Still Shocking

Today is Saturday September 25th, 2021. Kia ora!

I haven’t written so much about US politics recently, but a number of interesting things have happened there; interesting to me, that is. I had thought several times that I could no longer be shocked by Trump’s actions; but it seems I still can. They just keep spilling out, and not getting any better. There’s no story that reads “Trump did something honourable here”. There’s news about how he refused initially, and then on an ongoing basis, to accept that he was defeated by Joe Biden in the November 2020 presidential election. It’s now almost a year since that election (10-11 months), and the Arizona audit has finally reported. The report says that Joe Biden won Arizona by even more votes than previously reported. Yet the former guy has turned on many of his so-called friends, e.g. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Greg Abbott – he’s demanding a recount in Texas, a state in which he won handsomely!

I listened to a podcast on Skullduggery about Peter Thiel. It transpires that he was one of the first to support Facebook financially, which gave him some control over it. Specifically, FB undertook not to fact-check Trump’s statements. We always suspected this, now we know. I was reminded that Thiel was on Trump’s transition team; he was also behind the demise of Gawker, by suing them, and winning the case. It’s been pointed out that, whatever you think of Thiel, he is one of the few Trump supporters who has not been humiliated and belittled by him. Now that’s saying something.

It transpires that Trump engaged some seriously dodgy doctors as experts on the coronavirus; suffice to say, Dr Fauci remains with his head held high and his credibility intact, while the others do not. This is the US! You’d expect them to have managed this better, like the UK, but they have each, in their own bumbling way, been among the worst.  Poor America!  How could so many of your citizens vote for this guy?

And yet there’s more news.  Four of Trump’s closest aides (including Steve Bannon, not then formally employed by the White House, Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, and  Christopher Miller) have been delivered subpoenas in connection with the January 6th insurrection. Apparently Kash Patel is quite upset over this. Trump has tried to claim executive privilege,  but as he’s no longer president, this has been denied by the current president.

Then there is all the support Trump had to overturn the results of the election: people like Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman. And we have former Vice President Dan Quayle to thank for talking Pence out of not certifying the 2020 presidential election. Who would have thought so?

During the past week I have been listening to the Bulwark podcast, which I generally find interesting and newsworthy. But I have been quite annoyed this week, as it seems to be a litany (from conservatives, former republicans) about haw awful the Democrats are. Why do I find this upsetting? The Democrats have a very powerful social agenda which would go some way towards giving more people clean water, new and safer bridges and roads, enhancing the social safety net – all very sensible things, really. Republicans are not making things any easier for them, including McConnell’s refusal to provide Senatorial support for raising the debt ceiling (money that’s already been spent, by the way). The Dems are figuring out how to do this stuff, given that some of them are more moderate, some more progressive. As I noted, in most countries what progressive democrats want is perfectly normal. And most of them care about the planet, too. You’d think the combination of floods, fires, and hurricanes would be a wake-up call, but remember, Ted Cruz went to Cancun in Mexico during the freezing cold in Texas last winter, when the electricity failed. There’s no accountability there.  And Greg Abbott, if you’re listening, it’s not much use preventing an abortion when the child is doomed to live in poverty, breathe foul air, and drink foul water, while fleeing for their life whenever the next natural disaster strikes, or condo tumbles over. Why should the Dems govern like republicans? Perhaps it feels different under a democratic administration, just as it feels very different here under a Labour Government, rather than National.

I’ve also listened to several thoughtful podcasts about General Milley’s decision to talk to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about his fears that Trump might start a nuclear war (yes, Bob, it is pronounced “nu-clear-ar”, not “newcular”). Thoughtful Americans debate and discuss these issues rather well. One podcast is entitled “Milley’s Crossing”. Hilarious. The debate usually runs along the lines of while Milley was right to be concerned, was he right to shoot his mouth off to Bob Woodward, or did he show an error of judgment? Should he have resigned, and then spoken out?  Whatever, the story is truly terrifying. I was afraid of what Trump might do; I’m glad and relieved that a handful of wise heads stopped him. I’m also appalled at the carnage. Trump predicted American carnage in his inaugural speech: he certainly delivered that, in spades. Someone claimed to me during his term as president that he’d kept his promises: I wondered which ones, if any, she’d regarded as honourable.

In other news, the Durham investigation has come up with – nothing much. What is he Durham investigation? Durham was appointed by William Barr, the former Attorney General, to investigate the basis for the Russia investigation.

Back in La La Land, i.e. Aotearoa, New Zealand, there are 13 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland. So that’s not too bad – it’s not single figures, but it’s not in the 20’s either. Three of these cases are as yet unlinked. Earlier this morning a patient came to Waitakere Hospital, and tested positive for coronavirus. He has since been isolated, and is considered to be low-risk.

It’s now Sunday September 26th.

