Pigford: A Tragedy and a Non-Troversy

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    In a delicious irony, Andrew Breitbart was served with his own lawsuit by Shirley Sherrod at CPAC. Et quæ est hæc vox gregum, quæ resonat in auribus meis, et armentorum, quam ego audio?Report

  2. Avatar Zach
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    says:

    “What is appalling here is the ease with which the information I’ve noted above is readily available…”

    This can’t be understated. That CRS report is literally the first non-rightwing Google result for basically any relevant search on Pigford II. In fact, I emailed it to the Dish a few minutes after Friedersdorf’s post went up.

    Where’s Friedersdorf’s similar level of concern for widespread fraud in reconstructing Iraq which was obscured for years? For fraud by Medicare/Medicaid providers? These things actually exist and total in the hundreds of millions of dollars or so.

    I don’t see the point in being appalled by Brietbart, though. At least since the ACORN sting his career has revolved entirely around race baiting (ACORN, Sherrod, claiming John Lewis lied about being called a nigger, etc, etc).Report

  3. Avatar DougJ
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    says:

    Conor Friedersdorf is an idiot, and a useful one for the conservative movement. That also cannot be understated.Report

  4. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Excellent post, Mark. Very well said. Facts are useful, no?Report

  5. Avatar tom van dyke
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    says:

    Yes, EDK, but this casting around in the dark is because the media is not doing its job.

    How widespread is the fraud? In more politically attractive controversies, we would know to the penny, or at least to the nearest $100 million.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
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      says:

      Just as the media wants Donovan McNabb to succeed, it also wants his fellow blacks to be able to defraud white people.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to tom van dyke
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      says:

      Would we? Fraud is not at all easy to demonstrate, and it happens all the time. Do we have any reliable idea of the amount of, e.g., Medicare fraud? Yet I don’t think there’s much doubt that the amount of Medicare fraud long ago surpassed the total amount of these settlements. And this says nothing of the myriad other frauds that succeed against the government that only get discovered years after the fact, if ever. Even when frauds are exposed, media coverage is often pretty sparse and usually behind the curve. For example, I don’t know of a single news organization who did a story on the massive $100 million Medicare fraud scheme last year until the perpetrators were arrested. Even then, the story was pretty well buried in the national media.

      Meanwhile, let us not forget that Breitbart himself is supposed to be a journalist but he doesn’t seem to have turned up any specific proof for his allegations beyond some anonymous general claims made by USDA officials, many of whom seem to be alleged perpetrators of the discrimination.

      So the main data point here winds up being that there were far more claimants than there ever were farmers, which ignores that a claimant in a class action is distinctly different from an awardee. Once that gets factored in, along with the distinction between a farm and a farmer, plus the absurdity of relying on the number of farmers in 1997 as the baseline, there is quite quickly not much of a story here. Last- and I did not mention this above, but it looks like most of the late-filing claimants are going to be ineligible to even apply to partake in the Pigford II settlement; there were 25,000 plaintiffs in those cases, and the total settlement amount is $1.25 billion. Divide $1.25 billion by 25,000 and you get exactly $50,000 per Plaintiff. So unless there is a Pigford III, you’re not going to wind up with any more than a total of around 40,000 awards (and even that assumes that all 25,000 plaintiffs win their claims). If that is the case, then the number of awards will actually be significantly smaller than any calculation of the potential class size.

      There will still be cases of fraud, no doubt, but there’s just no evidence that there is or was a systematic and coordinated fraud, and no reason to think there was. At most there is only evidence sufficient to create a few isolated “Shame on You” local news segments on individual fraudsters.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Come on Mark all your facts can’t cover up this plot to keep the white man down. When will our MLK come to set us free?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Once again, very well said Mark.Report

      • Mark,

        Curious why you focus on Medicare fraud, when there is much more complicated and lethal fraud ongoing in the Defense Department (procurement, Iraq, etc.).

        Re: Friedersdorf – he “respects” Jonah Goldberg’s intellectual acumen. that is enough for me to think he is an idiot.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Clearly, the only interest here is delegitimizing Breitbart, that he’s wrong on the story, not the story itself. Perhaps he is wrong, but I’ll wait for more facts.

        The problem with the math here is that it assumes that all the black farmers were eligible, rather than a smaller %age.

        ““I am determined to obtain justice for the truly and legitimately discriminated against American black farmers, who have heretofore been denied justice by the USDA and the Pigford case. Nothing will deter my efforts to make them whole. I will simultaneously continue to fight relentlessly against the efforts of those who would use these working American farmers to defraud
        the American taxpayer to the tune of billions of dollars. This new lawsuit will not stop the American public from finding out what is really going on, who is directly culpable, and the critical role of the Pigford claimant in all off this.”

        But even if Breitbart’s wrong on this, the decentralization of what is and isn’t newsworthy is surely a good thing, even if it’s at the level of the blind squirrel.

        As for Sherrod’s lawsuit, a law prof who looked at the suit comments:

        http://legalinsurrection.blogspot.com/2011/02/shirley-sherrod-catches-andrew.html

        http://legalinsurrection.blogspot.com/2011/02/dissecting-shirley-sherrods-complaint.html

        Please return to the regularly scheduled Breitbart-bash. Thank you and sorry to have bothered anyone. I happened to find his biggovernment.com site interesting, although not overly so.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
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          says:

          William Jacobson might know a fair bit about securities law. I’m sure he’s quite good over there.

          But… ne supra crepidam sutor iudicaret, as Pliny the Elder said. This is serious litigation and Kirkland and Ellis will represent Shirley Sherrod, with Thomas D. Yannucci leading the charge.

          Poor Andy Breitbart. It’s a tale so sad, steel guitars should weep all over it. Let Yannucci get a grip on that poor man’s leg or any other part of his anatomy and the world will see the other end of that appendage.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            To Blaise and Pat, I’ll wait for more facts is all, before delegitimizing Breitbart. Regardless, I think more voices are better than fewer, and even if he’s wrong on this, a blanket condemnation is hardly in order, since virtually everyone—even Andrew Sullivan!—is wrong on occasion.

