comScore Media Metrix Ranks Top 50 U.S. Web Properties for September 2008

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RESTON, VA,  October 17, 2008 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released its monthly analysis of U.S. consumer activity at the top online properties for September 2008 based on data from the comScore Media Metrix service. The tumultuous financial markets and the upcoming presidential elections were the main drivers of Internet traffic for the month. Training and education sites gained as the fall season prompted many students to prepare for the college application process and a gloomy economic outlook led some Americans to consider going back to school.

“As the financial crisis deepens, Americans have been anxiously following the latest news on the markets and carefully watching their personal financial accounts online,” commented Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. “The ability to track the market on a minute-by-minute basis and access banking and trading accounts quickly enables Americans to make financial decisions in real-time. Whether these decisions are sound or not is another story.”

Financial Crisis Causes Spike in Traffic to Online Trading and Financial News Sites

September proved to be a chaotic month for financial markets as several major banks crumbled and Congress raced to pass a $700 billion bailout plan to stabilize the financial markets. Consequently, visitation to business/finance – news/research and online trading sites soared with Americans keeping a watchful eye on the latest developments, as well as their personal finances.

Business/finance – news/research web sites saw a substantial increase in visitation in September, gaining 9 percent to more than 64 million visitors, while also increasing 16 percent in pages viewed and 29 percent in total time spent. These increases suggest that not only were more people visiting the sites in the category, but that they viewed more articles and content for longer periods of time on average.

Yahoo! Finance led the category with nearly 20 million visitors, a 30-percent jump from August. Several other sites experienced particularly strong growth amid the financial frenzy, including Russian financial site RBC.RU (up 155 percent to 1.2 million visitors), FoxBusiness.com (up 127 percent to 1.2 million visitors), and Google Finance (up 67 percent to 1.4 million visitors).

Top Gaining Sites in Business/Finance – News/Research Category

(Among sites with at least 1 million visitors)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

RBC.RU

466

1,190

155

FOXBUSINESS.COM

531

1,205

127

Google Finance

822

1,372

67

CNN Money

4,458

6,952

56

BLOOMBERG.COM

1,871

2,800

50

Yahoo! Finance

15,376

19,970

30

Bankrate.com Sites

2,902

3,742

29

Comcast.net Finance

1,309

1,571

20

CNBC.COM

1,270

1,524

20

Business Week Online

1,676

2,010

20

Online trading sites surged 10 percent to 12.6 million visitors in September, as investors kept watchful eyes on their dwindling portfolios and 401K’s. Fidelity Investments led the category with 3.5 million visitors, followed by ShareBuilder.com with 2 million visitors and Scottrade Sites with 1.7 million visitors. E-Trade Financial Network (up 26 percent to 1.6 million visitors), TD Ameritrade.com (up 30 percent to 1.4 million visitors) and Schwab.com (up 36 percent to 1.1 million visitors) each experienced double-digit growth.

Election Fever Drives Traffic to Politics Category

Politics reigned as the top-gaining category for the second consecutive month, experiencing a 43-percent increase to more than 20 million visitors, as interest in the Republican National Convention in early September and the first presidential debate later in the month generated heightened interest. BarackObama.com, one of the fastest-gaining properties of the month, led the category with 5.4 million visitors (up 37 percent versus August). JohnMcCain.com ranked second in the category with 3 million visitors, a 109-percent gain from August, with the Republican National Convention and interest in vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin helping drive visitors to the site.

College Application Season Prompts Growth at Training and Education Sites

The college search and admission process began in September as many high school students prepared their applications and a slumping economy left some professionals considering further education. Careers services and development – training and education sites experienced a 21-percent increase to nearly 12 million visitors during the month. College Board Property, which provides resources for college entrance exams, led the category with 2.6 million visitors (up 31 percent), followed by scholarship search provider Fastweb.com with 2.6 million visitors (up 44 percent), and EduPlace.com with 810,000 visitors (up 49 percent).

Education – information sites also gained during the month with September marking the first full month that most students were back in school across the country. The category grew 11 percent to more than 73 million visitors, led by Dictionary.com with 15 million visitors (up 39 percent), Pearson Education with 13.3 million visitors (up 34 percent), and Answers.com with nearly 11 million visitors (up 29 percent).

Top 50 Properties

Google Sites continued to lead as the most visited property in September with more than 144 million visitors, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 142 million visitors and Microsoft Sites with 122.3 million visitors. Wikimedia Foundation Sites, parent property of Wikipedia.org, climbed one place to capture the eighth position with 60.2 million visitors, while Glam Media moved up four spots to #10 with 52.3 million visitors. Strong interest in sports during the month of September, with Major League Baseball pennant races and the beginning of the NFL season, helped push ESPN up four spots to #32 with nearly 24 million visitors, while NFL Internet Group entered the ranking this month at #48 with nearly 18 million visitors.

Top 50 Ad Focus Ranking

Platform-A led the September Ad Focus ranking reaching 91 percent of the 189.5 million Americans online. Yahoo! Network reached 86 percent of the population followed by Google Ad Network with a reach of 83 percent. Traffic Marketplace entered the top 10 this month, capturing the ninth position and reaching 131.5 million visitors. 24/7 Real Media also experienced an increase, gaining three spots to #11 and reaching nearly 129 million visitors.

comScore Top 10 Gaining Properties by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors* (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Rank by Unique Visitors

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

N/A

Technorati Media

3,066

11,269

268

90

ABC.COM

5,089

12,627

148

76

MANIATV.COM

2,793

4,716

69

233

Fantasy Sports Ventures

4,253

6,312

48

173

MEGAVIDEO.COM

3,430

5,067

48

217

Encyclopaedia Britannica

6,697

9,688

45

108

HotChalk

6,239

9,009

44

116

Nintendo Co.

3,728

5,216

40

209

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

3,293

4,545

38

238

BARACKOBAMA.COM

3,913

5,350

37

204

*Ranking based on the top 250 properties in September 2008

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Politics

14,040

20,081

43

Career Services and Development – Training and Education

9,576

11,588

21

Genealogy

7,929

9,067

14

Religion

20,423

22,895

12

Retail – Food

15,115

16,851

11

Education – Information

65,908

73,170

11

Retail – Computer Software

20,280

22,445

11

Online Trading

11,427

12,550

10

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

Technology – News

43,647

46,868

7

comScore Top 50 Properties (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

1

Google Sites

144,293

26

Superpages.com Network

27,625

2

Yahoo! Sites

141,956

27

Verizon Communications Corporation

27,125

3

Microsoft Sites

122,338

28

United Online, Inc

25,301

4

AOL LLC

108,349

29

Gorilla Nation

25,024

5

Fox Interactive Media

87,414

30

Yellowpages.com Network

24,916

6

eBay

69,322

31

Bank of America

24,727

7

Ask Network

62,101

32

ESPN

23,869

8

Wikimedia Foundation Sites

60,200

33

WordPress

23,125

9

Amazon Sites

55,749

34

Monster Worldwide

23,104

10

Glam Media

52,292

35

Shopzilla.com Sites

22,702

11

CBS Corporation

52,050

36

CareerBuilder LLC

22,522

12

Apple Inc.

