Posts tagged ‘COVID-19’


Life’s could-have-beens

15.01.2023


 
A Mastodon post about my mayoral campaign policies. No, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as such (though I certainly was on Twitter perplexed at why the WHO had not declared COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020), but I did feel there was insufficient resilience in our economy and wanted to advance ideas that would at least put this city right.

I saw the cafés all opening around town, the PM John Key’s support of tourism, and thinking: there’s not enough diversity among these types of businesses, and we’re well behind other cities on the percentage that IT plays. We need more high-wage jobs if we were to increase our rates’ base sustainably, not make Wellington unaffordable by taking a bigger and bigger chunk of incomes that had barely risen in line with the cost of living. All this I stated at the time, and they were trends that stared us right in the face.

Working from home was a way of alleviating stress on our traffic network, or at least help stagger the amount of traffic on the road at any given time. Tied in to that was publicizing real-time about public transport, which I think is starting to happen, to encourage their use.

The expansion of the wifi network meant that Newtown would be next, heading out to Berhampore, the whole idea being to bridge the digital divide for our less well off communities. I had already been into a meeting with Citylink and had a model through which it could be funded. I lived in Newtown as a boy, and I know how little we had in terms of the family budget. And, as we saw in lockdown, internet access was very far from being equal among our communities.

I’m not subscribing to ‘That’s easy to say in hindsight,’ because all these ideas were a matter of record, as well as the reasons behind it. I am subscribing to a degree of cherry-picking but when you consider these were my “flagship” ideas, I’m not even being that picky.

To think we could have set all this in motion starting in 2010 and been ready for 2020. I don’t really sell nostalgia if I’m running for office because that would be disingenuous. You’re being asked to vote on the future, and so many politicians are trying to resell you the past. I’m grateful to those voters who got this and put me in third place twice. We have a good mayor now who’s young enough to get it.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Targets painted, opposition misses again

03.12.2021

Our government’s response to COVID-19 has been better than many nations’, but it is far from perfect, as Ian Powell points out in a well reasoned blog post, and in his article for Business Desk. It’s backed up by a piece by Marc Daalder for Newsroom. To me, Powell’s piece makes a great deal of sense, and for those who feel the new system feels, instinctively, politically driven, then they are right. He says, inter alia:

At the time I thought that the traffic lights system had been initiated by the Ministry of Health (experts outside the Ministry were not supportive). Subsequently, however, according to senior Health Ministry officials privately, it came from the Prime Minister’s department.
   This helps explain the working it out as you go along approach that is causing confusion among many. Jacinda Ardern’s claim of the system being world leading is overcooked.

   He cites Daalder, who writes:

While the outbreak was expected to have a long tail, the Government fully intended to return to zero cases and even to maintain an elimination status after reopening the borders in 2022.
   Just two weeks later, Cabinet threw in the towel on elimination.

   We know that the government is working on overdrive through this whole pandemic, but it seems there are areas where the experts are being overridden.
   But what does our opposition do? Instead of firing at the targets that Powell and Daalder have helpfully revealed, new leader Christopher Luxon repeats the ad nauseam cries of his predecessors to open up, to put Auckland into the “green”. Any expectation that National had found pragmatism with its new leadership vanished in smoke mere days after Luxon took the helm.
   This is the identical complaint I have over Sir Phony Blair over in the UK with not only missing the targets painted on the Tories by themselves, but turning 180 degrees and firing the other way.
   We need an opposition that holds a government to account but it seems Luxon, who bafflingly refers to Simon Bridges as having ‘intellectual heft’, might be yet another ideologue, importing more of the same but in more hidden, calm language than his predecessor.
   Are there any pragmatists left in politics, or is everyone following ideology these days?


