7 things @ 9 o’clock (9.13)

1. Friday the 13th: A Ghost Story. Somewhere in America, tonight:

Those who have witnessed it firsthand are, for obvious reasons, reluctant to talk about it. You’ll never see them publicly recounting their tales in front of the cameras and the microphones. These are not stories they are eager to tell.

But one hears whispers, rumors, stories told by the friends of friends. And those whispers, rumors and stories are too numerous and too eerily similar to be dismissed.

Something is happening. Something, it seems, happens every Friday the 13th, just before midnight.

The stories begin right around the turn of the 20th century, with the earliest reference I can find coming from August of 1897. …

2. FloridaFloridaFloridaFloridaFloridaFlorida. Florida.

3. The Washington Post reviews I, Saul, by Jerry Jenkins and James McDonald, calling it a “less-fun Da Vinci Code”: “Paul is indeed an intriguing character, but I, Saul doesn’t break new ground in terms of better understanding the historical figure. And it doesn’t help that the 2,000-year-old characters talk (and pray) exactly like the present-day ones.”

It’s Friday the 13th. It’s not a dream.

4. Religious liberty! Feel the freedom.

5. Most of what we drink here in America has added sugar. That’s true not just of fizzy soda, but also of fruit juice. You can get the all-natural, no-sugar-added, fresh-squeezed, not-from-concentrate variety, but it costs twice as much.

And but so, the working poor who get SNAP benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) don’t have a separate set of healthier beverage options available to them than the rest of us. “Researchers found that 58 percent of all refreshment beverages purchased by SNAP participants were for sugar-sweetened beverages such as regular soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks.” Is that more or less than the percentage of “refreshment beverages” purchased by non-participants? The researchers do not say. They’re not interested in scolding the rest of us for our beverage choices — their condescension and resentment is focused exclusively on the working poor.

It’s a terrific bit of “research,” too, since no matter what, we get to judge the poor, condemning them for whatever they drink. Do they buy the cheap stuff? Well, then, we’ll wag our finger at them for consuming too many “sugar-sweetened beverages.” Do they choose the more expensive healthy stuff? Well, then, we can sniff at those uppity poors fleecing the investment-class with their fresh juices and artisanal teas and Perrier.

And then, if you work for The Hill, you can take this research and lie to make it sound even worse — twisting that 58 percent into something else entirely and reporting that “more than half of all SNAP benefits are used to buy sugary drinks.” Turns out that 58 percent of beverage purchases works out to more like 3 percent of total SNAP money spent, but that doesn’t matter to these folks. What matters is that they resent the poor and they’re losing sleep over the possibility that some of the people they’ve trapped in dead-end, $7.25/hour jobs might still be pulling a fast one by occasionally quenching their thirst with something that tastes good. How dare they?

6. Charles Koch is a jerk. A complete knee-biter.

7. On NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Terry Gross interviews Barton Gellman about the leaks by Edward Snowden and what we’ve learned about the NSA.

It’s a good overview of the story — where things stand and how we got there — without having to read around quite so much Glenn! Greenwald!

 

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Seems like a thousand years to go
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Sunday favorites
Smart people saying smart things (4.26)
  • Panda Rosa

    I’ve been looking forward to Friday the 13th, very curious as to whom the crusading spirit of Frederick Douglas will appear, blazing up like justice.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    At a guess, Ted Cruz.

  • Abel Undercity

    It takes Augie 148 pages to get to Italy…

    Yup, that’s our guy.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Most of the things I can think of that would be less fun than reading “The Da Vinci Code” would involve hot pokers.

    However, it’s funny that Zipp compares “I, Saul” to “The DaVinci Code,” since one of the things I’ve noticed about the Langdonverse is that Paul seems to be completely absent from the Langdonverse version of church history. For example, Silas seems to be in prison without Paul in Acts 16 — TDVC references *a* prisoner who was singing praises to God in *his* cell and escaped after an earthquake. Paul never did his missionary work either, since, IIRC, the spread of Christianity is owed to Peter moving right from Judea to Rome and starting the RCC (let’s just leave aside for the moment how successful that endeavor would be).

  • flat

    You know I am pretty sure that Yvonne Zipp has been reading slacktivist, there are too many inside jokes about jenkins.

  • John Alexander Harman

    As well she should; Fred’s “Left Behind” posts probably constitute well over 50% of all the literary analysis that’s been written about the execrable works of Jerry B. Jenkins.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of Friday the 13th, the Unluckiest Flight Ever? :P

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Hah, that’s great. Hopefully it’ll be nice and turbulence free.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Dear Boyfriend flew down today because it was dirt cheap due to the date. He didn’t have any issues.

  • J_Enigma32

    #5

    I’m very bitter about how the working poor and just straight up poor are treated. I hear the lies over and over again about “driving Cadillacs” and “wearing Jordons”. And I see those stupid poster memes, “I’m not for helping Lazy People” and “If you can afford a tattoo you don’t belong on welfare”. I’ve seen people whining about poor with phones, throwing a temper tantrum because “You can’t afford 3 bucks a week to give your kid for lunch” so we have to pay for their free lunches? (when the math adds that up to anywhere from 45-60 dollars a month).

    And they always known someone who’s see it. You argue and say that you’ve never seen that happen, but hey, what do you know, they do – first hand or third hand, but they’ve got anecdotal proof that because one person is abusing the system, everyone is and the system needs to be taken down because “my tax dollars” or something.

    Them: “Man, I’m so sick of these people with these expensive shoes on welfare and getting their kids these lunches at school. I work hard for what I make.”

    Me: “What if the shoes were a gift by someone who had the money? What if they bought the shoes when the times were better, when they had a better paying job they don’t have anymore?”

    Them: “Then they should sell the shoes. If they loved their kids, they’d sell ’em.”

    Me: “That’s brilliant. Those shoes would sell now for what, 3, 4 dollars at a garage sale? Maybe 10? Lunch for your kid adds up to 15 dollars a week, at 3 dollars a day – and the only reason it costs 3 dollars a day is because the government subsidizes it – so selling your shoes leaves you barefoot and doesn’t even pay for week’s worth of school lunches. That’s some sound logic right there.”

    Them: “Man, those sell for more than that on Ebay or Amazon.”

    Me: “And what’s that require? A computer, an internet connection and a monthly IP service. I’m sure you’re willing to subsidize that so they can sell a pair of shoes, make 20 dollars, and have their kid’s lunch covered for half a month so you don’t have to pay for it. Oh, but then you’d kvetch about them having a computer and IP connection, wouldn’t you?”

    —-

    My personal favorite is the whining about tattoos. There’s this notion that people can only get tattoos when they’re on welfare immediately after they get on welfare, and there was no possible way for them to have gotten the tattoo before they were on welfare, or for the tattoo to have been paid for by someone with money (like a significant other before they broke up).

    You just don’t know the stories behind people. This hatred of the poor is based off assumptions and nothing else; you assume that they did this, you assume that they did that, you assume, assume, assume. This is truly a case where you’re spelling assume with the emphasis on the first four letters.

  • Sue White

    Heck, maybe they got those shoes at Goodwill.
    Apparently some people think that a person should be literally spending their last dollar on food before they’re eligible for benefits.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think it’s because resentment and anger can actually feel good when you express them. I’m not sure why, as it seems very counterproductive to staying on an even keel, but there are many evolutionary holdovers from our hunter-gatherer and early agrarian days that clearly offered survival advantage at the time but no longer do today in a world that could, given the right impetus, evolve into effective post-scarcity.

    I assume being upset that someone else or something else grabbed what you thought was yours was survival promoting since it gave a reason to keep one’s food or drink to oneself, but that fact of life hasn’t been true for at least a couple of centuries, since the invention of economic systems for distribution of food and other resources that don’t depend on subsistence lifestyles, although it could be argued that it hasn’t been true since the rise of region-spanning empires, which required a surplus of food over and above subsistence needs.

