Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
Learning from Japan, part 2
The USA is still regarded as the financial powerhouse of the
world so what happens there is even more important than Japan. However, the
massive debt which built up in the US was not created by non-financial business
but by individual families and the financial sector. The total debt of the
latter went up from 22% of GDP in 1981 to 117% in Q3 of last year. The debt of
the non-financials only went up from 53% to 76% of GDP over the same time
period. So, the requirements of the finance companies to reduce balance sheets
could be seen as one of the main reasons for the recession in America. The
problem is in even sharper focus when it is the banks which are bankrupt - i.e.
it is the lenders who actually need to borrow.
So, how can we apply what happened in Japan to the problems of today? Well, the
asset price bubbles are not as big in America and the Federal Reserve has done a
good job in reducing interest rates to practically zero. This is to be
commended. Unfortunately, the fiscal policy in the US is still being discussed
and nobody seems to know what to do. It must be emphasised that if a country has
almost zero interest rates and a balance sheet deflation then fiscal policy is
all that can be used. The real problem is that the government may attempt to
close the fiscal deficit too quickly. This could cause real problems.
The powers that be in the US do not seem to have a clue. The ideas they have put
forward for a public/private partnership to buy certain toxic assets are worse
than useless. Also, it is unlikely that they will raise the prices of the bad
assets in a way that will recapitalise any damaged institution. However, it may
well take time for people to realise this.
Bailing out the banks is going to increase the debt spiral and finally cause the
destruction of the world’s biggest economy, says Jim Rogers. “It’s astonishing,
they’re ruining the US economy, they’re ruining the US government, they’re
ruining the US central bank and they’re ruining the US dollar. You are watching
something in front of our eyes, very historically, which is basically the
destruction of New York as a financial centre and the destruction of America as
the world’s most powerful country. Japan’s economic lost decade was caused by
trying to bail out the banks, and the West risks running out of money if it
doesn’t let the bad banks fail now. Systemic risk is going to be the same in 10
months, 5 years or 10 years if the fundamental problem is not solved. The idea
that you have too much debt, too much borrowing and too much consumption and
you’re going to solve that problem with debt, more consumption and more
There is much worse to consider. So far we have only talked about Japan and
America. The fact is that this present crisis is worldwide and everyone is
suffering. Japan was helped greatly by the fact that it could sell its exports
to a vibrant global economy. This no longer exists. At least half the economies
in the world have been affected directly by purchasing what were to become toxic
assets. Needless to say, those not directly involved are still indirectly
concerned as the reduction in demand for their products has also affected them.
As we said before, America is very much at the centre of the world trade and the
global economy is not ready for decoupling.
The balance sheet deflation we face now is not as deep as it was in Japan but it
does reach all over the world. This is why we have to aim for a return to global
growth as quickly as possible. However, the problem is that no-one knows where
the demand will come from to kick-start things on the way to recovery. Most
western consumers are already up to their eyeballs in debt. It is equally
unlikely that the emerging market consumer will come riding to the rescue
There is a hope that fiscal expansion will help but in reality it is not strong
enough as only China and America seem to be doing anything. Euro-land is not
doing anything and the rest of the emerging markets cannot take a gamble on
anything too adventurous. 2007 was the last year of things looking as though
they were okay. If we are not careful we are about to enter into a decade of
what happened in Japan. In fact the bigger concern is that the West’s ‘lost
decade’ will be more painful and severe than the 1990s were in Japan.
As Martin Gray, award winning manager from Miton Asset Management, said at a
recent MBMG seminar, “I very much doubt we will see Western equity or property
markets achieve their previous highs during my professional lifetime … and I
have no plans to retire in the foreseeable future.”
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
Reflect and absorb
it would be nice to think that people reflect on these columns and then
absorb the contents, that is not what I am on about this week. I want to
show you how some very simple reflectors and absorbers can be used to
give your photos some sparkle and mystery.
Remembering that all of photography is really just “painting with
light”, let us look at manipulating the available light using very
simple reflectors and absorbers, and both cost next to nothing! Yet the
difference these can make to your photos is remarkable.
