Monthly Archives: November 2009

Food stamp nation

The New York Times has an article on increased food stamp use in America that delivers the staggering statistic that up to one-fourth of America’s children are currently being helped by the program. Food stamps mean different things to different people – for some, it’s something they chronically need to rely on, and for others it’s a temporary situation. In the early ’80s (the last big recession), my family used food stamps when my dad was out of work. I can’t remember exactly how long, but I think it was a couple of months. We weren’t starving, but we did qualify for the program, so my parents used it for a while. So what’s it like when a suburban family has to endure the “shame” of using a good government program they’ve already paid into? This was back in the days before they used a discreet swipe card for the benefits, and used colored coupons instead, and I remember the whiff of stigma over whipping those things out at the local grocery store. For whatever reason, we went to another nearby Wegmans quite a lot during that period (which my sister called “the food stamp Wegmans”).

Well, it was tough enough for my parents as voting Democrats to rely on them for a little while — imagine how tough it is for government-scorning Republican parents to swallow their pride, use the cards, and then go right back to cursing government programs once they get back on their feet. Cognitive dissonance requires a lot of effort to maintain.

The Times story breaks down statistics county-by-county. If the need for (and not the actual use of) the food stamp program is embarrassing, Onondaga County has the dubious distinction of being the county where the highest percentage of black residents are using the program. The ratio of black to white food stamp recipients (percentagewise) also seems to be most imbalanced here, and in Rochester. The total percentage of food stamp recipients (of any race or age) has gone up 33% in Onondaga County over the past two years. That isn’t as bad as some counties and boroughs downstate, but compared with the other major upstate metro areas, it’s a significantly greater change than in Rochester and Buffalo.

The article notes that food stamp usage in better-off “white” communities (like suburban Atlanta) is soaring. Twenty years from now, other middle-class Americans will be confessing this family secret and recalling “food stamp days.”

Guns don’t kill people… oh yeah, guess they do.

The Post-Standard ran a story this past Sunday about the odyssey of a local Glock pistol, known to local police as “9 mm No. 1” which was involved in 13 shootings and one armed robbery in the Syracuse area alone until its confiscation recently from its latest user, a 23-year-old man. (As one joker put it on the forum, “I’m sure this gun was just starting to turn its life around.”)

I’m wondering if police would simply put out Wanted posters for specific weapons, they might succeed in getting some of them off the streets. And I wonder if publicly listing the names of the former non-criminal dealers and owners might be worthwhile. Not fair? Well, let’s trace the whole story of these guns and the culture that loves them, and see what comes up. It would also be interesting if notorious weapons became more notorious than the people (criminal or otherwise) who are attracted to wielding them for whatever reason.

Snow news is good news

Sean Kirst has created a contest to predict when Syracuse will (finally) get its first inch of snowfall. It seems we’ve gone a long time without the white stuff. Unfortunately, you can no longer enter the contest, but you can still enter my contest, which is “Predict how much money NYCO will have wasted this season by pre-paying her plow guy.”

There is also exciting news on the storm front: the Golden Snowball contest goes national!

Which big city with a population of 100,000 or more will be the snowiest city in the United States this snow season? Only time and a lot of snow will tell. Welcome to the new Golden Snow Globe website. Consider this the Grand opening of the site even though it isn’t even close to being ready. Things that will be updated on here soon will be which city is leading so far, the top ten snowiest cities to date and more. The reason for opening up shop early is to get some suggestions and feedback from visitors here. Maybe lay down some rules that haven’t been set in stone, err snow yet and get this bad boy rolling.