47,556

37

Weatherbug Property

22,427

13

New York Times Digital

47,146

38

Photobucket.com LLC

22,371

14

Turner Network

46,860

39

Demand Media

22,361

15

Viacom Digital

44,517

40

Answers.com Sites

22,253

16

FACEBOOK.COM

41,416

41

Gannett Sites

21,689

17

Weather Channel, The

37,916

42

Real.com Network

21,515

18

craigslist, inc.

35,258

43

Hearst Corporation

19,403

19

Adobe Sites

35,100

44

iVillage.com: The Womens Network

19,183

20

Time Warner – Excluding AOL

30,851

45

WorldNow – ABC Owned Sites

18,884

21

AT&T, Inc.

30,134

46

WhitePages

18,664

22

Wal-Mart

29,003

47

Expedia Inc

18,279

23

Comcast Corporation

28,700

48

NFL Internet Group

17,857

24

Disney Online

28,607

49

WebMD Health

17,263

25

Target Corporation

28,213

50

The Mozilla Organization

17,179

comScore Ad Focus Ranking (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

100%

1

Platform-A**

171,692

91%

26

Centro – Potential Reach

83,921

44%

2

Yahoo! Network**

161,996

86%

27

AdBrite**

79,853

42%

3

Google Ad Network**

156,355

83%

28

YOUTUBE.COM

75,389

40%

4

Specific Media**

153,435

81%

29

NNN Total Newspapers: U.S.

73,880

39%

5

ValueClick Networks**

150,395

79%

30

Vibrant Media**

73,323

39%

6

Tribal Fusion**

141,850

75%

31

MYSPACE.COM*

73,035

39%

7

Yahoo!

140,200

74%

32

Gorilla Nation Media – Potential Reach

64,303

34%

8

Google

136,219

72%

33

Ask Network

62,101

33%

9

Traffic Marketplace**

131,458

69%

34

Kontera**

58,809

31%

10

YuMe Video Network – Potential Reach

130,238

69%

35

Pulse 360**

58,559

31%

11

24/7 Real Media**

128,775

68%

36

MSN.COM Home Page

57,457

30%

12

Casale Media – MediaNet**

128,585

68%

37

EBAY.COM

55,476

29%

13

Tremor Media – Potential Reach

128,060

68%

38

ITN National Broadband Networks – Potential Reach

54,905

29%

14

Adconion Media Group**

122,632

65%

39

Ybrant – Oridian – ADdynamix Network**

53,993

28%

15

interCLICK**

121,987

64%

40

IB Local Network

53,645

28%

16

Revenue Science**

120,899

64%

41

IAC Ad Solutions – Potential Reach

52,405

28%

17

DRIVEpm**

113,162

60%

42

NNN Top 25

51,222

27%

18

CPX Interactive**

111,847

59%

43

Intergi – Potential Reach

48,929

26%

19

ADSDAQ by ContextWeb**

109,570

58%

44

Business.com Network

47,174

25%

20

Collective Media**

109,489

58%

45

QuadrantONE – Potential Reach

46,403

24%

21

MSN-Windows Live

109,274

58%

46

AMAZON.COM

45,980

24%

22

AOL Media Network

108,349

57%

47

TattoMedia**

44,894

24%

23

Burst Media**

101,493

54%

48

MapQuest

44,588

24%

24

Turn, Inc**

101,462

54%

49

AdOn Network**

43,719

23%

25

Undertone Networks**

85,722

45%

50

NNN Top 10

42,032

22%

Reach % denotes the percentage of the total Internet population that viewed a particular entity at least once in September.  For instance, Yahoo! was seen by 74 percent of the 189 million Internet users in September.

* Entity has assigned some portion of traffic to other syndicated entities.

** Denotes an advertising network.

About comScore Media Metrix

comScore Media Metrix provides industry-leading Internet audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local U.S. markets and across the globe. comScore Media Metrix reports are used by financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers. comScore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.

About comScore
comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com/boilerplate
Contact:
Sarah Radwanick
Senior Analyst
comScore, Inc.
312-775-6538
press@comscore.com

How Farm Subsidies Harm Taxpayers, Consumers, and Farmers, Too

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by Brian M. Riedl

Click here for a chart showing Top 10 Urban ‘Farmers’

This year’s expiration of federal agriculture policies gives Congress an important opportunity to take a fresh look at the $25 billion spent annually on farm subsidies. Current farm policies are so poorly designed that they actually worsen the conditions they claim to solve. For example:

  • Farm subsidies are intended to alleviate farmer poverty, but the majority of subsidies go to com­mercial farms with average incomes of $200,000 and net worths of nearly $2 million.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to raise farmer incomes by remedying low crop prices. Instead, they promote overproduction and therefore lower prices further.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to help struggling family farmers. Instead, they harm them by exclud­ing them from most subsidies, financing the con­solidation of family farms, and raising land values to levels that prevent young people from entering farming.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to be consumer-friendly and taxpayer-friendly. Instead, they cost Americans billions each year in higher taxes and higher food costs.

Lawmakers would be hard-pressed to enact a set of policies that are more destructive to farmers, taxpay­ers, and consumers than the current farm policies. For these and other reasons, organizations represent­ing taxpayers, consumers, environmentalists, inter­national trade, Third World countries, and even farmers themselves have united around the shared conclusion that the current farm subsidy system is failing and in dire need of reform during this year’s reauthorization.

A Solution Seeking a Problem

Before delving into the minutiae of farm policy, lawmakers should first determine what subsidies are intended to accomplish. When President Frank­lin D. Roosevelt introduced farm subsidies in the 1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace called them “a temporary solution to deal with an emergency.”[1] That emergency was the collapsing farm incomes that afflicted the 25 percent of the population living on farms.

Today, farmers account for just 1 percent of the population, and farm household incomes are well above the national average, making the orig­inal justification irrelevant. What modern market failure or social problem is solved by farm pro­grams today? Subsidy advocates offer five flawed justifications.

Myth #1: Farmer poverty.

This is the most common-and provably incor­rect-justification. The average farm household earns $81,420 annually (29 percent above the national average); has a net worth of $838,875 (more than eight times the national average); and is located in a rural area with a low cost of living.[2] The farm industry’s current 11.4 percent debt-to-asset ratio is the lowest ever measured and helps to explain why farms fail at only one-sixth the rate of non-farm businesses.[3]

Overall, net farm income totaled $279 billion between 2003 and 2006-the highest four-year total ever.[4] The farm economy is thriving, and farmer incomes are soaring.


Furthermore, farm subsidy formulas are designed to benefit large agribusinesses rather than family farmers. Most farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farmers, who have an average income of $199,975 and an average net worth of just under $2 million.[5] If farm subsidies were really about alleviating farmer poverty, lawmakers could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of 185 percent of the federal level ($38,203 for a family of four) for just over $4 billion annually-one-sixth of the current cost of farm subsidies.[6]

Myth #2: Crop disaster compensation.

While farming can be very profitable, farmers are always one weather disaster away from losing their crops, but this risk can be handled with basic crop insurance rather than with expensive annual gov­ernment subsidies. Washington does not address homeowners’ risks by writing each family an annual check regardless of whether or not their homes have been damaged.

Giving farmers $25 billion in annual subsidies regardless of whether or not their crops have been damaged is no more logical. Crop insurance mar­kets, as well as futures and options markets, can bal­ance good and bad years in a way that is cost-neutral over the long run.

