Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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It’s over for New Zealand: News from President Trump

Three campaign rallies and three times President Trump calls out the abject failure of the country of New Zealand in fighting the pandemic. It’s time Kiwis kissed their elderly and sick goodbye, throw away masks and hand sanitiser and await their fate. It’s no use fighting it, for as the PONTUS knows, it’s over for New Zealand. Everything’s gone.

So America, and the rest of the world, take a lesson from the dumb ass Kiwis – don’t try to emulate them. Celebrate the great job being done by Donald Trump. You only need to look at the US mortality rates to know how well they’re doing, and as the president has said, other countries would know just how well you’re doing if only fewer of you were tested.

If you think I’m jesting about the wisdom the President Trump, then I highly recommend you listen to the three video clips below. Not only will you be greatly informed, you will also be greatly inspired.

Donald Trump scoffs at NZ, calling latest Covid-19 cluster a ‘big surge’ – The US President added New Zealand to his campaign rhetoric in Minnesota.

Donald Trump mentions New Zealand in Covid-19 briefing for second time
The US president said during a White House press conference that Aotearoa “had a big outbreak”.

‘It’s over for New Zealand’ – Trump slams Aotearoa’s Covid-19 outbreak response yet again. President Trump made reference to a “massive breakout” here.

Now I realise the President was a short on details. Well it was a political rally after all. So I have prepared some charts. I’ve used charts because I know how well the President is able to explain them. You saw how he slayed that interviewer when he challenged the President: The President used charts to really sock it to that guy.

Just in case you find charts a little more difficult to read than the President, I have included a brief explanation below each one.

You can see that America is doing very good in new cases. There was a time in June where Sweden was winning, but they’ve since gone down and America up. But look at New Zealand – it’s over.
This one charts deaths. As you can see, there’s no comparison between New Zealand and the other three countries. It’s over New Zealand, beautiful. America does more testing than Sweden and England so that is why America’s score is not as big.
This is charting the number of tests done each day. America is winning big time. Look at New Zealand. Loosers. They should test like America does. That’s why it’s all over for them.
This chart is more difficult to understand as there’s some maths going on. You need to be a genius like President trump to grasp its complexity. See how good America’s percentages are – they are higher than the other country. England tried to beat America in April, but they couldn’t keep it up. Losers just like New Zealand. But America is doing just great.

As you can see, America is higher on every chart (except one, and that’s because America tests too much). If you want to keep America high in the charts, then don’t forget to vote for Donald Trump in November. If you vote for that other guy, America might end up like New Zealand.


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Move over Hollywood

Our (relatively) safe COVID-19 status has seen increased interest in basing international film and TV productions here. As well as Avatar 2 and Power of the Dog already under way, permission has been granted to another five production teams to enter Aotearoa New Zealand and due to start production soon. These include:

At a time where our livelihood from overseas visitors has all but dried up, such productions are a lifeline to our economy. The more. the merrier.


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The perils of a New Zealand Border Force — Will New Zealand Be Right?

Keeping the coronavirus out of Aotearoa New Zealand is fraught with difficulties, the most significant perhaps being that it requires the cooperation of multiple agencies. I’m glad I’m not the only person who regards the setting up of a Border Security Force as a potential source of abuse and tyranny.

Whilst the current multi-agency arrangement involving Customs, Health, Police and Military has revealed many flaws from managing security to testing for COVID-19, these are being acknowledged and corrected as they come to light. This is uncharted territory, and if anyone believes that a plan of action can be brought from the drawing board to fruition in record time taking into account every possibility with every permutation already considered and planned for, then they are living in cloud cuckooland.

Would a Border Security Force result in appalling forms of abuse as can be witnessed in countries such as Australia and the United States? I would hope not, but I’d prefer that the opportunity does not arise. Better to resource the existing agencies adequately and create a management task force dedicated to coordinating the agencies and quickly respond to issues as they arise.

If there are legal barriers to setting up such a task force in any future national emergency, then sure, bring in legislation that will allow it ensuring that transparent oversight is included. But having a permanent independent force with little in the way of transparent oversight on the American or Australian model with all their reported abuses? No thanks!

