The Jackal: April 2020

23 Apr 2020

In praise of Jacinda Ardern

Well I must say that Jacinda Ardern has been a breath of fresh air when it comes to Prime Ministers. She has all the makings of a great leader, including, but not limited to, an inherent ability to see through people’s bullshit! This is perhaps a quality she attained from her policeman father.

But let’s be entirely honest here, Jacinda Ardern is simply doing her job. It might seem that she's some sort of miracle worker, however that appearance is partly due to the fact that the majority of other world leaders are entirely hopeless and in some cases downright corrupt!

So when a caring and professional politician like Jacinda Ardern comes along and has the political willpower to legislate for positive social change and actually endeavours to lead New Zealand through these trying times, then it can appear as if she’s some sort of superhero. However I can assure readers that Ardern is still a human being, albeit one that always undertakes her responsibilities in an exemplary manner.

Jacinda Ardern - Prime Minister of New Zealand

That’s why it's great to see some of the international high praise she has recently received, praise I might add that the Prime Minister has hardly had any time to acknowledge. Even John Key has put his political proclivities aside to commend Ardern’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which has entirely deflated the current National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and his unwarranted criticism of the Governments timely and well-planned response to the pandemic.

On 27 March, MSN reported:

'Faultless': Former PM Sir John Key praises Jacinda Ardern's COVID-19 communication 

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has praised Jacinda Ardern's communication skills amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 
"I think she's an outstanding communicator," Key told MagicTalk host Ryan Bridge on Friday. 
He said her address to the nation on Saturday announcing the alert levels for the coronavirus pandemic was "faultless".

On April 8, Newstalk ZB reported:

Top US newspaper praises NZ: 'It isn't just flattening the curve, it's squashing it' 

New Zealand's cautious optimism over its battle against coronavirus is now front and centre of the world, with the influential Washington Post reporting "a triumph of science and leadership". 
Under the headline, "New Zealand isn't just flattening the curve. It's squashing it", Post journalist and Kiwi Anna Fifield has outlined the political, social and health measures taken by the Government over the past month - including the level 4 lockdown and the early success indicators.

On 10 April, Newshub reported:

Coronavirus: CNN praises Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand COVID-19 response 

US news giant CNN continues to pile praise on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying Aotearoa is setting an "ambitious goal". 
During a segment with the banner "Lessons in leadership: New Zealand's virus response", CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson said New Zealand is "setting a very ambitious goal, trying to eliminate the disease completely from its shores". He called border closures introduced in mid-March a "dramatic move for an island nation whose economy depends on tourism".

It seems that many countries are copying New Zealand’s approach. Even Donald Trump belatedly announced a wage subsidy scheme, which is but one example showing that the President is out of his depth. His complete lack of empathy is also in stark contrast to the leadership of Jacinda Ardern, who some have likened to the new leader of the free world.

On Saturday, MSN reported:

Piers Morgan heaps praise on Jacinda Ardern for taking a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic - and slams other politicians for not doing the same

Piers Morgan has praised New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for taking a pay cut during the coronavirus crisis while criticising his own ministers for not following her lead. 
Politicians in the UK and Australia have doubled down on their refusal to reduce their pay packets since Ms Ardern said she and her top staff would slash their salaries by 20 per cent.

On Sunday, The Atlantic reported:

New Zealand’s Prime Minister May Be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet 

Jacinda Ardern’s leadership style, focused on empathy, isn’t just resonating with her people; it’s putting the country on track for success against the coronavirus. 
Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old prime minister of New Zealand, is forging a path of her own. Her leadership style is one of empathy in a crisis that tempts people to fend for themselves. Her messages are clear, consistent, and somehow simultaneously sobering and soothing. And her approach isn’t just resonating with her people on an emotional level. It is also working remarkably well. 
People feel that Ardern “doesn’t preach at them; she’s standing with them,” Helen Clark, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, told me. (Ardern, a fellow member of the Labour Party, got her start in politics working for Clark during her premiership.) “They may even think, Well, I don’t quite understand why [the government] did that, but I know she’s got our back. There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

Also on Sunday, 1 News reported:

'Empathy in a crisis' - Jacinda Ardern's Covid-19 leadership praised by international media

Meanwhile, a Financial Times opinion piece titled "Arise Saint Jacinda, a leader for our troubled times", said Ms Ardern offered lessons in leadership. 
“Ms Ardern has been a model of compassionate leadership in this crisis,” wrote Pilita Clark.

