I will let Peter Davis’ article speak for itself. There’s nothing more I need add.
Published in Social Europe, 21st. December 2021.The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ
I will let Peter Davis’ article speak for itself. There’s nothing more I need add.
Published in Social Europe, 21st. December 2021.The virus antidote: political leadership, progressive government, public services — Peter Davis NZ
In my last post post I promised to comment on misconceptions that many Americans, especially those on the right, hold about my favourite nation – Aotearoa New Zealand. But before I start I need to make a small correction. In that post I included a link to Tucker Carlson’s opinion piece but I inadvertently referred to uninformed comment that was actually on a different Fox News article. That article is a news item titled New Zealand to enter nationwide lockdown after single coronavirus case found. I should probably have held off publishing the post until later that morning instead of at 2:30 am. I’ve been suffering from the effects of a migraine that won’t decide whether it should come or go, and I was up at that time because sleep evades me with that type of migraine. I should have had the sense not to click on Publish, but I did.
The Fox News item was published on the day we first became aware of covid being in the community, and perhaps one of the most repeated comments was that locking down for one reported case was idiotic. I’ll ignore all the comments about authoritarianism, fascism and comparisons to North Korea, and for the moment I’ll take for granted that an elimination strategy is the appropriate course of action for this this nation. My question to those who consider a lockdown on a single reported case to be an overreaction is this: If this nation is to maintain an elimination strategy, how many known cases in the community should there be before a lockdown is considered? Ten? A hundred? A thousand? As was has been illustrated by the events in Australia, gradually ramping up restrictions based on the number of known cases is simply too little too late.
Here’s something to consider: How many other cases were there already out in the community? Is this the only case or is it the tip of a covid iceberg? Remember that with the Delta variant, people can be infectious before they experience symptoms. There is also the question of how did the virus get into the community? There may already have been a super spreader event where hundred of people have become incubators for the next wave of infections. This has already proven to be true. The number of confirmed cases, only twelve days later is now 512. The detailed situation as it stands at time of writing can be found on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.
On the Sunday before the first case was discovered, members of the Samoan Assembly of God church gathered as a community for the day, including worship sessions and gathered meals. One attender had unknowingly caught covid and passed it onto hundreds of other attenders. And before anyone else accuses the church members of ignoring rules or flouting safety precautions, let me be quite clear: They were responsibly following not only the “letter of the law”, but also the “spirit of the law”.
Just like everyone else in this nation they were not subject to any rules regarding social distancing, mask wearing, or limits on the size of gatherings. After all, we’ve been having sports events and concerts with up to 50,000 attenders throughout the pandemic apart from the brief lockdown periods, and all without incident. I need to point this out as already members of the AoG church are facing a backlash over this. The congregation and its leaders had no reason to suspect that someone within their midst was infected. Why should they? After all, the last reported community case was way back in February.
The need for some sections of society to scapegoat minorities – in this case Samoans and Christians – is appalling and must cease. And just in case you require statistic to support my stance, of all ethnic groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pasifika community has the highest vaccination rate for people over 40 years of age. They are also the most religious. So please no more talk about ethnicity or religion contributing to the current outbreak.
When we examine the number of ICU beds available in various countries, and see how even in the US, which has one of the highest number of ICU beds per capita in the world, still was stretched to capacity, and countries such as Italy had to ration access to ICU beds, it’s little wonder that NZ, with few ICU beds would look for another way to manage the pandemic. As a comparison, ICU beds per 100,000 of population are: US: 29.4; Italy: 12.5; NZ: 4.6. On a per capita basis, the US has more than six times as many ICU beds as NZ.
