Skip to main content

Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:34 AM PST

Underground Railroad Quilt Code

by Melanie in IA

Did quilts help guide escaped slaves to safety? Did different quilt blocks have specific meanings to slaves, perhaps based on their African past? Was the pattern of stitches and knots informative about routes to take, perhaps creating a topographical map?

The most famous telling of a quilt code says that indeed, quilts were a vital part of the Underground Railroad, and their history with it was unwritten until very recently.

One of the blocks in the quilt code is the Bear's Paw, shown here.

This pattern consists of several squares, rectangles, and right triangles. When different scraps of fabric are used, the pattern takes on the complexity of a map that is remarkably similar in design to the African Hausa embroidered map of a village ...

Just as the Hausa design defines the perimeter of the village and identifies major landmarks, the Bear's Paw pattern could be used to identify landmarks on the border of the plantation ...

Because the bears lived in the mountains and knew their way around, their tracks served as road maps enabling the fugitives to navigate their way through the mountains. ... The bears' trails formed a map.

From Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

The Underground Railroad is attributed with helping to move thousands of slaves to freedom during the late-1700s to mid-1800s. Not a physical railroad, of course, it was an "underground" movement of abolitionists and allies, with a web of routes and safe houses. The routes traveled north to Canada, south to Mexico and Spanish Florida. Those slaves who escaped endured incredible trials of strength and courage.

There are documented truths about the Underground Railroad, from those who made it function and those who escaped. But it also has been romanticized and mythologized. It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction.

Hidden in Plain View?

Prior to 1999, there were few known sources claiming the existence of a quilt code. According to the great wikipedia,

The first known assertion of the use of quilts ... was a single statement in the narration of the 1987 video Hearts and Hands, which stated "They say quilts were hung on the clotheslines to signal a house was safe for runaway slaves." This assertion does not appear in the companion book and is not supported by any documentation in the filmmaker's research file.[1]

The first print appearance of such a claim was Stitched from the Soul, a 1990 book by folklorist Gladys-Marie Fry, which states -- without providing any source -- "Quilts were used to send messages. On the Underground Railroad, those with the color black were hung on the line to indicate a place of refuge (safe house)...Triangles in quilt design signified prayer messages or prayer badge, a way of offering prayer. Colors were very important to slave quilt makers. The color black indicated that someone might die. A blue color was believed to protect the maker."[1] Fry's book is rife with other errors, including a number of quilts which she misdated by anywhere from 50 to 100 years (e.g., one claimed slave quilt contains multiple fabrics from the 1960s).[2]  ...

The idea, clearly presented as fiction in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, that slave quilts served as coded maps for escapees, entered the realm of claimed fact in the 1999 book Hidden in Plain View, written by Raymond Dobard, Jr., an art historian, and Jacqueline Tobin, a college instructor in Colorado.[3]

In 1999, the stories of a woman named Ozella McDaniel Williams were published in the book Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D. The book also includes a mesh of related research about African symbolism, escape routes, and information about the times.

Author Tobin met Williams, a South Carolina quilt vendor, at a flea market mall. "Ozella," as the book refers to her, told Tobin stories she claimed were passed down through her family. This oral history, if confirmed, would change our understanding of methods of communicating about the Underground Railroad and routes to freedom.

According to Williams, there were eleven quilt blocks in the code. The blocks were sewn into quilts, which would be displayed one at a time on fences or clothes lines. Because it was normal to air quilts regularly, showing the quilts this way wouldn't arouse suspicion by owners or overseers.

The blocks shown below, as well as the Double Wedding Ring block, were in Williams' version discussed in the book. Some versions include other blocks, as well.

A short version of the code says

The Monkey Wrench turns the Wagon Wheel toward Canada on a Bear's Paw trail to the Crossroads. Once they got to the Crossroads, they dug a Log Cabin on the ground. Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton and satin Bow Ties and go to the cathedral church, get married and exchange Double Wedding Rings. Flying Geese stay on the Drunkard's Path and follow the Stars.
The book presents this very short interpretation, but it includes linkages and suppositions and speculations about the meanings of all the blocks, as well. For example, the Bear's Paw block shown above is interpreted as both a map of the plantation itself, as well as advice to follow actual bears' trails over the mountain.

About another, the Monkey Wrench block, the authors state, "Ozella told us that a quilt made of Monkey Wrench patterned blocks was the first of the ten quilts displayed ... a signal for the slaves to begin their escape preparations" and gather physical and mental tools.

