New Zealand doing comparatively well with Covid-19

There is a lot of debate in New Zealand over whether our relatively stringent ‘lockdown’ restrictions are justified or not. There is no way of being sure what our situation would be if we had not clamped down on people movements and business so drastically.

We have to be careful comparing with other countries because of unique conditions and different timing of the virus in different places.

But at this early stage it looks like we have been relatively successful at curbing the spread of the virus, and in particular keeping deaths down (to just one).

Currently we have 1,039 cases (to 9 am Sunday), with 15 people in hospital and 3 in intensive care.

The rate of increase in cases seems to have flattened off despite much more testing.

While cases numbers are difficult to compare we have tested 36,000 people here with a middling rate of 7,509 per million.

Australia has about 5 times our population, about 5 times confirmed cases, nearly twice our testing rate,  but a much higher death rate currently 33.  Australia has less stringent restrictions than us with more businesses still operating.

But there could be other factors.  Ten deaths in Australia are from the Ruby Princess cruise ship that ended up in Sydney. That had been in Napier, and if people had had to disembark there it could have been a major problem here instead on in Australia. Perhaps our earlier ban on cruise ships helped us but not Sydney.

Switzerland has nearly twice our population, 21,000 cases and 715 deaths with a very high 16,256 tests per million. But they border Northern Italy so will have been impacted from the huge outbreak, and they also border badly affected France.

Sweden is separated from Europe, just. They have about twice our population and have had far lighter restrictions. They have tested about half as much as us but have 6,830 cases and 400 deaths.

Scotland is also separated from Europe (just) and a slightly larger population than us. They have recorded 3,345 cases and  218 deaths. Their test statistics are part of the UK which are  low at a third ours.

Ireland has a bit bigger population (6.5 million), nearly five time the cases (about 5,000), a similar test rate and 158 deaths.

Hawaii has a population of about 1.4 million. As of 4 April they had  352 cases (in proportion to ours)  and 4 deaths which is not much different.

From this it looks like comparatively New Zealand is doing ok with Covid-19, so far. But we have a long way to go.

Swiss majority support for tighter gun restrictions

Switzerland is often cited as proof that many people having easy access to firearms can be safe, but a clear majority of Swiss support tighter gun laws that would bring them more into line with EU gun laws. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but EU restrictions apply because Switzerland is part of Europe’s Schengen open-border system.

RNZ:  Swiss voters approve tighter gun laws

Swiss voters have agreed to adopt tighter gun controls in line with changes to European Union rules, heading off a clash with Brussels, projections for Swiss broadcaster SRF show.

The projections from the gfs.bern polling outfit saw the measure passing in the binding referendum by a comfortable 67-33 percent margin.

The restrictions, which apply to non-EU member Switzerland because it is part of Europe’s Schengen open-border system, had raised hackles among shooting enthusiasts ahead of the vote under the Swiss system of direct democracy.

After militants killed scores in Paris and elsewhere in 2015, the EU in 2017 toughened laws against purchasing semi-automatic rifles such as the ones used in those attacks, and made it easier to track weapons in national databases.

Opinion polls had shown Swiss voters backing the measure by a two-to-one margin.

The initial EU proposal provoked an outcry because it meant a ban on the Swiss tradition of ex-soldiers keeping their assault rifles. Swiss officials negotiated concessions for gun enthusiasts who take part in the country’s numerous shooting clubs, but any restrictions imported from the EU go too far for right-wing activists concerned about Swiss sovereignty.

Gun rights proponents complained the rules could disarm law-abiding citizens and encroach on Switzerland’s heritage and national identity, which includes a well- armed citizenry.

Switzerland has one of the highest rates of private gun ownership in Europe, with nearly 48 per cent of households owning a gun.

Switzerland has a relatively low crime rate, but easy access to firearms can still be a problem.

Switzerland’s rate of gun suicide, at 2.74 per 100,000, is the second highest in Europe. Gun control supporters claim the fact that guns are to hand at home in moments of desperation leads to suicides that could otherwise have been prevented.

I think it is highly debatable that half of Swiss households having firearms serves any useful purpose.

Merkel may now attend Davos forum

There could be more attention to the World Economic Forum due to be held in Davos, Switzerland in about two weeks, with US President Donald Trump scheduled to attend. It is seen as contradictory that Trump would want to attend a forum focussed on globalisation given his preference for US isolation.

Reuters: Swiss mountain town Davos relishes its turn in Trump spotlight

The Swiss Alpine town of Davos is used to celebrities and high-rollers, but even it is relishing the new challenge posed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to attend the World Economic Forum this month.