    In any case, the unfortunate problem is that some people just don’t care to examine why they resent people who have so little, and I think it comes down to a combination of it feels good at the time, and buying into a socio-cultural gestalt that abhors the visible transfer of “free stuff” to a selected group of people when others have to pay the full freight.

    (Which conveniently ignores how corporate tax preferences and the dividend tax preferences constitute a gigantic benefit to the wealthy and represent “free stuff” being handed from workers – blue and white collar both – to the rich. But since it’s invisible at first glance…)

  • dpolicar

    resentment and anger can actually feel good when you express them. I’m not sure why

    Well, one possible answer is that many people were raised in, and continue to live in, environments in which expressions of resentment and anger are one of the most powerful and effective ways they have of affecting their environment. E.g., in many settings asking politely for what they want gets ignored, but THROWING A FUCKING TANTRUM UNTIL THEY GODDAMNED WELL GET WHAT THEY WANT!!! gets responded to… often with accommodation.

    And having our requests responded to and our desires accommodated is typically rewarding.

    Whether it provides advantage in the long run or not in the modern era, I don’t know. I like to think not, since I personally find that sort of thing unpleasant to be around, let alone participate in. But the world is full of effective long-term strategies I find unpleasant.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It is ironic that acting that way often gets spineless managers of retail stores stabbing their employee(s) in the back and bending store policy until it breaks in the name of “happy customers”, so you may be onto something about the default response being to squall like a stuck pig until the world re-forms itself for one’s own benefit.

  • dpolicar

    It routinely makes me very sad.

    But, yeah, exactly.

  • Asha

    I hate that. I genuinely, truly hate that. Because I can’t do something for a person who wants to follow the rules, but it saves me having to explain myself, but if that person had pushed I could have gotten away with doing something.

    But then there are entitled assholes I have to be nice to because they are entitled assholes. Customer service jobs suck.

  • arcseconds

    I’ve got one happy(ish) story along these lines.

    An acquaintance of mine was on a helpdesk at a university, and had to deal with an extremely trying person who wouldn’t listen to reason and ended up yelling at him. Apparently she had also rung several other people (department administrators, another helpdesk, etc) with essentially the same complaint (something about a course she thought she was enrolled in not appearing on a website somewhere where she expected, and she took this as evidence she had been dropped from the course without notification. There was a perfectly mundane explanation, which she refused to listen to). One person she verbally abuse broke down in tears and was allowed to go home.

    Eventually the dean phoned her, and told her her behaviour was absolutely unacceptable, and if she continued, she would be hauled before the disciplinary committee.

  • Hth

    Even more simply, game theory and research about ethics among both humans and animals provides tons of evidence that a sense of fair play is deeply, deeply wired into all social species. It keeps us functional, and we will very often choose to take a slight hit ourselves in order to make sure that those we perceive as cheaters are punished.

    I’m not saying the US working poor are cheaters; far from it. That’s a terrible lie. But if you grow up surrounded by that lie, in a culture that takes it as an obvious, given truth, then there’s no reason you *wouldn’t* be angry about all that cheating happening right under your nose. It would be baffling if people weren’t furious.

    Us liberals are pretty resentful of cheaters, too. We just identify different people as the con artists, and we’re fortunate enough not to have to scrape together a lot of bogus or out-of-context data in order to do so. Being on the side of reality-based truth is convenient that way.

  • dpolicar

    I agree with basically everything you say here, except maybe “more simply.” It seems unrelated to what I quoted IN as saying and was responding to, but that’s fine.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Orthogonal”.

    *twitch*

    Language does not inhabit an abstract vector space.

  • dpolicar

    OK. Edited accordingly.

  • Erl

    The hell it doesn’t! :P

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Please, show me how to diagonalize a language.

    No, seriously. This habit of using geometrical and mathematical language to express opposition of ideas or differences of ideas is a bit absurd, because concepts don’t exist at angles with respect to one another. They don’t exhibit positions in physical nearness or farness from one another. They don’t even behave like they’re in Hilbert space*.


    * Hilbert space is an abstraction, but it lets you set up vectors (think “pointy arrows”) that have properties which work well for quantum mechanics. While wavefunctions don’t physically exhibit themselves the way probabilities do, they do have definite mathematical propertes that correspond to orthogonality and overlap.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Well yeah. That’s why it’s a metaphor, not the exact same thing…

  • Alix

    Also, there’s such a thing as language drift. Definitions aren’t static things.

  • Monala

    I wonder if it’s because there’s this myth of self-sufficiency that many Americans buy into, even when the reality is so different.

    I am reminded of the “Booky” movies I watched with my daughter, about a spunky girl growing up in a poor family in Toronto during the Depression. Her parents are Welsh immigrants who repeat to her over and over that they work hard and don’t take charity from anyone. But while they do work hard, they most definitely take charity – they get food from a food bank, get health care at a charity hospital, and the kids get free lunch from the Toronto schools.

    And when Booky is forbidden to get the free lunch anymore after making fun of how nasty it tastes, her parents are outraged and raise a big stink until the school re-instates her. In other words, the reality was entirely different from the family self-sufficiency myth the parents drilled into their kids over and over.

    Booky is portrayed as a talented writer, her brother as a talented artist, and her sister as a really smart kid who wants to be a doctor. Because the story seemed so much like fictionalized family memoir, I kept wondering if the real people on whom the story was based succeeded in their dreams. If so, did they become the kinds of people who insisted that they had made it on their own, so why can’t other people, since that’s what the family myth told them?

  • dpolicar

    Yeah.

    For my part, I don’t have a problem with cultural myths; they are a concrete way of expressing and reinforcing cultural ideals and values, whether they’re literally true or not.

    And I don’t have a problem with the myth of individual achievement. It’s a fine thing to value.

    I just wish my culture could reliably also embrace the myth/value of mutual support, rather than stay stuck in this weird place where the two are treated as opposed.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The Booky stories are semiautobiographical in nature. During her childhood, their author, Bermice Thurman Hunter, once read some of her writing to Lucy Maud Montgomery, who praised her imagination and abilities, but told her that she must go to university, which was out of her family’s ability to afford As a result, she never even attempted to become published until after her children were born.

    She was one of five children, but I have not been able to find what happened to her siblings. The closest I can come is that someone may have made a donation in her brother Gordon’s memory to the Sunnybrook Hospital Foundation.

  • J_Enigma32

    Humans are actually unique in this aspect; behaviorally speaking, we’re a combination of the chimpanzee and the bonobo, our to nearest relatives. Humans are used to working with members of their tribe to ensure survival; you get sick, your tribe will take care of you. You get hurt, your tribe will take care of you. Your tribe will place a value on your life that increases the older you get, due to wisdom/knowledge/forethought/[insert abstract quality here].

    Everything is done at a tribe level. As far as intratribe behavior goes, humans are pretty similar to bonobos. We don’t really mind if someone from our tribe borrows money from us, because we know we’ll either end up borrowing it back and then some or we’ll get it back some other way. There’s not a lot of intratribe conflict – in fact, humans put social measures in place to prevent intratribe conflict.

    It’s Intertribe where we start to see the more chimpanzee-like behavior. And that basically amounts to “you can’t trust them, they’re shifty”, and all of the conflict that humans are notorious for. My completely unscientific opinion on the matter is that this behavior is atavistic in nature; they’re more than happy to justify it when people from their own tribe are benefiting, because to them, that’s a non-zero sum. They can get that stuff back through intratribal trading and relationships. But when an opponent’s tribe are benefiting, all of a sudden it becomes a zero-sum game because they view the opponent’s tribe as a major threat to their established existence.

    Humans are an interesting species to study. I call this behavior atavistic because as a species, through urban living, we’re actually in the process of taming ourselves; that is, humans are domesticating the human species. This domestication process is ultimately breeding out the natural tribalism that humans have – see how rates of patriotism have actually fallen, as well as church attendance, in younger generations (nationalism and religion are two huge tribal markers; abandoning those means you’re abandoning quite a bit of the social tribe in favor of a different type of existence). Those who have the misfortune of displaying this atavistic tendency, however, will do no such thing, and they’ll buckle down to reinforce their boundaries and barriers. That’s what we’re seeing here; an attempt to reinforce the boundaries and the tribal markers. And they’re looking for anything that doesn’t associate the individual with their tribe to justify their atavistic behavior.

