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January 08, 2008

Comments

Gary - the argument I was making was that I see no evidence that Britons hold abstract views that are inherently more left-wing than those of Americans. I.e., I don't think that British culture is inherently more liberal, or that if you stranded 100 Britons and 100 Americans on desert islands and left them to set up societies from scratch, the Britons would fashion a more leftist government. Someone offered the example of healthcare (which I agree with l.j. is an arbitrary one) as an issue which provides evidence of the leftward lean of British society, and I made a distinction between society and on-the-ground political reality, and between your average Briton's political opinions and his or her political principles. I guess I'll leave it up to you to determine whether this distinction means anything. In any case, this all sorta ties back to my point that these things are relativistic and the only really enlightening comparisons are those made within a political system or between very similar political systems. Statements like "the U.S. is a center-right country" or "America has two main political parties, a right one and a far right one" don't really mean anything to me because there is no objective standard by which these designations are made. I think we agree on that last part, at least. In any case, I think this particular line of discussion has reached a satisfactory end.

Anarch - I gotta play the devil's advocate. Isn't it true that there's also a certain level of "basic factuality" in politics? I.e., how is "LSU beat Ohio St." any more indisputable than "Hillary beat Obama"? I think both disciplines wander into fuzzy-headed pseudo-analysis when the topic becomes interpreting what results augur for the future - e.g., columns arguing that Eli Manning will finally emerge as an elite quarterback because he won one playoff game and that Hillary's victory will springboard her to victory in the next primary are equally speculative (and equally likely to be proven incorrect). Interpreting why certain things happened ex post facto is somewhat less speculative but requires equal levels of expertise on specific subjects (quarterbacking vs. the Cover Two defense, polling analysis) in both genres.

Spin and outright lies are perhaps more prevalent in politics, but they certainly exist in sports as well (e.g. chalking up a critical interception to the quarterback not "being clutch" as opposed to the receiver blowing his pass route, blaming the refs for a critical call/non-call, etc.).

I think one major difference is that in sportswriting it's perfectly acceptable to write with a hometown bias, whereas political reporters are expected to maintain at least the pretense of objectivity and thus must engage spin no matter how absurd it may be.

Xey: the argument I was making was that I see no evidence that Britons hold abstract views that are inherently more left-wing than those of Americans.

Ah. The argument I was making, which is rather different, is that the political and social structures of the UK are more left-wing than in the US. I too see no reason to believe that Americans are inherently less left-wing than Britons: but the political structure of the US is fixed with the right-wing party and the far-right-wing party, so Americans with left-wing views can't get political representation at a national level to create the equivalent social structures that, by existing, tend to skew politics to the left: right-wing politics being all about removing benefits for all to the profit of the few. (That is: in the UK, no matter how conservative a politician is, they're not going to campaign on getting rid of the NHS: lying about it will only work so far, because unlike social security it's not a benefit that exists in the future for Americans under retirement age - the NHS is a benefit that exists right now that people know is useful.)

Xeynon: one virtue of an American style system is that it largely prevents genuinely crazy ideologues from either side of the spectrum from gaining power.

Could you let us know the name of a UK prime minister who is more crazy and extreme than George W, please? Tony Blair may be far more right-wing than we'd hoped, but he never tried appealing to the pro-torture vote.

As for the comments about the relative liberalism of the US and UK, most discussion of the US on UK blogsites gets regular posts from Americans making comments about the UL being full of liberal, wussy, pinko, socialists. If the UK is really no more left-wing than the US, why do so many of your compatriots think it is?

magistra: If the UK is really no more left-wing than the US, why do so many of your compatriots think it is?

Because ideas we take for granted in the UK as part of the normal political/social structure, are ideas that in the US are regarded as horrifyingly extreme socialistic nonsense. Conversely, ideas taken for granted in the US as part of the normal political/social structure, are in the UK regarded as horrifyingly extreme fascistic nonsense...

Don't take this as British jingoism. In the UK we take for granted that a government agency like MI5 doesn't have to get a warrant from a judge before they can wiretap a phone. They'll just damn well do it. In the US, while so far Bush seems to be getting away with having confessed to committing this offense, it is at least explicitly a crime for which he ought to be impeached. I think the US is better in this respect, though it would be still better if you would actually enforce the laws.

Jesurgislac - ok, I see what you're driving at. I disagree with your second point, though. Americans with leftist views (let's call them, say, classical socialist views, so as to avoid the problematic issue of quantifying leftiness) aren't disenfranchised - they're just not very persuasive to a majority of the electorate. People like Kucinich have tried to move the Democrats to the left, and it doesn't work, because Democratic voters by and large do not want to move to the left. In other words, class warfare just doesn't sell here. In some peoples' view, it would if not for the fact the structure of the federal government discriminates against urban areas by awarding disproportionate representation to more rural, conservative states. I'll concede that there's something to that, but I don't think it tells remotely the whole story, because 1.)a lot of rural voters are lower class too, and 2.)socialism doesn't sell on any level of government here. I'd argue that just as important are the historically dynamic and innovative nature of American society and business, greater social mobility, the peculiar optimism of American culture, the lack of a culturally ingrained concept of social (as opposed to socioeconomic) class, more extensive economic opportunity, etc. Many Americans really do go through life optimistic about their chances and believing they can do anything. In my experience, this is not true of Europeans, who tend to have a more jaded outlook on life. I'm not arguing the merits of these respective worldviews, just point out that they probably have an influence.

Magistra - how about Thatcher? Need I remind you that she was ready to fight a war with frickin' Argentina over a bunch of rocks in the South Atlantic? I recall reading that Churchill wanted to rumble with the USSR in the wake of WII because he viewed Stalin as more of a long-term threat than Hitler had been - this despite the fact that the continent was staggering with the loss of 20+ million lives and pretty much all its infrastructure. That's pretty extreme for a 20th century democratic politician.

Re: torture - I abhor it. But when did Bush ever say "vote for me because I am pro torture?"

As for those blogsites - are right wing American trolls and left wing Euroleftist bloggers really representative of the median views of the people in either country?

Jesurgislac - ok, I see what you're driving at. I disagree with your second point, though. Americans with leftist views (let's call them, say, classical socialist views, so as to avoid the problematic issue of quantifying leftiness) aren't disenfranchised - they're just not very persuasive to a majority of the electorate. People like Kucinich have tried to move the Democrats to the left, and it doesn't work, because Democratic voters by and large do not want to move to the left. In other words, class warfare just doesn't sell here. In some peoples' view, it would if not for the fact the structure of the federal government discriminates against urban areas by awarding disproportionate representation to more rural, conservative states. I'll concede that there's something to that, but I don't think it tells remotely the whole story, because 1.)a lot of rural voters are lower class too, and 2.)socialism doesn't sell on any level of government here. I'd argue that just as important are the historically dynamic and innovative nature of American society and business, greater social mobility, the peculiar optimism of American culture, the lack of a culturally ingrained concept of social (as opposed to socioeconomic) class, more extensive economic opportunity, etc. Many Americans really do go through life optimistic about their chances and believing they can do anything. In my experience, this is not true of Europeans, who tend to have a more jaded outlook on life. I'm not arguing the merits of these respective worldviews, just point out that they probably have an influence.

Magistra - how about Thatcher? Need I remind you that she was ready to fight a war with frickin' Argentina over a bunch of rocks in the South Atlantic? I recall reading that Churchill wanted to rumble with the USSR in the wake of WII because he viewed Stalin as more of a long-term threat than Hitler had been - this despite the fact that the continent was staggering with the loss of 20+ million lives and pretty much all its infrastructure. That's pretty extreme for a 20th century democratic politician.

Re: torture - I abhor it. But when did Bush ever say "vote for me because I am pro torture?"

As for those blogsites - are right wing American trolls and left wing Euroleftist bloggers really representative of the median views of the people in either country?