This is only a small sample of the many published international accolades Jacinda Ardern has been receiving for her excellent leadership skills, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

However it’s important to remind ourselves that New Zealand isn’t out of the woods just yet. We still have a long way to go to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t get a second chance and a huge marathon to run in order to rebuild our economy through supporting local businesses.

We can however thank our lucky stars that Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister in charge. It’s only through her hard work and scientifically based decision making that New Zealand has almost no community spread and one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 leading to death in the entire world.

I'm sure you'll agree that we should do everything in our power to help her ensure that New Zealand can become 100% COVID-19 Free in the not too distant future.

22 Apr 2020

Bridges dragging National down

We all know that Simon Bridges is terribly unpopular. In fact his preferred PM rating usually doesn’t register into the double digits.

Bridges copying Trump like catch phrases and an inability to read his lines properly means that National is getting widely criticised across nearly every social media platform, even by people who were previous true-blue National Party supporters.

Speculation is therefore rife about whether Bridges will be rolled prior to the election, which in normal circumstances wouldn’t be a good idea. However Bridges inability to gauge the mood of the nation has ensured that these rumours persist, particularly because a recently leaked Curia poll puts National on only 31%.

Last Wednesday, David Cormack reported:

Leaked Curia poll pretty terrible sign for National 

Labour was on 49 - no surprise given the Prime Minister's excellent handling of the COVID-19 crisis. 
National was on 31 - which is absolute crisis territory. If this plays out in September then National would lost 18 MPs and go down to 37.

Clearly these results aren’t just about Jacinda Ardern’s excellent communication skills and exemplary management of government agencies during the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s also attributed to the fact that Simon Bridges has been a walking talking disaster zone.

Today, Newshub reported:

The AM Show poll results: Who should lead the National Party? 

At 10:45am, after the poll was active for roughly five hours and had received more than 13,500 votes, Collins was supported by 39 percent of participants (5233 votes), followed by Mitchell on 30 percent (4042 votes), Bennett on 16 percent (2261 votes) and Bridges on 15 percent (2033 votes).

I should mention that Bridges didn’t actually win the initial National Party caucus vote when they chose a replacement for Bill English. So his woeful performance as party leader isn’t the only reason for his unpopularity.

However to attain only 15% of votes in an online Newshub poll, albeit unscientific, is a clear indication that Bridges is about to be challenged for his position as National Party leader.

Unfortunately for National there’s no clear choice for a replacement. Each of the proposed candidates have excess baggage, which many would argue precludes them from becoming the potential Prime Minister of New Zealand.

But if National does nothing, Simon Bridges could drag them down even further. His determination to engage in entirely negative campaigning during the COVID 19 lockdown will see his approval-rating tank...all of which will likely mean the blue team will be sidelined for a very long time.

19 Apr 2020

COVID-19, a dry run for climate chaos

It might be controversial to say, but being in lockdown in New Zealand hasn’t been as bad as many people are making out. Sure, you cannot get things like takeaways or simply pop into a cafe to see your friends, but by and large people are getting the essential items they require.

However what happens if supply lines are entirely cut off and the basic necessities of life become unavailable? If nothing else, COVID-19 has shown us that civilisation is precarious, particularly because most people no longer produce their own food.

In this respect COVID-19 is a forerunner to what will occur if climate change becomes unmanageable…because management is all that most countries are currently proposing. Gone are the days when widespread mitigation could have halted anthropomorphic climate change.

That's because most Governments aren’t interested in reducing our over-reliance on petroleum-based products. The tax they attain from fossil fuels is simply too enticing, even though it will pale in comparison to the actual costs associated with the serious consequences of climate chaos.

Today, Greenpeace reported:

Climate change is harder to visualise than coronavirus, but no less dangerous 

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has so far caused more than 145,000 deaths worldwide.  
These are grim numbers from the World Health Organisation, the actual human suffering is impossible to measure. 
By comparison, the WHO predicts that climate change will kill 250,000 people every year between 2030 and 2050. 
A total of five million people. Starting in ten years’ time.

