Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
Where do we go now?
At the time of writing this people will either be getting wet
or hiding over the Songkran. People are starting to be more optimistic. Woe
betide false prophets (this can be used phonetically as well) is all I can say.
That eminently sensible financial magazine, Barron’s, is slightly more pragmatic
- the “End of the Rally is Nigh.”
Another realist, Marc Faber, believes there will be a 10% fall in the market
before the rally gets going again. Personally, I am surprised he is this
optimistic. He said recently, “In terms of fiscal spending, bailouts don’t
usually work.” What we have now is one of the biggest bailouts in history. Time
and time again, emperors, dictators and/or governments have tried to replace
declining private demand with perceived public requirements. With one or two
honourable exceptions, this just does not work. Government debt will rise and
the balance sheet will get bigger.
With what the governments are planning at the moment, there is very little
chance of the present mess we are in bottoming out before the end of next year.
Faber thinks there is a case to be made for saying it could last for ten years.
Whenever the end does come inflationary pressure will be massive and interest
rates will begin to go up.
Another realist, Rick Ackerman, believes that the problem with the present rally
is there is no capitulation. If there is none then there is hope and many people
still remain to be sucked in. However, once there is a full surrender then we
will see the bottom of market.
If you try to postpone a recession the only result you get is prolonging it or
driving the world into a depression. By doing what America, Britain and others
are trying to do now which is basically deficit financing then there will be
enormous debt growth. As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), debt has
grown from 130% in 1980 to 360% as of now. Also, please remember that this does
not include major liabilities such as healthcare, pensions or social welfare.
This is the public forum, the private one is no better, credit card debt is the
worst it has ever been. Balances fell by almost ten percent in February. The
situation with home loans is no better. Foreclosures and auctions will soon
start to flood the market thus driving house prices down. When this happens then
the collateral being held by banks falls as do the assets which hold up other
financial institutions as well. Believe me, the worst is still yet to come.
People are desperate to find good in the bad. Take Fannie Mae for instance, it
recently announced that they were employing 2,000 new people. Wonderful! Look a
bit closer and you will find they are all debt collectors! I need say no more.
Well, I should not but the evidence says I should.
There are folk out there who are arguing that markets should look beyond
economic forecasts. While this is true to a certain extent, realism also has to
be considered. Ackerman again, “In January 2008, when the S&Ps were in the early
stages of what was to become a devastating collapse, domestic equity mutual
funds were worth about $6.5 trillion. Lo, a little more than a year later, in
February 2009, we see that the value of these funds had fallen by about 48%, to
$3.4 trillion. But guess what: Over that time, net redemptions totalled only 2%,
or about $100 billion! What that means, explicitly, is that mutual fund
investors have stuck with this bear market throughout the decline.”
What this means is that even though there has been an enormous drop in the price
of stocks and shares people are still holding them which means there is more
selling coming up soon. Ackerman goes on, “This bear market will end, like every
other bear market in history, with a wholesale dumping of stocks at prices that
will make current values seem exorbitant in comparison.”
What really does beggar belief is that those who have let us down so badly are
still believed. The media still quotes Greenspan as though he has all the
answers. They forget he is the one who got us into this mess in the first place.
He is not the only one, what about all the analysts who said it was a great time
to buy when the Dow had just dropped ten percent from its all time high? Let us
not forget Tim Geithner, a regulator, who completely missed what Madoff was up
to. The best, though, has to go to Hank Paulson who believed sub prime had
topped out at USD100 billion. We now know the present cost of bailing out the
system is nearly USD13 trillion.
So, apart from Greenspan, can we blame anyone else for this lot? Reuters
recently wrote that, “Paulson (is) a Wall Street insider who was looking out for
his own, and Bernanke (is) an academic misguidedly trying to refight the 1930s
Great Depression. Together they formed the wrong team at the wrong time whose ad
hoc approach threw away hundreds of billions of dollars and more than doubled
the Fed’s balance sheet.
