- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Learn to Live to Learn
Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
Why? Part 2
Why are so many commentators so positive about
the global outlook when there are so many reasons to be negative?
Many canít afford to slow slightly without being strangled
by the debt burden. The rosy scenario is less than a 1% probability but is
universally seized upon as what must happen. Realists are aware that this is
extremely unlikely and of what the grim alternatives are. Another example from
Mr. Toogoodtobetrue is, "The sub prime mortgage collapse, if contained as
expected, will have only a fairly minimal impact on the macro-economy."
If contained as expected? As expected by the Panglossian
analysts, yes. However, there have been a myriad of detailed papers published
about the sub prime problems that tend towards the Ďtip of the icebergí view
point. Optimism might hope that there will be containment; logic tells us that
this is unlikely. The likely impact on the macro-economy will be significant,
especially with the Ďtsunamií of impending increases in the cost of
adjustable rate mortgages in the US. Finally, the same commentator writes,
"Elsewhere, above trend growth is forecast for Europe and Japan, while
Asian growth, particularly in China and India, should continue to be highly
supportive of the global economy."
Assuming that the sub prime contagion is miraculously
prevented from spreading, assuming that the US soft lands, assuming that the
carry trade continues providing huge liquidity injections and assuming the
absence of any other major structural economic crises that might be true.
However, we have no reason to assume any of these things. Rather we should be
assuming the opposite.
5) Limited understanding - CNBC and the likes tend to focus
on the relative prospects for individual stocks. Rarely do they look at the
bigger picture. For that reason the carry trade and its associated issues are
largely marginalised. In simple terms the main reasons for the period of
prosperity over the last 5 years, the artificial delaying of the recession that
appeared inevitable in 2002 have been the loose monetary and fiscal policies
adopted by the Western economies supported in no small part by the carry trade.
Inflation in the west and reflation in the East are taking
away both of these. When Paul Volcker was head of the Fed he spoke about the
need for the Fed to take away the punch bowl before the guests got too drunk. In
the Western world now everyone is legless and the markets, both eastern and
Western are starting to say, "Itís my punchbowl and Iím leaving
Depressions, we are told, are cyclical in the nature of
economics. Since last year there have been increasingly urgent warnings of an
economic disaster by a growing number of Wall Street denizens. Everyone involved
in the current speculative stock and equity boom knows that eventually stocks
and properties will drop, but right now, who cares though? At the moment, we are
in the business of making money. When the bulls are stampeding, it raises a
cloud of dust that makes it hard to see danger.
Technology continues to provide higher standards of living
for everyone and to disseminate information to the masses in a way that was
unimaginable a few short years ago. Consumerism is rampant like never before and
a record number of people are participating in the stock and property markets
creating wealth at a rate that was previously inconceivable.
In the last 5 years itís almost become a craze to play the
market - the little guy can speculate with the seasoned pros. The current
administration in the US adheres firmly to a government policy of
non-intervention. Policy is supportive of further borrowing, even though levels
are currently unprecedented, but no-one wants to take the blame if the market
crashes because of measures taken to prevent further excesses.
The Federal Reserve Board has been holding increasing
regularly meetings behind closed doors - there has no doubt been heavy
discussion about the market and the national economy. March is proving to be a
difficult month though and weíve seen the first reversal in the seemingly ever
upward trend of the last few years.
What is stated above could have been written 78 years ago. In
fact, it was on Tuesday March 26th 1929 that an unexpected Ďminií crash
began. For the next six months, the stock markets were a massive roller coaster
that ultimately derailed in October. That summer of 1929 was not too bad. It
hearkened somewhat of the good old days of optimism. Even though there still was
an air of nervousness, the market appeared to be stable. It was on September 3,
right after the holiday, that a bear market became firmly established. The
roller coaster was on its final descent. It began on Thursday, October 24, 1929
when 12,894,650 shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange - a record.
On Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the reckoning of several years of boom,
which was based in large part on credit, came due. 16,410,030 shares traded on
that day. The market well & truly crashed. You didnít want to be anywhere
near at the time. You probably donít this time either. Who says history does
not repeat itself?
