Money matters: The genius of Belkin
MBMG International Ltd.
Michael Belkin is a name much better known by the man on Wall
Street than by the man on Main Street. He produces a weekly newsletter that is
avidly read by fund managers, portfolio advisors and professional investors.
What’s so different about Belkin? Well he purports to be a technical analyst -
but in that sense his analyses are extremely limited - the graphs produced by
Belkin use just one technical measurement (the 200 week moving average of a
given market) applied to a wide range of markets. These graphs are widely
available anywhere and you wouldn’t pay Belkin’s annual subscription fees
just to get these.
Where Belkin comes into his own is the strength with which he
forms and expresses opinions based on these analyses. Recently he challenged the
virtually unanimous received wisdom that Alan Greenspan is the creator of an
economic miracle and has done more to spread prosperity to the masses than any
one since Robin Hood. He has actually had the audacity to criticise the level of
intervention and interference in the markets by central bankers and has lamented
the problems that have been created and are currently stored in the system ready
to explode at any minute.
Belkin believes that free markets will correct excesses
efficiently. Focusing on the weakness of the US Dollar in a free market, he
believes, would force US interest rates much higher, depress US
over-consumption, reduce the trade deficit and eventually stabilize the
currency. Austerity measures to some extent, but necessary and ones which if
they had been taken a few years back might have avoided the bloated deficits
that we face today.
Hence Belkin commits financial blasphemy by complaining that
“instead of free markets, we have Greenspan and other moron central
bankers”. As a client recently pointed out “moron” might not be the
correct term - if interest rates are still held artificially lower than they
ought to be then the name should be less-on not mor-on! Except that no-one seems
to be learning and Federal Reserve controlled US short term interest rates are
still 1.25% below the CPI inflation rate and about 3.25% below a ‘neutral’
level with an undertaking from the Fed only to increase rates at what Belkin
views a snail’s pace. Hence the continuing Dollar weakness (although Belkin
does allow the possibility of a short term Dollar rally due to central bank
interference leading to a scramble of short covering and a brief, but
unsustainable, rally in the Greenback).
Again Belkin doesn’t exactly pull his punches, “Given the
moronic central bank mentality, currency intervention is overdue and could
happen at any time ... foreign central banks are probably about to send a big,
phoney signal to American consumers - keep borrowing and spending like
drunken sailors. That is obviously not a long-term solution to big trade
deficits and dollar weakness.”
So Belkin is unequivocally gloomy about the medium term
Dollar prospects (the reason that Belkin is so eagerly read is that he is
unequivocal in all his opinions, including the bearish ones, in a marketplace
that is used to double-speak and only talking up the GOOD news, but what
does Belkin think of other global assets?
He sees a liquidity bubble and unfounded seasonal sentiment
continuing to support US equities into year-end, with the big turning point
probably ahead early in the new year. He sees European stock indices already
starting to turn neutral (except for Finland and Denmark where the slide
downwards has already started). However, by the end of this month, all stocks
could have started what might turn out to be a long journey downwards. Sector
rotation will become defensive and techs will get dumped again.
He highlights the danger that emerging equity markets are
extremely overextended and are probably also headed for a downturn.
He also emphasises that credit spreads (junk/treasuries,
Moody’s BAA/treasuries) are unusually compressed.
Investment management was originally more of an art form than
a science, gut instinct and personal knowledge being the main weapons of many of
the scions of Wall Street whose eponymous practices now dominate the world. In
recent times the shift has been to make the processes much more scientific, with
analysis, technical charts, complex modelling, etc. Belkin reads the charts but
retains more instinct and emotion than any other commentator that we know, which
is why he stands out. Oh, that and his track record of getting most calls right
for so long now. Lets leave the final words to the man himself:
“We don’t wish to intrude on the holiday season with
bearish tidings, but portfolio managers should plan ahead for a more challenging
equity market environment in 2005. We are watching for a topping process to
unfold for equities over coming weeks - with a potential downturn in January.”
We’d like to wish all of our readers all the very best and a prosperous New
The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be
reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can
accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor
bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions
taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more
information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]
Snap Shots: Shadow shows shape!
by Harry Flashman
Coming out of the shadows is important in photography,
however, there is a tendency for many photographers to try and eliminate
shadows from their photos entirely. They do this by turning their
photographic subjects so they directly face the sun, or turn on their
on-camera flash if the sun is not blazing down as the celestial light
super source. Unfortunately, this is incorrect.
by Irving Penn
Undoubtedly the subject will now be well lit, but you have
also removed shape and form from the photograph. You see, the way to convey
shape is by showing the shadow the object casts. No shadow and it looks flat.