Little late on my responses. I think you're overstating things, jesurgislac. Can you give me an example of a standard feature of British governance that is regarded as "horrifyingly extreme socialistic nonsense" by Americans? Don't tell me universal healthcare, because that's a pretty mainstream idea in American politics. Even one of the leading Republican Presidential contenders has proposed it. Conversely, which commonly accepted American beliefs/practices are regarded as "horrifyingly extreme fascistic nonsense" by your average Briton? Invading other countries without provocation? Oh wait, you guys were on board with that. Torture? I'd accept that you've got a point with that. But I think it's naive to think that European governments wouldn't torture a prisoner if hard-pressed by circumstance to do so (e.g. they felt it was necessary to save lives). I also suspect that a majority of Britons would support torturing an al Qaeda operative who had information about an imminent terrorist attack on London. I won't defend the pro-torture right, because as I said, I think it's abhorrent. But I don't think the impulse behind torture is in any way uniquely American.

Xey,

If you say that 'class warfare doesn't sell here', you are acknowledging what you previously denied, that the US and UK are different politically and that the US is more right-wing. Similarly, it is currently politically unacceptable in the UK that any people should starve or rely on charity handouts in order to eat, however much it may be 'their fault' that they have no money (because of failure to find work, etc). In much of US political life such options do seem to be acceptable. (I'm not arguing the merits of either case here, I'm just pointing out the divide).

I am very anti-Thatcher, but the Falklands war was undertaken in self-defence (unlike Iraq) and didn't cause disasters in the region. You can compare it to Gulf War I if you like, but it is nothing like the current Iraq debacle.

As for torture: no Bush, didn't explicitly say he was pro-torture, but when the Administration have been claiming openly that certain forms of torture weren't really torture and that it doesn't matter what happens to 'bad people' anyhow, and when we know via leaks to the media that torture is going on, how much more explicit do you expect him to be? When Britain tortured people (as it did in Northern Ireland and Kenya) it was ashamed of the fact. The US meanwhile now has politicians like Giuliani calling for even greater 'toughness' and 'double Gitmo'. I know many Americans are ashamed of this. I just don't understand why they all aren't.

Hmmmm. A couple things - first, I never said the US and UK weren't different politically - in fact, I said exactly the opposite. I just said that "different" isn't necessarily equivalent to "more or less right/left wing", because of the apples-to-oranges factor. Perhaps the British norm is further to the abstract left on some issues than the American worldview. As previously noted, it's further to the abstract right on others. As I said, I don't think such comparisons can be made to add up to an overall statement on whether a society is right or left wing, because every society faces different challenges which help to define the political spectrum differently (e.g. given the differences between immigration and Europe and immigration in America, it's unsurprising that what counts as a reactionary attitude on the immigration question in America would be quite liberal in some countries in Europe).

I already noted that Britain is a full partner in the current Iraq debacle.

As for torture and American shame - give us the same 30 years you've had with Northern Ireland. I won't argue with you on the fundamentals here, since I think we substantively agree, but I would quibble with your assertion that there's a "pro torture" vote - people who are "pro torture" generally feel that torture is a necessary evil, not that it's a good in and of itself. I think that is an important distinction.

"but I would quibble with your assertion that there's a 'pro torture' vote - people who are 'pro torture' generally feel that torture is a necessary evil, not that it's a good in and of itself. I think that is an important distinction."

Dispute the size of that vote all you like, but saying that the vote doesn't exist at all would just make you appear ignorant.

"Dispute the size of that vote all you like, but saying that the vote doesn't exist at all would just make you appear ignorant."

As a general rule, discussions are facilitated by assuming that yes you can find at least one really stupid person willing to say almost anything, and that such fact isn't particularly interesting or helpful.

And that is especially true when someone is responding to the not-particularly-careful generalizations of large swaths of voters.

If you aren't going to actually dispute the assertion that "people who are 'pro torture' generally feel that torture is a necessary evil, not that it's a good in and of itself," pointing out that there are people who comment on political weblogs who do seem to thing of it as a positive good would just make you appear unnecessarily pedantic.

And I say this as someone who thinks that torture is an unnecessary evil.

Sebastian, although I certainly can't point you to a statistical analysis, it's hardly difficult to find as many more examples of those sentiments as one likes. It seems perfectly clear to me, although I can't give you any true statistic, that hundreds of thousands of Americans are, in fact, pro-torture, in that they actively want to see enemies of the U.S. tortured, because those people should feel such pain, and that's the motivating emotion at work.

In point of fact, I've read at least a dozen such comments in the past few days, given all the blogs I've gone through -- hell, I read over a dozen last night, some still ringing in my head -- "get out the waterboards!" -- and that's all I'll say about that. Believe me or not.

If you feel this isn't true, yes, though, I will suggest that you're simply not sufficiently familiar with many people of such beliefs, which is understandable, since your beliefs and theirs are in such conflict. But that doesn't mean they're statistically insignificant, uncomfortable as it might be to accept this.

Xeynon: Americans with leftist views (let's call them, say, classical socialist views, so as to avoid the problematic issue of quantifying leftiness) aren't disenfranchised

They cannot, however, vote for an American Labour Party, because the US political scene is set up to prevent any third party achieving a national presence.

Can you give me an example of a standard feature of British governance that is regarded as "horrifyingly extreme socialistic nonsense" by Americans?

Healthcare free at point of use, available to all. Mandatory provision of paid maternity leave, with right to return to your old job. Free provision of contraception and free abortions on demand for any girl or woman, regardless of her age. A minimum wage that is (from the discussions when the US minimum wage was raised last year) set scarily and unreasonably high by US standards. Long-term welfare benefits paid in actual money, not food stamps. Strong unionization protection laws - by US standards; and strong - by US standards - involvement of unions in government. A public education system, free to all children between 4 and 19, that is usually better and certainly less expensive than the locally available private education. The BBC.

I also suspect that a majority of Britons would support torturing an al Qaeda operative who had information about an imminent terrorist attack on London.

Well, it would depend how you asked the question, and how many British people recall that our government used to torture IRA operatives and how unsuccessful this was in preventing terrorist attacks on London. In fact, Brits do tend to be rather jingoistic about our experience, courage, and cool-headedness about terrorist attacks on our cities, compared to the hysterical Americans who go into comic-book villain mode and start screaming "Torture! Torture!" as if that would do any good. So really: like most such poll questions, it would depend not only who you asked, but how you asked the question. But certainly, following the terrorist attacks on 11th July a couple of years ago, there was no such campaign of government brutality against immigrants as followed the September 11 attacks in the US.

"In point of fact, I've read at least a dozen such comments in the past few days, given all the blogs I've gone through -- hell, I read over a dozen last night, some still ringing in my head -- "get out the waterboards!" -- and that's all I'll say about that. Believe me or not."

Well then by all means dispute the substance of the comment rather than just saying something like "Dispute the size of that vote all you like, but saying that the vote doesn't exist at all would just make you appear ignorant."

I know I say things like that too, but it just makes us sound like jerks and isn't helpful.

"But certainly, following the terrorist attacks on 11th July a couple of years ago, there was no such campaign of government brutality against immigrants as followed the September 11 attacks in the US."

Campaign of government brutality against immigrants as followed the September 11 attacks in the US? Maybe you're just being incautious with your language here. I'll definetly spot you Arar. But are you intending to suggest a generalized campaign of brutality against immigrants in general? Or even against Muslim immigrants in general?

Interesting observation I read somewhere about why sports writing, for all its flaws, is invariably superior to modern political coverage: because there is an independent reality to most sports events that everyone agrees on. People can debate the significance, but no-one is going to argue that Ohio State beat LSU in the national championship game, or that Illinois didn't get thumped by USC. As such, for all the contention -- and I'm sorry, if you don't beat Stanford (or Tennessee for that matter) you don't go to the national championship -- there's a certain level of basic factuality, of basic understanding that everyone is forced to share if they want to talk sports.

Contrast that with our post-modern "he said, she said" political reportage, let alone the spin and outright lies, and you can see why I can consider ESPN College Game Day a source of valuable insight while swearing never to watch cable news again.

Um. Evolution vs. creationism. See Texas and Florida.

But certainly, following the terrorist attacks on 11th July a couple of years ago

7th July. Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking.

Sebastian: Campaign of government brutality against immigrants as followed the September 11 attacks in the US?

Yes. Hadn't you heard? Didn't you know?