Myth #3: Maintaining a cheap and stable food supply.

Some contend that food markets would fluctu­ate wildly without farm subsidies. In reality, food prices of both subsidized and unsubsidized crops are relatively stable. Given that the percentage of family budgets spent on food has dropped from 25 percent to 10 percent since 1933, any potential price instability would have an increasingly small impact on family budgets.[7] Even if price stabiliza­tion was necessary, price support programs have largely been replaced by commodity subsidies that stimulate overproduction rather than stabi­lize prices.

Nor do farm subsidies contribute to lower food costs. Two-thirds of food production is unsubsi­dized and thus relatively unaffected by subsidies. Of the remaining one-third, price reductions caused by crop subsidies are balanced by conservation pro­grams that raise prices. Furthermore, food prices are based not only on crop prices, but also on food processing, transportation, and marketing costs. Bruce Babcock, professor of economics at Iowa State University, has calculated that eliminating farm subsidies would have virtually no effect on food prices.[8]

Myth #4: National security.

Proponents contend that without subsidies, American farm products would be replaced by imports, leaving the United States dangerously dependent on foreigners for food. However, the United States currently grows more food than it needs to feed itself and exports a quarter of its pro­duction.[9] The lack of subsidies has not driven all beef, poultry, pork, fruit, and vegetable production out of America, nor would it drive away production of currently subsidized crops.

Myth #5: Other countries’ agricultural policies.

Europe and Japan’s farm subsidies bring Ameri­can consumers food at below-market prices. Rather than enact trade barriers to prevent this, Americans should welcome the cheap imports and allow farm­ers to focus on producing the crops in which the United States has a comparative advantage. Responding with U.S. subsidies and trade barriers has the net effect of raising prices for American con­sumers and thereby limiting any progress in free-trade negotiations. Australia largely eliminated its farm subsidies in the 1970s, and after a brief adjust­ment, its farm economy flourished. New Zealand implemented a similar policy in the 1980s with the same result.[10]

Two-thirds of all farm production-including fruit, vegetables, beef, and poultry-thrives despite being ineligible for farm subsidies.[11] If any of the five justifications were valid, these farmers would be impoverished, near bankruptcy, or replaced by imports, and both the supplies and prices of fruit, vegetables, beef, and poultry would fluctuate wildly. Clearly, this has not happened. In this controlled experiment comparing subsidized and unsubsi­dized crops, the doomsday scenarios described above have not occurred for unsubsidized crops.

The most logical explanation for the persistence of farm subsidies is simple politics. Eliminating a government program is nearly impossible because recipients form interest groups that relentlessly defend their handouts. The public paying the costs is too busy going about their lives to challenge each wasteful program. Furthermore, supporters of farm subsidies often repeat the five justifications, espe­cially the myth that these policies aid struggling family farmers. The difference between perception and reality in farm policy is large.

How Farm Subsidies Lack Economic Sense

Farm subsidies serve no legitimate public pur­pose. Worse, they harm the farm economy. This section explains both how farm subsidies work and the economic incoherence embedded in U.S. farm policy. (See also the accompanying text box, “How Farm Subsidies Are Calculated.”)

The Main Commodity Programs. Farm policy is extraordinarily complex. This complexity conve­niently insulates the farm policymaking process within a small group of lawmakers and interest groups who specialize in the details.

Subsidy eligibility is based on the crop. More than 90 percent of all subsidies go to just five crops-wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice- while the vast majority of crops are ineligible for subsidies. Once eligibility is established, subsidies are paid per amount of the crop produced, so the largest farms automatically receive the largest checks.

Subsidies are also quite duplicative. The names of the three different commodity subsidies do not adequately describe their purposes:

  • Marketing loan program. Despite being called a “loan,” this program has the net effect of reim­bursing farmers for the difference between a crop’s market price and the minimum level that Congress sets every five to six years.[12]
  • Fixed payments. Fixed payments are given to farmers based on their farms’ historical produc­tion and are unrelated to actual production.
  • Countercyclical payments. This program func­tions somewhat similarly to the marketing loan program by subsidizing farmers up to a govern­ment-set target price. This rate is higher than the marketing loan rate and therefore represents an additional subsidy.

For farmers who grow the subsidized crop, these policies have the net effect of subsidizing them up from their crop’s market price to its countercyclical price rate, or even higher when the market price is above the countercyclical rate and they receive fixed payments.

Remedying Low Prices with Lower Prices. Farm policy is supposed to help farmers recover income lost because of low crop prices. However, farmers can increase their subsidies by planting additional acres, which increases production and drives prices down further, thereby spurring demands for even greater subsidies. In other words, subsidies merely lower prices. This is the policy equivalent of trying to use gasoline to extin­guish a fire.

When the 1996 farm bill increased the market­ing loan rate of soybeans from $4.92 to $5.26 per bushel (which meant larger subsidies), farmers responded by planting an additional 8 million acres of soybeans, which contributed to the 33 percent decline in soybean prices over the next two years.[13] Instead of alleviating low soybean prices, the new subsidies accelerated their fall at considerable tax­payer expense. Even the U.S. Department of Agri­culture (USDA) admits that subsidy increases have induced farmers to plant millions of new acres of wheat, soybeans, cotton, and corn.[14]

In a free market, low prices serve as an important signal that supply has exceeded consumer demand and that production should shift accordingly. By shielding farmers from low market prices, farm sub­sidies induce farmers to grow whatever government will subsidize, not what consumers really want. Stephen Houston Jr., a Georgia cotton farmer, recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We’re just playing a game. [Market] prices don’t have anything to do with what we’re doing. We’re just looking at the government payments.”[15]

Contradictory Policies. After handing out com­modity subsidies that pay farmers to plant more crops, Washington then turns around and pays other farmers not to farm 40 million acres of crop­land each year-the equivalent of idling every farm in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to sign 10-year contracts pledging not to farm their land, is often promoted as supporting environmen­tal stewardship. In reality, removing farmland to raise crop prices has been the program’s central long-term justification. Paying some farmers to plant more crops and others to plant fewer crops simply makes no sense.

Ignoring Yields. The illogic does not end there. Businesses calculate their revenues by multiplying the product’s price by the quantity sold. Similarly, farmers calculate per-acre revenues by multiplying the crop price by the yield (crop volume per acre). However, farm subsidy formulas focus only on crop prices and simply plug in a historical yield measure for the quantity.

This makes little sense. Revenues depend as much on the quantity sold as on the price, and these two variables often move in opposite direc­tions. In agriculture, this leads to one of two com­mon scenarios:

  • Surging yields flood the market with crops and cause prices to drop. Total revenues may increase, yet farmers still receive large subsidies simply because the price fell.
  • Falling yields lead to crop shortages, pushing up prices. Total revenues may decline sharply, but farmers do not receive subsidies because Wash­ington focuses only on the price increase and assumes that farmers are thriving.

These scenarios are not merely theoretical. The American Farmland Trust has observed that a large drought in 2002 cut many Midwest corn farmers’ yields in half, but many farmers did not receive sub­sidies because prices did not fall. The opposite situ­ation occurred in 2005 when very large corn yields flooded the market, driving down corn prices and inducing large corn subsidies despite healthy farm revenues.[16] Consequently, Washington often wastes taxpayer dollars by subsidizing farmers when they need it the least.