Along with this understanding of the block, the authors include discussion of the role of the blacksmith on the plantation, with tools including the monkey wrench. The blacksmith's metal-working ability may have hidden the smith's function of conveying information to other slaves under the ring of the hammer. A photo of an African textile is shown, to further convey the importance of tools in the previous environment.

More than 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, claims of a quilt code arose. Had the evidence been missed all those years? Was the truth really hidden in plain view?

Continue Reading
Reposted from pdc by Melanie in IA
What I'm sure was meant to sound like an attack from potential U.S. Senate candidate, Tea Party Congressman Steve King (R. IA-4), sounded more like a compliment to me:

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, may run against Braley. When interviewing King for today's front page story about verbal hits he's taken from Karl Rove, I asked King to share his impressions of Braley.

"Bruce Braley gave the closing argument on ObamaCare. In order to do that, he had to be hand-picked by Nancy Pelosi," King said.

"He has moved himself -- if you track his votes and the allies that he has -- as a classic liberal, you know, very much in the mold of, well, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Harkin. He would fit someplace in there." - Sioux City Journal, 2/16/13

That might seems like an insult to King comparing Braley to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Senator Tom Harkin (D. IA) but Braley is actually flattered to be compared to Harkin:

As Iowans prepare to elect their first new senator in 30 years, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, wants them to know he intends to carry on the mantle of the man he's seeking to replace, retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. "I'd be honored if anybody considered me as following in the mold of Tom Harkin," Braley said in a phone interview Tuesday, describing himself as "a Democrat who can walk in and pick up his legacy."

Democrats say Braley, much like Harkin, is a strong progressive voice. But Braley said he realizes the need to reach out to voters of all ideological persuasions. "I understand the concerns of all Iowans," Braley said. "In Iowa, every election has a lot of votes up for grabs. You can't represent my district without reaching out to voters across the political spectrum."

In four elections in his Northeast Iowa district, Braley has already weathered several hard-fought campaigns, including a 2010 race that was decided by just a percentage point. Now, he'll have to test that appeal in the western half of the Hawkeye State, which features a more conservative voting base and two representatives who are considered likely contenders for the GOP Senate ticket. "It's incredibly important to be well known in all parts of Iowa," Braley said. "I don't take any county, any region for granted." - National Journal, 2/12/13

It's clear that King wants to challenge Braley in the 2014 Senate election and trying to compare him to Tom Harkin isn't going to hurt Braley.  It'll probably help him.  In fact, Braley already has a big lead over King in the general according to PPP.  Check out their poll here:

And continuing with my theme from my other two journals about Karl Rove doing everything he can to screw up the GOP's chances at capturing the Senate, Rove is doing everything he can to stop King from running for Senate.  But doing that is only motivating King to run:

Well, if Rove et al. thought that firing a warning shot across Steve King's bow would create an opportunity for a more amenable candidate, like Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) -- who is arguably poised to put up a better fight in a general election against the potential Democratic field -- it seems that their criticism of King is having the opposite effect. As the Iowa Republican reports today, Rove's criticisms are making it more likely that he'll embark on a run for Harkin's seat:

Ironically, the main factor spurring King toward running is Karl Rove’s efforts to prevent him from running. Rove is a renowned GOP strategist who engineered both of George W. Bush’s successful presidential elections. Rove has formed a new group called the Conservative Victory Project. Its goal is to block controversial candidates from winning the GOP nomination in senate races.

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 2: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks at a press conference on the Official English Act. It would establish English as the official language of the United States government and would require all official functions of the United States to be conducted in English. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call) (Newscom TagID: rollcallpix069261.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
“If I would back up in front of Karl Rove’s initiative, that would just empower him, and he would go on state after state, candidate after candidate,” King said. “I don’t think any individual has the wisdom to make those kinds of decisions, but I think Iowans together can make those decisions and should. That’s the principle. We have to fight this out in the court of public opinion.” - Huffington Post, 2/13/13
Even Governor Terry Branstad (R. IA) thinks Rove is making a huge mistake by trying to stop King from running:

Turmoil deepened among leading Republicans over efforts to ward off controversial candidates in the next election, as Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad blasted a new candidate-steering plan by Karl Rove and warned him to stay out of state and congressional races.

"I basically told Karl Rove that what he was doing is counter-productive and he needs to stay out of it," said Branstad, recounting a phone call to Rove, the leader of the new Conservative Victory Project.

