Homily: Extreme Poverty in the US (plus Tweets)

I was Skyping with a friend in the US yesterday, and somehow we got onto the topic of people who live on the streets. He made the comment that you almost never see them in New Zealand. They are there of course. One of our biggest problems is a shortage of housing, especially at the lower end of the market in Auckland. (Excuse me for a sec – “Tweets” – I have to use that word in the first paragraph to get a top SEO score!)

During the conversation I told him that people living on the street still got a benefit. (It’s NZ$501 per fortnight.) A person living on the street is also eligible for things like free healthcare. There’s no one in New Zealand who gets nothing. To him, that was surprising and he wished his country was the same. To me it’s surprising that the richest country in the world fails so many of its people.

By coincidence, I came across an article in the Guardian today. ‘A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America’ by Ed Pilkington is a sobering read. Pilkington followed UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, on a journey through the US. Alston’s final report went to the UN yesterday.

The article includes this statement:

[Alston’s] fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Nine million people get nothing! NINE MILLION! NOTHING!

Those people live on the streets. There’s nowhere else for them to go. Their lives are unimaginable. How about this for example:

Skid Row [Los Angeles] has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. That’s a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.

One of the people living on the street is Robert Chambers. He had this to say to Pilkington and Alston:

“It’s inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology,” Chambers said.

He has been living on the streets for almost a year, having violated his parole terms for drug possession and in turn being turfed out of his low-cost apartment. There’s no help for him now, he said, no question of “making it”.

“The safety net? It has too many holes in it for me.”

Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. “People don’t realize – it’s never getting better, there’s no recovery for people like us. I’m 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldn’t be out here. I might not be too much longer.”

Sad as it is, you expect there to be people like that in a Syrian refugee camp. It shouldn’t be happening in the USA.

In San Francisco, there’s a Catholic church (St Boniface’s) that allows homeless people to sleep in its pews on weekday mornings. Excellent! That is what Christianity should be about. However:

It was a rare drop of altruism on the west coast, competing against a sea of hostility. More than 500 anti-homeless laws have been passed in Californian cities in recent years. At a federal level, Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who Donald Trump appointed US housing secretary, is decimating government spending on affordable housing.

Perhaps the most telling detail: apart from St Boniface and its sister church, no other place of worship in San Francisco welcomes homeless people. In fact, many have begun, even at this season of goodwill, to lock their doors to all comers simply so as to exclude homeless people.

Even before it reaches its conclusion, the article says this:

That cruel streak – the violence of looking away – has been a feature of American life since the nation’s founding. The casting off the yoke of overweening government (the British monarchy) came to be equated in the minds of many Americans with states’ rights and the individualistic idea of making it on your own – a view that is fine for those fortunate enough to do so, less happy if you’re born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Countering that has been the conviction that society must protect its own against the vagaries of hunger or unemployment that informed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. But in recent times the prevailing winds have blown strongly in the “you’re on your own, buddy” direction. Ronald Reagan set the trend with his 1980s tax cuts, followed by Bill Clinton, whose 1996 decision to scrap welfare payments for low-income families is still punishing millions of Americans.

The cumulative attack has left struggling families, including the 15 million children who are officially in poverty, with dramatically less support than in any other industrialized economy. Now they face perhaps the greatest threat of all.

As Alston himself has written in an essay on Trump’s populism and the aggressive challenge it poses to human rights: “These are extraordinarily dangerous times. Almost anything seems possible.”

There’s a lot more of course, including the fact that the tax cuts planned by the Republicans will not only make things worse, they will disproportionately hurt African-Americans.

Then there’s the fact that hookworm still exists amongst blacks in the South. Hookworm transmitts via human waste, and should not exist in a modern country. It was thought to be gone from the US, but it’s thriving in Alabama. In that state, suburbs where mostly black people live frequently don’t even have a proper sewerage system. Human waste apparently often bubbles up into sinks. There are not even any waste pipes for sewage – just open drains.

It’s not just people of colour of course. Alston also went to coal-mining country. West Virginia gives us this:

Before he ran for the presidency, Trump showed scant interest in the struggles of low-income families, white or otherwise. After almost a year in the Oval Office, there is similarly little sign of those campaign promises being kept.