Incorporate shadow and “Hey Presto!” you have invented 3D.
Shadow has another benefit - it gives an air of mystery to
any picture. Dark shadows allow the viewer to imagine what is being hidden. Your
photograph “hints” at something and the viewer’s mind does the rest from
Here is an exercise for this weekend. Let’s put some
shadows into your photographs. Let’s do a portrait to incorporate shadow. And
let’s do this indoors and without flash guns or any fancy equipment, and get a
‘professional’ look to the final print.
Find the largest window in your house or condominium and put
a chair about one metre away from it. The chair should be parallel to the
window, not facing it.
Place your sitter in the chair and position another chair
facing the sitter. This one is yours, as you will take the photo sitting down.
Reason? This way you keep the camera at the same level as your subject’s face
and you will get a more pleasing portrait. If you photograph from a position
below the subject you tend to give them “piggy” nostrils and it shortens the
look of the nose. In a country where ‘big noses’ are considered desirable,
this is not the effect wanted.
Now, make sure that your auto flash is turned off. This is
important with point and shooters that can fire off as soon as light levels are
lower than usual. Look through the viewfinder and position yourself so that the
sitters face is almost filling the frame. Notice that the side of the face away
from the window light source is now in shadow. If you have the ability to meter
from the lit side of the face, then do so. But if not, just blast off a couple
of frames on auto and let the camera do the worrying.
Now here is a super trick to do if you have an SLR. Turn the
film speed dial from the ASA of the film you are using to the next highest film
speed. For example, if you are shooting 100 ASA go to 200 ASA. If you have used
200 ASA then bump it up to 400 ASA. What you are doing is effectively reducing
the amount of light falling on to the film by 50 percent. This way you should
“fool” the camera’s meter and make sure you get some good shadows.
You should also slightly angle the sitters chair so that one
shoulder is closer to the camera and get the subject to turn their head to face
the camera again. Try angling in both directions so you will get a choice of
Another variation to try is to place a thin voile net over
the window, or draw any transparent curtains. This will soften the light and is
particularly effective when taking shots of women. Again go through the
variations, including the change of ASA rate.
For a portrait study such as this it is worth using a
complete roll of film. Remember that you are not doing 36 identical shots - you
are making variations in pose, lighting and exposure. There are also facial
expressions to change - laughing, smiling, serious or sad. It is very easy to
end up with 36 different shots.
By the time you add up the costs of film and processing you
will have spent around 400 baht. That is a very cheap “professional”
portrait! Try it.
Modern Medicine: Why western doctors don’t want
to do house calls any more
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
Part of the job of being a GP is to service
the patients in their homes. While GP’s would prefer the patients to come to
the clinics, there are times when the patient is just too sick to come, or too
old or infirm. House calls (or ‘hotel’ calls) will always be necessary.
However, house calls are probably the most dangerous part of being a medico.
In Australia, one of the authoritative medical publications
has just run a survey to see how dangerous home visits can be. 21 percent of GPs
said they or their staff have to deal with violent patients every week. One GP
in 12 has been physically attacked, and 14 percent have been directly threatened
with physical violence.
The usual causes for the aggression towards the doctors
include refusal to prescribe a requested drug (mentioned by 68 percent of
doctors), the patient being affected by drugs or alcohol (53 percent) and long
waiting times (51 percent).
So is Australia the haven for drunken, drug addicted patients
with a short fuse? The answer is not totally, but this problem is the same all
over the western world. I can remember 35 years ago having to do a weekly house
call to a very disturbed individual in the UK. This person, according to local
knowledge, had murdered the previous doctor I was standing in for, but the
police did not have enough evidence. I used to wave my stethoscope around the
door while calling out “It’s the doctor,” while being ready to run!
The article mentioned a Sydney GP who had been chased by a
machete wielding patient. Frightening, but undoubtedly true. Once again, I have
had my fair share of these undeserving patients. One Xmas Day I was called to a
local factory, where a patient, sporting a machete, was walking around
threatening to kill the plant manager. Rather than call the police, they called
me, because he was my patient! I managed to settle the chap, get his machete,
and then called the police!