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, the Department of Justice began a hit or miss process of questioning thousands of non-citizens, primarily foreign-born Muslim men, who it thought or guessed might have information about or connections to terrorist activity. At least 1,200 non-citizens were subsequently arrested and incarcerated, 752 of whom were charged with immigration violations.29 These so-called “special interest” immigration detainees were presumed guilty of links to terrorism and incarcerated for months until the government “cleared” them of such connections. By February 2002 the Department of Justice acknowledged that most of the original “special interest” detainees were no longer of interest to its anti-terrorist efforts, and none were indicted for crimes related to the September 11 attacks. Most were deported for visa violations. HRW

". But are you intending to suggest a generalized campaign of brutality against immigrants in general? Or even against Muslim immigrants in general?"

There was a huge round-up, post-September 11th, of anyone with any Muslim connections who had the faintest degree of question arise about their immigration status. Many of these people, most wholly innocent of any crime at all, and many guilty of nothing more than technical violations of immigration laws, were treated brutally in immigration facilities. There have been a number of lawsuits. You might want to google on it.

That may not be identical, in your view, to a "generalized campaign of brutality [...] against Muslim immigrants in general," such as, perhaps, in a sense that there were many lynch mobs, or some other formulation, but many would find it a reasonable, if incomplete, statement.

I did know about the 'deported for visa violations' which while I think was stupid, I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'. And I certainly wouldn't have compared it unfavorably to UK immigration policies which was recently going through its own immigration hand-wringing as recently as middle of 2006 (I haven't paid attention to the issue much since then).

And even if I agree that 100% of the approximately 1,200 people you are talking about represent some kind of injustice, there are estimated to be 2-4 million recent Muslim immigrants to the United States. That makes the idea of a generalized campaign of brutality against Muslim immigrants still a long way off by the evidence you have presented.

"I did know about the 'deported for visa violations' which while I think was stupid, I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'."

And yet the many people who were repeatedly beaten, handcuffed to pipes, kept in cells with 24-light and surveillance and noice, and so on, beg to differ in their lawsuits.

Otherwise, let me note that "generalized" does not mean "universal," and that no one has, that I've noticed, asserted the brutality involved even hundreds, or tens, of thousands of people, let alone millions.

Just mere thousands of people: should that be minimized and dismissed as unimportant, and unworthy of attention, then?

Let me really suggest you read up more on what happened before commenting much further. I know you're a good person, and I doubt you'll want to stand by "I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'."

In the usual multiple attempts to post without a cookie, or my blacklisted e-mail address (can no one ever do anything about that?), the text was reverted to the earlier version; this is the trivially different comment I actually wrote to post:

"I did know about the 'deported for visa violations' which while I think was stupid, I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'."

And yet the many people who were repeatedly beaten, handcuffed to pipes, kept in cells with 24-light and surveillance and noise, and so on, beg to differ in their lawsuits.

Otherwise, let me note that "generalized" does not mean "universal," and that no one has, that I've noticed, asserted the brutality involved even hundreds, or tens, of thousands of people, let alone millions.

Just mere thousands of people: should that be minimized and dismissed as unimportant, and unworthy of attention, then?

Let me really suggest you read up more on what happened before commenting much further. I know you're a good person, and I doubt you'll want to stand by "I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'."

Forgive me or not for not providing you with links: I'm a little occupied in my link-chasing at present. But I'm sure you can look into it yourself.

Sebastian: I did know about the 'deported for visa violations' which while I think was stupid, I wouldn't have called it 'brutal'.

I really suggest you go look up what happened to them: I think, once you actually do know about them, you will call it brutal. There's a PDF file here from the Immigration Forum.

That makes the idea of a generalized campaign of brutality against Muslim immigrants still a long way off by the evidence you have presented.

So, how many people does your government have to arrest and brutalize for the crime of being Muslim before you'll accept that it counts as a government campaign? If 1200 isn't enough, what kind of numbers would you accept?

But neither [Kusinich or Brown] could even make it to the Senate, or being a Governor

Brown was Governor, in case you forgot. I guess you nevedr heard the rumors of him and Linda Ronstead roller-skating through the Governor's Mansion.

=================================

Could you let us know the name of a UK prime minister who is more crazy and extreme than George W, please?

Would Thatcher have approved torture? I get the feeling that she would have. But it's only a feeling.

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Long-term welfare benefits paid in actual money, not food stamps.

Food stamps are being phased out, if they aren't already gone. Instead, clients are issued a debit card, with a special selection at supermarket checkout machines.

Swipe your card, which, in California, looks like a pretty nice credit / debit card, press the EBT (rather than ATM) button, and your appropriate choices are deducted from your account. No more "funny money" which is embarrisng, adds hardship for the stores and is easily stolen.

We have, in the past few years, caught up with the times.

Mandatory provision of paid maternity leave, with right to return to your old job.

I have problems with this, from an "equal rights for all" point of view, but will save them for a different thread.

"Otherwise, let me note that "generalized" does not mean "universal,"

Right, it means generalized, and less than 1% almost certainly isn't generalized in any normal sense of the word.

"Just mere thousands of people: should that be minimized and dismissed as unimportant, and unworthy of attention, then?"

What an odd thing to say from someone as attentive to words as you are. Is noting that there was not a generalized campaign of brutality the same as saying that any particular instance of brutality is unimportant? There are a lot of Muslim immigrants in the US. If there were a generalized campaign of brutality against them, it would involve more than about 1,200 people and around 800 deportations (which don't seem to even be improper deportations).

If you want to argue that people held for immigration violations ought not be held in prisons I'm all for that. If you want to argue that these instances offer evidence of a generalized campaign of brutality, I'm afraid you are simply wrong.

I think that one instance of torture is too many for instance. And I think that Bush's systematic allowance for torture is evil. But if you were to say that Bush's administration is engaged in a generalized campaign of torture of Muslims you would be guilty of hyperbole.

Which is why I asked for clarification.

I'll add, on the "personal anecdote" level, that by 2004, according to a friend who works for British Airways, all the Muslims he knew who were working for BA had asked to be taken off UK/US flights, because after an 8-12 hour flight, they would be "detained for interrogation" - separated from the rest of the crew, taken into custody, and questioned. Being mistreated because of your religion is something no one needs, even if the mistreatment is simply not being allowed to get to your hotel bedroom and go to sleep at the end of a long hard working day, but have to stay awake answering stupid questions for another couple of hours.

Jeff: Food stamps are being phased out, if they aren't already gone. Instead, clients are issued a debit card, with a special selection at supermarket checkout machines.

So, an electronic version of food stamps. Nice for supermarkets - stops people on welfare from getting to shop where they like and make their own choices about food. Not so good for people on welfare, of course.

Sebastian, "generalized campaign of brutality" as a term you made up and introduced here. No one has asserted such a campaign. I'm uninterested in disproving a straw man claim I never made.

I understand that your automatic impulse is to question unpleasant statements made about things that happened under the authority of our government; you might consider further questioning how automatic that initial impulse should always be.

(Note: this is not a suggestion you switch to Blaming America First in every instance, on a moment's notice, either.)

"So, how many people does your government have to arrest and brutalize for the crime of being Muslim before you'll accept that it counts as a government campaign?"

Well, if it approaches say 1/2 of 1% of the Muslim population I would start to think worry about it. And you haven't even come close to 1,200 arrested AND brutalized. The link you provide offers about 43 if my count is correct. And knowing how such fora work, we can probably agree that they picked their best cases. And not even all of them would count as 'brutualized'--I think I count 8.

Those 8 are bad cases, and they should be dealt with appropriately. The other 35 cases, even though not 'brutal' were also grossly inappropriate, should not have happened, and reflect poorly on the officers and administrations involved.

But even if I were to accept that 100% of the 1,200 arrested were inappropriate--*which is almost certainly ridiculous* that wouldn't show a generalized campaign of brutality against the 2-4 million recent Muslim immigrants. 1,200 people in a 300 million person country isn't a lot, and 1,200 people in a 2-4 million base isn't a generalized campaign of anything.

"No one has asserted such a campaign. I'm uninterested in disproving a straw man claim I never made."