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in media, New Zealand, politics | No Comments »


When New Zealand is the subject of misinformation

12.07.2021

This thread echoes what a lot of us feel in New Zealand when we see intentional misinformation on Twitter, possibly from the US. I answered back to one of these parties over the weekend, as did many, to see us all branded as ‘the left’ (I suppose if your politics are eugenics-led libertarianism, everyone is ‘the left’), while another “journalist” claimed that anyone who did so were part of a government op using taxpayer dollars (to which some of us asked, ‘Where’s my cheque?’). Folks, sometimes you just have to look at the evidence—do I believe the first-hand accounts of people I know plus what I myself observe, or the one single case you’ve hand-picked or the one single out-of-context quote you’ve intentionally misrepresented?

   While this explains what the foreign agenda are, it makes you wonder why certain media talking heads in this country, usually ones who work for foreign-owned news outlets, would be just as keen to sell us out. A lack of patriotism, a lack of perspective, a lack of ethics, or just a lack of bollocks?


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, UK, USA | No Comments »


COVID-19 infections as a percentage of tests done, June 28

29.06.2021

I haven’t done one of these since February, where I look at the COVID-19 positivity rates of selected countries. The arrows indicate the direction of change since that post. Happily, I imagine with the vaccine roll-outs, we are seeing drops, though there is a new wave in Taiwan, contributing to a rise; other territories showing rises are Brazil, India, Germany, and South Korea.

Brazil 34·67% ↑
Sweden 10·06% ↓
India 7·43% ↑
Spain 7·20% ↓
USA 6·84% ↓
France 6·21% ↓
Italy 5·98% ↓
Germany 5·85% ↑
Russia 3·68% ↓
UK 2·26% ↓
KSA 2·23% ↓
South Korea 1·48% ↑
Taiwan 0·67% ↑
Singapore 0·47% ↓
Australia 0·15% ↓
New Zealand 0·12% ↓
Hong Kong 0·07% ↓

   This is also a good time to remind people of a Toot that was liked and shared quite a few times on Mastodon. For me, it’s a record.

   As Umair Haque put it (original emphases):

Its creators — researchers — pledged to make it open source, available to manufacture and develop anywhere. After all, this was a global pandemic. And yet — with some helpful intervention from Bill Gates — the Oxford vaccine was privatized. Given exclusively to AstraZeneca, Britain’s key pharmaceutical corporation.
   So instead of vaccinating the world — or at least helping the world get vaccinated — Britain engaged in the stupid, selfish game of vaccine nationalism. It kept its newly privatised vaccine for itself. It prevented even Europe from having the Oxford vaccine. What was being selfish about a vaccine going to do? Breed vaccine resistance.
   In India, meanwhile, there weren’t enough vaccines available. So Covid mutated and mutated, until new mutations could “escape” the vaccine, by altering the shape of the “spike protein.” If all that sounds like gibberish to you, don’t worry — the point is simple. By keeping its vaccine to itself, all Britain did was ensure that variants resistant to it would breed at light speed, in the world’s worst hit countries — like India.

   You can read the rest of his post here. Don’t point the blame for delta at India. It’s been British policy since day one to use the UK as a COVID-19 mutation petri dish. And now it wants to export this tactic to other places. Their friends are getting rich off this. Reminds me a bit of what happened in Zimbabwe when Mugabe and his cronies took everything while tanking the country.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in India, politics, UK | No Comments »


COVID-19 infections as a percentage of tests done, February 16

16.02.2021

It brings me very little pleasure to do these calculations. After reading Umair Haque’s January 24 piece on the UK’s poor response to COVID-19—at the time the country had, by his reckoning, the highest death toll per capita in the world—I decided to feed in the numbers again, as of 9 a.m. GMT today. Here are the percentages of positive cases out of total tests done, based on the official figures. I know it’s not scientific, but it gives me a rough idea of who’s doing worse and who’s doing better, relative to the last set (December 7, 2020), and, I hate to say it, the slap-dash response by some countries is prolonging our pain as a planet.