I was given a silver and a gold reflector, very natty, fold away, store
easily, carry easily reflectors. These particular ones even come in
their own little zip-up bags to keep them warm and dry. They unfold to
make a one and a half metre diameter circular reflector. Both are white
on one side, but on the other, one is gold and the other is silver.
However, they are very simple to make.
But first, why do you need a reflector? If they are so damn good, why
aren’t we all rushing around with silver and gold reflectors tucked
under our arms? The simple answer is that we get too complacent and we
end up saying that the results we get are “good enough”, or we were just
taking snapshots anyway. However, if you really want photos that leap
off the page, think about reflectors!
The first thing a gold reflector can do for your photographs is to give
skin tones that “golden glow” that just makes portraits look that much
So what else does a reflector do for your photographs? Well it allows
you to photograph “contre jour” as they say in the classics. That is
having the light behind your subject (generally the sun) and then you
can throw some reflected light back into the subject’s face. If you do
not do this, the usual result is something closer to a silhouette than a
portrait - a bright halo around the subject which then becomes so dark
in the face that you cannot distinguish the features. But with the
reflector, you can push the light back in and pick up the details.
So that was the gold reflector - what about the silver one? Well, if you
want “clean” and bright light on a subject anywhere, the silver
reflector will do that for you. Use this type of reflector when
photographing silver jewellery or even motor cars, for example. Mind
you, if you are photographing gold jewellery you must use a gold
reflector or otherwise the gold necklaces look silver on film.
Now, here’s how you make your own. Get some “foamcore” - that
lightweight plastic material that is often used to make signs (any sign
makers will have some). Around one meter square is OK. Now go to the
newsagents and buy some gold wrapping paper and some silver wrapping
paper. Cover one side of the “foamcore” with silver and the other side
with the gold paper and you have lightweight, portable (you can fold
them in half easily) silver and gold reflectors. And it has cost you
less than a couple of hundred baht.
Now “absorbers”. To give your shots some shadow, or even an air of
mystery, it is good to manipulate the amount of shadow in your
portraits. You do this by placing something on the side of the subject
away from the light source, to absorb (and not let light be reflected
back into the subject) and allow a natural fall-off of light. The best
absorber is black velvet. You bring the black velvet absorber as close
as you can to the subject, without it coming into the viewfinder. It is
To make this absorber, use another one meter square sheet of foamcore
and cover one side with black velvet material. You pin or clip the
material to it and that is it.
You will really be amazed by the way the use of a reflector and absorber
can put a different atmosphere into your photographs - especially
portraits. Try taking the same shot using different reflectors and note
the difference for future use.
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
I have just finished recording some radio spots for the
hospital, and when I listened to them, one fact came out loud and strong.
When listing ‘risk factors’ for conditions such as heart attacks, cancer,
strokes, blood clots, diabetes, and the list goes on, “smoking” was coming
up every time.
When you think about it, rolling up dried plant leaves and sticking them in
your mouth and setting fire to the end of it sounds like a pretty silly
proposal, particularly when you know it is dangerous. Honestly, you may as
well stick lighted firecrackers up your anal canal. At least you’ll get a
bang out of it!
Unfortunately, when you start smoking, it becomes very difficult to stop
smoking. This is because smoking is not just a habit like chewing on a
pencil when concentrating. Smoking is an addiction. What you have to realize
is that Nicotine is more addictive than heroin. I know that’s probably hard
to believe, but that really is the crux of the matter. You take Nicotine
into all of your metabolic pathways until you “need” to have Nicotine to be
able to function. Nicotine becomes part of your metabolic chemical chains,
and they don’t work properly without it. Now you can see just why you feel
so dreadful when you go without cigarettes (nicotine) for any period of
To give up cigarettes there are many, many ways, ranging from acupuncture,
hypnosis, the I Ching, acupressure, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT),
chewing gum, patches, nasal spray and many others all the way through to
Cold Turkey. Hop onto the internet and you are besieged with offers, all of
which will make it ‘easy’ for you to stop smoking, and all of which will
cost you money!