You were defending a claim that Jesurgislac did in fact make. I asked for clarification on that claim becuase she has a history of making inflammatory generalizing claims. She has in fact stood by the more generalized claim and did so before you made your claim that no one was doing so.

"I understand that your automatic impulse is to question unpleasant statements made about things that happened under the authority of our government; you might consider further questioning how automatic that initial impulse should always be."

I have comments about how nasty this particular bit of trivializing sounds, but I think I'm going to take a breath before saying anything further.

"Not so good for people on welfare, of course."

Yes, but the vitally important goal of making sure government money doesn't go to giving poor people access to junk food is maintained.

Among the many rules: no cold cuts unless bought in a sealed package. No non-produce (vegetables and fruit) food of any sort that isn't in a sealed package.

By this you know that the deli lobby in the U.S. is not at all large.

Oh, and toilet paper is your own problem.

Every state runs their own program, within federal guidelines that allow for considerable differentiation. Here is info on the federal program.

FAQ:

[...] 10. What foods are eligible for purchase with food stamps?

Households CAN use food stamp benefits to buy:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:
-- breads and cereals
-- fruits and vegetables
-- meats, fish and poultry; and
-- dairy products
Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

Households CANNOT use food stamp benefits to buy:

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
Any nonfood items, such as:
-- pet foods;
-- soaps, paper products; and
-- household supplies.
Vitamins and medicines.
Food that will be eaten in the store.
Hot foods

"Food that will be eaten in the store" gets interpreted, in my experience, as any unsealed food that isn't produce, regardless of whether it's twenty pounds of granola, three pounds of pasta, a forty pound cheese, two pounds of rice, or what have you. If it's unsealed, you might eat it, and that's illegal, so it's plastic sealing on everything for you. And you'll like it.

Well, if it approaches say 1/2 of 1% of the Muslim population I would start to think worry about it.

Okay. Given the figure of 4M Muslims in the US (estimates vary, but we'll take that for the sake of argument), you're saying you're not going to worry about people being arrested because of their religion in your own country until it happens to at least 20 000 people? Honestly, Sebastian: I would worry about my government doing this if it happened to twenty people.

The link you provide offers about 43 if my count is correct.

Uh, yeah. If we can repeat this: most of those arrested by your government because of their religion were then deported. 43 personal testimonies may represent the worst of those whose testimony was available.

But even if I were to accept that 100% of the 1,200 arrested were inappropriate--*which is almost certainly ridiculous*

You think it's sometimes appropriate to arrest people because of their religion? Really?

that wouldn't show a generalized campaign of brutality against the 2-4 million recent Muslim immigrants.

It would, however, show a campaign of government brutality against immigrants. Which is what I pointed out followed the September 11 attacks in the US.

It wasn't my intent to be nasty, Sebastian. I apologize for a comment that I'd agree is fairly characterizable as condescending.

You were defending a claim that Jesurgislac did in fact make.

No, Sebastian. I pointed out that, following September 11, there was a campaign of government brutality against immigrants because of their religion. THis campaign is documented. That you consider it's not important because unless at least 20 000 people are persecuted because of their religion, you're not concerned about government brutality and discrimnation, does not actually change the plain fact that there was a government campaign against Muslim immigrants.

"You think it's sometimes appropriate to arrest people because of their religion? Really?"

No, Sebastian was saying he believed that most of the arrests were on grounds of reasonable questions of violation of immigration laws.

May I suggest that "campaign" is an unusefully ambiguous term here? It can imply both a wide range of scope and intent, and a narrow range of either. It can imply considerable planning and intent and coordination, but it need not.

It's not necessary to describe what happened as a "campaign," and it's not useful to do so without reaching agreement on what constitutes a "campaign" and what doesn't.

I think it's bad enough to point out what happened, and say that America should have been better than that.

That America wasn't worse really isn't what I think should be the first, or second, thought that springs to mind.

Those 8 are bad cases, and they should be dealt with appropriately. The other 35 cases, even though not 'brutal' were also grossly inappropriate, should not have happened, and reflect poorly on the officers and administrations involved.

Given past experience with immigration officials, I would term this sort of of treatment to be widespread within the government, and pretty much systemic. Unless treated like that, this sort of treatment will be (since it has been) repeated again and again and again.

As you say, this is not acceptable. Yet, it still occurs.

Jesurgislac, "You think it's sometimes appropriate to arrest people because of their religion? Really?"

No. I think most of them were arrested for other reasons.

gwangung, "Given past experience with immigration officials, I would term this sort of of treatment to be widespread within the government, and pretty much systemic."

I think there are lots of things wrong with our immigration system, and I agree that systemically it is broken. I also think that there are lots things wrong with our drug enforcement system, and that it is systemically broken. But those are two hugely different issues.

"It wasn't my intent to be nasty, Sebastian. I apologize for a comment that I'd agree is fairly characterizable as condescending."

That's fine. That is why I decided to take a breath first. :)

Sebastian, I recognize that I'm getting more than a little *****. Based on past experience, I'm actually pretty confident that given a chance to look into what happened to Muslim immigrants after September 11, you'll come down on the right side. I admit that you have not yet had a chance to do so, and that expecting you to do so in the space of a couple of hours is unreasonable. I apologize for getting *****.

Oh, wait. I bet I can't say *****. Let me replace this by five asterisks and the posting rules require you to use your imagination/your knowledge of British slang/your e-mail.

Wow. This is all a little too "kumbayah," don't you think? I'm not sure I can handle the agreement. ;)

Would it be fair to say that in the case under discussion, those who were arrested for immigration violations were all (or nearly all) Muslims? So, allowing that the deportations were technically correct, those scrutinized were chosen for their religion? (I have not taken the time to refamiliarize myself with the case, so apologies in advance for ignorance.)

farmgirl: Would it be fair to say that in the case under discussion, those who were arrested for immigration violations were all (or nearly all) Muslims?

Yes.

So, allowing that the deportations were technically correct, those scrutinized were chosen for their religion?

Yes.

Even if the DoJ could find a legal excuse to deport these people, they were not cracking down on immigration law violations: they were making use of immigration law to crack down on Muslims. Where (as with BA employees) there was no immigration law issue they could use, the authorities exercised their right to question any airline employee: but again, they were targeting Muslims, not "airline employees".

PS: I do not sing "Kumbaya". ;-)

Still waiting for that apology, Bikeshed.

So, an electronic version of food stamps. Nice for supermarkets - stops people on welfare from getting to shop where they like and make their own choices about food. Not so good for people on welfare, of course.

Electronic "food stamps" are good all the way around. For the clients: They're not "bearer documents" like Food Stamps are, and are less likely to be stolen. They also look (and act) just like a regular debit card, so there's none of the embaressment of someone flashing odd but recognizable "I'm on welfare!!!!!" bills. For the stores: They no longer have to deal with two forms of currency. And for the Counties (which distribute welfare in California -- Michagan uses a state-wide system, which means that it has to work in Detroit and low-populated towns in the UP): Less fraud, since they can track who's using their card, where and for how much; and, again, less theft.

Food Stamps have always only been for groceries, which means they're only good in markets. Even the smallest Carniceria will have a check-out machine programmed to accept EBT. Also, Food stamps have ALWAYS been a way to provide food to a family. So toilet paper, pet food, and items to be eaten in the store shouldn't fall under "Food Stamps".

We also have "Cal-Works", which is what used to be Aid to Families with Dependent Children, then just Aid to Dependent Children -- the Federal program is Transitional Aid to Needy Families (welfare-to-work, right? Don't get me started on that mess). There's MediCal and MediCaid (only accepted at doctor's offices! isn't that an imposition on the poor!!!!!) And finally, there's General Relief, a catch-all for immediate relief, like when the fridge doesn't work.

(Full Disclosure: My job is to support the County of Los Angeles Department of Social Services. I was one of our team to implement EBT ("Electronic Food Stamps"), and I helped design the "warrants", otherwise known as checks, that get sent to our clients -- we've moved to Direct Deposit, another benefit for both client and County, but we still send out more checks than Direct Deposit). I have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about.)

Some more links on the post 9-11 sweeps: 1, 2.


