On how not to run a system.

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I’m dealing with a fair number of problems at work today. In between jobs, looking at what is going on. Locally, our system is coping, but it is the beginning of the storm, and we don’t know if we reacted fast enough to dodge it or not. As is often the case, the USA is useful because it is federal, and some states reacted well, but others… chose poorly.

Governor Cuomo of New York is probably the poster child for such greed. He’s demanding five or six times more money than the current bailout package sets aside for New York state – despite the fact that this will inevitably deprive other states of what they need. There’s only so much available, after all. This isn’t a bottomless cornucopia that can never be exhausted. He’s also demanding many times more ventilators than the state has been promised – despite his administration having decided back in 2015 to forgo the purchase of 15,000 ventilators, after “determining that the expense was too much and there would be insufficient staff to man the machines even if there were an outbreak”. If New York wouldn’t spend its own money to meet its needs, why should the rest of us spend ours? And why should the federal government be responsible for all pandemic-related expenses anyway, when the states have their own budgets and their own expenditure priorities? They need to step up to the plate themselves.

Our Founding Fathers set strict limits on what the federal government’s responsibilities would be, and how it should spend national revenues. Those limits have been honored far more in the breach than in the observance for many decades, if not centuries, so that central government has become a leviathan dominating this country – precisely what the Fathers feared. This current crisis is further eroding what the constitution dictates. In one sense, it’s hard to argue against that, because the need is so great: but in another sense, it’s extraordinarily dangerous, because it gives central government yet more leverage and control over the states, and over the lives of individual Americans. That’s antithetical to liberty, to put it mildly. Remember the late President Ford’s prescient warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” I fear greatly that we may find that out the hard way in the not too distant future, if the socialist wet dreams of so many of our aspiring politicians come to fruition.

Bayou Renaissance Man

The other example for good or ill is the UK. There is a huge amount of energy for keeping the NHS going and running. But it chews through clinicians, and is slow to respond, unless the country is put on war footing.

Sane Brits avoid hospitals, but that is adaptive almost everywhere: hospitals are full of immuno-comprimised, sick (I repeat myself) people, and that is, unchecked, a petri dish. Rest homes (nursing homes) are as bad or worse

The reason the people of Britain are in ‘hair on fire’ mode is because we are all terrified of falling into the tender embrace of the NHS, with its callous bureaucracy, its ‘make do and mend’ ethos, and its exhausted, under-supported and under-supplied clinicians.

You may recall that I had a very extensive (and not a little terrifying) encounter with the NHS last year.

Literally every NHS worker I encountered, from cleaners to consultants, was amazing. Hard working and dedicated to a man, woman and tranny. For the fact that I’m here today, I’m deeply grateful to every one of them. To the extent that they succeed, though, it is abundantly clear when seen from the coalface that they do so in-spite of the system in which they work, not because of it.

The reason I’m so keen on embracing the whole self-isolation thing – apart from the 8 months of practice I had at it last year, meaning it’s very easy, almost second nature to me now – is that with a little bit of mild chronic asthma, if I get COVID there’s a non-trivial chance that I could need medication and possibly even a nebuliser or ventilator. And I live on the outskirts of London.

I’m probably not old enough that they’d decide I should be ‘de-prioritsed’ in the queue for critical treatment, but if this becomes a regular event, it’s not going to be many years, before I do fall into that category.

So, with all due respect to the amazing people who work in the NHS, the system itself must for all our sakes be killed with fire and replaced. We can learn lessons from almost every other European country and need never even look at the US system except as a cautionary tale.

Al Jahom

The rules are holding, but some of our services are being arbitrary. This would end badly. Consider this: some of us have to shop frequently — particularly if we don’t have big freezers (read anyone in an Auckland apartment) or have to go in urgently — read every doctor ever. The police are trying to limit people at times overmuch: they need one law for all, not some inter sectional, woke, interpretation of it.

This is, after all, the time of multicultural failure.

New Zealanders realise that it is extremely frustrating for you to deal with numerous people who are flouting the lockdown and refusing to comply. But it is not legal for you to come down hard on people simply because you are annoyed that enforcing the lockdown places your own health at risk.

Similarly, it is understandable that Bush said it would pay for essential workers to carry work identity cards or letters from their employers.

That makes it quick and easy for the police to see that someone should be out and about. However, you need to remember that there is no legal obligation for any New Zealander to carry such information. That means that people cannot be forced to carry such documents and it is not an offence to fail to do so.

You and other agencies need to swiftly standardise your advice about the fine detail of when people can and cannot leave their homes. Your bosses must then ensure that all staff on the ground are clear about the rules.

You need to remember that you can only police the country effectively with the consent of the public.

Contradictory messages and over-the-top enforcement will rapidly erode public goodwill and result in increasing failure to comply.

In turn, that will raise the spectre of order starting to break down. New Zealand does not want to go there.

Catriona McLennan, Radio NZ

Local academics are trying to keep up to date with our figures, and it’s interesting that they went home… early. Admittedly the University of Auckland moved to online teaching earlier than others.

A week ago, Shaun Hendy packed up a desktop computer and monitor at his University of Auckland office and carted the whole lot home to his Grey Lynn bungalow.

Shaun Hendy at work at his kitchen table, modelling the country’s Covid-19 spread. Photo: Supplied

When you’re leading the team that’s modelling the worst-case scenarios for how Covid-19 might spread in New Zealand, you don’t wait for a government directive to stay home: you follow your own advice.

“Once we realised that this work was probably going to be really critical, and having a little bit of an insight into what was coming, we moved people home last week.”

The study was already occupied by Hendy’s wife, a lawyer, who needed somewhere to keep confidential client files. So Hendy works at the kitchen table, back turned to the garden outside, with last night’s dishes and occasional visits from the neighbour’s allergy-provoking cats as mild distractions. Mostly though, he is intent on the three screens arranged before him: desktop, laptop, iPad.

Kate Newton, Radio NZ

The trouble is that over reach means that people won’t comply. The UK is talking about six months. I think we can stretch in NZ to about four weeks — and that is because the Pakeha and Maori are stoic and will work for their families and others. But the USA? The centre stopped holding a long time ago. Two weeks, max.

Anyone who has had to manage a large number of people knows that sentiment can turn quickly against you, unless you stay on top of it. It’s why sportsball coaches have locker room insiders to tell them the mood of the players. It’s why every military has a layer between the officers and the enlisted men. More than a few grand schemes have been undermined by a quiet rebellion in the ranks. This is something we are already seeing that will become more evident next week.

This is why Trump is getting antsy about getting people back to work. It’s not because of the economy, although that is one reason. It’s because he has managed lots of people and he knows this dynamic. By next week, whatever benefit there was to this lock down will have been achieved. The inevitable wholesale revolt against it will make the whole enterprise pointless. Trump will want to be seen as leading the charge to get the nation back to work, so expect that to be the topic a week from now.
The Z Blog

Stay safe. Stay away from crowds. And do what you can, each day.