Sunday, May 10, 2009

CIA memo cites 40 Congressional briefings on torture

CIA memo cites 40 Congressional briefings on torture

By Bill Van Auken

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A memo released Wednesday by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair lists 40 separate briefings beginning in September 2002 in which leading members of Congress were briefed by the CIA on the agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—in plain words, torture.

Before the revelations about the employment of such methods as waterboarding appeared in the media, none of these legislators, including leading Democrats, objected to or publicly protested against what amounted to war crimes.

Blair’s release of the document compiled by the CIA came in response to a request from Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee. In a letter to Hoekstra, Blair stated that the memo “provides a straightforward account of the extent of interaction with the Congress on this issue.”

Much of the media attention has focused on the role of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), who as the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee was, together with Republican Representative Porter Goss, who went on to become director of the CIA, one of the first members of Congress to be briefed on the CIA’s torture tactics.

The memo’s description of the briefing reads: “Briefing on EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that have been employed.”

Zubaydah, captured by the CIA in Pakistan in March 2002, was one of the first “high-value” detainees subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture. While the Bush administration grossly inflated Zubaydah’s importance, the torture methods served to extract from him a false statement that Iraq was training Al Qaeda terrorists in the use of chemical weapons. The Bush administration had ordered the torture in large part to obtain such a phony confession in order to bolster its key pretext for launching its war of aggression against Iraq.

The memo’s description of this initial briefing of Pelosi and Goss contradicts Pelosi’s own account. Just last month, she claimed that the CIA “did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were being used,” but merely informed the two intelligence committee leaders about “an array of interrogations that they might have at their disposal.”

This claim is hardly credible. Why would the CIA brief two leading members of Congress on methods of torture in the abstract? And if they had done so, why didn’t Pelosi ask them whether these “techniques” were in fact being used on detainees captured on the “global war on terrorism”?

Other briefings listed in the memo included one in February 2003 in which Republican Senator Pat Roberts and Democratic Senator John Rockefeller had the EITs “described in considerable detail,” including “how the water board was used.”

In briefings held in September 2003, Roberts and Rockefeller, as well as Republican Congressman Goss and Pelosi’s successor on the House intelligence panel, California Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmon, were given slide shows in which “non-enhanced and enhanced interrogation techniques were named, described and compared on the same slide.”

Subsequent briefings, which included Senator Harry Reid, now the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, and the other Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence—Senators Carl Levin, Dianne Feinstein, Evan Bayh, Barbara Mikulski and Russ Feingold—heard presentations on “waterboarding, diet manipulation, nudity, walling and stomach slap.”

The content of the memo is hardly a revelation. In December 2007, the Washington Post reported that in 2002 briefings Pelosi and three other members of Congress were “given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to make prisoners talk,” including waterboarding. The Post added that while leading Democrats subsequently denounced waterboarding as torture, “on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.”

The patent aim of the congressional Republicans in requesting the public release of the record of these briefings is to intimidate Democrats into dropping the issue of torture, by threatening to focus public attention on Democratic complicity in the implementation of the criminal methods introduced under the Bush administration.

The issue has divided Washington since President Barack Obama last month released Justice Department memos authorizing the use of these illegal methods, while simultaneously announcing a blanket amnesty for those in the CIA who carried them out.

Obama has since informed Democratic leaders in Congress that he is opposed to any independent investigation of the torture carried out under the Bush administration, while publicly stating that the matter is in the hands of his Attorney General Eric Holder. The administration and the majority of the Democratic leadership in Congress have also deferred to an inquiry being conducted by the Senate intelligence committee, which will not be completed until the end of the year. The probe will be conducted behind closed doors, and it is uncertain how much of its findings will be made public.

In an appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday, Attorney General Holder dealt with the issue of the torture memos. His testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee came just a day after the New York Times reported that a draft report issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had concluded that the government attorneys who wrote memos declaring specific methods of torture to be legal were guilty only of poor judgment and should not be criminally prosecuted. Holder, however, claimed not to have read the document.

Republican Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Richard Shelby of Alabama pointedly questioned Holder about the implications for the Democrats themselves of any serious investigation into the question of torture.

“What about members of Congress who were informed of them or knew about them or approved them or encouraged them, wouldn’t they also be appropriate parts of such an investigation?” asked Alexander.

Holder responded: “Our desire is not to do anything that would be perceived as political, as partisan. We do want to look forward to the extent that we can do that.” He added, however, that where “we see violations of those laws, we’ll take the appropriate actions.”

Shelby turned to the CIA’s rendition program, in which suspects are kidnapped off the street and transported to secret prisons abroad for interrogation and torture.

“Didn’t that happen during the Clinton administration?” he asked. Holder acknowledged that rendition had been employed under the former Democratic president.

“How many did you approve?” he continued, referring to Holder’s role at the Clinton Justice Department. Holder responded that he would have to consult his records.

The Obama administration has specifically defended rendition as a practice that the CIA will continue using, effectively “disappearing” those who it deems a threat to the US government, transporting them to foreign prisons to be held indefinitely, denied the right to either be charged with a crime and placed on trial or be released.

The Republican campaign is based on the well-founded charge that the Democrats were complicit in the introduction of torture as a policy of the US government and therefore are in no position to hold former officials of the Bush administration accountable.

The media has largely adopted this standpoint, casting the issue as one based primarily on partisan politics. As the New York Times put it, the Republicans are “mounting an aggressive pushback on several fronts.”

The Washington Post commented: “The issue of what Pelosi knew and when she knew it has become a tussle on Capitol Hill. Republicans have accused her of knowing for years about the interrogation techniques CIA agents were using and of objecting only when the tactics became public and antiwar activists protested.”

The Democrats’ complicity in the systematic use of torture by the US government does not make the practice any less criminal. It is merely shows that the entire political establishment—Congress, both major parties, the mass media and the corporate and financial elite—is implicated in the crimes of aggressive war and torture and the attacks on democratic rights that developed under the Bush administration.

No doubt the Democrats’ complicity in torture and other crimes is a major factor in the reluctance of the Obama administration and the congressional leadership to pursue any serious investigation, much less prosecution, of those responsible.

However, this is not merely a matter of what Pelosi and others did and didn’t do in briefings held over the last seven years. The Obama administration is itself dependent upon a national security apparatus that has changed little in terms of its personnel since the Bush administration. The Democrats fear any confrontation with these elements, and their cowardice in relation to the CIA and the military has strengthened the Republican right, which has launched a political offensive in the name of national security.

Moreover, just as the Obama administration is continuing the aggressive wars launched by the Bush administration—and escalating the one in Afghanistan—it has no intention of relinquishing the extraordinary powers that the Bush administration arrogated to itself under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Thus, it has gone into court repeatedly to quash legal challenges to policies ranging from domestic spying to extraordinary rendition and torture.

The further exposure of the Democrats’ complicity in torture and other crimes of the Bush administration make it clear that they and the Obama administration have no intention of carrying out a serious attempt to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable, and that any investigation they do initiate will be a whitewash.