This morning I zoomed into a service by St Anne’s Catholic Church in Newtown. There were no clergy involved, and it was wonderful!  There was a great deal of sharing with different people singing, speaking and praying.  The different languages and songs of worship are amazing. I also watched the St Matthew’s service in Auckland on Youtube. I did not go to my usual church service, being slightly nervous of gathering in person, and besides, it was a short night with the start of Daylight Saving on Saturday night. On Saturday night we had watched, and enjoyed, Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility on Māori television, starring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and the gloomy Alan Rickman. Somewhat improbably, the Kate Winslet character marries Alan Rickman, while Emma Thompson teams up with Hugh Grant.  Jane Austen’s novels generally end up with the poor-ish heroine getting her rather well-off man, and marrying him, thus ensuring not only her financial future, but one filled with interesting characters and smart conversation as well.  There are various missteps along the way, of course, and plenty of examples of rather sad marriages. Emma Thompson wrote the screen play for this film, and it was very droll, too.

On Sunday evening we watched Coriolanus, again, on Māori television. The lead stars were the great Vanessa Redgrave, and the nearly as great Joseph Fiennes. Jessica Chastain wasn’t bad either.  This was set on modern times, and I’m sure they hired an existing BBC newsreader to make it extra realistic.  Vanessa Redgrave’s plea to her son is truly amazing.  It was such a treat to hear the Bard again. I’m ashamed to say I did not know this play, but I do now. How very versatile Shakespeare is! How much he knew about human emotion, pride, and ambition.  A rare treat. During the day I corresponded with my children overseas, always a joy.

On Sunday there were 18 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland.

It’s now Monday September 27th. Today there are 13 new cases, all in Auckland. They were all already in isolation, although not all have been genomically linked yet to existing clusters. A prisoner has tested positive, and so two police hubs are isolating.  

Over the weekend John Key (Sir John) has waded in calling New Zealand a “smug hermit kingdom”.  This is the man who grew up in a state house, became very wealthy, and presided over a very severe housing crisis as National Party Prime Minister. During this crisis rents went up, state houses were sold, and many wealthy folk invested in nice houses here. Often houses went empty, while families lived in crowded houses with other family members, or garages, or their cars, and emergency housing could not keep up with demand. Wages were not nearly enough to meet increasing rental costs, and benefits were very hard to get.  This created a bunch of spin-off problems: overcrowding, lack of privacy, changing schools, lack of space to do homework, and some dreadfully cold and damp conditions in existing housing. Surely everyone deserves a home, that is warm and dry, with enough good food to eat?  The Labour Government has tried to address this problem, and many would say they haven’t done enough, but many new houses are now being built, now that councils have removed restrictions allowing more building to proceed.  Now, if something could be done about the insane cost of housing!  I do believe, that if there’s more houses, they may become cheaper to buy. It seems that right wing governments tend to create social problems, usually pandering to their well-off base, and left-wing governments then not only try to clean up the mess, but do more for their less well-off base, who are usually desperate for a better chance at acquiring the basics of life, and giving their families a good life, with more amenities.

Thankfully several people, including Minister Hipkins, have fired back at Key, including one journalist who’s pointed out that New Zealand is not like North Korea: you’d get shot for criticising the leader there. The Guardian in the UK, a known left-wing paper, with some good articles, can be especially annoying at times: for the last few days they’ve been running with the following headline: “The mood in New Zealand on Covid is changing, and Jacinda Ardern knows it”. New Zealand was for a long time regarded as a world-beater in terms of Covid 19, but the emergence of the delta variant has changed everything we thought we knew about Covid 19. So why isn’t she Prime Minister Ardern? And why is she shown frowning so often by the media?  Isn’t she allowed to change her mind, too, as do most normal people when the facts change?  What friends are out there for Prime Minister Ardern?  I happen to still think she’s amazing, and I wish there was more support out there for her.

The MIQ system is causing great frustration, and not only for other people; it affects me personally, too. In March last year (seems like ages ago!) we thought this inconvenience would only last a matter of weeks, or months, perhaps.  Come Christmas, and vaccines were coming. That was to be our Christmas present.  The coronavirus said hang on there, I haven’t finished yet – I’ve more people to see, places to visit, and some of them I liked so much that I’ll go back there again; but I’m quite whimsical, too: I’ll defy predictions, so whatever the pundits think, I’ll aim to outwit them.

Although New Zealand’s approach to Covid 19 has been the wonder of the world, I suspect that a new reality has caught up with us now. When the very infectious delta variant emerged on the scene, kiwis lacked immunity: they had been late to be vaccinated (along with several other developed countries like Australia and Taiwan), and we thankfully had no experience of being exposed to the coronavirus. We were sitting ducks, and now it’s Australia’s, and Auckland’s turn to suffer.

The government aims to reduce the impact of Delta on the health system; already, there aren’t enough ICU beds.  We’ve had fewer than 30 deaths so far, and I think that no one under 60 has died: most deaths have been older people, some very old. Maori and Pasifika have not been hit especially hard, unlike in most developed countries where coloured people have been far more badly affected than white people.  That too is a blessing. Ngā mihi.

PS next time I’ll write about shortages.

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