Reposting this article from February 15, 2011, because Andrew Breitbart apparently forgets that we caught him in lies many times.
You know, I don't hate anyone. I don't hate right wingers, for example; I just don't appreciate what they stand for, and I despise hypocrisy.
But more than that, I despise professional liars. The average right winger is largely a prick because of the professional liars who tell them what they want to hear, whether it's true or not, in return for handsome compensation. If you're a right wing pundit, all you have to do is dictate some lies, have some schmuck type it up and put it into book form, and a couple of million ignorant souls will buy it up and call you their god.
The only frustrating part of the situation is that the legitimate news media doesn't seem to want to call these idiots out and completely discredit them, so that they can't do it again.
Case in point; Andrew Breitbart.
For those of you who don’t know, Lil Andy Breitbart was served with a lawsuit last weekend, as he gave another hate-filled speech at the CPAC convention, in which he referred to liberals with whom he disagreed as "animals." The suit was brought by former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod. As you’ll recall, Ms. Sherrod, whose civil rights pedigree actually goes back pretty far, was summarily fired when the Obama Administration’s Department of Agriculture, with an able assist from the NAACP, gave far too much credence to a video presented by the piece of shit Breitbart, who was attempting to portray her as racist. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the original video popped up, and demonstrated that the video he had presented as fact, was in fact heavily edited.
Fox News report on the video —
The full video -
The reason Sherrod is being sued is because Breitbart's an ignorant asshole with brass balls, but no brain. I mean, the guy can't have a lawyer yet, because a lawyer would tell him to shut the hell up. The government and the NAACP are off the hook, because they immediately apologized profusely and offered Ms. Sherrod her job back. Breitbart, on the other hand, has spent the last eight months (he sent the video to anyone he could last July) attempting to redeem himself, not doing a mea culpa and making it up to her, but by smearing her even more, and expanding his smear to black farmers who filed claims in one of the largest class action discrimination suits in history.
Did Breitbart edit the video himself? It’s impossible to know, and I won’t say he did. But it really doesn't matter; the scumbag portrays himself as a “journalist,” and journalists have a solemn duty to do their best to get the facts right, especially when it comes to a lower-level civil servant at the Department of Agriculture, or anyone else in that position. And as far as I'm concerned, you don’t call someone a racist without being able to show a clear and demonstrable a pattern of racism. For example, given Breitbart's history of targeting people who just happen to have brown skin – his biggest lies to date have surrounded ACORN, the NAACP, and a single black worker at the USDA – I could conceivably infer that Andy's a racist, and I figure I'd have a 75% chance of being correct. But I'll withhold judgment for now, because 75% isn't enough. It could just be coincidence. But I will say that, given his track record, it would be hard for him to prove he’s not a racist at this point. I would think that would suck.
I take on professional politicians on this blog and my previous ones on a regular basis, but even with morons like Caribou Barbie and the Orange Boner, I'm very careful to make sure my facts about them are correct. And you will never see me discussing an innocent person surrounding them. I’m not a professional journalist, per se. I have a background in it, but I don’t have the time to do it right, so I make sure I let people know. But regardless of what I call myself, I have a high regard for the truth, even when it goes against my personal ideology. When I post something on this blog, I try very hard to do the responsible thing, and stick to the facts. Regardless of the way I feel about people politically, I would never purposely smear someone – even a scumbag like Breitbart – just to see them fall. Not only is such a thing morally wrong, it’s also a stupid thing to do, because there will always be someone to take their place.
It makes more sense to correct the record, and reveal their bullshit as, well, bullshit. I chose the name “Please Cut the Crap” for good reason. I’m sick to death of loudmouths peddling crap and having it repeated by a news media too lazy to do the ten minutes of research necessary to call them out. I don’t give a shit about George W. Bush anymore; I’m far more concerned with the vast amount of damage he did.