            I would be interested to see if Kirkland & Ellis is representing Sherrod pro bono. Such things happen all the time, especially with politically correct plaintiffs, the outcome less important than the marquee value.Report

          • Avatar SVT in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            We’ll see if you acknowledge your error when Sherrod’s case flames out.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to tom van dyke
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          says:

          The problem with the math here is that it assumes that all the black farmers were eligible, rather than a smaller %age.

          We don’t know whether all were eligible, but if our metric is limited to simply “successful claims,” we don’t have to assume that all were eligible. As I point out above, the number of total successful claims here is going to wind up in the neighborhood of, at most, 40,000 or so, and as few as 30-35,000 if the claims covered by Pigford II are rejected at a similar rate as the claims in Pigford I. This is also well within the range of total awards that appears to have been contemplated in the original consent decree, which set aside $2.3 billion for payments, equivalent to 46,000 payments of $50,000, of which only about $750 million was paid.

          So if the only numbers we used were the 1983 baseline and the ratio of about 1.5 farmers/farm, the number of successful claims would already be at most 80% of the number of black farmers. But during the course of 15 years, there are going to be changes in farm ownership – the ownership of the 18,000 black farms in 1997 is not going to just be a subset of the ownership of the 32,000 black farms in 1983. Even with a turnover rate of just 33% over that time period (which amounts to an assumption that the average farm operator operates a farm for 45 years), you’ve just increased the size of the potential class to 60-65,000, so now the number of ultimately successful claims is going to be between 1/2 and 2/3 the number of black farmers. Now we get to the great unknown: how many were denied loans for the acquisition of a farm? 5000? 10,000? 15,000? We really don’t know, but it doesn’t need to be terribly large to make the number of eligible persons a highly plausible percentage of the number of black farmers and loan applicants.

          There will no doubt be a not-insignificant percentage of false or improper but successful claims. Such is the nature of the system. But there is still no evidence to suggest that improper claims are a bigger issue here than in similarly sized class actions or that fraud is more widespread and systematic than it is in any number of other scenarios (Medicare, Defense procurement, etc.).

          But even if Breitbart’s wrong on this, the decentralization of what is and isn’t newsworthy is surely a good thing, even if it’s at the level of the blind squirrel.

          I’m a lot less certain of this now than I used to be. Actually, that’s not quite right. It’s more that I’m not at all certain that we’ve seen a decentralization of what is and isn’t newsworthy so much as we’ve seen a change in the factors for determining what is and isn’t newsworthy. I do not view that change to be a good thing at all.

          Last – Prof. Jacobson’s analysis doesn’t do much for me, and keep in mind that 24 hours ago I’d have probably agreed with his views on the merits. At the very least, he’s clearly wrong on his belief that Breitbart’s motion to dismiss will win the day – his argument to that effect relies too heavily on his (Jacobson’s) interpretation of the videos themselves, which would not be before the court on a MTD. On the merits, it’s a much closer issue than I would have expected – the complaint relies far more heavily on specific and identifiable factual statements attributable to Breitbart than it does on objections to Breitbart characterizing Sherrod as a racist, but the only case law Jacobson cites has to do with the rejection of claims based on defamatory accusations of racism.

          And I agree with him – as I said back in July, simply making an unfair characterization or accusation that someone is a racist is almost always going to be non-actionable. The big thing is that there have always been several blatant falsehoods that Breitbart perpetuated in his initial posting, each of which explicitly indicates Sherrod’s story is about something that occurred in her then-current role with USDA.

          Where Jacobson goes wrong is in assuming that the emphasis on Breitbart’s intent is a concession that Sherrod is a public figure. It’s more than that – it’s a conscious effort to qualify for punitive damages. Moreover, context matters a lot in defamation cases.Report

  6. Avatar Conor Friedersdorf
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    says:

    Mark,

    You’re absolutely right – I was wrong to assert that “the gap between the number of claimants and the total number of black farmers in America” suggests “widespread fraud.” After reading emails from Dish readers, which I posted as followups, I feel silly for not seeing the problem with the claimants metric at the time. All I can say is that it was an honest mistake, and while I wish I would’ve raised it in my initial post, I am at least glad that I blogged about this issue because a lot of folks who were wrong in the same way I was now have the benefit of understanding this controversy better. I’ll certainly deploy your arguments as this case gets covered elsewhere.

    DougJ,

    Usually I don’t take time to respond to your irrationally hostile brand of quasi-trollery, but for Christ’s sake. You wrote, “Conor Friedersdorf is an idiot, and a useful one for the conservative movement.” God knows there are a lot of things for which one could criticize me, but it’s appropriate to your lack of thoughtfulness that you’ve found the single criticism that has the least basis in fact imaginable.Report

    • Avatar mistermix in reply to Conor Friedersdorf
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      says:

      Actually, I think DougJ’s criticism is based entirely in fact, and your correction on the Daily Dish falls far short of the mark in rectifying what’s more than an error — it’s really journalistic malpractice.

      It took me 10 keystrokes and two mouse clicks, using the most obvious reference available (Wikipedia) to put the main claim of the National Review article into question. It probably took you far longer write the lengthy grafs in your original post that (a) remarked on what a solid publication the NR is, and (b) told liberal bloggers what they need to get right on reading that solid publication.

      If you’re going to pimp the NR and tell others their business, how in the hell can you avoid the most rudimentary fact checking, given that the point of origin of this story is someone who you acknowledge is a habitual fabricator? The only explanation that fits the facts is that you’re pre-disposed to trust the NR since it is a “serious” conservative organ. That makes you quite useful as a conduit for funneling made up controversies into the mainstream, which is what your post did.

      Though you do acknowledge your error here, the post at the Dish contains no statement acknowledging or regretting an error. You simply print the contradicting statements of readers, and link to others who discuss your post. This continues the charade that this is a legitimate controversy, with two sides, and that a debate is warranted.

      And, btw, you might want to note that Mark’s statement that you “consciously or not, provide intellectual cover for the base’s ill-supported memes rather than seeking truth” is really just a more tactful way to say “useful idiot”.Report

      • Avatar brantl in reply to mistermix
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        says:

        And we know which “Organ” the NR is, too, and it’s not the brain.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to mistermix
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        says:

        Actually, I think DougJ’s criticism is based entirely in fact, and your correction on the Daily Dish falls far short of the mark in rectifying what’s more than an error — it’s really journalistic malpractice.