Quite the contrary. When the UN rapporteur decamped in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday as the final stop in his tour, he was inundated with evidence that the president is turning the screws on the very people who elected him. …

If sewerage is the abiding image of the burden of the Black Belt, then a mouthful of rotting teeth is West Virginia’s.

Doctors at Health Right, a volunteer-based medical center in Charleston that treats 21,000 low-income working people free of charge, presented the UN monitor with a photograph of one of its dentistry clients. (See pic above.)

The man is only 32, but when he opened his mouth he turned into one of Macbeth’s witches. His few remaining rotting teeth and greenish-blue gums looked like the festering broth in their burning cauldrons.

This reminds me of the horrific debtors prisons in Britain of two centuries ago, and the time when the Church could punish people there:

People are jailed for years because they cannot afford bail awaiting trial; private detectives are used to snoop on disability benefit claimants; mandatory minimum drug sentences are back in fashion; Jeff Sessions is scrapping federal rehabilitation schemes for those released from prison; tenants in subsidized housing are living in fear that they will be evicted for the slightest infraction – the list goes on and on.

The full report will be available to the public in May 2018. I expect it will be damning, but I have little expectation that the Trump administration will address any of the issues.


Political Tweets

The reality of the GOP Tax Plan.


Why are these two systems even connected? Even in a government building in the world’s richest country, the infrastructure is crap! (Groan! 😜)
(Via Ann German.)


Quite honestly, I can see her point. I sometimes feel like this when I get less so families can get more. However, I’m poor too. If I had more, I’d be happy for it to go to support those less fortunate them myself. Especially when it’s kids.
(Via Ann German.)


Coulter got this hilarious response …


Then this …


And this …


I don’t know if this is true but if so, it’s worrying.


Mueller Time Tweets

For the sake of the whole world, I hope so. It doesn’t just affect USians when they get a bad president.


Human Rights Tweets

Good work India! Another step on the path of separation of Church and State.


How did I know he was a Republican before I saw that part of the pic? I’m sure there are Democrats with such sick attitudes too, but they are not elected as representatives of their party.


Another powerful man is heading for a downfall.


Very cool.


History Tweets

Very cool as well!


I’d never heard of her!


Paleontology Tweets



Literature Tweets

I like it!
(Via Ann German.)


The wonderful Christopher Hitchens died six years ago yesterday. (It was 2011, not 2015 as in this tweet.) I miss his commentary on current events, and can only imagine what a wonderful counterpoint he would be to Trump.


Entertainment Tweets

Over and over it appears that George Clooney really is a genuinely good guy.


Scenic Tweets

Canada’s looking great! (I had a penfriend in Banff as a teenager. She sent me some local fudge once, which was absolutely delicious! I wonder what happened to her? Buried under a snowdrift?)


Japan really knows how to do this stuff!


Typical British scene.






Science Tweets

Very cool.

Maths Tweets

Yes, there is such a thing as fun a mathematics tweet! (And we shorten that to “maths” in New Zealand, not “math”.)


Space Tweets



And more Wow!


Marine Tweets

This is very sad.


A different way of looking at the world.


Other Animals Tweets

This lovely eighteen minute video from Wildlife Aid in England is about the rescue of owlets, a bat, and a fox cub.


Not something I’ve ever seen before!




Insect Tweets

I’ve said this before: insects look like I think aliens will look like.


This is a good looking one!


Not so sure about this one though.

Bird Tweets

I love owls. I hope all these hatch and fledge!


Something else I’d never heard of.


He’s my human. not yours!


Dog Tweets

That’s my bed!!!


Very cute!


A cat wouldn’t have fallen!


What a great gif!


Cat Tweets

The perfect cat house! This is so cool!


Kittens playing! One of the best things in the world!


That look of confusion cats get sometimes is so cute!