>From the patient’s point of view, there are many
problems too. If the sick person has no regular GP, he or she may find that most
GP’s will refuse to come. From the doctor’s point of view, it is enough of a
risk with the ‘regular’ patients, but to go to places you don’t know to
see people you don’t know is certainly putting your head in the lion’s
What has happened is that the GP’s would rather contract
another doctor, or group of doctors, to do these dangerous house calls for them.
This makes sense in many ways. The doctor you get at 3 a.m. has been asleep all
day and is (reasonably) alert, while your own GP, who has been seeing patients
all day is (certainly) not at his best.
Many doctors team up with others in the practice, or
neighborhood, to do the house calls on a rotational basis. This was how my
practice handled the after hours work, but each year the after hours duties
became more dangerous.
As the problems began to escalate, I began to take my (then)
medical student son with me on house calls. The fact that he was 6’6"
tall was definitely comforting. He enjoyed the additional medical experience he
was receiving and being with his father, and when we were asked to make a house
call to the local house of ill repute, he learned some other lessons about
‘life’ as well.
House calls can sometimes be fun too!
Learn to Live to Learn: Leadership for our time
with Andrew Watson
Last week I began overhauling the subject of
leadership and management, describing some of the qualities, which can help,
define the role of the leader in International schools in the twenty first
century. I cited the need to understand and reflect the
global reality of chaos and complexity
as central to the effective and successful leadership of an International
school. This week, in continuing to search for ‘that elusive something’
which sets leaders apart, I want to focus on some examples of what I perceive as
great leadership. In acknowledging that leaders can become leaders for a wide
variety of reasons, (the gunslingers as previously mentioned, for example!) I
want to accentuate the positive attributes (as always!) of heroic individuals
who made the world a better, wiser and happier place. In so doing, I return to
the central tenets of the teacher, and the reasons, I hope, that we entered the
profession in the first place. In a land where the role of the teacher is
celebrated and revered, I propose that we in the profession have a
responsibility to uphold the highest standards of personal integrity, strength
and honour, epitomised by the kind of examples which follow. Whilst these
examples are taken from recent and distant history, their thoughts, words and
deeds continue to resonate and I think, should influence the role of all leaders
of today, who should aspire to emulate their example on a daily basis.
Mahatma Gandhi’s life was one of extraordinary courage,
vision, devotion and compassion. In outwitting the tired colonial regime of the
British Raj, he demonstrated his academic brilliance and professional training
(he was a Barrister) in a beautiful, humanitarian fashion. In espousing
non-violent, civil disobedience and promoting reconciliation which envisaged a
“win, win” situation for both parties, he presaged Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
What I love most about Gandhi, a reluctant hero, is that he simply could not
allow social injustice to pass him by, no matter how small. Clad in a loincloth,
he psychologically undressed the British, who were had been ruling by fear and
oppression, haunted by the unrelenting violence of the Indian Mutiny. In
Attenborough’s film, Lord Mountbatten asks of Gandhi, “Do you expect us to
just get up and walk out of India?” Gandhi smiles as he replies, “Yes, that
is exactly what I expect you to do”. And they did.
Martin Luther King took Gandhi’s idea of peaceful protest and
civil disobedience to the streets of Mississippi. He also utilised his shining
intelligence for the common good and was able to exhort his oppressed people to
resistance, which involved daily sacrifice. The bus boycott alone necessitated
people walking huge distances to make a living, which must have been utterly
physically exhausting. The greatest testament to Martin Luther King is that he
imbued his followers with inexhaustible spiritual energy. On the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, it is a profoundly moving experience to stand
upon the very spot from where he spoke the words, “I have a dream”.