    At least, that’s my take on it. I do believe I read somewhere that self-righteousness triggers the same chemical process in the brain as getting high on any variety of drugs, so it’s just as likely what you said – they’re self-righteous anger junkies.

  • Drow

    That is a pretty interesting idea, and some of it definitely has plenty of support (the “intertribal zero-sum outlook” explains an outright tragic amount). I’m not sure about the ultimate result hypothesis, though, save maybe in a limited perspective. As I understand it, on a global scale religious identification is actually increasing, with the hypothesis being that it’s related to globalization making former cultural borders (particularly national borders) more translucent. It’s not necessarily related to intertribal relations (save as a reaction to outside forces perceived as trying to homogenize their image out of existence; the CocaCola-ization, if you will), but more to maintaining an identity as a distinct tribe. Human nature being what it is, this can certainly involve some level of “other-ization,” in which case I’d put forward that it’s going strong and not necessarily going away.

    Also, now you’ve suddenly gotten me curious as to the way bonobos and common chimps behave intertribally and intratribally, respectively.

  • arcseconds

    I dunno, I’m always a bit suspicious about this kind of speculation about what psychological thingies we have lingering from our evolutionary past. Often it seems an exercise in reifying prejudices about human nature — often the ones which hold we’re innately selfish and aggressive, which is vaguely where you’re going at the moment. (I appreciate you wouldn’t go that far, but it’s worth noting the similarities with those that would)

    (Of course, there’s also the opposite prejudice, that we’re all ‘naturally’ sharing and caring, but people who hold this prejudice also tend to think everything’s cultural, which I suppose is where I’m vaguely going at the moment…)

    There are many reasons to be suspicious, but one of the biggest problems in my view is that ‘innate’ traits often require very specific development environments to be realised. Language is a dramatic example: the ability to speak (or sign, or write) a human language is to some extent innate (there are specialised areas of the brain for it, etc.), but if you don’t have a very specific kind of development environment around you (i.e. one where you can interact with language speakers) sometime before you are 12 or so, you won’t ever be able to acquire language.

    This makes for a huge potential pitfall when looking at psychological traits we have now and trying to reason as to how they would work out in the ‘ancestral environment’. To do so is making the assumption that the psychological traits we have are robust with respect to different development environments, and that’s a gratuitous assumption.

    In this particular case, we know that human societies exhibit an extremely wide variety of attitudes to ‘mine-ness’; from selfishness and property paranoia that would make a libertarian blush (in some societies your family will just be let to starve if it can’t provide for itself, even if others are doing OK), to almost complete nonchalance.

    So while I don’t deny that there’s probably something we could call an innate proclivity to territorialism, it can’t be as simple as ‘someone has taken my thing, therefore rage’. What counts as your thing, what counts as someone taking it, and what the appropriate response is are all so thoroughly culturally determined, so we face a lot of difficulty separating out the ‘innate’ trait from its culturally-determined manifestations, if indeed it is really possible to do this at all. We face even greater difficulties in knowing how it was manifested in past societies earlier in our evolutionary history, hence it is going to be extremely difficult to have an account of its selection that’s any better than guesswork.

    Assuming you’re right and it is a reaction to property norms being infringed, though, this does raise some interesting questions. Why do they regard poor people spending any money at all on all but the most spartan necessities as a form of theft? Why do they respond to this with outrage and entrenched selfishness (i.e. why is that the culturally-appropriate response)?

    Also, societies where there’s no expectation to help starving or poor people often live in harsh environments. Is this what’s going on here? If so, why are they acting like they’re living in a harsh environment when in fact they’re (in many cases) living in clement climates in technologically advanced societies with massive amounts of resources?

    I’m going to suggest another possibility, one that has been mentioned before, that this is not so much about property, but about hierarchy. Poor people are bad, worthless sorts who don’t deserve anything. Them having something is almost a form of challenge, like not offering the right forms of submissive behaviour (cowering, tail between the legs, bowing and scraping, not looking you in the eye). This has the advantage of explaining why corporate welfare isn’t a problem: rich people are good, worthy sorts who deserve everything that’s going. Approving of their wealth is the right sort of submissive behaviour.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    This is one reason I’m grateful IL recently changed the LINK card* so that it really does look like an ordinary debit card now. Before it was so blatantly obvious “I’m using government benefits to buy this food here, please be a judgmental asswipe about what I have in my cart, thank you.”

    It used to be, to avoid problems, I’d either use the self checkout (which could take awhile given that I sometimes have a full cartload of food) or I’d have to sort of do this palm trick with my card so you could only see the back of it (which looked like the back of any debit card).

    You can still tell I’m using my LINK card if I’m buying anything other than food since I have to swipe a second card after the first, but I feel less vulnerable. (I have serious anxiety issues so even when no one says anything I feel like everyone is staring at me. Last time I was at the store there was a problem and the clerk said “Try your food card again”; and the lady behind me harumphed loudly – which was… yeah. Pardon me for eating food. She was probably pissed I was feeding my cats with my regular money too!)

    *The LINK card is where they put your SNAP benefits in IL, as well as cash assistance and I think a few other kinds of benefits; I’m only eligible for SNAP so I’m a little hazy on what all can go on there.

  • Sue White

    You’re probably lucky you’re not in PA – the EBT card works pretty much like a debit card, except that they are such sucky cards that they usually don’t scan, and the cashier has to type in the rather long account number by hand.

    Oh, and for some reason, the card didn’t always recognize energy drinks as food. But it paid for candy and (I think) gum, go figure.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Eugh, that would be terrible The LINK card usually scans fine – especially the new ones thankfully. Never tried buying energy drinks myself, but I have found it amusing (and strange) some of the things I can and can’t buy. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes I just scratch my head and move along. Thankfully I get disability too so when something isn’t covered I can usually plug the holes.

    (I’m absurdly lucky – and equally grateful – to have a mom who actually understands my mental health problems and is willing to let me live here; I have stability people in my income bracket/mental health bracket most people don’t have. Unlike most I have the luxury of working on getting better instead of just surviving. I guess I mention that because I am so damned grateful and I don’t want anyone thinking I’m doing poorly for myself or anything; I’m actually in an exceptionally good position despite my really low income. … I’m yammering, sorry.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I wonder if they’re purposely made crappily just to fuck with people who have to use them.

    I swear, every little thing that’s done to nickel and dime or otherwise inconvenience ordinary people trying to get through their day ends up originating from someone in charge thinking, “How much of an asshole can I be today?”

  • Jim Roberts

    They’re crappy because the job of making them is given to the lowest bidder, with no regard for quality. It’s worse than loathing, it’s apathy.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That being said, that reminds me of the time someone outlined for me a possible scenario as to how banks could use their computer systems to purposely stiff account holders by taking advantage of the ignorance of the computer programmer contractors. I think the example went, “now can you make it so that when we order transactions we put X before Y in the database because we classify things alphabetically?” while obscuring the fact that debits are X and credits are Y so come 12:01 AM all the debits get run through first which increases the statistical probability that the bank can ding a person’s account for overdrafts before the credits go in next.

  • Jim Roberts

    That’s still apathy, though. There’s no one steepling fingers and cackling at the pain that causes, there’s just someone in a boardroom thinking about how they can make more money and coming up with a way to get more overdraft fees.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    But that also requires actively refusing to consider that they are going to inconvenience a lot of people in the name of making a bigger profit.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    They don’t see us as people, just numbers in a ledger.

  • SkyknightXi

    And yet it’s not good training of the psyche to treat even numbers like that. Even if the numbers can’t feel pain, what sort of habit are you making yourself cleave to?

  • chgo_liz

    Which reminds me: there were two people plus the supervisor in one department of the bank who were responsible for going through the computer printout (this was awhile back; perhaps now it’s all done on screen) every morning to check for special customers (business and individual) who were on that overdrawn list. Those customers would get personal phone calls to check what was going on and how would they like it handled, and their fees would be waived.

