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Saturday: Keep on the Sunny Side

“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”  -The Bhagavad Gita recited by Phillip Glass, Lincoln Center, November 2011.

Hi guys, it looks like a beautiful day in the NYC area.  I’m headed up to Manhattan shortly to cover the day’s activities in Zuccotti park, where an interfaith group will be celebrating Occupy Wall Street.  There are also musical events in the city.  You can find them at 50th and Broadway, last time I looked (but Occupiers move in mysterious ways so you never know where they will pop up next).

*************************

Yesterday, my daughter told me that in order to buy lunch at the cafeteria now, a student has to show an ID.  She says this is a new procedure.  Before, students just needed to provide their student ID number if they couldn’t find the actual picture ID card.  The cafeteria lady punches the number into the machine and checks the picture on the screen against the kid with the pile of french fries.  (This is high school, BTW).  I couldn’t figure out why the picture ID was absolutely necessary now and then it hit me that it might have something to do with reduced or free lunches.  Could it be that some students were providing their cards or numbers to other students so that they could get lunch if they had forgotten their money?  The kid says that the lunch ladies never used to check the pic with the kid but now they are required to.  Veddy interesting, no?

Then, I found this.  This is a recent article about some asshole state congressperson in NJ who wants to have a clear accounting of WHO exactly is getting a free lunch because, by golly, there might be people (ie *children*) ripping off tax payers for the cost of a free lunch.  Can we get him on Atrios’ “worst person of the day” list?  Here’s some of the grusome details:

Speaking before a group of Tea Party supporters on Nov. 3, Doherty, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, insisted that 37 percent of all school lunch recipients are ineligible, according to The Star-Ledger.

After fielding criticism that his numbers exaggerated the potential fraud, Doherty recently said he stands behind his math. “The amount of fraud in the free and reduced school lunch program is massive and the cost to the taxpayers is enormous,” the senator stated, according to a statement on his website. “It runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

In New Jersey, in order to receive a free lunch, a family of four needs to have an annual income of less than $29,055. Families of two are eligible if their income falls below $19,123, according to documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the national program. The thresholds are not as restrictive for reduced lunch plans: $41,348 and less for families of four, $27,214 and less for two-person families.

The New Jersey Auditor reported earlier this year that approximately 428,000 students in the state are enrolled in the lunch program. Of those student applications, 3 percent are verified by officials, as is mandated by the federal government. Those applications deemed “error prone” are the first to be verified. From this test pool, approximately 37 percent were deemed ineligible.

Despite the seemingly high error rate, New Jersey is actually in line with the rest of the nation. Across the United States, approximately 40 percent of verified applicants are found ineligible.

“Income and household composition reporting inaccuracies lead to significant eligibility error rates in the department’s National School Lunch Program, which would impact funding for other state programs,” the auditor noted.

….

“Federal regulation mandates local education agencies verify 3 percent of the applications approved,” Fisher wrote the auditor in a letter dated June 23. “The audit report acknowledges this regulation is being met. Federal regulation requires remaining applications be accepted at face value.”

Doherty claims that “face value” is not enough.

“Under New Jersey’s system for funding schools, enrolling a student in the free and reduced price lunch program triggers an ‘At Risk’ designation for the student, which results in about an additional $5,000 of state school aid under New Jersey’s school funding formula,” the senator reported. “It’s a lot of money that could be used to reduce property taxes statewide.”

Ok, let me jump in here for a second.  Mr. Doherty, a Republican, seems to think that there are scads and scads of kids in places like Camden and Newark who are ripping off the state because every time a kid applies for the lunch program, the district that kid is in is eligible for $5000 in state aid.  And Mr. Doherty is appealing to his Fox News loving constituents with Acquired Stupidity Syndrome who think they are being ripped off by little welfare princes in Jersey City.  Some of those kids might have parents who work but in NJ still can’t get enough to eat because this is a very high cost of living state but let’s penalize them anyway for their parents fudging the numbers on the reduced cost lunch program form.  This kind of mean spirited self-righteousness and indignation from the Fox crowd just sickens me.  Pile on people at the bottom of the economic ladder.  They’re nothing, right?