With a general election coming up in less than two months, several political parties are promoting a Border Security Force, but this does not appear to be on the radar for the governing Labour party at the moment. However, they are just as subject to public pressure as other parties, so I want to put my position now in the hope that I’m just one of many voices opposing the formation of a Border Security force.

On this matter I can do no better than reblog Robert Glennie’s post on Will New Zealand Be Right?

Normally I am quite tough on matters of national security, and I am, but the concept of a New Zealand border agency fills me with dread. One does not have to look far to see in other countries why it is controversial. And the last a government agency with enormous control was created in New […]

The perils of a New Zealand Border Force — Will New Zealand Be Right?


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The wisdom of Donald Trump

Lots of places they were using to hold up, they are having a big surge, they are… And I don’t want that, I don’t want that. But they were holding up names of countries and now they are saying whoops! Even New Zealand. You see what’s going on in New Zealand. They beat it. They beat it. It was like front page. They beat it because they wanted to show me something. The problem is big surge in New Zealand. It’s terrible. We don’t want that.

Donald Trump, 17 August 2020

Of course, the surge is terrible in New Zealand. While we might want to see the Trump administration emulate us, it’s out of spite. We know that Donald will never allow that to happen to the USA.

MAGA

Here’s the evidence in the form of a chart of daily infections per million:

I know that President Trump says we can’t use per capita measurements because it it makes US testing rates look bad, so here’s a chart showing new infections in absolute numbers:

As you can see, New Zealand is flatlining. That’s terrible. Not many people know this, but when a brain scan or heart monitor flatlines, it means you’re dead, very dead. That’s terrible for New Zealand. I have every confidence that the President of the United States will not let that happen to America.


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Rumours and conspiracy theories

Rumours

Even in this country of Aotearoa New Zealand there are those who like to spread rumours. The problem is that with all the social media platforms available, and the way their algorithms select “news” all too often truth gets drowned out by the cacophony of rumours, innuendos and lies.

In the case of the family at the centre of the current COVID-19 cluster in Auckland, the rumour mill has been working overtime. Social media attacks on the family are vile, and the fact that the family are part of the Pasifika community has brought out the worst of racism in some people.

Health authorities keep the identity and ethnicity of those with COVID-19 away from public scrutiny, but work colleagues, neighbours, friends, family, and the curious will in all probability be aware of their status and either accidentally or maliciously leak the information into the realm of social media. After that it gains a life of its own.

Unfortunately the rumours, innuendos and attacks on the family and and those of the same ethnicity have had such a traumatic effect that the Minister of Health felt it necessary to start Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing with a strongly worded statement:

Coronavirus: Man who started COVID-19 community outbreak rumour in New Zealand speaks out

MBIE shuts down rumour blaming Auckland’s COVID-19 outbreak on girl breaching quarantine to visit man deported from Australia

Conspiracies

When it comes to conspiracy theories, some politicians seem to like nothing better than to add fuel to the fire. It’s election time here, and so to some extent, innuendos that the government is less than honest, have a hidden agenda or are corrupt or incompetent do tend to pop up more frequently. But it’s disappointing that some politicians are using the pandemic as a political football. Mind you, To some extent, the Labour party has to accept some of the blame, as their campaign is based almost entirely on how well they, as government, have managed the pandemic.

I do however feel that Gerry Brownlee (deputy leader of the National Party) overstepped the mark with his comments made shortly after the Auckland outbreak was announced where he said “it was Interesting” that the recommendation to wear face masks, the Prime Minister’s visit to a mask factory, the director General of Health having a COVID-19 test, and the new COVID-19 outbreak all occurring within a relatively short time frame.

His intention might have been an indirect criticism of the news media for not investigating the possibility of a link between these “facts”, or it might have been an attempt to have the media act as a proxy for political point scoring as Parliament was not sitting, but it played right into the hands of the conspiracy theorists.