In the aftermath of last fall's disappointing election outcome for the GOP, party leaders have been focusing on fielding more candidates with broad appeal - and fewer unpredictable ones - but have split bitterly over how to do it, worsening party tensions. - Huffington Post, 2/15/13

And Rove's intervening with these races have pissed the Tea Party off so much that they are now calling him a Nazi:

A tea party group portrayed leading Republican strategist Karl Rove as a Nazi in an email it sent Tuesday -- and later had to apologize for it, blaming a contractor.

The Tea Party Patriots, a well-established group within the right-wing movement, sent out the message featuring a Photoshopped image of Karl Rove in a Nazi uniform, Politico reported. The email's subject read: "Wipe the Smirk Off Karl Rove’s Face."

The email was sent under the name of Tea Party Patriots co-founder and national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin in a fundraising solicitation. But Jameson Cunningham, a spokesperson for the group, said it was an unfortunate accident.

"The image was a mistake which was never approved by TPP,” Cunningham told Politico. - Huffington Post, 2/19/13

King isn't afraid of Rove and Rove is only pushing him to run which I hope he does.  The only way to get rid of these crazies is to encourage them to run for a higher office and make an embarrassment of their supporters.  Braley is a proven progressive who carry on Tom hark in's legacy of fighting for the middle-class and pushing progressive values.  By the way, Braley has been racking up some big endorsements this week:

Rep. Dave Loebsack is endorsing his Iowa congressional colleague and fellow Democrat, Rep. Bruce Braley, for U.S. Senate in 2014.

Braley announced on Feb. 7 his plans to seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin.

Loebsack said that after serving with Braley in Congress for six years, he’s convinced Braley is the best choice to succeed Harkin and will "fight to strengthen middle class families and to make life better for Iowans." - Omaha World-Herald, 2/17/13
Former Iowa congressman Leonard Boswell is endorsing Democrat Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate.

Boswell used his Facebook page to endorse Braley on Monday, saying the four-term congressman has fought "passionately for Iowa's small towns, big cities, and working families."

Braley announced earlier this month that he'd seek the Senate seat held for decades by Democrat Tom Harkin, who won't seek re-election. Braley also has been endorsed by Iowa Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack. - The Republic, 2/18/13

Lets help Bruce win in 2014 by giving him the fuel he needs to run a winning campaign:
Reposted from pdc by jim in IA
Some great news this morning!

Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo is going to run for the U.S. Senate.

“I am going to be filing papers today to make clear that I am starting the process to become a candidate for the United States Senate from the state of Iowa,” Braley told Radio Iowa this morning.

Seventy-three-year-old Senator Tom Harkin announced in late January he would not seek reelection in 2014.  Harkin said in January that he would not endorse a successor. During his conversation with Radio Iowa this morning, Braley avoided a question about what advice Harkin has given him about the 2014 race, but gave this answer instead: “I’ve gotten a lot of advice from Senator Harkin over the years. I’ve made it very clear that no one will ever fill his shoes, but I want to make sure that when he walks out of the senate chamber for the last time, there’s someone like him — a progressive, populist Democrat who cares about the middle class and will fight for the people of Iowa — walking in.” - Radio Iowa, 2/7/13

This is great news because PPP showed Braley to be our strongest contender for this race:

The most likely Democratic candidate, Bruce Braley, would start out 11 points ahead of King at 49/38. The three other Democrats we looked at lead King by substantial margins as well- Tom Vilsack would lead King 49/39, Chet Culver would lead 48/41, and Dave Loebsack would lead 47/40.

In addition to Braley's 11 point lead over King, he has advantages of 44/41 over Latham, 44/37 over Reynolds, and 51/33 over Vander Plaats. Vander Plaats trails by at least 14 points against every Democrat we tested- it's clear that if he somehow snagged the nomination it would be a disaster for Republicans. - PPP, 2/5/13

Of course local Democratic strategists are thrilled about Braley's decision to succeed Harkin in the U.S. Senate:

Jeff Link, a Democratic strategist from Des Moines told the Register this morning he thinks Braley can win for a few reasons.

“He has experience on the issues and a strong record of accomplishment. His perspective has been shaped by growing up in a small town in a middle class family and raising a family a contributing to his community. And finally, he is smart and will worker harder than any candidate in the race,” Link said.

Braley will run to “build on a legacy of putting middle class Iowans first,” Link said. “He has been able to get things done in the house, but he believes he can do more for the state as Iowa’s senator.”

