N.Z. in lock down: DAY 6


Yesterday was DAY 6 of New Zealand being in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

There are times when I am truly frustrated with New Zealand. There are times when the Mixed Member Proportional system of governance, combined with our laissez faire “she’ll be right” attitude to society, to life is like a car revving its guts out, with the hand brake still on.

But right now is not one of those times. In a world where much bigger, better resourced nations that should be leading decisively, showing the rest of the world how to beat COVID19, we are seeing the major powers make massive mistakes that are literally killing people, accelerating their case rate, accelerating the probability of a massive medical catastrophe. We are seeing countries that our grand parents were encouraged to look up to and say this is who New Zealand should be following – the United States, Britain, Australia, and that little ol’ New Zealand is too small to do big things.

This really is not one of those times. The nations that are leading the world at the moment, with New Zealand in pursuit are Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. These nations have the experience of the S.A.R.S. emergency in 2009, and out of that realized that their testing regimes, their hospitals and nursing systems had to be overhauled. They realized that should a pandemic hit, they have to have action plan ready to go and be prepared to enforce it rigorously. Dutifully all three nations made those preparations and although none of them are yet clear of COVID19 cases, compared with Spain, Italy and the United States, they have the situation well at hand.

New Zealand is not quite tracking like they are yet, but we are doing well. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet made the decision to “go hard and go early”, realizing the longer we waited the worse it would be and the more explosive the growth rate in cases would be – hundreds, maybe even thousands, instead of several dozen a day at the moment. Our case rate is moving further away from doubling every couple of days and is now taking several days to double, meaning our rate is growing in linear fashion instead of exponentially.

Is our response perfect? No. And nor is anyone else’s. All nations with COVID19 cases are probably looking back at their progress so far and probably wishing they had done things a bit differently. In the case of New Zealand, we should have probably arranged bus companies to scour both islands and round up any travellers who wanted to get out of the country before the borders shut and get them to Christchurch or Auckland airports. In reverse, maybe a pair of Air New Zealand charter flights using 777’s or 787’s to likewise recover New Zealanders wanting to get out of Europe and Asia before they shut down would have been useful as well.

Our biggest challenge will be in a few weeks, when the pressure to relax the lock down will really kick in. People will want to see businesses rapidly reopening, but we will have to be patient. Much of the world will still be in lock down and the borders shut, which I suspect will probably be until late this year if the news from popular travel locations such as the United States and Europe are anything to go by.

But for now, New Zealand needs to keep doing what it is doing. It needs to look to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan for signals rather than our traditional friends in the U.S. and Europe. And whilst acknowledging the very gloomy time it must be for businesses here, they, like the rest of New Zealand are on board with the idea that beating COVID19 involves an all in effort. As the financial year ends and the new one starts, we should thank them for that.

Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s. Although Australia’s rate of new cases is falling, only a comprehensive response will ensure it continues to fall.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 500; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.

No winners in Afghanistan peace agreement


Over the centuries and even millenia, Afghanistan has been subject to at least seven distinct periods of partial or complete occupation. The Persians, the Mongols, the Mughal’s, the Greeks, the British, Soviet Union and Americans have all invaded the country for one reason or another in the period between the 9th Century B.C. and the 21st Century A.D. Prior to the American invasion triggered by the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and – if the fourth hijacked flight had hit – the White House, all have similarly disappeared having temporarily altered a region of the world that few seem to have ever truly understood.

So how did this latest attempt to change the unchangeable Afghanistan come to this?

In 1979 the U.S.S.R. began what would turn into a 10 year incursion that only ended in 1989. It led to an anglo-American programme of support to an insurgency that following the invasion would go on to kill civilians indiscriminately. It was supported by a Texan Democrat called Charlie Wilson, whose lobbying lead to substantial C.I.A. interference in the country, and whose supply of small arms continued even after the Soviets withdrew and the insurgency had turned on the civilian population. The Soviet incursion killed about 95,000 Mujahideen combatants and killed at least 562,000 Afghan civilians, and involved the use of chemical weapons.

Following the departure of the U.S.S.R., which was in the late stages of collapsing, Afghanistan plunged into civil war which ended in 1996, and was then followed by the rise of the Taliban. This fundamentalist organization had no time for civilized ideals, particularly those of western origin. Education for girls was banned. Having access to television, radio and the internet all became criminal offences. Beer was banned, with the Taliban taking pride in showing tanks crushing beer crates. Only the most opaque clothing was permitted.

Even humanitarian N.G.O.’s were badly received, with those that had female staff coming in for particularly severe treatment. Which, is why, after two decades of progress, albeit fraught with danger, Afghans would be right to be worried about a return to Taliban like extremism.