Even Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the government junior coalition partner New Zealand First, has got in on the act. On his recent visit to Australia, he claimed that he had information from a “reliable source” that there had been major security breaches at the border isolation facilities. While most Kiwis probably paid little heed to his comment, as he’s notorious for quoting “reliable sources” that turn out to have no substance, it’s precisely what the conspiracy believers crave for – validation from a supposedly reliable source straight from the mouth of a supposedly reliable public figure.

Many prominent scientists and medical professionals have made an open plea for politicians of all persuasions and community leaders to be very careful about how they ruminate in the public forum. They need to fact check before attempting to make one plus one equal three. In this country all the facts relating to COVID-19 and the pandemic are readily available, and unlike many countries our public service, including the health service, are outside the political arena. It’s one thing not to trust politicians, but it’s entirely another matter to believe that peer reviewed scientifically based information is part of some evil plot to eliminate/control/modify humanity.

The conspiracists’ election: How the farthest fringes of politics are making a play for the centre

General elections delayed by four weeks

I’m sure that since Jacinda Ardern has set a new date for the general elections (moved from 19 September to 17 October), there’ll be a conspiracist somewhere who will believe this is part of “the Plan”, whatever that is.

Contrary to the belief of some, the delay is a the behest of most political parties but not because visiting a polling station might be hazardous during lockdown as that can be managed – besides, early voting and postal voting are both available. An essential part of democracy is for those standing for election having an opportunity to argue their cause. That is why, after listening to politicians of all persuasion she put election back 28 days.

While this is less of an issue throughout most of the country (although a limit of 100 people at a political rally does pose its own problems), in Auckland where groups of more than ten are not permitted, the campaign trail has virtually gone cold.


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One step back

Bugger!

A few minutes ago (10:14 PM) my phone sounded the national emergency alert tone. Not good news, especially as it comes one day after my celebratory post of this nation passing 100 days of being COVID-19 free.

The alert advised that as from midday tomorrow (Wednesday) the entire nation moves from our current Level 1 (no restrictions within our borders) to Level 2. All of the nation, that is except Auckland, which moves to Level 3. A household in the city of Auckland has been found to have four cases of COVID-19 with no known source of infection.

  • Auckland is going into Alert Level 3
  • Level 3 will last for 3 days, everyone is encouraged to stay home
  • The rest of NZ will go into Alert Level 2

For most of New Zealand it means:

  • We can continue to go to work and school, with physical distancing.
  • Wear masks in public if possible.
  • No more than 100 people at gatherings
  • Businesses can open to the public if they follow public health guidance, which includes physical distancing and record keeping.
  • People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home.
  • Practice good hygiene – stay home if sick.

I feel sorry for Aucklanders who face greater restrictions:

  • The are encouraged work from home
  • Non residents are encouraged to return to their home town
  • Businesses can stay open but should not physically interact with customers
  • Bars and restaurants should close, but takeaways are allowed to remain open
  • Students are encouraged to learn from home, although limited capacity will still be available at schools
  • Maintain physical distancing of 2 metres when outside the home, including on public transport
  • It is highly recommended (but not mandatory) that a mask is worn when outside the home
  • Public venues including libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets should close
  • Gatherings of up to ten people are permitted for weddings, funerals and tangihanga provided social distancing is maintained. Other gatherings are prohibited
  • People at high risk of severe illness are encouraged to stay at home where possible

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was something we knew would happen sooner or later. But most of us were expecting it to be later – much later.


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101 days and counting

We all know that it can’t last forever.

But we hope that it will and live like it will.

In case you are wondering what I’m on about, yesterday marked the one hundredth day that this nation of Aotearoa New Zealand has been free of any COVID-19 transmission. Any Internet search of this country along with a term such as COVID-19 or coronavirus brings a multitude of news items and opinion pieces about our apparent success in controlling the pandemic.

Of course a search originating in NZ will produce a result that includes many kiwi websites, and as might be expected a good many of them report on news reports and opinion pieces from overseas publication. We Kiwis have a strange affliction – we don’t like to blow our own trumpet, but we have an almost unhealthy interest in how people and the media in other nations perceive us. I confess that at times, I too am also afflicted. We like others to blow our trumpet for us.