        Actually, working for the Daily Dish means never having to say you’re sorry. Especially for the most egregious transgressions. He’s just following Sullivan’s lead here (see: Fifth Column, et al).

        “Young bucks defrauding government.” Has a nice ring (or dog whistle) to it. Plays (and pays!) nicely to the base.

        This is the conservative movement at work. Don’t expect honesty – or any humility.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to John Howard Griffin
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          says:

          I’m not as up as I probably should be on the facts of the Pigford case. But I do know never, ever to trust Andrew Breitbart on anything.

          That said, my recollection is that Andrew Sullivan has several times apologized for the “fifth column” post.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            That said, my recollection is that Andrew Sullivan has several times apologized for the “fifth column” post.

            Yes, of course. In the time honored non-apology apology of “I’m sorry that some people took offense at what I wrote…”

            By fifth column, I meant simply their ambivalence about the outcome of a war on which I believe the future of liberty hangs. Again, I retract nothing. But I am sorry that one sentence was not written more clearly to dispel any and all such doubts about its meaning. Writing 6,000 words under deadline in the heat of war can lead to occasional sentences whose meaning is open to misinterpretation.

            He apologizes but retracts nothing. Great apology. Very sincere. Not his fault, dontchano.Report

          • Avatar DougJ in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            “But I do know never, ever to trust Andrew Breitbart on anything.”

            You probably don’t think Dennis Prager is “thoughtful” either, though, so you’re clearly a left-wing partisan.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DougJ
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              says:

              What does Dennis Prager have to do with this discussion? Prager’s thesis resolves to some Left Wing Conspiracy wherein our Precious Judaeo-Christian Values are being undermined by Revisionists and Mozlums and other nefarious sorts.

              Oh, he’s quite Thoughtful, Prager is. It’s what he thinks about that disturbs me a little.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to ThatPirateGuy
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                says:

                I haven’t been impressed by Prager, either. I do admire Friedersdorf’s anti-torture writing, which I guess makes me a glibertarian.

                But anyway, if this is what it’s about:

                But I’m a glib, condescending asshole when I ask conservatives if they believe in evolution and believe that global temperatures have risen over the past 30 years.

                …then the answer is no. You’re not. You’re probably asking the majority of conservatives some tough questions. I only found it strange that the League should be asked these questions, because I hadn’t recalled any of the top-level writers taking anything other than pro-evolution and AGW-reality-affirming positions. (I almost wrote “pro-AGW,” which is not quite the same!)

                For example, here I criticize a naive misunderstanding of evolution, and here I wrote:

                [W]hile I’m not inclined to take Friedrich Hayek seriously as an anti-cap-and-trader (because he advocated pollution controls before cap-and-trade even existed as an idea), I am inclined to take Thomas Crocker seriously [in his skepticism that it would work for carbon], because he’s the actual inventor of cap-and-trade.

                As to the appropriate size of the intervention, that’s another question entirely, but there’s nothing in principle about very large sized commons problems that says we should ignore them forever. The opposite seems rather obviously true, no?

                I then came down rather squarely on the side of a carbon tax. None of the top-level authors disagreed, and most of the criticisms I got on that post were from the left, because I preferred a revenue-neutral carbon tax rather than one that would raise taxes on net.

                So anyway, if you’d done your homework, you would know the League is not exactly a hotbed of creationism, AGW denialism, or AGW do-nothingism.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                says:

                I almost wrote “pro-AGW,” which is not quite the same!

                I’m sure you’re one of those who only wants AGW for the moneyed elites. AGW for all!Report

              • Avatar DougJ in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                says:

                I misjudged you, I admit it.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DougJ
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              says:

              contra Prager, I’d like to advance the notion of American Muslims being labeled Our Muslims. In point of fact, they fled the paradise of the dar al Islam for these benighted shores, where like every other goofy sect, they’re allowed freedom of conscience.

              Yes, and many of them were killed in the World Trade Center. Their photographs are used by SOCOM and CIA when they’re interrogating Actual Terrorists, we have Johnny Spann on tape, immediately after capturing John Walker Lindh, referring to Our Muslims killed on that dreadful day.

              Somehow, lost in this Judaeo-Christian Ethics business is the fact that Islam was the first religion to discriminate between combatants and civilians, a notion the Crusaders took back to Europe with them. They, too, believe their faith originated with Abraham. Can we make the case for Including them in the Abrahamic Club? Some folks do. Maybe Dennis Prager could, if he was really as Thoughtful as you claim. After all, they are American Muslims, and many of them served in our military and died in the service of this country.

              Just a thought, while we’re on the subject of Thoughtfulness.Report

    • Avatar Jado in reply to Conor Friedersdorf
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      says:

      Conor,
      How about for your next article you go into all the ways you were wrong, and how the NR article is a pack of lies?

      No, huh? Yeah, that would make you a “journalist”. Wouldn’t want that.

      Carry on, useful idiot.Report

    • Avatar DougJ in reply to Conor Friedersdorf
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      says:

      How would you describe someone who advances propaganda he doesn’t understand?

      I think “useful idiot” is being pretty kind.

      And I love how when I insult you, I am a jerk, but when you call me an irrational quasi-troll, you’re being fair and principled.

      Grow up.Report

  7. Avatar trizzlor
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    says:

    I think this dove-tails somewhat with your previous post on trust and litmus tests.

    # Breitbart has now been involved in several controversies where he’s staked his reputation on evidence that was (to put it gently) partially incomplete. He’s readily admitted that his general aim is “partisan journalism”, and in all of the instances the omissions of evidence were in his favor.

    # Foster essentially packages Breitbart’s arguments for a wider conservative audience under the guise of level-headed analysis, even though the claimants versus census issues had already been addressed at the NRO Corner and in the documents themselves. It just so happens to coincide with his larger narrative about the incompetent yet corrupt Obama administration.

    # Friedersdorf blindly re-publishes Foster’s main arguments in the largest venue of the blogosphere, without doing a single bit of research into those claims. It just so happens to coincide with his larger narrative about sensible representatives of the hard-right rump.