Interestingly, all of the above methods need the smoker to become committed
to ceasing cigarettes. The success rate really hangs on that commitment.
Leaving aside hypnosis and acupuncture, about which I know very little, but
the good books tell me do not enjoy high success rates, let’s look at the
other methods. The majority rely on Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). All
the gums and sprays do is to make Nicotine available for you in measured
doses - much like cigarettes do. You get the craving, you chew the gum. You
get the craving, you squirt the spray.
Patches are slightly different. They deliver the Nicotine slowly over a 12
or 24 hour period and are supposed to stop the craving before it happens.
But often do not.
After stabilizing on the NRT it is time to bring the dosage down, which is
the next hurdle at which many fall. The end result can be cigarette smoking
plus NRT - a potentially fatal combination. In fact, I strongly believe that
NRT should only be done under close medical supervision. Too much nicotine
can kill too!
So what is the best way? It’s called Cold Turkey. The proof is in the
numbers. There has been enough research done and the prime factor is that
the quitter has to be committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker.
Doing it (quitting) for somebody else, because you lost a bet, because you
are being nagged into it by your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to
failure, I am afraid. This is something which requires your total
commitment. 100 percent all the way. When I gave up smoking (yes, in my
teenage years nobody thought that smoking was bad for you. Smoking was being
cool and ‘adult’) and I thought it would be a bad scene for a couple of
days, and then found that it was a couple of weeks of torture. Here I am
almost three decades later and I could begin smoking again tomorrow. It
requires dedication and commitment. Yours! No one else’s!
So, I admit that those who go Cold Turkey may go through a rough time with
withdrawals initially, but the majority are still non-smokers after one
year. The same cannot be said for the others. The “hard” way is ultimately
the best way.
You have to make the decision to quit. You set the day. You tell all your
friends that you are now a non-smoker - and you stick to it!
Become a non-smoker today!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
By gosh your column is a load of ****, with specific reference to the boofhead
who was full of anguish due to some guy he had never seen apparently beating a
dog. Here’s some more dribble for people to suck in. Across from where I live in
Chiang Mai, I have identified a zen-dog, a black and white scruffy collie that
creeps around his little yard and hides in the corner, unseen, until people walk
by. Then he suddenly barks very loud, just once, and they get a big shock (kids,
men returning from work, anyone). Some laugh, some give out a little scream
(kids), some find a rock to throw, some shout some Thai expletive, and others
react with a jerky movement. After he barks, he jumps around a bit like he’s
doing a little dance, and appears to be smiling. He’s protected by a fence so no
one can get to him. Oh and by the way everybody, life means nothing (but only if
you know it means nothing) so laugh at it.
Dear Mr Magoo,
I don’t know that I really agree with your calling one of the people who wrote
in “boofhead”. He was showing a great deal of compassion for the unfortunate
animal, and was wondering what he could do to make the situation better for the
dog, Petal. Your concept of life is more Zen than the antics of the dog you
describe, who is just being a dog, and obviously happy with his lot. So are you
happy with yours? I think not, having to write to me and criticize others who
have written in. Perhaps I should call you “woofhead”? Or even more apt, would
be “McBarker” Quincy Magoo’s dog.
McBarker and Mr Magoo
Forgive poor English, but I write any way because we tired to hear foreigner
complain all time about Thai girl. Him want good fun, him want keep house, him
want go butterfly but want Thai girl stay home not go bar see friends. Him
stingy all the time and complain. Him get everything, go butterfly and Thai girl
get nothing. Not fair.
Dear Thai Girl,
Thank you for writing and it might show some of the people who write to this
column just how they are thought of by the group of people they complain about.
In any relationship it is a two way street, and if one party feels that the
other is not being honest in it, then of course it breaks down, and each party
grabs as much as they can from the wreckage. However, just as I tell the
foreigners not to look for life’s partner in the bar, the girls who work in the
bars should understand that most of the foreigners who go there are not looking
for long term commitment.
You are always telling your readers to meet ‘good’ Thai women if they want to be
happy in marriage, but since the divorce rates seem to be the same all over the
world, does it really make any difference? If you find a woman that wants to
look after you, does it matter where she came from, beer bar or wherever?