Wall Street rallies as unemployment rate soars

US shed another half-million jobs in April

By Andre Damon

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The official US unemployment rate jumped by 0.4 percentage points to reach 8.9 percent last month, according to figures released Friday by the Labor Department. The economy lost another 539,000 jobs in April, as total job losses reached 5.7 million since the start of the recession in December 2007.

Additionally, the Labor Department announced that 66,000 more jobs had been lost in February and March than it had previously estimated.

Share prices moved sharply higher on Wall Street on Friday despite the jump in the official jobless rate and the announced loss of another half-million jobs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 164.8 points to close higher by 1.96 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index picked up 22.8 points, a 1.33 percent increase. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose even more sharply, gaining 21.8 points, or 2.41 percent.

The fact that the financial markets continued their two-month rally, with the Dow nearing 8,600, in the face of another dismal jobs report, says a great deal about the class divide in America and the policies of the Obama administration.

The financial markets are soaring while millions are finding it impossible to pay the rent, meet mortgage payments or keep up with credit card debt. There were nearly 150,000 home foreclosure actions in April alone, according to foreclosure tracker, and credit card defaults have reached record highs.

Friday’s rise on Wall Street was, in part, fueled by satisfaction over the results of the administration’s bank stress tests, released Thursday, which underestimated the financial crisis of the biggest banks while making clear the administration’s intention to minimize its oversight of the banks even as it continues to bail them out with taxpayer funds.

The government is proposing no serious measures to provide relief for the millions of workers caught up in the deepest recession since the Great Depression, while it provides ironclad guarantees that it will do “whatever is necessary” to prop up the major banks.

In fact, the Obama administration, with its assault on General Motors and Chrysler workers, is exploiting the crisis to encourage a further downsizing of industry and a restructuring of the American economy in the interests of corporate profits. All indications are that the so-called “recovery” being hailed by the government and the media will be a recovery in wealth accumulation by the financial elite on the basis of a protracted slump and a permanent lowering of working class wages and living standards.

While the fall in payrolls was the smallest in six months—each of which saw job losses of over 600,000—much of the change was due to periodic activity by the government not accounted for by seasonal adjustment. Government payrolls swelled by 72,000 last month, as Washington hired 60,000 temporary workers in preparation for the 2010 census.

As Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, pointed out, “This is less bad than the 690,000 average in February and March ... but it is hardly a triumph or even a stabilization.” The 0.4 percent increase in the official unemployment rate is in line with the trend over the past seven months and contradicts claims that the rate of job losses is slowing.

Job destruction continues to be systemic. All sectors of the economy, with the exception of education, health services and government, lost jobs in April.

Manufacturing continued to contract, registering a decline of 149,000 jobs. Worst affected were the transportation equipment, fabricated metal products and machinery industries. A total of 1.2 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since September. The auto industry saw the destruction of a further 29,100 jobs, as the number of vehicles sold fell from 9.9 million in March to 9.3 million in April.

The service industry as a whole—which includes retail, health care, education, leisure, hospitality, business services and government—shed 269,000 jobs. Retail payrolls shrank by 46,700, while construction fell by 110,000 and financial firms lost 135,000 jobs.

Major layoff announcements continue to be made virtually on a daily basis. DuPont, the chemical manufacturer, announced this week that it plans to cut 2,000 more jobs, and Microsoft said it may carry out additional layoffs on top of the 5,000 previously announced.

The Labor Department also reported that average hourly earnings increased last month by just one cent, the lowest increase since December 2004. The rate of wage growth has fallen sharply since the start of the year, after holding steady through the beginning of the recession. Wages grew at an average monthly rate of 0.69 percent in 2008, but the rate of wage growth has fallen to 0.26 percent for the first months of 2009.

The falling rate of wage growth reflects a growing campaign of wage-cutting by big business, which is exploiting the high jobless rate to blackmail workers into accepting cuts in wages and benefits in many sectors of the economy.

The number of long-term unemployed has nearly tripled since the start of the recession in December 2007. This figure, consisting of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more, reached 3.7 million last month, up by 498,000 in April alone.

The US has lost more jobs in the current recession than during any other recession since the Great Depression. In the past year alone, the number of unemployed has swelled by six million, while the unemployment rate has shot up by 3.9 percentage points.

The official unemployment rate significantly underestimates the real scale of joblessness, since it only tracks people who have looked for work in the last few weeks. If people who would like to work but have not recently sought employment are counted, the rate shoots up to 10.1 percent.

The downturn has also swelled the ranks of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time work. While this segment constituted only 3.3 percent of the work force a year ago, it reached 5.7 percent in April.

According to the Labor Department, if “discouraged,” “marginally attached” and involuntary part-time workers are included, the jobless rate comes to a staggering 15.8 percent, up from 8.9 percent a year ago. This means that more than one out of every seven workers is unemployed or underemployed, and subsisting on a poverty-level or near poverty-level income. If one adds to this figure the millions of full-time workers receiving poverty-level wages, one gets a sense of the social disaster confronting the working class.

The rise in the unemployment rate is outpacing all predictions made by the government. The current unemployment rate of 8.9 percent already equals the “worst case scenario” envisioned for all of 2009 in the government’s bank stress tests. If unemployment continues to grow at the current rate, it will hit 10.4 percent—higher than the government’s worst case projection for the end of 2010—within three months.

Bill Deagle MD on CIA Weaponized FLU.

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On Monday May 11th, I will be the guest of Bill Deagle, MD on his radio show which you can hear live from Noon- 1 PM Pacific Time (3-4pm Eastern time) at
. (If you miss it you can also hear it archived here.)

Dr.Deagle is a Virologist who was approached by the CIA a few years ago. They wanted him involved with a campaign to create a weaponized flu virus for population control purposes.

After reading through a stack of their documents, he begged off and became a whistleblower against them.

In preparation for my show on Monday with Dr.Deagle, today I listened to an excellent interview recently done of him and True Ott, ND by Jeff Rense which I strongly encourage all of you on the IAHF list to listen to here:

Dr.Deagle has THIS to say about the unfolding weaponized flu situation:


Stating unequivocally that the so called "Swine Flu" is actually a lab created concoction consisting of swine flu, avian flu, and two different forms of human flu, all designed to mutate into more and more lethal strains for maximum killing effect, Deagle's message is chilling, but there ARE steps we CAN TAKE to defend ourselves against our murderous government.

In Deagle's estimation, we could be under martial law within 30-60 days. He states that the most at risk people will be health care workers and police, and that government computer models that he witnessed anticipate that most deaths won't come from the weaponized flu itself, but from civil unrest stemming from it as freaked out people engage in an orgy of looting and rioting, so protecting yourself medically is just one of several things you will need to ponder for yourself and your family if you wish to be among the survivors.

You won't want to miss our radio show on monday, and you need to listen to the archive above of Jeff Rense's interview with Deagle and Ott because you will need this information to protect yourself and your family. You will need to massively forward this information to help bypass the controlled media because there is safety in numbers.

See Government Template for Mass Vaccination: Our illustrious government has plans in place to force vaccinate us all under the Model Emergency Health Powers Act and under Executive Orders which trigger Martial Law. Deagle warns us that what the CIA has just unleashed on us has permanently changed the world. This is not going to just blow over.