Most of what Andrew Breitbart prints or publishes is bullshit. And let's be clear; even if some of it later turns out to be true, that doesn’t relieve Breitbart of the bullshit label; you have to know it’s true when you publish it; if you don't know it to be true, then publishing it is irresponsible. He seems to have no regard for the truth, but in reality, he has an agenda. His agenda is to attract right wing dipshits to his multitudinous websites and get them to pay him money in return for telling them what they want to hear, even though most of what these dipshits believe is untrue in the first place. In other words, while the denizens of Fox News and rest of the right wing fart machine are snake oil salesmen, Breitbart is one of those who actually makes the snake oil.
The video in question was propagated by Breitbart about seven months ago. Breitbart published the short video on his “Big Government” web site, and made sure it was all over the right wing media, and then the parrot-like mainstream news media picked up on it. Then, the NAACP and the Obama Administration picked up the video and she lost her job.
Given his reputation, accepting anything this man says is puzzling to me. After all, this slimeball was at the forefront of taking down ACORN, a perfectly good organization that helped the poor find a voice in the government. I’m sure you remember the heavily edited and obviously overdubbed videos that supposedly showed a “pimp and a ‘ho” getting advice from ACORN on how to get tax breaks for their activities. Yeah, those were all shown to be a hoax, too. Again; Breitbart didn’t make them, but he sure as hell had a major part in distributing them. I honestly don’t understand why some of those people haven’t sued him. I hope they do.
When the video was discovered to be a hoax, Breitbart (who apparently isn’t very Breit) didn’t exactly do a mea culpa and offer up his sincere apologies for the mixup. Instead, he blamed others, and even tried to claim that he himself was scammed (as if it matters – if you’re going to call someone a racist, you’d better have proof, and you’d better make sure that proof is real, not doctored.). And he has spend the subsequent seven months trying to tie Shirley Sherrod to what he is calling “The Pigford Scam” and smear her even more.
Haven’t heard of Pigford? I’m not surprised. There are no blondes with big boobs involved, no celebrities took drugs, and no one flashed their cooter. The case, Pigford v. Glickman (Dan Glickman was Secretary of Agriculture when the suit was brought), uncovered the fact that the Department of Agriculture officials – mostly local county-based officials in the south, shockingly – engaged in a pattern of discrimination of African American farmers when they applied for various USDA loan programs. In 1999, a federal judge approved a settlement and consent decree. The consent decree in the case set up a system for notice, claims submission, consideration, and review that involved a facilitator, arbitrator, adjudicator, and monitor, all with assigned responsibilities. Anyone making a claim had 180 days to respond.
Yet, over the last seven months, Breitbart has attempted to portray the Pigford claims system as something akin to the crime of the century. This is nothing but sheer lunacy, as I'll show you. He makes a series of extremely serious claims. Frankly, if any of his claims had any merit, I would be with him, But that's the problem; he makes outrageous claims and backs them up with pretty much nothing.
The first thing to examine is a “white paper” that appears on his web site. He obviously considers this the "crown jewel" of his "evidence." The paper is entitled “The Pigford Shakedown: How the Black Farmers' Cause Was Hijacked by Politicians, Trial Lawyers & Community Organizers — Leaving Us With a Billion Dollar Tab.” The title contains more right wing buzzwords than you can shake a scary stick at, and none of them are accurate.
- It can’t be a “shakedown.” By definition (definitions are facts, which are to Brietbart as garlic is to a vampire), a “shakedown” is blackmail, characterized by threats of violence. The black farmers went to the court system; they didn’t hold hostages at the USDA. As you'll see from the process they had to go through to get their money, they weren’t shaking anything.
- The case wasn’t “hijacked” by politicians. In fact, it was almost impossible to get more than a few politicians to pay attention to it. Ask Chuck Grassley, if you don’t believe me.
- Trial lawyers didn’t hijack shit. In fact, trial lawyers put tens of thousands of man hours into this case pro bono, and were paid a relative pittance out of a separate fund. This was not a case in which someone got millions and a couple of lawyers got a third.
