Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
Reading the Runes, part 2
Going back to forlorn Bob Janjuah, his reading of the runes
is that Wall Street may rally a little further into early July before
short-lived momentum from America’s fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the
delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage and that is when the US
Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank face their dilemma as workers
start to lose their jobs in earnest and lenders cut off credit. Janjuah sees
this as a defining moment.
“Globalisation was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous
corner at some point. We have got to that point.”
In a recent MBMG Daily Update we highlighted this dilemma for Central Bankers
but also highlighted one of the positive themes preached by Scott Campbell
earlier this month - the silver lining for Japan within the global dark cloud of
“Central bankers everywhere seem to be torn every which way right now - in
developing nations the dilemma which has them on its horns is whether the credit
crunch or inflation is the larger threat to their economic progress whereas in
developed economies, the choice is being expressed as a clear choice between
growth and inflation.
In both cases, inflation seems to be gathering momentum as the greater perceived
danger. The Philippines, Indonesia and India have joined the Bank of Thailand in
increasing interest rates, while China has increased the required reserve ratio
for banks. Other Asian central banks are following the Greenspan/Bernanke model
(as also adopted by the European Central Bank’s Governor M. Trichet of late) and
are letting their talking do the talking with increasingly threatening noises
about what they’ll do if the inflation genie doesn’t somehow manage to squeeze
himself back into the urn.
Speaking of Mr. Bernanke, even the Fed seems to have gorged itself on rate cuts
and is sending out signals that now that the credit crunch is, in the Fed’s
opinion at any rate, behind us all, then we can look forward to the prospect of
future rate hikes to deal with that pesky genie. On the other side of the
Atlantic the BoE’s governor, Mervyn King has added his two pennies worth - that
a slowdown of UK growth is necessary to dampen prices. He propounded that
British families will find it particularly difficult to deal with the decline in
living standards that is seemingly around the corner. Obviously the exhortations
weren’t delivered with quite enough conviction though because Sterling has
continued to drift and it seems that the currency markets see dark times ahead
for the sceptred isle.
You might say that flip flop would be an apt description of central bank
strategy of late - you might well say that. Fighting talk doesn’t amount to much
if you’re stood on shaky ground. In the rush to communicate, bankers everywhere
would do well to remember that some times less really is more.
Notably absent from the brouhaha is Japan - as Scott Campbell recently
commented, Japan is one of the few places in the world that would positively
benefit from a dose of inflation. After years of deflation, then even the
slightest signs of nascent price increases are a positive - one example quoted
recently was how sales at department stores recently jumped because buyers,
expecting inflation, decided they had an incentive to buy now before prices go
up rather than the previous strategy of waiting for them to come down! The BoJ
governor will probably find himself sitting all alone at the next central
bankers’ get together - on the end of envious glances from his colleagues who
wished that they too could just come out and state clearly that risks to
economic growth override inflation concerns. But for now they can’t. This could
be a further catalyst for the Japanese stock market right now.
Many of these themes are echoed by Bob Janjuah, who believes that central banks
dare not respond with easy money because oil and food costs continue to push
headline inflation to levels that are unsettling the equity markets and damaging
economic, business and consumer confidence.
“The ugly spoiler is that we may need to see much lower global growth in order
to get lower inflation ... the Fed is in panic mode. The massive credibility
chasms down which the Fed and maybe even the ECB will plummet when they fail to
hike rates in the face of higher inflation will combine to give us a big
sell-off in risky assets.”
Almost as though they were reading from Scott’s script when he visited Bangkok,
RBS expects the oil price spike to subside in the shorter term, although if
supply and demand remain as stretched as it is now with increasing Asian demand
we’d be looking to view this as a buying opportunity.
Poor Bob Janjuah can see the future but, unless RBS suddenly develop a genuine
multi-asset multi-manager approach, they may not be able to do too much about
it. We’re reminded of Aigisthos, who in the Odyssey is warned by the gods not to
kill Agamemnon, but chooses to ignore the advice and is eventually slain by
Orestes, Agamemnon’s son. By not heeding the warning, Aigisthos invited and duly
suffered the gods’ revenge. If portfolio managers everywhere fail to heed the
warnings, then the gods of the market will almost certainly avenge themselves by
allowing the prophecy to be fulfilled, as then totally unmythological but
nonetheless powerful force of debt deflation takes hold next year.
There may well be troubles ahead. In fact we’re certain that there will be and
there may well be a lot of tear drops to be shed, but with the strategies
outlined recently by Scott Campbell, we are confident our clients can look
forward to continued gains and, at least, outdoing cash as his sole aim is to
beat the LIBOR (bank rate) by 4% after all charges.