He emphasizes that they've even gone to the extreme of exhuming the corpses of miners killed by the 1918 swine flu pandemic from the permafrost in Alaska in order to bring this flu back to life so as to include it in what they've just assembled in a lab and unleashed on us.

Can you see the writing on the wall?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a report on April 10th to law enforcement labelling all military veterans, Ron Paul Supporters, Chuck Baldwin Supporters, and other constitutionalists, anyone speaking out against the New World Order, anyone opposed to gun control, all pro lifers, etc to be "Right Wing Extremists"

Massive Efforts are underway via anti second amendment attorney General Eric Holder to strip us of our firearms and ammunition, and I urge everyone on the IAHF list to oppose this Nazi fascist by joining Gun Owners of America and by closely examining their TAKE ACTION section at


1. Listen to the Jeff Rense interview of True Ott, ND and Bill Deagle MD at


2. Listen to Dr.Deagle's show on Monday May Noon- 1 PM Pacific Time (3-4pm Eastern time) at . (If you miss it you can also hear it archived here.)

Study information on Dr.Deagle's site such as:


The swine flu is common in the agribusiness, and antibodies to swine flu are present in 20% of vetenarians and 5% of pig farm workes, and rarely kills pigs. However, this swine flu that has presented in Mexico, Texas, California, Queens NYC, London, Italy, etc. has genes of swine, avian, human, and asian flu.

This is without any doubt a pandemic flu with a current case fatality estimated at 10 % plus, and rapidly is leaping across North America and to Europe. Since 1997, the H5N1 flu has spread to all continents. Genetics showed that six strains had high pathogenic case fatality rates in the range of 70% average from 25 % to 100 % case fatality rates in humans, with some clusters of human to human spread, with close physical contact.

Defiencies in two amino acids needed to allow rapid attachment to human cells was found in all strains, but can be acquired by recombinants with H9N2 or H7N3 or H3N2 etc. endemic human stains that can also coinfect pigs, birds, agricultural animals, and animals in the wild. Until fall 2008, the avian flu did not optimally replicate unless it was at 106 degrees or higher, but now it has acquired the capacity to replicate easily at 98.6 Farhenheit.

Drug resistance to Amantadine, Tamiflu also are the predominant strains. The current swine flu is analagous to a early 20th century steamer trunk, with stickers showing the visited countries and coastal cities. It has stamps from Asia, North America, Avian, Swine and Human genetics. This is a "Lab Creation".

Now, we must understand that this virus is behaving as if it is more lethal per case that usual flu, and can recombine in pigs, wild and domestic birds, and other animals and can thus acquire PB2 deletions, NS1 gene polymorphisms, and the polybasic six amino acids that allow it to grow in brain and CNS as well as any other target organ in human and animal hosts.

The NS1 deletion of four amino acids bypasses IL4, and thus is much more lethal with massive cytokine release at end stages. Because Avian H5N1 and the 1918 Swine Flu targeted young healthy people, the release of cytokines was more violent in the most healthy. This first wave is likely to recombine and after Phase 1 gene to population insertion, Phase 2 will result in new superstrains with additional genetic polymorphisms allow transfer efficiently to humans. Phase 2 is the bioreactor phase. In the emergent or Phase 3, new viral Clades of Swine /Avian hybrids will then have more efficient spreading and higher spontaneous lethality. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHO UN ROTHCHILD'S FUNDED WITH CDC NIAID PANDEMIC FLU Human Life International invited Dr Bill Deagle MD to speak, March 1997, to the International Board of Doctors and Scientists. After my two hour talk, the board sat me down for a presentation of a foot of documents. Included were three distinct biological programs.

The first was a plasmid anti-HCG contaminated Tetanus Vaccine, to cause first trimester sterility by spontaneous induced miscarriage in the target populations of Subsharan Africa, Phillipines, and other target WHO UN high density population countries. The second program was the US Special Virus Project, with mycoplasma RNA oncogenic viruses to cause immune failure, and premature death. It was knows as the AIDS syndrome, and was a recombinant of Visna, Green Monkey and Feline leukemia retro-RNA viruses carried by host mycobacteria.

Most important as the large packet of documents on the Avian Flu Project, funded by the Rothchilds and oversean by the WHO and UN. They were in process of obtaining gene fragments from deceased whalers in Alaska with the CDC and Natl Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, supercomputer remodeled and bioengineered resurrection of the 1918 Swine Flu. They planned to insert into the genome Avian genes and spray into Asian bird populations, which would later be a gene pool when spread was complete to all continents for a new Swine-Avian Flu Pandemic.

We now see the H1N1 flu in Mexico, Canada, UK, Italy, USA and perhaps other locations, rapidly evolving. This wave is quite lethal, but with the H5N1 genetics in the wild, it is likely to come in future waves with yet more lethal genes and more rapid spread. Certainly, in the next 7 days, the presence in multiple countries, US Pandemic Flu Alert, WHO raised from 3rd to 4th level, and the pronouncements for a decade plus of coming Pandemic Flu, this was totally a UN WHO plot to release a virus that would cull the human herd. Martial law will come with this or future waves in the next several months. This is the Final END GAME of the Global Elite, to fullfill Global 2000, NSSM 1974 population threat alerts, 1996 UN Population control documents, all calling for massive reduction in World Human Populations. Last week, the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for a reduction from 60 to 30 million. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Statement On Allimed and Swine Flu Although this is a new flu virus strain, it appears to be related to a simple H1N1 virus line. Symptoms in patients infected in the USA and Europe appear to be severe and include high temperatures, sore throat, sneezing and coughing. Swine flu appears to be very easily spread by coughing sneezing or coming into contact with someone who is already infected.

Stabilized allicin as found in Allimed with Allisure AC-23 is an excellent natural antiviral, fungal and bacterial agent that has been proven in double blind placebo controlled studies to both PREVENT the onset of viral disease and to remove symptoms in patients already infected. I would ask patients to supplement with 2 Allimed capsules per day to act as a preventative. All the Allimax, Alliultra and Allimed products are available through to get the virus from infecting you!! Otherwise call: 888-212-8871 Dr. Bill Deagle MD DABFP AAEM A4M

3. Get This ionic silver has a unique patented delivery system- its been complexed with citrate ions for enhanced bioavailability. It works against antibiotic resistant viruses including staph infections and MERSA. I have an Omron Nebulizer to pump a fine mist of this ionic silver deep into my lungs: I have been using Silver100 for years, and swear by it. You will too once you take the time to study the information on the website. When you order it be sure to tell Jay Newman at Invision that you came to him from IAHF.

4. You won't be able to go to the supermarket once martial law and rioting break out. Be sure to have a few cases of SPIZ on hand as an emergency meal replacement- this complete food is easily digested, and is the choice of elite endurance athletes including Chet "The Jet" Blanton who set the world record for the most Triathlons in one year (27) and one of them included a "Double Deca" triathlon (20 ironmen run as a continuous race, and his only food during this ordeal was SPIZ: Be sure to tell Randy Ice at SPIZ that IAHF sent you.