Subsidizing Both Crop Insurance and Disaster Aid. In 2000, Washington tripled crop insurance subsidies in an effort to eliminate the need for farm disaster payments. The budget-busting 2002 farm bill was also promoted as being large enough to reduce the need for disaster payments.

Yet even with generous farm programs and sub­sidized crop insurance, Congress has passed a disas­ter aid bill every year since 2000 at a total cost of $40 billion.[17] Congress has even drafted legislation offering disaster aid to farmers who refuse to pur­chase crop insurance at taxpayer-financed dis­counts. With Congress continuing to pass large disaster aid packages, what crop insurance subsi­dies are really funding is unclear.

The federal crop insurance program currently subsidizes 60 percent of all premiums for the 242 million acres that farmers have enrolled in the pro­gram. It is run by 16 private firms that accept fed­eral subsidies but must charge the prices set by Washington. Recently, an insurer that dared to offer farmers a discount was upbraided at a congressional hearing, and Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) successfully authored legislation to prohibit federal subsidies for that plan.[18]

The program seems to have been designed to aid insurance companies and harm taxpayers. Insurers are allowed to pass high-risk policies on to the gov­ernment while keeping for themselves the low-risk policies that are likely to be profitable. Conse­quently, since 1998, the participating companies have earned $3.1 billion in profits, while Washing­ton has lost $1.5 billion. Additionally, since 1998, Washington has paid nearly $20 billion in premium subsidies and more than $6 billion to cover the insurance companies’ administrative costs.

All in all, the crop insurance program spends $3.34 for every $1 in paid claims-and it still has not prevented $40 billion in disaster aid.[19]

Driving Small Farmers out of Business. Farm subsidies are promoted as assistance to family farm­ers. In reality, they finance the demise of family farms and prevent young people from entering farming. Economists estimate that subsidies inflate the value of farmland by 30 percent. High farmland prices make starting a farm prohibitively expensive for younger people, who would also have other expenses, including buying expensive equipment, seeds, and pesticides. With young farmers unable to enter the industry, the average age of farmers has increased to 55.[20]

Because agribusinesses are already the most profitable, they often use their enormous farm sub­sidies to buy out smaller family farms. In what has been called the “plantation effect,” family farms with less than 100 acres are being bought out by larger agribusinesses, which then convert them into tenant farms. Three-quarters of rice farms have already become tenant farms, and other types of farms are trending in that same direction.[21] Since 1945, the number of farms has dropped by two-thirds, and the average farm size has more than doubled to 441 acres.[22]

This consolidation is not necessarily harmful and may improve efficiency. Large agribusinesses are not villainous. They often succeed because they can produce large quantities of food at low prices. Fur­thermore, the blame for the tilted distribution of farm subsidies lies with Congress, which writes the laws, rather than with the agribusinesses that cash the checks that they receive because of those laws.

Nevertheless, taxpayers should not be required to finance this consolidation through farm subsi­dies. By raising land values and financing consolida­tion, farm subsidies drive out existing small farmers and prevent new farmers from entering the industry.

The Scandalous Distribution of Farm Subsidies

One can imagine the result if Washington tried to solve poverty by creating a welfare program that applied only to workers in the fast food, cleaning, and retail industries. Everyone in those occupations would receive a government check, with the richest executives receiving the largest checks and the poorest workers receiving the smallest. Workers in other industries would receive nothing, no matter how poor they were.

Obviously, such a policy would be nonsense, yet this exemplifies how farm subsidies are distributed. The government’s solution to alleged farmer poverty is to subsidize growers of wheat, cotton, corn, soy­beans, and rice while giving no subsidies to produc­ers of fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry, and livestock. Because subsidies are paid per acre, the largest and most profitable farms receive the largest subsidies, while family farms receive next to nothing.

Thus, a large, profitable rice corporation can receive millions while a family vegetable farmer receives nothing. Overall, farm subsidies are distrib­uted with little regard to merit or need.

Corporate Welfare. Farm subsidies are pro­moted as helping struggling farmers, but Washing­ton could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of nearly $40,000 for just $4 billion annu­ally. Instead, farm policy is designed to aid corpo­rate agribusinesses. Among farmers eligible for subsidies, just 10 percent of recipients collect 73 percent of the subsidies-an average of $91,000 per farm. (See Chart 3.) By contrast, the average subsidy granted to the bottom 80 percent of recipients is less than $3,000 annually.[23]

According to the USDA, the majority of farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farms, which have an average household income of $199,975 and a net worth of just under $2 mil­lion.[24] Commercial farms are also among those that need subsidies the least because they are the most efficient. Former U.S. Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner writes that the top quarter of corn farmers (usually agribusinesses with economies of scale) can produce a bushel of corn 68 percent cheaper than the bottom quarter of farms can.[25]

Multiplying this larger profit margin by their substantially larger production volume shows how large agribusinesses can be enormously profitable. Yet these agribusinesses, not small family farms, receive most of the subsidies, making farm subsi­dies America’s largest corporate welfare program. (See Table 1.)

That is not all. Farm subsidies over the past decade have also been distributed to:

  • Fortune 500 companies, such as John Hancock Life Insurance ($2,849,799); International Paper ($1,183,893); Westvaco ($534,210); and ChevronTexaco ($446,914).
  • Celebrity “hobby farmers” such as David Rock­efeller ($553,782); Ted Turner ($206,948); and Scottie Pippen ($210,520).
  • Members of Congress, who vote on farm subsidies, such as Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA, $225,041); Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR, $45,400, plus a 25 percent ownership in three firms that received $2,114,622); and Represen­tative John Salazar (D-CO, $161,084).[26]


Payment limits do exist on paper. Subsidies are restricted to farmers with incomes below $2.5 mil­lion, and an individual’s subsidy may not exceed $180,000 per farm or $360,000 for up to three farms. However, an entire industry of lawyers exploits loop­holes, rendering these limits meaningless.

Farmers can simply divide their farms into numerous separate entities and then collect subsi­dies for each farm. For example, Tyler Farms in Arkansas has collected $37 million in farm subsi­dies since 1996 by dividing itself into 66 legally separate corporations to maximize its farm subsidies.[27] Other farmers evade payment limits by sign­ing up family members, such as the Georgia farmer who reportedly col­lected thousands in additional subsi­dies by signing up his two-year-old daughter as an additional farmer, making her eligible for up to $180,000. As Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs has con­cluded, “We have no [payment] limits today.”[28]

Eligibility Restricted to a Few Crops. Only one-third of the $240 billion in annual farm production is eligible for farm subsidies. Five crops-wheat, cotton, corn, soy­beans, and rice-receive more than 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry, which comprise two-thirds of all farm pro­duction, are generally not subsidized at all.[29] This is important for two reasons.

First, those who assert that the absence of farm subsidies would cause massive poverty, rapid price fluctuations, and the eventual demise of the agricul­tural industry have not persuasively explained why the two-thirds of the industry that operates without subsidies has experienced none of these problems.

Second, those who assert that farm subsidies are necessary to alleviate farmer poverty have not explained why Washington should favor one crop over another.