“What you’re seeing Bernanke do is he’s trying to create a bailout reflationary
bubble, which he can’t describe as a bubble, just as Greenspan couldn’t describe
the housing mortgage bubble as a bubble. What we’re seeing by Bernanke is a
covert attempt to rebubble.”
Someone who has called just about everything to do with this crisis correctly,
Nouriel Roubini, has called Jim Cramer “a buffoon.”
“He was one of those who called six times in a row for this bear market rally to
be a bull market rally and he got it wrong. And after all this mess and Jon
Stewart he should just shut up because he has no shame... He’s not a credible
analyst. Every time it was a bear market rally he said it was the beginning of a
bull and he got it wrong.”
Roubini warned two years ago that the United States faced its worse recession in
four decades. He points out that the current rally on Wall Street merely follows
the pattern of other major downturns. “Once people get the reality check than
it’s going to get ugly again,” he says.
All agree that what should have been allowed to happen was a short, sharp
recession just after Bush got elected. This would have stopped everything that
has happened since from actually occurring. There would still be a good chance
that the auto industry would not need the massive injections of capital that it
now needs. Also, the banks would be in a much better state. Faber believes we
should let the financial institutions that need help just roll over and die. It
would still be possible to protect those who had deposits and policies with
these companies; however, it would “let the system, through the market
mechanism, deal with the problem.”
They also concur that despite all the bad things which will follow, inflation is
the only way out. People will suffer from this policy but there is no
alternative now that the printing presses are working 24/7.
The only thing to do is pull in your belts and save what you can, when you can.
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
One of the newer developments in the digital camera world is ‘bridge’
cameras. These look like a small DSLR, but have a non-removable zoom
lens of extraordinary range, generally 30-400 mm. For this reason, these
cameras are also called ‘super zooms’.
The ability to fit such a wide zoom range in one single small diameter
lens makes lens interchangeability redundant so you don’t have to lug
around an assortment of lenses either. However, most bridge cameras
allow the use of secondary lenses to improve wide angle, telephoto or
macro capabilities. These secondary lenses typically screw onto the
front of the primary lens either directly or by use of an adapter tube,
but image quality may be sacrificed to some extent.
Finepix S 2000 HD
One area where the super zooms have a problem is in the viewfinder
imaging. In an SLR, with its mirror system and through the lens viewing,
you have a ‘real time’ image. With the bridge cameras, there is no
mirror and you are viewing a totally digital image. This image suffers
from a refresh delay which means that the image seen on the screen will
have a fraction of a second lag from the real scene being photographed.
For most picture taking this is not a problem, but if you are trying to
capture a moving object means that it is very difficult to end up with a
centrally placed subject. This can be a major problem for fast moving
subjects such as animals, sports and children.
The delay can be quite significant, and is generally around one third to
one half a second. With the speed of a racing car, for example, you will
get many frames with just half a car! For example, with the Fuji Finepix
S 2000 HD, the shutter lag for a single photo takes 0.42 seconds and
five shots takes 12.23 seconds. With the flash on, the times are 0.56
seconds for a single photo and 12.39 seconds for five. It is even worse
with the Sony DSC S500 Entry Level Digital Camera with a single shot
shutter lag of 1.08 seconds. This makes the Sony unacceptable if you
want to be a sports photographer, for example.
The specifications of this Finepix are 10 megapixel CCD sensor, 2.7in
LCD screen and a 15x optical zoom with true wide angle. It also has dual
image stabilization, face detection and automatic red-eye removal. The
Fuji people claim high speed shooting up to 13.5 fps (ignoring shutter
lag), with 14 pre-programmed scene modes, an SD card expansion slot, and
the ability to shoot movies as well. Sounds good for under 10,000 baht!