A bit of further disclosure: I was on Food Stamps, back when they were that cumbersome, ugly, "I'm on welfare!!!!!" money, so I've seen FS as botha supplier and consumer.

Don't worry, folks...The supporters of our various Democratic candidates will make sure we won't be singing Kumbaya...

"They also look (and act) just like a regular debit card, so there's none of the embaressment of someone flashing odd but recognizable 'I'm on welfare!!!!!' bills."

I agree that the cards are better than the old coupons, but while they're a little less conspicuous than the old booklets of coupons were, what you say is completely untrue.

The cards are, at least in the case of Colorado and New York, last I looked, completely distinguishable from any other credit/debit card by their unique color, design, and identifying aspects, and when applied, a unique procedure has to be used to be properly acknowleged and punched in -- this also takes time -- and the cashier, who may be as apt to sneer as any customer, knows perfectly well that she's looking at a card that, in the case of Colorado, says in big letters "Colorado Quest Card."

Then there's the whole interaction if someone makes a mistake and tries to purchase a Forbidden Object.

A bit less embarrassment? Sure. None?: utter nonsense.

"I have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about."

Not from the point of view of using the cards.

Feel free to be proud of the improvement. Please don't claim the difference is more than incremental.

Thanks for reminding me of Ehab Elmaghraby and Javaid Iqbal, Katherine.

I know I blogged about other cases at Brooklyn Detention, this is the one I couldn't find for a long time.

[...] Right after the World Trade Center attack, they said, their parents urged them to come home. "We assured them," Yasser recalled: " 'This is the United States. They don't arrest people for no charges. We didn't do anything, so nothing's going to happen to us.'"

Jeff: Electronic "food stamps" are good all the way around.

Well, for everyone except the people on welfare, I'm sure they're just fine. For the people in receipt of "food stamps", electronic or paper, they're insulting, inconvenient, and publicly humiliating, none of which is good, let alone "good all the way around".

They cannot, however, vote for an American Labour Party, because the US political scene is set up to prevent any third party achieving a national presence.

Yes, they can. Socialists, the Green Party, etc. are on the Presidential ballot in all 50 states. It's just that very few people vote for them. Also, we're talking about the same Labour Party, right? The one that got Britain involved in the Iraq War and has
gone along with economic de-nationalization?

Healthcare free at point of use, available to all. Mandatory provision of paid maternity leave, with right to return to your old job.

Further left than the U.S. norm? Yes. "Horrifyingly extreme socialist nonsense" from the POV of the U.S. electorate? No. These are fairly mainstream positions within the Democratic party.

Free provision of contraception and free abortions on demand for any girl or woman, regardless of her age.

Opposition to this has far more to do with more conservative social attitudes than it does with socialism. Note also that as the U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries that makes enough babies to maintain a stable-sized labor force and thus ensure the survival of its welfare state, we're not necessarily wrong to be more socially conservative.

A minimum wage that is (from the discussions when the US minimum wage was raised last year) set scarily and unreasonably high by US standards.

Uhh.. most Americans support a higher minimum wage. Factoring in cost of living, the common consensus on what the U.S. minimum wage should be is not that different from what the British wage is.

Long-term welfare benefits paid in actual money, not food stamps.

Yes, actual money is so much better. Gotta let the junkies and gambling degenerates indulge their self-destructive habits on the government dole, after all. Sorry for the snark, but there is very good reason for restricting the use of welfare benefits.

Strong unionization protection laws - by US standards; and strong - by US standards - involvement of unions in government.

Given that unions are one of the largest and most powerful interest group conglomerations in the U.S., I don't know that this is true.

A public education system, free to all children between 4 and 19, that is usually better and certainly less expensive than the locally available private education.

Find me a poll that shows a statistically significant number of Americans think public education is socialist.

The BBC.

Ah yes. Well, it is the Brits who came up with the nickname "the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation". I think it has an embarassingly leftist bias and is rather mediocre as a journalistic organ, yes, but I wouldn't call it "horrifyingly extreme socialist nonsense", nor would most Americans. "Horrifyingly extreme socialist nonsense" is things like executing people who wear glasses as enemies of the revolution. The British system is left-wing, and far moreso than the U.S.' in some regards, but you are really overstating the differences.

Also, note what I've previously stated, that some things which are the norm in Britain (e.g. warrantless surveillance, lack of automatic citizenship for babies born to people who are resident) are far more right-wing than equivalent conditions in the U.S.

I also suspect that a majority of Britons would support torturing an al Qaeda operative who had information about an imminent terrorist attack on London.

Well, it would depend how you asked the question, and how many British people recall that our government used to torture IRA operatives and how unsuccessful this was in preventing terrorist attacks on London. In fact, Brits do tend to be rather jingoistic about our experience, courage, and cool-headedness about terrorist attacks on our cities, compared to the hysterical Americans who go into comic-book villain mode and start screaming "Torture! Torture!" as if that would do any good. So really: like most such poll questions, it would depend not only who you asked, but how you asked the question. But certainly, following the terrorist attacks on 11th July a couple of years ago, there was no such campaign of government brutality against immigrants as followed the September 11 attacks in the US.

Ick. Messy post, didn't respond to your last point - way to stereotype there, Jesurgislac. We Brits are cool-headed, civilized, and courageous, those Americans are a bunch of nativist barbarians who wanna torture any brown person they can get their hands on. As an intelligent leftist, you should realize that these sorts of stereotypes are not only devoid of substance but also degrade the people being generalized. Or do British leftists not read Foucault and Said these days?

Sebastian has already pretty well debunked the claim that there was a "campaign of government brutality" against immigrants in the U.S. after September 11th.

As for torture, it's hardly universally popular in the U.S., it is hotly debated, and, well, you know, Abu Ghraib and the like WERE considered national embarrassments, with not a single mainstream political figure defending them. A lot of Europeans who criticize the quality of the U.S. debate on topics like this are, in my experience, staggeringly ignorant of the dynamics of that debate (yes, I travel in Europe quite a bit, and have lots of friends there. Some of us do get out beyond our own borders too.) But hey, cling to your sense of civilized superiority if you like.


By the powers of greyskull, Italiexo!

Xeyman: As for torture, it's hardly universally popular in the U.S., it is hotly debated and, well, you know, Abu Ghraib and the like WERE considered national embarrassments, with not a single mainstream political figure defending them.

Nor a single mainstream political figure resigning over them. Nor any mainstream political enthusiasm for impeaching Bush for his support of torture. Torture remains a US national embarrassment.

We Brits are cool-headed, civilized, and courageous, those Americans are a bunch of nativist barbarians who wanna torture any brown person they can get their hands on. As an intelligent leftist, you should realize that these sorts of stereotypes are not only devoid of substance but also degrade the people being generalized.

Hardly. Jingoistic generalizations do not degrade the people being generalized, and I acknowledged (perhaps not as clearly as I might have done) that this is a matter of British self-image - but it is that self-image that prevents the corresponding British enthusiasm for the comic-book torture fantasies about "al Qaeda operative who had information about an imminent terrorist attack" that Americans seem to snap into so easily.

Xeyman: Note also that as the U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries that makes enough babies to maintain a stable-sized labor force and thus ensure the survival of its welfare state, we're not necessarily wrong to be more socially conservative.

If you don't regard it as necessarily wrong to treat women as incubators who can't be allowed to decide for ourselves when and how many children to have: if you think of it as "socially conservative" to force women to be breeding machines. The last European country to treat women like this was Romania: I suppose you could say that Ceauşescu was "socially conservative".

Well, for everyone except the people on welfare, I'm sure they're just fine. For the people in receipt of "food stamps", electronic or paper, they're insulting, inconvenient, and publicly humiliating, none of which is good, let alone "good all the way around".

It's hard to respond to this within ObWi's posting rules....

I've seen people use both Food Stamps and EBT cards, and I can assure you that they are NOT insulting, inconvenient, NOR publicly humiliating, any more than a standard EBT card is.

You were wrong about where they can be used, and you're wrong about how our clients feel about them. I've indicated that I know a LOT more about this than you do -- back down graciously for once.