Braley, a Waterloo attorney who grew up in Brooklyn, Ia., has a reputation for being smart, ambitious and ready for higher office, Democratic insiders have said. In November 2012, he earned the most votes of any U.S. House candidate in Iowa in November 2012, when he was re-elected to represent the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses 20 counties in the state’s northeast corner. After he was first elected in 2006, he was the first freshman in decades to chair a U.S. House subcommittee. He is seen as a strong fundraiser who beat back a tough challenge in 2010 when independent Republican groups threw more than $1 million in TV advertising against him. - Des Moines Register, 2/7/13

Braley sent out an email to his supporters today and he has already set up a website and Facebook page for his campaign:
I want you to be the first to know.

It’s a big responsibility to represent the people of Iowa in the United States Senate, especially after Tom Harkin has shown us how for the last 30 years. But, if you are willing to help me, I’m ready to go.

That’s why today, I’m setting up a committee to run for the U.S. Senate.

Click here to let your family and friends know about the important first steps of this campaign.

Just as Sen Harkin did when he first ran, I’ll need to meet a lot of Iowans outside of my district. I’ll pledge to them, just like the people of Eastern Iowa that I will listen, work hard, and get things done for Iowa’s middle class.

It’s time to start a conversation with Iowans – about rebuilding the middle class, creating economic opportunity for everyone, and keeping America strong. I’m looking forward to the conversation and I’m looking forward to meeting with you. We will kick off the conversations with a Facebook chat in the next few weeks.

And, like today, you’ll be the first to know when those will happen.

See you soon,


I wrote about Braley last week:

Braley founded the House Populist Caucus which is aimed at helping middle-class families:

The middle class is the economic engine of America. Unfortunately, it has seen tough economic times lately, and it's time for a renewed emphasis on those issues that serve to strengthen the middle class and improve the lives of working families. That's why I established the Populist Caucus to focus exclusively on these types of issues.

Populist Caucus Platform:
1.  Fighting for working families and the middle class by creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America, providing fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and ensuring American workers have secure, solvent retirement plans.
2.  Cutting taxes for the middle class and establishing an equitable tax structure.
3.  Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans.
4.  Ensuring quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.
5.  Defending American competiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.
6.  Protecting consumers, so that Americans can have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase -

Braley was also an opponent of SOPA:

No doubt Karl Rove and the Republican Super PACs will invest heavily in this race.  Their first step though is to prevent Tea Party Congressman Steve King (R) from becoming the nominee:

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the “super PAC” creating the new project. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

The group’s plans, which were outlined for the first time last week in an interview with Mr. Law, call for hard-edge campaign tactics, including television advertising, against candidates whom party leaders see as unelectable and a drag on the efforts to win the Senate. Mr. Law cited Iowa as an example and said Republicans could no longer be squeamish about intervening in primary fights.

“We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Mr. Law said. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.” - New York Times, 2/2/13

While Rove's group tries to figure out how to stop King for the nominee, I suggest we get an early start on Braley's campaign.  Be sure to Like his Facebook page:

And you can sign up for his campaign here:

Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:45 AM PST

The Snowshoe Quilter

by Melanie in IA

Some love the snow; some love quilting. Simon Beck has found a way to combine designs sometimes found in quilting with his love of snowshoeing.


Snow shoe quilts?

6%3 votes
59%28 votes
29%14 votes
4%2 votes

| 47 votes | Vote | Results

Continue Reading
Reposted from pdc by jim in IA Editor's Note: We definitely want Braley to win this. -- jim in IA
Congressman Bruce Braley (D. IA-1), the populist congressman and Iowa Democrats top choice to run for Senator Tom Harkin's (D. IA) seat is meeting with Democratic Senate leaders to discuss the upcoming race:

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is planning to meet with Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate, but says he has not decided whether he will run to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin.

However, speculation that the four-term Waterloo Democrat will run for the Senate grows, fueled in part by meetings Wednesday with the Iowa House and Senate Democratic caucuses at the Statehouse.

Braley talked about the “tremendous legacy of Sen. Harkin, which everyone in there knew and appreciated,” Braley said after meeting with House Democrats. - The Gazette, 1/30/13

Braley will be meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) and DSCC Chairman Senator Michael Bennet (D. CO) to discuss the race.  The mention of Braley running for Harkin's seat caused lawmakers and supporters to immediately jump on board with Barley's campaign if he decides to run.  Braley is going to give the Senate race serious consideration:
In the meantime, Braley is weighing the pros and cons of a Senate bid.

