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Eyes and getting older

I’ve had glasses for a few years and I was told then that you needed to upgrade the strength of the glasses every one or two years.  I did not until recently.  I was getting to a point where I was struggling to see, even with my current pair of glasses.  Changing the lenses, which cost a fortune, has really changed things rather dramatically for me.  It is amazing how parts of your body start failing you at what you consider as a relatively young age, and how we all just have to accept those types of things.  The funny thing is you can fairly easily choose yourself some cheap glasses at the airport and they will work just perfectly, but once you put yourself in the hands of optometrists that need to run tests on you and everything else they can do, and by the time they are finished you end up with pretty much the same glasses, but at literally 30 times the cost of just buying a pair of cheapies off the shelf.  

I do also end up having to buy those cheapies off the shelf, because I have arrived more than once at the airport without my glasses and I have reached that stage where if I don’t have my glasses certain documents are completely illegible to me, especially later in the afternoon or early evening.  In the morning, when my eyes are fresh I can see them, but later I cannot.  

I must say, I don’t know if there is such a thing as growing old “gracefully” but I will say I am growing old on the “I don’t care” basis.  In other words, if wearing glasses is what it takes to see something I honestly am going to wear glasses and could not care what it looks like.  I guess I am only a few years away from getting that open top sports car which seems to be what most middle-aged men try and pretend that they are not in fact aging while slowly driving up and down the streets of Parkhurst.  So many of them would look so much better if they spend some of that money perhaps on a hair transplant and did just a touch more work in the gym because nothing is going to get past the extra 30 kgs they are carrying on their stomach and the Ferrari or fancy Porsche might work for some people, but putting a bit of effort into the body might do even more!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 21-May-19   |  Permalink   |  15 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Collecting tax

I was interested to read the tax statistics for 2018 put out by the National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service.  Tax revenue is made up largely of personal income tax, being 38,1% of all tax collected in a year, then Value Added Tax collects 24,5% of the tax and corporate income tax produces 18,1%. That is probably because a lot of companies have moved their head office off-shore to countries like Mauritius where they claim that their intellectual property lies and as a result they pay less tax.  Other interesting statistics include that 40,1% of all taxpayers were registered in Gauteng and the majority of those live in Johannesburg.  Of those taxpayers 54,7% are male and 45,3% were female. 

Some studies suggest that South Africa loses about R7 billion a year due to multi-national corporations shifting their profits to other countries and that 98% of that loss comes from the biggest 10% of multi-national corporations.  Apparently, half of all profits shifted out of South Africa are moved to Switzerland, which has a corporate income tax rate of 8,5% compared to South Africa’s 28%.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 16-May-19   |  Permalink   |  13 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
SARS needs to be fixed

It is amazing how much damage was done to SARS during the time of Tom Moyane.  He was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 19 March 2018 and we now hear that SARS missed its most recent revenue collection target by R14,6 billion.  In other words, the estimate as to how much tax they would collect and on which the budget is based was missed by R14,6 billion!  VAT refunds have a massive backlog and apparently, and nobody seems to be sure of this, this has been going on for a while, try and make it look more like SARS had actually reached its various targets.  There are a lot of people in the country, especially in some of the upmarket golf estates, who seem to pay little or no tax at all and cheat in every way they can and SARS and the government will need to tackle that and start getting those people paying the right amount of tax.  The bottom line is that SARS had some disastrous years during which it has been completely mismanaged and there will not be any quick fix for it, but I do think they need a lot more sophisticated computer systems. If people buy a property there should be paperwork relating to what their income is, if people buy fancy motorcars they should have to complete documentation because there are way too many people in South Africa who just are not paying their fair share of tax at the moment.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 13-May-19   |  Permalink   |  22 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Uber goes public

Uber is about to list on the Stock Exchange, at a value of approximately $100 billion.  I find it hard to see the value in a company that is not really making money and that is having issues, in terms of obtaining permission, to work in numerous cities around the world, but I was wrong on Facebook and I am probably wrong on this one as well. 

To me, it is all the signs of a Stock Market that is really becoming overheated, with companies like Lyft, and now Uber, coming to the market at sky-high valuations.  If you invested in Uber a long time ago on the private market, then of course this is going to be your time to celebrate, your big payback time, but I just don’t see what real profits a new shareholder in Uber is going to make.  It is not a guaranteed winner like Amazon or Google is in my opinion.  If I was to consider buying shares in a company like Uber then I would look at a company that owns Uber shares, but is trading below its full value, such as Softbank.  The founder of Softbank bet on Bill Gates and Microsoft early, he bet on Steve Jobs before the iPhone came out, and he has a reputation for really picking out tomorrow’s winners and Softbank is currently trading at a lower value than the sum of its parts and that would be something I would consider, long ahead of Uber.  What are your thoughts on Uber as a share – not Uber as a service or Uber as an investment for a driver of yours to drive a car for you?

