Level 3 takeaways in Wellington – you can’t actually go inside

Today is Wednesday September 1st, 2021. Kia ora!

South of Auckland, we are now at Level 3 of a four-level lockdown, level 1 (not level none, says Dr Bloomfield), is our lowest level where the borders are locked down, but not much else: you should exercise care, of course, by staying home if you feel unwell, washing your hands, and wearing a mask on public transport.

Last night I was reading my latest Listener (which tends to express some very right-wing views) which includes a pleasant column (Jane Clifton’s Aladdin’s Cave), headed as follows: “Australia’s Prime Minister has mocked our Covid-elimination strategy, but we’re faring quite well, thanks cobber”.  I don’t have an issue with holding politicians to account, but I don’t like to see Prime Minister Ardern or President Biden unfairly criticised for their sensible moves.

I slept quite well last night but read concerning news overseas on awakening. In the US, Madison Cawthorn (yes, a republican member of Congress, the dude in a wheelchair) is advocating violence. A Republican Committee Chairwoman carried a gun at a public family event, and so-called “ordinary” people who contemplate standing for office (a school board, perhaps) are being given death threats, along with members of their families. This normalisation if violence, and the idea that violence is acceptable, is very disturbing, especially when people are just trying to keep themselves and their children safe – by wearing masks!  One item I heard yesterday: God can’t hear you praying, if you wear a mask. That’s a Jim Baker special.

I read in the UK’s Guardian that a judge in Ohio has ordered a Covid 19 patient to be given Ivermectin (yes, the horse worming drug). Israel is reporting record numbers of Covid 19 cases, despite their high vaccination rate; and a new variant of Covid 19 (as I reported yesterday) is very alarming.

I then listen to Dr John Campbell’s daily update, and that’s very concerning, too. A paediatrician has recommended clinical testing for Covid 19 only (i.e. testing only if you’re symptomatic); everyone will get Delta; and there’s no prospect of reaching herd immunity. Naturally, the UK Tory government has leapt at this. I find it distressing. Just look at NSW, where despite some restrictions, delta is running rampant. It’s definitely not under control. Today NSW records 1,116 new cases, and four deaths. The NSW Premier says “It’s impossible to eliminate the Delta strain”.

Before the 1 pm press conference, JD and I walked to the local supermarket. It’s a beautiful sunny day, after a cold start. At the store, It’s nicely busy and not too crowded. They still seem to prefer one lone shopper, with one trolley – no baskets. There are still a number of gaps on the shelves: I can’t get the small containers of fruit in juice that I like to buy, and there are still no “made in store” sausages. I shouldn’t really be eating them anyway, but this lockdown feels like an excuse. I don’t look at eggs, although we have none; there are hardly any pies. I buy the last filled bread roll and a sultana scone, and some more yoghurt and some more ice creams. I would have bought a Coffee (Boston?) Bun, but it was dated yesterday. I like to buy them fresh.

Coming out to meet JD, who will carry this stuff home, I learn that there are 75 new cases of Covid 19, and one in MIQ; of these, all are in Auckland bar one, which is in Wellington (a close contact of an existing case). There are presently 32 in hospital, 8 in ICU, and 3 on ventilators. 40 supermarkets in Auckland are to be added as locations of interest, out of that annoying expression, “an abundance of caution”. Public health folk are working with Tegel, where three workers became infected. The September school holidays may be moved.  Already formal exams have been pushed back. Wellington’s WOW event has been postponed (it was cancelled last year).

This morning I listened to a Lawfare podcast with Spencer Ackerman talking to Jack Goldsmith. Ackerman is a journalist and writer, and author of a new book called Reign of Terror.  He’s really angry about the US’s role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, and it’s interesting to hear him talk to Goldsmith about US national security, amongst other things. Goldsmith is a thoughtful person, so I found this conversation really absorbing. Ackerman also talks about US loss of personal freedoms with the surveillance that now happens under Section 702.[1] Today Ackerman and Rachel Maddow are supportive of Biden’s actions in withdrawing from Afghanistan; I also listen to a Guardian podcast about the UK’s seeming betrayal of people they should have been much kinder to, and I wonder about the vehemence of the attacks on Biden, and the virtual lack of attacks on “perfidious Albion”.