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58 Responses to “Homily: Extreme Poverty in the US (plus Tweets)”

  1. Jenny Haniver says:

    I was just going to cite the UN Rapporteur’s report (I heard a radio interview with him today) in response to J.A.M.’s comment yesterday about trickle-down economics, which prompted him to invite you to “come here and see for yourself” — where is the here you’re supposed to come to? The US? Pilkington’s report speaks for itself. LA’s Skid Row is frightening. I’m from LA and recall the old Skid Row, which was there in the 1940s and ’50s. It encompassed a relatively small area, but even then, it was chilling. I’ve since moved away, but returned for a visit and saw it close up about 12 years ago — it had metastasized beyond my imagination and was frightening then. To complicate an already appalling situation, at that time, various municipal agencies and hospitals from other cities were transporting homeless people to LA Skid Row and dumping them, sometimes (from the hospitals) with IVs still attached.

    Of course, J.A.M. would undoubtedly say that poverty in the US, even extreme poverty, is luxurious when compared to poverty in undeveloped countries, so the bums should just be grateful for the social welfare system, which he would advocate dismantling and have Christian churches and other Christian religious bodies provide charity — in exchange for religious brainwashing.

    • Jenny Haniver says:

      Oh, and you’ve got the giant penguin fossil. Amazing. What a movie the march of the giant penguins would be.

    • I have a major problem with religion taking up the slack as most, if not all, have theories about how and why people are in such situations. Many believe things like they’re there because God put them there, they deserve to be there, it’s their own fault they’re there, their situation is the result of their own bad choices, they could get out if they really wanted to etc. They often also have a theory of the “deserving poor” such as in the song sung by Alfred Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’. They’ll only help people they think deserve it. The good thing about help from the government is it treats everyone equally. Those being helped often have to meet responsibilities, but they’re not onerous, or any different to anyone else’s requirements.

      • j.a.m. says:

        @HH: I wonder if you’d be willing to back up that claim, i.e., by citing any reliable evidence whatsoever that (a) the attitudes you ascribe to faith-based service providers are at all prevalent or common, or that (b) their services are in any way inferior to those provided by other organizations and agencies?

      • j.a.m. says:

        The good thing about help from the government is it screws everyone equally. It’s just that some are more equal than others.

        • I never said they were inferior. Some are. Some are excellent. They don’t all have a bad attitude either.

          It’s common though, to expect recipients of help to attend religious services, pray, or accept God into their life. Some won’t help LGBT people. Some proselytize as part of the process. Pregnancy help charities are notorious for telling lies to the vulnerable people who come to them.

          The AA programme and similar ones for drug, gambling etc, for example, are good, but they usually require people to acknowledge the existence of a higher power.

          Quite frankly, I can’t be bothered looking up the details of what some have to say about the Salvation Army.

          We’ve had the discussion before about sexual abuse by religious leaders. One of the reasons that occurs is lack of oversight and an assumption that they can be trusted. Predators are less likely to be employed by government agencies and more likely to be caught and prosecuted. (Even if they’re caught by religion, there’s a history of letting them get away with it. Of course, I can only speak for my own country. Unlike Australia, Great Britain etc, the US has yet to institute a comprehensive study of the sexual abuse of children by religious bodies.

        • Well since your government doesn’t give any help whatsoever to NINE MILLION people, I guess you’re right. That’s a disgrace.

          If those people were given a benefit, instead of a tax cut going to the wealthy, that would be a huge boon to the economy. Poor people spend all their money on real goods (i.e. not the stock market), creating demand. That creates real jobs, higher wages, and reduces the number of people the government needs to support.

  2. colinhutton says:

    “I have little expectation that the Trump administration will address any of the issues”

    And a Clinton administration would have?

    • Yes, I think they would. Not all of them of course. Probably not even a majority. Further, a lot of the issues are down to state governments (both Democratic and Republican). Clinton certainly wouldn’t make things worse, which is happening under Trump and will get significantly worse if his tax programme goes through.

    • Mark R. says:

      One thing is certain, Hillary wouldn’t have hired a dip-shit like Carson to run HUD. Or a hack like DeVoss to run Education, or a Pruitt to run the EPA, or a Mnuchin to run the Treasury or a Gorsuch to round out SCOTUS. Should I go on? You’re comment is simply uninformed and inane.

      • j.a.m. says:

        My point exactly! Thanks!

      • colinhutton says:

        Your responses to me and other commenters do not qualify as discussion, debate or conversation. They amount to no more than strings of un-inventive ad hominems.