“I’m the sort of person who makes decisions in a careful deliberative way,” Braley said. “So when I ran for Congress I sat down and prepared a list of all the pros and all the cons. I sat down with my wife and talked through them. It’s not something you rush into.”

“The timeline I’m on is to make sure I give it thoughtful and deliberate consideration,” he said. “My wife and I are giving serious consideration to this, but we have not made a final decision.” - The Gazette, 1/30/13

This past Sunday, I wrote about why Braley is the right prairie populist candidate for this race:

One of the top reasons I want Braley in the Senate is because he listened to his constituents concerns and voted against SOPA:

I also think Braley will be going up against this clown, which is sure to be an entertaining race:


Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 06:55 AM PST

Our Inauguration Trip

by jim in IA

We were fortunate this past year with many blessings. The re-election of Barack Obama was one of those. We worked hard locally to get our neighborhoods to vote for him. As a reward, we decided to make the trip to DC and attend the Inauguration. Our daughter and her family live nearby in Maryland. We got to see them and this event both in one trip.

Last Monday morning about 5:00 AM, our son-in-law dropped us and our son and daughter at the nearby Metro station. Son and daughter had attended the Inauguration in 2009. Son said we had to get there early, because last time they waited an hour just to get on the train. This time there was no wait at all. We were delivered to our stop quickly.
Soon, we were queued in line with hundreds of other people with yellow tickets. After a wait of less than an hour, the gates opened. We passed through showing we had the right color tickets. Next was a long row of tents with metal detectors and security people. That went quickly and we were soon standing at our chosen spot.

The sun was rising at about 7:30 when we were treated to this view of the Capitol dome.

Melanie and I wrote this diary together, as we sometimes do. Join us below for more pictures and observations about our trip to the Inauguration.

Continue Reading
Reposted from Hunger in America by Melanie in IA

Or in terms a capitalist should appreciate: does the investment in children's nutrition have a positive return? If food benefits are reduced through sequester or legislation, is there negative impact on children? Or is it one more item we can cut from the federal budget with no harm?

Yesterday I wrote about food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) It's easy to see that at the individual level, the benefit can make all the difference in an individual's health and well-being. Even at an average benefit per person of only $4.45 per day, that can determine whether a person eats or does not eat. It is more difficult to prove the benefits of the nation's investment in the program, from the standpoint of societal well-being.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For an adult, food insecurity may create transitory problems. But childhood hunger and food insecurity can have a lifelong impact due to their greater vulnerability.

How prevalent is childhood food insecurity? From Feeding America:

- 16.7 million children lived in food insecure households in 2011.[i]
- 20% or more of the child population in 36 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2010.  The District of Columbia (30.7%) and Oregon (29.0%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.[ii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the highest rate of food insecure children under 18 are the District of Columbia, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, & Florida.[iii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the lowest rate of food insecure children under 18 are North Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, & Massachusetts. [iv]

[references at the linked website]

Good nutrition early in life helps create a foundation for health, education, and later economic viability. The lack of high-quality food can have negative impacts on all these areas. According to the American Psychological Association,
The first three years of a child’s life are a period of rapid brain development. Too little energy, protein, and nutrients during this sensitive period can lead to lasting deficits in cognitive, social, and emotional development. [emphasis added]


Hunger reduces a child’s motor skills, activity level, and motivation to explore the environment. Movement and exploration are important to cognitive development, and more active children elicit more stimulation and attention from their caregivers, which promotes social and emotional development.


A community sample that classified low-income children ages six to twelve as “hungry”, “at-risk for hunger”, or “not hungry” found that hungry children were significantly more likely to receive special education services, to have repeated a grade in school, and to have received mental health counseling than at-risk-for-hunger or not-hungry children.

In this same study, hungry children exhibited 7 to 12 times as many symptoms of conduct disorder (such as fighting, blaming others for problems, having trouble with a teacher, not listening to rules, stealing) than their at-risk or not-hungry peers.

The research shows the negative impact of hunger. It is harder to tease out the impact, positive or negative, of food benefits, including SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

Consider a couple of reasons why it is hard to provide evidence of efficacy. First, there is no ethical way to identify children who qualify for food benefits, and then to create a control group of those who do not receive them. We cannot compare those who do receive benefits against those who do not in a meaningful way.

Second, most available data is collected from survey participants. Survey participation (by the adult/guardian) is voluntary, participation in food programs is under-reported, and diet/nutritional data is suspect to some degree due to self-reporting.

