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Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

 

A mantra for the coming year

 

Nano Covid 2

 

Covid – a failure of leadership

 

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Thoughts on …                                                                      27/2/2022

 

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

 

Update: 6/4/22

 

Horrific pictures of civilians having been murdered by Russian soldiers. Insane that Russia still hasn't been COMPLETELY isolated economically. Insane that it still hasn't been suspended from UN. Insane that embassy staff still haven't been told to pack their bags. 

 

Update: 25/3/22 

 

United Nations and NATO continue to fail the people of Ukraine. Putin must be given an ultimtum to withdraw.

 

Update: 13/3/22

 

Casualties and suffering are beyond horrific. Sanctions and other measures have failed to stop Putin. Clapping in parliament and warm words of support for Ukraine are not going to stop him either. World leaders must issue an ultimatum through the UN that, unless he orders a withdrawal, military force will be used to eject him.

 

Update: 4/3/22

 

My tweet: Putin’s invasion is a flagrant breach of international law. Tragically it is therefore time for UN, not NATO, to issue an ULTIMATUM stating that, unless he orders a withdrawal, MILITARY FORCE will be used to eject him.

 

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

 

Go in fast, go hard, stay hard.

 

With a few exceptions the governments of the world have failed to do this with Covid and the result has been unimaginably tragic for millions of innocent people – as innocent as the people of Ukraine.

 

We must not allow our governments to fail with Putin. He must be stopped and all Russian forces must be ordered by him, or by us, to withdraw from Ukraine immediately. He must be stopped not for reasons of geopolitics but for reasons of common humanity. All wars and all forms of violence bring immeasurable suffering and anguish to individuals and families whether they are combatants or non-combatants. As a global society and as a species we should have learned to live with each other peaceably a long time ago.

 

But we are where we are and the only way to deal with Putin is to go in fast, go hard and stay hard. I urge all governments, decision-makers and those with influence to take the following action:

 

1   Ensure Russia, and regrettably, its people, are totally isolated from the rest of the world in every respect: politically, economically and financially, and in all sporting, cultural and educational activities. No loopholes, no excuses, and completely watertight.

 

Amongst many other measures this will mean freezing all financial transactions and assets involving the Russian state, or banks, businesses and individuals; banning all imports and exports, including oil and natural gas; not allowing participation by teams or individuals in any sporting event; stopping all overseas tours by orchestras, ballet companies, and singers; having no flights in or out of the country; and suspending Russia’s membership of the United Nations.

 

2   Instigating a massive information campaign using all possible means to tell the Russian people what Putin is doing and why the rest of the world must stop him. “All possible means” should include social media, digital broadcasts by mainstream media, and analogue broadcasting. It should also include hacking into all Russian media outlets and regularly inserting messages. 

 

3   Establishing an equally huge messaging campaign directed at members of the Russian parliament, civil servants, military personnel, the Russian Orthodox Church and former leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

4   Personal messages to Putin from past world leaders like Obama and Blair, and present high profile figures like the Pope and the Queen.

 

5   If these measures do not succeed in bringing about the immediate withdrawal of Putin’s forces from Ukraine I can see no alternative to the United Nations declaring his action a flagrant breach of international law followed by an ultimatum to withdraw completely within a week. The ultimatum would state clearly that if this did not happen the United Nations, representing the global community, would take all necessary measures, including the use of military force, to bring about a total withdrawal.

 

Let us hope this will not be necessary now or in the future but it may be that the warm words of encouragement and support that have been offered to the heroic people of Ukraine may not be enough.

 

Let us also remember, at this critical time, two enduring truths about wars: that they always bring the most appalling pain and suffering, and that they are fought between ordinary human beings who in normal circumstances would have no wish to kill each other.

 

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Thoughts on …                                                                      2/1/2022

 

A mantra for the coming year: be loving, be kind, think well 

 

This post was first put up on 1 January 2018. It will apply to this year and every year.


Be loving, be kind, think well. Easy to say but not always easy to do. I will try to remember this simple mantra in the months, and years, ahead, and, more importantly, try to put it into practice. I offer it as a thought for the New Year.


In fairness to ourselves we all try to be loving and try to be kind and we succeed most of the time. And most of us try to do some thinking about our lives and the decisions we make. But perhaps we can just do a little bit more in all three directions in the year ahead and having a mantra to repeat to ourselves may help in this endeavour.


What do the three precepts mean? The first, being loving, includes taking care of your loved ones, cherishing them, showing them affection; not getting angry, upset or annoyed with them; being sympathetic and supportive and always thinking about their needs. It means showing love to friends and strangers and to colleagues at work. It means having love in your hearts for the billions of people in the world you will never know especially those who are suffering in any way.