So climate change is set to kill a much greater number of human beings than COVID-19 has to date, but Governments have been treating climate change like it’s somebody else’s problem.

The reason for their lethargy is simple…they’re in the pockets of big oil and gas companies that don’t want to relinquish their substantial income streams in order to save the world.

Oil corporations stand to lose the most from the transition to a zero carbon world.  
They’ve had all that time to build up layers of PR protection, in an attempt to confound people about the science.  
Petroleum moguls like the Koch brothers in the States for example, spending more than $70 million dollars to fund right wing groups and maintain the myths of climate denial. 
Organised resistance and disinformation by wealthy and powerful fossil fuel companies is the primary reason why humanity has failed to act decisively on climate.

Unlike oil and gas companies, COVID-19 doesn’t have a PR firm working tirelessly to mislead the public. That’s why many people still believe that a transition to cleaner forms of energy isn’t urgently required.

Instead COVID-19 has to rely on the stupidity of so-called leaders like Donald Trump, who is risking people’s lives by opening up lockdown too early. His only interest seems to be in saving the economy and limiting the economic downturn.

The neoliberal argument against society acting collectively via the government is dead. As the Financial Times editorial put it recently: “Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. 
Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy.”

The small reprieve to climate changing pollution levels will likely be short-lived, with many politicians pushing hard for people to return en masse to the fossil fuel based mass transit model. Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic, however I just don’t see that the effects of COVID-19 will make much difference at all to the mindset of those who would destroy the world for short term financial gain. But I guess only time will tell.

Rampant COVID-19 disinformation

The deadly virus COVID-19 and resulting response to it around the world has shown that many politicians simply aren’t up to the task of representing their constituents. Instead of ensuring the public’s safety, many so-called leaders have instead shown their true colours by promoting the idea that the economy should take precedence over peoples lives.

However it’s not just certain reprehensible politicians and "the virus is a hoax" conspiracy theorists who've been found completely lacking in moral integrity during the pandemic. Much of the mainstream media has also shown that they will go against official advice to promote misleading ideas, presumably at the behest of their corrupt employers.

On Friday, much of New Zealand’s mainstream media was telling the public that we were no longer in level 4 lockdown, which was simply untrue. This misinformation just so happens to coincide with an increased number of lockdown breaches having to be attended to by Police.

The rich one-percenters and their propagandists clearly have vested interests that don’t include the safety and survival of people with underlying health conditions, who they likely view as collateral damage in a war to safeguard their squandered wealth.

The worst example of this despicable mindset came from the United States’ President, Donald Trump, when he encouraged his gun totting supporters to breach quarantine and “liberate” three states led by his political opponents who were trying to maintain the publics' safety through lockdown.

Yesterday, Aljazeera reported:

Trump accused of 'fomenting rebellion' after 'LIBERATE' tweets 

Washington's governor accuses Trump of encouraging 'dangerous acts' after he urged supporters to 'LIBERATE' some states. 
Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday accused Donald Trump of "fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies" after the United States president urged supporters to "LIBERATE" three states led by Democratic governors. 
"The president's statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19," Inslee said in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon.

If the US President inciting anarchy against duly elected officials in a time of plague isn’t a clear sign of his cognitive dissonance and unworthiness to govern, then I don’t know what is.

However this type of dangerous propaganda isn’t limited to people who believe they’re all powerful. Closer to home the National Party have been desperately trying to undermine the Government and Level 4 lockdown.

Yesterday, 1 News reported:

National MP under fire for saying NZ will move to Level 3 on Thursday, despite no Govt decision  
The Government is due to update New Zealand on Monday as to whether we will stay or leave Alert Level 4 next week. Until then, the country remains in Level 4 lockdown.  
During a live Q&A yesterday, Nelson MP Nick Smith said it was "six days to go before we start to get some degree of freedom back".  
The video was aimed at informing the people of Nelson on lockdown guidelines and what life would be like for the community in Level 3.  
Mr Smith also said that "with the Level 3 next Thursday hair dressers will still not be able to give us a trim", and "it's only six days to go until we step down the lockdown and get more freedoms". 
The National Party, however, appears to be standing behind Mr Smith's statements. A spokesperson declined to comment today, saying the MP's "comments are consistent with the public's expectation".

