N.Z in lock down: DAY 38


Yesterday was DAY 38 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

One of the most painful things about the global fight against COVID19, has been watching nations that New Zealanders have been told to look up to for generations stumbling from one failure to another. It would be particularly painful for the senior generation of New Zealanders including the 600 remaining World War 2 veterans who went away to help fight Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

For many New Zealanders though, despite various concerns about COVID19, there is a growing sense of confidence that we can stand on our own two feet. For some, including myself looking across the Tasman Sea to Australia, we are again being made to realize that despite the differences we have on things like climate change, Australia’s anti-refugee and asylum seeker stance, that we are at the end of the day lucky to have them as neighbours. Australia’s progress and its similar recognition that having New Zealand as its neighbour first world neighbour is significantly beneficial, has been one of the driving forces in recent weeks propelling moves to consider how to reopen the Trans-Tasman border.

It will be tempered sorely though by the sadness and the disgust at how America, a country that successive generations of New Zealanders have been encouraged to look up to as a role model, seems bent on tearing itself to bits. A combination of the following factors (among others) has crippled America’s ability to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

  • The lack of a comprehensive plan to fight COVID19,
  • The lack of political unity between Republicans and Democrats against a common foe
  • The failure to establish a universal health system that everyone can access without having a massive bill
  • The contempt shown by the United States Government for science
  • The attempts by U.S. President Donald Trump to make political mileage out of it

The deliberate attempts to divide the country by Mr Trump will have constitutionalists worried for the future of the Republic. When a sitting President encourages an armed mob to occupy the state legislature to prevent the State Governor and others from carrying out their statutory duties, and days later an armed mob proceeds to do exactly that, is there not some sort of serious threat to the country?

I do not know how much we can trust the American response because of these factors. The United States might be one of the last countries to have ready access to New Zealand in the post-COVID19 climate.

It is not just the United States that has utterly failed. The United Kingdom is not doing so brilliantly in dealing with COVID19 either. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had to isolate for a significant time after being diagnosed with the flu and having to spend nights in an Intensive Care Unit, initially promoted “herd immunity”. This is where the virus is allowed to spread throughout the United Kingdom and that people recovering from it are presumed to have developed immunity to COVID19 in the future. It was extremely dystopian in its methods, which the harshest commentators strongly suggested that Mr Johnson’s government wanted the elderly and vulnerable who may be immuno-compromised to die. The backlash was so severe that within a few days it had been dropped. Nevertheless, the decades long mismanagement of the National Health System and the associated under funding is likely to scar the United Kingdom long after COVID19 is beaten.

Although the United Kingdom has exited the European Union, its ability to clamp down on COVID19 might be hindered by the fact that it no longer has such ready access European Union resources. The failures by the N.H.S. are not entirely its fault and no matter where the United Kingdom goes post-COVID19, it will most probably be haunted by the many avoidable victims of one of the biggest medical disasters of recent times.

As New Zealand works its way forward, despite the mistakes we have made, our response was strong and decisive compared to that of the United Kingdom and the United States. Hopefully a year from now we will be able to look back and say it actually was a job pretty well done on our part.

Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19


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

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

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

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 500; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

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

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

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

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

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

Britain leaps into post E.U. uncertainty; New Zealand hopes for trade deal


At 2300 hours on 31 January 2020, Britain left the European Union. After some 1316 days after the turbulent saga began with that infamous vote on 23 June 2016 the nation of the Union Jack was no longer a member. And whilst the Brexit Party has got what it wanted, plenty of uncertainty awaits the nation that New Zealand will now most probably try to make a trade agreement with, the highest priority.

For the most immediate future though, life goes on in much the same way unless one is one of the British Members of the European Parliament. who now find themselves redundant. The hard border that many were concerned would immediately pop up between Britain and Ireland and its security implications as well as historical implications, will not appear – if at all – until the transition period from being an E.U. member nation is complete.

But make no mistake, for better or for worse the implications of what happened at 2300 hours 31 January 2020 are huge. Millions of people living in the U.K. long term, especially those in minority ethnic groups are probably feeling somewhat uncertain at the moment. The Romanian population in Britain is reporting that it is no longer feeling welcome, just as Bucharest launches a “return home” appeal to those Romanians who reside in Britain.Those such as the Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders who have visa arrangements and whose countries are on good terms with Britain, may have an easier time.

With Britain now out of the E.U., a host of laws will need to be revisited to make sure that they are still fit for purpose. Far from being the most turbulent part of the whole charade, the real turbulence as immigration, trade, environmental and other policy areas come under renewed scrutiny, might actually be still to come.

