks about the damage that too many taxes on too few can do as well.  It is quite obvious where they will be looking, to some extent, because in the press release they issued in May they say that estate duty, transfer duty and donations tax are the only wealth taxes at the moment and they contribute only 1% of tax revenue. 

In other words, they must be considering increasing estate duty, transfer duty on houses and donations tax as well.  They also say though that they like to look at a number of possible forms of wealth tax, including – land tax, a national tax on the value of property over and above municipal rates and an annual wealth tax.  Many countries have taxes on property.  It is quite common in America where, for example, and the rate would vary from city to city and from state to state, but it would often be that whatever the value of your house is, as assessed by the local government, you pay 2% taxes a year.  That is obviously one of the considerations they are looking at, which will affect more than just the wealthy, depending on what amounts they bring in with that.  If, for example, they bring in a 1% tax per year on the value of somebody’s house at R500,000, then if your house is valued at R800,000 you will pay R8,000 a year in property tax.  I just give that as a complete random example, but it gets more expensive as your property value goes up.  An annual wealth tax on top of the top rate of 45%, which we already have, sounds astounding.  I cannot imagine what else they would require, but I have a very good feeling what is going to be defined as wealth will be any amount earned above R1,5 million a year.  

My problem with most of these taxes, apart from the damage they do to the economy and the people they chase away, is that there is such high tax evasion in some places that, for example when I was living in Dainfern and Blair Atholl golf estates, numerous people boasted about how they were paying minimal or no tax at all.  There is an absolute culture in South Africa of tax avoidance by many and that is something I will deal with in another blog article at another time.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 08-Dec-17   |  Permalink   |  10 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Why countries' growth matters

Many people tend to simply ignore articles in business magazines or on blogs like mine about the growth rate of countries.  One of the reasons they do so is that they don’t tie up their personal tax rates and growth rates together – if they did they would be a lot more interested.  In other words, the fact that South Africa's growth forecast rate was meant to be 1,7%, as per the government's budget in February this year, and is instead going to be about 0,5%, according to the World Bank, means that the government will collect much less taxes this year than they plan to collect.  They will collect fewer taxes because the economy and businesses are not growing as well as they would have hoped.  

What does that mean?  That means they will have to try, as they have been doing almost every year now, to come up with some more taxes.  New ways to tax the so-called rich – I say so-called, because in South Africa what we define as "rich" would not even be the top tax rates in other countries – and while we already have a 45% top tax rate, in countries like the United States they are talking about lowering their 39% top rate to 35%.  So, we are going to try and look at everything we can do, other than tackle something like VAT which the Government seems nervous to do, and try and work out more ways to target the wealthy.  Raising VAT would make the most sense of course.  The more you do that, the more you encourage those individuals to look elsewhere and they are after all the job creators in the country.  This is really becoming a vicious circle and until the government starts listening to people who understand what it takes to grow the economy, the circle will unfortunately get worse and worse with increased taxes, low productivity and more and more successful business people being chased away from South Africa.  I really hope it does not take more than a few more years to pick up the pattern and do something.  Another concern would be, and that is maybe a topic for another blog article, how many people, and I have even seen it with attorneys involved in this field of work, who are just simply dishonest in their tax affairs and the more the government increases the taxes, the more some people simply just ignore taxation.  That too is not a winning recipe for a country. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 06-Dec-17   |  Permalink   |  13 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Game console at home – Playstation or X-Box

I want to find out from you how many of you have a Playstation or an X-Box at home or some sort of game console?  Do you play it?  I have the X-Box, which is now being replaced by the X-Box One X.  It apparently has much better gaming with 4K gaming and 40% more power than any other console.  It is Microsoft of course playing the Apple game, with the every few years dramatic update.  