5. Use ph strips to monitor your acid/alkaline balance. Start doing this NOW!!! You want to maintain a slightly alkaline ph in order to maximize oxygen uptake which will help protect you when people are dying like flies. Eat raw foods and lots of green veges to alkalinize yourself. Read Flood Your Body With Oxygen by Ed McCabe

6. Get organic sulfur to increase permeability of cell membranes to increase oxygen intake. You can't trust any MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) sold in health food stores because they call contain silicon dioxide, an anticaking ingredient that ruins the uptake of sulfur. Get organic sulfur from Patrick McGean at The Live Blood Study in Utah at 801-290-2013 and tell him John Hammell sent you. Patrick cured his son of Tesicular Cancer using sulfur. I've been using it for years with very noticeable positive health effects especially radically improved energy level, resistance to allergies, alleviation of pain via oxygenation, plus it acts like viagra especially if you also drink kombucha along with it.

7. Megadoses of Vitamin C- I have a lot of C on hand. Join the Life Extension Foundation, order tons of it from take it to bowel tolerance, til you get diarreah, then back off a couple grams til the diarreah and flatulence subside. This is how you know you're taking an optimal dose of C and you can absorb far more when you're under stress. Tell them John Hammell sent you.

8. Pay attention to products Dr.Deagle is selling especially this one: First Line Defense Kit: (see right margin) Tell him John Hammell of IAHF sent you.

9. Wildcrafted Oil of Oregano- From the Vitamin Centre- Tell them John Hammell of IAHF sent you.

If you aren't getting regular exercise every day, please START!! It will help reduce your stress levels and will help you sleep well despite stress caused by everything thats unfolding. Take measures to detox yourself including bathing in a tub with red desert clay: Examine other info about detoxing on this site also. You can get your ph strips there too, and a foot spa detoxer. Tell them John Hammell of IAHF sent you. I have been using their products to detox for the past couple months. We all carry a heavy toxic load which compromises our immune system. Take steps to detox now and be among the survivors because whats coming at us this fall and winter won't be fun. We all need to take steps NOW to fine tune our heatlh, because the NWO is culling the herd- the Hammer has Dropped, all the Ingredients are in the CAKE.

Please forward this, but before you do, delete the unsub link at the bottom or else someone will click on it and that will unsub you!! Anyone can sign on to the IAHF email distribution list at

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The life you save, could be your own!!

The Anti-Empire Report

The Anti-Empire Report

By William Blum

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Some thoughts about torture. And Mr. Obama.

Okay, at least some things are settled. When George W. Bush said "The United States does not torture", everyone now knows it was crapaganda. And when Barack Obama, a month into his presidency, said "The United States does not torture"1, it likewise had all the credibility of a 19th century treaty between the US government and the American Indians.

When Obama and his followers say, as they do repeatedly, that he has "banned torture", this is a statement they have no right to make. The executive orders concerning torture leave loopholes, such as being applicable only "in any armed conflict"2 What about in a "counter-terrorism" environment? And the new administration has not categorically banned the outsourcing of torture, such as renditions, the sole purpose of which is to kidnap people and send them to a country to be tortured. Moreover, what do we know of all the CIA secret prisons, the gulag extending from Poland to the island of Diego Garcia? How many of them are still open and abusing and torturing prisoners, keeping them in total isolation and in indefinite detention? Total isolation by itself is torture; not knowing when, if ever, you will be released is torture. And the non-secret prisons? Has Guantanamo ended all its forms of torture? There's reason to doubt that.3 And what do we know of what's happening now in Abu Ghraib and Bagram?

And when Obama says "I don't believe that anybody is above the law", and then acts in precisely the opposite fashion, despite overwhelming evidence of criminal torture - such as the recently leaked report of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Bush Justice Department "torture memos" - it's enough to break the heart of any of his fans who possess more than a minimum of intellect and conscience. It should be noted that a Gallup Poll of April 24/25 showed that 66% of Democrats favored an "investigation into harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects". If the word "torture" had been used in the question, the figure would undoubtedly have been higher.

Following the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, President Bush went on TV to warn the people of Iraq: "War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, I was just following orders."4

"Objectively, the American public is much more responsible for the crimes committed in its name than were the people of Germany for the horrors of the Third Reich. We have far more knowledge, and far greater freedom and opportunity to stop our government's criminal behavior," observed James Brooks in the Online Journal in 2007.

On February 10, the Obama Justice Department used the Bush administration's much-reviled "state secrets" tactic in a move to have a lawsuit dismissed - filed by five detainees against a subsidiary of Boeing aircraft company for arranging rendition flights which led to their torture. "It was as if last month's inauguration had never occurred", observed the New York Times.5

And when Obama says, as he does repeatedly, "We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards", why is it that no one in the media asks him what he thinks of the Nuremberg Tribunal looking backwards in 1946? Or the Church Committee of the US Senate doing the same in 1975 and producing numerous revelations about the criminality of the CIA, FBI, and other government agencies that shocked and opened the eyes of the American people and the world?

We're now told that Obama and his advisers had recently been fiercely debating the question of what to do about the Bush war criminals, with Obama going one way and then another and then back again, both in private and in his public stands. One might say that he was "tortured". But civilized societies do not debate torture. Why didn't the president just do the obvious? The simplest? The right thing? Or at least do what he really believes.

The problem, I'm increasingly afraid, is that the man doesn't really believe strongly in anything, certainly not in controversial areas. He learned a long time ago how to take positions that avoid controversy, how to express opinions without clearly and firmly taking sides, how to talk eloquently without actually saying anything, how to leave his listeners' heads filled with stirring clich├ęs, platitudes, and slogans. And it worked. Oh how it worked! What could happen now, as President of the United States, to induce him to change his style?

The president and the Director of the CIA both insist that no one at the CIA who was relying on the Justice Department's written legal justification of methods of "enhanced interrogation" should be punished. But the first such approval was dated August 1, 2002, while many young men were arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the previous nine months and subjected to "enhanced interrogation". Many were sent to Guantanamo as early as January 2002. And many others were kidnaped and sent to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and other secret prisons to be tortured beginning in late 2001. So, at least for some months, the torturers were not acting under any formal approval of their methods. But they still will not be punished.

I love that expression "enhanced interrogation". How did our glorious leaders overlook calling the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki "enhanced explosive devices"?

Lord High Dungeon Master Richard Cheney is upset about the recent release of torture memos. He keeps saying that the Obama administration is suppressing documents that show a more positive picture of the effectiveness of interrogation techniques, which he claims produced very valuable information, prevented certain acts of terrorism, and saved American lives. Hmmm, why am I skeptical of this? Oh, I know, because if this is what actually happened and there are documents which genuinely and unambiguously showed such results, the beleaguered Bush administration would have leaked them years ago with great fanfare, and the CIA would not have destroyed numerous videos of the torture sessions.

