Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Is Pigford?

In my last post I listed some of the scandals swirling about the Obama Administration, including one called, Pigford.

Some have said they have never heard of Pigford, which is part of the problem.  Hence I have published below an explanation of Pigford, which represents a bald-face and successful attempt on the part of President Obama to orchestrate a massive and fraudulent transfer of billions of dollars of wealth from white people to black people.

Pigford: The Unexamined Obama Administration Scandal

By Jim O'Sullivan

June 15, 2013 American Thinker
The Obama administration has again been protected from a troubling scandal by the mainstream media (MSM) using the tactic of omission to simply ignore the scandal, its reality, and the negative blowback attendant to a disturbing story.  As sunlight began to illuminate the scandal's inconvenient and troubling facts, charges of racism were used to temporarily silence those sounding the alarm.  Seemingly, the alarm-ringers' only crime was having the temerity  to respond with a politically incorrect point of view to abuses.

The underreported scandal referenced is generally identified as "Pigford."  Pigford's germination occurred in 1997 as a lawsuit (Pigford vs. Glickman) alleging that 91 African-American farmers were unfairly denied loans by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) due to racial discrimination which prevented the complainants from farming.  In 1999, the black farmers won their case.

Pigford has the distinction of being an out-of-control waste of taxpayer funds and/or a cynical attempt by the Obama administration to curry favor with certain minority groups  to which neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder can plead ignorance of involvement.  Both have had knowledge since the court ruled on the Pigford lawsuit; in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama supported and voted for the funding of the initial settlement.  Since then, Eric Holder (and Obama) have been involved in overseeing and managing the Pigford  "judgment fund."

Yet can Pigford be fairly described as a scandal? 

Pigford began innocently enough: as a lawsuit to redress a perceived wrong against a group of 91.  But then the number climbed to 400....then 1,600...then...

The number of black farmers has metastasized -- nay, exploded -- and the aggrieved group now includes not only blacks, but Hispanics, Native Americans, and females.  In fact over 90,000 people have filed claims seeking a payment under the terms of the original Pigford court ruling.  That decision, now referred to as Pigford #1, was anticipated to cost approximately $120 million, including legal fees. 

Pigford #2 is the appellation used to identify an expanded payment regime that funds more payments to African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and females.  This regimen grew out of the fact that thousands of claimants missed the original Pigford #1 filing deadline of October 12, 1999.  Interestingly, Native American potential claimants were estimated at 5,300, while plaintiff lawyers pegged the exposure at an estimated 19,000 Native Americans.  The judgment fund announced by Agricultural Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Eric Holder in 2010 was expanded from just over $120 million to $1.25 billion, given the expectation of many more filers.

However, the explosion of claimants has caused payouts to reach $4.4 billion and has swelled legal fees to over $130 million.  More importantly, the claim's process created a rush to get a share of the monies allocated to the judgment fund, even if no real claim existed.  Essentially, the process encouraged people to lie and spawned a cottage industry.  Claimants had only to file applications for a $50,000 payment by stating that they had  "thought about" applying for loans to become a farmer.  Proof of a claimant's intent to farm also included a statement from that petitioner saying he or she had attempted to farm by planting a batch of tomatoes in his or her backyard and having that statement verified by a family member.  In essence, the need to be a farmer at the time of the alleged discriminatory actions by the USDA was not a requirement to share in the financial redress.   

Fraud was endemic to the claims process -- for example, every apartment in a New York City building received a settlement of at least $50,000.  Further, some families received checks of $50,000 for each family member (see the NYT's fraud identification narrative of 4-26-13).  These payments were dispensed by the judgment fund's monitor, whose management and control fell to the Executive Branch and Justice Department.  Due to the application vetting process, the payouts were criticized by both Representative Steve King (D-IA) and journalist Andrew Breitbart as payoffs to Obama's/Democrats' preferred groups to gain a favored political position with those entities. 

King and Breitbart had the courage to indelicately point out that some of payouts were ridiculous, fraudulent, and highly politicized.  Both Congressman King and Breitbart were predictably charged with racism by many in the MSM; only because The New York Times printed their recent investigatory story have some MSM members begrudgingly ceded the veracity of King's and Breitbart's concerns. 

The combination of the racial criticism, the MSM's silence regarding Pigford, and the quarantine on additional Pigford narratives subsequent to the NY Times' article have emphasized the media's concern for the damage an ongoing discussion of Pigford could cause the president.  Potential stories may have included added evidence of rampant fraud and controversy:

  • A review of the Shirley Sherrod incident/resignation that became an embarrassing chapter in the Obama administration and might have brought into question the fairness of the payout her family received from Pigford which was rumored to total in the millions. TIME magazine also reported that the Sherrods' received compensation of approximately $330,000 for mental suffering after it was determined that Ms. Sherrod did not use racist tactics in dealing with white farmers, a charge that led to her resignation from the USDA.
  • The NY Times' article disclosing that in 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina, the number of successful Pigford claims exceeded the total number of farms that existed in 1997.
  • The possible resurrection of a contentious conversation on the redistribution of wealth by whatever means to correct previous wrongs for certain minorities à la the Van Jones reparations argument.
  • The blatantly racially charged comments similar to those of Mr. Al Pires, a lead attorney for African-American Pigford farmers, who asserted that the USDA was "the biggest racist the world has ever seen."

Thus, Pigford is another scandal that has received little attention and even less discussion than many of the scandals currently in the news cycle.  Nevertheless, this scandal is another example of an administration out of control.  This is perhaps because Americans elected a leader without a modicum of real world management experience -- a person who believes that ideology trumps organizational discipline, who believes that political cronies are automatically qualified as leaders/managers, and who uses lies/dissembling as a tool to obscure factual information from the American people. 

In sum, the damage generated by the Pigford scandal, and all the others, continues to be muted by the MSM's lack of interest in reporting the facts integral to each issue and their lack of desire to dig for more information.  But given the daunting mass of scandals existent, President Obama's administration will be described in the future by objective historians as the most scandalous in history.



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Friday, June 28, 2013

IRS Gave Obama Victory

The country is drowning in the scandals of the Obama Administration:
1. the IRS harassment and sabotage of conservative groups
2.   the mysterious Benghazi failures and lies
3.   the treatment as a criminal of the Fox News reporter
4.   the snooping into the Associated Press telephone calls
5.   the Pigford payments

Of all these scandals, my guess is that the Benghazi affair is the one that will provide an impeachable offense, but it is the IRS scandal that will awaken the American people and consume Obama’s second term.

If you accept the methodology of the study discussed below, the IRS sabotage of Tea Party groups was a major factor in Obama’s 2012 win over Romney.  This study suggests that over 5 million votes were denied Romney, and in states that would have voted for him.

Yes, IRS Harassment Blunted The Tea Party Ground Game

By Stan VeugerJune 20, 2013 RealClearMarkets

The controversy over the IRS's harassment of conservative groups continues. President Obama's team continues to blame low-level bureaucrats. Some conservatives suspect a more sinister explanation: that the levers of government were used to attack an existential threat to the president's 2012 reelection. The president and his party dismiss this as a paranoid fantasy. The evidence, however, is enough to make one believe that targeting Tea Party groups would have been an effective campaign strategy going into the 2012 election cycle.

It is a well-known fact that the Tea Party movement dealt the president his famous "shellacking" in the 2010 mid-term election. Less well-known is the actual number of votes this new movement delivered-and the continuing effects these votes could have had in 2012 had the movement not been de-mobilized by the IRS.

In a new research paper, Andreas Madestam (from Stockholm University), Daniel Shoag and David Yanagizawa-Drott (both from the Harvard Kennedy School), and I set out to find out how much impact the Tea Party had on voter turnout in the 2010 election. We compared areas with high levels of Tea Party activity to otherwise similar areas with low levels of Tea Party activity, using data from the Census Bureau, the FEC, news reports, and a variety of other sources. We found that the effect was huge: the movement brought the Republican Party some 3-6 million additional votes in House races. That is an astonishing boost, given that all Republican House candidates combined received fewer than 45 million votes. It demonstrates conclusively how important the party's newly energized base was to its landslide victory in those elections, and how worried Democratic strategists must have been about the conservative movement's momentum.

The Tea Party movement's huge success was not the result of a few days of work by an elected official or two, but involved activists all over the country who spent the year and a half leading up to the midterm elections volunteering, organizing, donating, and rallying. Much of these grassroots activities were centered around 501(c)4s, which according to our research were an important component of the Tea Party movement and its rise.

The bottom line is that the Tea Party movement, when properly activated, can generate a huge number of votes-more votes in 2010, in fact, than the vote advantage Obama held over Romney in 2012. The data show that had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 - 8.5 million votes compared to Obama's victory margin of 5 million.

President Obama's margin of victory in some of the key swing states was fairly small: a mere 75,000 votes separated the two contenders in Florida, for example. That is less than 25% of our estimate of what the Tea Party's impact in Florida was in 2010. Looking forward to 2012 in 2010 undermining the Tea Party's efforts there must have seemed quite appealing indeed.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the IRS slowed Tea Party growth before the 2012 election. In March 2010, the IRS decided to single Tea Party groups out for special treatment when applying for tax-exempt status by flagging organizations with names containing "Tea Party," "patriot," or "9/12." For the next two years, the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups, delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive, intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership, contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts.

As a consequence, the founders, members, and donors of new Tea Party groups found themselves incapable of exercising their constitutional rights, and the Tea Party's impact was muted in the 2012 election cycle. As Toby Marie Walker, who runs the Waco Tea Party, which filed for tax-exempt status in 2010 but didn't receive approval until two months ago, recounted recently: "Our donors dried up. It was intimidating and time-consuming." The Richmond Tea Party went through a similar ordeal, and was only granted tax-exempt status in December, right after the election--three years after its initial request. Its chairman explained the consequences: the episode cost the Richmond Tea Party $17,000 in legal fees and swallowed time the all-volunteer network would have devoted to voter turnout, outreach in black and Latino neighborhoods and other events to highlight the constitution and "the concept of liberty."

It might be purely accidental that the government targeted precisely this biggest threat to the president. It may just be that a bureaucracy dominated by liberals picked up on not-so-subtle dog whistles from its political leadership. Or, it might be that direct orders were given. In any case, it doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to note that the president's team was competent enough to recognize the threat from the Tea Party and take it seriously.

The Obama campaign has made no secret of its efforts to revolutionize turnout models for the most recent campaign. Its remarkable competence turning out its own voters has been widely discussed, and it seems quite plausible that efforts to suppress the Republican vote would have been equally sophisticated.

We may never know to what exact extent the federal government diverted votes from Governor Romney and thus, how much it influenced the course of a presidential election in the world's oldest democracy. At the very least, however, Americans of all political persuasions can be forgiven for a little cynicism when the president has the nerve to say, as he did on May 5th in his commencement address to graduates of the Ohio State University: "You've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. You should reject these voices." And that cynicism, that lack of trust in the country's governing institutions, becomes harmful quite easily: when the people are asked to have faith in the NSA's efforts to protect the nation from terrorist threats, for example.
Stan Veuger is an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.  

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Leaning Over Backwards

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about how atheists have concocted the concept of the “multiverse” to explain away the fact that our universe has obviously been designed to support our kind of life.  Their reasoning is that, if there is an infinite number of universes (a multiverse), then it would not be an almost statistically-impossible chance-event for our universe to have “just happened”.  That there is absolutely no evidence of a multiverse, and that this notion is just plain silly, does not seem to faze the confirmed atheist.

It has always (since adulthood) been my belief that, if one were only to take a college-freshman course in statistics, one would have to believe in an “intelligent designer” of some form or another.

Why Some Scientists Embrace the 'Multiverse'

By Dennis Prager - June 18, 2013 RealClearPolitics

Last week, in Nice, France, I was privileged to participate, along with 30 scholars, mostly scientists and mathematicians, in a conference on the question of whether the universe was designed, or at least fine-tuned, to make life, especially intelligent life. Participants -- from Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Berkeley and Columbia among other American and European universities -- included believers in God, agonistics and atheists.

But it was clear that the scientific consensus was that, at the very least, the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned to allow for the possibility of life. It appears that we live in a "Goldilocks Universe," in which both the arrangement of matter at the cosmic beginning and the values of various physical parameters -- such as the speed of light, the strength of gravitational attraction and the expansion rate of the universe - are just right. And unless one is frightened of the term, it also appears the universe is designed for biogenesis and human life.

Regarding fine-tuning, one could write a book just citing the arguments for it made by some of the most distinguished scientists in the world. Here is just a tiny sample found on the website of physicist Gerald Schroeder, holder of bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he later taught physics.

Michael Turner, astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab: "The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side."

Paul Davies, professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University: "The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge and would be total chaos if any of the natural 'constants' were off even slightly."

Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes that the likelihood of the universe having usable energy (low entropy) at its creation is "one part out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123." That is "a million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion zeros."

Steven Weinberg, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and an anti-religious agnostic, notes that "the existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places. This means that if the energies of the Big Bang were, in arbitrary units, not:
100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000, but instead:
100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001, there would be no life of any sort in the entire universe."

Unless one is a closed-minded atheist (there are open-minded atheists), it is not valid on a purely scientific basis to deny that the universe is improbably fine-tuned to create life, let alone intelligent life. Additionally, it is atheistic dogma, not science, to dismiss design as unscientific. The argument that science cannot suggest that intelligence comes from intelligence or design from an intelligent designer is simply a tautology. It is dogma masquerading as science.

And now, many atheist scientists have inadvertently provided logical proof of this.

They have put forward the notion of a multiverse -- the idea that there are many, perhaps an infinite number of, other universes. This idea renders meaningless the fine-tuning and, of course, the design arguments.

After all, with an infinite number of universes, a universe with parameters friendly to intelligent life is more likely to arise somewhere by chance.

But there is not a shred of evidence of the existence of these other universes. Nor could there be since contact with another universe is impossible.

Therefore, only one conclusion can be drawn: The fact that atheists have resorted to the multiverse argument constitutes a tacit admission that they have lost the argument about design in this universe. The evidence in this universe for design -- or, if you will, the fine-tuning that cannot be explained by chance or by "enough time" -- is so compelling that the only way around it is to suggest that our universe is only one of an infinite number of universes.

Honest atheists -- scientists and lay people -- must now acknowledge that science itself argues overwhelmingly for a Designing Intelligence. And honest believers must acknowledge that the existence of a Designing Intelligence is not necessarily the same as the existence of benevolent God.

To posit the existence of a Creator requires only reason. To posit the existence of a good God requires faith. 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

We Are Not Fools, Sen Rubio

No More Games

By: Erick Erickson (Diary) | June 13th, 2013 RedState

So many conservatives have been dancing around the issue of Senator Marco Rubio’s collaboration with Chuck Schumer to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

We have blamed his staff. We have blamed Democrats. We all like and respect the Senator, even if we disagree on this issue. We do not want to blame him for the mess the GOP now finds itself in holding a legislative tiger by the tail.

But having, by virtue of my radio show, listened over and over to those awful pro-immigration reform ads between my monologues, I think we need to stop playing games.

I say this because either Marco Rubio is being played the fool or we are being played the fool by Senator Rubio. He has become the face of support for this legislation and much of the support of the legislation from those on the right has come because of the good will so many of us have for Senator Rubio.

I am in the awkward position of being to the left of the Republican base. I support immigration reform that leaves most non-felon illegal aliens in the United States and provides them a path to legal work, though not citizenship. Citizenship is a step too far – as it unjustly rewards illegal aliens who purposefully chose not to follow our immigration laws.

But, I know a number of illegal aliens and represented a good many of them when I was a lawyer. They, having been unfairly treated by others due to their status, relied on me to redress clear wrongs against them.

These were good, hardworking people who wanted to comply with the law, wanted to work, and wanted to send money home to support families in their native countries. They did not want citizenship. They wanted a paycheck. I am to the left of my readers in supporting their right to stay here and earn a paycheck. I am to the left of my readers in that I oppose mandatory E-Verify. In my mind, no employer should ever have to ask the government if it can or cannot hire a worker.

But I am to the right of the Senate Republicans and Senator Rubio. The solution they propose will do nothing to stem the tide of illegal aliens coming into this country. This law will expand bureaucracy and will, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, expand the welfare state.

What’s more, Senate Republicans and Democrats are now collaborating on “improvements” to the legislation that do not actually improve the law, but rather provide cover for various Democrats and Republicans to make sure the votes are there for passage while ensuring those in tough spots can still vote against it and claim they opposed what they really, privately support.

Senator John Cornyn, chief among the Republicans now, is playing that game. He is offering up an amendment that supposedly will secure the border before setting up a pathway to citizenship. His amendment really does not do that, but provides a cover for Republicans to claim the amendment, and the law once the amendment passes, would. In truth, all Senator Cornyn has done is take the vast majority of the Gang of 8’s Title 1 “Border Security” Section, make a few modest revisions and slightly beef up security on the margins. The result is to follow instant legalization with a false impression of security, while maintaining the path to citizenship. Smoke-and-mirrors.

That brings us back to Senator Rubio. Is he being played or is he playing us?

Contrary to the Americans for Conservative Reform advertisement in which he appears, the law does not prohibit illegals from getting benefits. Sure, some welfare benefits will be excluded as will, though it is debatable, Obamacare, but a sizable portion of entitlement benefits actually flow through tax credits in the tax code that these immigrants would get.

Contrary to the advertisement, the law does not secure the border in any meaningful way, in fact the “border security on steroids” as the ad claims does not begin until after the citizenship push starts, hence the pretend effort of John Cornyn now that this has been exposed.

Contrary to the advertisement, the law will grant amnesty — it is a big play for citizenship even before the pretend efforts to secure the border take place. It is the amnesty Senator Rubio opposed in 2010, though in the advertisement he says we have right now “de facto amnesty”.

Senator Rubio, you, and I can agree to disagree on the legislation. He is entitled to change his mind. He does not deserve the invective hurled his way, including words like “traitor,” but then neither do those who have opposed this legislation and are cast as modern day eugenicists and racists.

The soundbites used in the Americans for Conservative Reform ads occurred before the markup of the legislation. But now we have the legislation before us as it was amended in committee. We should not have the law misrepresented to us in commercials, press conferences, and floor debates by any Senators on either side of the aisle. Sadly, that is what is happening. Yes, Senator Schumer, you know damn well that this law will not stop, but will encourage continued illegal immigration into this country. But you do not care.

I am just shocked, knowing what we now know, that Senator Rubio would continue to support this legislation and that other conservative Senators would too.

This legislation is not the compromise Republicans should sign on to. Republicans in the Senate should stop playing games and vote against the legislation, vote against the Cornyn amendment, and stop giving the Democrats cover to play their own political games with the hopes, ambitions, and lives of immigrants.

This is bad legislation designed to fix a problem it does not fix. No more games; it must be opposed.


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