Itís getting harder for the market to ignore the evidence
of its own eyes - the US Commerce Department issued its monthly housing report
this week which shows that sales of new homes unexpectedly fell again in
February, by 3.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 848,000. This is the
lowest since June 2000 and came when the market had expected an increase to
about 1 million units. Sales were down 18.3% compared with February 2006.
Inventories of unsold homes rose 1.5% to 546,000, which now
equates to an 8.1 month supply (the largest inventory in relation to sales since
January 1991). Also, inventory is up 26.6% in the past 12 months. The median
price of a new home is now $250,000, down by 0.3% compared with February 2006.
Somehow the market will convince itself that this surprise is
exactly what a soft-landing would look like. The only thing thatís soft around
here are the heads on Wall Street!
Weíre not saying that we know all of the answers - but we know when
something doesnít add up and the positive outlook does not add up at all!
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
Snap Shots: by Harry Flashman
Is it time that
my Nik died?
Another obituary! In the photographic
field, obituaries for cameras are commonplace. In the past five years, for
example, Nikon have launched four professional cameras, three high speed
cameras, two Ďprosumerí cameras, three consumer and three entry level
models. Thatís 15 new cameras, no wonder it is difficult to stay ahead of
the new technology.
However, regular readers of this column will know that I
have been persevering with my old FM2N outfit for over 20 years, with the
hammer-head Metz 45CT1 flash unit permanently fixed to it. However, I have
been a little disappointed of late with the results. The flash which could
at one time light up the other side of the moon appears to have run out of
power, and the viewfinder is giving me a five degree incorrect horizon. But
what do I replace them with?
I was at a function a couple of weeks ago and one of my
colleagues came in dragging one of those aircraft-style bags on wheels,
with the extending handle. Wondering to myself why he had brought his
change of clothes with him, I was blown away when he opened the case and it
was full of camera and equipment. This was his D2X system.
Now I always thought that I would like a D2X, but it was
always out of my price range, but here was my opportunity to play with one.
An old proverb goes "expectation is always better than
realization" and that certainly was true with the D2X. For starters,
it was incredibly heavy (1,252 gm with batteries, and lenses extra). You
needed a back-pack to carry it, three months at the Charles Atlas
gymnasium, or a permanent porter. D2X was obviously designed with fit young
men in mind. D2X could never be mine. The weight penalty was ridiculous,
even though the 12 megapixel capacity was very attractive.
Another of my compatriots was using a Panasonic Lumix
FZ-50, which he was very happy with. 10 megapixels and could be run fully
auto, and all other modes in between fully manual. Now this is an
interesting camera, being neither the usual compact, or an SLR, but
something in between called a "Mega-Zoom". Looks like an SLR, and
to be honest, when I was using it I did not know it wasnít an SLR, but
the FZ-50 has a fixed lens like a compact. However, this lens is a real
doozy, a 12 times optical zoom going from 35 mm to 420 mm, and made by
Leica. And what is even better, you can manually focus and manually zoom.
For an old "film camera" buff, this represents the best of both
One of the more recent advances in electronics has been
image stabilization. The camera technology is making it hard for you to end
up with blurred shots, and the Panasonic Lumix answer is called MEGA O.I.S.
(optical image stabilization). With this system, you can do hand-held
photography when working at a 250 mm range at 1/60 second shutter speed.
Normally you would have to use at least 1/250 sec.
Looking further at the camera we have to delve into the
minefield called electronics, which in this case is called the Venus Engine
III processor. This new processor aims at significantly reducing the
digital noise, as well as improving the overall image quality. Panasonic
are now offering both ISO 800 and 1600 in full resolution. So poor light
photography is possible, without flash. However, the results will not be as
good as shooting at the equivalent of 100 ASA, with flash.
Another new addition is the Intelligent ISO Control.
When the camera detects movement of the subject, the ISO and shutter speed
are adjusted in a way that ensures the movement of the subject will be
frozen. All good applications of electronic technology to make it even less
likely that you will end up with a blurred picture.
This camera has simple rotary knobs on the top to change modes and you
can have both AF or manual focus. I did like this camera, and am seriously
looking at getting one as a replacement for my dying Nikon!