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
Getting down to basics
take a look at the photographs with this week’s column. These are
commercial shots done for an advertising campaign for the Chivawattana
health benefits card. The photographer knew what he was doing (not me,
by the way) and I want you to analyze just why these are successful
The subjects include children, adults, plus mothers and daughters.
Varied subjects, but there is a common thread running through them all.
Do you see it yet? Quite simply, the photographer got down and shot from
the same eye level as the subjects. Nowhere does he (or she) take a
superior view on the subject. The photographer got down to basics and
got down to shoot from the same height as the subject.
The end result of that is to produce an immediacy in the final
photograph. You feel as if you are there, part of the scene. And when
you begin to relate to the scene, you will relate to the message, and
that of course is the secret of advertising photography!
However, this week’s column is not designed to just give advertising pro
photographers the warm and fuzzies, but it is to make you look at any
photograph that pleases you, pleases your senses to the point that you
say to yourself “I wish I’d shot that.” Having decided on the
photograph, then go and duplicate the shot. Not duplicated down to the
last speck of dirt, last fold in the clothes, but duplicate the style of
the shot, not the subject matter. OK, professionals have a budget to
hire great models who know how to pose. You are going to have to use
your friend from across the street, but look at what the lighting was in
the pro shot, the placement of the subject and the position from which
it was shot. When you have those three factors mastered, you will be
producing ‘professional’ results.
Let’s look at the three factors. Where are the shadows in the
photograph? That will immediately show you whether it is long shadows,
meaning late afternoon or very early morning or short shadows, meaning
middle of the day. The position of the shadows will also tell you
whether the light source was relative to the subject. In front? Behind?
From the side? Simply by looking at the picture you can get the answer.
Now, look at the placement of the subject in the shot. Central? Or at
the intersection of thirds, one third in and one third from the top or
Finally, the position of the photographer, relative to the subject.
High? Low? Or eye level? There is nothing radical about this analytical
approach, but it gives you a very quick learning curve.
You must cultivate the enquiring eye so that you begin to analyze every
photograph you have ever seen published anywhere, that includes
landscapes, industrial shots and travel shots, as well as simple
portraits. By doing that, ‘simple’ happy snaps become real portraits,
and you are well on the way to becoming an accomplished photographer.
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
Mature Onset Diabetes
Are you more than 40 years of age? Are you overweight? Do you
have a blood relative who has Diabetes? If you answered “yes” to any of
those questions, then you may have Mature Onset Diabetes. If you answered
“yes” to all three, then it is dollars to donuts that you do have it. (If
you come from the UK, you can make that pounds to peanuts!)
Diabetes (sugar) is one of the commonest ailments in the world. There are 60
million people living in the UK (I’d probably say ‘surviving’ in the UK is
more accurate) and 2.1 million of these had diagnosed Diabetes, of which 1.8
million had the Maturity Onset form of the condition. Official estimation
from the UK would also suggest there were another 1 million walking around
with Mature Onset Diabetes that did not even know they had it. That’s a
worry. Not for me, but for them.
Before we go much further, just exactly what is Diabetes? Quite simply, it
is an inability of the body to use glucose correctly. Insulin is produced by
the body to keep the glucose system in balance and if the insulin production
is lacking, this is called Type 1 Diabetes. With Mature Onset Diabetes (also
called Type 2, or Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes) the cells become less
responsive to insulin, and there may be a reduction in insulin levels as
Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When
you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into
glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes
the sugar from the blood into the cells.
When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can
cause many problems. First off, your cells may be starved for energy, so you
begin to feel tired. Secondly, over time you may develop heart disease
(cardiovascular disease), blindness (retinopathy), nerve damage
(neuropathy), and kidney damage (nephropathy).
So how do you know if you have developed (or are developing) Mature Onset
Diabetes? The main symptoms to look for include a lack of energy, hunger
(which comes from the fact that the cells are ‘starving’), excessive passing
of urine combined with thirst and a dry mouth, insufficient sleep because of
the need to pass urine at night (though this may be due to prostate
enlargement in males) and blurred vision (again not to be confused with
reading difficulties - short arms - which is called Presbyopia and occurs
after 40 years of age), slow healing of minor cuts and sores.