New research by Brent Kreider, Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, pushes through some of these problems. His methodology uses CDC data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) to look at the impact of SNAP on childhood health. His research appears in the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

A report from Futurity quotes Kreider about the importance of the research. According to Kreider,

nearly half of all American children are expected to receive SNAP assistance at some point in their childhood.

The NHANES data includes the results from both interviews and physical exam. A difficulty of the research is that children receiving SNAP benefits are in generally poorer health than their peers who have food security. A reasonable question is that of cause and effect: does receipt of SNAP lead to poorer health? Or are conditions of food insecurity, which leads to SNAP receipt, a causative factor of poorer health?

And the question at hand, does SNAP have a positive impact on children's health?

In a word, YES.

Again, Futurity quotes Kreider:

“Our methods do not allow us to pinpoint exact estimates of how SNAP affects children’s health, but we can provide informative ranges on average causal effects of the program,” he says.

Despite the inherent limitations of the data, they found that the program has been effective in improving the well-being of children.

The researchers also found evidence that SNAP reduces the prevalence of childhood obesity and anemia, but those results were not statistically significant.

In other words, even with the limitations of the data, Kreider and his research partners found that SNAP provides positive health benefits for children.

These health benefits have individual and national impact. Hungry children have higher health costs, education deficits, and poorer preparation for the workplace. We all carry the burden through higher immediate costs and lower potential economic growth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The impact of SNAP and other food programs is real and positive, both today and in the future. The lack of a new farm bill, which funds the food programs through the USDA, is not tenable in the long term.

Please contact your senators and representative to demand passage of a new, five-year farm bill that fully supports nutritional assistance programs. These programs provide a safety net for children and adults in need, and they also support farm producers through the demand for food.


Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM PST

Do You Qualify for Food Stamps?

by Melanie in IA

Reposted from Hunger in America by Melanie in IA

The recent diary by l3em0n, Eating on $5 a Day, the Food Stamp "Entitlement", drew high interest with more than 300 comments and at least 130 recs. It's clear that many members of the Daily Kos community have experience eating on a very low budget, whether with or without food stamps.

It's also clear from my readings over the last two years that many kossacks continue to struggle financially, whether due to job loss, illness or disability, or other change in fortunes. Indeed, use of food stamps has increased 77% from 2007 to 2012. Some may qualify for SNAP, popularly known as food stamps, and not know it. I can't find my source again, but a few weeks ago I read that millions more can qualify for food assistance but have not applied.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps feed more than 46 million people in America each month. The financial benefit is intended to supplement household income, as the name implies. Households are expected to contribute 30% of their income to their food budget.

In 2012 the average benefit per person was $133.42, or $4.45 per day. Depending on other resources available, this might be "enough" or it may be nowhere near enough to cover costs. So while it is not much, if you are hungry it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Do you qualify?


Eligibility depends on personal financial factors as well as state of residence. Factors include resources, income, "deductions", employment requirements, age or disability, and immigration status.

For resources, the application will look at assets. Cars are treated differently depending on state.

Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank account, or $3250 in countable resources if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled.  However, certain resources are NOT counted, such as a home and lot, the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly AFDC), and most retirement (pension) plans.
Income is determined by household "gross" and "net" income, and the number of members of the household. For example, for a household with one member must have gross income less than $1,211. Deductions are made against that to determine net income. These are not tax deductions, but include things like dependent care or medical costs, and costs of shelter.
Excess shelter costs that are more than half of the household's income after the other deductions. Allowable costs include the cost of fuel to heat and cook with, electricity, water, the basic fee for one telephone, rent or mortgage payments and taxes on the home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

EDIT: Thanks to Mr Robert in comments for adding this link to a prescreening tool. It takes a few minutes but can help determine if you may be eligible. It is NOT an application. Each state has their own application process.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How much can you get? The maximum allotment for a one-person household is $200 per month.
The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household's allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.
Please see the USDA's pages on eligibility for more information.

Many who use SNAP benefits still need to supplement their food budget using food pantries, free meals (soup kitchens), and the like. Lack of resources (kitchen space, available groceries, especially discount groceries and farmers' markets, knowledge of nutritional cooking) further limits ability to eat a healthy diet on a low income. However, it is a benefit available and can be accessed if you need and qualify for the help.

Here are FAQs from the USDA that may help answer some of your questions.

Some states have online applications. You can find them through the link.

Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population, including more than 1 in 5 children. This group exists to raise awareness of the complexities of the issue, to consider solutions, and to advocate for change.

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 06:06 AM PST


by Melanie in IA

This is my one-hundredth diary at Daily Kos. Since I started writing, that's not quite two a week. It's not what anyone around here would call prolific, like kos at almost 13,000 diaries, or even Joan McCarter at 6,700 and some. Still, I've had some things to say.

When I look at my full list, I can see a quarter of them have been about quilts and quilting. Many of those were published through the DK Quilt Guild. Eighteen more are Daily Bucket diaries for Backyard Science. I find this kind of funny, as the more regular writers of bucket diaries are people with many years' experience closely observing nature. Some are naturalists by profession, or otherwise scientists. I am none of these things, but merely enjoy being outside and observing the world around me. The diaries (my own but especially others') have taught me so much. It's been a true pleasure to be embraced so warmly in the group.

A handful of my diaries have been political, but there are so many great writers who do that so well, my voice will rarely have some unique slant on the subject. I did enjoy writing Sheldon Adelson's Big Bet, after speaking with my son about Adelson's expected value of political contributions.

Jim and I have written several together. Of course, only one of us can take the by-line, and it isn't always clear which of us "should" have it. We laughed a lot when we wrote Our Librul Holiday Letter, imagining actually sending it to the conservatives we know. More significant was the one on the AIDS Quilt Touch Application.

Two of my favorite diaries are about Iowa. Neither of us was born here. We moved here more than 20 years ago so I could attend grad school, and when we did, we assumed we would move on when I was done. Yet here we are, not because we got stuck, but because we choose to live here. My very first diary was Ten Things You Didn't Know about Iowa. Several month ago I added the homage THIS is Iowa.

I may be most proud of one of my recent diaries. Based on quality of writing, the diary itself is nothing to brag about. But with it I helped establish a group, Hunger in America, to raise awareness of the problem and potential solutions, and to encourage advocacy on behalf of solutions. We've just started, but I look forward to the insights of those in the group as well as outside of it. If you're interested in joining us, please let me know.

"Success" is a pretty hard thing to measure when it comes to writing. We have various stats for comments, recs, views (remember views??), whether or not a diary hit the rec list or Community Spotlight. How they've done by the stats seems uncorrelated with how much time they took to write. Some diaries have taken me days, even weeks to write, to find the words and tone I wanted to use. Others I jotted off in a few minutes. There are so many other variables that impact readership, including the news of the day and how impassioned others are about it.

I've had a few on the rec list, though I'm not really a "rec list writer." And Rescue Rangers have deemed my work worthy of the Community Spotlight a few times. It's fun and flattering when it happens. But really, success has to come from my own satisfaction, not from tags, or from statistics. As an old hand now, I'll indulge in giving a little advice:

- Write for yourself, about what interests you. Don't try to write for the flavor of the day. Don't worry about stats or whether or not you hit the rec list or spotlight.
- Edit. Give readers every chance to understand your point of view. One trick that helps me a lot is to read my words out loud. With this method I catch a lot of typos and other clumsy writing. If you need help with editing, ask. The New Diarists group is willing and able to help both new and more experienced diarists.
- Be a generous host. Encourage readership and comments by sticking around and responding.
- Be a generous guest. Read and comment constructively in others' diaries, including any of several community diaries. This can help you gain name recognition and build a following.
- Don't get discouraged. Yours is a unique voice and you can add value to the community with it. Keep writing. Writers write.

Thanks to everyone who reads my work. Thanks to those who "follow" me, and the confidence that implies. Thanks especially to Jim, who always encourages me, often makes suggestions, and occasionally co-writes with me.

And thanks to you for reading this rather self-indulgent diary today.


Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 03:18 PM PST

DK Quilt Guild: Obama in Quilts

by Melanie in IA

Reposted from DK Quilt Guild by Melanie in IA

Politics and Patriotism in Quilts

Since the birth of this country, quilters have expressed their interest in politics. Even in the late 1700s, toiles were introduced featuring likenesses of George Washington. Sometimes those textiles were used as handkerchiefs, and other times were incorporated into quilts.

DK Quilt Guild: A place for quilters to gather, share ideas, projects, and to make the world a better place, one quilt at a time. Join us and share your thoughts, projects, questions, and tips. Quilters here are at many different levels of skill. Beginners and non-quilters are welcome, too!
Martha Washington, a famous quilter herself, constructed one medallion quilt featuring a center panel of William Penn negotiating with natives for land in what is now Pennsylvania. Certainly that is a somewhat different kind of political event, but an important one, nonetheless.