There will be no winners in this. Not among the ordinary Afghani. Not in terms of socio-economic gain or liberties. Not in terms of developing a civilized nation.

Among the women, who under Taliban control, were subject to appalling violence, degrading restrictions on what they could/could not do; could/could not wear; could/could not go, the fear of what the future is will be palpable. Many will be scared for the future in a country where many still believe that a woman who is raped has somehow shamed her male family members, where adultery is punishable by death and where women have some of the least secure rights of any women in the world.

There will not be any geopolitical winners. The trillion dollars that have been wasted on this war could well have gone to any number of other much more useful projects in the Middle East that might have had some lasting positive impact for the countries in which they happened. Removing unexploded ordnance, assisting with the rebuild of infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, power, water and sewerage utilities all would have been much more helpful.

As for New Zealand, my position is unchanged. We have no purpose there and should get any military assets we might have in Afghanistan out. Any and all assistance to Afghanistan – like Iraq – should be strictly humanitarian and funnelled through organizations such as the Red Cross, or the Mines Advisory Group.

In a war that cost America a trillion dollars, there does not seem to have been much winning. Unless one is talking about the military industrial complex, which have done very well out of it.

Trump victory a certainty unless Democrats get their act together


The most recent Democrat caucus in Nevada must have the realists on the American left quietly petrified. In a caucus race to find someone to oust a man who is probably the most divisive U.S. President in history, few if any of the candidates look anywhere near Presidential material. Donald Trump might have been impeached by the Democrats, but the near unanimous unity of Republicans behind him means the Republican caucuses might as well wrap up now.

Whilst Bernie Sanders has the support of many on the left, given the generally conservative disposition of Americans such a radical swing to the left would probably result in – eventually, and assuming Mr Sanders survives his time in office – an equally radical swing back to the right. And in doing so, would alienate tens of millions of Americans from both sides of the spectrum at a time when a spectrum wide unity is necessary.

Mr Sanders has a more immediate problem that many have overlooked. He is 82. In New Zealand I am not aware of any politician currently or for that matter ever being in office at that age. His health has failed him once or twice recently, and the stress of campaigning across such a vast country must be immense. Should he die in office, he would join just Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt on the list of those who did not make it out of the White House alive.

Subsequently for these reasons, I do not see Mr Sanders becoming the 46th President of the United States.

But there are more sinister theories at work that Russian agents are working to get Mr Sanders to become the Democratic nominee so as to create a backlash that ensures Mr Trump’s victory. Mr Trump ardently denied these when they were mentioned to him, which no one should find surprising. Admitting it would be to undo years of Trumpian policy in one fell swoop.

If Mr Sanders withdraws from the race, where does that leave the Democrats? Who else has a realistic chance of taking on Mr Trump?

The state of the Democrat nomination race does not impress me in the least. We have Peter Buttigieg, a gay man of 38 standing for the first time. I see no name recognition whatsoever in him, and a quick look at his policy platform was not exciting either. There is a distinct lack of appeal among black voters in the southern states, who say that Mr Buttigieg does not understand or respect the socio-economic challenges facing them.

Elizabeth Warren is struggling. Her campaign had poor showings in both the Iowa and New Hampshire stages. She has not improved in Nevada. Her media coverage is poor and she is struggling for money.

Joe Biden has an inescapable Barak Obama problem. Because Mr Biden was Mr Obama’s Vice President, he is by default attached to a President that the Republican party have expended huge effort trying to undermine, even though he has not been in the White House for more than three years now. They will no doubt expend similar effort on Mr Biden. But also, Mr Biden is too far to the right for many Democrats, too much a part of the swamp problem that Republicans allege to exist in Washington D.C.

Amy Klobuchar is not leading the Democrats, but she is steady. She is credited with having skills and qualities that other Democrats allegedly do not. One is grit. She will not give up easily and her pragmatism is seen as a way to reach out to Republicans and other Democrats on the policy front. Still, a read of her record tells me she is towards the more progressive end of the Democrat spectrum.

The one Democrat whose policy platform I think is realistic is Tulsi Gabbard. But Ms Gabbard’s campaign has been all but abandoned because she has realized she does not have a big enough profile to draw out donors, but also because she has struggled to get serious media attention. Maybe in 2024 Ms Gabbard will try again with the added experience and better media exposure, but I cannot see her campaign reigniting in 2020.

That leaves a rather field for the Democrats. And maybe it was meant to be this way. Maybe the only way America is going to realize what a moron they have in the White House is to suffer another four years of him and wonder why the world is getting so angry.

I hope not, but unless this Democrat field gets its act together in the next short while, this is a preliminary call of the U.S. 2020 Presidential Election.