        ‘Sad’ – as The Man would tweet.

        btw, you obviously forgot to call me a racist, sexist, fascist, nazi dickhead.

        • Most of us who comment here have had these discussions regularly, including why those people are not appropriate appointments. Mark probably doesn’t realize you’re a first time commenter and therefore don’t have the benefit of previous discussions we’ve had on the topic.

          Your initial comment wasn’t an argument either. Further, we don’t call each other names on this website (although things can get testy sometimes with enough provocation). It’s a place for open, honest discussion. I consider it an extension of my home. You’re free to disagree with me or anyone else, but you should treat others with respect.

  3. Linda Calhoun says:

    “There’s no one in New Zealand who gets nothing. To him, that was surprising and he wished his country was the same. To me it’s surprising that the richest country in the world fails so many of its people.”

    Congress is on the brink of passing its “tax reform” massive giveaway to the rich. They have not renewed CHIP. Orrin Hatch, Senator from UT who was one of the CHIP program’s original authors, said that we don’t have the money for CHIP.

    So, rich folks who don’t need it get more money, and kids lose their healthcare.

    I often wonder if Republicans see anything as an investment, where you put in money now and get savings later. Healthy people cost society less than sick people, and they contribute more. Educated people cost society less and contribute more than uneducated people. Early intervention into potential problem social situations costs less than imprisoning people later on, and those people who become functioning citizens make contributions to society and the economy which more than pay back the cost of the interventions.

    The words “conservation” and “conservative” have the same etymological roots. Interestingly, half a century ago, it was Republicans who were more supportive of the idea of environmental conservation than Democrats. Our now retired Congressman Manuel Lujan, a Republican, had a saying, “Don’t eat the seed corn.”

    When and why all that changed is not a mystery. But the result is that we now have a culture in which cruelty is a feature, not a bug.


    • All those things you say about investing in the future are spot on. As our healthcare is paid for by the government, for example, they are always looking at ways to reduce the cost. To do that, whichever political party is in power goes back to causes. We’re too fat, so children are taught about healthy eating from kindergarten. We smoke too much, which is obviously extremely expensive when it comes to healthcare, so there is a multi-pronged approach including a government funded smoking cessation programme which includes free 24-hour phone counselling, free nicotine patches etc. There’s very much a “fence at the top of the cliff” attitude. It’s multiple times cheaper in multiple ways to invest in prevention.

  4. rickflick says:

    I think poverty in the US is intimately tied to the Christian ethic that was current at the founding of our country. It is also tied to the common-sense notion of free will. These feed into the notion that we are all being tested by an angry God. We are free to chose sin or bow down to the Lord and work hard ’till your boat comes in. Seeing poverty we are assured that it is their own damned fault. If it wasn’t God would have saved them. But he hasn’t, so they must be guilty of sloth. Sloth is one of the seven capital sins. Under materialism, of course, free will is an illusion, and God is less than indifferent. Our fate is predetermined by the laws of physics and is detached from our strength of will. The true duty of mankind is to mankind, not to the nasty man behind the curtain.

    • Robert Ladley says:

      One would hope that the true duty of mankind is to the whole planet and not just one selfish destructive species. I assume this is your intent?

    • I agree completely.

      It becomes obvious when you look at the attitudes of many to the poor somewhere like Africa. They feel sorry for the poor there, but think if the poor in the US with contempt and that it’s their own fault.

  5. Mike Brogan says:

    America is broken,badly,and it is going to get worse now the “big orange blob” is in the WH. Every day he amazes me by still being there,I feel like screaming ,are you blind ? can’t you see this creature from the swamp for what he is.? Thats why America is broken,otherwise there would be someone with some semblance of humanity about them in the WH, instead of this vile empty soulless excuse for a human being.

    • Jenny Haniver says:

      The “big orange blob” I now call Cockwork Orange.

    • It still shocks me every day that tens of millions not only voted for Trump, but continue to think he’s wonderful.

      • j.a.m. says:

        He may not be wonderful, but he’s not Obama or Clinton or Sanders or any of their kooky comrades, and that’s enough. Indeed, from a policy perspective, net-net, the country is far better off.

        • David Coxill says:

          I hope you are joking .