    At what point does each of these people lose credibility in other, unrelated but political matters? At what point to we stop linking to arguments they make if they conveniently coincide with their hobby-horse narrative? Is their position on Pigford more or less damning of their credibility than views on evolution or global warming?Report

  8. Avatar brantl
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    says:

    When has BrietFart or Freidersdork (neither of those is a mis-spelling, just truth in advertising), ever gotten much of anything right?Report

  9. Avatar KenB
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    says:

    The delicious irony is that “Friedersdork” has already been adopted by Mark Levin and his crew to fight back bravely against Conor’s criticisms. They’ve even created a faux Conor Friedersdork facebook page.Report

  10. Avatar Dan Koffler
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    says:

    Ironically, Breitbart’s defensive press releases insinuating that Shirley Sherrod was behind the “fraud” in the Pigford case (what is that? his 3rd unique rationale for the doctored footage?) opens up a whole new avenue for her defamation suit to explore. Here’s hoping that POS has as much fun in discovery as he swears he’s anticipating.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Dan Koffler
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      says:

      An interesting thing to note with that: if Sherrod’s farm was in fact the single largest victor in the Pigford settlement, that means that she was one of the handful of claimants who chose “Track B,” which requires the much higher standard of proof.Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Andrew Breitbart never said such a thing about Mrs. Sherrod. He said she’s a central figure in Pigford, which has a lot of fraud. That doesn’t imply she caused the fraud. But she was a central figure and not just because of her winning claim (which was Track B) but because of her work with the office of the monitor and the subsequent hiring by the USDA.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
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          says:

          You lie. Andrew Breitbart not only promulgated the Doctored Video, he has gone as far as to call her a racist. Here are a few facts.Report

        • Avatar Dan Koffler in reply to Lee Stranahan
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          says:

          I’ve been out all day, and may regret getting back into this, but:

          Mrs. Sherrod’s status as a claimant in Pigford has nothing whatsoever to do with her lawsuit against Andrew Breitbart for his well-documented, and very clearly intentional and malicious defamation of her character last year. By referring to some shadowy forces attempting to suppress his freedom of speech in the context of a response to Mrs. Sherrod’s lawsuit, and by referring to her only as “the Pigford claimant” — by which term he surely is not designating her as the one honest claimant in a universe otherwise populated entirely by fraudsters — Breitbart is very definitely changing his story about why he targeted Mrs. Sherrod for the nth time, and conveying to anyone who only knows of the matter from his press release that the lawsuit is a pre-emptive attack by a perpetrator of fraud who wishes not to have her cover blown.

          So, again, it is ironic that Mrs. Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit had nothing to do with the Pigford settlement until Andrew Breitbart decided the best defense was more and different defamation.Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Mark,

        I couldn’t find your bio on the site — do you host a radio show or am I confusing you with someone else?Report

  11. Avatar Lee Stranahan
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    says:

    Well, allow me to retort..

    You are utterly ignoring the 14+ hours of interviews I have videotaped over the last two months with farmers, lawyers, reporters and other people relevant to the case.

    You’re also ignoring the press conference and 2 hour, unedited audio that we released last week which shows exactly how easy it is to commit fraud in Pigford.

    About the numbers — all of the discussion and speculation about census numbers and so on is really a distraction, in my opinion. What we know (from a FOIA request, too) is that 92% of the claims that were paid were by ‘attempted to farm’ers. That means, people who never farmed.

    That’s the crucial thing missing from all the supposed debunking , the crucial matter of real farmers vs. attempted to farmer. What the 2 hour audio shows clearly is that the standard to ‘prove’ that you attempted to farm is non-existent. If you say you attempted to farm, you did. If you say you were visiting Louisiana from your home in Los Angles and say that you tried to get an application and you say they didn’t give you one, you can prevail if you fill out the forms correctly…and people are being taught exactly what to say.

    This is why the actual farmers are so mad about Pigford. They had a higher standard than the non-farmers.

    Of course, there’s a ton more. We have a claimant lawyer admitting hundreds of his clients committed fraud. We have fraud rings that the FBI never followed up on. We have USDA employees working with lawyers to help people fill out a false form.

    If anyone has questions about the Pigford story, just contact me.Report

    • Avatar Joseph Nobles in reply to Lee Stranahan
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      says:

      No, the “actual farmers” didn’t have a higher standard. There were two tracks. Claimants were free to chose which track they followed. Poor Stranahan.Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to Joseph Nobles
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        says:

        Yes, the actual farmers did have a higher standard because — even in a Track A claim — they had to produce documentation that the ‘attempted to farmers’ didn’t.

        This is why 80% of the actual farmers lost and of 80% of the attempted succeeded. Watch this video for more detail…

        Report

        • Avatar Joseph Nobles in reply to Lee Stranahan
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          says:

          Oh, my, fun with Stranahan’s squirrelly terms. Your video is referring to the April 14, 1999 consent decree in the original Pigford case, before there was even a Track A or a Track B. You’ve hopelessly muddled the whole complex situation, and seeing that you’ve thrown in your lot with the odious Andrew Breitbart, I can only assume you did so purposely to plug your silly video link. Until you provide clear support for your wild claims (and, no, pointing in the direction of your hours of videotape isn’t that), you simply deserve nothing but dismissal out of hand.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
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          says:

          Your problem resolves to a problem within USDA, to wit, that “non-farmers” were paid where “actual farmers” didn’t get paid. The argument resolves to who’s actually a farmer, not who was denied a loan under the Pigford Consent Decree.

          See, here’s where you need more Truth to Speak to Power. That would be a Fact or two or three, such as who actually applied for and was denied a loan.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
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      says:

      Perhaps you will review the work of Michael Lewis, the arbitrator. Unless you are insinuating Pigford is a fraud against the government, per se, then back the hell off.Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to BlaiseP
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        says:

        Pigford is a fraud against the government and also the original black farmers.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
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          says:

          Says you, not the courts. G’wan ‘long now, you’ve got nothing to say here.Report

          • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            Do you have a question about the case? I have a tremendous amount to say.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
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              says:

              Now, let’s get this straight, so you can go back to Telling Truth to Power, or whoever might actually take you seriously. There are three words in the Consent Decree, let’s review:

              attempt to farm

              There are another few words I’d like you to consider:

              Federal Rules of Evidence.