    Just saying.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    My bank has a hard overdrawn limit. You’re either funded or you have no funds. So checks will be returned NSF or not returned.

  • chgo_liz

    That’s the norm, sure. But your bank has a short list of customers who get special treatment….I can almost guarantee it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh, I’m sure. It’s just that up here I’ve not heard of the American practice of setting “soft” overdrawn limits such that checks still clear but then the account holder gets dinged the $20 NSF fee anyway.

  • Jim Roberts

    Special treatment is definitely a thing, and it stinks.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And that is the difference between Aristos and Serfs.

  • Jim Roberts

    Or just not entering it into the calculation.

  • chgo_liz

    I used to be an officer at a bank. That is exactly how it’s done: debits are put through first, to give the bank every opportunity to charge overdraft fees.

    I wonder if they explained the scenario they were looking for so obliquely to you because they were afraid a computer programmer might side with the minions and put in some code to offset the situation.

    edited to add: this was written first, before my comment above. It says a lot about how much I value Slacktivist that I’m willing to suffer Disqus in order to be part of the conversation.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Actually ISTR it was right here on Slacktivist that someone explained in generalities how a bank could use the ignorance of computer programmers to implement an algorithm that maximizes overdraft probability.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Basically the perennial difficulty of writing software for hire is that the people who want your product, not being engineers themselves, don’t think like engineers, and therefore are not able to properly specify what they want. A lot of the time, they don’t even know exactly what they want. At the same time, the software engineers are engineers, and not subject matter experts in whatever the program is going to be about, so they won’t know what’s important. Even when dealing with very technical people, I often run into the problem of having delivered a product, only to have someone come back and say “Oh, I just assumed it would also [thing which not only was not specified, but is utterly anathema to the fundamental design of the tool].”

    So you end up in situations where the bankers contracting for the software would never even think that they had to tell the developer what order to do the transactions without being asked (Because the whole idea that the transaction gets held until midnight and then they all get processed at once is really a step removed from their perception of it), and the developer would never even think that the order might matter without being told (Because they’re thinking in terms of the final answer being what matters).

    Of course, this being banks, I’m more inclined to imagine they do it on purpose to be evil. Especially since they used to do this crap on just as grand or grander a scale before everything was automated (Though back then, it was all very obvious and up-front. They’d process debits immediately and deposits took several days. Everyone knew this and planned accordingly when they were able. And they only tracked it to the day, not on a transaction-by-transaction basis.)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    As a guy who’s performed unnatural acts with software for 30+ years, never underestimate the “But Everybody Knows THAT!” factor.

  • Oswald Carnes

    One of my roommates* was approved for SNAP a couple of weeks ago. Late last week he got the PIN number but is still waiting for the card, and this is all about two months after he originally applied. Lucky for him he’s welcome to eat the food I buy, but it makes me shudder thinking what truly desperate people must go through.
    (*And by roommate I mean “one of the two guys I’ve lived with and mostly supported without government or any other aid for the past 22 years, but neither of whom are romantically involved with me or each other, but all 3 of us will probably end up spending the rest of our lives together because we really do love each other that much.” I wish I could come up with a better word than “roommate” to describe that relationship. Roommate seems so disposable, but nothing else seems to fit.)

  • themunck

    Heterosexual life partners? Or the classic “Best Friends”?

  • Oswald Carnes

    “Best Friends” seems like hijacking a term that usually means something else. Hetero life partner probably comes closest, except what with me being the homo of the group and all. Maybe this is one of those situations where labels just don’t work and people who don’t know us well enough to know that “roommate” is a pretty weak description don’t really need to know any more.

  • dpolicar

    I’m fond of “life partner,” personally.
    Yes, I understand people will assume a romantic connection. They’ll be wrong.
    These things happen.

  • Lori

    At least here in Indiana the truly desperate can walk into their appointment at FSSA and walk out with a temporary card with their first month’s benefits loaded and ready to use. The permanent card comes in a couple weeks. The less desperate generally get the card in 2-3 weeks.

  • Kirala

    Considered the term “brother”? That could work.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    The first time I applied for SNAP, it took the local department of social services so long to deal with my application that by the time I got my benefits, I received something like $900 in benefits for all the months I’d been waiting. That ended up being a very good time to stock up on canned goods and spices!

  • Lori

    I doubt that it’s a case of doing it on purpose to fuck with people. Malice isn’t remotely necessary to explain it. They care a lot about keeping the state’s costs as low as possible and not at all about the experience of the users.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    One might posit a corollary to Hanlon’s Razor that applies broadly to the actions of conservatives vis a vis the poor:

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by cupidity and callousness.

    (Possibly more useful in its Gray’s Law analogue, “Sufficiently advanced callousness is indistinguishable from mallice”)

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    I’ve never had a problem with the EBT “Independence” card we use in Maryland to receive SNAP benefits. Well, almost never–there’s one local store where one of the machines occasionally freezes up when somebody uses the card and I always double-check my new balance to make sure the machine didn’t charge me twice (that happened once).

    Maybe it’s because Maryland is such a strongly Democratic state, but the card really isn’t any worse than your average debit card. On the other hand, it is a highly visible shade of bright orange which could be embarrassing if you’re surrounded by judgmental people waiting to pounce on you for buying food that tastes good. But in my experience, the only people who recognize those bright orange cards are the people who use them and the people who accept them as payment.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    the card didn’t always recognize energy drinks as food

    SNAP benefits are meant to pay for food, but not nutritional supplements. If the energy drinks had a “Nutrition Facts” label, they should have been covered as those items are considered food. But if the energy drinks had a “Supplement Facts” label, then SNAP wouldn’t pay for them. All of which means that, yes, SNAP will pay for ordinary chewing gum, but not gum that’s been fortified with vitamins that make it into a “supplement” rather than a food.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The sheer nitpicky asininity of those kind of regulations has to beat the angels on the head of a pin way in which the Canadian GST is NOT applied to fruit drinks unless they are processed and mixed in a combination only understandable to the authorities in Revenue Canada.

    Par exemple: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/hst-takes-a-sweet-and-sour-approach-to-food/article4189904/

  • Sue White

    I figured it must have been something like that. But I never read the labels on the cans, so I never knew which energy drinks were going to be rejected by the card. And the customers didn’t know either, since the energy drinks were usually displayed in the cooler next to the regular beverages.

  • train_star

    Does it help to know that there are other people who use multiple cards to buy things? I used four different cards on a trip recently.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    That does help in fact My anxiety disorder is so frustrating since it blows really minor stuff wayyyyy out of proportion.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I have taken all kinds of split payments in my job at the pharmacy at Walmart. I have people who ask to put some purchases on one card and others on a different one; customers who want to pay a certain percentage in cash and some on a card, or on several different cards. I’ve even had people split payments between cash and a check.

  • Katie

    I’m glad that they’ve fixed SNAP*, you have NO IDEA how much I wish they’d do the same thing with WIC**. For those who are unfamiliar with the system you get a set of “checks” for each month, that are basically a shopping list for X ounces of cereal, X amount of milk ect. along with checks that are for a given amount of money and can be spent on produce. This means that I generally have 2, or sometimes 3 transactions, which always takes longer to process, and annoys the people waiting behind me. To make it even less fun, the rules on what you can and cannot get are absolutely byzantine-you can get organic produce, but not organic milk. You can get any kind of sardines, but only water packed tuna. Cereal can only be 14 oz or larger boxes. Any error, and its easy to make an error when you’re getting used to the system, or the rules change, result in a humiliating rushed trip to switch out for the proper item/size. Its a terrible, terrible, humiliating system to use.