Farm Subsidies for Suburban Backyards. In 1996, lawmakers noticed that farm subsidies were only encouraging more planting and thereby fur­ther lowering prices, so they created a fixed pay­ments subsidy that would pay farmers based on what had been grown on the land historically with­out obligating them to continue planting that crop. While designed with positive intentions to reduce market distortions, these fixed payments have ended up subsidizing land that is no longer used for farming. In fact, some homeowners are now collect­ing subsidies for the grass in their backyards.

A recent Washington Post investigation discovered 75 acres of Texas farmland that had been converted into a housing development. Today, the homeown­ers on these properties (which are worth well over $300,000 each) are eligible for fixed payments for the lawn in their backyards because of its “historical rice production.” Residents never asked for these subsidies and have even stated that as non-farmers they do not want the government mailing them checks.[30] Over the past 25 years, rice plantings in Texas have plummeted from 600,000 acres to 200,000, in part because people can now collect generous rice subsidies without planting rice. If Washington insists on subsidizing farming, subsi­dizing actual farmland rather than residential neigh­borhoods that were once farmland would make more sense.

Compensation Not Based on Actual Sale Prices. As explained in the text box, the marketing loan program (despite the “loan” misnomer) effec­tively pays farmers whenever crop prices fall below a government-set minimum. Amazingly, farmers are not compensated for the actual price at which they sell their crops. Instead, they can pick the market price on any day of the year and, even if they do not sell their crops at that market price, receive a sub­sidy based on it.

For example, in 2005, the marketing loan rate for corn in DeKalb County, Illinois, was $1.98 per bushel. In September, the market price fell to $1.52 per bushel, and local farmers walked into the local USDA field office and received a payment of $0.46 per bushel. The following January, when they finally sold their corn, the price had risen to $2.60 per bushel, well above the government-set minimum. The federal policy allowed farmers to keep the sub­sidies as compensation for a low market price at which they never actually sold their crops. The amounts can be substantial: DeKalb County farmer Roger Richardson received an extra $75,000 sub­sidy for crops that grossed $500,000.[31]

These are not isolated incidents. In 2006, national corn prices were only $0.05 below the $1.95 marketing loan rate. Nonetheless, corn farm­ers received an average marketing loan subsidy of $0.44 per bushel.[32] President Bush has proposed addressing this loophole by requiring that monthly average crop prices-rather than daily prices- become the basis for determining marketing loan subsidies. This would prevent a one-day drop in crop prices from causing a year-long surge in farm subsidies. Unless Congress acts, farmers will con­tinue to be compensated for low prices that never affect them.

Aid for Questionable Disasters. Lawmakers often supplement generous farm subsidies and sub­sidized crop insurance with annual disaster assis­tance packages. The Washington Post discovered that the USDA encourages disaster declarations for coun­ties without disasters and distributes disaster aid to farmers without requiring proof of any disaster.

Specifically, when the Livestock Compensation Program operated in 2002 and 2003 to compensate farmers for a drought, the majority of payments went to farmers in areas with either moderate drought or none at all. The USDA reportedly urged state and county officials to find anything that could be interpreted as a disaster and use it to qualify the county’s farmers for disaster aid. Consequently, more than 2,000 of the nation’s 3,141 counties were declared agriculture “disasters,” including:

  • Whatcom County, Washington, for a distant earthquake that registered only 3 on the local Richter scale and caused no reported damage.
  • All 254 counties in Texas for “farm disasters,” such as a storm two years earlier and the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. This prompted a local farmer to tell reporters, “the livestock pro­gram is a joke, we had no losses, I don’t know what Congress is thinking sometimes.”
  • Fifty-three of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, many for a small storm that occurred two years earlier. This prompted local farmers to call the disaster aid an unjustified “waste of money.”

Nor were the individual farmers required to prove any losses. Washington simply sent them disaster assistance checks based on the number of livestock that they owned. In other words, disaster aid was almost completely disconnected from actual disasters.[33]

Livestock disaster assistance is not the only example of misdirected disaster aid. When sweet potatoes became eligible for crop insurance, plant­ing quadrupled, but crop failures surged. Farmers were purposely growing sweet potato crops on unsuited land and skimping on all production costs simply to collect generous crop insurance and disas­ter aid-a practice known as “farming your insur­ance.” Accordingly, the sweet potato insurance program was paying out $16 in insurance claims for every $1 paid in premiums before Congress fixed it in 2005.[34] It is reasonable to assume that this prac­tice continues to some degree in other crops.

The Overall Impact of Farm Policy

Although farm policies serve no legitimate pur­pose, they have profoundly negative effects on tax­payers, consumers, and small farmers, including:

  • Higher prices. James Bovard once wrote, “For almost every farm program, there is another equal but opposite farm program or provi­sion.”[35] Commodity subsidies encourage over­production and therefore lower prices. The Conservation Reserve Program encourages underproduction and thereby raises prices. Tar­iffs raise import prices. Export subsidies lower export prices. Price supports triple the price of sugar and raise the price of milk. Calculating the net effect of these contradictory programs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that U.S. farm policy raises food prices enough to cost consumers an extra $12 billion annually-in effect, an average annual food tax of $104 per household.[36]
  • High taxes. As the farm economy booms, Con­gress is expanding farm subsidies. After averag­ing less than $14 billion per year during the 1990s, annual farm subsidies have topped $25 billion in the current decade since passage of the 2002 farm bill, the most expensive farm bill in American history. All federal spending must eventually be funded by taxes. Thus, these sub­sidies cost the average household $216 in annual taxes in addition to $104 in higher food prices.
  • No added rural economic growth. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City con­cluded that farm subsidies do not promote rural economic growth. Between 1992 and 2002, the vast majority of the 783 “farm dependent” coun­ties experienced job growth below the national average. In fact, more of these counties suffered outright job losses than experienced job growth exceeding the national average.[37] While critics can argue that growth would have been worse without subsidies, these policies are clearly not creating new growth centers. Farm subsidies are likely funding farm consolidations, which in turn are reducing employment on farms and in related industries.
  • Small farmers driven out of business. Small family farmers are generally not eligible for sig­nificant levels of farm subsidies. Furthermore, subsidies to large commercial farms harm small farmers by (1) reducing crop prices[38] and, there­fore, farmer incomes; (2) raising the prices of farmland, thereby preventing family farmers from expanding; and (3) subsidizing agribusi­ness buyouts of family farms. Small farmers receive virtually none of the subsidies, but they must endure the market distortions and financial pain caused by these policies.
  • Less trade. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Ber­nanke has stated that “the increase in trade since World War II has boosted U.S. annual incomes on the order of $10,000 per household” and that “removing all remaining barriers to trade would raise U.S. incomes anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 per household.” Yet massive tariffs and import restrictions raise food prices and make the American economy less productive. Bring­ing free trade to agriculture would also make free-trade agreements in other industries much more likely.[39]


Conclusion

If Congress takes the path of least resistance and extends current farm policies for another five years, it will have surrendered an enormous opportunity for reform. Most debates over federal programs force lawmakers to balance a program’s social bene­fits with the costs of financing it, but current U.S. farm policies serve no legitimate purpose. They bur­den American families with higher taxes and higher food prices. They harm small farmers by excluding them from subsidies, raising land prices, and financing farm consolidation. They increase trade barriers that reduce incomes in America and in lesser-developed countries. They are falsely pro­moted as saving the family farm and protecting the food supply. In reality, they are America’s largest cor­porate welfare program.