 
Being kind means performing acts of kindness, big or small, in your daily lives; doing these for loved ones, friends or strangers whenever the opportunity arises. It means being gentle and speaking kindly, listening and encouraging, and giving generously to good causes.


Thinking well, the third precept, means thinking carefully about issues and decisions in your own life and those that affect wider society. It means making up your own mind about them and not following the crowd - whichever particular crowd you identify with on any given issue. It means thinking about your values, your attitudes and your opinions especially if they have been held for a long time. It means thinking about what you say as well as what you do as careless words can cause hurt and upset.


There are plenty of other things we can aim to achieve this year apart from following the three precepts in the mantra - earn more money, improve our fitness, have a new kitchen, for example. But if we wish to help the well-being of our loved ones, of people we know and of strangers, and of our fellow human beings wherever they happen to live in the world, we have the power to do something about it. We do not need to wait for the government to take action. As individuals we can make the world a better place.


We can do this by trying to be more loving, trying to be more kind, and trying to think more carefully about our lives and our values. This will not only be good for the well-being of others it will make us feel better too and will therefore be good for own well-being.

 

For more about thinking well see my post on Good thinking.

 

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Thoughts on ...                                                                        23/12/21

 

Nano Covid 2                                                                          

 

Covid deaths UK: 172,000; average annual death rate of 98,000.        Since disastrous decision to relax protections in July, 15,000 deaths in England alone.

 

Comparison with 2nd World War: 67,000 civilian casualties, annual average  11,000; military casualties 384,000, annual average 64,000.

 

Deaths from Covid in UK currently 9 times greater than civilian deaths in 2nd World War, 1.5 times greater than military casualties.

 

 

The situation with Omicron is very dangerous. We do not yet know how dangerous but many, many lives will be lost because it is spreading so rapidly. Everyone surely agrees that each human life is precious irrespective of how old a person is or whether he or she has existing health problems.

 

It has been my view, and that of many others, that the only way to save lives as well as return to near normal daily life, is to defeat the virus not learn to live with it. This has been my view since the start of the pandemic and one I have expressed in posts on my website, and in emails and tweets to MPs, advisers and the government.  

 

It is still my view – more than ever. Like most people my knowledge of how viruses behave is limited to what I have learned over the past twenty-one months. Despite this limitation what is very clear is that, notwithstanding the outstanding efforts and brain power of brilliant scientists, the virus is outwitting us at every turn and causing the most unimaginable carnage. In just 21 months deaths in Britain have reached the horrific level of 172,000, each death bringing untold suffering and anguish for loved ones.

 

We are on at least our fourth variant of Covid in the UK, a higher number globally, and this is sufficient evidence for me as a layperson to believe that it is reasonable to assume that unless it is virtually eradicated more variants will follow. Some of these may be even more virulent than those we have experienced so far and some may be able to resist vaccines. This is common sense not catastrophic thinking. Ultimately, sooner or later, the virus will have a lethal effect across all age groups and we could be heading towards Armageddon.

 

If this is the case, climate change would no longer be a problem, nor Downing Street parties, nor energy prices, nor who wins the Premier League, the Ashes or Strictly Come Dancing.

 

So what can we do?

 

Both nationally and globally we can come together in a spirit of unity to defeat the virus. We can come together whatever our age, ethnicity, political views or religious beliefs. We are all human beings and what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Moreover we are born with a biological imperative, a deep human instinct, that drives us to care for our loved ones as well as those we do not know.

 

No one, therefore, should disagree with the notion that we should do our utmost to protect each other from harm. It is the mark of a civilised society that we do this and it is, of course, the reason why we have the NHS.

In the ongoing discussion about the best way to defeat the virus we, myself included, must resist the temptation to insult each other or use offensive and angry language. Instead we must calmly listen to other points of view and strive to make our case logically and rationally with compassion and kindness.

 

How do we defeat the virus? We chase it down to an absolutely minimum level, Nano Covid as I call it, a term we can use to acknowledge that zero Covid may not be possible but that this should not stop us aiming for it. In the UK this should require us to aim to reduce deaths from the virus to less than one hundred a year.

 

This will involve a change of strategy – one that I and many others have argued for over the past 21 months. Central to the strategy must be making it an absolute priority to save lives and a collective determination to do so. There must be no acceptance that we should learn to live with the virus if this means tens of thousands of people dying from it.