Another common theme to run through the comments was that we suffer under an authoritarian government and our freedoms are on par with North Korea or life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The simple fact is that for the most part, this nation has had less stringent covid restrictions that the US, the UK, and yes, even more freedom than their golden boy model of covid management, Sweden
From 14 May 2020 to 11 August 2020 and from 31 August 2020 to 17 August 2021, Aotearoa New Zealand had fewer covid restrictions than the US, the UK and Sweden. Even during the period of 12 August 2020 to 30 August 2020, this nation was only marginally higher than the US and the UK. I included a Covid Stringency chart on my 2362 contacts post. But in case that is not enough, here’s some other freedom comparisons. I’ll restrict this to comparisons between NZ and the US as invariably, the accusations of a lack of freedom in this nation comes from Americans:
|Aotearoa New Zealand||92.92||98.04||91.84||94.26||1|
|United States of America||82.88||89.22||79.17||83.76||27|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||9.21||8.53||8.87||1||+0.01|
|United States of America||8.66||8.22||8.44||9||-0.11|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||1||1||99||`4|
|United States of America||2||2||83||62|
|Aotearoa New Zealand||10.04||8|
|United States of America||23.93||44|
Reporters Without Borders also classify the US as an Enemy of the Internet due to high level of surveillance carried out by the authorities. Currently 20 nations are listed as enemies of the internet, so the US is in good company with China, North Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
|United States |
|Aotearoa New Zealand||1||1||1||1||1|
|United States of America||25||15||20||20||24|
I freely accept that there are some criticisms of how the data is collected and rated for each of the indexes used above, but overall I think we can be confident that they provide a reasonable comparison of the two nations. I think it is safe to make the claim than Aotearoa New Zealand does not have fewer freedoms than the United States of America.
Several comments referred to the New Zealand population and made the observation that with such a small size the population should be able to be vaccinated in just a few months. Now think for a moment. If our population is one sixtieth the size of the US, it would stand to reason that the number of workers capable of giving a jab would also be one sixtieth of the numbers in the US. And given that a smaller percentage of the NZ workforce is employed in the health services than in the US, all things being equal it would actually take a little longer.
The fact that only 18% of the population is currently fully vaccinated also gave rise to the assumption the Kiwis are reluctant to be vaccinated. Wrong again. On many occasions over recent months we’ve learnt that there is only one or two day’s supply of vaccine available in the country. The problem isn’t on the demand side, it’s on the supply side.
None of the vaccine manufacturers have manufacturing facilities in this country, so all vaccines need to be imported. Given that practically every other nation is in a worse position than us, and that a number of countries have ruled that manufacturers must satisfy domestic requirements before they are permitted to export, is it any wonder that this country faces a number of hurdles in maintaining a regular supply of vaccine. The Government has also provided vaccines to our small Pacific neighbours as they are in a more vulnerable position and less able to cope with the pandemic if it arrives on their shores.
For there to be a high vaccination rate so that everyone can be vaccinated by the end of the year, there there needs to be a big increase in the number of people who perform the procedure competently. This is more than simply knowing how to jab a needle in someone’s arm, but also all the recordkeeping, safety protocols, etc that the vaccination rollout requires. Training has been underway for some time.
However the vaccination rollout is now in full swing. Anyone over the age of thirty is now eligible to be vaccinated, and currently 78% of those eligible have received at least one shot or have booked their first shot. From the beginning of September, everyone over the age of 12 will be eligible, and it is expected that everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of the year. Currently the vaccination rate running slightly ahead of plan. Only then will the government look at other processes for managing covid.
Of course a number of comments brought up the mythical confiscation of guns in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings. This has been interpreted in two different ways by commenters.
Obviously both theories can’t be correct. The simple fact is that there was an estimated 1.5 million guns that were in legal ownership before the shootings. That estimate today has not changed. The government buy back was for a specific type of weapon that, following a law change, could not be owned on a Category A gun holder’s licence. As firearms are not licensed here, the number of weapons affected by the change was unknown. Various estimates of the number of weapons affected ranged from 25,000 to 60,000. In the end the buyback resulted in 34,000 guns being handed in. While gun ownership here is estimated to be around a quarter of that in the US, we are still ranked in the top 20 nations for gun ownership.