This year’s farm bill debate will test whether Congress is serious about reform or will continue business as usual by pandering to special-interest groups that are working to protect their federal lar­gesse. Congress and President Bush should take a more sensible approach to farm policy this year. Instead of rubberstamping the status quo, they should return to the market-based approach embodied in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act.

Click here for other charts (Powerpoint)

Brian M. Riedl is Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Ian Hinsdale, a former Heritage Foundation intern, contributed to this paper.


[1] Henry Wallace, cited in Oxfam America, “A Vision for the 2007 Farm Bill,” 2007, at www.oxfamamerica.org/resources/files/OA-Fairness_in_the_Fields.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[2 ]Ted Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” AIS-84, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2006, pp. 40 and 48, at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/AIS/
AIS-11-30-2006.pdf
(June 4, 2007).

[3] Jerome M. Stam, Daniel L. Milkove, and George B. Wallace, “Indicators of Financial Stress in Agriculture Reported by Agri­cultural Banks, 1982-99,” AIS-74, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2000, p. 48, and Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” p. 38.

[4] Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Report of the President (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007), p. 342, Table B-97, at www.gpoaccess.gov/eop/2007/2007_erp.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[5] Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” pp. 40, 48, and 63. Net worth data consist of weighted averages of large and very large farms’ net worths.

[6] U.S. Department of Agriculture, “A Safety Net for Farm Households,” Agriculture Outlook, January-February 2000, pp. 19-24. The authors estimated a cost of $7.8 billion when including everyone who reports any farm income, including “hobby farmers” who have other full-time jobs. Restricting their data to full-time farmers, defined as those working on lower-sales, higher-sales, and large family farms and the fraction of limited-resource farms that are also full-time, the total cost adds up to approximately $4 billion. The eligibility threshold for several federal income-assistance programs, such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, is 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

[7] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “Food Expenditures by Families and Individuals as a Share of Disposable Personal Income data,” Table 7, at www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/table7.htm (June 4, 2007).

[8] Bruce Babcock, “Money for Nothing: Acreage and Price Impacts of U.S. Commodity Policy for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Cotton, and Rice,” in American Enterprise Institute, The 2007 Farm Bill and Beyond (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2007), pp. 41-45, at www.aei.org/docLib/20070516_Summary.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[9] The U.S. runs a trade surplus in agriculture. See Economic Research Service, “Value of U.S. Trade-Agricultural, Nonagricultural, and Total-and Trade Balance, by Fiscal Year,” May 2007, at www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/DATA/fynonag.xls (June 4, 2007).

[10] Julian Alston, “Lessons from Agricultural Policy Reform in Other Countries,” in American Enterprise Institute, The 2007 Farm Bill and Beyond, pp. 83-86.

[11] Economic Research Service, “Farm Income and Costs: Farm Sector Income Forecast,” February 14, 2007, at www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/farmincome/data/cr_t3.htm (June 4, 2007).

[12] The marketing loan program can operate in different ways. It can be a loan that must be partially repaid later in the year (called a marketing loan gain), or the benefit can be paid in a lump sum as a subsidy (called a loan deficiency payment). Despite these distinctions, the net effect is to subsidize farmers up to the marketing loan rate level.

[13] University of Tennessee, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, “An Analytical Database of U.S. Agriculture, 1950-1999,” 2001, Tables 7.1a and 7.2a.

[14] Paul C. Westcott and C. Edwin Young, “U.S. Farm Program Benefits: Links to Planting Decisions and Agricultural Markets,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Outlook, October 2000, pp. 12-13.

[15] Dan Chapman, Ken Foskett, and Megan Clarke, “How Your Tax Dollars Prop Up Big Growers and Squeeze the Little Guy,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 1, 2006.

[16] American Farmland Trust, “Farm and Food Policy for All-Farmers, Citizens and Communities,” 2007.

[17] Ralph Chite, “Emergency Funding for Agriculture: A Brief History of Supplemental Appropriations, FY 1989-FY 2006,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated July 3, 2006. Chite mentions a total of $36.5 billion, and approximately $3.5 billion was added in 2007.

[18] Gilbert Gaul, Dan Morgan, and Sarah Cohen, “Crop Insurers Pile Up Record Profits,” The Washington Post, October 16, 2006.

[19] Ibid. The article includes a graphic showing gains and losses since 1998. The cost of premium subsidies and administrative costs since 1998 were calculated using the 1998-2005 totals listed in the article and then projecting forward for the 2006 and 2007 totals.

[20] John Frydenlund, “Farm Subsidies: Myth and Reality,” Citizens Against Government Waste Issue Brief No. 1, April 3, 2007, at www.cagw.org/site/DocServer/2007_Farm_Bill-_
Issue_Brief_1.pdf?docID=2121
(June 4, 2007).

[21] Elizabeth Becker, “Land Rich in Subsidies, and Poor in Much Else,” The New York Times, January 22, 2002, p. A14.

[22] Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Report of the President, p. 175.

[23] See Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database, at http://www.ewg.org/farm (June 4, 2007).

[24] Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” pp. 40, 48, and 63.

[25] Dean Kleckner, “Farm Subsidies Are Not Saving the Family Farm,” updated manuscript. Copy available upon request.

[26] For a list of subsidy totals, see Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database. Corporate totals include subsidiaries. Subsidies for lawmakers are described in detail in Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., “How to Discourage Conflicts of Interest in the Federal Agriculture Subsidy Programs,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, forthcoming.

[27] John Lancaster, “More Subsidy Money Going to Fewer Farms,” The Washington Post, January 24, 2002, and Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database.

[28] Dan Chapman, Ken Foskett, and Megan Clarke, “How Savvy Growers Can Double, or Triple, Subsidy Dollars,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 2, 2006.

[29] Economic Research Service, “Farm Income and Costs.”

[30] Dan Morgan, Gilbert Gaul, and Sarah Cohen, “Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm,” The Washington Post, July 2, 2006.

[31] Dan Morgan, Sarah Cohen, and Gilbert Gaul, “Growers Reap Benefits Even in Good Years,” The Washington Post, July 3, 2006.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Gilbert Gaul, Dan Morgan, and Sarah Cohen, “No Drought Required for Federal Drought Aid,” The Washington Post, July 18, 2006.

[34] Gilbert Gaul, “Farming Your Insurance,” The Washington Post, October 15, 2006.

[35] James Bovard, “Farm Bill Follies of 1990,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 135, July 12, 1990, at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa135.html (June 8, 2007).

[36] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: At a Glance (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2006), p. 69, Table 2.12. The 2003-2005 average annual transfer from consumers was $12.285 billion.

[37] Mark Drabenstott, “Do Farm Payments Promote Rural Economic Growth?” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Center for the Study of Rural America, The Main Street Economist, March 2005, at www.kc.frb.org/RegionalAffairs/mainstreet/MSE_0305.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[38] Although conservation programs raise prices, it is still clear that commodity subsidies reduce prices relative to what they would be with only conservation programs.

[39] Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, “Embracing the Challenge of Free Trade: Competing and Prospering in a Global Economy,” remarks at the Montana Economic Development Summit 2007, Butte, Montana, May 1, 2007, at www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/Speeches/2007/
20070501/default.htm
(June 4, 2007).