    *I don’t get SNAP, because my household income is “too high”, even though my kids get reduced priced lunches and the 2 youngest kids and I get WIC. Because of that, I can sort of understand where some of the resentment towards people who “waste” their SNAP benefits. My family eats well, but we eat very frugally. Of course, the fact that we’re able to afford to eat frugally is in itself a marker of the fact that we aren’t truly poor, I have the time and space to cook, we have the storage space to stock up on food when its on sale, and I have a car, so I can travel a bit for a better price. But, the fact remains that as things are, the only thing standing between us and major food insecurity are careful planning and a lot of hard work, and I don’t think that my situation is terribly unusual. If I *could* get SNAP, my food budget would triple, and yes, that does piss me off. The difference is that I prefer to direct my anger at the government than for the people who are less fortunate than I am.

    **One thing that I have noticed is that when I was visibly pregnant, I didn’t get nearly as much hostility from people in line and from cashiers. Now that I’m carrying an infant its another story.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Ugh, I’d never had to deal with WIC before that sounds awful. I really wish they’d straighten that around, nobody should be humiliated because they need a little assistance.

  • chgo_liz

    Incubator = good
    mother and baby on WIC = welfare queen

    Didn’t you get the memo?

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The way WIC works must be dependent on the state you live in. In Texas, WIC recipients get a smart card — an ordinary looking card with a chip embedded in it. The recipient slips the card into a reader at the base of the PIN pad, which deducts the appropriate items from her allotted total for the month.

    I don’t know if any other states have the smart-card based program, but it generally works pretty smoothly.

  • chgo_liz

    In an interesting twist, the Whole Foods I shop at on the near south side of Chicago has a lot of customers who use the LINK card, and I have never seen any other customer exhibit a negative reaction in line. I’m sure it happens occasionally, but it’s not common. So at least at one store – one that is known for being higher cost, even – there seems to be little-to-no public judgment of those who use the LINK card to buy their groceries.

  • Alix

    I’ve said this before. It’s worth repeating, I think.

    I know a family who commits (or at least attempts to commit) welfare fraud. They repeatedly come up with ways to get more money out of the government, even if they know they’re violating at least the spirit of the law.

    They’re the reason I’m in favor of a really robust, really well-funded, easy to apply for welfare system, that doesn’t require endless jumping through hoops and has weird limitations. They’re one reason I really, really wish our society had a guaranteed basic income, and one actually enough to live decently on without ever working.

    Why? Because the whole reason they keep trying to commit welfare fraud is because they’re fucking desperate. Because no one in that household can work – especially not if they want to keep the little welfare they get – but the welfare they get’s not enough for them to live on.

  • chgo_liz

    They’re doing the 21st century equivalent of stealing a loaf of bread.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    In addition, it’s this ingrained police that the poor JUST SHOULDN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!

  • SkyknightXi

    Even if the “nice things” might boost their morale? I know the archons like to extol unalloyed hard work, but what they’re foisting on the poor is that PLUS constant desperation-addling. Maybe we should get someone to hypnotize them into a state where they can at least imagine a constant nimbus of dread over whether they’ll be able to get regular meals next week.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Some people believe that a state of constant dread encourages the poor to be more hardworking and resourceful. Those people are wrong, but they continue to exist.

  • smrnda

    If it’s somehow okay to be disgusted by poor people’s spending habits, why isn’t equal disgust displayed for people who make money from passive ownership (investments, etc.) I mean, workers get screwed so that investors can make more money.

    And yes, I *know* that many investors are, in the end, middle class people whose pensions, 401(k) or else are being invested, but I’ve never actually heard anyone complain that the people who more or less make money exclusively through passive ownership aren’t working, and are siphoning away resources from those who did work into their own pockets.

    Even if people on welfare were often scamming the system, that’s chump change compared to the Trust Fund Class.

    I mean, nobody is saying ‘hey, more money could have paid the workers and they all could have had a few more vacation days if some pompous rich jackass just didn’t insist on 1.2 million more dollars instead of just 1.1 million more.’

  • SkyknightXi

    Hence why my suspicion isn’t towards investors, but specifically speculators. The recent automated stock trading programs don’t exactly help their image; are they even TRYING to do *specific* boons for local or general society?

  • https://twitter.com/SecondDigitOfPi Two Pi Man

    I couldn’t agree more. Even setting aside the obvious “poor people should suffer” subtext, to worry about poor people making “luxury” purchases like games consoles & tattoos is missing the point in a big way. The big expenses in life are the everyday, weekly & monthly bills that just add up over the course of a year, dwarfing those one-off treats.

  • Sue White

    Re: #5: Sheesh! What do these people think drives the economy anyway? When I was at Walgreens, there was a guy who came in a couple times a week with his EBT card to buy diet Pepsi. I swear he must have lived on that stuff. Where would Pepsi be without that guy, and others like him? Where would Walgreens be? Our store wasn’t exactly one of the busier ones. A pretty high percentage of our customers used EBT cards. That’s what was paying our salaries.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    A couple things jumped out at me when I read the study in number 5:

    Refreshment beverages don’t include some very popular (and potentially nutritious) items. According to the study’s methods section: “Hot tea and coffee, cocoa and milk additives, dairy beverages, baby food or formula, frozen juice pops, smoothie beverages, and alcoholic beverages were excluded.”

    Leaving milk off the list looks really suspicious to me. Milk’s expensive and most drinkable milk is sold with no added sugar. It’s also very common and it sits on the shelf right next to lot of refreshment beverages, especially juice. I suspect that including milk in the study would have reduced the percentage of sugary drinks by a significant amount.

    The study looked at the customers’ total spending, not just the money they got from SNAP and WIC. And it continued to track their spending even if they dropped out of the food assistance programs during the study.

    That means that the study is looking at much larger pool of money than what’s available from WIC and SNAP. And it makes claims about food-assistance spending much fuzzier.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    I buy milk almost every time I hit the store. Most people I’ve known do, so yeah, that’s… weird.

  • Lori

    Huh. Either you and the people you know go to the store much less often than I do or you drink a lot more milk than I and my other adult friends do.

    I buy milk (soy because I’m lactose intolerant) maybe every 3rd shopping trip. Even before my lactose issues kicked in I didn’t actually drink milk. I pretty much just put it on cereal and occasionally cook with it. Even when I was eating cereal every morning I still only had to buy milk every other week.

  • Kirala

    I go through a gallon of milk a week mostly on my own. It’s unusual in an adult, but I still tend to use it as I did when I was a kid – plenty on cereal at breakfast, beverage of choice for dinner, and added to tea as necessary. I still remember when Mom had to buy a gallon a week per child, often with an extra thrown in by the end of the week – premixed chocolate milk, too, if we were very good. How could that not be counted?! Fruit juice was a much rarer thing. (Soda rarer still, but then, we live in the South. Who needs to buy that expensive, unhealthy soda when you have cheap tea, sugar, and a stay-at-home mom? Tea is SO much healthier…)(Don’t shatter my illusions.)

  • Anton_Mates

    Soda rarer still, but then, we live in the South. Who needs to buy that expensive, unhealthy soda when you have cheap tea, sugar, and a stay-at-home mom?

    Your neighbors, apparently! The South is actually the part of the US that consumes the most soda.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Little of column A and a little of column B I suspect hehe – I drink a LOT of milk; and I go to the store as little as possible due to my anxiety. Mostly I’m thinking of my non-immediate family members, who’re also big milk drinkers.

    I’m weird, I drink chocolate milk and strawberry milk, as well as adding coffee to milk* and drinking straight milk. Oddly enough I don’t eat cereal at all.

    *Not the other way around. There’s about 40% coffee, 60% milk in a container of 32oz capacity.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I’m weird, I drink chocolate milk and strawberry milk, as well as adding
    coffee to milk* and drinking straight milk. Oddly enough I don’t eat
    cereal at all.

    One of our local dairies makes root beer milk. It’s fantastic. For a while I bought a quart of it every grocery trip just to help motivate myself to drink a glass of milk a day. It went *fast*.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    That sounds fantastic root beer is amazing, milk is amazing, the combination sounds divine.

  • banancat

    Sounds like a root beer float.