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
Pills and amateur psychologists
Psychology is a known and accepted profession. It is taught
at, and degrees can be earned at, many well accepted universities in the
world. However, one of the biggest problems, from the doctorís viewpoint,
is the current surfeit of what I call "amateur psychologists."
Everybody, these days, feels as if they are entitled to voice their opinion
as to the psychological "wholeness" of everyone else.
And it doesnít stop there. Never mind all the amateur
psychís, there are bookshelves now crammed with paperbacks full of
psychological advice for every problem the world could ever have.
Unfortunately, most of them should only be used for holding doors open or
throwing at predatory puppy dogs.
You see, what many forget is that the whole range of
human emotions is part of our "normal" selves (well, I think Iím
normal, even if you are doubtful)! Anger, hurt, elation, depression,
sadness, grief, despair, dejection, rejection, joy, excitement or desolation
are all very normal human emotions. It is our range of emotional feelings
that distinguishes us from those creatures lower down the food chain. If you
take these emotional feelings away, you are left with a "zombie" -
an unfeeling being that is unable to express real emotion. Happy, sad or
Now why is this a problem to us doctors? It becomes a
problem because people begin to believe that somehow it is "wrong"
to feel sad when, for example, one of lifeís calamities strikes. Instead
of working through the "normal" grief or despair, the patient is
encouraged by the amateur psychologists in the family and friends to go and
see the doctor and ask for some Prozac, or other "wonder drug." In
this country, with powerful medications being available over the counter
without prescription, this poses an even greater threat to normal reactions
and normal recoveries. Note that "diagnosis" is never touched on
in this process. Itís straight to the ju-jube jollies!
There is nothing wrong with showing normal emotions.
Goodness me, even my cat lets me know when it is displeased (generally given
some cat food it doesnít particularly like) and it expresses true emotion.
It does not need a magic tablet. It will get over it.
And so it is with people too. The reason for the
depression, or elation, eventually becomes accepted by your emotional self
and the middle of the road "normalcy" returns. You donít need a
magic tablet either.
Now of course there can be pathological forms of
emotional disturbance too. Deep, dark lingering depression, without any real
basis for it, is a pathological condition, but depression over financial
woes, personal loss or the passing of a loved one is "normal".
This type of emotional problem only requires treatment (and I didnít say
"tablets") when the person involved finds they are unable to come
out over the top of it after a reasonable period of time. Many times the
only treatment necessary is a friendly ear to allow the person to talk
through their emotional responses.
No, sadness and happiness are part of our make-up and
indeed part of our life. Accept it and move on to the next day. No magic
Finally, remember this song, sung by Mick Jagger of the
Rolling Stones in 1967. Called Motherís Little Helper, are two of the
What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear evíry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though sheís not really ill
Thereís a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a motherís little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day
Lifeís just much too hard today,
I hear evíry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a motherís little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day.
And that, gentle reader was 40 years ago. We havenít really progressed,
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Dear Hillaire (sic),
This is a warning from the international police. We heard in Pattaya
there is a new rapes drug used only on man. The drug names is B.E.E.R. It
comes in can, bottle and tap. Some girls in bar makes men drink beer and
when the guys start to feel the drugs effects they go in a hotel room and
rape the poor lads. In the morning when he wake up and ask what happen the
girl say, "You make love all the night and she say you number
one." Furthermore she will bring you in a gold shop to buy assentials (sic)
items. You may end up to caring for a herd of buffaloes in north east
Thailand, so be very careful. PS. This drug Ďas a side effect to making
your belly becoming fatter.
Ďercule Poirot with the help of Inspector Clouzot
I am beginning to doubt you. While you really may be Belgian (ze spelling
gives you away), I believe that the good Inspectorís name was Clouseau,
and any Ďercule worth his Ďomburg would know that. One of my favorite
lines from the bumbling Inspector went:
FranÁois: "Do you know what kind of a bomb it was?"
Clouseau: "Yes, the exploding kind."
And, Ďercule my Brusselsí sprout, Ďercule Ďe died in 1975, and even
his creator, Agatha Christie described him as "By 1930, I found Poirot
Ďinsufferableí and by 1960, I felt that he was a detestable, bombastic,
tiresome, ego-centric little creep." Zo, I think you are an imposter!