How does Diabetes cause such diverse symptoms? Large blood vessels may be
damaged by atherosclerosis, which is a major cause of coronary artery
disease and stroke. Other long-term complications result from damage to the
small blood vessels throughout the body. Damage to blood vessels in the
light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye causes the visual impairment
(diabetic retinopathy). Diabetes also increases the risk of developing
If diabetes affects blood vessels that supply nerves, it may cause nerve
damage. There may be a gradual loss of sensation, starting with the hands
and feet and sometimes gradually extending up the limbs. Loss of feeling,
combined with poor circulation, makes the feet and legs more susceptible to
ulcers and gangrene. The nerve and blood vessel damage may also produce
impotence in men (which Vitamin V may not be able to fix).
Damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys may also lead to further
complications. Damage to the nerves controlling the body’s internal
functions (autonomic neuropathy) can lead to problems with low blood
pressure on standing (postural hypotension) or disturbance of the GI tract
(vomiting or diarrhoea) and increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
So if you think you might have it, or are a likely candidate, what next. A
simple trip to your doctor and some inexpensive blood and urine tests will
confirm or deny.
In the initial stages, dietary measures may be sufficient to control this
condition, but oral drugs and sometimes insulin injections become necessary
as it progresses. But you have to prove you have it first!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Thank you so much for your reply to my previous e-mail where I had implied that
I can’t get a bird in a brothel! I took your advice, went into a bar and slapped
2,000 baht on the table and shouted “OK birds, I am over here, come and get it!”
And did they... they were all over me, and it was all going fine. I had a great
time. However, it slipped out! It had to I suppose! What can I do! I didn’t mean
to do it, but a ‘gnaam’ just slipped out. I think it was followed by a ‘lai lai
der’. That was it, a deathly silence. Then one of the birds said “Falang Laos”
and the party was over. Oh dear, I’ll try again next week. You lucky people that
only speak English! Regards,
I aint bovvered
Dear I aint bovvered,
Despite your hiding behind your pseudonym of ‘I aint bovvered’, I get the
distinct impression that you are very ‘bovvered’ by it all. Otherwise you
wouldn’t continue writing to me with your tales of woe, would you Possum?
Re-reading your email, I am glad it was just a ‘gnaam’ that slipped out. For a
while there I thought you were trying to make pun of me. I also get the distinct
impression that you are an antipodean with that quaint way to refer to the bar
girls as “birds”. The only way the ladies of the night are similar to our
feathered friends is that some of them have been known to go “Cheep Cheap” under
certain financial conditions and are good at midnight flights under other
conditions. Do try again later, but is your English really English? It doesn’t
seem that you are all that lucky. Best of luck and ‘kaneedur’.
The chap who called himself “I aint bovvered” is surely pulling your leg. We
native English speakers may be able to understand conversations in Thai/Laos but
to get good enough to understand the differences between Thai and Isaan (Laos)
and then how to speak it, is exceptionally rare in my opinion. He also claims
that he gets the intonation right each time too. If he can really do all that he
is another Einstein. He’s just another show-off as you pointed out.
I can’t be bovvered either!
Dear I can’t be bovvered either!
As you will have read from the email above yours, our ‘bovvered’ chap has
returned to these pages, complete with the perfect tones. And still in trouble.
I feel that he should just go to the beer bars and pretend he is deaf and dumb.
He might do a little better.
David from Western Australia wants to apply the British Standard (BS) Duck Test,
“If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it
probably is a duck” to all women. David must have really gone down the gurgler
to be so bitter. All women are not the same. Thai women are not the same as
western ones and bar girls are a different species altogether. David feels that
all women are out to rip off mankind and all that is left is 0.01 percent of
decent women. How pessimistic is that? He should stop feeling sorry for himself
and get out and enjoy the company of the ladies in the bars. That’s what they’re
there for. You don’t have to buy the library when you want to read a book.
Jack from Melbourne
Dear Jack from Melbourne,
Despite the 50 percent divorce rate in many countries, including Australia, all
women are very obviously not the same. I’m not like that for one. Despite
David’s pessimism, his 0.01 percent still works out as 1,000 women, even in
Australia. I agree that if you want a ‘good time’, the good time girls are there
to give it to you. The problems always arise when the smitten male forgets that
a good time girl is just that - a good time girl. A girl for the good times in
life, not a girl who is good for life times. It should also be understood that a
beer bar is not an outside office for an accredited match-making and marriage
agency. I have said in this column many times that you don’t go into a hardware
shop if you are looking for a piece of cheese.
I enjoy your bits each week and the advice is right on. Somebody said you should
get a raise from your editor and I reckon so too. You are doing a public service
so you should get the top dollar. All the ones in the US like Oprah get big
money, so should you. Keep up the good work.