 

The “learning to live with it” strategy hasn’t worked because we have been led to believe that vaccines have provided the miracle that has saved us. They have certainly been miraculous and everyone must be fully vaccinated here and throughout the world. But on their own they are not enough and may never be. At the moment they have introduced a dangerously false sense of security and, with the encouragement of the government, persuaded us to lead relatively normal lives and drop our guard.

 

It is clear that vaccines alone simply do not afford us sufficient protection against Coronavirus. They are unable to prevent transmission, their effectiveness reduces over time, people who have been fully vaccinated with the booster are still dying and there is no guarantee they will be successful against new variants.

 

A change of strategy from mitigation to suppression is required immediately. Our politicians must have the humility to acknowledge that a change of course is essential. The rapid rollout of third doses of vaccine must be maintained but this must be accompanied by individual and collective protections that will stop the virus spreading. We must be reminded calmly and gently why these are needed and urged to see them not as restrictions but as weapons in the fight for freedom. 

 

We know what these protections are and clearly no one wants them to be part of their daily routines. They range from keeping 2 metres apart and wearing a mask, to restricting the amount of household mixing and limiting attendances at events. Everyone should constantly be reminded of the greatest protection of all, namely, that if contacts are kept to an absolute minimum, transmissions will be massively reduced.

 

We also know the personal qualities required to implement these protections. They include resilience, determination, self-discipline, patience, generosity, unselfishness and kindness. We must try to put them into practice as never before.

 

The best way to bring the virus under control would be to have an almost complete shutdown for three weeks, not a half-hearted lockdown. Notice must be given of when this would take place and the detail of how it would operate planned meticulously in advance. Only essential services such as the provision of food, energy supplies and, of course, health and social care, would be allowed to function. We can never thank enough all those who work in these key services.  

 

In order to chase down the virus properly we must, however, accept that sensible protections will be necessary for some time to come and that we will have an obligation to comply with them. It will be an obligation based on our compassionate and caring instincts and the way a civilised society operates. If as a result of these precautions people suffer financial or any other form of hardship they must be given all the support they need.

 

Our politicians must lead the country in a spirit of national unity by forming a cross-party coalition government which is committed to defeating the virus –  something else I have been advocating throughout the pandemic. There is no place for immature tribal politics in the most serious peacetime crisis in our history. The Queen should use her constitutional authority as the head of state to persuade the government to implement this course of action without delay.

 

With the vaccines and medical therapies now available, with our testing capacity and, above all, with disciplined and determined behaviour from everyone in complying with protections, Nano Covid is entirely realistic and always has been.

 

To have allowed 172,000 of our fellow human beings to have died already in the UK clearly indicates that we have been badly let down by our decision-makers in the Covid crisis, and that collectively as a society we have let ourselves down.  The carnage cannot be permitted to continue and the way to stop it is by having a strategy of Nano Covid.

 

We shall never surrender said Churchill. We must defeat the virus not surrender to it. It’s the only certain way to save lives and get society back to normal.

 

For Nano Covid 1 click here. For all previous Covid comments – there are a lot of them! – click here

 

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Thoughts on …                                                      19 October 2021

 

Covid – a failure of leadership

 

I welcome the thorough report by MPs on the government’s management of the pandemic and agree with much of its content. It correctly identifies many of the serious mistakes that have been made in the hope that this will enable lessons to be learned for the future. We can only trust that this will be the case and that its recommendations are implemented.

 

Unfortunately, so far, I see no signs of any lessons from the mismanagement of the pandemic having been learned. The virus is still totally out of control at present with infections reaching an astronomically high level and the death rate of over 800 a week being not only horrific but unimaginably tragic.

 

We must all take responsibility for the scale of the tragedy that we have suffered in this country. I include myself in the “we” of course. As individuals we have too often been casual, careless and ill-disciplined and collectively we have allowed, and continue to allow, our decision-makers to make the wrong decisions.

 

Given the system of governance we have, however, it is only fair to say that some people have been more responsible than others for what has probably been the worst peacetime disaster in our history. A greater percentage of the population may have died in the widespread plagues of centuries ago, and there was certainly a high death toll in the Spanish Flu pandemic, but, with the medical knowledge and healthcare provision we now have, the Covid crisis should not have been allowed to become such an appalling and catastrophic disaster.

 

Although politicians from all parties must accept responsibility for the disaster the ultimate responsibility lies with the government and especially the Prime Minister. There has been, and sadly still is, a failure of leadership at the highest level and pretending otherwise is self-delusion.

 

The government made three good decisions which saved lives and supported people’s well-being: lockdowns were the right decision despite their delay, not being sufficiently comprehensive and being lifted too soon. The financial support given to individuals and businesses was absolutely right, and the vaccine rollout was excellent initially. I also acknowledge the massive and very impressive organisation that has gone into test and trace, the provision of PPE, communications and many other aspects of national and local government.