Zut! Alors! Anuzzer problem. Zis B.E.E.R. of yours may also be a fake. After
all, this is Thailand, the center of the copy world. Zo be careful. Now Ďere
is a true story. There is a company which makes a B.E.E.R. called XXXX. It
got its name from the original brewer who was Irish and couldnít spell
B.E.E.R. (And disgruntled Irishmen, please donít write in, itís only a
joke!) Finally, Ďercule, my name is Hillary, not Hillaire.
You are always going on and on about not getting tied up with the bar
girls, but whatís the alternative, Petal? Getting hooked up with some girl
whose parents hate farangs, so itís going nowhere fast. Itís not as
simple as you make it out to be, saying we should look outside the bar area.
I should know, Iíve been dating a great girl for six months and then the
parents stepped in and Iím on the out real quick. Daughter does what Mum
tells her and Iíve just wasted six months. You donít get that sort of
problem in the UK, or in the Thai bars.
I find it difficult that you say you "just wasted six months." You
yourself say she was a "great girl", so you enjoyed the company of
a great girl for six months. Thatís not really time "wasted" is
it? You also began to get an inkling of how some sections of Thai society
works. And you should not forget, this is Thailand, not the UK. If you want
to live here and have a fruitful relationship here, then you have to know
the local rules. I get the feeling that you think everything should be the
same as life in the UK. It isnít, my Petal, it isnít!
I met this girl last time I was over in Thailand and I had been writing
to her after I went back to England. She sounded very serious about our
relationship and I told her I was coming back and would come to see her
then. Imagine how I felt when I went to the bar as soon as I got in and she
wasnít there. The other girls told me she had gone to Phuket with some guy
and they didnít know when she would be back. Hillary, is this the right
way to treat visitors who are prepared to help? I just canít believe that
she could be so two-faced. I really felt we had something good going, but
why would she just go off like that? Are they all like this?
Who are you helping? Her? Or yourself? Come on, even in jolly old England
you donít have any say over what a girl does until youíve got a ring on
the finger (and even then it is a mutual agreement, isnít it). In answer
to your query "Are they all like this?" I know this sounds hard to
believe, but the girls round here get lots of letters from guys like
yourself and 90 percent of those guys never show up again, so of course she
would go to Phuket with some chap who is here and now. The bird holding your
hand is better than the couple there might be in the bush, isnít it! If
youíre here for a good time, then go out with the good-time girls. If youíre
looking for your lifeís partner then you donít begin in a bar. However,
read the letter above yours - life isnít easy, even here, if you are
looking for that special someone.
Learn to Live to Learn: with Andrew Watson
Heroes & Genius
Morrison (1998) suggests that leaders need not be
heroes or geniuses but leadership, I would argue, requires the
capacity for heroic work and the potential for genius. Leaders
must first know what is necessary in order that they can do the
Ďright thingí. In education, there are many such defining
moments. Mandela (1993) maintains that, "The terms of the
struggle are dictated by the oppressor, not the oppressed",
a view which combines knowledge of the reality of peopleís
condition with their civil and human rights and legitimate
aspirations. The following are two examples from personal
experience of contrasting approaches to similar situations in
During the Al-Asqua Intifada in Jerusalem in
2001, our school became a haven for reconciliation and a model
for the indigenous populations to follow. Fearless but
compassionate, the leader of the school brought the community
together. This required the capacity for understanding a
situation with intuition, initiative, intelligence, courage and
a sense of shared humanity and the same kind of genius as
leaders like Mandela and Ghandi.