- Community organizers? Is he kidding with this? What “community organizers” might these be?
Wow. That’s a lot of crap, and I’m not even past the title.
For those of you unfamiliar with how right wing “journalism” works, allow me to explain what they do, since he follows the conventions of a typical right wing bullshit story. They make a lot of extravagant claims, then attempt to support their claims with opinions from other people. They also use endnotes. When a paper uses endnotes, be very skeptical, because the author’s intention is to make the reader less likely to actually read them. Face it, when the average right winger prints out this paper and starts reading it, (s)he is less likely to keep going back and forth to the end to see what each citation says. And it’s really hard to keep your finger at the point where you’re reading if you have to keep on interrupting yourself. But Breitbart and his co-authors go a step farther, in that the endnotes in this paper are actually Roman Numerals. This would seem to indicate that they REALLY don’t want you to look at the end notes. Think I’m kidding? While you have the pdf open, try searching for end note i. Or maybe v will be easier.
There are no actual facts in this paper. It’s a string of opinions, with no support at all. There is a ton of conjecture, lots of pre-judgment, and declarations of anger. It cites a couple of official documents, but the authors don’t cite to any passages that prove their case, probably because their statements are pretty much generalized crap.
Yet, here are some of the charges Breitbart and his buddies make in this article with absolutely zero corroboration or facts to back them up. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to make claims like this about people, shouldn’t there be at least a few facts to substantiate?
- The authors claim Pigford involves billions of dollars in “embezzle[ment].
- The authors claim that “multiple, documented” Pigford crime rings were formed specifically to round up a bunch of those $50,000 settlements, and have even committed murder.
- The authors claim that black farmers have been “crowded out” by tens of thousands of “fraudulent” farmers. This one, he tries to explain by citing the number of black farms reported by the census. He overstates the number of claims, and he infers that all claims have been approved.
- The authors claim “lax settlement terms” and a “complete lack of oversight” have led to the “fraud.”
- The authors suggest that Pigford has “swayed” at least three election cycles, including (gasp!) the election of President Obama.
Oh, but if you think this paper is all Breitbart has, think again.
He also presents us with a letter he found. It’s a short letter between Michael Sitcov, whom he characterizes as “Chief of the DOJ Federal Programs Branch” and “Pigford lawyer” Al Pires. According to him, Sitcov is incredibly angry because the settlement mediation is being bogged down. This, from a government that is apparently conspiring to fleece the taxpayer for billions. The irony meter is off the charts.
By the way, while I’m sure Michael Sitcov was a very good attorney back then, he wasn’t “Chief” of anything at the time of the letter. In fact, there is no such official as “Chief” at the Federal Programs Branch.” As someone who obviously wants to be thought of as a “journalist,” Breitbart would do well to do a little research. As of right now, Michael Sitcov is the Assistant Director of Subject Area 5—Housing and Community Development at the Federal Programs Division. As you can probably guess, Sitcov didn't take a major demotion. In 1998, when the letter was written, he was a staff attorney. It took me less than five minutes to find this out. “Research” does not consist of putting an email address on your web site and transcribing what you want to believe, as it comes from someone you don’t know, and never bothered to find out about. It’s about looking for facts.
The letter itself is absolutely meaningless, in any context. One side is expressing frustration at the other side’s dragging its feet in the mediation process. In fact, if you actually read it (and again, he's betting most people won't), you can tell he’s responding to Al Pires’ complaints about his side; it's not just him complaining about stonewalling; it's him responding to Pires' accusations of stonewalling. After all, the USDA is the defendant; think about that. This is what attorneys do; that’s why they call it an “adversarial process.” There are no revelations in the letter, just an expression of frustration, and an attempt to goose the other side into accepting an offer and ending the case.