  • chgo_liz

    There is a genetic component to lactose in/tolerance. Northern Europeans are number one in the world for having the ability to digest lactose after the toddler years. Native Americans (excluding those who are mixed with northern European heritage, obviously) are 100% intolerant. Most Asian (other than the Indian subcontinent) and African groups are in the 90-95% range for intolerance.

    However, I don’t believe the exclusion of milk from LINK has anything to do with the powers-that-be using a scientific basis for their decisions. My guess is that the milk industry is in the driver’s seat on this issue.

  • Lori

    My comment had nothing to do with the exclusion of milk from LINK, or the genetic incidence of lactose intolerance. I was strictly commenting on the fact that mistformsquiiel drinks a lot more mill than I do.

  • general_apathy

    It might not reduce sugary drinks (for individual units, it’s much easier to buy chocolate milk than the normal kind) but that’s pretty sketchy. By that logic, I drink zero beverages a day. Misleading methodology, there.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    In single serving bottles and cartons, I think you’re right. Chocolate milk and other sweetened products are more common than ordinary unflavored milk. But I don’t think that’s true if you include gallons and half-gallons which, judging by the amount of space they occupy in the grocery store, is how most milk is sold.

    I love your point about drinking zero beverages a day. By their standards, I don’t buy any beverages either.

  • Anton_Mates

    I suspect that including milk in the study would have reduced the percentage of sugary drinks by a significant amount.

    Probably, but they were comparing percentages between groups, and I don’t know that including milk would have reduced the percentage for SNAP participants more than for WIC-only. It’s still a confounding factor, but I don’t think we can assume it biases the results a priori.

    That said, I agree that their criteria for “refreshment beverage” make interpretation more difficult, even though I think they’re just drawing on standard industry definitions there. “Refreshment beverages” are supposed to be things you drink because you’re thirsty, not because you’re hungry or feel that you should be nourishing yourself–functionally, they’re pretty much equivalent to water. So dairy doesn’t usually fit in there, because people think of that more as a “liquid food.” But what if that’s also true for, say, energy drinks, especially if you’re poor? A lot of these beverages may be breakfast for a poor person, in which case those “empty calories” might be pretty valuable.

  • chgo_liz

    I’m reminded of an ex who lived in abject poverty until his mid-20s who would put the most astonishing amount of sugar and cream in his coffee. I couldn’t drink it, but for him it was how he stayed alive for many years, and he couldn’t break the habit just because it was no longer necessary.

  • Guestposter

    It would be interesting if, just for 10 minutes, Greenwald had an epiphany that let him think like Barton, and realized that not ALL secrecy is bad, that the current security state IS legal, if abominable, and that the balance is wrong right now, but setting it to ‘no secrets at all’ wouldn’t improve things either.

    But I don’t think Greenwald has that in him, honestly. He’s managed to divert so much of the story to being about him, that it’s easy to forget that there is, for instance, a whole different news outlet also reporting on the same stuff, and in much more evenhanded language.

  • Nick Gotts

    Well I am immensely grateful to Greenwald, as are many others, for acting like a journalist rather than a government lickspittle, and taking enormous risks to life and liberty in doing so. I frankly couldn’t give a shit whether the US and UK governments’ immense spying machines are legal or not – they are the sinews of tyranny. I don’t think you have in you one thousandth of Greenwald’s courage and integrity.

    [Added later]
    Incidentally, Barton Gellman does not agree with you that “the current security state is legal”:

    Gellman, who has been writing for The Washington Post, also that the NSA has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress expanded the agency’s powers in 2008.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Leninists used to tell themselves the Cheka were just a temporary thing until all the counterrevolutionary elements were vanquished. Funnily enough, they kept “finding” new counterrevolutionary elements even when such claims were manifestly impossibly absurd.

  • Chloe P. H. Lewis

    I’m incredibly fond of the science-fiction novel _The Gone-Away World_. It has a lot of fun stuff in it, in a bitterly serious framework — one of the parts of the framework is about how a bureaucracy, an algorithm, set up to find traitors will find them *especially* if there aren’t any. Even if each individual person is not evil or paranoid.

  • GuestPoster

    Indeed. We had the same thing happen during the Salem era, and again during the McCarthyist era, and again during the Gitmo era that we’re still trying to put an end to.

    None of this changes, of course, that the current stuff is entirely legal. The fourth amendment to the constitution is the one that actually tells the government exactly how to subvert it. The Patriot Act was the government further defining what subversion was good enough to qualify. The current security state is the natural extension of that – and the Greenwald worship phenomenon that’s all-too-typical these days both ignores that some (but not nearly enough) good has come from modern security measures, and that the way to thwart them is to repeal the laws that explicitly make them legal, not to keep conducting hearings with people legally bound not to tell the truth during those hearings. That’s why I like more balanced articles like the one linked. Folks like Greenwald are zealots, and are doing the same thing all zealots do, telling exactly one aspect of the story, and refusing to admit, possibly even to themselves, that any other aspects exist. Especially troubling given that those other aspects are really, really important to understand what’s going on.

    It’s a witch hunt, just like all the others. We’re looking for somebody other than ourselves to blame, which means we’re looking in the wrong place. Repeal one law, it all becomes illegal again. But that would be crazy talk.

  • Hth

    I think the review could’ve basically stopped with “who has more than 180 books to his credit.” Nothing that came after that could possibly have induced me to trust the writer, even if I didn’t know it was frigging Jenkins.

  • Jamoche

    Unless it’s Isaac Asimov.

  • themunck

    Or Terry Pratchett…although I think he’s only at around half that.

  • Amaryllis

    I would’ve stopped at “Dr. Augustine Aquinas Knox.”

    I’m all about Significant Names, but that’s just ridiculous.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    It’s less to do with the number of books and more to do with his relationship with his editor. Most importantly, does he have one?

  • Anton_Mates

    They’re not interested in scolding the rest of us for our beverage choices — their condescension and resentment is focused exclusively on the working poor.

    I’m not particularly seeing condescension and resentment in the paper itself, Fred, and I think you’re misreading its factual content as well.

    Is that more or less than the percentage of “refreshment beverages” purchased by non-participants? The researchers do not say.

    Yes, they do. They say that, for both the general population and households on WIC but not SNAP, 48% of purchased refreshment beverages (by volume) are sugar-sweetened. Therefore, SNAP participants are purchasing more sugar-sweetened beverages (58%) than non-participants, including the low-income young families in WIC.

    *Edit, added for clarity* The comparison is between households that are on WIC and SNAP–meaning that they use both of those benefits at least once during the six-month study period–versus households that are on WIC only.

    They also cite previous research that SNAP participants are more likely to consume nutritionally poor diets than SNAP-eligible non-participants. The study may have flaws, but this is not one of them.

    Do they choose the more expensive healthy stuff? Well, then, we can sniff at those uppity poors fleecing the investment-class with their fresh juices and artisanal teas and Perrier.

    Actually, the authors want the poor to buy more juice (I don’t see “fresh” mentioned) and more bottled water. (I kind of doubt the latter makes sense as a nationwide recommendation, given the cost and quality comparisons with tap water, but that’s what they advocate).

    I’m sure it’s arguable how detrimental consuming lots of sugar-sweetened beverages is to your health, and obviously people trying to demolish social services will seize on any study pointing out a flaw. But as long as the stated goal of SNAP is to improve nutrition among low-income Americans, it’s kind of necessary to do research like this to find out if the program is actually accomplishing that, no?

  • Jim Roberts

    I agree that the study’s goal was laudable, but I still question it’s results. As you point out, SNAP recipients are probably unlikely to purchase bottled water when and where tap water is available – was there any control for that? Honestly, given the price of bottled water vs. soda and sugary drinks, if that is the case it may explain quite a lot of the discrepancy.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Yeah, put me down as a SNAP user who drinks large amounts of tap water and never buys bottled water unless there’s no other water available. The last beverage (using their limited definition of “refreshment beverage”) I purchased was almost certainly Gatorade. Why? Because I have no air-conditioning, because I get dehydrated easily, because Gatorade works pretty much as advertised, and because it’s incredibly cheap in the summertime.