Brazil 34·50% ↑
Sweden 10·66% ↑
USA 8·42% ↑
Spain 8·27% ↑
Italy 7·51% ↑
France 7·08% ↓
Germany 5·62% ↑
India 5·27% ↓
UK 4·90% ↑
Russia 3·82% ↑
KSA 2·88% ↓
South Korea 1·36% ↑
Singapore 0·88% ↓
Taiwan 0·56% ↓
Australia 0·21% ↓
Hong Kong 0·152% ↓
New Zealand 0·146% ↓

   He also notes that the UK was going to delay people getting their second vaccination shots. I hope the country has since changed its tune, but looking at the likes of Johnson and Hancock, who helped to gift the world the British mutation, I doubt they have the nous. Even my fifth form science will tell me this (original emphases):

Because science says so. Animal models already tell us that if the second dose isn’t had within about a month, the immune cascade vaccines trigger fails to happen. Immunity doesn’t result. Antibodies aren’t developed …
   What’s the upshot likely to be for Britain? The entire country’s vaccination program is likely to fail. There are going to be a whole lot of people who get one dose, but not the second in time, and most of those people will not develop immunity. Do you know what happens when you cross a halfway vaccinated population with a fast evolving virus? That’s right, vaccine resistance. Britain already made itself a perfect petri dish for new strains of Covid — but what Britain’s doing right now is making it the perfect petri dish for deadlier, more infectious, and much, much more vaccine resistant strains of the virus.

   I have dear friends there, at least one who is immuno-compromised, and this is, to put it bluntly, a shitshow. I’m glad their daily infection numbers have now fallen under 10,000, but all this needn’t have happened.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in general, politics, UK | 1 Comment »


COVID-19 infections as percentage of tests done, December 7

07.12.2020

It’s hard not to be in a bubble sometimes, especially when that bubble is safe in the southern hemisphere and away from wars and COVID-19.
   With TVNZ having a New York bureau, we of course hear about how poorly the US is doing with COVID-19, and we also hear from the London bureau, where the numbers aren’t as staggering, so they don’t always make the six o’clock programme. Aljazeera English mentioned South Korea’s third wave, looking worse than the second, and I knew Hong Kong’s numbers were on the up.
   However, right though the month of November, I didn’t calculate positivity rates at all, even though I had been doing them most months, sometimes multiple times a month. These were going on to my NewTumbl blog, which I’ve decided not to update for the time being, for reasons already outlined.
   Doing them again since late October gave me quite a surprise. I knew Europe was having a rough time with it, but there was quite a change in the numbers. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that these rates were trending downwards for the majority of countries that I had been tracking; that is no longer the case. It’s rising almost everywhere apart from India, the KSA (which has sensibly and surely got its first wave down—I’ve seen days of under 200 infections), Singapore, Australia, and, of course, here in New Zealand.
   For the first time since I’ve been doing these calculations, we are at the bottom of the table, a fact that I’m relieved about, but it does make me worried about the rest of the world. I have a lot of family in the US and Hong Kong.
   The data come from Worldometers and they tend to source from official parties. I believe I loaded the page around 2200 GMT.

Brazil 25·77% ↑
France 10·86% ↑
Sweden 8·07% ↑
Italy 7·50% ↑
USA 7·33% ↑
Spain 7·12% ↓
India 6·57% ↓
Germany 4·11% ↑
UK 3·79% ↑
KSA 3·62% ↓
Russia 3·12% ↑
Singapore 1·25% ↓
South Korea 1·19% ↑
Taiwan 0·64% ↑
Australia 0·27% ↓
Hong Kong 0·159% ↑
New Zealand 0·158% ↓

   The arrows are in comparison to the last set of calculations from October 26:

Brazil 24·63% ↓
France 7·651% ↑
India 7·645% ↓
Spain 7·16% ↑
USA 6·67% ↓
Sweden 5·33% ↓
KSA 4·50% ↓
Italy 3·59% ↑
UK 2·80% ↑
Russia 2·64% ↓
Germany 2·15% ↓
Singapore 1·66% ↓
South Korea 1·02% ↓
Taiwan 0·55% ↓
Australia 0·32% ↓
New Zealand 0·18% ↓
Hong Kong 0·15% ↓

which were measured against a bunch from September 2.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, France, Hong Kong, India, internet, media, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Only 10 months on, let’s not repeat history

22.11.2020

This was my Tweet after having privately expressed my frustration over the WHO’s failure to declare an emergency of international concern in January:

   That’s how COVID-19 got out of China.
   The US’s biggest migration of its people is usually this week, for Thanksgiving. Please don’t be like China, folks.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, internet, USA | No Comments »


Language lines on NewTumbl

24.10.2020

This post was originally posted to NewTumbl.