"I can assure you that they are NOT insulting, inconvenient, NOR publicly humiliating,"

Excellent. Now, what number am I thinking of?

To clarify another point that hasn't been made explicitly, and which I suspect you may be missing, is that the comparison is to cash. If you'd like to argue that the cards are more convenient, less embarrassing, and more desirable, than cash, go for it.

I've seen people use both Food Stamps and EBT cards, and I can assure you that they are NOT insulting, inconvenient, NOR publicly humiliating, any more than a standard EBT card is.

So, despite what people with actual experience of using food stamps or electronic food stamps say, you know - because you've seen them - that they are not actually insulted or humiliated, and that they do not find it inconvenient not to be just given money and let use their own judgement how to spend it.

Did you happen to read Xeymon's casually abusive comment about people on welfare? He asserted that people on the dole are "junkies and gambling degenerates" who, if given actual money, with "indulge their self-destructive habits" and this bigotry is, he thinks a "very good reason for restricting the use of welfare benefits."

You feel that someone on welfare ought not to feel insulted or humiliated by being forced to deal with this kind of casual bigotry from people like Xeymon? Why's that?

Jeff; You were wrong about where they can be used, and you're wrong about how our clients feel about them. I've indicated that I know a LOT more about this than you do

Yes, because you use one of those cards to buy your groceries on a weekly basis? Or because your clients assure you that they're not insulted or humilitated by being made to use these cards rather than being able to use a regular debit card or cash? You want me to back down graciously? I'm not one of your welfare clients: I don't have to assure you that you are right and I am wrong.

Jeff; You were wrong about where they can be used, and you're wrong about how our clients feel about them. I've indicated that I know a LOT more about this than you do

Yes, because you use one of those cards to buy your groceries on a weekly basis? Or because your clients assure you that they're not insulted or humilitated by being made to use these cards rather than being able to use a regular debit card or cash? You want me to back down graciously? I'm not one of your welfare clients: I don't have to assure you that you are right and I am wrong.

but it is that self-image that prevents the corresponding British enthusiasm for the comic-book torture fantasies about "al Qaeda operative who had information about an imminent terrorist attack" that Americans seem to snap into so easily.

Such fantasies are, I agree, absurd. Jack Bauer is a fictional character. I don't see any less evidence that British people would be less likely to condone torture under certain circumstances, however. I also think that the British have their own national delusions (that they're more polite, worldly, and well-behaved than Americans, for one - that is hardly true, as the distaste for boorish British tourists I have encountered in places like Prague and Bratislava attests).

If you don't regard it as necessarily wrong to treat women as incubators who can't be allowed to decide for ourselves when and how many children to have: if you think of it as "socially conservative" to force women to be breeding machines. The last European country to treat women like this was Romania: I suppose you could say that Ceauşescu was "socially conservative".

I don't really care to debate feminism with you - I think women should have the right to nontraditional life paths if they so choose, and to choose how many children they have. That, Americans and Brits would mostly agree on, I'd say. That said, in Europe, a lot of women are choosing not to have children, and in about 25 years, that's gonna be a HUGE problem. It's really hard to maintain a socialist paradise when you've got lots of old people to soak up the benefits but nobody working to pay for them. The social impact of motherhood is just as legitimate a concern as the prerogatives of the individual.

And Ceauşescu's horrible tyranny is not part-and-parcel with his social conservatism. Nice attempt to smear by association, though.

As far as welfare vs. food stamps go - firstly, you haven't responded to the substantive argument in favor of the former. Secondly, your evidence that they are "humiliating" to the people who use them is anecdotal, so I can't give it any more weight than Jeff's contradicting anecdotal evidence. Since he actually WORKS in this field, and presumably encounters people who use electronic food stamps every day, while you live in the UK, where as you so proudly note food stamps don't even exist, and since people who receive food stamps would have a vested interest in altering welfare law so that they could get cold, hard cash instead, I think you are actually much less persuasive on this score than he is.

Uhh.. most Americans support a higher minimum wage.

Yeah, that's why it's so easy to pass a minimum wage increase without Republicans trying to hold it hostage until tax cuts for business owners are included.

"Yeah, that's why it's so easy to pass a minimum wage increase without Republicans trying to hold it hostage until tax cuts for business owners are included."

Since when have the Republicans in any area of social issues and economic issues voted in a manner consistent with what most Americans want?


"Did you happen to read Xeymon's casually abusive comment about people on welfare? He asserted that people on the dole are "junkies and gambling degenerates" who, if given actual money, with "indulge their self-destructive habits" and this bigotry is, he thinks a "very good reason for restricting the use of welfare benefits." "

Apparently, Jes, you stopped reading at that point. Before you accuse someone of saying something read the whole thing.

"Apparently, Jes, you stopped reading at that point. Before you accuse someone of saying something read the whole thing."

Could you quote enough to indicate what you feel the relevant part that Jes missed is, please, John? Because I'm missing it, too.

Thanks.

To clarify another point that hasn't been made explicitly, and which I suspect you may be missing, is that the comparison is to cash.

Gary, is your question seems serious (unlike Jesu's baiting), I'll do my best to answer in kind.

The problem is that cash has more problems than even Food Stamps, from an admistrative and client point-of-view. It can be lost, or stolen, or claimed to be lost or stolen. It must be distributed from specific centers, with high security for the cash coming in or going out.

Compare that to a debit card. The money is AUTOMATICALLY added to the client's account -- they don't have to go to a welfare office (or even a "satellite office", several of which were added just before we went to EBT). So, yeah, EBT is certainly more convenient and more secure than cash.

==================

Jesu, apparently your reading comprehension failed you when I pointed out that I had been on Food Stamps. So, yeah, I do know what it's like, and YOU DON'T. So Just Stop. OK?

Handing cash to someone on welfare, and saying, "Here, spend this as you will" ain't going to happen. It's hard enough to get funds for specific needs. If one of our clients needs cash, they can apply for General Relief.

Theft and robbery of Food Stamps was a huge problem. If you think our clients would rather be shot for $40 of groceries, you would be... what's the word... WRONG!

I am very proud of the job I do, and welcome any advance that makes the lives of our clients safer and easier.

You have spoken on behalf of sex workers before. Are we to presume that you were one?

The next three words were "excuse the snark". To me that has always meant the the words preceding were not meant to be taken totally seriously and, in fact, represented some degree of hyperbole. Nor, as Jes contends, does it mean that all welfare recipients are viewed by Xynon as druggies, etc.

Yeah, I didn't see anything to redeem that comment either. BTW, Xeynon, did you ever post here under a different name? Your style seems familiar, but I can't quite place it.

BTW, I stopped reading Xeymon a fair number of posts before the "junkies and gambling degenerates". I didn't respond because I figured it just more hot air.

Jeff, I suspect they don't mean actual cold hard cash, but rather a debit card that could be used anywhere and on anything, just like a regular card.

I'm not one of your welfare clients: I don't have to assure you that you are right and I am wrong.

No, but you made the claim that Food Stamps (look at the name, BTW -- this isn't the sum total of welfare) can't be used "wherever the client likes on whatever the client likes". It's true -- it has to be used on Food [gasp!] at a place that sells food [goodness!!!!!], but it can be used at ANY place that sells food.

You were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. End of story.

BTW, what I wrote should not be considered a defense of Xynon, because although he has a valid point, he presented it totally inappropriately.

Money for food is meant to be used for food, therefore food stamps or the EBT card. If anybody here actually believes that no one would use said money given for food for themselves and children for non-food items, including but not by any means limited to drugs, alcohol etc, please explain to me why you think that.

Jes used a very generalized statement that Xynon viewed welfare recipients as druggies. Not some recipients, but reicpients, which would include all. That was unfair on her part.

In the UK we take for granted that a government agency like MI5 doesn't have to get a warrant from a judge before they can wiretap a phone. They'll just damn well do it. In the US, while so far Bush seems to be getting away with having confessed to committing this offense, it is at least explicitly a crime for which he ought to be impeached.

Not so different after all. Among the findings:

In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world...

The worst ranking EU country is the United Kingdom, which again fell into the "black" category along with Russia and Singapore.