But in any event, that still wouldn't justify torture. Humankind has aspired for centuries to tame its worst behaviors; ridding itself of the affliction of torture has been high on that list. There is more than one United States law now prohibiting torture, including a 1994 law making it a crime for US citizens to commit torture overseas. This was recently invoked to convict the son of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. There is also the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, ratified in 1949, which states in Article 17:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Thus it was that the United States has not called the prisoners of its War on Terror "prisoners of war". But in 1984, another historic step was taken, by the United Nations, with the drafting of the "Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" (came into force in 1987, ratified by the United States in 1994). Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back. If today it's deemed acceptable to torture the person who supposedly has the vital "ticking-bomb" information needed to save lives, tomorrow it will be acceptable to torture him to learn the identities of his alleged co-conspirators. Would we allow slavery to resume for just a short while to serve some "national emergency" or some other "higher purpose"?

If you open the window of torture, even just a crack, the cold air of the Dark Ages will fill the whole room.

"I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life." - Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who lost his job after he publicly condemned the Uzbek regime in 2003 for its systematic use of torture.6

With all the reports concerning torture under the recent Bush administration, some people may be inclined to think that prior to Bush the United States had very little connection to this awful practice. However, in the period of the 1950s through the 1980s, while the CIA did not usually push the button, turn the switch, or pour the water, the Agency ...

  • encouraged its clients in the Third World to use torture;
  • provided the host country the names of the people who wound up as torture victims, in places as bad as Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram;
  • supplied torture equipment;
  • conducted classes in torture;
  • distributed torture manuals - how-to books;
  • was present when torture was taking place, to observe and evaluate how well its students were doing.7

I could really feel sorry for Barack Obama - for his administration is plagued and handicapped by a major recession not of his making - if he had a vision that was thus being thwarted. But he has no vision - not any kind of systemic remaking of the economy, producing a more equitable and more honest society; nor a world at peace, beginning with ending America's perennial wars; no vision of the fantastic things that could be done with the trillions of dollars that would be saved by putting an end to war without end; nor a vision of a world totally rid of torture; nor an America with national health insurance; nor an environment free of capitalist subversion; nor a campaign to control world population ... he just looks for what will offend the fewest people. He's a "whatever works" kind of guy. And he wants to be president. But what we need and crave is a leader of vision.

Another jewel in the crown, Miss Hillary

During the presidential campaign much was made of Obama's stated promises to engage in direct talks with Iran, as opposed to the Bush administration's refusal to speak to the Iranians and threatening to attack them and bomb their nuclear facilities. This was one more example of the much-vaunted "change" that Obama was going to bring. But, in actuality, it wouldn't be much of a change. Mid-level American officials did in fact occasionally meet with Iranian officials, most notably after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and in mid-2003 after the US invasion of Iraq. These meeting were always in secret.8 There were also at least three publicly-announced meetings between the US and Iran in 2007, primarily dealing with the fighting in Iraq. And now that Obama is in power, what do we find? We find his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, testifying April 22 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and stating:

"We actually believe that by following the diplomatic path we are on [speaking to Iran], we gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and as crippling as we would want it to be."

Would it be unfair to say that she's implying that a reason for talks with Iran is that the US could get more international support when it decides to cripple that country? Is crippling a country the United States is at peace with supposed to be part of the "change" in US foreign policy? Is Iran expected to be enthusiastic about such talks? If the talks collapse, will the United States use that as an excuse for bombing Iran? Or will Israel be given the honor?

Later in the hearing, Clinton declared: "We are deploying new approaches to the threat posed by Iran."

I would love to have been a member of the House committee so I could have had the following exchange with the Secretary of State:

Cong. Blum: Do we plan to impose sanctions on France?

Sec. Clinton: I don't understand, Congressman. Why would we impose sanctions on France?

Cong. Blum: Well, if we impose sanctions on Iran on the mere suspicion of them planning to build nuclear weapons, it seems to me we'd want to impose even stricter sanctions on a country which already possesses such weapons.

Sec. Clinton: But France is an ally.

Cong. Blum: So let's make Iran an ally. We can start with ending our many sanctions against them and calling off our Israeli attack dogs.

Sec. Clinton: But Congressman, Iran is a threat. Surely you don't see France as a threat? What reason would France have to use nuclear weapons against the United States?

Cong. Blum: What reason would Iran have to use nuclear weapons against the United States? Other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide.

If Congressman Blum had pursued this line of questioning, it might well have culminated in some Orwellian remark by dear Hillary, such as the one she treated us to a few days later when speaking to reporters in Iraq. As the Washington Post reported it: "Clinton played down the latest burst of violence, telling reporters she saw 'no sign' it would reignite the sectarian warfare that ravaged the country in recent years. She said that the Iraqi government had 'come a long, long way' and that the bombings were 'a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction'."9

So ... the eruption of violence is a sign of success. In October 2003, President George W. Bush, speaking after many resistance attacks in Iraq had occurred, said: "The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react."10

And here is Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking in April 2004 about a rise in insurrection and fighting in Iraq over nearly a two-week period: "'I would characterize what we're seeing right now as a - as more a symptom of the success that we're having here in Iraq,' he said ... explaining that the violence indicated there was something to fight against - American progress in building up Iraq."11

War is Peace ... Freedom is Slavery ... Ignorance is Strength. I distinctly remember when I first read "1984" thinking that it was very well done but of course a great exaggeration, sort of like science fiction.

Clinton was equally profound on May 1, speaking to an assemblage of State Department employees. Discussing Venezuela and Bolivia, she said that the Bush administration "tried to isolate them, tried to support opposition to them, tried to turn them into international pariahs. It didn't work. We are going to see what other approaches might work." Oh ... uh ... how about NOT trying to isolate them, NOT supporting their opposition, NOT trying to turn them into international pariahs? How about the National Endowment for Democracy, the Agency for International Development, and the US Embassy NOT trying to subvert their revolutions? And when she says "It didn't work", one must ask: Work to what end? To return the two countries to their previous condition of client-states? Perhaps like with Nicaragua, about whom the Secretary of State said improving relations was important to counter Iran's growing influence. She noted that "the Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua. You can only imagine what it's for."12 I can only imagine what Ms. Clinton imagines it's for. What is the new American Embassy in Iraq - the biggest embassy in the entire history of the world, in the entire universe - What is that for? Another example of Obamachange that means no change. What is it with American officials? Why are they so insufferably arrogant and hypocritical?


1. Washington Post, February 24, 2009 ?

2. See, for example, "Executive Order - Ensuring Lawful Interrogations", January 22, 2009 ?

3. See The Observer (London), February 8, 2009 for an account of how conditions were still very awful at Guantanamo as of that date. ?

4. Video of Bush ?

5. New York Times, February 10, 2009, plus their editorial of the next day. In April, a federal appeals court ruled that the detainees' lawsuit could proceed. ?

6. Testimony before the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, session of January 21, 2006, New York City ?

7. See William Blum, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower", chapter 5. ?

8. The Independent (London), May 27, 2007 ?

9. Washington Post, April 26, 2009 ?

10. Washington Post, October 28, 2003 ?

11. New York Times, April 16, 2003 ?

12. Associated Press, May 1, 2009 ?


William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at

Afghans Riot Over Air-strike Atrocity

Afghans riot over air-strike atrocity

Witnesses say deaths of 147 people in three villages came after a sustained bombardment by American aircraft. Patrick Cockburn, in Herat, reports

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Shouting "Death to America" and "Death to the Government", thousands of Afghan villagers hurled stones at police yesterday as they vented their fury at American air strikes that local officials claim killed 147 civilians.