Face masks

Most of the news items were relatively accurate, but one glaring mistake frequently made was that there was a requirement to wear face masks as part of the containment measures. In fact health officials here advised against the wearing of masks as it was believed that they gave a false sense of security, needed to be properly fitted to be effective, and that people unfamiliar with wearing masks have a tendency to adjust or touch is frequently, negating much of its effectiveness.

Only in the last few days has that advice been replaced with a recommendation that we obtain reusable masks for each household member just in case there is an outbreak, and to store them with other survival gear in our earthquake kits. In fact there’s suggestions that we should introduce “mask practice days” so that we can get used to wearing masks should the need ever arise.

Elimination versus suppression

In many news items and opinion pieces, this country is compared to other nations that have also been successful in controlling the initial wave of COVID-19, but have since seen new waves just as severe or, in come cases, more severe than the first. The conclusion is that New Zealand will suffer the same fate.

What seems to be overlooked is that the strategy taken by the New Zealand authorities differed markedly from countries it’s compared with. Other nations sought to suppress the virus – bring community transmision down to a very low level. Right from the beginning, the strategy here has been to eliminate the virus – stop all community transmission.

And this has been clearly stated from the moment we learnt that the country was going into lockdown. I believe it was because the elimination strategy was so clearly communicated throughout the entire pandemic crisis that the result was indeed a “team of five million” that cooperated with a common goal in mind.

Complacency – I’m guilty

At the back of our minds I think we are all aware that at some time in the future – next week, next year, who knows when – an infected person will escape detection at the borders and infect one or more unfortunate Kiwis. Although we are repeatedly reminded that we must stay vigilant, I must admit that after 100 days it’s very easy to become complacent. I don’t think there’s any doubt that complacency is our greatest threat.

NZ could lose Covid-19 gains ‘very quickly’ if complacency sets in, experts warn

Trump’s alternate reality

According to Trump and the US Department of State, New Zealand is very dangerous to visit New Zealand and it’s necessary to take extra precautions while travelling here.

The reason? There’s 23 active cases in this country. Apparently that makes us more dangerous the the USA according to the President. What Trump, the US Department of State, and even the commentator on the video clip below, fail to understand is that those 23 cases are people who have just arrived in the country and are in mandatory managed isolation.

Effectively, new arrivals have not entered the country until they leave quarantine. All arrivals must go into isolation at a managed isolation facility for 14 days, and to have had two negative COVID-19 tests before being permitted to join the the rest of the non-masked, non-socially distanced Kiwis and attend sports events with 40,000 other fans and dance the evening away with hundreds of others in bars and nightclubs.

For the time being, you have about as much chance of being infected with COVID-19 as you have of being bitten by a snake in New Zealand. As there is no evidence of snakes ever living here, and the only ones permitted into the country are in the form of shoes or handbags, I think the odds are extremely slim.

If When the worst happens

New Zealand went into lockdown when there were only 100 known cases and no deaths. We we able to achieve elimination due to widespread testing followed by thorough track and tracing (although it was somewhat inadequate for the first few weeks). In general Kiwis have understood the necessity of the measures taken to squash the virus, and with a very clear message from the top, working as a team of five million has been relatively painless.

So long as a high level of testing is maintained (and we’ve dropped significantly over recent weeks – more complacency), any new outbreak should hopefully be contained before it gains a foothold as it has in the Australian state of Victoria.


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Unemployment down during COVID-19 pandemic

Kia ora!

It’s official! Unemployment is down in the second quarter of 2020 (4%) compared to the first quarter (4.2%). What’s more, hourly earnings are up 3%. Great news isn’t it?

But don’t let statistics fool you. It all depends on how the raw data is collected and how it is interpreted. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the source of official unemployment figures are taken from nationwide household surveys and the criteria for being unemployed includes actively seeking employment over the previous four weeks or due to start a new job within the next four weeks. Actively seeking employment means you have approached potential employers for the purpose of gaining employment. For example, applying for an advertised job, sending in a CV or making contact with a potential employer.