    Juice isn’t something I buy often. I would love to buy more of it, but it’s expensive and I do need to use SNAP to get foods that will fill me up.

  • Anton_Mates

    If you can actually hunt down their methods section,* they controlled for month of year and assorted “store location characteristics” (state where the store is located, demographics of its customers, etc.) I suspect that would capture a lot of the tap vs. bottled factors.

    Bottled water actually made up the same proportion of beverage purchases for both SNAP recipients and WIC-only, so that doesn’t seem to be the cause. The big differences are that SNAP recipients bought much more sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit drinks, and much less 100% juice, diet beverages and un-sweetened beverages.

    Diet beverages are, AFAIK, about the same price as their sugar-sweetened counterparts, which suggests that SNAP recipients aren’t just buying sugary drinks because they’re the cheapest liquids available.

    *Probably the biggest problem with this paper is that the regression models and all the inferential statistics are in a supplementary appendix file. The paper itself contains nothing but the predicted mean expenditures for various categories, without even a standard error or confidence interval or anything. I don’t know if that was an editorial choice, but it sure is weird.

  • Jim Roberts

    Interesting, and thank you for the analysis. I’m curious about the education of WIC vs. SNAP recipients at this point. One of the things I’ve been doing in my limited spare time is helping out with remedial education for people on welfare and it’s pretty astounding what basic knowledge (like, stuff I got in grade three) some of them simply don’t possess. I think part of the reason for their bad decisions may simply be lack of knowledge of alternatives.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It is as LBJ once said, paraphrased: “We gotta reach out to the hard-core unemployed. Those who never got taught the kinds of things you and I got taught. Folks who can’t get jobs because they didn’t learn these kinda things.”

  • Jim Roberts

    Yes, exactly. One of the biggest things that gets taught is that deferring payment is rarely a good thing. An amazing number of people rent their furniture and pay well more than the cost of it before replacing it, for example.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Some people with knowledge of alternatives are simply going to have different priorities. WIC=Women, Infants, and Children. That means WIC users have kids and are probably going to make decisions to buy nutritious foods for the children. SNAP recipients may be more likely to be adults without children, who may be more likely to buy high-energy foods just to get themselves through long, stressful days.
    More obviously, there’s the fact that WIC doesn’t pay for junk foods and SNAP pays for anything with a “Nutrition Facts” label on it.

  • Anton_Mates

    Well, all households* in this particular study had young children, and used WIC benefits at least once; the comparison was between WIC-only households and households on WIC and SNAP. I suppose there could be a significant difference between those groups in the average number of children per household–the authors had no data on that–though I can’t anticipate which group would have more kids.

    The authors’ preferred interpretation is the second one you raise, I think. Low-income folks on SNAP + WIC are buying more sugary stuff than low-income folks on WIC alone, because SNAP pays for sugary stuff. Meanwhile, high-income folks could afford to buy more sugary stuff than either low-income group, but don’t–they buy only about as much as the WIC-only group. So either high-income folks don’t enjoy sugary stuff as much, or they’re more deterred by health concerns (or image concerns or whatever).

    *The actual data used were supermarket records of purchases associated with store loyalty cards. Each card was assumed to represent a household, more or less, but the authors had no access to identifying info about the card owners. Privacy concerns, I imagine.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Has that changed? I swear that some foods didn’t used to be covered. I recall one family being miffed that their parboiled ready-to-bake lasagna noodles (not the whole lasagna, just the noodles) weren’t covered back in what is likely to have been early 2010.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    There may be another reason for WIC and SNAP recipients to choose different foods – WIC (at least in the past) apparently has / had a list of approved foods. The benefits could only be spent on items on the list, which were chosen for nutritional value. SNAP? As long as it’s food produced in the US, basically anything goes, nutritious or the opposite. (There are also some rules to prevent SNAP money from going to restaurant meals, but again there’s no distinction between whether you’re buying a carefully balanced organic locally sourced dinner or a monster hot fudge sundae.)

    Anyway, tldr – WIC recipients aren’t allowed to buy junk food with their benefits; SNAP recipients are.

  • chgo_liz

    Could you give some specifics on how you got involved in this volunteer work? For example, is there an organization you work through, or did you come up with this on your own?

  • Jim Roberts

    My son has ended up in the public school system, in elementary school, and wherever my boys go, that organization gets a volunteer. I’ve been picked up by a local organization who uses his school for remedial education. I helped them print and collate some of their educational materials, but after that was done I helped go through some of their e-mails, which is where I saw some rather surprising questions.

  • chgo_liz

    Thanks!

  • Katie

    The differences are actually pretty easy to explain. For people in extremely urban areas who are getting SNAP, getting access to healthy food can be problematic. Also, a lot of people on SNAP are elderly, and so may not have the physical ability to cook, or may find it easier to just make a sandwich, or heat up a pre-prepared meal rather than cooking for one.

    Regarding the comparison with families who get WIC but not SNAP, its a lot easier to get WIC, at least if you have more than one child, so you’re probably looking at different pools of people. For a start, people getting WIC are, by definition, families with young children, and such families often make an effort to eat healthier, and make things like soda into an occasional treat, to instill good eating habits in the children. Also, as a member of a WIC-but-not-SNAP family, making sure that my family gets sufficient healthy food means very, very tight budgeting. If I got SNAP, my food budget would increase significantly, so I’d be a lot more likely to make an occasional purchase of soda or similar treats.

  • Anton_Mates

    I just edited my original post because I hadn’t made this clear, but all the SNAP recipients in this study are on WIC as well. More precisely, all the store loyalty cards they tracked had been used to buy stuff with WIC benefits at least once in the previous 2.5 years. The authors then compared the purchasing on cards that were also used with SNAP benefits in a given month (“SNAP households”), versus those that were not (“WIC-only households.”)

    So–to the degree that it’s accurate to equate loyalty cards with households–all these households were families with young children, or at least had included young children within the last couple of years. Elderly SNAP recipients were probably rare or absent within this sample, I’m guessing.

  • Katie

    Fair enough. But what you’re missing is that the families on SNAP and WIC are going to have the bulk their milk and juice needs covered by WIC, and so won’t need to use their WIC benefits to purchase milk and juice.

  • Anton_Mates

    I’m not sure what you mean, sorry. Do you mean that families on SNAP+WIC are less likely to include milk and juice in any individual SNAP-covered purchase, since they include those beverages in the WIC-covered purchases instead?

  • Katie

    Yes, sorry if my phrasing was unclear.

  • Anton_Mates

    No worries, I just wanted to make sure; my reading comprehension isn’t tip-top at the moment.

    So, that particular thing would not have affected the results in this study, because they made the “SNAP+WIC” vs. “WIC-only” distinction at the household (loyalty card) level, not the level of individual purchases. If a household bought anything with SNAP benefits in the last month, all their milk/juice purchases would go in the SNAP+WIC pile, regardless of which benefits they used for it. Nonetheless, the SNAP+WIC pile still has a smaller fraction of juice and unsweetened beverages than the WIC-only pile.

    I think it’s more about the other explanation you give–the additional benefits are being spent disproportionately on sugary stuff. The SNAP+WIC families aren’t actually buying less juice or diet sodas or bottled water, according to the study. In fact, they’re buying significantly more of everything than the WIC-only families.* But they’re buying proportionately more sugary drinks, as you predict.

    The authors argue that, if SNAP was changed to be more like WIC and no longer covered sugary stuff, then SNAP-participating households would no longer buy more of it. You–again, if I read you right–are suggesting that they would still buy more of it, because SNAP would pad their budget and they could afford to buy more treats period. Maybe they wouldn’t buy the extra soda with SNAP, but they’d buy other stuff with SNAP and then buy the soda with any spare cash or whatever. That prediction seems at least as plausible as the authors’ prediction to me.

    *Although maybe the SNAP+WIC households are larger, on average. Is that likely to be the case? Is it easier for larger families to get SNAP?