Consistent with Morrison (1998), the leader
demonstrated panoramic vision and was regarded as a visionary
himself. He was able to "identify and maintain the special
character, symbolize to the outside world exactly what the
company is, set challenging but manageable standards of
performance, motivate all employees, be a positive role
model" and in so doing, he epitomised the characteristics
of hero-leadership identified by Clarke (1994, in Morrison,
1998). His choice of appropriate response was what Redin (1991,
in Law & Glover, 2000) refers to as "style
It would be difficult to find a more profound
and dramatic contrast with the political maelstrom of Jerusalem
than the idyllic peace of rural India, but are the requirements
for effective leadership any different? Is it necessary to
experience the horror and intensity of Jerusalem in order to
demonstrate the capacity for making leadership decisions of
Shortly after arriving in India, the
September 11th attacks occurred, an event of global importance
which presented an opportunity as well as the responsibility, to
unify a school community and acknowledge the role of an
international school. In the particular province where I was
staying, I was utterly staggered by the lack of response. The
Principal at the time was not intending to mention the attacks
at all, until I suggested that it might be appropriate.
In an assembly, he then re-enacted planes
flying into buildings, using two corn flakes boxes that he had
picked up as he made his way to the assembly room. Whilst I
regard this as an example from the bottom end of the competence
scale, perhaps it serves to illustrate how rare the capacity to
judge a mood, seize a moment and deliver an appropriate message
The ability, surely necessary for an
international leader, to do what Allen (2000, in Hayden &
Thompson, 2000) calls "think globally and interact
locally", based on knowledge of global politics (without
prejudice) and an awareness of common humanity. Hayden, Thompson
& Williams (2003) call it awareness of the "widening,
deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all
aspects of contemporary social life".
Is there a difference between leadership and
management? Zaleznik (1977, in Blandford & Shaw, 2001)
suggests that managers define themselves by their roles in the
organisation and leaders are great communicators who inspire.
Zaleznikís manager is consistent with the concept of
transactional leadership as articulated by Bass (1985) through
Burns (1978) and could be aligned with Morrisonís (1998)
suggestion that "Leadership is less about status and
position in a hierarchy than the possession of essential
competencies, skills and expertise."
Similarly, Stoll & Fink (1996, in Law
& Glover, 2000) distinguish between the technocrat manager
and the humanist leader. There seems to be some confluence on
the subtle but important differences between management and
leadership and some acknowledgement that both managerial and
leadership skills are essential for effective leadership. As
Handy and Aitken (1986, in Law & Glover, 2000) argue,
"those who are most effective are those able to combine
both elements of freedom and authority".
What kinds of knowledge, skills and attitudes
are required? Can something like transformational leadership be
learned? Malpass (1994, in Shaw, 2000) maintains that,
"Many Heads and boards, it seems, have forgotten, or indeed
have never learnt, the basic principles of good school
management." The UK National Education Assessment Centre
(NEAC) goes to considerable lengths in breaking down leadership
into a curriculum, telling us how Head teachers achieve
excellence by transformational leadership;
"Transformational leadership is about creating energy and
involvement and setting an inspiring personal example - being an
outstanding teacher and professional as well as the Ďlead
learnerí (Hay McBer, 2000)".
However, there is no universal definition of
what an inspiring personal example might entail, especially in
the multicultural global environment of international schools.
In this respect, leaders must in many ways, be "all things
to all people". Many Heads, it appears, have rather limited
experience of the classroom and are anything but outstanding
With no local government to answer to
(although a Board may appear in the guise) leaders in
international school settings can enjoy considerable
organisational autonomy. This creates polarised potential for
both imaginative entrepreneurialism and muddied, visionless
thinking. An established and rigid national system can provide
structural strength (Shaw, 2000), but rigidity translated into
the international schools environment can produce false
dependency on a system of limited strength and can stifle
initiative. The pervading sense of leadership requiring a
positive, flexible, mental attitude pervades.
Conflict management provides a further
example. Conflict is often regarded as contextual instead of an
everyday thing. "All life is conflict" (Davies, 2004).
According to Walker (2004), "The relationship between the
Board and the Head will always be tense, but it should be one of
creative tension." Adopting this attitude requires refined
political skills but moreover, it is a choice in the mind of the
protagonists, which requires vision and bravery.
Choosing a positive mental approach to
conflict resolution is consistent with Fisher & Uryís
(1981) concept of a win-win situation and reflects the notion of
positive conflict (Davies, 2004) as a necessary way in which
"social progress occurs and challenges are made to
Please support the Esther Benjamins Trust.
www. ebtrust.org.uk email: info@ ebtrust.org.uk
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