It’s now Thursday September 2nd.  It’s still quiet here, but my friend Julie tells me people are going to Café du Parc in Khandallah: they can sit outside there, and don’t have to go inside the café. I queried this, but it’s claimed you can sit on the deck outside the café, and a staff member can bring you your coffee there. I guess you can sit anywhere outside, as long as you’re 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household bubble, right? Yesterday desperate kiwis queued up to buy KFC – for breakfast?

In Australia, the figures are disappointing – 176 new cases of Covid 19/Delta variant today. They too, like NSW, have given up on their elimination strategy. Today NSW records 1,288 new cases and 7 deaths. ACT has 12 new cases.

In New Zealand there are 49 new community cases today, all of them in Auckland. There are presently 42 in hospital, 6 in an ICU (the youngest is 18), and 3 ventilated. Some ICU nurses are being transferred from other hospitals. Northland is to move to level 3 from midnight tonight. 7 of the cases reported today were infectious in the community. No Delta has been detected unexpectedly in wastewater testing, including from Northland.

In the US, Joe Rogan has Covid 19; in Sydney, a person is in hospital after overdosing on Ivermectin. In New Zealand, someone’s trying to import it. In the US, the American Medical Association has said it should not be prescribed.

In the US, arguments rage on about Afghanistan, the withdrawal, whether American citizens feel less safe now; whether the US has a role in “nation building”. Joe Biden has made another rousing speech.  It feels good that he’s been brave enough to pull US troops out, and evacuate thousands (about 123,000, including 6,000 Americans) of people in extreme circumstances; but the war must have been very profitable for many people, otherwise why would they suddenly care so much? In the Lawfare podcast I listened to yesterday, Spencer Ackerman spoke about many instanced of domestic terrorism on US soil, where no link to a foreign entity such as Isis could be made. He also spoke about Trump’s acts of violence, acknowledging that while no new wars were started while he was president, there was the bombing if Syria and the killing of Sulemani, while he condoned the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. There’s evidence that he almost started a war with Iran, in a bid to stay in office. Iran could have retaliated against the killing of Sulemani; it did not do so publicly, in the way that many feared.  Michael Moore quotes George Orwell’s 1984, in saying there has to be a war going on somewhere. There are also a number of former republicans sympathising with Biden, and pointing out that whatever Trump’s bluster, he would have botched the evacuation.  It’s also been acknowledged that Americans in Afghanistan were not obliged to register with the embassy, there, and, indeed, some Americans chose to stay. Meanwhile, Texas has enacted a law virtually banning abortions, and allowing significant fines and prosecution for anyone considered to have aided the woman in making her decision (for whatever reason), to seek termination of the pregnancy. The Supreme Court has chosen to do nothing to stop this law going ahead. The Taliban certainly treat women badly, but is the US that much better?  It risks being a barbaric society itself, in many ways. Freedom doesn’t mean not caring about others. In my view. Is this the end of the American Empire?  Who knows. There are still US troops in heaps of places, including Germany, South Korea,  Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else. Is the US a safe place? Is the world a safe place? Alas, for many, it is not. And if a woman seeks to terminate a pregnancy, surely it was not her action alone that resulted in pregnancy. Does the man bear no responsibility?

This afternoon we went shopping at one of my favourite stores, the big New World supermarket in Thorndon. JD took a trolley too It was lovely there – not crazily busy, and everyone seemed very respectful. I bought some nice looking Caesar salad there. There was little in the way of fresh cakes, but in general the shelves were well stocked. It’ll be even better when they can pack my bags again!

Today it’s been fine. I attended singing on zoom; I wrote some letters, and we went shopping. Nga mihi.

[1] Section 702 is a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers, to acquire foreign intelligence information.

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