A claim by many commenters that the New Zealand economy has collapsed or is rapidly heading that way due the the elimination strategy. Again, the evidence is very different. GDP in Aotearoa New Zealand is now above pre covid levels.
|GDP Growth 2021||Unemployment|
|Govt dept as|
% of GDP
|Aotearoa New Zealand||+1%||4.6%||4.1%||41.3|
|United States of America||-3.5%||8.1%||3.7%||127.1|
Given that international tourism and international students accounted for a significant portion of this nation’s revenue, GDP and employment, and have all but disappeared since the arrival of covid, I think that a positive grown in our GDP vindicates this nation’s elimination strategy.
A common misconception among many commenters was that the US could not close its borders because their immigration rate is too high and that no one immigrates to NZ. If so, how can they explain the fact that one in four Kiwis are immigrants while a mere one in seven Americans are? The simple answer is that Aotearoa New Zealand has a relatively high immigration rate.
Comment was often made of New Zealand’s low population density, and if the population was spread evenly over the whole country, the low density would indeed be a significant factor. However 77% of New Zealand’s population live in the smaller of the two major islands, and 35% of our nation’s entire population lives in the vicinity of the city of Auckland. The population density of the North Island is 80 people per square mile. This is comparable to states such West Virginia (76) and Missouri (88). One third of the entire population of Aotearoa New Zealand lives in a region where the population density is approximately 3,100 per square mile.
And there are a lot of them:
There are more, but Fox News being such a toxic site, I’ve had enough.
We might not be able to join with overseas relatives this Christmas, but the authorities have put in place measures to ensure that Santa will be able to visit Aotearoa New Zealand. He will not need to quarantine for fourteen days as do other visitors. As the interview with the Prime Minister illustrates, this country has pulled out all the stops to make sure Santa’s delivery run is as safe and Covid free as possible. Not sure if the same is true in other jurisdictions…
Our general Elections are to be “officially” held on Saturday, 17th of October. Vote counting will commence after polling places close at 7:00 PM that day. However it has now become standard for voters to be able to vote early. We have been able to cast our vote since Saturday, hence, today being Monday, is day three of the the 15 day period during which we can cast our vote(s).
Although we have nowhere near the voter turnout that Australia has (voting is compulsory there), participation rates of 75% or greater are the norm here. And this year with greater promotion and availability of early voting, it’s likely that the turnout this year will be up on the 2017 elections.
One anomaly that early voting has revealed is the regulation that bans political advertising of any sort on polling day. This necessitates the removing of billboards, party banners etc before midnight on the day before polling day. Considering that voting now extends over two weeks and it’s expected that around 60% of all votes will be cast before polling day, either all political advertising needs to be banned for the entire time the polls are open or the advertising ban needs to be done away with entirely. But banning advertising on only the final day of polling is ludicrous in my view.
On a lighter note, here’s a (highly selective) comparison of last week’s leaders’ debates in NZ and the US. Apart from the obvious gender differences, our political leaders think more highly of each other than do American leaders.
There’s a section of the conservative right in America, mainly evangelical Christians (although I’m not convinced that the term “Christian” is appropriate) who are are willing to excuse Trump of almost any evil in order to accomplish his proclaimed goal of Make America Great Again, whatever that is supposed to mean. I’m sure that to Trump, MAGA really means Make America Go Autocratic.
The values and ideals held by those in the MAGA camp in the USA are also held by some in this country, although thankfully they make up a significantly smaller percentage of the population. So much are they endeared to the US MAGA brigade that they have lifted the acronym, the red baseball cap, and all, and applied it to themselves.
Unlike in the US, they don’t have a hero to champion their cause, so instead have targeted the person who is the antithesis – Jacinda Ardern. It’s very clear to me that the characteristics and values of our Prime Minister that endear her to the majority of Kiwis are not those of the NZ version of the MAGA brigade.