The riot started when people from three villages struck by US bombers in the early hours of Tuesday, brought 15 newly-discovered bodies in a truck to the house of the provincial governor. As the crowd pressed forward in Farah, police opened fire, wounding four protesters. Traders in the rest of Farah city, the capital of the province of the same name where the bombing took place, closed their shops, vowing they would not reopen them until there is an investigation.

A local official Abdul Basir Khan said yesterday that he had collected the names of 147 people who had died, making it the worst such incident since the US intervened in Afghanistan started in 2001. A phone call from the governor of Farah province, Rohul Amin, in which he said that 130 people had died, was played over the loudspeaker in the Afghan parliament in Kabul, sparking demands for more control over US operations.

The protest in Farah City is the latest sign of a strong Afghan reaction against US air attacks in which explosions inflict massive damage on mud-brick houses that provide little protection against bomb blasts. A claim by American officials, which was repeated by the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates yesterday in Kabul, that the Taliban might have killed people with grenades because they did not pay an opium tax is not supported by any eyewitnesses and is disproved by pictures of deep bomb craters, one of which is filled with water. Mr Gates expressed regret for the incident but did not go so far as to accept blame.

The US admits that it did conduct an air strike at the time and place, but it is becoming clear, going by the account of survivors, that the air raid was not a brief attack by several aircraft acting on mistaken intelligence, but a sustained bombardment in which three villages were pounded to pieces. Farouq Faizy, an Afghan radio reporter who was one of the first to reach the district of Bala Baluk, says villagers told him that bombs suddenly, "began to fall at 8pm on Monday and went on until 10pm though some believe there were still bombs falling later". A prolonged bombing attack would explain why there are so many dead, but only 14 wounded received at Farah City hospital.

The attack was on three villages – Gerani, Gangabad and Koujaha – just off the main road. It is a poppy growing area of poor farmers and there were several fields of poppies near the villages. The Taliban are traditionally strong here and the police and soldiers waiting around the villages were said by eyewitnesses to be frightened. This would explain why Afghan army commanders might have been eager to call for US airstrikes, though they would have needed the agreement of American special operations officers.

Provincial officials, including the governor Rohul Amin, say that in the lead-up to the bombing there was heavy fighting between hundreds of Taliban and the Afghan Army and police. Going by Mr Faizy's account there had been, "a fight some seven or eight kilometres from the three villages in which two Afghan Army and a US Humvee were destroyed. A third Afghan Army vehicle was captured." Three police were killed and four wounded, as was one American and one Afghan army soldier. This was hardly a major military engagement, but the pro-government forces seem to have got the worst of it and their burned out vehicles still stand in the road.

The loss of life in Afghanistan from air strikes is often worse than in Iraq where houses are more modern and usually have basements. In the villages in Farah, people were living in compounds with mud brick walls which crumbled easily. Pictures of the aftermath of the attack show people standing beside the remains of a relative which often only looks like a muddy pile of torn meat. One elderly white bearded man, said by neighbours to have lost 30 members of his family, squats despairingly beside a body that has been torn into shreds. Among the few wounded to stay alive is a child with a badly burned face.

One reason why US bombing inflicts such heavy civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq is that both are very poor countries in which houses are very crowded. When the US used air strikes and heavy artillery with little restraint in the siege of Fallujah in 2004 it caused serious loss of life. Wedding parties in both countries have often been mistaken for "terrorist" gatherings and bombed.

In Afghanistan opinion polls show that support for the Taliban and for armed attacks on foreign forces rises sharply after events like the bombing in Farah. President Hamid Karzai frequently criticises the US military for wantonly inflicting civilian casualties, attacks which his opponents say is an opportunistic effort to burnish his nationalist credentials.

The Taliban increasingly use tactics developed by insurgents in Iraq, notably suicide bombing on a mass scale and IEDs, or mines in the road detonated by a control wires or electronically. In Helmand province yesterday a suicide bomber killed 12 civilians in an attack on a foreign military convoy near the bazaar of the town of Gereshk. No foreign troops were killed by the explosion, though two were wounded.

Federal Government to Regulate the Internet and Social Networking


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Recently dispatched a reporter to attend a press conference regarding new legislation proposed that will be used to regulate free speech and expression on the Internet.

Congress will soon debate a bill that could lead to regulating the Internet in the name of protecting the children.

Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and 12 other lawmakers have signed onto a bill being considered by the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee Congress which may seriously threaten the First Amendment rights of every American who uses the Internet, blogs online, uses Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

The bill (HR 1966) proposes up to two years in prison for those whose electronic speech is meant to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person." Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum the potential harm of this bill on our freedom of speech will be massive.

"What this bill is really designed to do is to go after and prosecute Bible believing Christians and those who speak out against homosexuality, gay marriage, and pro abortion advocates" said a NWV reader.

While some may argue it's farfetched, the proposed law as written may be used to stifle communication by citizens to their elected officials including the White House and the US Congress.
Sanchez, and the 14 other lawmakers who signed on to the proposal, are grandstanding to show the public they care about children and are opposed to cyberbullying, according to Wired Magazine's David Kravits.

The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was created to target the behavior that led to last year’s suicide of the 13-year-old Meier.

In response to Meier’s suicide, prosecutors turned to an anti-hacking statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and prosecuted Lori Drew. She was accused of violating MySpace’s terms of service agreement in what prosecutors said was a complex conspiracy to harass Meier via a fake MySpace online profile.

A federal jury convicted Lori Drew of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud, but rejected felony charges and was deadlocked on a conspiracy charge, according to the New York Times.

The defendant, a teenager herself, received probation and a fine which outraged many.As a result some lawmakers believed additional legislation is necessary to ensure future defendants will be more strenuously prosecuted.

According the the proposed legislation, the US Congress found that:

(1) Four out of five of United States children aged 2 to 17 live in a home where either they or their parents access the Internet.

(2) Youth who create Internet content and use social networking sites are more likely to be targets of cyberbullying.

(3) Electronic communications provide anonymity to the perpetrator and the potential for widespread public distribution, potentially making them severely dangerous and cruel to youth.

(4) Online victimizations are associated with emotional distress and other psychological problems, including depression.

(5) Cyberbullying can cause psychological harm, including depression; negatively impact academic performance, safety, and the well-being of children in school; force children to change schools; and in some cases lead to extreme violent behavior, including murder and suicide.

(6) Sixty percent of mental health professionals who responded to the Survey of Internet Mental Health Issues report having treated at least one patient with a problematic Internet experience in the previous five years; 54 percent of these clients were 18 years of age or younger.

Section 881(a) reads: "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

According to the Wired Magazine alert, Sanchez’s bill goes way beyond cyberbullying and "comes close to making it a federal offense to log onto the Internet or use the telephone."

The methods of communication where hostile speech is banned include e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.

