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Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Let’s go to the movies

Money matters:   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 [email protected]

Snap Shots: by Harry Flashman

Bridge Cameras

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.

Fuji 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 lenses, Don!
Like most purchases, I suggest try before you buy, and compare any bridge camera with an SLR, for your sort of photography.

Modern Medicine: by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

Put up the umbrellas - it’s raining pigs!

You 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 comes coffin”.
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 all doomed.
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

Dear 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?
Sam Songkran

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!

Dear Hillary,
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 anonyminity (sic).
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 volunteer?
Puritanical Pattaya Parishioner

Dear PPP,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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 yourselves.
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.

Dear Hillary,
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?
Rosy Rash

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 Major Cineplex

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 Pattaya

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 Vinci Code.

Bangkok Adrenaline:  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 ransom.

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.

Horsemen: Canada/ 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.

X-Men Origins: 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 negative reviews.

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).

Saranae Howpeng:  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 Thai comedians.

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 language.