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 07-May-19   |  Permalink   |  29 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Election time and predictions

I have written in my blog before about the difference between municipal elections and national elections.  A lot of people, in particular DA supporters, always see positive signs in the provincial and local elections and then forecast that they will lead to bigger improvements for the DA in the national elections. 

That unfortunately misses the point and that is that a lot of traditional ANC supporters simply don’t bother to vote in smaller elections, but every 5 years when it is time for national elections, they do come out to vote.  A well known attorney in Pretoria wrote to me only 2 years ago saying that the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill would never become law because the DA would win the 2019 elections.  I wrote to him then saying that he was basically nuts if he ever thought that was going to happen and I have not heard from him on the subject recently.  I think polls in South Africa are wildly inaccurate, but I don’t see the DA making any gains and I would expect the EFF to make more gains than the DA. That does not mean that they will become the second biggest party in South Africa, but I just think that whatever percentage points they increase their support by will be bigger than the DA increase (or decrease).

I believe that this election is going to be the one that will make a lot of people, who otherwise have thought over the years that maybe in 10 or 15 years’ time the DA could lead, realise that the DA will never lead South Africa.  If their support does not increase in this election or worse, it goes backwards, it is back to the drawing board for the DA and back to the drawing board for opposition parties which may need to consider a new alliance or a new party. I don’t believe that the Democratic Alliance is ever going to gain power in South Africa and I think that this election will be the one that is going to show that the gap between the ANC and the Democratic Alliance is not reducing, but it might even in fact be increasing.  The bottom line is the DA simply has not been able to get much support past its base of largely white voters and it simply cannot ever win in South Africa until it can get past that base.  It also, like a lot of parties around the world, has an incredibly broad base ranging from progressive liberals who fought against apartheid in South Africa to National Party apartheid supporters and it is very hard for a political party to embrace all of those people within the same party and then have a black leader.  I don’t know the internal politics of the DA and I don’t know what problems the leader must face, but I do know that a lot of the people who supported apartheid, that supported the old South Africa are exactly the people that are currently involved in the DA.  The DA for example once stood for opposing capital punishment, but when it became more politically expedient to announce that they should have a referendum on capital punishment, then they did so.  That is not what they stood for when the DA was led by people who had been law professors at Wits University and quite honestly, I think the DA would be better off without the support of all the old die-hard apartheid supporters who should go and vote for their own party – another version of the Conservative Party or the National Party – and have their own 2% or 3% of the seats in Parliament rather than being a part of the DA. 

In any event, I don’t think DA supporters will like what I have written, but I am putting my thoughts down before the election and let’s see what happens – I say their days of increasing percentages are over.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 06-May-19   |  Permalink   |  32 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Solar - a growing industry

I was quite interested to read a recent survey indicating that the fastest growing job, in the United States at least, is that of a solar installer.  In other words, so many people are changing to solar and having solar panels on their company roofs or houses that they need more and more installers.  That is without even having the pleasures of Eskom and load shedding to deal with!  I think you will see more and more people in South Africa moving towards that, with the backup systems that I initially had at the office, now being able to be replaced by more expensive, but cost-effective over time solar systems.  Not only do you end up paying Eskom a lot less money each month, slowly paying off your investment, but when the power goes off, your life carries on.   

I think one of the realities that all of us in South Africa must face is whatever the solution is to the electricity problems, it takes about 12 years just for a nuclear power station to be built and burning coal in bigger and bigger amounts is not a solution either.  The faster more of us start getting off the grid and relying more on ourselves, the better.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 29-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  32 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Sexual assault by Uber and Lyft drivers

I was fascinated to see an advert by American lawyers recently, targeting a new group of potential claimants.  They were advertising on TV that anybody who feels that they were sexually assaulted, which I would assume obviously includes inappropriate comments and not just an actual physical assault, by an Uber or Lyft driver to come forward and join their case.  I guess in a few years’ time we will hear a bit about that case and right now, they are trying to get together obviously a big enough group of people to bring a class action.  I would love to see more class actions being brought in South Africa, but I guess it is obviously also hard in a country that has, let’s say, just less than one-sixth of the population of America, the bigger the population you have, the more likely there would be a large group of people who all have the same grievance.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 23-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Waymo

Waymo is one of the many projects that Google works on, apart from its search engines.  It is a self-driving car project which began in 2009 and many business analysts think if Google is to have another major success that success may well be Waymo.  The self-driving cars will transport you around, driven, according to Google by the world’s most experienced driver, and they have trademarked that expression – the world’s most experienced driver!  Obviously, they are talking about a computer driving people and they say they have driven over 10 million miles on public roads and 7 billion miles in simulation.  That effectively boils down to hundreds of years of human driving experience, meaning that no human being could ever have as much experience as their system does when it comes to driving.  They have a very interesting website at https://waymo.com and I should just mention that of course, given that petrol is on the way out, it is naturally an electric self-driving vehicle.  At the moment, you can take part in the programme and drive around the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, a large American city, that together with the neighbouring area of Scottsdale, has a population of about 5 million people.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 17-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  35 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Game of Thrones returns