              You claim Pigford is a fraud in its entirety, nu? Yet you also say injustice has been perpetrated upon the black farmers. How may we charitably fit these two pieces together, based on a few indignant Actual Farmers claiming Non-Farmers got paid, too? Remember, you must now gloss that Attempt to Farm business, and those pesky Federal Rules of Evidence.

              We eagerly await your perspicacious summary of these frauds, complete with evidence of actual fraud, including names and dates, committed upon the Adjudicators in violation of the Federal Rules of Evidence.Report

    • Avatar mistermix in reply to Lee Stranahan
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      says:

      You know you’ve arrived in cloud-cuckoo conspiracy/fantasy land when you can only understand the depth of a fraud that the FBI missed by reviewing 14 hours of videotape.Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to mistermix
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        says:

        I never said you need to review all 14 hours, did I? I said that’s what I have. Do you have a question ?Report

        • Avatar mistermix in reply to Lee Stranahan
          Ignored
          says:

          Yes, I have a few questions. Precisely how many hours do I need to review in order to not be accused of “utterly ignoring” those interviews?

          And where are the crucial parts of those interviews posted?

          How many of those videos are backed by corroborating documents, and are those documents posted with the video?

          How many hours of the videos are from people whose claims were denied?

          How many hours are from those who claim to have perpetrated the fraud they describe? If there are some of those, did you report them to the authorities?Report

          • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to mistermix
            Ignored
            says:

            That’s a bunch of questions. What I’d suggest you watch depends upon what are you’re interested in or skeptical of.

            About the authorities — yep, I’ve sent info to the USDA and tried to give it to Judge Paul Friedman.Report

            • Avatar mistermix in reply to Lee Stranahan
              Ignored
              says:

              “What I’d suggest you watch depends upon what are you’re interested in or skeptical of.”

              You’re the one who made the claim that there’s something in those video that debunks this post. Yet you also said that you didn’t expect me to watch all 14 hours. But you won’t identify which parts of the videos to watch.

              “About the authorities — yep, I’ve sent info to the USDA and tried to give it to Judge Paul Friedman.”

              You didn’t answer the question. Were there specific people who testified on your videos about perpetrating fraud that you reported to the authorities? Or did they get a pass because they told you a story you liked?

              You said you are happy to answer questions, but you didn’t answer any of them. The reason is obvious – you don’t have anything but hours of video of people making baseless claims.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
          Ignored
          says:

          This we do know, Lee. Andrew Breitbart promulgated a scurrilous and heavily-edited video insinuating Shirley Sherrod was a racist. We also know you say Andrew Breitbart had nothing to say about her.

          Now comes the plaintiff before the moot court, brandishing 14 hours of interviews ’bout Fraud. Now you listen here, kid, I consult for USDA, both in St Louis and Washington and I see more attempted fraud against the government than you can imagine. Lots of it gets pushed through by Important Persons in Congress. Broadband loans completely forgiven, there’s a whole hidden bank inside USDA called the Cushion of Credit, where you can prepay your loan and earn 5% interest payable directly from the General Receipts of the Treasury. You want to talk fraud? Yes, let’s. There’s a practical difference though, you’re nothing but an apologist for a shitmonger named Andy Breitbart, and if you’re not, you’d better make that clear.Report

          • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            The USDA is the bad guy here, no doubt. And this ties into largest issues like corporate farms vs. family farms. They went after the black farmers first.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
              Ignored
              says:

              The USDA does the will of Congress, Lee, and it has become a vast trove of political largesse. Want a USDA loan? It starts with your US Representative and it can be renegotiated any number of times. There are billions in the Cushion of Credit.

              What you haven’t clarified, and what I really must press you to admit, is Andrew Breitbart’s attacks on Shirley Sherrod. The Pigford tort is beyond dispute: those farmers were denied loans on the basis of their race. For you to now claim Pigford is a fraud requires you to rebut that tort from the evidence, which you cannot do, for all your Fourteen Hours of Whatever.Report

              • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, we’re doing it all right. The attempted to farms are mostly fraud.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lee Stranahan
                Ignored
                says:

                Mostly, you say? Would you be so good as to enumerate these attempted frauds and the evidence you have assembled? Your court filing would be a very good start. I will submit any evidence you have of actual fraudulent filings under Pigford directly through my contacts in USDA.Report

              • Avatar Joseph Nobles in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve asked this before. Stranahan thinks there are only 3,000 or so legitimate cases in all the Pigford claimants. Everything else for him is fraud. However I’ve yet to see the standard of evidence you’re asking for provided by him.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Joseph Nobles
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s complete bullshit from top to bottom. I know lots of people in the USDA Inspector General’s department, a hotline and anonymous reporting. They’re currently prosecuting thousands of fraud cases in the courts now. I feel like Roy Batty in Blade Runner: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Joseph Nobles
                Ignored
                says:

                See, here’s the logical paradox Lee faces. I have no doubt more claim packages were submitted under Pigford than a fresh dog turd attracts flies on a hot summer’s day. As the old joke goes “Where there’s a will, there’s relatives.”

                And that’s news, actual fackshul news, all on its lonesome, whether or not the Adjudicator approved a single claim package. This is no longer in the hands of USDA, they’re the plaintiff here, and they entered into the Consent Degree. Everything’s being paid out of the Judgment Fund.

                Lee simply doesn’t understand the mechanics of a class action suit. His beef is with the Adjudicator, if beef there is, and it’s completely hypothetical beef until he points to some evidence of actual fraud.Report

    • Avatar dave™© in reply to Lee Stranahan
      Ignored
      says:

      “If anyone has questions about the Pigford story, just contact me.” I can get right-wing bullshit anywhere, thanks…Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Lee Stranahan
      Ignored
      says:

      Unfortunately, most of the responses to your comment here have generated far more heat than light especially since there are some things here that are worthy of legitimate discussion.