As this country was in various COVID-19 alert levels during the second quarter, including five weeks of full lockdown apart from essential services, it’s hardly surprising that meeting the requirements for being classified as unemployed was difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Thankfully, the surveys collect more data that can be used to identify trends and the real situation. All this information is available on the Stats NZ website, and summarised in COVID-19 lockdown has widespread effects on labour market.

While the number of those who are classified as unemployed fell by 11,000, the number of people not in the workforce rose by 37,000, no doubt swelled by the large numbers of Kiwis returning from overseas. Perhaps more significantly, the number of hours worked fell by a record breaking 10% and underutilisation of the workforce rose by 1.6% – another record.

Underutilisation is defined as all those unemployed and

underemployed – those who are employed part time (working fewer than 30 hours a week) and have both the desire and availability to increase the number of hours they work

available potential jobseekers – people who would like a job but are not currently actively seeking one; for example, a university student who has just graduated and wants a job but is not actively applying for one yet

unavailable jobseekers – people who are currently looking for a job but are not available to start quite yet; for example, a mother who has recently been looking after a child and in the next month will be able to start working again.

https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/covid-19-lockdown-has-widespread-effects-on-labour-market

This graphic from the Stats NZ website summarises the real picture:

What the graphic doesn’t show is how the pandemic has impacted some sections of society. 90% of those who have lost jobs are women, mostly from lower paid positions. This also explains why national average earnings have risen. Minorities are also disproportionately represented as they too are more likely to be in lower paid jobs.

The government is actively promoting large infrastructure projects where jobs are typically male dominated, but has done little for the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors where significantly more females than males are employed. Tourism and hospitality are the hardest hit mainly due the our borders remaining closed to overseas visitors.

Wage subsidies introduced to lessen the impact of the pandemic cease at the end of this month, and no doubt that will have a flow on effect on employment over the coming months. I expect the data presented for the third quarter will look much worse.

The question I ask is how much of the downturn is directly attributable to the effects of the NZ lockdown, and how much is attributable to the global economic downturn resulting from the pandemic and how other jurisdictions have responded. As this country is highly reliant on international travellers visiting our shores, I can’t see our fortunes improving until such time as overseas visitors no longer present a hazard to our population. And on that we are entirely reliant on other nations getting the virus under control within their borders.


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Draconian measures

I do wish there were fewer idiots. Without them life would be so much easier. And no more so than during the current pandemic. I can understand why authorities bring in draconian regulations that seem “over the top”. It’s to minimise the harm caused by idiots.

Take the Australian state of Victoria for example. Their lockdown was no where near as severe as the one we faced here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and may have worked. The idiots have not only delayed the state’s recovery, but have moved it into rapid reverse. There, persons tested positive are required to self isolate for 14 days.

Seems reasonable to me, but following evidence that some people were not self-isolating, the authorities checked on every person who should have been self-isolating. They found one in four people weren’t home! Yep, 25% of all those known to be infected were running around loose in the community!

The state government is now contemplating a lockdown similar to that which Aotearoa New Zealand was subject to for five weeks. Although in Victoria it might be for a longer period due to how widespread the virus is in the community.

I’m not sure whether we Kiwis are more sensible or more compliant. Possibly a bit of both. During all the stages of lockdown there were a few thousand breaches recorded in total, which have resulted a few hundred prosecutions. But on the whole, it was social disapproval of rule breakers that seemed to have had the strongest effect. The concept of a “team of 5 million” whether a myth or not, kept this country united and indeed is keeping this country (mostly) united in the fight against the pandemic.

Our attitude towards rule breakers can be clearly seen in our attitude to the borders remaining closed. Back in March when this country was first closed to non-residents, the government introduced mandatory self-isolation rules. Those arriving in the country were required to stay at home in isolation for 14 days. But it soon became apparent that a small minority (less than 5%) were not following the rules.