You've got to wonder if Nick Smith is taking his cues from the orange buffoon himself?

A few days ago another National Party disseminator of falsehoods, Steven Joyce, was also actively trying to undermine the Government's testing regime, even though it's been comprehensibly increasing while cases decline. Joyce also believes that eliminating COVID-19 in New Zealand is impossible, despite there being very little community spread and all random testing coming back negative.

On Thursday, the NZ Herald reported:

Covid 19 coronavirus: Eliminating virus in NZ is 'pie in the sky' fantasy, former finance minister 

Anybody who thought the virus could be eliminated was "too ambitious", he said. 
"Therefore, if you say to yourself it is not going to be possible to completely eliminate it or that it is unlikely to be possible to completely eliminate it in New Zealand, then what should you do instead? 
"Because the economic impact of what we are doing currently is massive, and people only later on will get to understand just how massive it is and how much hurt that is going to cause."

Apparently we should just throw the infirm under the bus in order to safeguard the economy. None of these idiots have actually calculated the true economic cost if a large percentage of elderly, i.e. those who have expendable income and substantial investments, contract COVID-19 and pass away.

In fact it’s difficult to know exactly what the opposition in New Zealand has been arguing for in recent weeks. They’ve been entirely inconsistent in their criticism of the Government’s response to what is an unprecedented crisis, both arguing for and against various measures. Clearly their careers and bank accounts are at the forefront of their selfish little minds when what we need is a unified approach similar to what occurs during wartime.

Instead we have National Party MPs and their echo chamber acolytes disseminating blatant disinformation and trying to score cheap political points against a Prime Minister who is managing the situation appropriately.

It’s concerning that the proponents of capitalism are still ardently undermining the Government while promoting their defunct ideas when they’ve been found completely lacking in the fight against COVID-19. Convincing evidence that countries with functioning social security and health systems are managing the crisis far better than those who don’t comes in the form of the US death toll and rate of infections. Those on the front lines deserve better.

The reason the United States is getting hammered isn't just about the President downplaying the crisis and misleading the public into also has a lot to do with the underfunding of their public hospitals and a health insurance system that isn’t fit for purpose. At time of writing 37,000 fatalities have been recorded, but will this underreported loss of life be enough of a wake up call to ensure a change of political direction that is required to make America truely great again? We can only hope.

What is certain is that many politicians and journalists cannot be trusted even when reliable information is the difference between life and death for many thousands of people.

14 Apr 2020

Expect the best, prepare for the worst

The Coronavirus pandemic, that has brought the world’s economy to its knees, will likely have lasting financial effects well beyond the current expectations of most Governments and business leaders. That’s because certain countries have utterly failed to recognise the seriousness of the situation and may never fully recover from what is becoming the worst pandemic in living memory.

Many nations were clearly unprepared and with supply lines being cut are in a serious predicament. Things like personal protective equipment and other essential items are in short supply globally, which has led to increased cases of COVID-19. This could mean a permanent closure of borders and even the breakdown of civilisation itself.

So what can we do to ensure humanity becomes more resilient in the future?

Today, Newsroom reported:


Vital supplies: produce locally and stock up

Once we are through this crisis and the Government has a chance to take stock, there are a few lessons I think they should keep in mind. First, there is the importance of reserves. New Zealand has a significant stock of pandemic medical supplies and while these were mostly designed around the flu, at least we have them. There have been stories in the past of hand wringing over large quantities of items expiring in reserve and needing to be discarded. But that should just be considered a cost of holding reserves.

The problem in New Zealand doesn’t seem to be with stock levels…rather it is the ability to distribute items quickly during an emergency. An action plan and centralised database of items would go a long way to resolving distribution issues as well as wastage from unused items.

Similarly, the Government should look at expanding our fuel reserves and other just-in-case items. Just having agreements with overseas suppliers to provide us with stock in a crisis is probably not safe enough.

Sure, we can try to kick start a recovery by borrowing and pumping more money into existing infrastructure, but a better way forward would be to think outside the square and revise the entire system.

