Post-9-11 events and analyses
Friday, January 14, 2005
Learn from Britain's pension reform: Thatcher's Britain tried partial privatisation of old-age benefits, and the result is a massive failure. As usual, Americans neglect to study other nations for lessons and warnings on its own policies. "
For all the fanfare that surrounds the Bush administrationís efforts to present a bold new idea on pension reform, the truth is that it is not new at all. In fact, the proposal looks suspiciously like the plan set in train during Thatcherís ﬁrst term in 1979 and which has since led Britain to the brink of a crisis. .. Britainís [reform] has been a failure. A shorthand explanation for what has gone wrong is that the costs and risks of running private investment accounts outweigh the value of the returns they are likely to earn. ..
there is little disagreement within the United Kingdom that the path chosen by successive governments over the past 25 years is not the right one ..
- According to the Department for Work and Pensions, in 2004 alone, 500,000 people abandoned private pensions and moved back into the state system. Government actuaries expect another 250,000 to [do so] this year.
- In 2004, the Association of British Insurers, the trade association representing the companies that sell the private accounts, made a collective decision not to risk any more allegations of mis-selling. It urged all of its member ﬁrms to warn those who had taken tax rebates to open private accounts that they might have made a bad choice. The advice was particularly aimed at older workers with fewer years until retirement.
- Many insurance companies -- the sellers of the private accounts -- have been writing their customers urging them to contract back in to the state system.
- And, of course, even the U.K. version of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the idea of raising taxes to increase beneﬁt levels.
.. at the exact moment that America contemplates replicating this disaster, many in Britain -- some conservatives included -- are looking more and more kindly on American Social Security as a model for reform."
`Bumpy' new world foreseen: Jan 14, 2005: The US govt National Intelligence Council released a report, Project 2020, looking 15 years ahead. "Newly arriving powers "have the potential to render obsolete the old categories of East and West, North and South.'' .. The council predicts an emergence of new global players ó almost certainly China and India ó but whether these new players fit into the world co-operatively or competitively remains an important uncertainty for the U.S. .. the integration of 1 billion low-paid workers will cause global shifts in rich and poor nations alike. .. "Of course, the United States is in good shape to participate in this world, but it will be a world that will be much more competitive for us," ..
this new order will raise the stakes for Arab countries, which may join in globalization trends or experience further alienation and humiliation. Terror threats, too, will change. While radical extremism will continue to grow, the report says Al Qaeda is expected to be superseded by similarly inspired, decentralized groups. [Chairman] Hutchings said he expects the innovation in terror attacks to come from new elements of surprise, rather than unconventional weapons. The groups' members will be tapping technology that provides instant connections for communications and training, posing a significant intelligence challenge to organizations including the CIA." Reminds me of the scenarios in Ten Years Later by Richard A. Clarke in the January Atlantic, in which new terrorist attacks are low tech but launched in coordinated ways in surprising places. 2:17:55 PM
'Our government in Burma is lying when it says just a few people were killed': Aid workers "say the death toll is certain to be higher than Burmese officials have admitted. "It is in the thousands," estimated one foreign diplomat. ..
Since the tsunami the military's grip has become even tighter. Conscript soldiers have been deployed on main roads leading out of the southern town of Kawthaung. They have orders to prevent foreign nationals from travelling more than two miles from the centre. The naval vessels are looking for boats that they do not recognise in order to prevent unauthorised missions landing along the ravaged coastline. ..
A government official intercepted our vehicle as we left Kawthaung with the aim of catching a glimpse of the damage wreaked on one of the world's last dictatorships. "Go back now," he told us. "I cannot give you permission to leave town and the army checkpoints will stop you. There is nothing to see. We are handling the situation in our own way." ..
Rangoon brushed aside most offers of help, accepting a token £104,000 worth of aid from communist China. .. [Aid organizations are prevented from visiting nearby islands and coastal areas] Further clues to the extent of the damage come, however, in reports of foreigners who are missing in the area. Two South African backpackers and a group of Christian charity workers have not been in contact with friends and relatives for a week. A Florida-based missionary group has launched an appeal to rebuild a Burmese village destroyed in the tsunami. From the government, however, there is no word." 8:48:38 AM
The politics of disaster: What happened in Burma from the Tsunami is still unknown. "for the first three days, the official version was that Burma had survived without a scratch. The uniformed gangsters who run the kleptocracy, ravish its forests and murder its citizens, expressed their heart-felt sorrow and decent regret at the news from the rest of the region, but made no mention of the waves taking Burmese lives. A meteorological officer from Rangoon explained the miracle. The border with Thailand may only be 150 miles north of the devastated hotels of Phuket, but Burma was fortunate to have a coastline which rose from shallow seas. ..
On Wednesday the hacks on the New Light of Myanmar, the junta's mouthpiece, admitted that 43 people had died and 25 were missing. Few believed them. Ever since Boxing Day, opponents of the regime who produce the Democratic Voice of Burma website have been receiving leads from scattered sources. An anonymous naval officer told them that a military installation on Coco Island in the Indian Ocean had been washed away. Magye Island in the Gulf of Bengalmay also had been swamped, other sources said. There were reports of the Maubin University building being torn apart, possibly by an earthquake which hit after the waves, of fishermen never returning from the sea and of villages losing dozens of inhabitants. One rumour doing the rounds says that 500 died in one district alone, and it sounds plausible... the inhabitants of the coastal districts are desperately poor. Their flimsy shacks never looked as if they could withstand a raging sea. ..
It will take weeks to find out if the real death toll is anywhere near as bad as in Thailand - if, that is, we ever find out. The junta has an interest in maintaining the illusion of total control.. Last week reporters who tried to get information from the Unicef office in Rangoon were given a short course on the facts of life. The aid workers stonewalled because they would be thrown out of the country if they said a word out of place. ..
In Burma, many charities have decided that giving aid to Rangoon is like giving EU grants to Sicily or oil-for-food programmes to Saddam's Iraq: whatever your good intentions, the money always ends up strengthening one mafia or another. Thus, while Unicef, Save the Children and a handful of other organisations cling on, most won't go near the place. They know that what Burma needs isn't hand-outs but a revolution. " 8:44:46 AM
Nuclear test monitoring network useful:
Here's a tidbit from Cringeley: "Here is word from a reader in the UK: "The infrastructure for a global tsunami warning system already exists. The system set up to monitor nuclear testing is capable of, detected, and pinpointed the South Asian tsunami as it happened. The monitoring headquarters is in Berkshire, England, and the head of the station had made suggestions in the past that its role be expanded to include earthquake and tsunami monitoring. Better still, the necessary treaties are in place to allow immediate two-way communication between the centre and affected countries. Indeed, they carry an up to date list of contact numbers for key people. What's missing is political will. With that in place organisations, public information, and training can be put in place to make sure any warning is responded to on the ground."' I recall seeing a map of the placement of their monitoring devicesand the satcoms that relay their information (uniformly spread around the planet). Interesting to think of the other uses of that sensor network. 8:26:28 AM