Now for the confessional part.  I am not on the school lunch program but if I don’t find a job soon, next year my income will allow me to qualify for it.  I have every expectation that this will not happen but it could.  I keep telling people that the research industry in this area is in Great Depression mode but no one will believe me.  As long as I live in this house, I will have to pay astronomical property taxes.  And I have paid about $20,000 in taxes just on my severance bennies, which ended recently.  These Tea Party people have a lot of nerve accusing people like me of being deadbeats.  We didn’t ask to be unemployed.  But unemployment is no excuse for not paying the tax man.  My total tax bill for 2011 would be scary to a Tea Party person. Plus, I will have to pay COBRA soon.  You don’t want to know how much that is.  It’s ugly.

Now, if I, a regular suburbanite in a middle to upper middle class suburb where the median income is $106,000/year (that’s not plush in NJ where mortgages eat up 40% of income), am in this kind of predicament, I know damn well there are thousands of other families in my town that are in the same place.  And next year, THEY might very well be applying to the reduced lunch program.  I don’t know how many people saved as carefully as I did.  I have a bit of money to live on along with unemployment so money’s tight but the panic level is being kept in check.  But when I think of how many people I have seen in the past running around my town in their Lexus SUVs, carting their kids to soccer practice and ballet lessons on Saturday, I have to wonder how long they have before they’re in real trouble.  From my survey of the parking lot at the local mall, it looks like it won’t be very long.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving, it looked half empty and traffic inside the mall was indistinguishable from a Thursday afternoon in July.

So, Mr. Doherty, bring it on.  In the next couple of months, I expect to see the number of kids applying for the school lunch program to jump right here in good old middle class suburbia.  And with every applicant, there’s $5000 more to our district.  Cha-Ching!  That should offset property tax hikes for a couple of years, for which I shall be profoundly grateful.

Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Doherty.  You might just find the ugly truth.

17 Responses

  1. Teach your children well

    Occupy Wall Street was at most a minor irritant to their intended target. Our future, as always, 
    is being/has been decided in boardrooms far from the citizenry. I don’t have the stomach for revolution but it appears that peaceful means have failed. 

    “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”  Charles de Montesquieu (French Politician and Philosopher, 1689-1755) 

    The private bank debts taken onto government balance sheets in Ireland and Greece have been turned into taxpayer obligations. The same is true for America’s $13 trillion added since September 2008 (including $5.3 trillion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bad mortgages taken onto the government’s balance sheet, and $2 trillion of Federal Reserve “cash-for-trash” swaps).

    This is being dictated by financial proxies euphemized as technocrats. Designated by creditor lobbyists, their role is to calculate just how much unemployment and depression is needed to squeeze out a surplus to pay creditors for debts now on the books. What makes this calculation self-defeating is the fact that economic shrinkage – debt deflation – makes the debt burden even more unpayable. -Michael Hudson

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/michael-hudson-debt-and-democracy-has-the-link-been-broken.html

    From:The One Percent Solution in Europe
    By Saul Landau:

    To get rid of elected officials, the European crisis managers (The Frankfurt Group with French President Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel and top bankers) held closed-door meetings, and then “persuaded” influential elites in Greece and Italy to arrange for the removal of elected (albeit failed) governments. This phenomenal deletion of two elected governments got reported as: “Technocrats” replace Prime Ministers.” Poof! Magic!

    A technocrat, or “a bureaucrat who is intensively trained in engineering, economics, or some form of technology,” or “a proponent of government by technicians” will soon run Greece and Italy. (World English Dictionary ©1999 Microsoft)

    Prime Ministers abdicates (or else). Now former Goldman Sachs executive, Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti, international advisor to Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola will show Greeks and Italians what real “austerity” means. The foxes mandate is to get the hen houses in financial order!

    The new Greek government already made a “deal.” Banks and other big Greek bond holders can write off 50 per cent of Greek debt paper and thus (hopefully?) reduce debt-to-GDP ratio. Greece’s 99% will not agree. Nor will Italy’s.

    The 1% will face massive resistance. The 1% in Europe (like their US counterparts) don’t care what the rest of us will do about their cruel policies. They just call in the cops and the army.

    We’ll soon see!

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/02/the-one-percent-solution-in-europe/

    • I believe there is still scope for non-illegal activity on the part of many people. But it would only work if many people each did a little bit of it.