I have to be honest and say that I’ve had my X-Box for about a year and I used it for about 2 hours altogether during that year.  My kids like it, if they get a chance to play it, but they are not particularly enthusiastic or keen about it and I don’t think it is a have to have in their lives.  I know though when I was 15 I spent a lot of time, particularly on weekends, playing computer games, sometimes all night with friends and despite all the things they say about how you will not achieve anything in your life if you play too many computer games, I seem to have done all right.  Do you have a console?  If so, what?  What games do you play – and I am not talking about games on your phone, which I think is the worst type of addiction because they are not even of the kind of quality that you can play on a big screen.  In other words, if I am going to waste time playing games, I am going to play better games, with better graphics on a dedicated machine with a big screen, like a TV, and not waste my time on my phone.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 04-Dec-17   |  Permalink   |  18 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Understanding the media

It is very important, when you see things sensationalised in the media, to understand that the media is just another business.  In other words, it has investors, shareholders, directors, etc.  Their business is to deliver an audience to their advertisers and charge their advertisers for that.    That means their job is to keep you reading their newspaper or watching their TV channel or listening to their radio show.  They have to make everything sound like it is incredibly important and that it is critical for you to keep listening.  The more people watching or reading them, the more they can charge for their adverts.  

Of course, they have to get the facts right as well, and I think by and large they do, even if they over-sensationalise them.  There are various systems and balances in place all around the world if the media don’t get their facts right and I don’t think they do a bad job.  I don’t think they do a great job either.  From a Road Accident Fund point of view, over the years they have always sold the story as simply being a question of attorneys being interested in making more money and the government wants to reduce what they have to pay out to the legal profession.  That is not a completely inaccurate version of what is going on, so it’s not fake news, but it’s not totally true either.  It creates an incorrect impression glossing over many of the problems that led to where we are now and the fact that somebody without an attorney will always be far worse off than somebody with an attorney.

In any event, the point I am making is one I have made in blogs recently and that is when you are watching a hurricane, when you are watching each week’s dramatic news, remember that the media’s job is to convince you how dramatic that is.  There are certain stories that obviously don’t sell well in newspapers and natural disasters, etc or a lion killing somebody in Kruger Park or in a nature reserve sell better than other stories.  For that reason we simply never had the coverage that one needs of the 40 people a day who die on the roads in South Africa.  That’s real news, that’s an ongoing tragedy and we only hear about it in December/January and April every year.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 01-Dec-17   |  Permalink   |  20 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The President's Keepers

I know a lot of PDF versions of this book are floating about.  I do think it is the wrong way to read the book or to “support” any author. Authors and publishers don’t make money out of illegal copies of a PDF and quite frankly, with the book not having being banned, there is no reason to circulate the book at this point.  It does not look like it is going to be banned either, although there will probably be criminal charges against the journalist Jacques Pauw.  

The book has become the fastest selling book in South Africa since they started collecting data in 2004 and I discourage anybody from reading the PDF version when the book is available on the shelves.  It is certainly a book worth reading, I have finished reading it after having bought it on my Kindle, and I can only say it is just one revelation after another and if only 20% of it is true, and of course there is reason to believe a lot more of it is true, then South Africa is not in a good place at the moment in terms of Government bureaucracies, the weakening of the police force, the loss of talent and capacity in the South African Revenue Services, etc.  

There are so many allegations and they are not just all about President Zuma – including the fact that for example it is alleged that even after he became President he continued to receive money from a well-known horserace owner, Roy Moodley, of R1 million a month for another 4 months after becoming the President, etc, but there are just revelations as to all sorts of breakdowns in the police, agendas, etc and I hope everybody involved in politics in particular is reading it and trying to work out where the problems are and what needs to be done about them.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 29-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  28 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Happier without social media

Time Magazine recently had an article listing a number of ways for people to make themselves happier.  It includes letting go of grudges as well as paying somebody to do something that you normally would do to give yourself some more time.  That apparently will give you more happiness than spending the same amount of money that it would cost you to pay that person on something for yourself, because having more time is more important to most people than new things.  