      A few thoughts and questions from me:

      1. Let me make very clear at the outset that I have no doubt that there are notable levels of fraudulent claims involved in this case. This to me only goes so far, though – any large class action is always going to be susceptible to large amounts of fraud, and the larger the value of an individual award, the more fraudsters will try to take advantage. This is doubly true because of the sorts of attorneys that tend to get involved. The question is whether the fraud is so prevalent and systematic as to defeat the entire purpose of the settlement.

      2. The 92% figure from your FOIA analysis is worthy of concern and discussion (unless I misread it, the Breitbart report seemed to imply that this figure came from an anonymous source). However, when combined with your argument below that 80% of actual farmers’ claims are rejected compared with 80% of “attempted to” farmers’ claim being approved, it seems like there’s a clear innocent explanation for the 92% figure. Specifically, that 80% rejection rate is extraordinarily high, to the point of suggesting that the USDA is imposing an impossibly high burden on actual farmers. Any attorney with even a modicum of understanding of that different set of standards would thus advise his client to file as an “attempted to” farmer even if his client were an actual farmer. This, by the way, would not be dishonest in the least – one who actually farms also definitionally attempts to farm. Is it possible that the bigger scandal (or at least equally big scandal) is that the USDA is imposing an impossibly high burden on claims from actual farmers?

      3. In light of that, one piece of statistical evidence that would merit strong consideration would be this: what percentage of that 92% to which you refer lack any documentation whatsoever of their attempt to obtain a loan? Noting that this may be an impossible question to answer (i.e., it’s doubtful many applicants would have retained their rejected applications for the period of time we’re talking about here, and I don’t know whether it’s possible to match claims to rejected applications that may or may not be archived by the USDA), I’d ask in the alternative what percentage of that 92% rely on “wasn’t given an application” claims?Report

      • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        Mark, thanks for the thoughtful questions….and congrats for keeping a civil site. Honestly, I don’t want anyone to simply take my word for anything which is why I welcome questions. This story is bizarro world on a number of levels.

        First and generally speaking — the written report (which I had nothing to do with) has a lot of solid information, but since I hit the road in early December, we’ve learned a LOT more. The 92% came up three times in interviews until I track down where it came from, for example. That being said, a source at the monitor’s office told me at least 80% were ‘attempted to farms’.

        I haven’t heard of a single case of a real farmer taking the ‘attempted to farm route’, Not saying it’s not possible a few did, but nothing I’ve heard. That fact is that there weren’t that many farmers who’d done business with the USDA and even then, not all of them faced discrimination. Clearly, many did — but not all. The original class was , I believe, 1500 or so farmers and that took years to round up.

        To understand the problem with the attempted, you need to listen to some (or all) of the 2 hour audio we released. People are told “If you SAID you tried to get an application, then you DID get an application” and literally talked in to committing fraud. It’s a room of 150 people…and only one was a farmer. The audio gives a clear indication of how easy it was to commit fraud. We’d heard about these meeting from farmers but actually hearing it yourself is pretty stunning.Report

  12. Avatar Bob
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s not clear to me that Friedersdorf actually posted this weak tea.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/02/the-pigford-case-and-how-to-talk-about-it-ctd.html

    I have always assumed that unsigned offerings at the Dish were from Sullivan. The above is unsigned so when I read it last evening I thought it was an attempt, by Sullivan, to correct CF without actually calling Conor out.

    When Sullivan is away his playmates keep things going and postings are signed, hence we know Conor not Zoe posted this particular crap.

    I going to amuse the link above is from Sullivan.Report

  13. Avatar robert green
    Ignored
    says:

    i know dougj makes this point a lot, but it should be made every time this sort of thing happens: if all of your mistakes redound to the benefit of your argument’s underlying thesis, then they are “mistakes”, and you are either bill o’reilly, andrew breitbart or a useful idiot.

    conor, i assume by now you have left this comment thread and moved on. i hope in some part of your brain there is shame left. i’m not charitably disposed towards your type of lying so i have tremendous doubts about your capabilities to change, but maybe, just maybe, you can have your come-to-flying-spaghetti-monster moment here. if you have it, and if, unlike your patron mr. sullivan you can actually apologize for what you have wrought, i am happy to accept said apology on behalf of my class (unaffiliated rational smart non-assholes).Report

  14. Avatar Pat Cahalan
    Ignored
    says:

    Just to throw a monkey wrench into this thread and get it off of the “I know you are but what am I?” train…

    The whole “defrauding the government” meme is sort of disingenuous. There are two tracks for a reason; because the government decided that it would be easier to audit two tracks for claims. You want a “real” payout, file for the harder to prove award.

    Claiming that someone is defrauding the government because they take the “easy to establish” track and the lesser award is missing the point; yes, the claimant may indeed be fabricating the claim. Fabrications of claims are included in the design of the entire process.

    Class action awards are actually pretty easy to game, regardless of the case. They’re a bad mechanism for assigning “justice”; at best they’re a punitive measure against the wrongdoing party with a minimal payback for the wronged parties.

    This isn’t really a story about defrauding the government (although that’s certainly going on to some nonzero degree – but probably not significant degree). This isn’t really a story about red tape, either. It’s a story about how class action suits provide marginally appropriate justice in our legal system. The same scenario plays out probably daily when the accused is an NGO and raises no eyebrows.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Pat Cahalan
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s a story about how class action suits provide marginally appropriate justice in our legal system.

      True on the whole, I’d say. Still, it’s remarkable how some people only complain about it when the class at hand is poor black farmers.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        Breitbart appears pretty reprehensible to me. This is the sort of story that can be blown out of proportion to serve two masters at once, “See, the government is hopelessly inept and paying out FRAUDULENT CLAIMS!” (even though any organization would probably have done the same and in a risk analysis it’s a perfectly reasonable course of action) and “See, I’m not a racist, I defend the poor black farmer!” (while avoiding the bald fact that all the “bad guys” in this story according to my narrative are all black people, so all the racists in my audience get to feel self-righteous while being guilt-free!)

        I’ll give the guy credit for this: he knows how to pick stories that can gain attention. It’s going to keep him relevant for a while, unfortunately.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I’d like to co-sign both of these comments.