Amongst all of this, Britain will be looking at the scope for trade deals with other nations. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and others will be high priorities. So will be resetting their security relations in terms of defence and foreign policy. All of this is something that has not gone unnoticed by the New Zealand Government, with Minister of Trade David Parker hoping to have some sort of trade deal wrapped up with Britain by 2021. Mr Parker will be under pressure to have streamlined access to British markets for New Zealand produce that might have been complicated by E.U. laws prior to 31 January. New Zealanders living in the United Kingdom might be hoping for easier processes in terms of becoming U.K. permanent residents and citizens as well.

For now though, the fallout from Brexit will not really start to be known for a while. The Irish border will remain open, but in the Oireachtas √Čireann, as much as in the House of Commons, no doubt a lot of people will be starting to have some deep conversations in the coming days and weeks about how the border should function. Similarly in Scotland’s Parliament, the Parliamaid na h-Alba, there will be conversations that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister will be leading about where Scotland goes – it did not vote to leave the E.U., and Ms Sturgeon is promising Scotland will be back, which some think could lead to a break with Britain and thus the end of U.K.

 

The Murdochracy is damaging the West


His media empire stretches through out the English speaking part of the western hemisphere. Dominant in the U.S., U.K. and with significant operations in New Zealand and Australia, the increasingly divisive and toxic influence of Rupert Keith Murdoch is finally starting to face international push back. In light of the devastating bush fires caused by the very thing his media empire denies, individuals, companies and celebrities are coming alive with the hashtag #Murdochracy: climate change. The Urban Dictionary defines Murdochracy as:

The murder of democracy through misinformation via Rupert Murdoch’s “news websites

The influence of Mr Murdoch’s empire in journalism is perhaps best expressed through the fact that to varying extents every government in the west acknowledges climate change to some extent. The two that do not are the U.S. Government of Donald Trump and the Australian Government of Scott Morrison, both of which are supported by – in the case of the United States – Fox News, New York Post and in Australia news outlets such as The Age, The Australian and others. A third one, the United Kingdom, where Mr Murdoch resides, has several tabloid papers operating under News Corp which include The Daily Mail, The Telegraph.

In 2011, U.K.. tabloid News of the World suddenly went out of print after it was found that Mr Murdoch’s tabloid rag had hacked into various peoples phones and stolen personal information. Among them were a murdered British school girl named Millie Downer, former Prime Minister of Britain Gordon Brown and a range of celebrities. Mr Murdoch’s newspaper apologized, but few believed it was credible. It led to the trial of chief editor Rebekah Brooks who was accused of masterminding the hacking, and although she was found not guilty, many sincerely believe she at least knew about it.

Mr Murdoch’s tabloids have crashed multiple Governments. The most notable one was the Australian Labor-led Government of Julia Gillard and – following a leadership spill – Kevin Rudd. During the election campaigns, Australian conservative media, shock jocks and the Murdoch tabloids savaged her gender, her politics, her very being. Prior to that Gough Whitlam was toppled. But notably when Liberal Government’s have failed to show due “respect”, they have been toppled as well – as Malcolm Turnbull found out.

Mr Turnbull’s replacement Scott Morrison is a fully fledged climate denier, having once gone to Parliament with a lump of coal. Mr Morrison’s determination to ignore the fires has fuelled a backlash no other Australian government has seen from an environmental emergency. His failure to take a Commander-in-Chief moment and try to seize control of the situation has tarnished him and his Liberal party, normally favourites of Mr Murdoch.

In more recent years, Mr Murdoch’s sons have gained some responsibility in the empire. James who as recently as September 2019 might have deliberately put a bit of distance between himself and the rest of the Murdoch empire. Something that became a bit more obvious a few days ago when he attacked the other Murdoch’s stance on climate change, which could either be trying to save himself or a genuine realization that the Murdochracy has gone too far.

His other son Lachlan appears to be classic conservative, but possibly with principles. He does not appear to be a fan of politicians, but in taking over Fox was quickly given lessons by controversial hosts Jeanine Pirro (who went on an anti-Muslim tirade) and Sean Hannity (who was on stage with Mr Trump, when he should not have been)on their support for Mr Trump. Both were disciplined by Fox, but received support from the White House.

Situation Theatre reports that Journalists have at long last started speaking out. Some have said that the Murdoch empire used to require balance in reporting, which they freely acknowledged is long gone. Some have said the man himself, Mr Murdoch, despite having handed some control to his sons still wields the true power and that it needs to be checked.

The rebellion against the #Murdochracy is young and in its infancy, but it has some potentially powerful allies. The bush fires have awakened Australia in ways that no prior bush fire season has, to the environmental threats posed by the neoliberal agenda. The agenda that Mr Murdoch has trumpeted for so long is increasingly seen as a bad thing around the west.

Perhaps the best thing that can happen to the west is the downfall of the Murdochracy.