        • Mark R. says:

          Our country’s course of action is taking us into uncharted and dangerous waters. Never a good thing for a ship as large as the United States. This policy-perspective you tout deregulates net-neutrality, takes away healthcare from millions, takes away land and resources from millions, especially Native Americans, weakens the separation of church and state, allows for religious bigotry, impedes higher education, burdens the poor and working poor and middle-class and favors the rich, believes Citizens United is healthy for a democracy, believes the CFPB is bad for consumers, shuns our strategic democratic allies and embraces authoritarians, doesn’t believe in diplomacy, makes it harder and harder to vote, makes it easier and easier to get a gun, corrodes faith in government, provokes divisiveness and instills hate, favors propaganda over truth, favors pollution over progress, favors corporations over people, favors ignorance over reason.

          I blame people like you for the shit-hole America is sinking into.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Okay, and I blame “people like you” back, so where does that leave us?

            Just for grins, is there a single syllable of that little rant that you would change if the White House were occupied by any other non-far-left politician? You seem pretty worked up over the policies, so why the unhealthy obsession with his hair?

    • darrelle says:

      And though Trump is horrid, a gross symptom of the US’s brokenness, the problem is so much bigger. Getting rid of Trump would be a good thing, but by itself it won’t help much. The Republican Party is what needs to die, or be transformed. It is literally killing the US. Sane conservatism should have a place in our politics but the RP, as it is today and has been for nearly 30 years, needs to be destroyed.

      • I agree. It is important to democracy for there to be at least two strong, credible alternatives and for the one in opposition to properly hold the one in government to account, and to be a valid alternative. The GOP didn’t do that in opposition (they were nothing more than spoilers) and are now not providing effective governance.

        One of the reasons Trump was seen as a good potential president was the thought of running government more like a business. If a business was run the way the US government is currently being run, it would be bankrupt in no time.

        • j.a.m. says:

          The difference between the parties has been quite striking during the tax reform debate. When Republican lawmakers are interviewed, they usually give lucid, reasoned, and detailed replies, whereas the Democrats respond with bombastic slogans, hysteria, and hyperbole.

          • I have yet to see a Republican give a reasoned argument. I will admit all the ones I’ve seen have remained calm, but their arguments mostly don’t make sense.

            I have seen some Dems engage in hyperbole too (Nancy Pelosi for example) and that doesn’t help their case. However, there are plenty explaining the situation property.

            And the Dems are clearly winning the argument with the general public as 66% of USians oppose the Bill. The majority aren’t stupid and are able to work out for themselves the problems with the Bill.

            It doesn’t help with the credibility of the Republicans either when Trump keeps saying he will lose money, “Believe me.” The Bill was virtually written for wealthy real estate developers.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Paul Ryan has been making a reasoned case for years, and now is willing to be judged on the results. The contrast with Pelosi could not be more stark.

          • His case is reasoned, but the result of what he wants really would be a few “grandmas off the cliff”. It’s hard not to be outraged by that. Plenty of Republicans don’t want what Paul Ryan wants either.

  6. nicky says:

    That hamster is not actually eating, but stuffing it’s pouches, you can see they extend to it’s hind legs. Impressive!

  7. Mark R. says:

    Thanks for the Hitch photo; I too would have loved to read his commentary on the current state of shit.

    The donors told the Republicans if you don’t give us an ROI, we’re not going to invest in you anymore. Trump’s approval rating is so low and his disapproval so high, they know there is vanishing window to get this done. From their perspective, they have to pass the tax-scam to survive; that’s the Faustian bargain they’ve made. I’m sure they’ll pass it and the stock market will soar and corporations will benefit and the rich will benefit and the deficit will increase by a $trillion and soon there won’t be enough money to allow the 2% and corporations their lavish tax cuts so they’ll have to cut social security, medicare and medicaid to sustain the important wealthy class who we are all beholden to because that’s the poison we’ve been fed. Oligarchies suck.