The final season of Game of Thrones which fans have been waiting 1 ½ years for is about to begin.  It is amazing how long it takes, and how much hard work it requires to put together 6 or 7 episodes, and I reminded myself of that the other evening, by watching the very first episode of Game of Thrones.  It was filled with characters that have long since been killed, and those that remain in the cast are visibly older in the most recent season, let alone how they will look when we see them now!  Some things remain the same – from the very first episode Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, had to take her clothes off, and she seems to have had to do that in every season.  In between riding dragons and being naked, she certainly has had a tough time.  I will say this, I think that the show has the best theme tune that I have ever heard in my life and I am sure with hindsight, the composer Ramin Djawadi, probably feels whatever he was paid for it was not enough compared to what the show has become.  It is undoubtedly the biggest television programme in the world and it is certainly the big selling point for the television company that bought it, namely HBO.   In any event, from the first episode we have heard that winter is coming, and it certainly has to arrive now, along with Whitewalkers, etc. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 12-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  40 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The power of the Dictaphone

Over the years I have often written about my latest efforts with Dragon Naturally Speaking, all of which end up going awry.  In particular, there seem to be issues with, in my experience, Dragon Naturally Speaking and Outlook to the point that I almost always end up uninstalling it.  In any event, the point of this blog was to highlight something different and that is one of the things that has allowed me to do prodigious amounts of work over the years is the use of a Dictaphone.   

The vast majority of attorneys that I know are too nervous to dictate.  I think in many cases truthfully, although they will not say it, they don’t like to hear their own voice or are nervous of dictating.  It is a pity, because it stops people being as productive as they could be – especially when it comes to longer more detailed replies to people.  I am capable of dictating up to 250 minutes in a day, although typically I dictate about 45 to 50 minutes in a working day, but that is a huge amount of memos, letters, replies and the various other projects I work on.  It allows me to attend to work far more quickly than most attorneys.  Obviously, you need a top secretary to type your dictation and somebody who actually returns it the next day – which is not something that all typists do – but apart from that the only negative that I can think of, for those comfortable enough to do their dictation – is that perhaps you don’t write as well as you would if you sit and type the words yourself.  Invariably, when I do a longer letter I need it to be sent back to me for editing, but it is still faster and more productive for me than typing all the replies myself.  When you type yourself, it just limits what you can do, although if it is a short letter it is probably better to type it yourself.  It also allows you to make more detailed memoranda as to what you did and when you did it.  To that extent I never had a shortage of dictaphones – I keep two different dictaphones on my desk to dictate to two  different typists and I will always have one in my travel bag as well plus about two other backup dictaphones.  Invariably, in my office, when somebody is asked to have Dragon Naturally Speaking installed on their computer they have not used it, and I had a staff member who decided that he would also like to do dictation while he was based at my Pretoria offices, but it ultimately turned out that he dictated no more than 3 minutes in a day!  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 09-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  37 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Choose love and help refugees

I was very impressed to read about Choose Love, a website and a shop.  They have a shop in New York and one in London and basically it is a store where they recommend, instead of buying presents for people they do not need or do not want, that you buy something on their behalf and contribute it to refugees around the world.  The American website can be found at https://choose.love/.

You can for example buy a child’s coat that is insulated for $13 or a warm blanket for somebody for $7, an arrival bundle for a child refugee which includes a child’s coat, blanket, themos flask and emergency blanket which cost $13.  You can help buy diapers, sleeping bags, lighting and power, $10 worth of children’s boots which are waterproof and durable or for $26 you can buy a waterproof tent for a family. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 05-Apr-19   |  Permalink   |  34 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Using a blue pen to sign

It's quite interesting, while in South Africa, we emphasise signing with black pens, many other countries have changed.  The reason for that is quite simple, with scanners and advanced programs like Photoshop, somebody's signature can quite easily be faked onto a document.  It becomes hard to dispute, at a quick glance, whether it is a genuine signature or not.  A lot of international contracts are now signed in blue ink, so that the ink is a contrasting colour to the rest of the document in the normal black typeface.  It's actually something to think about, and to perhaps give more consideration to having more documents signed in blue, so that an original, which has been faked, stands out more obviously than it might, if it's just scanned, which requires you to look a lot closer at the document to try and see whether it is genuine or not. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 29-Mar-19   |  Permalink   |  28 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!
Have you been injured in a motor accident?
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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