      For example, how many people hate Rupert Murdoch for his ongoing plan to fascistify American politics and society? How many people would like to make Murdoch pay for creating his propaganda outlets like Fox News? Well . . . it would be perfectly legal for those people to extend their ” boycott Beck’s advertisers” campaign to all of Fox News. Boycott every producer of anything you would otherwise buy if you see it advertised on Fox News, and keep boycotting it till the provider of that good/service cancels their Fox News advertising. If enough boycotters could turn Fox News into a “no advertising zone”, then the costs to Murdoch of subsidising his propaganda catapult would go up. If that visibly worked, a possible next step might be to
      extend that boycott to every one of Murdoch’s moneyMAKER channels. For example, those of us who watch the Simpsons could boycott every Simpsons advertiser till they stopped advertising on the Simpsons. Turn the Simpsons into a “no advertising zone”. Pushing that far enough would turn Murdoch’s moneyMAKERS into moneyLOSERS, and THAT would make it HARder for Murdoch to be able to afford to subsidize his propaganda fascisTV News channels.
      Cause enough revenue loss to Murdoch to show up as loss of shareholder value, and shareholders, pension funds, mutual funds, etc.; might take command of Murdoch’s broadcasting content policy and de-fascistify or even shut down Fox News. A blogger and activist who runs a blog called Spocko’s Brain has done actual meatspace work in the meatspace world costing Corporate BizFascist broadcasters some real money and even getting some propaganda-monkeys taken off the air. (link to follow in a self-reply).

      We are not stuck with a sterile binary choice between “love” and “violent revolution”. We have a vast pallet of “violently” non-violent and exquisitely non-illegal methods we can use. We can think in terms of “uncivil obedience” inspired by the old Colonial Spanish saying “I obey but I do not comply”. We can each be part of a “thousand points of hate”. We can pursue well-thought-out and properly targetted Hate-Based Initiatives against the One Percent Masters and their evil little henchtools. Perhaps we can make all the Fox News Journaliarists permanently unemployed and permanently unemployable. I think that is a good and true and beautiful way to think which will open up many opportunities for Creative CounterAggression.

      The System has a thousand undefended kneecaps, and there is a tire iron for every kneecap. Every kneecap has its tire iron and every tire iron has its kneecap. In a spirit of “violent” non-violence.

      • Here is the link to Spocko’s Brain.
        http://www.spockosbrain.com/

        With a head full of plans and a heart full of hate, we can make things happen.

      • I would agree except that: 95 percent of Americans have no idea who Murdoch is, have no problem with Fox news and are not going to boycott anything. If we want them to know what we are talking about then we better find a way to educate them. Occupy Walmart pisses off the masses when all they want to do is shop on black Friday because they LIKE it. Occupying Broadway makes the artsy fartsy (I am a member of the actors union AE) community feel cool. But neither is going to do a GD thing to move the cause forward. This isn’t a game and ordinary Americans, all those blue collar working class people who use the internet to forward email jokes, if they use it at all. Those people have to be pulled in to this and so far I have not seen a single attempt to do that other than the change your bank day.
        Fact is that the left is as contemptuous of the people they need to bring in to the fold as the right is. So, unfortunately, at this point there is nothing but precious elitist games going on and all these 20/30 something organizers are sitting in offices in NYC, paid for by all those donations, ordering in food, buying electronics and enjoying being clever together. I have hope, but it’s fading. I am afraid that only violent angry revolution driven by desperation will get us anywhere. People will not live in this kind of inequality forever.

        • I don’t think Occupy is going to recruit. Anyone is free to just show up. That’s what it’s going to take. You have to make the time to go.
          That being said, Z park was a bit dead this afternoon. I think they had meetings scheduled elsewhere. The Broadway gathering was whimsical and varied.
          You know, I don’t know what it will take for people to get onboard Occupy events. But it’s probably time to stop the hand holding. There have been numerous marches in NYC. Before the eviction, Z park was a place buzzing with activity and all kinds of people, mostly normal everyday people. Elitists don’t usually show up. Today was no different. There were normal, average everyday people there. It’s kinda weird. First, everyone was told that only the dregs of the earth went to occupy events, now we’re hearing that it’s elites. Why don’t we just tell the truth? Anyone can go and everyone is welcome. Nobody’s going to make anyone feel inferior without their consent.