    • The Republicans know that even amongst their supporters this tax plan is hugely unpopular. Most of them don’t like it themselves. The problem is, they’ve finally got into government and they’re not getting anything done. They have to get some major legislation through just so they can say they achieved something. The fact that the something is likely to screw the country doesn’t seem to bother them. As you say, the stock market will go up giving the illusion of wealth, and those that make the decisions will still have plenty of money. Initially, others will have money too. Then they’ll start losing their jobs, and there will be high inflation and they won’t be able to afford their mortgages. A recession will hit. And when the US catches cold it screws up the whole world. Many countries are still trying to recover from the last financial disaster the US foisted on the world because of the Bush market deregulation.

  8. Lee Knuth says:

    I wonder with all the religious people in the US that there is such poverty and homelessness I. This country. Seems the precepts of religions would be to help those worse off than yourself. The mantra for most is me first and the rest need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This government would rather spend money on defense and subsidies to fossil fuel companies and big ag. than its citizens.

    • As people change and evolve, so does their idea of what God is. It seems God has become one of the new breed of Republicans.

      • David Coxill says:

        The repubs have tied themselves to the christian fundes .
        Remember the time when all those christians were laying hands on the snatch snatcher ,i don’t think he believes in any god ,but anyone wanting the repub ticket has to at the very least pay lip service to the rightit wingnut fundies .

        • So much for no religious test for office! I thought that was one of the advantages of escaping the Brits! The queen is still nominally our head of state, but our parliament is chocka with atheists, LGBT people, and people from non-Christian religions (e.g. Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Rastafarian).

  9. j.a.m. says:

    We love comparing country rankings here at Homilies, so it’s worth noting that the USA ranks ahead of every country but France in total net social spending as a percent of GDP, which takes into account the effect of tax policy. (New Zealand comes in at 26th.) The new tax law doubles the child tax credit, so perhaps we’ll push past the French. (This amounts to a direct cash payment for those who pay no federal income tax, which happens to be half of the population.)

    Also worth noting that taxes in the USA are among the most progressive, with just 17% of revenues derived from consumption (OECD average 32%), and 40% from personal income (OECD average 24%).

    • Yeah, well you spend more on healthcare than everyone else too. You’re still dying faster than the rest of the OECD and you have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. It’s not just what you spend, it;s how you spend it.

      • j.a.m. says:

        “It’s not just what you spend, it’s how you spend it.”

        Now you sound like a conservative Republican. Maybe we’re getting somewhere after all.

        We spend more on health care because we subsidize much of the world’s R&D. You’re welcome.

    • David Coxill says:

      The USA leads the world in only one thing ,the number of it’s citizens it puts in jail.

  10. j.a.m. says:

    Sounds like Mueller may be more urgently needed in New Zealand:

    “China’s covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities in New Zealand are now
    at a critical level… [The impact] on New Zealand democracy has been profound: a curtailing of freedom of speech, religion, and association for the ethnic Chinese community, a silencing of debates on China in the wider public sphere, and a corrupting influence on the political system through the blurring of personal, political and economic interests. Small states such as New Zealand are particularly vulnerable to foreign interference: the media has limited resources and lacks competition; the tertiary education sector is small and—despite the laws on academic freedom—easily intimidated or coopted.”

    • Here we go again. Even if this is accurate, two wrongs don’t make a right. You can’t keep defending poor behaviour and governance by your president by pointing out failures elsewhere. It doesn’t work that way.

      • j.a.m. says:

        The difference is that in the the above case, there appears to be something that actually needs investigating.

        • There is an enormous amount that needs investigating re Russian involvement in the US elections. I assume you’re smart enough to recognize that is beyond doubt. Further than that, we currently have no hard evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with those efforts. However, we do have several smoking guns. Whether or not there was collusion, it does seem clear to me that the fake news put out by Russian bots influenced the thinking of a lot of people. Some of that fake news was being spread by people close to the campaign, such as Michael Flynn’s son spreading the ridiculous pizza shop paedophile ring ring story. And we know people believed that stuff because someone turned up with a gun to “protect the kids.”