For instance there is no current requirement to expand our fuel reserves when we’re using less petrol because of the lockdown. New Zealand already produces around half of the fuel we require when the economy is firing on all cylinders and even though there are still too many idiots driving cars on the roads, current production levels will be enough even if overseas supply entirely stops.

In fact the last thing we should do is build more tanks to store petroleum when our future security depends on the world transitioning away from polluting industries to cleaner sources of energy.

Obviously local production should mean increasing the ability of communities to generate their own power through solar arrays and wind turbines. Reducing our over-reliance on petroleum-based forms of transportation will also go a long way to creating resilience in the face of future disasters.

Second is the importance of local production. I was very relieved to see that New Zealand has a local mask manufacturer, and then there is Fisher and Paykel Healthcare which is one of the gems of our local manufacturing scene. We produce more than enough food for our population, but do we produce everything that is critical should our borders remain closed? I hope the Government will take this opportunity to do a serious stocktake and invest where it is needed.

I don’t mean to sound negative, but keeping it local only works when there are local businesses to support. Sure, New Zealand easily produces enough food for our own needs and manufactures our own face-masks and toilet paper, but is this the extent of our requirements going forward and are our current supply chains bombproof enough?

It’s also not just our own solutions during a worldwide pandemic that should be considered. Another major problem that greatly impacts on the ability of many nations to produce their own goods is the negative effects of globalisation. Presently the world’s economy is devised to make a small amount of people incredibly wealthy, while the large majority struggle to make ends meet. This lowers the resilience of our communities and ensures that when disaster strikes people are less prepared.

In order to prevent anarchy because of scarcity, populations need to be more invested in their local communities. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through home ownership, which will also increase people’s ability to become self-reliant. Therefore at the top of the list should be a goal to redistribute wealth to those who most need it. Bold government’s can achieve this through legislation, in particular policy that ensures people can more easily attain housing security.

Clearly our economic recovery cannot be predicated on a dog-eat-dog capitalist system that has already failed.

7 Apr 2020

Simon Bridges can't connect

We all know that Simon Bridges has, at the best of times, an intermittent relationship with the truth. However you would think that during a pandemic and economic crisis the current opposition leader would pull his head in and start to do the right thing.

Obviously leading by example should be of high priority for officials at the moment. Unfortunately for the right wing, Simon Bridges was anything but convincing when he claimed that he had to travel half way across the North Island just to get a good Internet connection.

Yesterday, NewstalkZB reported:

'My internet doesn't work': Bridges defends commute between home and Parliament 

Bridges told Heather du Plessis-Allan that he does not have the same resources at home - including internet connection.  
"About 50 per cent of the time my internet doesn't work." 

This is a blatant lie! Tauranga has been connected to ultra fast broadband for some time now and we all know his Internet connection is working fine because he’s already video conferenced from home without any issues.

Bridges also cites that the media and Press Gallery are not based in Tauranga, and he wants to be part of that. 
He says that the committee is doing an important job in holding the Government to account, and being in Parliament is important part of that. 
"I can do a much better, more professional job at Parliament. There may be no Parliament, but I am there doing that job."

In other words, Bridges is selfishly promoting himself during a pandemic because he isn’t getting enough media attention at home. In effect he's breaking the rules and putting his family and other people in danger for the sake of his own political career. He also doesn’t want to be sidelined by the great job Jacinda Ardern is doing in her essential role as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

But where exactly is the mainstream medias call for him to resign? We’ve had a full week of them screaming for the head of Health Minister David Clark (who has now been demoted), because he went for a mountain bike ride. If these two cases don’t highlight the blatant bias of certain journalists, whose opinion is largely irrelevant anyway, I don’t know what will.

The right wing evidently isn’t handling the stress resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown very well. Instead of working to help New Zealand get through the crisis, they’ve been ignoring the rules and making a number of ridiculous and untruthful claims to cover-up for their indiscretions.

They’re also using the pandemic to try and score cheap political points against a Government that clearly has things under control. In my opinion this continued electioneering won’t be playing well with the voting public.

Even if Bridges was telling the truth, by not being able to organise a working Internet connection he looks decidedly incompetent! Therefore what faith can people place in him to lead the COVID Select Committee, let alone run the entire country? The very simple answer to that pertinent question is absolutely none!