As the Prime Minister said at the time, the authorities placed a high level of trust in those in isolation. Had everyone followed the simple rules of self isolation, that’s where we’d still be. But no. A few idiots spoil it for everyone. The outcome has been that inbound residents are now required to undergo managed isolation in luxury hotels.

Originally security was minimal. Again the authorities placed a high level of trust in those staying in managed isolation. However it’s become very evident that a small handful of those returning to the country have little regard for the safety of others, and over time, security has tightened to the point now where every facility has a permanent police and military presence and perimeters have become more secure as the weeks pass by.

Over thirty thousand people have passed through managed isolation since March and there have been somewhere around ten incidents where an individual or family group have left isolation without permission. Originally the term “absconded” was usually used when the media reported these breakouts. More recently I hear the term “escaped” used instead. I think this reflects the community attitude to those who flout the isolation rules.

The public attitude towards those who now arrive in this country is unfortunately becoming antagonistic. While there’s always been a small minority of the population antagonistic towards immigration, there is now a widespread attitude that returning Kiwis should have stayed where they were. The wife has this attitude (and she’s an immigrant herself) and as far as she’s concerned every returning Kiwi is being selfish. As far as she is concerned, there’s no set of personal circumstances that can justify travelling to this country. In other words, she wants a blanket ban, even though our Bill of Rights guarantees the right of every citizen to enter and leave the country. Her attitude borders on draconian in my view.

The wife’s attitude is becoming more prevalent, and we can now see examples of graffiti sprayed on security fences around isolation facilities demanding the residents return to where they came from. Apparently some returnees have faced hostilities even after completing managed isolation. I find such an attitude understandable but totally unacceptable.

The negative attitude to returnees has culminated in a call from many, including some political parties, for all returnees to be billed for their stay in isolation. This is something the government has resisted simply because it’s likely to place an unreasonable burden on many families. Let’s face it, many of those returning are not doing so willingly. Many are returning because there is no support structures accessible to them in their country of residence. Others are returning to escape ill managed pandemic environments.

To placate the hostile attitude where returnees are seen as “living in luxury at the taxpayers’ expense”, the government has finally introduced legislation that will allow some returnees to be billed for staying in isolation. For this to occur, the government had to seek the cooperation of the opposition National Party as the Greens were totally opposed to any billing of those in managed isolation.

Eventually a compromise has been reached where those who return from overseas having been away for less than 90 days, and those who return to the country with the intention of staying less than 90 days will be billed for part of the cost of their managed isolation. The legislation also specifies grounds under which exemptions can be granted. So how many will be charged? Perhaps five or ten percent of those arriving in the country. I think a reasonable compromise.

Already we’re seeing comments in overseas media that such moves are another step in the erosion of our freedom and rights, usually accompanied by associating such moves with recent legislation that tightens some aspects of gun ownership. I’ve previously posted about ignorance some foreign media have about our handling of the pandemic, and no doubt the ignorance will continue unabated. I would like to remind such critics that the nation still has the highest level of freedom, ranking at number one or number two on every freedom index, but I suspect I’d be wasting my effort. Those people seem so willing to ignore the facts whenever it’s inconsistent with their prejudice.

So my question is: do most jurisdictions impose restrictions with the aim of gaining greater long term control of the population – in other words tyranny, or are restrictions reluctantly imposed because some idiots give the authorities little choice if they are to prevent widespread harm?


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A new strange world!

What a strange world COVID-19 is creating! The entire season of the New Zealand National Basketball League is being streamed on ESPN – all 56 games!

I have to ask why. It’s not like we rank highly in international basketball, and while its popularity as a participant sport is increasing, it has a very long way to go as a spectator sport here to match the likes of Rugby Union, Netball, or Rugby League. Is it because so little sport is being played in the US that broadcasters are desperate for any form of familiar sports code, irrespective of its source and quality?

If, at the beginning of the year, someone had suggested that a season of any NZ sports code would be live streamed in the USA, we would have laughed ourselves silly.

As I said, it’s a strange new world we live in!