One of the bigger points they make though was how the constant exposure to social media is really beginning to wear people down.  Some studies have indicated that people who use Facebook frequently have poor physical and mental health and much less life satisfaction.  They also found that the more people look to social media, the more likely they were to be anxious.  On sites like Instagram they say it allows us to compare and there is no doubt that sites like Facebook and Twitter have a constant stream of news, some of which is presented in a very stressful way.  The advice includes limiting yourself to one social platform only and also taking a short break – people who apparently cut themselves off from Facebook for a whole week reported feeling far more positive compared to those people who keep using Facebook as usual.  

I myself went off Facebook and I wrote about it in this blog many years ago and I am really glad I did.  I think social media addicts really toss away far too much time which they could spend more happily and productively actually living their lives and doing things that make them happier.  If you are a social media addict, try and limit yourself to one platform for the next week and try, if you can, to take yourself off Facebook for one whole week – even if that requires deleting the app off your phone.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 27-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  37 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Master Sabina tackles the Summer Cup again

Master Sabina has won the last two runnings of the Summer Cup.    Its run this Saturday at Turffontein.  He is now 8 years old and he is also going into the race carrying more weight than ever before, so he really cannot be expected to win this time.  His trainer, Joe Soma, tells me that although he suffered a bout of colic which put his training back quite a bit, he is showing incredible enthusiasm and looking younger than his age!  It is important to understand, for those of you that don’t follow horseracing that most horses are at their best at 3, 4 and maybe 5 years.  

To still be running at Master Sabina’s age is a feat and quite honestly it is absolutely unbelievable that not only did he win in 2015 and 2016, he was a second favourite in 2014 when he could not run because he was injured and in 2013 he came second by a nostril.  The Summer Cup is the biggest and most prestigious horserace in Gauteng, Johannesburg, and while the money is not as big as the July Handicap or The Met, it is still extremely prestigious.  

Master Sabina owes me nothing.  He is really the best horse I’ve ever had, apart from his mother, Sabina Park, and I just hope he enjoys the race on Saturday.  I don’t expect him to win, but honestly if he could even make the top 4 or 5 I think that would be exceptional.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 23-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  25 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Zimbabwe and Mugabe

While things are not very clear at the moment as to what is going on, it certainly looks like the end of Robert Mugabe’s reign in Zimbabwe.  It is interesting that only a few weeks ago it looked like South Africa had a chance of a wife of a President being the next President, or ex-wife, and Zimbabwe our neighbour, would also have the President’s wife taking over.  It really does not look good, even if they are the most talented people, and I am not saying they are.  

In any event, threatening Zimbabweans with Grace Mugabe, who our Government gave a free pass for assaulting a young lady in Johannesburg, seems to have finally triggered off the Zimbabwean army to do something.  I am not in favour of military coups, but, and it is terrible to use that word in the same line as the word “coup”, you cannot help but feel that this time it is something good.  Nobody ever wants the military to take over, but what is going on in Zimbabwe some 37 years after Mugabe came into power is just ridiculous and if the people really don’t have an opportunity in free and fair elections and the army can pull this off peacefully, then I believe it will be a good thing.  Attorneys believe in law and order, but you don’t actually have real free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in any event and so the people don’t have an actual say anyway.  The situation is very fluid at the moment, so who knows what will transpire, but I do hope that it is the end of Robert Mugabe and that he is not allowed to leave the country and that he and his wife are investigated in terms of what their assets are.  Hopefully, it is just a modest amount, like any President of any country would receive, and we don’t suddenly discover that somehow miraculously he is worth hundreds of millions of Dollars – and it is yet another corruption story.  It does appear however that trying to set the stage for Grace Mugabe to become the next President of Zimbabwe was a huge tactical error by Mugabe.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 21-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  36 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The generation of cord cutters