So what does what does the acronym MAGA stand for?
Make Ardern Go Away
It was inevitable that questions around Trump’s suggested bleach treatment of COVID-19 would be asked here. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director General of Health has been a regular presenter, along with the Prime Minister at the daily COVID-19 briefings, and in late April a reporter did ask Dr Bloomfield to comment on the POTUS’s suggestion.
It takes a lot to faze the good doctor, but this has been perhaps the only question to have left him speechless:
Reporter: Dr. Bloomfield, what do you make of suggestions by some leaders overseas that people should be injecting themselves with bleach to kill COVID-19?
Dr A: [silence]
Dr A: I don’t think I need to comment on that, Prime Minister?
PM: No. I think we’ll let your silence speak for itself.
Reporter: It is worth asking about though, isn’t it, because…
PM: Is it?
Reporter: after the president raised it, there were cases in New York where people needed to go to medical facilities because they had actually ingested disinfectant. I know you don’t want to dignify the response, but can you maybe just send a clear message to people that obviously this not the thing to do?
Dr. A: Indeed. Under no circumstances should they even think about doing that.
PM: I don’t think we’ve had any suggestion of any reported cases in New Zealand of that occurring, and so that suggests to me that no New Zealander has listened to or given any credence to that suggestion.
Reporter: Will you make a statement that the president said that at all?
PM: Obviously here in New Zealand we haven’t seen it picked up, responded to, [or] acted on in any way, and that’s what we are, of course, here to do – to look after the New Zealand population.
Perhaps it’s what Jacinda didn’t say but is implied by “we’ll let your silence speak for itself” and “that’s what we’re here to do – look after the New Zealand population” that actually speaks volumes.
kia haumaru, kia kaha
Keep safe, Keep strong.
The leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States of America have radically different styles and perspectives. I’m quite confident that a majority of Kiwis hold similar values to those expressed by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Can the same be said of Americans regarding the values expressed by Donald Trump?
Below is a clip taken from parts of the UN speeches of the two leaders. For those who find the Kiwi Accent difficult, I have included a transcription below the video clip.
JA: If I could distill it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand, it is simple and it is this: kindness.
DT: America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.
JA: In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism, the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism might just be as good a starting point as any. So let’s start here with the institutions that have served us well in times of need and will do so again.
DT: We withdrew from the human rights council and we will not return until real reform is enacted. For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support and recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority.
JA: New Zealand remains committed to continue to do our part to building and sustaining international peace and security, to promoting and defending an open, inclusive and rules-based international order based on universal values, to being pragmatic, empathetic, strong and kind.
DT: The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid but few give anything to us.
JA: Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou katoa.
[Salutations to you all.]
DT: Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the nations of the world. Thank you very much.
Last night, the wife and I raised our glasses (Giesen NZ Riesling 2017 if you’re curious) to celebrate the news that the nation will move from COVID-19 Alert Level Four to Level Three as from 11:59 PM on Monday, 28 April.
In practical terms, going to Level Three will make little difference to our personal lives. Our isolation bubble will not expand – it will remain at just two people. All retail facilities in town will remain closed apart from those that have been allowed to remain open during Level Four – supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations.
However it will mean that we will be able to drive the few kilometres to Kitchener Park and take the boardwalk through the forest. One difference here will be that when the wife needs to sit to ease her back pain, she’ll use a collapsible 3-legged stool instead of the fifteen or so park benches scattered along the walk – all in the interests of preventing contamination of our bubble.
Perhaps the most significant easing that Level Three provides for us will be that many more items will be able to be purchased online for delivery to our home. Currently deliveries can be made only for products that are considered essential.
We have also been given a start date for our home renovations – 1st of June, provided the Alert Level has dropped below Level Three. As almost all work will be inside, there’s no way we can keep our bubble protected from the various trades people who will be working on the project.