Quilting and other arts were socially acceptable means for women to express their political interest and opinions. Until 1920, when women won the right to vote in federal elections, the homely arts were one of the few ways to do so. Through their quilts they campaigned for suffrage, for abolition, for temperance, and other causes. This quilt was made in 1983 when Jessie B. Telfair lost her job after attempting to register to vote.

They made and sold quilts to raise funds for wars, and to commemorate the dead. The Civil War years saw tributes to Abraham Lincoln as well as patriotic encouragements of the North and the South. They celebrated the history of the country. The centennial in 1876 sparked a tremendous celebration in quilts of the Founders and events surrounding the birth of the nation.  This quilt was made by G. Knappenberger in about 1876 in Pennsylvania, commemorating our nation's 100th birthday.

The Great War, the Depression, World War II, the Gulf War. AIDS. All of these are subjects for political expression through quilts. Fannie B. Shaw made this amazing quilt, named Prosperity is Just Around the Corner, at the beginning of the 1930s.

And indeed, quilters are at least as active now in political expression as ever. Pam from Calif showed some great, contemporary patriotic quilts in her November diary.

Continue Reading
Reposted from pdc by jim in IA Editor's Note: We always support Senator Harkin. -- jim in IA
I had long suspected that Senator Tom Harkin (D. IA) was gearing up for another run to keep his Senate seat in 2014.  This news just proved my suspicions:

Sen. Tom Harkin is getting ready, once again, to party — and raise some serious moolah — with Lady Gaga.

Almost exactly two years after his much buzzed-about first event featuring the pop diva, the Iowa Democrat’s campaign committee is holding another Gaga-centric fundraiser.

An invite to the Feb. 25 concert at Washington’s Verizon Center, posted on the Sunlight Foundation’s site,, says individual donors can pay $3,000 for a pair of tickets to the “Born This Way" singer’s show and a VIP reception with Harkin. The cost jumps to $3,500 for political action committees. - The Hill, 1/9/13

Lady Gaga has been strong, vocal advocate for marriage equality and gay rights.  Harkin has had a long record defending the rights of the LBGT community but came out in support for marriage equality in 2009, a year after gay marriage was legalized in Iowa.  Harkin has also been leading the effort to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) where the federal government has legally recognized marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  I'm glad to hear that Lady Gaga, who's music I enjoy, is back to help raise money for a great public servant like Tom Harkin.  Now if you can't attend the even that Gaga is playing for Harkin, how about donating to Harkin's campaign directly?

P.S. I normally don't do this but since this is an entertainment themed diary, I will take the time to shamelessly promote my own work.  I write sketch comedy that gets feature on Funny Or Die.  If you need a good laugh this Sunday morning, take a moment to check out my newest video, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN'S ACTING REEL:


Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:00 AM PST

Our Moral Foundations

by jim in IA

During the past year, I was very involved in the Obama campaign as a local volunteer. As such, issues constantly came up that forced me to question why I supported or opposed them. Is it right? Is it wrong? Doesn't it depend on a lot of other things? I needed to feel I understood them internally. Only then, could I use them as talking points to potential voters in my neighborhoods. I constantly asked myself how the conservative right could be so diametrically opposed to what I believed. I don't consider myself to be unusually liberal. In fact, I'm very conservative is some things. But, how could they feel so absolute and certain that they held the high ground morally? It was frustrating. I can't think that way. That's the title of my very first diary almost two years ago.

I pondered the possible reasons. Some insight came after listening to a Bill Moyers program with Jonathan Haidt. In it...

Bill and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries. Compromise becomes a dirty word.

At last some insight. Social psychology is not my area of expertise. I am a teacher and scientist. Logic and clear thinking are a big deal for me. I saw none in the way our political system was behaving. Haidt pointed out how people are basically very similar when it comes to the guideposts they use as foundations for moral judgement and behavior. But, they differ significantly on which of those foundations are held in highest importance to them. It is testable and measurable.

Granted, this information is not new. Haidt has spoken about it on TED, among other places, since 2008. Diaries about it are here on Kos. Do a search with Haidt and you find several. I would like to show you what I found in looking into this issue of moral foundations. More below the squiggle.


What is your most important moral foundation?

33%10 votes
60%18 votes
0%0 votes
3%1 votes
3%1 votes

| 30 votes | Vote | Results

Continue Reading
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.


Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site