Strangely, he has also chosen to include copies of three redacted Pigford claim applications “that are all done by the same lawyer,” as if that statement has some meaning. Does he honestly think "nearly 100,000" claims would be filed by "nearly 100,000" attorneys? He also seems to think “consistent misspellings” and “probably all prepared by the same paralegal” has some meaning, as well. He does note, however, that he has no idea whether these claims were successful, although he’s hoping to “subpoena” them. (Is his lawyer laughing yet?) Note to Ms. Sherrod's lawyers; he's going to try to defend his irresponsibility and negligence in calling a woman a racist and defaming her, by implying that she's using Pigford to fleece the taxpayer for millions. Oh. You knew that? I figured you might.
Breitbart has also published a few statements by an alleged “black farmer,” whose main allegation seems to be that anyone could call himself a black farmer and get paid. Let me repeat that; a person portraying himself as a "black farmer" is suggesting that anyone could call himself a "black farmer" and make a claim.
There's that damned irony meter again.
He has also published a statement by an unnamed former USDA employee “with more than 20 years experience” who claims there was lots of fraud. She also makes some claims that, if proven true, could indicate that some local USDA employees were stealing from the fund. There is another statement by another former USDA employee “with almost 30 years experience” who apparently took it personally that a bunch of farmers used his/her name as their USDA contact on the application. She also claims a lot of fraud. There's only one problem with this. All we have is Breitbart's word that the USDA employee or employees are who they say they are, and there is no evidence beyond typed statements on the web site that substantiate any of the statements made.
Then there's the audio of a 2 hour session with "Thomas Burrell, President of the Black Farmer Agricultural Association, Inc." This is simply a recording of a meeting at which Mr. Burrell advises approximately 150 black non-farmers on how to fill out applications to receive Pigford settlement money. The truly funny thing is, a number of the statements Burrell makes in the audio actually undermine Breitbart’s attempted claims, yet Andy actually highlights some of them in the “Roadmap” he provides, so as to guide the average gullible right winger to the parts that Breitbart likes, and skip over the parts that don’t fit his preconceived notions.
Throughout all of his bombast, Breitbart keeps on pushing two numbers. One is the “nearly 100,000 claims” that have been filed in both cases so far, and what he claims is the "number of black farmers" in the US as of 2007, according to the Farm Census Bureau, which is about 35,000.
Now, let’s discuss actual Pigford facts that we know.
The following facts actually have support. A couple are anecdotal, in that they come from personal knowledge. But most of these numbers come from a couple of investigations of the Pigford case that have been conducted over many years, including one just completed December 10, 2010.
Let me get the personal knowledge portion out of the way first, because it’s very minor. You see, I worked on Pigford as a paralegal with a really large law firm many years ago. My firm was one of at least dozens of law firms working with different groups of farmers on the case. Our firm, and many of the others, worked on this case pro bono. If they got paid at all, it was many years after the fact, and it was at a rate far lower than their nornal billing rates. I’m sure there were a few trial lawyers looking at a honey pot at first – there always are. But it was obvious early on that no one was going to get rich off this case. And no one did get rich. The government attorneys get paid the same no matter what. Legal fees that were paid were paid out of a separate fund for that purpose, not out of the settlement fund, so no one got rich.
I talked to a small number of plaintiffs, and they were all very nice, but they tended to be uneducated and functionally illiterate. They were good people, whose way of life falling apart. I saw one specious discrimination claim, but you know what? He didn’t get any money.
That's enough of the anecdotal. The rest are just facts. Given Breitbart's lies, that should be quite refreshing.
They’re not just handing out checks…
In order for a farmer to be eligible for compensation, he or she had to be an African American who;
- farmed or attempted to farm between January 1, 1981, and December 31, 1996,
- applied to USDA for farm credit or program benefits and believes that he or she was discriminated against by the USDA on the basis of race, and
- made a complaint against the USDA on or before July 1, 1997.