“This is the 48th WEF,” said Reto Branschi, CEO of Davos Klosters Tourism. “Every year, we have 20 presidents from all over the world. We are used to the visits of presidents.”

Trump’s visit to Davos for the annual meet-up of global political and business leaders will be the first by a sitting U.S. president since Bill Clinton came in 2000.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Ernst Wyrsch, who was director of the hotel where Clinton stayed during his WEF visit and now heads the region’s hotel association.

“Davos, for at least a couple of days, will be at the center of the world.”

While dignitaries come each year — British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping made the trek to the town last year — they lack the media pulling power of a U.S. president that throws a spotlight on a community reliant on tourism.

Trump, whose entourage will include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, may drop in for just a day, give a speech and then depart.

There is something of a contradiction in all this.

The WEF is a haven for supporters of globalization espousing the very free trade pacts that Trump has blasted as unfair to the United States.

It had been thought that German leader Angela Merkel would not attend but after a preliminary agreement on a coalition was reached last week this may change.

Reuters: Merkel could join Macron in Davos for epic clash with Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering joining French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week in what could turn into an epic clash of competing world views with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Merkel, who has been struggling to put together a government since a German election in September, had been expected to skip the annual gathering of leaders, CEOs, bankers and celebrities in the Swiss Alps for a third straight year.

But after clinching a preliminary coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) on Friday, German officials said Merkel could travel to Davos after all, possibly setting up a major confrontation with Trump, who is expected to speak on the final day of the forum.

An appearance would signal Merkel’s return to the world stage after months of political limbo in which she has avoided the limelight and been dismissed by some in the German and international media as a spent force.

It would also allow her and Macron, who is scheduled to speak at the forum on Jan. 24, two days before Trump, to reaffirm their commitment to reforming the European Union after Britain’s decision to leave, and to defend liberal democratic values in the face of Trump’s “America First” policies.

Brexit plus Trump’s “America First” aims are likely to change international affairs and alignments significantly.

However it seems that the New Zealand Prime Minister won’t be at Davos.

Stuff: The international year ahead: What international trips could be on the prime minister’s radar?

World Economic Forum: This is held in Davos, Switzerland, every year and Trade Minister David Parker is going. And incidentally, the US Government has just announced President Trump will be there. But it’s not a common one for the leaders to visit every year, and it’s unlikely Ardern will have the chance to attend this year – the meeting is just two weeks away.

There are no plans (made public anyway) for Ardern to meet with Merkel, but that would be a significant event if it happened. New Zealand is working towards a trade agreement with the European Union.

A meeting with Theresa May would also be significant as the UK looks for trade deals outside the EU. May attended and spoke at Davos last year and is expected to attend again this year.

Ardern will probably be happy to not meet Trump in the US.

Swiss UBI vote: 23.1% in favour

Results of the referendum in Switzerland for a Universal basic Income:

  • No 76.9%
  • Yes 23.1%
  • 0 of 23 Cantons in favour Basic income plan clearly rejected by Swiss voters

Switzerland has become the first country in the world to hold a nationwide vote on introducing an unconditional basic income. Despite a spectacular pro campaign, there was no hope of it winning a majority.

Only some communes or urban districts in cantons Zurich, Bern, Geneva as well as Vaud and Jura came out in favour. 

“The campaigners failed to present a convincing funding scheme for their proposal. But they managed to launch a broad debate about an unconditional basic income,” says senior political scientist Claude Longchamp.

The promoters – a group of humanists, artists and entrepreneurs – have admitted defeat but they have pledged to continue their campaign.

“There is a genuine interest in the issue as numerous public discussions have shown,” says Oswald Sigg of the initiative committee.

It’s an idea that’s certainly worth publicly discussing, but it looks like it could be a good idea in theory but too many problems in practice.



Revolution in Switzerland?

An op-ed from Sam Gerrans has been getting a bit of attention – Switzerland: Poised for a revolution?

When Iceland jailed its bankers something changed. The unthinkable had happened: the real criminals had been held to account. Now Switzerland is also threatening to go off the fiat-bankster reservation. But will it happen?

In an article entitled “Switzerland to vote on banning banks from creating money” the Telegraph reports: “Switzerland will hold a referendum to decide whether to ban commercial banks from creating money.

The Swiss federal government confirmed on Thursday that it would hold a plebiscite, after more than 110,000 people signed a petition calling for the central bank to be given sole power to create money in the financial system.

The campaign – led by the Swiss Sovereign Money movement and known as the Vollgeld initiative – is designed to limit financial speculation by requiring private banks to hold 100pc reserves against their deposits.