  • Katie

    Its easier for larger families to get both WIC and SNAP. I don’t remember the exact formulas at the moment, but essentially you qualify based on if you make a certain percentage of “poverty” and the amount of money that is considered “poverty” for a family of 2 is lower than a family of 12. The biggest difference between WIC and reduced/free school lunches is that those programs only consider income and number of people, where SNAP also looks at the household’s total assets.

    This is part of the reason why I think that WIC-only and WIC+SNAP families are likely to be different pools of people. If you’re getting SNAP, you’re more likely to be in pretty dire straights, and to have been there for some time, whereas you can be fairly comfortably middle class and get WIC if you have a bunch of kids.*

    I agree that education about food and nutrition might be a good idea, but I think that this study really doesn’t explain what is going on, and I don’t think that not allowing certain purchases is going to help things.

    *To be clear, I think that this is a feature, not a bug.

  • themunck

    2. Priorities: ….Erhm… How is “we just killed a rapist and murderer for his crimes” a bad way for a pro-execution politician to kick off her re-election campaign? And didn’t they realize the overlap before they schedule’d the execution? Are the republicans even thinking anymore?

    Wrong side: Okay, I realize that you should always walk against the traffic so you can spot oncoming traffic and be less likely to walk directly into it, but…is it really -illegal- not to in some places?

    Bush Doctrine: …….Dear Floridian slacktivists. Please, please, please get out of there before it’s too late :( I know you don’t want them to win, and that it’s your homes too, but at this point it’s time to stop trying to plug the leak and time to run for the lifeboats.

    4. It really does mark the boundary, doesn’t it? “Most of us know you’re gay. The only thing that’s changed since 2 days ago is that you mentioned it publicly in a room full of adults. We’re gonna fire you anyway, because clearly you’re gonna corrupt the children into being filthy homosexuals, despite having taught here for years without that being an issue”

    —-
    P.S. I need to find a new way to format my comments on the Florida/Texas/North Carolina posts. Maybe 2a, 2b and so forth?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Wrong side: Okay, I realize that you should always walk against the
    traffic so you can spot oncoming traffic and be less likely to walk
    directly into it, but…is it really -illegal- not to in some places?

    Some people actually recommend doing this if you’re at all concerned for your safety. The reason is twofold:

    1. You see who’s coming at you.
    2. If someone is about to bump you off, you can at least react to it.

  • Chloe P. H. Lewis

    Very side note: If you’re somewhere really not designed for pedestrians, you sometimes have to walk with traffic to minimize the awful road-crossings needed for a trip.

    If a road isn’t safe for a pedestrian on either side, and isn’t a freeway or railroad, and we can’t afford sidewalks, we should drop the speed limit until it *is* safe. Now, drivers being more cautious at a given speed, that would be fine. But safety for all.

  • chgo_liz

    But the reason there is no accommodation for pedestrians on many roads has as much to do with drivers having priority over walkers as any concern about cost. Making the drivers slow down would impinge on their “rights”. Not gonna happen.

  • Jessica_R

    I will never understand how people with enough or more than enough get pissy about someone with not enough grabbing a piece of enjoyment be it iPad or Sprite.

    It’s my birthday so here’s the person I wish folks like Zimmerman would run into on the 13th, complete with the horrible disco theme, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKYniMDeL3M

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Happy Birthday!

  • MarkTemporis

    I think using SNAP to buy bottled water is more of a waste of money than buying sugary beverages, as the alternative to bottled water is free and in most states subject to higher quality controls.

  • Mary

    And tap water has flouride, chlorine and possibly lead. It tastes terrible too. In my mind it may be worse than surgary sodas because they are made with purified water.

    The gallon jugs of water are pretty cheap, less than a dollar for the generic in my area. .

  • chgo_liz

    Especially lead. If you’re poor, you probably live in poorer housing, which includes old plumbing. In Chicago, for example, building codes REQUIRED (until some time in the 1960’s) lead pipe for the connection between a house/building and the water main under the street. Unless someone has built new housing on a site or spent tens of thousands ripping out the old water lines from the street to the building (either of which indicate a level of wealth), you are guaranteed to have your tap water running through many feet of lead before coming out your faucet. That’s just reality.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    How bad the water tastes depends on where you are and how recently the pipes have been replaced. Tap water in my neighborhood improved drastically a few years ago, so taste isn’t going to be a deciding factor for me–especially since so much bottled water is really just tap water imported from a different state.

    Gallon jugs of water may be cheap, but remember that a lot of us poor people have no cars. If I’m carrying a gallon of anything home from the store, I probably won’t be able to carry anything else. If I’m buying something that heavy, it’s going to be something with some kind of nutritional value (even if that nutrition is just the quick energy of sugar).

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The point of the bottled water is that it’s tap water from somewhere that has good tap water. It makes sense to use if if you live somewhere with bad tap water.

  • Katie

    The tap water in my area tastes nasty, so we have a filter pitcher. It works well, is cheaper and less hassle than hauling around gallon jugs of water.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And tap water has flouride, chlorine and possibly lead.

    The fluoride is regulatorily limited and is unlikely to harm you. Conspiracy theorizing notwithstanding.

    Chlorine? Run a gallon of water and let it sit, covered with a screened vent hole to keep insects out, for an hour. The chlorine will evaporate and the resulting water can be put in the fridge or consumed. Alternatively. boil it in a clean pot, let it cool, and pour it off into a clean jug. It will re-oxygenate over time while the chlorine will evaporate permanently.

    Can’t do anything about the lead, but there are laws regarding lead content and the EPA can probably point you to who to start rattling the cages of to get it remedied.

    Also? Water taste depends a fair bit on the hardness (i.e. the presence of sparingly soluble alkaline-earth compounds in the water).

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    According to our pediatrician, the very small class of humans does have to be careful about getting too much fluoride and should avoid combining municipal water with any other source of the stuff until they’re four or five.

  • Lori

    This isn’t a reason to go all Dr. Strangelove about fluoride in the municipal water supply though. It’s a reason to buy kids toothpaste without fluoride for young children.

  • Lee B.

    Water taste depends a fair bit on the hardness (i.e. the presence of sparingly soluble alkaline-earth compounds in the water).

    My tapwater is basically liquid limestone, so to me the bottled or filtered stuff just tastes weird.

  • train_star

    Bottled water has as many if not more contaminants than tap water. In fact, most bottled water is tap water.

  • Mary

    “In fact, most bottled water is tap water”

    A lot of it is..however it is purified. Bottled water does not taste like swimming pool water because the chlorine is filtered out. ( Yes I know you add more chlorine to pool water but I am using that as an example of the difference in taste.)

    If you try to do a nasal rinse with tap water it will burn like hell. That is why you use distilled or purified water for that. That alone is a good indication of the difference between the two.

  • Victor

    Fred YA should know better than to wake UP the dead on “Friday The Thirteen” cause there’s no telling what could happen!? What if “ONE” of Victor’s feminine cells decides to jump on her male which broom and does start flying around? Do you think that we gods will protect YA’s all from Victor’s lamp, “I” mean lambs of invisible nukes?

    Listen Fred! “I” will tell YA just “ONE” more time! GOD created the darkness first and then the light which should be believed. Then HE created The Angels and there’s no truth to the untold rumors that Lucifer had sex with woman and the product was “MAN” no no, the truth is that GOD (Good Old Dad) created Adam and St. Eve on Friday The Thirteen in the darkness of Wo Men’s mind and like YA know, these creation also did not obey and were cast down and …..not yet Victor? and then they can still be seen on the twelve of nev her, “I” mean never and…….

    END YA SAY sinner vic! BE NICE CAUSE YA KNOW THE TRUTH NOW!

    Go figure brothers and sisters in Christ!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG61UNnuGQ8
    God Bless Peace

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The Washington Post reviews I, Saul, by Jerry Jenkins and James McDonald, calling it a “less-fun Da Vinci Code”: “Paul is indeed an intriguing character, but I, Saul doesn’t break new ground in terms of better understanding the historical figure. And it doesn’t help that the 2,000-year-old characters talk (and pray) exactly like the present-day ones.”

    Seriously, like you expected anything else from Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, GCAAT?


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