US Veterans Speak Against War

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Iraq and Afghanistan Winter Soldiers

Why we’re against the war

Q: Why are veterans, active duty, and National Guard men and women opposed to the war in Iraq?

A: Here are 10 reasons we oppose this war:

  1. The Iraq war is based on lies and deception.
    The Bush Administration planned for an attack against Iraq before September 11th, 2001. They used the false pretense of an imminent nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threat to deceive Congress into rationalizing this unnecessary conflict. They hide our casualties of war by banning the filming of our fallen’s caskets when they arrive home, and when they refuse to allow the media into Walter Reed Hospital and other Veterans Administration facilities which are overflowing with maimed and traumatized veterans.
    For further reading: www.motherjones.com/bush_war_timeline/index.html
  2. The Iraq war violates international law.
    The United States assaulted and occupied Iraq without the consent of the UN Security Council. In doing so they violated the same body of laws they accused Iraq of breaching.
    For further reading:
    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/imtconst.htm
    http://www.westpointgradsagainstthewar.org/
  3. Corporate profiteering is driving the war in Iraq.
    From privately contracted soldiers and linguists to no-bid reconstruction contracts and multinational oil negotiations, those who benefit the most in this conflict are those who suffer the least. The United States has chosen a path that directly contradicts President Eisenhower’s farewell warning regarding the military industrial complex. As long as those in power are not held accountable, they will continue…
    For further reading:
    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0714-01.htm
    http://www.publicintegrity.org/wow/
  4. Overwhelming civilian casualties are a daily occurrence in Iraq.
    Despite attempts in training and technological sophistication, large-scale civilian death is both a direct and indirect result of United States aggression in Iraq. Even the most conservative estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths number over 100,000. Currently over 100 civilians die every day in Baghdad alone.For further reading:
    http://www.nomorevictims.org/
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1338749,00.html
    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70A1EF73C
  5. Soldiers have the right to refuse illegal war.
    All in service to this country swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. However, they are prosecuted if they object to serve in a war they see as illegal under our Constitution. As such, our brothers and sisters are paying the price for political incompetence, forced to fight in a war instead of having been sufficiently trained to carry out the task of nation-building.
    For further reading:
    http://thankyoult.live.radicaldesigns.org/content/view/172/
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Qa6ZHYcG_EM
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=1dAXQeH7y9g&mode=related&search=
    http://girights.objector.org
  6. Service members are facing serious health consequences due to our Government’s negligence.
    Many of our troops have already been deployed to Iraq for two, three, and even four tours of duty averaging eleven months each. Combat stress, exhaustion, and bearing witness to the horrors of war contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious set of symptoms that can lead to depression, illness, violent behavior, and even suicide. Additionally, depleted uranium, Lariam, insufficient body armor and infectious diseases are just a few of the health risks which accompany an immorally planned and incompetently executed war. Finally, upon a soldier’s release, the Veterans Administration is far too under-funded to fully deal with the magnitude of veterans in need.
    For further reading:
    http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/
    http://www.vets4vets.us/
  7. The war in Iraq is tearing our families apart.
    The use of stop-loss on active duty troops and the unnecessarily lengthy and repeat active tours by Guard and Reserve troops place enough strain on our military families, even without being forced to sacrifice their loved ones for this ongoing political experiment in the Middle East.
    For further reading: http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,FL
  8. The Iraq war is robbing us of funding sorely needed here at home.
    $5.8 billion per month is spent on a war which could have aided the victims of Hurricane Katrina, gone to impoverished schools, the construction of hospitals and health care systems, tax cut initiatives, and a host of domestic programs that have all been gutted in the wake of the war in Iraq.
    For further reading:
    http://www.costofwar.com
  9. The war dehumanizes Iraqis and denies them their right to self-determination.
    Iraqis are subjected to humiliating and violent checkpoints, searches and home raids on a daily basis. The current Iraqi government is in place solely because of the U.S. military occupation. The Iraqi government doesn’t have the popular support of the Iraqi people, nor does it have power or authority. For many Iraqis the current government is seen as a puppet regime for the U.S. occupation. It is undemocratic and in violation of Iraq’s own right to self-governance.
    For further reading:
    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
  10. Our military is being exhausted by repeated deployments, involuntary extensions, and activations of the Reserve and National Guard.
    The majority of troops in Iraq right now are there for at least their second tour. Deployments to Iraq are becoming longer and many of our service members are facing involuntary extensions and recalls to active duty. Longstanding policies to limit the duration and frequency of deployments for our part-time National Guard troops are now being overturned to allow for repeated, back-to-back tours in Iraq. These repeated, extended combat tours are taking a huge toll on our troops, their families, and their communities.
    For further reading:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-military12jan12,0,7

First Dehumanization, then War, and then the Holocaust

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Dehumanization

According to Philip G. Zimbardo;

“At the core of evil is the process of dehumanization by which certain other people or collectives of them, are depicted as less than human, as non comparable in humanity or personal dignity to those who do the labeling. Prejudice employs negative stereotypes in images or verbally abusive terms to demean and degrade the objects of its narrow view of superiority over these allegedly inferior persons. Discrimination involves the actions taken against those others based on the beliefs and emotions generated by prejudiced perspectives.

Dehumanization is one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even wanton perpetrators of evil. Dehumanization is like a “cortical cataract” that clouds one’s thinking and fosters the perception that other people are less than human. It makes some people come to see those others as enemies deserving of torment, torture, and even annihilation.

In this section, we will examine three forms that dehumanization has taken: Nazi Comic Books against the Jews; Faces of the Enemy—world-wide propaganda images of the “enemy,” and “trophy photos” of American citizens posing with African Americans who had been lynched or burned alive—and then portrayed in post cards mailed to family and friends.”

Just as the Germans were prepared to accept Jews as the enemy from within, so to now Americans are being prepared to wake up to the staged Muslim threat. Ironically one of the writers, contributing to fueling this fire, is himself a Jew – Daniel Pipes. He has expended a great deal of energy in fear mongering and his efforts area really beginning to pay off. The Muslim Shoah (Holocaust) – a myth or a coming reality?

Torture Still Doesn’t Work

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Torture Still Doesn’t Work

By Robert Fisk, The Independent UK,
Posted on February 4, 2008, Printed on March 3, 2008

“Torture works,” an American special forces major — now, needless to say, a colonel — boasted to a colleague of mine a couple of years ago. It seems that the CIA and its hired thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq still believe this. There is no evidence that rendition and beatings and waterboarding and the insertion of metal pipes into men’s anuses — and, of course, the occasional torturing to death of detainees — has ended. Why else would the CIA admit in January that it had destroyed videotapes of prisoners being almost drowned — the “waterboarding” technique — before they could be seen by US investigators?

waterboarding torture

Yet only a few days ago, I came across a medieval print in which a prisoner has been strapped to a wooden chair, a leather hosepipe pushed down his throat and a primitive pump fitted at the top of the hose where an ill-clad torturer is hard at work squirting water down the hose. The prisoner’s eyes bulge with terror as he feels himself drowning, all the while watched by Spanish inquisitors who betray not the slightest feelings of sympathy with the prisoner. Who said “waterboarding” was new? The Americans are just apeing their predecessors in the inquisition.