        • Oh, you know I wondered if the Lincoln Center event gave you the wrong idea. You know, I come from a gray collar background. My parents drove me to SPAC to see the NYCB and sometimes and I went to symphony performances throughout high school. But it’s not like my family was into that kind of thing. Not that they were beer guzzling bowlers or anything. They were mostly into camping and squaredancing. Nice people. IOW, I was not born an elitist. I just got a lot of exposure to the arts through the middle school and high school I attended in upstate NY and it really just took root in me. I love classical music as well as modern music, dance, opera and that kind of stuff. And once you develop an ear for that kind of thing, pop versions of it just sound like cheap knockoffs. Like, you won’t find a three tenors, Sarah Brightman or whatever the hell that TransSiberian thing was in my collection. I guess that seems snobby but I can’t help it. They sound like they were sanitized for your protection. Philip Glass is an acquired taste but his music grows on you. Some of his music is very trance like because it initially sounds very minimal and repetitive but the chords change very subtly and draw you in. Pretty cool. Anyway, my point is that you don’t have to be an elitist to enjoy exceptional music or other arts. Usually, you can get tickets to nosebleed seats pretty cheap. I think I’ve sat in the orchestra *once* for Guys and Dolls. Ok, maybe one other time at a matinee for another play as well. But all of the other times, I sat with the other poor schlubs who can’t afford the expensive seats. I don’t mind. I go there for the performance, not the feeling of superiority.

          As for who is in offices now directing things for OWS, there may be some 20-30 year olds. But I suspect that there are more mature individuals working quietly behind the scenes as well. The batsignal was put together by a guy who is 45. Still young but hardly a student. On Thanksgiving day, OWS gave away 4000 meals. That’s pretty impressive. Not My Sweetie had some pics because she went to Z park to check it out. And their electronic equipment was destroyed by the NYPD during the eviction. Yep, there are pictures of the aftermath somewhere. There were a bunch of laptops that were beyond repair. So, I don’t mind if the movement replaces them for people who lost their stuff.
          And let’s not forget that some of them are sleeping in the pews of churches that have opened their doors to them. Hardly swank offices.

        • I hope that more than 5% of us know who Murdoch is. Perhaps some polling figures exist on that? Still, even if only 5% of us know who Murdoch is, that is 15 million people. And that is a lot of people.
          We just have to work outward from where we are, do something or do something else; and see what appears to be working over time.

          Let’s at least not discourage ourselves from making a well researched well targetted experimental effort to see if it works and analyze how/why it works or doesn’t. If one out of ten people lifts a finger, that is a lot of lifted fingers. And we don’t have to lift the other nine fingers for the nine other people who won’t or can’t even lift finger one.

  2. On the PATH. Lots of families with kids. Should be in Zuccotti soon. Dressed in black ala NYC with red scarf if anyone’s around today.

  3. I’m having lunch. Well, I already had it. Yummy halal gyro from the grease wagon next to Z park. Now warming up in Starbucks. It’s not cold out today but the park is shady and the pink granite is icy to the buttocks unit.
    There is supposed to be an event at 2:00pm in the “sacred space” featuring a meeting on economics.
    Oo! I brought the kid’s flip camera today. I already have about 8 minutes of footage. We’ll see how that works out when I get hom and can download to the Mac.

  4. Very strange. Cut rate deals on everything today. Parking in Newark was about half what it normally is. How often does that happen?? Um, never. For some reason my metro card was empty though. I could swear I filled it last time I was here. Who knows, I must have a dozen of them at home and picked up the wrong one out as I left the house.
    So, then the halal vendor was going to charge the news crew ahead of me for my gyro. I think he knew I wasn’t with them. But I corrected him. Almost got a hot chocolate for free. ??? Just weird.

  5. Walking towards union square. In line to use WC. Should take about 30 minutes before I get to front of line.

    • Gee – I hope it hasn’t taken you this long to reach the front of the loo line!

      • LOL! I found a bathroom at McD’s in Chinatown. Every other McD’s I passed on the way from Z park had their bathrooms roped off. It’s bad enough trying to find a potty in NYC on normal days. Around Christmas time, it’s just unconscionable to block them off. There oughta be a law.
        Anyway, I took some footage with my daughter’s flip camera but I’m going to have to edit it down to less than 10 minutes. So, that should be fun. Basically, the park was quiet today. I think the interfaith event was early and I missed it. I also heard there were meetings but they weren’t in the park. The event on Broadway and 50th street was winding down when I got there. They had occupied Paramount Plaza, which is probably smaller than the stage at Lincoln Center. There were separate performances on either end of the plaza. Like I said, it was winding down. They crowd was respectable and there was a mic check reading of the first amendment. But when the mistress of ceremonies tried to get everyone interested in a “consensual conga line”, the crowd scattered. Maybe the police should try that instead of pepperspray next time.

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