The "black" category referred to above are those nations with the worst possible record on respecting individual privacy, and which are characterized by endemic surveillance of their citizens.

Endemic.

The US and UK share that ranking with Russia, China, Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan. Every other nation reviewed was rated better.

Land of the free, folks.

Thanks -

Jeff, I suspect they don't mean actual cold hard cash, but rather a debit card that could be used anywhere and on anything, just like a regular card.

That isn't going to happen, because American Welfare (sounds like an album title) is split into several parts, administered by different agencies. Food Stamps is under the USDA; TANF is under HHS; Medicare is under Social Security; General Relief is a state program.

When you hear the stupid complaints about "Welfare Cadillacs" and "How dare the poor have color TVs?", you realize it's a battle to get ANY funds to the ones who need them most. Our goals are to reduce fraud (which is MUCH more at the worker level than the client) and to make sure that our clients get exactly what they're owed (the system to reclaim money that was distributed in error is quite complex!).

One of my early tasks was to design the checks that we mail to our clients. The address sections must match precisely to the envelopes or the post office won't deliver. And the magnetic strip at the bottom must meet very specific requirements or the bank can't cash them.

(I'm glad we went to Direct Deposit. I was at the mailbox at my apartment and one of my neighbors pulled out a white envelope with a black stripe across a corner. Since I had made sure that our warrants fit in that self-same envelope, it was all I could do not to make any comment. Now the money that is cash (which is about half of the total) is split 75% Direct Deposit, 25% Checks. No one knows that the clients on Direct Deposit receive Welfare Benefits at all.)

Beating up on Jeff because of the way food stamp program is implemented in the US (does the implementation of the program depend on the state? Yet another lacuna for me) doesn't seem like a very profitable way of moving the ball down the field. I'm now wondering not only about the nuts and bolts of the program in the states (at one time, my brother was getting food stamps, but I was not in the country then, so I didn't know so much about how it worked) but also how these kinds of payments are implemented in other countries. There was recently a scandal here in Japan concerning the welfare system (link). I believe that welfare operates here on a direct deposit system, but I'll try to find out more.

That was unfair on her part.

john, meet Jesu.

Beating up on ____ doesn't seem like a very profitable way of moving the ball down the field.

lj, meet Jesu.

does the implementation of the program depend on the state?

There are Federal components (most of the way Food Stamps are adminstered, and requirements to receive them, for example), State components (MediCal; Cal-Works) and County components (I believe that aid to refugees -- not sponsored by Lauren Hill or Wyclef Jean, amazingly enough! -- is a county program.

Eligibility Determination and Benefit Calculation (EDBC) is one of the most complex systems I know of. A person can be in several "cases" (a father with several children for example), a case can have several programs it is participating in, etc. Then you have to take in ALL the credits and debits of ALL the people in the case, any special considerations, etc. I'm so glad that's not the area I work in! :-)

"The problem is that cash has more problems than even Food Stamps, from an admistrative and client point-of-view."

I don't deny that in the slightest.

My point is simply that while it's understandable for you to take pride in your work, that you are not able to honestly declare that you know what anyone and everyone, or even most people, or even more than some people, think and feel about their experiences using an EBT card. Personally, I'm a bit doubtful you've asked even 10,000 clients in a single state.

But maybe you've interviewed 100,000. Still can't support the claim of speaking for all or most. Not even remotely close.

As I said, the card is an improvement over the coupon booklets. But, yes, it can still be an embarrassing experience to use, at times, for some, and simple common sense should enable you to understand that.

Incidentally, use of capping all words, use of multiple exclamation marks, and the like, do not increase the strength of the argument by assertion. It simply suggests that you are sufficiently emotionally upset that you weren't at your best at that moment.

"but it can be used at ANY place that sells food."

Well, at any place that takes the card, which, of course, lots of places that sell food don't. Plus, again, apparently you live in a universe where "restaurants" don't sell "food."

You're not helping yourself here. Take a breath. Maybe wait a day to come back to the discussion. Then consider again how you might be qualified to mindread every food stamp card recipient in the U.S. and thus privileged to honestly speak for every single one of "our clients" and that you know for a fact, on behalf of every single one of them, that "there's none of the embaressment of someone flashing odd but recognizable 'I'm on welfare!!!!!' bills," when they instead flash an odd but recognizable card which every single time takes a special procedure at the check-out stand to use, let alone the instances when a conflict erupts with a cashier.

It's simply not a reasonable claim that no one ever has a poor experience, ever, ever, and then a lot of caps and exclamation marks to "prove" your point.

I suggest leaving off at the claim that EBT cards are an improvement on cash in various ways, which isn't unreasonable.

"Gotta let the junkies and gambling degenerates indulge their self-destructive habits on the government dole, after all."

Ah. We can call people "junkies and gambling degenerates," or similarly offensive characterizations, solely because they've taken money from the government -- and so few people other than recipients of food stamps do that -- and no offense should be taken if we then say "excuse the snark."

John, I have great respect for you, and I don't recall ever disagreeing this strongly with you.

Jes used a very generalized statement that Xynon viewed welfare recipients as druggies. Not some recipients, but reicpients, which would include all. That was unfair on her part.
I don't see it. "Sorry for the snark" doesn't cut it.

Can I regularly get away with this kind of formulation, now?:

Only some kind of brain-damaged schmuck with no reading comprehension could buy that appending a couple of words can undo an insult, and anyone that stupid doesn't deserve to ever comment. Sorry for the snark.
We can now engage in bigotry and insults against groups of people if only we say sorry for the snark at the end?

Y'know, given my natural predilections, which I struggle to keep under control, this really isn't permission you want to give me, at least.

I suggest that "sorry for the snark" aren't magic words that remove offense from those who would otherwise be offended.

If it's your argument that being called a "degenerate" isn't insulting, I don't buy that, either, I'm afraid.

But if I've said anything offensive in this post: sorry for the snark.

There, all better. It would be unfair to criticize me.

Gary, I get your point, and as I said, I felt the overall tone was totally inappropriate.

And yes, chosing those particular examples was offensive.

And yes I have great respect for you too, and I won't disagree too strongly. Nor criticize you at this time.

Personally, I am not a big fan of hyperbole to begin with, whether obvious or not.

"Gary, I get your point, and as I said, I felt the overall tone was totally inappropriate."

Okay.

I sometimes say things I mean to be offensive to someone, but most of the time when I offend, it's unintentional. I'm sure you've noticed innumerable occasions when I've offended someone; I did it to Sebastian only earlier today.

But my response when I find I've offended someone I didn't mean to isn't to declare that my intent is all that matters. (It might if the person's reaction were totally insane, or simply a misunderstanding, but those are limited cases.)

And I don't expect anyone to explain that no one has any right to be offended what I said.

Of course, that's because I'm totally awesome.

Jeff: Jesu, apparently your reading comprehension failed you when I pointed out that I had been on Food Stamps. So, yeah, I do know what it's like, and YOU DON'T.

True, Jeff. I've never been on welfare in the US, nor ever been an asylum seeker, so I don't know what it's like to use food stamps. But I do know what it's like to be on receipt of welfare in the UK: been there, done that. In the UK, they don't hand out Food Stamps in any way at all (unless you're an asylum seeker*): you get a (minimal) ration of money. Which you do tend to spend exclusively on food, because few things are more important, but which you can spend anywhere on food, rather than only in places which have previously agreed to let welfare recipients shop there, and which money did not tell anyone in the places where I shopped that I got my money from the dole office rather than from an employer.

I'll add, too, that while when I was young and just left school and virtually everyone I knew was or had been unemployed, being a welfare recipient mattered less to me: when I had a brief period on the dole a few years ago, after ten years in paid work, it was humiliating and embarrassing - no matter that logic told me it shouldn't be.

*Asylum seekers get coupons, which they can spend at registered supermarkets.

lj: Beating up on Jeff because of the way food stamp program is implemented in the US

Who's doing that? Jeff is making wild claims that he knows that no recipient of food stamps in the US is ever embarrassed, humiliated, or insulted because they can't use cash to buy food with. He's getting beaten up for that, lj: reading comprehension, please.