"We can’t say what we think of Sanchez’s proposal. Doing so would clearly get us two years in solitary confinement," wrote Wired Magazine's David Kravits

Banks Blocking Way Out of Foreclosure Crisis

Banks Blocking Way Out Of Foreclosure Crisis

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Brett Ellis, a real estate agent in Fort Myers, Fla., was thrilled when he got an offer for a property in Bell Tower Park in May 2008.

"It was a gorgeous property on the corner lot," Ellis told the Huffington Post. The owner, who had lost his job, wanted to sell the apartment for a loss rather than go into foreclosure, a strategy known as a short sale.

The offer was for $350,000, and Ellis, who is a certified distressed property expert trained in executing such sales, knew it was as good an offer as he was going to get in this market. He immediately sent the paperwork into the bank.

He waited for four months. The bank finally told him it wouldn't take anything less than $400,000 -- a price Ellis was sure he could never get. In September, the buyer's agent called to say, "You know what, we gotta move on, we gotta buy something else."

Now the property is sitting vacant as it slides into foreclosure. Its former owner's credit is destroyed, and the house is losing value every day. "God knows what the condition is today," Ellis said, adding he'd be surprised if the property is worth more than $290,000 when it resurfaces on the market. Add in the legal expenses involved in a foreclosure, and the bank cost itself a hundred thousand dollars more that it otherwise would have.

It's a scenario that plays out constantly, everywhere in the United States. In a time of collapsing real estate values, where one in five homes are now under water, a short sale is increasingly the only option before foreclosure. It is less damaging to credit scores and spares the homeowner the shame of foreclosure.

It is also a better option for banks: According to one analysis, short sales resulted in loan losses of only 19 percent, compared with an average loss of 40 percent on homes sold after foreclosure.

So why aren't these sales more widely used?

The broad answer is that the American financial system simply can't handle a collapse of this magnitude. The fates of the banking and real estate industries are intertwined. But they don't work together -- and the result is that they end up working against each other.

Story continues below

The more precise answer is related to securitization, the method by which banks bundle together different mortgages and slice them up and sell the pieces to various investors. Securitization makes negotiating a real estate sale that results in a loss nearly impossible.

"The most significant aspect is that so many of the banks' mortgages have been securitized, put together and bundled, sold off to Iceland or China or some godforsaken place," said Dave Liniger, founder and chairman of global real estate company Re/Max, in an interview with the Huffington Post. "The bank has to go through all of the various people who are stakeholders and it becomes a very lengthy process, and the bank is turning off the realtors by not even getting answers back to them, sometimes for months."

Banks have little incentive to untie those bundles. Since mortgages are listed on the banks' balance sheets at the value of the original loan, if they complete a short sale they must record a loss on their balance sheets. That would explain why banks drag the process out as long as possible. In Ellis' case, the property is sitting vacant a year after the first offer, allowing the bank to list the original value on its balance sheet all along.

According to research firm Campbell Communications, only 23 percent of short sale transactions are actually completed. "Three out of four potential short sale transactions fail, principally because the mortgage servicer takes too long to respond to the offer," said Tom Popik, author of a February survey of real estate agents. "When these same properties are later sold it further depresses real estate prices."

Congress has had as much success untangling this mess as real estate agents.

"We've been trying to figure out probably for close to two years now why so few mortgages are being modified when it seems to make absolute business sense for the person holding the mortgage to modify rather than foreclose or to take a smaller loss selling it rather than a bigger loss foreclosing on it," said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.).

Miller points his finger at securitization. Once the mortgages are bundled and sliced up into different pieces, known as tranches, the owners of the pieces get paid back according to a certain pecking order. Senior investors get paid back first and if there's a loss, the most junior investors won't get anything. It's those investors who are blocking short sales.

"The people with the least senior tranches have no reason to agree to the modification because they take a complete loss and the people in the most senior tranches don't lose anything. So they've managed to structure their mortgages in a way that makes it almost impossible to modify or sell short," said Miller.

Miller sponsored legislation to reform the bankruptcy code to allow judges to rewrite those contracts, taking away the ability of junior investors to sue and encouraging them to negotiate. But the House-approved measure died in the Senate, 51-45, killed last week by Republicans and 12 Democrats, leaving it 15 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Dave Liniger of Re/Max said the provision would have changed the bargaining landscape. Lenders would have had much more of an incentive to take a loss on a short sale rather than see a judge unilaterally change the terms of a mortgage.

"It was a negotiating ploy more than anything," Liniger said.

"It's disappointing," said Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) of the banks' tendency to foreclose rather than agree to a sale. "I've heard that and I've been trying to press the banks not to do that."

Without bankruptcy reform, the only power the government has is persuasion.

"In the absence of bankruptcy [legislation], you're talking about contracts that we cannot abrogate," he told the Huffington Post. "That's why bankruptcy was so important."

Is there any chance Congress will return to it?

"Excuse me, what planet were you on last week? The vote was 45 to 51. Why would you ask that? Do I think there's a likelihood we could overturn 45-51? No," said Frank.

"I wish it weren't the case," he added. "Maybe there's some kind of compromise."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) isn't confident. "The purpose of the debate last week was to try to create some impetus for the banks to start renegotiating these mortgages in a positive way and the industry fought it," Durbin, who last week concluded banks "frankly own the place," told the Huffington Post. "I think many of the banks have not operated in good faith when it comes to this mortgage foreclosure issue."

Homeowners are the big losers of the banks' battle against the bill. But real estate agents are now losing real money as commissions fall through, making them a potential lobbying counterweight to the banks.

The National Association of Realtors wants the rules changed: "We are advocating measures that would help streamline the process when using FHA, Fannie or Freddie," said NAR spokeswoman Mary Trupo in a statement to the Huffington Post. "We are hoping that new process and regulations are put in place."

Fannie Mae just wrapped up a pilot program to test a process for streamlining short sales by partnering with local listing providers in Arizona and Florida to pre-approve 400 properties for short sales. The government-backed mortgage firm is still evaluating feedback from brokers, but overall the program was a success, and a new short sale initiative is in the works for this year.

"Short sales are one of the tools to avoid foreclosure if all other workout options are exhausted. It's always in the best interest of the homeowner, the community, and the investor to avoid foreclosure," said Fannie Mae spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus in a statement to the Huffington Post.

Liniger says Re/Max recently trained 5,000 employees in short sales.

Lita Smith-Mines, a lawyer who specializes in real estate on Long Island, told the Huffington Post she and her colleagues often see short sales turn into foreclosures because the bank won't play along--even when losses are as small as $25,000 and the offer is as high as it will get. And much higher, in this market, than the bank will get from a foreclosure auction. The legal costs of foreclosure alone typically run to $50,000.

"There's no common sense when it comes to lenders. They have their paperwork and if you don't slot perfectly in, they just say no," she said.

"A lot was taken on the front end [during the housing boom], but they're not giving anything back on the back end," she said. Smith-Mines, though, said she isn't surprised. "If they actually cared about borrowers, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place."