I’m surprised that a clip from a front page of a British tabloid newspaper was ruled M by a moderator here after I made it O. It was critical of British cabinet minister Matt Hancock and made fun of his surname, with two words that rhymed with its two syllables.
   The words on the headline included the work wank, which was even starred there (w*nk) for the really sensitive. I realize this is an American website but I didn’t even think that was a word they used. For most of us in the Anglosphere, it’s nowhere near offensive. It’s not uncommon to call someone a wanker and the word is never bleeped on television—it’s that throwaway. I learned of the word wank when I was 11, and wanker I heard before that. Kids would probably know of it even younger now. A younger reader would not link it to anything sexual and if they did, they’re a dirty little kid. (Same with bugger, which infamously even appeared on television commercials for Toyota here, and I know in Australia, too.)
   The second word that appeared was cock, a colloquialism for penis, but also it has other meanings. Let’s not get into those: it’s clear the context suggested penis—in the same way an American might call someone a dick, I suppose. Again, hardly offensive, never bleeped, and, I don’t know about the US, but here it’s the word that children might learn to refer to male genitalia.
   But, here’s the real kicker: the image was from the front page of a national newspaper. Not the top shelf wrapped in a brown paper bag or plastic at a convenience store.
   Looking at the classifications, M is for adults-only stuff, with ‘strong suggestive or violent language.’ O was already suggested by NewTumbl staff as suitable for politics, including COVID-19 posts (this qualified), and the language by any standard was mild (feel free to come and give your reasoning if you were the mod and you want to defend your decision).
   So I’ve had a post removed for a word that an 11-year-old uses (remember, O is for ‘older teens’) and another word that children use, and both appeared on the front page of a national newspaper.
   I have used these words on a website run from a country that thinks it’s OK to show people getting blown away in violent movies and cop shows (oh, sorry, ‘police procedurals’), where guns are commonplace, but words are really, really dangerous. Thought you guys had a First Amendment to your Constitution.
   The conclusion I am forced to draw is that the post was removed because, like Facebook, there is a right-wing bias shown by a moderator who does not like a conservative government criticized here. Good luck, because I’ll continue to criticize a bunch of dickheads that even my right-leaning, pro-market, lifelong-Tory friends in Britain dislike. If this post is classified M then I will have to conclude that the reason is also political, because there’s not a single word here that any right-thinking user of English would deem ‘strong suggestive or violent’.
   I came here because I objected to the censorship at Tumblr, where, for instance, they hide posts referring to NewTumbl in searches. That’s pretty tame but enough for me to insist on free speech over silly, petty corporate decisions, the sort of games that other silly, petty corporations like Google play. I can live with NewTumbl’s male nipple rule and other attempts to be non-sexist, but I also believe that if you’re moderating, you should be apolitical.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, media, publishing, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


If you’re in the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, then you’re not a business leader

04.10.2020


Which club is the better one to belong to? The ones who have bent the curve down and trying to eliminate COVID-19, or the ones whose curves are heading up? Apparently Air New Zealand’s boss thinks the latter might be better for us.