I have read quite a lot, mainly in business publications, about the generation of cord cutters today.  That is people in their 20’s and early 30’s who decided that they don’t want to pay for all the channels that you get on, for example, DSTV.  Instead, they rely on downloaded movies, and a much smaller limited set of channels.  This is beginning to worry some of the companies, including for example Disney, because one of Disney’s big investments is in the ESPN sports channel and ESPN’s audience is reducing just as NFL football is down this year, but it was down last year as well.  People have simply decided, in many different countries, that they just don’t want to pay the full costs of whatever the bundle of TV channels cost at the moment.  I wanted to ask what your viewing habits are and whether you are one of the cord cutters or whether you have the full range of the DSTV channels in your house?  How and on what devices do you watch movies or TV programmes?  Would you be watching for example a downloaded episode of Game of Thrones or are you watching it on a TV channel?

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 20-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  34 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Next area of conflict – the Arctic

I have been reading, and seen programmes recently, on the Arctic.  It seems that Russia in particular is beginning to build up naval bases all along the Arctic and build up a military presence there so that they can try and control the Arctic later.  Apparently, amongst the other possible reasons to do this, is that it will allow much faster access for commercial ships to travel the oceans.  What I found astounding is that these bases that are all built on ice actually move quite a bit each day, because the ice moves.  So, for example, a pilot who has to fly in from one day to the next can be given a different destination, as much as 14km away from the previous day’s destination, to land!  The base has not moved, just the ice on which it is built has moved.  Russia recently opened a new base which holds up to 150 soldiers in a special temporary structure on the ice, and has announced that they plan four more structures like it.  It is a little bit worrying that they seem to think, or are trying to, claim some sort of ownership of the Arctic and it shows you that while the Cold War is over, you can never ignore the Russian Bear and what they are up to.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 17-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Updates and apps

I tend to update all, when it comes to updates on my apps, but sometimes I read what has been added to the app.  I think that is normally when I am sitting at a coffee shop and I have finished something else and I am perhaps slightly bored.  It is quite interesting to read how some of the updates are described or how they read – for example, the YouTube update of 26 September was described in the App store as follows:  “Fixed bugs, improved performance, took out the garbage, mowed the front lawn, and now we need a little map.

In other words, the programmers are having quite a bit of fun describing what they have done sometimes, it is not all just about what they have updated and sometimes they give you a sizeable update with a description like that that tells you nothing about what they have actually just updated!  Other times it is quite interesting, for example, the Uber update of 22 September said that it gives you more control over when you share your location with Uber.  It goes on to say, “Now you can choose between ‘while using the app’, ‘always’ and ‘never’ in your location settings.”  It is obviously informative and you will not always know what has happened with an app if you don’t read that.  Most often they just describe it as bug fixes and performance improvements, but they do often have more information about what new features have been added or what has been changed.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 15-Nov-17   |  Permalink   |  31 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
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Recent Settlements
Lumbar spine compression fractures R2 500 000.00
Severe hip fracture requiring total hip replacements R3 305 000.00
Head injury with disfiguring facial scaring of a young female R4 000 000.00
Whiplash and compression fracture of the spine R4 000 000.00
Broken Femora R1 914 416.00
Broken Femur and Patella R770 881.15
Loss of Support for two minor children R2 649 968.00
Fracture of the right Humerus, fracture of the pubi rami, abdominal injuries, head injury R4 613 352.95
Fracture of the right femur, Fracture of the right tibia-fibula R1 200 000.00
Broken Jaw, Right Shoulder Injury, Mild head injury R1 100 000.00
Degloving injuries to the hips, legs and ankle R877 773.00
Head injury R 2 734 295.12
Fractured pelvis R1 355 881.53
Damaged tendons in left arm R679 688.03
Fractured left hand R692 164.48
Amputated right lower leg with loss of income R3 921 000.00
Fractured left foot R600 000.00
Head injury and multiple facial fractures R5 000 000.00
Head injury, compound fracture right femur, right tib and fib fracture, and injury to the spleen R4 529 672.06
Head injury, multiple facial fractures, collapsed lung and a fracture to the right frontal bone R2 890 592.77
Loss of support R5 144 000.00

 


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