 

I am deeply grateful for all the efforts that other people have made on my behalf. We must all be grateful.

 

However, our gratitude should not be allowed to obscure the tragic failures which have resulted in over 161,000 deaths from Covid and the accompanying anguish and suffering this has produced. It is my belief that had the pandemic been managed differently the death toll could possibly have been kept to under 5,000 and the crisis in the UK would have mostly come to an end a year ago. This is not said with the benefit of hindsight as I, and many others, were arguing for a very different strategy from the outset.

I propose there are five key reasons for the overall failure of leadership from the Prime Minister and the present government.

 

1  Saving lives was not made the absolute number one priority it should have been. No one should either have believed, stated or listened to the uncaring view that there was a balance to be struck between lives and livelihoods. There never was a balance to be struck and never will be. Of course everyone was concerned about the damage to the economy, and to the hospitality industry in particular, but livelihoods can be restored, lost lives cannot. It is the first duty of government to protect the lives of its citizens and this it has failed to do.

It was the desire to keep the economy going that was a key factor in delaying lockdowns and restrictions and lifting them too soon.

The latest lifting of restrictions in July in order to restore economic and social activity has resulted in a further huge and avoidable loss of life and created an extremely dangerous sense of normalisation where tens of thousands of lost lives are accepted as the price for living with the virus.

 

2  The Prime Minister and other members of the government have consistently underestimated the severity of the virus and its variants and the ease of its transmission. This also contributed to late lockdowns and their early lifting as well as the bewildering decision in July.

 

3  The Prime Minister and his advisers, perhaps with the exception of Dominic Cummings, have failed in their ability to think clearly, critically and differently. They have been locked into political and social orthodoxies which have been wholly inappropriate for managing a crisis. It has been not so much groupthink as non-think.

Examples of non-think are numerous: not inviting leaders of other parties into a government of national unity which would have brought the country together in a spirit of shared determination to defeat the virus; not fully understanding that the continuing crisis demanded an ongoing restriction of many individual liberties in the interests of collective protection – pub closures, curfews, limited numbers at gatherings, mask wearing and so on; not grasping the vital importance of border controls; not having the vision to see that complete shut downs would be better than lockdowns which were not watertight; not realising that strong and repeated messages were needed to ensure compliance with rules; not being prepared to use the military as Covid marshals; and not being willing to listen and act upon different points of view.

The two most serious examples of this failure to think clearly were first, the insane view that herd immunity was a possible strategy to use against the virus, and second, the unquestioning acceptance that mitigation, not virtual elimination, was the only course to pursue.  

       

4  The character of the Prime Minister will have been a crucial factor in the mismanagement of the crisis. I am not qualified to assess the psychology involved in this but it seems to me that his desire to be seen as a Churchillian figure, leading the nation in defiance of the enemy onslaught and accepting the inevitability of heavy casualties, played a significant part in his thinking. It is ironic that, by allowing infections and mortalities to increase so dangerously at present, Johnson has in fact done the opposite of Churchill and surrendered.

 

5  Finally there is the failure associated with the purpose of the report: the failure to learn lessons. From the beginning of the pandemic this failure has led to mistake after mistake being made. The slowness to lock down initially, as well as not closing borders sooner, were mistakes that could have been avoided if the government had been willing to learn from what was happening in Italy and other countries at the time. The unwillingness to learn from countries that were successfully pursuing a policy of elimination rather than mitigation has proved to be disastrous. And the failure to learn from our own experience has been unbelievable. The mindless decision to relax restrictions in the summer and create a false impression that life was almost back to normal has tragically cost thousands of lives.

 

 

We must all learn from our mistakes but it is essential that those in positions of leadership or influence learn more thoroughly than others.  It is my view, though, that the failings of leadership in managing the pandemic have resulted in such tragic consequences that the Prime Minister, senior members of the government and senior advisers must be replaced as soon as possible as they would be in any other organisation.

 

Whether or not this happens there is, however, one overriding lesson to be learned now. In order to save lives, reduce infections and return life properly to normal there must be a complete revision of the present strategy immediately.

 

People must be very firmly told that the pandemic is not over and the only way to achieve this is not to learn to live with it but to fight the virus together, chase it down and go for virtual elimination. This is not zero covid but what I call nano covid. It is a strategy I urge everyone to support.

 

For more on nano covid see:

https://www.quercuspublications.co.uk/nano_covid.html

 

For posts, comments, letters and tweets on Covid see:

https://www.quercuspublications.co.uk/links_to_coronavirus_comments.html