The Fuji Finepix S 2000 HD, has dedicated buttons for activating the
face detection (the camera identifying and prioritizing up to 10 faces
in a frame, complete with automatic red eye removal if required) and a
second button for continuous shooting mode. The continuous shooting mode
provides a broad range of quick shooting options. However, these are not
quite as quick as it first would appear. The ultra high speed, 13.5 fps
is with the three-megapixel mode, not the 10 megapixels the camera is
capable of. With the camera set on this “high speed” option, you do get
a rapid fire initial burst, but then you will find you are waiting for
15 seconds or so while the images are processed before you can fire off
another shot. The rest of the camera shows that it has the usual modes
and options, with image stabilization to make it less likely that you
get ‘soft’ images. This is where the final decision must be taken, if
you are in the market for a bridge super zoom. Reading the comments of
users, it would seem that image quality is not perhaps quite as good as
a dedicated SLR.
After my recent article on 12 months with a Panasonic DMC FZ 50, I
received an email from regular reader Don Griffith who wrote, “Can’t
help but think you would have enjoyed the 12 months more with a Nikon
D40 (now really, really, cheap)!” But then I would have had to lug
Like most purchases, I suggest try before you buy, and compare any
bridge camera with an SLR, for your sort of photography.
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
Put up the umbrellas - it’s raining pigs!
have to pity the poor old pig. Considered a dirty animal, but every last bit
of it is eaten by many people all over the world. After all, an English
breakfast is nothing without bacon, is it?
Poor old piglet has come in for so much abuse in the past few weeks that the
Egyptian authorities killed 300,000 of them, just in case they were carrying
the A/H1N1 virus, giving birth to the term “swine flu”. And there had not
been one single identification of the virus causing flu in the whole of
Egypt. Rough justice if you’re a pig.
The wave of hysteria spread throughout the world, with the media doing its
job of bringing the news of calamities to the unsuspecting public. In fact,
doing such a good job that the entire world was on high alert after the
third pig in Mexico coughed twice. The hidden message was “after coughing
Hong Kong quarantined a complete hotel, with all communication being done in
sign language through the locked windows. The only food available to the
guests was pizzas, as these could be slid under the doors. Every day the
reported number of deaths in Mexico from the virus escalated. If you got an
email from Mexico you prayed that your Norton, McAfee or whatever could
quarantine the virus before your computer passed on the virus to you. You
can see the connection already: pig to computer to man transmission. We are
As the panic spread, but the virus didn’t, the world’s media came in for
more abuse for scaremongering. But were they really? The media was simply
doing what it is supposed to do - reporting on the goings on in the world.
So where does the media go to get the information about the said goings on?
For medical data, it turns to the World Health Organization (WHO) which has
the following in its constitution: “Unequal development in different
countries in the promotion of health and control of disease, especially
communicable disease, is a common danger.” And further, “Informed opinion
and active cooperation on the part of the public are of the utmost
importance in the improvement of the health of the people.”
So returning to our porkers, as the data became available to the WHO, it in
turn made this information available to the media. For example, as the
number of countries reporting the A/H1N1 virus (Swine flu) increased, the
WHO increased its call for surveillance, issuing bulletins like: “Current
level of influenza pandemic alert raised from phase 4 to 5. Based on
assessment of all available information and following several expert
consultations, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general raised the current
level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5. She stated that all
countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. At
this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened
surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases, and infection control
in all health facilities.”
The danger in the dissemination of this information was that, if not
correctly handled, this would lead to panic, and fighting in the pharmacies
for the anti-viral drugs. The important information in that bulletin from
the WHO was that it was part of a graduated pandemic “alert”. It did not say
that the world had been doomed by the pigs. It merely said that all
countries should be on alert.
However, there are sections of the media that exist on shock, horror
headlines, so I may as well give you one. “Center for Disease Control in the
US confirms 36,000 Americans died of influenza last year.” Now that happens
to be true, and has been true for the past 10 years. People die from
influenza - that’s “ordinary” influenza, not Swine influenza. That is why
the research people came up with vaccines to counteract the viruses, and
they are now currently working on one to cover A/H1N1.
So the ‘real’ picture is that the WHO is making sure all countries are on
the alert for this new influenza virus strain, not that we are in imminent
danger of extinction. Hopefully it will not be as virulent as it looked
initially, but we remain on alert.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I missed you. Where did you go for Songkran? I thought I might have seen you in
one of the sois throwing water, but nobody I asked had seen you. Are your
clothes dry again?