          I didn’t read the link to the NZ thing you provided, but I assume it’s about things like NZ Chinese from groups like Falun Gong not being able to protest when Chinese officials come here. NZers are aware this happens and are generally pretty disgusted by it. When that happens, it is widely reported, including on the 6 o’clock news, which is by far the highest rating TV show in the country. NZers are politically aware, and not just about our own country. There were anecdotal accounts of many people in Alabama not even being aware there was an election last week. We knew about it. What was going on played out on our 6 o’clock news. We knew all the ins and outs of Brexit too and had strong opinions about it. How many USians even knew what that was? When you look at Freedom of Speech indices, we do a lot better than the US too. You really don’t need to worry about NZers being generally aware of what’s going on in the world.

          In addition, no one in NZ gets all their news from a biased source. News has a requirement to be genuinely fair and balanced. It is possible to argue that at least one of our two main 6 o’clock news shows has a slight left-wing bias, but it’s much less watched than the other, they’re constantly having to apologize, everyone is aware of it so most choose not to watch it, and few people get all their news from that one source anyway.

          • j.a.m. says:

            The policy paper cited above (dated November 14, 2017, authored by Professor Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, under the auspices of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program) calls for three investigations. Quote:

            – The new Minister of SIS must instruct the SIS to engage in an in-depth investigation of China’s subversion and espionage activities in New Zealand.
            – The Prime Minister should instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to follow Australia’s example and engage in an in-depth inquiry into China’s political influence activities in New Zealand.
            – The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs should instruct the Commerce Commission to investigate the CCP’s interference in our Chinese language media sector—which breaches our monopoly laws and our democratic requirement for a free and independent media.

            Wouldn’t one think this would have shown up in the news?

            As for Russian “involvement” in the USA, “involvement” is a very broad term.

            You don’t need an investigation to know that the Russians, the Chinese, and all kinds of adversaries and evildoers are constantly trying to mess with us, and that protecting critical infrastructure requires constant vigilance.

            You don’t need an investigation to know that the Internet enables anyone anywhere to disseminate disinformation instantly and globally. Alas, there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

            The investigations into purported “collusion” have been going on for a year with little to show besides intriguing revelations about the investigators’ partisan leanings and about the bungled Clinton e-mail investigation. At this rate these investigations seem likely to turn out a crashing bore.

          • Well yes, those things have shown up in our news. As I said, NZers knare aware of the issues, though obviously not to the depth of the professor.

            You think Russian involvement is obvious, but Trump continues to deny it. Despite the threat to your democracy, he hasn’t held one cabinet level meeting regarding stopping it for the next election.

            And the genie can he put back in the bottle. Look what France did when Russia interfered in their election!

            There’s not little to show. There have been several arrests and guilty pleas. There’s clearly more to come. The partisan leanings are a fantasy. There was even a fu€kwit on Fox News saying the whole FBI should be disbanded! FFS!

            Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingram, and Sean Hannity are not people whose theories you should listen to. They’re blind incapable of seeing fault when it comes to Trump. They’re barely a step up from Alex Jones.

          • j.a.m. says:

            First of all, regarding cybersecurity, my point is that it should be happening anyway on a continuous basis — it’s a broader and more immediate concern than just elections. (That’s what’s so absurd about blaming the Russians because John Podesta — a guy who’s worked steps from the Oval Office in two administrations, and was hoping for a third — couldn’t be trusted to hold on to his own password. You have to conclude that Podesta was at least as much a risk as Putin.)

            By genie out of the bottle, I mean the ability for anyone anywhere to disseminate disinformation instantly and globally. When governments do it, then maybe other governments can punish them, but that still leaves millions of potential malefactors out there across the world. That’s the nature of the Internet, for good or ill, and that’s the world we live in. If that’s a threat to democracy, then (again) it’s a bigger problem than Putin.

            There’s nothing in the few charges lodged to date about conspiracy or collusion, and indeed the most serious charges have nothing to do with the Trump campaign or the election.
            The lamestream anti-Trump papers and channels seem to be running on fumes. But perhaps a shoe will fall yet. We shall see.

          • There should be a constant investigation, but there isn’t. The US would be well advised to invest more in that and less in hardware.

            As for Podesta being as dangerous as Putin, that’s ridiculous. Podesta was incompetent when it came to internet security despite repeated warnings. Putin’s attacks are active, deliberate, widespread, planned, and strategic. He’s not the only one of course. China and North Korea in particular are also very dangerous adversaries when it comes to cyber-security. There are many others.

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