There were two tracks for claims. Track A, which is the track that all but about 170 claimants chose, provided a $50,000 cash settlement, and a measure of loan forgiveness and tax offsets; not exactly the sort of thing that will make one rich. And in order to collect that amount, they had to not only provide evidence of the loan applications, but also substantial evidence of all of the following:
- That they owned or leased, or attempted to buy or lease, farm land.
- That they applied for a specific credit transaction at a USDA county office during the applicable period, from 1981 through 1997.
- That their loan was either denied, provided late, approved for an amount less than requested, contained restrictive conditions, or USDA failed to provide loan service, or that they received less favorable treatment than a white farmer under the same circumstances.
- The USDA’s treatment of the loan application led to economic damage.
Now, does that look like a program without oversight to you? No, I didn’t think so, either.
Just because there have been “nearly 100,000 claims”…
And yes, there were “nearly 100,000 claims” filed. Altogether, there were 22,721 claims filed under Pigford I, and 73,800 filed under Pigford II. Of that number, 2,116 of those were allowed to proceed under Pigford 1. Unfortunately for Andy, as of January 20 2011, ten years after the deadline, 22,721 claims have been approved and decided. Of that amount, only 15,642 have been approved, and received payment. That means, even after they decide the claims might be valid. Only 69% of eligible claimants actually have actually receive money.
In other words, yes; “nearly 100,000 claims” were filed. But that does not mean “nearly 100,000 claims” have been paid. Not even close. If you don’t believe me, then look for yourself; the Pigford Monitor tracks the number of claims and payments very closely, and is available to anyone with a browser, at http://www.pigfordmonitor.org/stats/.
Does that sound like a scam to you, really? It's sure working awfully slowly.
That number of claims is higher than the "number of black farmers" is not only wrong, it's completely irrelevant.
The fact of the matter is, there is no way to tell how many black farmers there actually are. Breitbart likes to cite the agricultural census figures to show that the number of claims exceeds the number of black farmers by a wide margin. The problem with that theory is, the ag-census counts the number of black-operated FARMS, not farmers. Apparently, Andy doesn’t understand that it’s quite common for farms to be held and operated by more than one person. The numbers he quotes do not take into account farms with more than a few operators, such as sharecropping farmers and co-op farmers. I would also note that the Pigford consent decree includes those who “attempted to buy or lease” a farm, which means a number of claimants wanted to be black farmers and may have been denied, which means they wouldn’t be farmers, now, would they? And what about deceased claimants? Does the fact that they’re no longer alive mean their heirs shouldn’t be compensated for the wrongs that were done to them?
But I would suggest that such a number is irrelevant, anyway, because after ten years, only 15,642 black farmers have been compensated, and more than 7,000 have been denied. Even if the number was correct, far fewer than half of all black farmers that even Andy acknowledges to be in existence have received compensation under Pigford.
The notion that any "election season" was decided based on Pigford, or that Pigford payouts qualifies as “backdoor reparations” is absurd.
The Pigford claims process was closed September 12, 2000, and the total number of people affected was far less than 100,000. They are also rather far-flung, spread across 45 states and the District of Columbia (yes, I know there are no farms in DC, but again; there are those people who might have wanted to buy a farm and were turned down for discriminatory reasons.) Most of them were in the South, and they were black; you do the math. The notion that it could have influenced the electorate in 2002 and 2004 is absurd, since Republicans clearly won those elections. Let's see… there's also the fact that most claimants haven’t received any money. And President Obama introduced a Pigford funding bill long before he decided to run for president, and it wasn’t like he needed to curry favor in the black community; he isn’t Clarence Thomas.
As for the "backdoor reparations" idea, well, the African American population of the United States is well over 40 million, and probably at least 95% of them are descended from slaves. If you think handing $50,000 checks to about 15,000 of them would even begin to qualify as “reparations” of any kind, you’re an idiot.
To paraphrase the great KO…
Andrew Breitbart. This man… is an idiot.