Another medieval print I found in a Canadian newspaper in November shows a prisoner under interrogation in what I suspect is medieval Germany. In this case, he has been strapped backwards to the outer edge of a wheel. Two hooded men are administering his agony. One is using a bellows to encourage a fire burning at the bottom of the wheel while the other is turning the wheel forwards so that the prisoner’s feet are moving into the flames. The eyes of this poor man — naked save for a cloth over his lower torso — are tight shut in pain. Two priests stand beside him, one cowled, the other wearing a robe over his surplice, a paper and pen in hand to take down the prisoner’s words.

Anthony Grafton, who has been working on a book about magic in Renaissance Europe, says that in the 16th and 17th centuries, torture was systematically used against anyone suspected of witchcraft, his or her statements taken down by sworn notaries — the equivalent, I suppose, of the CIA’s interrogation officers — and witnessed by officials who made no pretense that this was anything other than torture; no talk of “enhanced interrogation” from the lads who turned the wheel to the fire.

waterboarding torture

As Grafton recounts, “The pioneering medievalist Henry Charles Lea … wrote at length about the ways in which inquisitors had used torture to make prisoners confess heretical views and actions. An enlightened man writing in what he saw as an enlightened age, he looked back in horror at these barbarous practices and condemned them with a clarity that anyone reading public statements must now envy.”

There were professionals in the Middle Ages who were trained to use pain as a method of inquiry as well as an ultimate punishment before death. Men who were to be “hanged, drawn and quartered” in medieval London, for example, would be shown the “instruments” before their final suffering began with the withdrawal of their intestines in front of vast crowds of onlookers. Most of those tortured for information in medieval times were anyway executed after they had provided the necessary information to their interrogators. These inquisitions — with details of the torture that accompanied them — were published and disseminated widely so that the public should understand the threat that the prisoners had represented and the power of those who inflicted such pain upon them. No destroying of videotapes here. Illustrated pamphlets and songs, according to Grafton, were added to the repertory of publicity.

waterboarding torture

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia and Italian scholars Diego Quaglioni and Anna Esposito have studied the 15th-century Trent inquisition whose victims were usually Jews. In 1475, three Jewish households were accused of murdering a Christian boy called Simon to carry out the supposed Passover “ritual” of using his blood to make “matzo” bread. This “blood libel” — it was, of course, a total falsity — is still, alas, believed in many parts of the Middle East although it is frightening to discover that the idea was well established in 15th century Europe.

As usual, the podestà — a city official — was the interrogator, who regarded external evidence as providing mere clues of guilt. Europe was then still governed by Roman law which required confessions in order to convict. As Grafton describes horrifyingly, once the prisoner’s answers no longer satisfied the podestà, the torturer tied the man’s or woman’s arms behind their back and the prisoner would then be lifted by a pulley, agonizingly, towards the ceiling. “Then, on orders of the podestà, the torturer would make the accused ‘jump’ or ‘dance’ — pulling him or her up, then releasing the rope, dislocating limbs and inflicting stunning pain.”

waterboarding torture

When a member of one of the Trent Jewish families, Samuel, asked the podestà where he had heard that Jews needed Christian blood, the interrogator replied — and all this while, it should be remembered, Samuel was dangling in the air on the pulley — that he had heard it from other Jews. Samuel said that he was being tortured unjustly. “The truth, the truth!” the podestà shouted, and Samuel was made to “jump” up to eight feet, telling his interrogator: “God the Helper and truth help me.” After 40 minutes, he was returned to prison.

Once broken, the Jewish prisoners, of course, confessed. After another torture session, Samuel named a fellow Jew. Further sessions of torture finally broke him and he invented the Jewish ritual murder plot and named others guilty of this non-existent crime. Two tortured women managed to exonerate children but eventually, in Grafton’s words, “they implicated loved ones, friends and members of other Jewish communities”. Thus did torture force innocent civilians to confess to fantastical crimes. Oxford historian Lyndal Roper found that the tortured eventually accepted the view that they were guilty.

Grafton’s conclusion is unanswerable. Torture does not obtain truth. It will make most ordinary people say anything the torturer wants. Why, who knows if the men under the CIA’s “waterboarding” did not confess that they could fly to meet the devil. And who knows if the CIA did not end up believing him.

© 2008 The Independent UK All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/75875/

UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

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UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund recognized a handful of photographers with honors in their annual Photo of the Year contest. From Afghanistan to the Phillipines, their work exposes horrid conditions facing some of the world’s children.

The image is startling — a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride. Photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who took the photo last year in Afghanistan, asked the pre-teenage bride what she felt on the day of her engagement.

“Nothing,” said the girl, according to Sinclair. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”

The sobering image and the story behind it brought Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Awards were distributed to first through third place winners as well as eight honorable mentions. International judges considered 1,230 entries from 142 photographers in 31 countries.

Sinclair, an American photographer, produced her winning photograph as part of a series of pictures she took about child marriages between 2005 and 2007 in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Nepal. UNICEF estimates that about 50 percent of Afghani women are married before they turn 18.

Second place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12 year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

Honorable Mentions
In 2007 honorable mentions were given to the following photographers:

  • Jonathan Torgovnik, Israel, Newsweek Magazin
  • Hatem Moussa, Palestine, Associated Press (AP)
  • Wolfram Hahn, Germany, Student FH Potsdam
  • Renée C. Byer, USA, The Sacramento Bee
  • Nir Elias, Israel, Reuters
  • Finbarr O`Reilly, UK & Canada, Reuters
  • Musa Sadulayew, Chechenya, Associated Press (AP)
  • Steven Achiam, Denmark, Student, Danish School of Journalism

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1st Place

This sobering image, showing a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride in Afghanistan, brought Stephanie Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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2nd Place

Second-place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12-year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

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3rd Place

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

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“A Mother’s Journey”: The American photographer Renee C. Byer took this picture as part of a series about a single mother with five children and a son suffering from terminal cancer. He died in 2006.

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Finbarr O’Reilly recieved an honorable mention for his photo “A House of Hope,” an image of Lopez Vidal, right, and Aron Masahuka, both afflicted with polio, languishing in an ill-equipped hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Wolfram Hahn made a series of photos titled “A Disenchanted Playroom” to accompany a study about the television-viewing habits of German children.

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Hatem Moussa won an honorable mention for “Life in Gaza”: Palestinian children were rushed from a car into a hospital after their homes were hit by Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya in April, 2006. An eight-year-old child was killed in the attack and 13 other children were injured.

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Joseline Ingabire, 37, an HIV-positive Rwandan woman, is pictured with her daughter Leah Batamuliza, 11. This photo by Jonathon Torgovnik accompanied a story in Newsweek magazine about women who were raped during the Rwandan civil war and their children today.

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Musa Sadulayew made this photo as a part of a series called “Chechnya’s Forgotten Children.”

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Boys hang from a bar for five minutes as part of a physical training exercise at the Gymnastics Hall of the Shanghai University of Sports. The photo was part of Nir Elias’s series “Pain Threshold — Sports Education in China.”

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“Sumo Boys in Japan”: Steven Achiam took a series of pictures depicting life in the Hiragaya sumo club, where boys train until they have beaten a strong opponent 10 times.

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