        Class action reform is a legitimate issue, not because it is too easy to file class action suits (I don’t have much of an opinion on that question), but because the way we handle class action lawsuits typically fails to make victims whole (or even provide any redress of value to them at all) while making the lawyers extremely rich. Indeed, some of the past reforms may well have unintentionally exacerbated the problem. But, as Jason points out, there is something unconscionable about using this particular case as the impetus for that reform. To the contrary, it seems that the main objection here is that too many actual people have successfully claimed awards, of which lawyers have taken an overly large chunk (but not so overly large as to deprive the successful claimants of all or most of the proceeds).Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Mark Thompson
          Ignored
          says:

          > To the contrary, it seems that the main objection
          > here is that too many actual people have
          > successfully claimed awards

          Yes, that’s the objection. To which my response is, “Compared to… what, exactly?”

          If the answer is, “I want only those people actually harmed by a defendant to be able to claim damages in a class action lawsuit, on principle”… congrats, you’ve just introduced a new burden of proof into our legal system. You’ve also just made it virtually impossible for a class action suit to ever have any meaning. Not that they have much, now.

          If you want to establish that in this particular case, there are a significant number of fraudulent claimants, you need to explain to me why this particular number is significant, and explain to me why you believe this particular set of goalposts has been passed. Preferably without waving your hands at proxy measurements that are of dubious value.

          In all the analysis of the case, I haven’t seen anyone start by establishing a reasonable baseline, which leads me to believe there isn’t much of a real story here beyond the original story behind the case, which is, “The government screwed some people with farm subsidies on account o’ they were black”. Which is truly regrettable and bad.Report

        • Avatar Lee Stranahan in reply to Mark Thompson
          Ignored
          says:

          I agree with the comments about part of this being an issue of class action…

          But this is what I’d like you to PLEASE understand — the people angry about this are the original black farmers. They are the ones who feel their suit was hijacked. Every single one I’ve talked to is very angry. They WERE discriminated against.

          So, no — my point is NOT ‘it’s bad black people got money’, nor is it Breitbart’s. Period. NOT the point — the point IS ‘black farmers were screwed by the USDA…then by trial lawyers…and then by (mostly Democratic) politicians.

          It’s not a normal narrative and it’s why the story is so fascinating, really. It’s all upside down — but talk to the farmers.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        it’s remarkable how some people only complain about it when the class at hand is poor black farmers.

        Jason, you bleeding-heart lefty, you 🙂

        Actually, I think NR is against class actions in general, under the general heading of “tort reform”. (Which to me means “Let’s not punish profitable concerns merely because they’re injuring people”, but that’s a different discussion.)Report

        • Avatar timb in reply to Mike Schilling
          Ignored
          says:

          I think that’s a more fair summation. The NR corporatist crowd is definitely into limiting the little guy’s ability to mess with the big fish.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to timb
            Ignored
            says:

            Class action lawsuits are hardly messing with the big fish.

            I’ve received somewhere on the order of 20 notices of award, in my professional career. I buy a lot of hardware, and various class action lawsuits have been settled against various computer parts/machine vendors over the last two decades. I’ve never bothered to file a single one.

            Largely because the paperwork to show that I’m a legal claimant is insane. It’s so insane, that it wouldn’t even pay my time if I filled out the paperwork to send *me* the check. I certainly could have, shafting the various companies I worked for out of their… uh, couple hundred bucks’ share of the award.

            There are undoubtedly examples of class action lawsuits that did justice to the victims. On balance, I’m pretty sure CAL’s could just be thrown away and replaced with, oh, anything else.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Pat Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              You’re not the beneficiary here, of course. The lawyers are. Their paperwork may be greater than yours, but then, it’s their job, and their rewards are astronomical.

              It sounds to me like you may have talked yourself into supporting tort reform in at least a theoretical sense, even if you didn’t mean to, and even if tort reform in practice isn’t likely to slow down the lawyers, help the consumers, or keep corporations restrained.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, I’ve been on board with tort reform for quite a while. I don’t think it’s the issue that everyone makes it out to be (I really don’t think putting caps on malpractice awards is going to cut down health care costs to the extent some claim), for just the reasons you allude to here: it’s not likely to slow down the lawyers, help the consumers, or keep corporations restrained.Report

  15. Avatar MJB Wolf
    Ignored
    says:

    Wow. There is so much wasted energy here trying to “prove” Breitbart is a racist or that Lee S is a racist for reporting on this class action suit. I thought this was a site for thoughtful discussion but clearly some commenters come here only to throw bombs. The story has a “classic” reporting and liberal hook to it: Black farmers were screwed by the system and the “redress” instituted screwed them over again. Why can’t you take Lee at his word at least until you have examined the facts? The racist label is thrown around so often it is meaningless.

    Real racism by people against people has declined in my lifetime and institutional racism is nearly extinct, so partisans have to invent new ways to spin it: Opposing Obamacare is racist, etc. For God’s sake this country can’t be THAT racist if we elected him president!

    And finally, Shirley Sherrod clearly said, whether you view the short (barely edited if you actually understand that term) or the complete version of her remarks, that she treated requests for help differently based entirely on the color of the person’s skin. I would think progressives should be horrified at THAT but I could be wrong.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    institutional racism is nearly extinct

    So the USDA didn’t discriminate against black farmers, then?Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mike Schilling
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, this is why Lee’s reporting, which I’m developing a certain amount of respect for, winds up being rightly categorized as “useful idiocy” even if everything he has said is correct. And let me be clear – while I’m as yet unconvinced by Lee’s conclusions, I’ve got no reason to doubt his factual reporting.

      Everything that he’s written has been from the perspective of acknowledging the pervasive and institutional racism at the USDA. In fact, he seems to think that a lot of what is going on here is actually the exacerbation of that institutional racism, a refusal to correct the actual wrong it perpetrated. Indeed, if the full measure of his reporting is accurate, the only two conclusions to be drawn are Lee’s conclusion or the more standard liberal conclusion; in other words, this case is either exacerbating the effects of institutional racism towards blacks at the USDA or it is helping to remedy the effects of institutional racism towards blacks at the USDA. But notice what both sets of conclusions feature: longstanding institutional racism racism towards blacks at a major federal government agency.