Well, we agree that there is some beating up going on, I guess that is progress. But if you say

that they do not find it inconvenient not to be just given money and let use their own judgement how to spend it.

you are highlighting flaws in the program and suggesting that they should changed, points thatl I imagine Jeff has no control over. I also note that you seem to be beating up on jeff for not calling Xenyon on the previously mentioned comment. I left out your name not because I am trying to be snarky, just trying to lower the temp, apologies if you thought I was trying to sneak in a shot.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the points you are making, (though I would not modify the noun "claims" with "wild"), I just think that we could (always?) stand to improve the signal to noise ratio. Thanks.

Jesurgliac, GF, et. al.

Let me apologize. I'm sorry if you took what I said as a general characterization of welfare recipients as "junkies and gambling degenerates". By no means did I mean that all welfare recipients would misuse the money they receive in that way - I have worked in inner city schools and know that that's not the case. But I realize it could have been taken that way. I was merely frustrated at jesurgliac's refusal to concretely address my points and used language that came out in language that sounded harsh and unfair. What I meant was, there are irresponsible people out there, and if you let them abuse welfare, they will. You're naive if you think that's not so. I've encountered quite a few addicts (drugs, gambling, etc.) and know for a fact that such people often behave extremely irresponsibly toward themselves and others. If everyone were rational, you're right - people would use the money to buy food for themselves and their kids. But sadly, not everyone is rational - particularly when in the throes of addiction. I realize I am adding more to the heap of anecdotal evidence here, but I once encountered a Briton who waxed nostalgic for the English welfare state because you could "buy your ganj on the dole." His exact words. So there ARE some people who abuse the system out there, even if jesurgislac and Jeff aren't among them. Welfare in the form of food stamps or the equivalent rather than cash seems like a good way of preventing that sort of behavior (as well as preventing theft etc. as Jeff noted). If that hurts the pride of those dependent on them, well, that's unfortunate, but it's a tradeoff worth making in my view. As a taxpayer, I want my money used prudently if it's going to go to social welfare - and welfare-as-cash lacks oversight and is too easily misdirected.

I really wish you'd actually respond substantively to what I have to say, though. It might go a lot further toward convincing me of your point of view. Contrary to what you might have gathered from my posts I'm not a rabid right wing ideologue. I do care about the problem of poverty. I'm in favor of government intervention in inner city schools and welfare-to-work programs. I think traditional liberal solutions are problematic, for reasons I've laid out. If you disagree, please provide evidence that my misgivings are off-base.

I also respect views further to the left of mine - I just wish you'd present them in a way more substantive than gainsaying everything I say without a shred evidence to back you up. I'm not interested in abusing or arguing with people - I'm here for substantive discourse and debate. Again, sorry that I went over the top there.


Larv, I haven't posted much here at all, but I used to post on publius' old blog under my real name. Been a few years, though.

LJ: Well, we agree that there is some beating up going on, I guess that is progress.

And if you can bring yourself to follow what Jeff is saying, we might progress further.

you are highlighting flaws in the program and suggesting that they should be changed

Oh dear. I see we're not progressing. Try re-reading what I'm actually saying, and what Jeff was actually saying. You're not improving the signal-to-noise ratio by misreading what Jeff is saying, misreading what I am saying, and responding to your misreading than to what is actually being said.

Jeff is claiming (which you seem to think is not a "wild claim") that he knows no one has ever been embarrassed, humiliated, or insulted by having to use food stamps. I am reacting to this really rather stupidly arrogant claim. You are, for some reason, finding this claim quite reasonable: possibly because you aren't actually reading the discussion.

Xey: I really wish you'd actually respond substantively to what I have to say

I really wish you had anything substantive to say.

"Let me apologize. I'm sorry if you took what I said as a general characterization of welfare recipients as 'junkies and gambling degenerates'. By no means did I mean that all welfare recipients would misuse the money they receive in that way - I have worked in inner city schools and know that that's not the case. But I realize it could have been taken that way. I was merely [....]"

This is where you should have stopped.

As it is, I'll pretend you did, and accept your apology.

General tip: apologies best stand alone. When they segue into justification, the apology part gets eaten up.

Thanks for the apology.

Xey: Apology accepted. - Sorry, I should have said that before.

I once encountered a Briton who waxed nostalgic for the English welfare state because you could "buy your ganj on the dole." His exact words.

That's not even anecdotal evidence. That's hearsay repeated. (FWIW: the English welfare state has never provided enough money to "buy ganj on the dole". At least, not unless your Briton lived somewhere in the UK ganj was way cheaper than what I HAVE BEEN TOLD prices usually are.)

Jes,
Going at my reading comprehension is just a way of trying to insult me. I fail to see why that is useful, but I don't think it reflects to well on you. I leave you to it.

Gary, I was sincere about my apology. If you read all my posts, I hope you'll realize I'm not at all motivated by right wing ideology, prejudice, etc. I was not attempting to justify my choice of words - merely to say that, despite the ham-handed and insensitive way in which I said it, there was a legitimate point I was trying to make, and segue into a rational discussion of said point.

jesurgislac - because we disagree does not mean what I say lacks substance. Your general tactic seems to have become ignoring the details of any argument that is critical of your viewpoint in favor of anecdote (I was on rhetoric and would have felt shame about using food stamps), insinuation (you must approve of brutal dictatorship because you share views on a particular issue with a particular brutal dictator), boilerplate left-wing rhetoric (women's bodies are not incubators!), and/or holier-than-thou indignation (your offensive characterization of welfare recipients obviously invalidates anything you might say on the issue). I don't mind that you and I substantially disagree, but let's try and get back to where we were earlier in the thread - i.e., actually responding to what the other was saying. You made some good points in favor of your view that the UK polity is more liberal in some ways than its U.S. equivalent, which I acknowledge. Since, though, it seems we've begun merely talking past each other.

"I was on rhetoric"... hah. I think we both are. :) Obviously, that ought to read "I was on welfare".

liberal japonicus - you're in Japan? I should have guessed from your name.. Whereabouts? (I live in Sendai).

I once encountered a Briton who waxed nostalgic for the English welfare state because you could "buy your ganj on the dole."

That's interesting, but I'm not sure how representative it is, or if it's a problem we really need to worry about all that much. Most folks will likely prefer to eat than get high. There are exceptions, but they're rare.

Look, I think the issue here is whether public assistance is distributed in a way that calls attention to the fact that the recipient is on welfare, or not.

Part of the issue is finding a way for the government, or whoever is footing the bill, to have some control over how the money is spent. Not a bad goal, in and of itself.

Another part of this, which I think is more characteristic of the US than in the UK, is the desire to make public assistance as unpleasant an experience as it can possibly be. Maybe it's due to our Puritan roots, maybe it's our "stand on your own two feet" heritage, I don't know. But there's a strong tendency here to want to make sure that folks on public assistance spend those funds on nothing other than bare necessities.

God forbid you should buy yourself an ice cream, let alone a little kind bud.

Personally, I think it would make sense to let folks grow their own damned ganj out in the back yard. Put a few plants in with the tomatoes. Uncle Jerry's victory garden! There's the do-it-yourself spirit, don't you think?

But, that's just crazy old me.

There is a cultural difference, between the US and pretty much every other country that can actually afford to provide public assistance, on the topic of how shameful an experience it should be to receive public assistance.

In other places, it seems like it's just part of what folks do for each other. Here, it seems like it has to come with a scolding attached.

For the record, this isn't directed at Jeff, who seems like he does his bit to make it not that way.

Thanks -

Jeez, small world. I live in Kumamoto, lived in Sendai and Shiogama for 5 years.

Again, Russell, I agree. I have absolutely no objection to making public assistance as invisible as possible. My concerns are based purely on the potential for abuse in the system.

I also agree on marijuana legalization. I don't know how representative that guy was, but from having observed his behavior in other contexts (mooching shamelessly off his Japanese wife's family), my guess is that he probably misused money no matter how he got it when he was in the UK.

In any case, I think public assistance should be aimed more at providing educational and economic opportunities than keeping people in a perpetual state of subsistence living.

Sorry, Russell, don't mean to pick, but I'd take a look at that link about Japan above. However, there is this as well.

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