This sounds incredibly dull, doesn’t it? But the idea behind it is what revolutions are made of.

The article continues: “Banks won’t be able to create money for themselves any more, they’ll only be able to lend money that they have from savers or other banks, said the campaign group.”

I’ll repeat that bit: they’ll only be able to lend money that they have from savers or other banks.

That’s probably what you think banks do: lend money they acquire from savers or other banks.

But no! They are busy creating money (albeit by a circuitous route); that is, they are busy magicking that thing the rest of us spend our lives working so hard to obtain – money – into existence. They do it by means of the creation of an imaginary thing called debt. We then undertake to pay these fictional notions back, and do so with interest.

Not only is this outright fraud and theft against the poor sap who signed the original credit agreement, it also debases the value of every single unit of the currency in which the transaction takes place.

Put in business terms, it is equivalent to printing more shares.

The article continues: “The SNB (Swiss National Bank) was established in 1891, with exclusive power to mint coins and issue Swiss banknotes.

However, over 90 percent of money in circulation in Switzerland now exists in the form of “electronic” cash created by private banks, rather than the central bank.

‘Due to the emergence of electronic payment transactions, banks have regained the opportunity to create their own money,’ said the Swiss Sovereign Money campaign.

‘The decision taken by the people in 1891 has fallen into oblivion.’

That is correct: if we had access to the same computer terminals the banks have, we could magic in or out of existence all the imaginary stuff we are trained to think of as important – money – in whatever quantities we liked.

This is how it works: when they print quite a lot of this stuff there is a boom. When they print too much of it, there is inflation (actually, the printing of money is inflation). When they stop printing it or simply hold on to it, there is a depression.

As long as the people keep slaving away and let the bankers give them pieces of paper or blips on a computer screen in exchange for their blood, sweat and tears, everything is fine.

But if a nation begins to wake up to the con and starts pushing back it is visited by a color revolution, cultural invasion, or simply bombed back into the Stone Age.

That’s it. You now understand economics.


Now back to the prospective plebiscite in Switzerland.

I am skeptical that this duck will get airborne without being shot down. The democracy the Swiss think they have is a pleasant enough fiction, but I am sure it will never be allowed to interfere with business.

And if we read the article carefully, it does say that the central bank should be given sole right to create money. This would essentially leave the creation of money in the same hands as those who control the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England rather than allow them to farm out the process. But at least it shows that people are beginning to wake up to where the true power lies.

In the unlikely event that this grass-roots movement in Switzerland should get its way and its proposed legislation be enacted, and then begin to morph into something which really does threaten the banking elite, we must not be surprised if Switzerland is shortly discovered to be harboring weapons of mass destruction, or to have masterminded 9/11, or to be financing Islamic State.

Yes, we will need to brace ourselves to be educated by a Western media unanimous in pointing out the connections to be made between the production of precision watches, pavements so clean you can eat your lunch off them, and the evil of an irrational hatred of freedom – one with roots in a culture which tacitly supports jihad against all non-eaters of expensive confectionery.

Freedom. You’ve got to love it!

Here’s something else from Gerrans, from eleven years ago:

I don’t believe in democracy. In some liberal circles this makes me a heretic who should be shot.

I suggest that – internal squabbles notwithstanding – the strong and powerful do more or less what they want, and the rest is just PR. This view is unflattering to the rabbits caught in the headlights of Democratic rhetoric, but I can’t help that. Still, happily for me, as things get worse in the Middle East, the liberals will find it increasingly difficult to justify their worldview to themselves. It’s small comfort in the circumstances, but it’s something.

Democracy’s key attraction for those who truly wield power is the fact that widespread belief that we are free is a cost-efficient means of control. But democracy is not and never has been Freedom; merely dictatorship-lite. And now the Totalitarian infrastructure is in place our rulers can opt to dispense with the spin.

Democracy will, of course, cling to its touchy-feely slogans for as long as it is expedient. But since the real U.S. game plan is to ratchet up the stakes in the Middle East to the level of war necessary to complete the project for Greater Israel – from the Nile to the Euphrates – and since the history of the last hundred years shows that no sacrifice to this end is too great, don’t be surprised if our rulers drop the pretence that this is anything but a good old fashioned massacre and start levelling whole Iraqi cities.

My point here is not to draw moral conclusions. I have my opinion of course. But, for me, the bottom line is this: The strong and the sneaky do what they do and the rest of us need to decide what – if anything – we are going to do about it.

Just don’t wave the democracy dogma in my face because I don’t believe in it.

So shoot me.