Dear Sam Songkran,
I’m sorry I can’t say I missed you, Sam Songkran, but why are you so interested
in my clothes this week (or any week for that matter)? Of course I played
Songkran, it is part of Thai culture, and I can assure you that you wouldn’t see
me in a floral dress and frizzy hair either (I am going to have to speak
severely to that Dorian). No, I looked out my oldest jeans and tennis shoes and
wearing a Pattaya Mail T-shirt, I blended in with the revelers. I was the one
with white powder on my cheeks - and don’t get any funny ideas, Dorian Farmer!
Thank you for publishing my letter concerning the lady (and I use the term
loosely) who showers so all the world can see her nudity. I am pleased you
noticed my purposely mistaken use of the word “voyeur”, as it indicates you have
at least some rudimentary education.
You take me to task for writing under a nom de plume. I did not use my correct
name and title as it would immediately identify and expose this 74 year old
exhibitionist neighbor to public ridicule. May I also suggest you are a fine
person to make such an accusation as, I am sure we all know, you publish your
weekly column under an alias. A little tea money will ensure your continued
In a sudden surge of excitement last night, that is when she bent down to
retrieve the soap, I fell off that bloody stool and am currently ensconced in
plaster from the groin to the hip, so what about some sound compensation advice
now? And who will now keep the nightly vigil - perhaps you will kindly
Puritanical Pattaya Parishioner
Firstly you wish to expose your voyeurism to the world through this column a
couple of weeks ago, and now you are trying your hand at extortion notes,
euphemistically referring to it as “tea money”. I think you should spend a
little more time, my Petal, at learning the English language before sending off
threatening letters in the lingo. “Anonyminity”? Just what language is that? Or
is it just that you can’t spell “anonymity”? You also express the opinion that I
have “at least some rudimentary education.” Thank you, Petal, yes I have had a
rudimentary education, whilst yours on the other hand seems to have been simply
a “rude” education. And spelling obviously wasn’t one of the subjects. Or if it
was, you were obviously playing truant that day.
Sorry to hear that you have one of your appendages in plaster from the groin to
the hip. Perhaps this may bring on a little self restraint, which will be good
for you in the long run. Stops you spraining your wrist.
A big round of applause for your two replies to the outraged ones a couple of
weeks ago. What a lot of nonsense they bleat! I am one of the people you mention
who has lost everything in a previous life and now have reincarnated into a
loving husband (again) with a lady who has a heart of gold… literally. To all
you frustrated ladies out there who think the “Thai Hussies” have stolen your
man, rethink your own attitudes and you might end up actually enjoying
Thanks Hillary for the excellent column every week.
Perfectly happy Pete.
P.S. You have become a lot less catty over the last year or so, have you found
some romance in your life too or mellowed out on champagne?
Dear Perfectly happy Pete,
I am glad to hear that you have been so happily reincarnated as a loving
husband. People like you do seem to be a rarity round here, but then again, the
happy ones don’t generally write in for advice. They don’t have to, do they.
Now, “catty”? Me? Moi? Never! And what’s this about “romance” in my life? The
only offers I ever get are from Dorian’s friend Nairod who seems totally
incapacitated by venal desires and other assorted suggestions from the twisted
mind of somebody called Mistersingha (and that doesn’t mean you can write in
again soon). They have about as much chance of romancing as I have of getting
champagne each week, as neither of them has even come good with a BabyCham
(dreadful sugary stuff). And I notice your missive and its provocative remarks
came unattended by champagne or chocolates.
My boyfriend has grown a bushy mustache but every time he kisses me it leaves a
rash on my face. What can I do about it?
Dear Rosy Rash,
You have only one option, explain to your boyfriend sweetly that you will have
to change boyfriends unless he shaves off his mustache or wears a ski mask or
balaclava every time he kisses you. You could also just try shaking hands,
though it does take a little something out of the emotions.