I felt the same sensation of reverence and awe when I first
set eyes on Jerusalem in 1982. To see street names and sign posts carrying the
names of people and places with whom I felt very familiar brought the reality of
Jesus Christ home to me, with brilliant clarity. Whether you believe in Jesus as
the Messiah or not, his impact on humanity cannot be doubted, neither can the
fact of his existence. The teaching of one man, which places faith, charity and
love, (“and of these, the greatest is love”) at the centre of the human
world, should not be confused or darkened by the ruthless, cynical and entirely
deliberate political manipulation of his message by some groups, who conspire to
give religion a bad name. I cannot help but notice the link between the message
of Jesus and the message of John Lennon two millennia on. ‘Imagine’ holds
that desire is the cause of human suffering and the words offer the same answers
for the relief of suffering as given by Jesus which for that matter, also
resonate with Buddhist teaching. Before you write in to point out a possible
contradiction between me putting Lennon and Jesus in close proximity,
joined by ‘Imagine’, which includes the words,
“Imagine no religion”, I ask you to travel beyond the first idea and see
that Lennon was referring to the same kind of political manipulation of the
spiritual message to which I referred earlier in this piece and in previous
weeks. By way of digression and as an aside, here’s a little anecdote from
education. A mother complained that a Jewish boy had been chosen to play the
role of Jesus in the school nativity play. I put forward the notion that Jesus
was in fact, Jewish. “No he wasn’t, he was Christian!” came the emphatic
response. If you find the link between Jesus and Lennon tenuous, you might
wonder how I can spring with such effortlessness from Lennon to er, Pele. In
talking about Pele, I will also mention Maradona. Two footballers of bewitching
genius, athletes of intelligence,
instinct, and an epic poet’s feel for high explosive
drama, they differed in at least one critical way, which FIFA (world governing
body of soccer) ignored to its peril in promoting these two as the “Two Best
players of All-Time”(has time finished already?). Connoisseurs of the game
cannot deny that Pele had something that Maradona never did, something, which
great leaders must have. He had compassion, a sense of fair play, generosity of
spirit and an enjoyment of life that spoke of his recognition of his fortune at
having been blessed with such genius, his understanding that this genius had
been augmented by a lifetime of devotion to the pursuit of excellence and the
memory of an early life which taught him strength, but also humility. I never
saw these characteristics in Maradona, and whilst I acknowledge that there were
complicated reasons for their absence, his brilliance as a leader was
significantly diminished as a result.
Next week: Heroic Leadership
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I’m now thinking I’m going to quit my job in Japan and start running a go-go
bar in Pattaya. But, the problem is that I don’t know how to hire good-looking
girl there. The girl in the page of August 2005 in the calender (sic) of
Super-baby a go-go is my favorite. How can I meet her?
I think the first step would be to write to the Immigration Police in Pattaya
and let them know of your intending business venture, and they will help you
with the currency exchange and paperwork and put you in touch with the right
person in the Labor Department in Chonburi. After that, you should hire a
reputable Private Investigator to find the August 2005 calendar girl, as she may
already be in Japan working as a waitress, or similar position, and may not wish
to return to the chrome pole paradise of Pattaya. It would be such a shame to
spend all that money on air fares, just for nothing. What are you going to call
your go-go bar, Petal? Nippon or Nip Off a-go-go? Pattaya is waiting with bated
breath. If there’s one business that Pattaya is really short of, it’s a
My girlfriend is a closet exhibitionist and I was wondering if there would be
any problems if we came to Thailand and did a little photography session? We
would use a raincoat and then get our pictures and run. Any ideas where we
should go, Hillary?
The Kinky Closet Couple
Dear Kinky Closet Couple,
I am not sure I totally understand you. Just what is it that you are doing in
this closet? Are you going to be bringing the closet over with you, or do you
think you can pick one up here? Won’t it be dark inside the closet, and maybe
even a little hot and sweaty in a raincoat? It gets very hot over here, even in
the evenings. Where should you run to, Petals? I really don’t know. Legging it
is an Olympic sport in Thailand, but generally after road accidents. I haven’t
heard of closet leggers, so I really can’t advise you, I’m afraid.
Why do you continue to print letters from the Mistersingha person? He’s not
really looking for advice, he just wants to see his name in print I reckon, and
half of the stuff he writes in is nonsense. I reckon he makes everything up, as
well as his stupid name.
There have been times, Petal, many times, that I have considered slashing the
editorial red pen right through the middle of it all, but then I have to think
that if he continues writing in, I must be filling some sort of deep down
psychological need. And that is what is needed of a confidential counselor like
myself. That is why so many of my clients use pseudonyms (that’s a big word
for ‘pen name’ Mistersingha), so that they can receive the advice publicly,
without having to reveal themselves in public. In Mistersingha’s case, it also
means he gets free advice, that otherwise he would have to pay for. I am sure he
is strapped for cash, the poor lad. The reason he never sends the promised
champagne and chocolates is that he can’t afford to buy them. In some ways
he’s just like me. I can’t afford to buy them either!