HuffPost readers: Has the bank foreclosed on your home after dragging its feet on a short sale? Have you given up on a short sale after making an offer and waiting months? Email us your story at

Jobs Picture

Jobs picture, May 8, 2009

Jobs Picture for May 8th, 2009

Male unemployment reaches 10% as private sector employment craters

by Heidi Shierholz

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April marked the 16th month of the current recession, matching the longest since the Great Depression. The April 2009 employment data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that while the pace of job loss is exhibiting signs of slowing—losing 539,000 in April compared to an average of 707,000 per month in the first quarter—today’s labor market is still shedding jobs at a breathtaking pace. Furthermore, the small pockets of growth in the labor market in April were due to the hiring of temporary workers in preparation for the 2010 Census, as government employment increased by 72,000.The private sector, however, continued to crater. The private sector shed 611,000 jobs in April, along with an additional 69,000 private-sector jobs losses reported in revisions for March. The unemployment rate jumped up dramatically, from 8.5% to 8.9%, with male unemployment soaring to 10.0%.

Since the start of the recession, the economy as a whole has shed 5.7 million jobs, totaling 4.2% of total employment. But losses in the private sector alone have been much steeper, with a decline of 6.0 million jobs, or 5.2% of private employment. This rate of private-sector job loss was 50% faster than the 3.5% private employment loss over the 16 months of the 1981/82 recession.

Furthermore, over the last 16 months the population has continued to grow. To keep up with population growth, the economy must add approximately 127,000 jobs every month, which means 2 million jobs were needed just to match population growth. In other words, the economy is currently 7.8 million jobs below where it would need to be simply to maintain pre-recession employment rates.


The index of aggregate weekly hours is a measure of the total number of hours worked in the economy and is thus a more comprehensive measure than employment because it captures both job loss and reductions in hours for the workers who kept their jobs. This index continues to fall at a stunning pace, evidence of the economy’s continued contraction. It fell 0.6% in April (an annualized rate of 6.9%), and has fallen a total of 7.0% since the start of the recession. By comparison, it fell a total of 5.8% over the 16 months of the 1981/82 recession.

Job losses continue to occur throughout the economy—the diffusion index shows that 71.8% of industries experienced employment declines in April (a modest improvement from the first quarter, when an average of 78.9% of industries experienced job declines each month).

Manufacturing and construction continue to see the biggest losses. Manufacturing saw a decline of 149,000 jobs, for a total drop since December 2007 of 1.6 million, or 11.8% of that sector’s employment. Motor vehicles and parts continued to experience steep losses—29,100 jobs in April for a total of 281,000 since the start of the recession (29.4% of employment in that sector). Construction (residential and nonresidential) saw a decline of 110,000 jobs in April, for a total of 1.2 million jobs lost in this recession (15.6% of employment).

The service sector also continues to experience declines—private services (excluding government) were down 341,000 jobs in April, for a total decline since December 2007 of 3.2 million jobs (3.4% of its total). Retail trade was down 46,700 in April and 744,000 since December 2007 (4.8% of employment in that sector). Automobile dealers lost an additional 9,300 jobs in April, despite indications that auto sales have shown some signs of stabilizing.

The financial activities sector continued to shrink (down 40,000 jobs in April and 5.2% since December 2007). Professional and business services also saw large losses (down 122,000 jobs in April and 7.4% since December 2007). Within professional and business services, temporary help services continued to see the steepest declines, down 62,500 jobs in April and 31.9% since the start of the recession.

As has been the case throughout the recession, health care once again added jobs (up 16,700 in April and 3.3% since the start of the recession). Government employment increased dramatically in April by 72,000. Federal government employment made up almost all of the increase by adding 66,000 in April, mainly due to the hiring of temporary workers in preparation for the 2010 Census. State and local government employment remained essentially flat in April, increasing by 2,000 and 4,000, respectively, as declining revenues continued to put a strain on state and local government balance sheets.

Nominal (i.e., not inflation-adjusted) hourly wages have risen 3.2% over the last year, meaning that with price indices showing minimal growth, workers who remain employed are experiencing real wage increases. However, nominal hourly wage growth is slowing—in April it grew at an annual rate of 0.7%. Furthermore, due to reductions in hours, nominal weekly paychecks are growing more slowly: 1.3% over the last year, and only a 0.6% annualized growth rate in April.

The household survey also continues to present a bleak picture. In April, the unemployment rate rose from 8.5% to 8.9%, as 563,000 workers were added to the jobless rolls. There are now 13.7 million unemployed workers in this country, up 6.2 million from the start of the recession in December 2007. Since the start of the recession, the unemployment rate has increased by 4.0 percentage points, far surpassing the unemployment increase during the deep 1981/82 recession, when the unemployment rate increased by 3.6 percentage points.

The number of “marginally attached” workers remained essentially flat in April (dropped 4,000), but has increased from 1.3 million to 2.2 million since the start of the recession. These are workers who want a job, are available to work, but have not actively sought work in the last month (and so are not officially counted as among the unemployed). If these workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate in April would have crossed into double digits at 10.1%.

The number of people who want full-time jobs but have had to settle for part-time work declined by 139,000 in April, but has nearly doubled over the course of the recession, from 4.6 million in December 2007 to 8.9 million in April. The “underemployment rate,” which includes not just unemployed workers but also marginally attached and involuntarily part-time workers, increased from 15.6% to 15.8%, so that now 24.8 million people—nearly one out of every six workers—are either unemployed or underemployed.

Data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that the number of openings in the economy declined by over 30% from December 2007 to February 2009. As a result of the dramatic increase in the number of job seekers and the stark decline in job openings, jobless workers are getting stuck in unemployment for long periods. In April, 27.2% of unemployed workers had been jobless for at least six months, the highest share since the Great Depression.

Since the start of the recession, all major demographic groups have experienced large increases in unemployment. However, there remain significant differences between groups. Largely due to their disproportionate concentration in the hard-hit sectors of manufacturing and construction, men have lost much more ground during this recession than women—April unemployment was 10.0% for males and 7.6% for females (up 5.0 and 2.8 percentage points since the start of the recession). In April, unemployment was 15.0% among black workers, 11.3% among Hispanic workers, and 8.0% among white workers (increases of 6.1, 5.1, and 3.6 percentage points, respectively, since the start of the recession). By education category, the data show that workers with lower levels of schooling face much higher unemployment rates. For those with a college degree, the unemployment rate is 4.4%, which though only half the average unemployment, is still higher than at any time dating back to at least 1979 (last data available). Unemployment among those with only a high school diploma is 9.3%, up 4.7 percentage points since the start of the recession. Workers with less job experience are also particularly hard hit in this economy. Workers age 16-24 face an unemployment rate of 16.7%, 25-54 year olds are seeing 7.8%, and those over 54 are at 6.4% (up 5.1, 3.8, and 3.3 percentage points, respectively, in this recession).

The April employment report shows that the labor market is still deteriorating quickly. While the Recovery Act was a very important step towards pulling the U.S. economy out of its nosedive, it was only ever expected to create or preserve between three and four million jobs. Even while it was being debated, the labor market deteriorated so quickly that it was down roughly twice that many jobs before the Act could even effect. Without substantial additional stimulus, the economy will likely reach double-digit unemployment by the end of the year.