Unlike in the US, where we have seen news clips of shoulder to shoulder demonstrators calling for the end of COVID-19 restrictions, here we’re seeing concern that the relaxations are happening too soon. Under Level Three, child care facilities can re-open as can and schools for students from Year 1 through to Year 10. The emphasis is on can. Government advice is to keep kids home if at all possible. But there is considerable apprehension from staff mostly around managing social distancing for children – something that will be almost impossible to control.
Our Prime Minister has an approval rating of around 90% for her handling of the pandemic, even though our nationwide lockdown has been one of the most restrictive of any nation – certainly among those with a Western style democracy.
This is no more readily apparent than the public reaction to a comment on facebook by Simon Bridges, leader of the National Party and the Parliamentary Opposition, and currently chair of the Epidemic Response Committee, where he was critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Most see it as political grandstanding, including many National Party supporters. At time of writing, the post has attracted over 28,000 comments – mostly negative.
News headlines are suggesting there’s leadership coup being planned within the National Party, but of course they’re being denied. National Party support has plummeted to around 30% – way down on its pre-pandemic rating of low to mid forty percent, and doesn’t bode well for the party in the upcoming general elections currently set for September. I can understand why Jacinda Ardern is reluctant to push the election date back to November – a call being made by both the opposition and her coalition partner.
For anyone interested in NZ style politics, have a look at live streaming and recordings of previous sessions of the Epidemic Response Committee. This committee oversees government actions while Parliament is in recess during the lockdown.
Before the current crisis, the National Party had a comfortable lead over the Labour Party – often by as much as ten percentage points even though support for its leader trailed far behind that of the leader of the Labour Party – 5% – 10% for Simon Bridges compared to 40% to 50% for Jacinda Ardern.
We now see National have the lowest support for more than a decade. In Aotearoa New Zealand, our MMP electoral system means that parliamentary representation almost exactly reflects party support at time of a general election. Although in opposition, National has has been the largest party in Parliament. If an election were to held today Labour would be able to form a government with support of the Green Party.
I can’t see National and Greens being able to form a coalition in the foreseeable future, being at opposite ends of not very wide NZ political spectrum. Think of Biden as National, Sanders as Labour and Greens as Andrew Yang. There’s no popular support here for an equivalent of the Republican GOP.
kia haumaru, kia kaha
Keep safe, be strong.
Below are the UN general assembly Speeches by the president of the United States of America, and the Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand. Do they even live on the same planet?
Jacinda’s speech in English starts at 1m 5s if you wish to skip her formal greeting in te Reo Māori, but out of respect for our culture, please don’t.
An opinion piece written by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, has been published in the NYT and a number of other publications (I have included to content of the opinion piece after my “two cents worth”).
Already I see assertions that the U.N. has a hidden agenda to shut down free speech in order to bring in some new oppressive world order – that order depending on where on the political spectrum the “pundit” stands – and that Jacinda is a willing or inadvertent pawn in the conspiracy. It’s also amazing to see the number of people on various platforms who seem to believe that the Christchurch atrocity was staged by the government or the U.N (or some other boogieman) in order to make people more accepting of restrictions imposed by those in authority. But I digress.
The planned Christchurch Conference has already been criticised because it doesn’t propose any specific solution to the use of social media as a tool to promote terrorism. They miss the point. The whole purpose of the conference is to bring about a round table discussion involving all interested parties on what should be done and how it might be implemented to reduce or eliminate social media being a tool of the terrorists.
Our Prime Minister, along with the rest of the country have determined that “prayers and platitudes” are not the answer, and sitting on our hands will not make the threat of terrorism by social media go away. There’s a high chance that the conference will not achieve the desired outcome, but unless those with the “power” to affect an outcome sit down together and discuss it, “prayers and platitudes” will be all we have to look forward to.
Here is the opinion piece:
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.
He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.
For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.
This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.
The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.
The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.
We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.
My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.
Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.
But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.
We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.
Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.
Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.
I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.
Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.
But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.
And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.
The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.
A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.
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