      Yet his reporting is being used for precisely the opposite purpose. The narrative that Breitbart is pushing seems to be based on a cherry-picked version of that reporting. In this narrative, the institutional racism in the USDA’s administration is minimized, the actual plight of the black farmers ignored, and anything that might suggest that there is a conspiracy aimed at using Pigford as a vehicle for “reparations” placed front and center while divorced from its context. Lee’s patron is not reporting Lee’s findings; Lee’s patron is instead using Lee’s name to report his own.Report

  17. Avatar SteveM
    Ignored
    says:

    “this reporting elides the extreme severity of discrimination against black farmer, especially as perpetrated by the USDA: the average market value of a farm operated by a black farmer is only about 20% of the market value of an average farm operated by a white farmer”

    Assuming that all the numbers here are correct, where is the evidence of “extreme severity of discrimination … perpetrated by the USDA”? Do you think that the only possible explanation for black-owned farms being worth less than white-owned farms is USDA discrimination?

    I strongly suspect that the average value of black-owned homes is less than that of white-owned homes, but that is not in and of itself evidence of discrimination by anybody.Report

  18. Avatar SteveM
    Ignored
    says:

    Second, using the number of black-owned farms extant in 1997 as the sole baseline for comparison is absurd on its face, particularly in light of the fact that the number of black-owned farms declined by almost 50% between 1983 and 1997, and in light of the fact that the settlements cover discrimination over a 15 year period. At the very least, then, the far more appropriate benchmark would need to be 33,250, the number of black-owned farms existing in 1983.

    This point might be telling if it were not for the fact that the number of white-owned farms declined in the same period. Is that evidence of anti-white discrimination? Using your logic, yes, it is.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to SteveM
      Ignored
      says:

      Reading comprehension, dude. I do not say that the difference in number of black-owned farms between 1983 and 1997 is evidence of discrimination.

      I say instead that it is absurd to pretend that the only farmers who were potential victims of discrimination by the USDA over a 15 year period are the farmers who were around at the end of that 15 year period.Report

      • Avatar SteveM in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        Reading comprehension? We are all “potential victims” of discrimination. (And other things) Being a “potential victim” is not a class with any boundaries. Try comprehending that.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to SteveM
          Ignored
          says:

          You can quit condescending any time you like, Steve. The Pigford Consent Decree establishes the boundaries of this class action suit as a matter of judgment.Report

          • Avatar SteveM in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            The Pigford Consent Decree establishes the boundaries of this class action suit as a matter of judgment.

            Why do I get the feeling that you think you’re making some valuable contributions to the the discussion by trotting out stuff like this? The judgment is precisely what’s being debated.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to SteveM
              Ignored
              says:

              I do not see any attempt to debate a 14-year-old judgment. In fact, I have not seen any attempt to criticize the class definition, much less to offer an alternative class definition. I see plenty of claims that there was not, in fact, systematic discrimination by the USDA, but not a single attempt to engage the factual findings that formed the basis for that conclusion.Report

  19. Avatar SteveM
    Ignored
    says:

    Third, the settlement quite appropriately covers not only actual farmers but also people who sought to acquire or start a farm and applied for a loan from the USDA.

    You don’t mean “people”, you mean “black people”. And once again your simply state your own opinion as it it were incontrovertible fact. Some black applicants were discriminated against – it does not follow that all were, and thus that all black applicants denied a loan were denied it unfairly and so prevented from being farmers. You are assuming that which needs to be shown.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to SteveM
      Ignored
      says:

      The Pigford Consent decree establishes the prejudicial conduct as an incontrovertible fact. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to SteveM
      Ignored
      says:

      You don’t mean “people”, you mean “black people”.

      I would think this is obvious.

      Some black applicants were discriminated against – it does not follow that all were, and thus that all black applicants denied a loan were denied it unfairly and so prevented from being farmers.

      I do not assume this. I am seeking to disprove a suggestion that there is a huge discrepancy between the number of black-owned farms and the number of claimants in a class action suit, and that this discrepancy can only be explained by a conspiracy to conduct a massive, widespread, and unprecedented fraud on the American people.

      To disprove this, I need only demonstrate some combination of:
      1. The discrepancy is in fact not so huge;
      2. Alternative plausible explanations exist for the discrepancy.

      I do not need to prove that all black farmers and loan applicants were victims of discrimination so long as it is at least possible that they were. Moreover, as I explain above in my discussion with Mr. Van Dyke, the number of claims that will ultimately receive awards will be far less than the total number of (black farmers between 1983 and 1997) + (black USDA loan applicants between 1983 and 1997), and most likely less than 50%.Report

  20. Avatar SteveM
    Ignored
    says:

    We know that, at a minimum, there were 50,000 black farmers in 1983 who were eligible to apply for these loans.

    We don’t know that, it’s pure speculation on your part.

    Given that, is it conceivable that there were at least an additional 10-15,000 people who attempted to become farmers but were denied the needed loans from the USDA

    Sure, that’s conceivable. But the law is not supposed to work in that fashion. It’s not supposed to guesstimate that “X number of people could conceivably have been discriminated against, so lets give money to X number of people”. The law is supposed to try to determine if those people were denied loans because of illegal discrimination, or because they were bad credit risks.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to SteveM
      Ignored
      says:

      > It’s not supposed to guesstimate that “X number of people
      > could conceivably have been discriminated against, so
      > lets give money to X number of people”.

      Add, “as long as we can establish a baseline such that S={actually wronged people} intersected with S’={people who apply} yields a set reasonably small given the scope of the award and the population affected.

      This is a prime characteristic of class action lawsuits writ large, dude.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to SteveM
      Ignored
      says:

      But the law is not supposed to work in that fashion.

      Actually, that’s pretty much exactly how class actions work. Once a class is defined and it is determined that a systematic wrong was committed against that class, anyone who is part of that class is entitled to a piece of the award.

      It’s possible that this class was poorly defined. It would not be the first time in history that has happened. Define a class too narrowly, and people who were wronged get left out in the cold; to the extent they are able to bring separate actions, they clog up the courts even more. Define a class too broadly, and people who were not wronged take a piece of the pie.Report

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