I have been going out with a wonderful Thai girl, a proper young “lady” not
a bar girl, and we have become quite serious and I am now looking into the
future. Everything seemed to be going along very well, although we did have some
problems, just caused by communication problems (as I can’t speak Thai). The
other night she dropped the bombshell. “My mother tell me I must marry Thai
man.” Just like that! Hillary, is this a common thing in Thai families? Does
her mother have that much power that she can dictate what her daughter does, and
even the choice of husband for her? Surely in this 21st century Thai girls are
not stuck with arranged marriages, and if they are, what can a farang do in this
Does her mother have that sort of authority? In a traditional Thai family she
certainly does. It may be the 21st century for you, Dave, but in Thailand it is
the 26th century and despite the extra 500 years, the traditional ways are still
very strong. Thai people believe in the need for family members to look after
each other and her mother is merely looking after her daughter in the
traditional way. You are from an alien culture, Petal, and even if your Thai
lady is well versed in the ways of the modern international world, the
traditional values will still be held by the family. Have you stopped to
consider that perhaps the Thai man may have already paid a dowry to the family?
In the case of a well educated girl this could go as high as two million baht.
What can you do? You can either keep in there and hope, or call it quits now
before you get in too deep. However, you should sit down with your girl and
discuss it first.
Psychological Perspectives: Love in two flavors
by Michael Catalanello,
The approach of Valentines Day seems as
good a time as any to consider a psychological perspective of that
perennially fascinating topic of love.
Scientific attempts to understand the phenomenon of love
began in earnest only during the 20th century. One line of research has
attempted to make a distinction between “passionate” and
“companionate” love. Such a distinction might seem intuitive to most of
us. Passionate love is the intensely emotional brand of love in which,
according to social psychologists Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Walster,
“tender and sexual feelings, elation, and pain, anxiety and relief,
altruism and jealousy coexist in a confusion of feelings.”
“Elation… pain… jealousy… anxiety…
confusion…” Sounds to me more like symptoms of mental illness!
Unfortunately… or perhaps fortunately, this type of love tends to be
Remember Jeff Bridges’ character in the motion
picture, ”The Jagged Edge?” He seemed to know something about the
physiology of passionate love. His technique for seducing Glenn Close’s
character was to take her horseback riding. The physiological arousal that
results from the mix of danger, aerobic activity, and rhythmic action
between the lower extremities characteristic of this sport, is considered
by some as a sort of natural female aphrodisiac. A colleague informs me of
anecdotal evidence from fox hunting enthusiasts that this sport, also
performed on horseback, is virtually guaranteed to get one’s female
partner “in the mood.”
This phenomenon is consistent with the two-factor theory
of emotion which assumes that emotions like love have two major
ingredients: physical arousal and cognitive appraisal. Arousal in this
context refers to a condition manifested by increased heart rate, nervous
tremor, flushing, and accelerated breathing. According to this view, an
emotion can be enhanced by means of arousal resulting from any source. The
element of cognitive appraisal refers the tendency of the love-struck
person to attribute his arousal to his beloved.
In an interesting laboratory test of this theory,
college men were aroused by fright, by running in place, by viewing
erotica, or by listening to humorous or repulsive monologues. Next, they
were introduced to an attractive woman and asked to rate her level of
attractiveness, or that of their girlfriends. These aroused men generally
rated the woman or their girlfriends as significantly more attractive than
did unaroused men in the control group.
Researchers tell us it is only a matter of time before
the heated emotional tone characteristic of passionate love subsides, and
the other brand of love, companionate love, kicks in. Elaine Hatfield
defines companionate love as “the affection we feel for those with whom
our lives are deeply intertwined.”
Many in our society make the mistake of equating love
with passionate love. This view seems to be promoted by some elements
within our popular culture, particularly fairy tales, romance novels, and
motion pictures, such as the hugely popular “Titanic.” People who enter
relationships expecting passionate love to endure are setting themselves up
for a huge disappointment. Such individuals may mistakenly conclude that
the decline of passionate love is a sign of a failed relationship. Most
couples that stay together over the long haul characterize their
relationships as companionate in nature.
Evolutionary psychologists point out the potential
advantages offered by this change from passion to affection. According to
this view, when passionate love results in the production of offspring, the
children’s survival may be facilitated by their parents’ diminishing
obsession with one another. Thus, powerful, long-term bonds with a partner
might be better suited to ensuring that children are adequately cared for
until they reach reproductive age. Could this explain why children
observing their parents’ mushy displays of affection toward one another
often feign extreme nausea?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home
State of Louisiana, USA. He is a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at
Asian University, Chonburi. Address questions and comments to him at [email protected]