Aren’t you just the nicest man! Comparing poor little Hillary with the mighty
Oprah! However there are some differences between us, you know. She’s in
America, for one! You worry me though, when you say you “enjoy my bits” each
week. What “bits” are we talking about here? Some of my bits are never discussed
here in the column. This is a family newspaper Hughie. As far as a raise is
concerned, I’ll show your letter to the editor, but he’ll just laugh and say I
made it up.
Learn to Live to Learn: with Andrew Watson
Ignorance is Fear
Ignorance is in my view, the single most dangerous condition
that anybody, or any group of people, can suffer from. It is the
cancer of society, eating away the fabric and potential of
humanity like a malicious, repugnant virus. It is fundamentally
nasty, simultaneously pernicious and cowardly, capable of great
deceit and great subtlety and ultimately unforgiving.
The only antidotes, knowledge and understanding, leading to
wisdom, remain tragically distant dreams for those too sunken in
the swamp of ignorance.
The greatest tragedy of all is when ignorance becomes the path
of choice; often consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but
always in defiance of reason, logic and the application of
intelligence. Equally, one of the main reasons why people and
groups of people remain imprisoned by ignorance is because they
lack the moral and sometimes physical courage to break out.
Surely, the main purpose of formal education (besides the
cynic’s choice of maintaining the status quo) is to banish
ignorance; to leave no question unanswered (even if it is
answered with another question) in a quest to bring individuals
and through each individual, the group, to a broader
understanding of our rights and responsibilities in the
maelstrom of the 21st century.
The role of the teacher, therefore, is clearly critical to the
chances of humanity improving itself. So beware the notion that
ignorance in its purest, most evil form can fester within the
source of formal education itself; but more of this next week.
The fight against ignorance is a daily one and happens on many
different levels. But where does it all begin? I’m pleased (or
relieved) to report that my children, at the ages of 16 and 8,
are by now, more or less “self-managing”, but I am careful not
to allow my focus to become blurred. When the 8 year old is
presented with say, fried squid in oyster sauce and says that
she “doesn’t like it” without having tried it, I have to say to
her that it is impossible to come to a conclusion about liking
or not liking a particular food without having tasted it. She
could say that she “doesn’t like the look of it” or “doesn’t
like the smell of it” but these are different (if associated)
questions. Of course, as a father, I want to her experience as
many of the glories of world cuisine as possible and whilst I
recognise that palettes develop at different rates and in
different ways, it is important to me that at the very least,
she be introduced to a wide variety of potentially enriching
experiences, including those of taste. But don’t decide before
you’ve tasted it.
On the other hand, my eldest child of 16 is at an age and lives
in an environment where among her peer group, use and abuse of
recreational drugs and alcohol are relatively commonplace. If I
adopt the same strategy with her as I have done with my younger
child, then consistency would demand that I encourage her to try
what is on offer. Indeed, to a certain extent this is what
happens. For instance, if we are drinking wine with our meal or
celebrating with champagne, we will offer her a glass. This is
common practice in countries like Italy and France and means
that young people grow up, by and large, with a healthy respect
for alcohol and drink in moderation, as opposed to cultures
where alcohol is regarded as taboo until a certain age, which
can result in an unhealthy disregard for its dangers and
addictive qualities, binge drinking being a most unpleasant and
unsatisfactory side effect.
But what about tobacco? (Drugs will have to wait). If I am to
develop and maintain a balanced, consistent, measurable,
sustainable, strategy I need to be clear on my position on
tobacco. Call it a concession to prejudice if you will, but ever
since they were babies, cigarettes have been portrayed (along
with litter throwing and bad manners) to my children as
absolutely unacceptable in any form. Even my closest friends and
family (sometimes with volume argument) have been asked not to
smoke even in view of my children.
I regard cigarettes as the embodiment of ignorance, so I play it
at its own game - zero tolerance is the policy - and I have
adopted an extremist position towards it, not necessarily
because I can feel I can sustain my positions entirely, but to
demonstrate my passionate disgust for ignorance.
If my daughters smoke, they smoke, and the bottom line is (don’t
tell them this) that if they do, it will be their choice and
there’s nothing I can do about it. Other than to say, that
whilst they will be choosing a path of ignorance which I will
find profoundly disappointing, I will have done my best to avoid
this scenario by (hopefully) providing them with the tools and
skills to deal with personal, social and health situations. I
will not have shirked the responsibility of a parent in the same
way as I refuse to shirk my responsibility as a teacher. They
are, in many regards, one and the same, roles for which
unconditional love and unconditional commitment are
My wife Sharona, who might playfully suggest that she has
blindly suffered in ignorance the tragic consequences of her
association with me (although next week I’ll explain how this
was once more seriously reversed) is truly suffering at the
moment as she wrestles with the notion of what security means
for her (and her family) in the context of international travel.