From Stuff today, certain ‘business leaders’ talk about the New Zealand Government’s response to COVID-19.
   We have Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran saying that elimination was no longer a realistic goal for us, and that we should live with the virus.
   This is despite our country having largely eliminated the virus, which suggests it was realistic.
   No, the response hasn’t been perfect, but I’m glad we can walk about freely and go about our lives.
   Economist Benje Patterson says that if we don’t increase our risk tolerance, ‘We could get to that point where we’re left behind.’
   When I first read this, I thought: ‘Aren’t we leaving the rest of the world behind?’
   Is Taiwan, ROC leaving the world behind with having largely eliminated COVID-19 on its shores? It sure looks like it. How about mainland China, who by all accounts is getting its commerce moving? (We’ve reported on a lot of developments in Lucire relating to Chinese business.) The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has adopted policies similar to ours with travel and quarantine, and I’ve been watching their infection figures drop consistently. They’re also well on their way to eliminating the virus and leaving the world behind.
   We are in an enviable position where we can possibly have bubbles with certain low-risk countries, and that is something the incoming government after October 17 has to consider.
   We are in a tiny club that the rest of the world would like to join.
   Let’s be entirely clinical and calculating: how many hours of productivity will be lost to deaths and illnesses, and the lingering effects of COVID-19, if we simply tolerated the virus?
   Work done by Prof Heidi Tworek and her colleagues, Dr Ian Beacock and Eseohe Ojo, rates New Zealand’s democratic health communications among the best in the world and believes that, as of their writing in September, we have been successful in executing the elimination strategy.
   Some of our epidemiologists believe the goal can be achieved.
   I just have to go with the health experts over the business “experts”.
   I’m not sure you could be described as a ‘business leader’ if you are a business follower, and by that I mean someone who desires to be part of a global club that is failing at its response to COVID-19. GDP drops in places like the UK and the US are far more severe than ours over the second quarter—we’re a little over where Germany is. Treasury expects our GDP to grow in Q3, something not often mentioned by our media. As Europe experiences a second wave in many countries, will they show another drop? Is this what we would like for our country?
   I’ve fought against this type of thinking for most of my career: the belief that ‘New Zealand can’t’. That we can’t lead. That we can’t be the best at something. That because we’re a tiny country on the edge of the world we must take our cues from bigger ones.
   Bollocks.
   Great Kiwis have always said, ‘Bollocks,’ to this sort of thinking.
   Of course we can win the America’s Cup. Just because we haven’t put up a challenge before doesn’t mean we can’t start one now.
   Of course we can make Hollywood blockbusters. Just because we haven’t before doesn’t mean we can’t now.
   Heck, let’s even get my one in there: of course we can create and publish font software. Just because foreign companies have always done it doesn’t mean a Kiwi one can’t, and pave the way.
   Yet all of these were considered the province of foreigners until someone stood up and said, ‘Bollocks.’
   Once upon a time we even said that we could have hybrid cars that burned natural gas cheaply (and switch back to petrol when required) until the orthodoxy put paid to that, and we wound up buying petrol from foreigners again—probably because we were so desperate to be seen as part of some globalist club, rather than an independent, independently minded and innovative nation.
   Then when the Japanese brought in petrol–electric hybrids we all marvelled at how novel they were in a fit of collective national amnesia.
   About the only lot who were sensible through all of this were our cabbies, since every penny saved contributes to their bottom line. They stuck with LPG after 1996 and switched to the Asian hybrids when they became palatable to the punters.
   Through my career people have told me that I can’t create fonts from New Zealand (even reading in a national magazine after I had started business that there were no typefoundries here), that no one would want to read a fashion magazine online or that no one would ever care what carbon neutrality was. Apparently you can’t take an online media brand into print, either. This is all from the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, and it is not one I belong to.
   If anybody can, a Kiwi can.
   And if we happen to do better than others, for God’s sake don’t break out the tall poppy shit again.
   Accept the fact we can do better and that we do not need the approval of mother England or the United States. We certainly don’t want to be dragged down to their level, nor do we want to see the divisiveness that they suffer plague our politics and our everyday discourse.
   Elimination is better than tolerance, and I like the fact we didn’t settle for a second-best solution, even if some business followers do.
   Those who wish to import the sorts of division that the US and UK see today are those who have neither imagination nor a desire to roll up their sleeves and do the hard yards, because they know that spouting bullshit from positions of privilege is cheap and easy. And similarly I see little wisdom in importing their health approaches and the loss of life that results.
   I’m grateful for our freedom, since it isn’t illusory, as we leave the rest of the world to catch up. And I sincerely hope they do.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, cars, China, culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »