American Elephants

More Than You Wanted to Know About May Day: by The Elephant's Child

It came to my attention that President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation today, to proclaim that this is Loyalty Day, 2013. Huh? I had never heard of Loyalty Day, but it appears that it began in the Eisenhower administration. How could I have missed it? Presidents issue a proclamation every year. It’s a presidential thing. But let’s go back a little:

May Day in many cultures has marked the beginning of spring, a half-year from  All Hallows, celebrating the bringing back of the light, moving the cattle out to the fields, having a big bonfire and parading the cattle around the bonfire decorated with bright yellow may flowers. The Celtic countries called it Beltane, in Germany it was pretty much the same thing except called Walpurgisnacht after an English missionary named Walpurgis, also bonfires and celebration.

Just where and when it became a May Day celebration with maypoles and baskets of flowers, I’m not sure. (I checked with Wikipedia, but didn’t pay too close attention).



In small towns, young people made little may baskets filled with flowers and hung them from a friend’s front door, then rang the bell and ran away, leaving the basket a mystery. That’s all pretty tame, and when the Soviet Union began to take over May Day to show off their military might and their solidarity, maypoles began to seem a little wimpy. Besides those Soviet parades were annoying.

May Day Soviet

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Why Not? It’s Only Money! by The Elephant's Child

Back in 1997 class-action lawsuit Pigford v. Glickman was filed by Timothy Pigford and 400 southern black farmers who apparently had legitimate claims of discrimination against the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its allocation of farm loans between 1983 and 1987. For farmers, the cost of planting is high — seed, fertilizer, equipment — and they may need loans to tide them over till harvest.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Agriculture found no evidence of ongoing discrimination but that black farmers had been treated unfairly in the past. This injustice became the reasoning for an officially sanctioned fraud amounting to reparations for non-white, non-male farmers.

The Clinton administration decided on a $1 billion settlement that , as one lawyer told the Times “was more a political decision than a litigation decision.”The presiding judge expanded the definition of claimants to include anyone who had “attempted to farm” and no written complaint or proof of discrimination was necessary. The judge set up a mechanism to provide “those class members with little or no documentary evidence with a virtually automatic cash payment of $50,000.”
money-tree-351Enter the money tree. Mass meetings of potential claimants were held and staff from lawyers’ offices filled out forms for claimants. Entire families filled out claims; people filled out claims for their kids. Planting tomatoes in the back yard would qualify you as a farmer. Most applicants had never received any loans, making it impossible to check the record to verify their claims.

The Times examined 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina, and found that “the number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997, the year the lawsuit was filed. Those applicants received nearly $100 million.” In Little Rock, ten members of one extended family reaped a cool half a million dollars.

Thousands of applicants missed the 1999 deadline for the original lawsuit. Senator Barack Obama supported paying the late applicants, and as president he successfully sought another $1.15 billion for the purpose. “Political appointees at Justice and Agriculture committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the original 91 plaintiffs, but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court.” The government settled for another $760 million with Native Americans, but even with the lure of the cash, they could only give away $300 million. So $400 million will go to Native American nonprofits if they can find any. The plaintiffs’ lawyers get $60 million for their assistance in squandering taxpayer money.

The deal, according to the Times, was fashioned in White House meetings in spite of vehement objections of career lawyers and agency officials who argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination, and the basic plan —proved to be a magnet for fraud.

The deal resulted from a desire to redress what the government and the judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. The Times showed that it became a runaway train driven by racial politics and pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stood to gain more than $130 million in fees. More than 90,000 people have filed claims, more claimants than farms.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose only connection to agriculture is that he was a former governor of Iowa, a farm state, said the compensation  effort ushers in “a new chapter of civil rights at U.S.D.A.” where “we celebrate diversity instead of discriminate against it.” Gaack.

At the time of his premature death, the great Andrew Breitbart had been delving into the Pigford settlement for more than a year, trying to bring attention to this open-ended government redistribution scheme that showed no signs of ending. A handful of conservative outlets devoted small amounts of effort to mentioning it, but in Breitbart’s lifetime it never broke through to widespread attention. Perhaps that will change with the publication of the New York Times well reported 5,000 word piece on Pigford. The case represented everything Andrew Breitbart hated. — cronyism, identity politics, hypocrisy and complete indifference from the mainstream media.

The epic New York Times Pigford exposé is here. If you ever wondered about government corruption, cronyism, hypocrisy and redistribution of assets, here is your evidence. Over at Breitbart’s Big Government, Joel Pollak has a note on how widely disseminated it is.

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