Let’s go to the movies:
by Mark Gernpy
New website for
http://www.majorcineplex. com/showtimepage.php. It’s basically a
mixture of Thai and English, and this is how you work it: The link above
gets you to the “Showtime” page. On the right two-thirds of the screen
you will see two lists: movies, and theaters.
At the top of the list
of movies, click “Select All Movie” unless you’re really only interested
in one movie. On the list of theaters, click “Pattaya.” This is one of
four cities in the “Zone UPC-South-East” section, which is the 7th
region down, or the 3rd from the bottom.
Then hit “go” either at
the top or the bottom of the lists, and almost immediately you will get
at the very bottom of the page a list of the movies, the cinemas they
are in, and their remaining times for the day.
If you do this after
midnight and in the early morning, you will get a blank. Times are
posted later in the morning. You have no way at the moment for getting
any times except for the current day, and only the remaining times.
Now playing in
Angels & Demons:
US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Harvard symbologist Robert
Langdon (Tom Hanks) works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act
against the Vatican. The film has been written as a sequel to follow
after events in The Da Vinci Code (2006), although the novel upon
which the film is based is set before the events of the novel The Da
Thai, Action/ Adventure – An English-language, Thai action-comedy
created by and mostly starring Western foreigners, many of them stunt
professionals, in a story about four deadbeat expatriates trying to
survive in Bangkok after getting in debt to local gangsters. In a
desperate bid to save themselves, they kidnap a beautiful heiress for
Star Trek (2009):
US/ Germany, Sci-Fi/ Adventure/ Action – All new! And I think it’s a
great deal of fun, for fans of the series, and also for those who are
not. This much-anticipated film is a reboot of the series, going back
to the series’ ’60s roots by depicting the formative experiences of the
legendary heroes Kirk and Spock. The young James Tiberius Kirk is a
wild Iowa boy whose father sacrificed himself at the helm of a spaceship
at the very moment he was being born. He is convinced to attend the
Starfleet Academy and join the crew of the Enterprise.
Headed for the same
destination is Spock, with a troubled background as a half-human,
half-Vulcan. How these two very opposite figures become mutually
trusted colleagues is the basic story of the film. It’s very well done,
and I found it engrossing. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
USA, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – A strange film, with an intriguing
premise and a fairly interesting relationship between father and sons.
There are some nice things in it. Dennis Quaid plays a bitter detective
emotionally distanced from his two young sons following the death of his
wife. While investigating a series of murders of rare violence, he
discovers a terrifying link between himself and the suspects in a chain
of murders that seem to be based on the Biblical prophecies concerning
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pestilence, and
Death. That’s a fascinating idea to me. Rated R in the US for grisly
and disturbing content, some sexual images, and language.
Wolverine: US/ Australia, Action/ Fantasy – Though most reviews are
lukewarm, I think it’s simply brilliant, and a superb action film for
anyone who likes the genre. 2 very short additional scenes during
closing credits. Mixed or average reviews.
The Haunting in
Connecticut: US, Horror/ Thriller – A classic haunted-house film,
and really well-done of its type. It’s technically proficient, well
acted, with an alarming score, creepy photography, and a great house.
The Thai audience I was in frequently screamed in delight at the many
scares. Besides which, the family is very believable, and an
interesting assortment of people. They move into a new home where awful
things happened in the past. Based on true events, sort of. Generally
Mor 3 Pee 4:
Thai, Romance/ Comedy – A nice little advertisement for MSN: Four
teenagers make friends and chat online on MSN, and maybe fall in love.
(Note: shown in Thai only, with no English subtitles).
Thai, Comedy – Movie version of “Saranae Show” – a popular Thai comedy
TV show that has been on the air for 11 years. With many well-known
Crank: High Voltage:
US, Action – The indestructible Jason Statham again plays a hitman,
this time chasing a Chinese gangster who hijacked his heart and
substituted a mechanical one that needs to be jolted regularly to stay
pumping. Rated R in the US for frenetic strong bloody violence
throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity, and pervasive