They’re still good women. I say may as well enjoy it all now, rather than
waiting around for the Miss Right ‘good’ woman who might never appear anyway,
and leave you after a few years after you’ve bought her everything. There’s
plenty of partners out there. Just don’t give them too much.
Living it Now
Dear Living it Now,
You do have a (very small) point, but if we were all to live only for today,
then we would be in a right proper mess by now, my Petal. Much of what we do
today is geared towards giving us a better tomorrow. Why do you go to school?
Why do you go on to train for a profession? Because you want a better tomorrow.
I can see that your concept as far as a life’s partner is concerned, does not
correspond to my ideas or ideals. Your “If you find a woman that wants to look
after you” makes me think that you are not after a “partner” to share life
together, but that you are really just selfishly looking for a woman to take
over from where your mother left off, but this time you can order her around as
well. Your phrase “enjoy it all now” is for your own personal (and I’m afraid
selfish) enjoyment. As you so gallantly write “Just don’t give them too much.”
What a wonderful basis for any relationship. I feel sorry for you, Living it
Now, because you will never experience the true joy of living life to the full
with an equal partner. For many this seems an elusive Utopian dream, but you
should look for it to really grow up and truly enjoy your position as an adult
in this world, but you will be very lucky to find it in a beer bar.
Let’s go to the movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in
Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins: US/ Germany/ UK,
Action/ Sci-Fi – With Christian Bale, Moon Bloodgood, and Common;
directed by McG. In this highly anticipated – in some quarters – new
installment of The Terminator film franchise, set in
post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as the man fated to lead the
human resistance against the dreaded Skynet and its army of
Terminators. But the future he was raised to believe in is altered in
part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is
of being on death row. He must decide whether Marcus has been sent from
the future, or rescued from the past, as the two of them embark on an
odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where
they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of
2022 Tsunami: Thai, Action/ Disaster – Here’s their synopsis:
“Thailand 2022. …All life is swept away in an enormous tidal wave, the
land is destroyed, and the only way to survive now is to battle nature
itself.” Up to you.
Night at the Museum 2: Escape from the Smithsonian: US/ Canada,
Action/ Comedy – If you liked the first adventure, you’re sure to like
this one even more – bigger, better, and with fantastic special
effects. After a wacky night at the New York Museum of Natural History,
the perpetually hapless Larry (Ben Stiller) must infiltrate the
Smithsonian after some of his resurrected friends were shipped to
Washington for storage. He finds himself in the middle of a vast
conflict between many of the museum’s most noteworthy historical
figures, so in part it’s a mild history lesson, mixed in with the
Krasue vs. Pop / Kra Seu Fad Pop: Thai, Horror/ Comedy – A fight
between two of Thailand’s most feared female ghosts, both played by
pretty young actresses. Krasue is a flying vampiric head that trails
its entrails around. Pop is a demonic spirit that likes to eat people’s
livers. Shown in Thai only with no English subtitles.
Angels & Demons: US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – A tight,
taut thriller. The team behind the global phenomenon The Da Vinci
Code returns for this highly anticipated follow-up, based on the
bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard
symbologist Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with
ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance
their goals. Ron Howard again directs. The film has been written as a
sequel to follow after events in The Da Vinci Code. Mixed or
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. Shot entirely in Thailand and filmed in English, mostly, but
shown here dubbed in Thai, with no English subtitles.
The Pink Panther 2: US, Adventure/ Comedy/ Mystery – Insp. Jacques
Clouseau teams up with a squad of International detectives who are just
as bumbling as he is to stop a globe-trotting thief who specializes in
stealing historical artifacts. Generally negative reviews.
Star Trek (2009): US/ Germany, Sci-Fi/ Action – All new! 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.
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. Stay for two very short
additional scenes during the closing credits, one of which, in a bar in
Japan, is a lead-in to the sequel. Mixed or average reviews.
Saranae Howpeng: Thai, Comedy – Movie version of “Saranae Show” – a
popular Thai comedy TV show that has been on the air for 11 years.
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