Since 9/11, Bali, Madrid and London, our sense of personal
security is something that we all, I am reasonably certain,
devote an unreasonable amount of time to.
Similarly, she harangues me regularly for driving too fast,
whilst I maintain (and once did so to a judge when one
regrettable incident occurred) that I drive at “reasonable
speed”. If I was going to be pedantic about it I’d happily go
into detail. Before substantiating an opinion or formulating a
judgement, consider all the factors, in this case; type of car,
condition of the road, competence of the driver, amount of
traffic, time of day and so on. But please don’t leap to
unsubstantiated conclusion; don’t willingly exist in the
darkness of ignorance; it’ll soon become irrational fear.
Next week: A sinner repents
Let’s go to the movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Pattaya
Where the Miracle Happens: Thai Drama – Produced by Her
Royal Highness Princess Ubol Ratana Rajakanya,
this film premiered in Cannes in May, and is a drama adapted from a
story in her book, “Rueng San Tee Chan Kit” (“Short Stories from My
Thoughts”). The Princess also stars in the film as a successful
businesswoman who values only material things until she loses her only
daughter in a car accident.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: US/Germany/Canada
Action /Adventure /Fantasy – A shame! All this talent, all this
fantastic attention to detail, wasted on a mess of a movie that is
nothing but one bang after another, one explosion after another, one
bloody fight after another, one chase after another, all to no purpose.
There is so little restraint, so little taste, in what is seen. It is as
though the creators just threw into the mix everything they could think
of, and then confused it all with very fast editing, to simply make a
loud blur of action. Ignore this one, unless of course you like mindless
action, one bang after another, and the rest. Apparently some people do.
It’s a ludicrously extravagant tale of “a mythic battle between good and
evil played out in ancient China,” as a narrator informs us. It’s been
seven years since “The Mummy Returns” and as Brendan Fraser says in this
movie, “Here we go again!” Fraser is Rick O’Connell, and he and his wife
Evelyn (Maria Bello) are British aristocrat-adventurers who have
retired, apparently living richly off of the $800 million worldwide box
office of the first two “Mummy” films. They head East in hopes of
re-capturing the adrenalin of adventure and meet up with their grown son
Alex (Luke Ford).
There the three unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin, China’s
ruthless Dragon Emperor, doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend
eternity in suspended animation, along with his 10,000 warriors,
entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army.
Also starring Jet Li. Generally negative reviews.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: US Adventure /Fantasy –
Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a
scientific expedition in Iceland, visionary scientist Trevor Anderson,
his 13-year-old nephew and their beautiful local guide, are unexpectedly
trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and
deeper into the depths of the Earth. It’s utterly preposterous, but fun,
as the trio travel through never-before-seen worlds, and come
face-to-face with surreal creatures – including man-eating plants, giant
flying piranha, glow birds, and even dinosaurs. Can’t stand the
smart-assed kid – I would have offed him after about his third line of
dialogue. Mixed or average reviews for the 3D version, which we won’t be
The Strangers: US Thriller/Horror – Repellent and repulsive. If I
were in charge of things, it would be banned. Shows kids how much fun it
is to terrorize people, and details how to do it. Why thoughtful, sane
people aren’t boycotting it is a mystery. Three malevolent, masked
strangers terrorize a couple in their isolated vacation home. Rated R in
the US for violence/terror and language. Mixed or average reviews.
The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – I think it’s
just a wonderful film, but not everyone agrees; I find it dark, complex,
and unforgettable, and think it succeeds not just as an entertaining
comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama.
And Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal
of an insane mind. I would suggest, however, that the film is not for
kids – it’s way too dark for them to appreciate or even understand.
In this episode, set within a year after the events of Batman Begins,
Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon, and new district attorney Harvey Dent
successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City
until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the
Joker appears, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman’s struggle against
the Joker becomes deeply personal. And there’s a love triangle that
develops between Bruce Wayne, Dent, and Rachel Dawes. Reviews: Universal
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy – Directed by
Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this is a dark
fantasy full of frightening creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and
almost too rich – one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and
strange stories. Generally favorable reviews.
Scheduled for Aug 12
WALL·E: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance/ Sci-Fi – The
film is a work of genius from the first frame to the last. Robot love in
a dead world, and the cutest love story in years. There’s virtually no
dialogue for the first 30 minutes; you’ll be enthralled. Reviews:
Rogue: Australia/US Thriller – An American journalist on
assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile.
Generally favorable reviews.