Thursday, April 25, 2013

There is no alternative

Governments now answer to business, not voters. Mainstream parties grow ever harder to distinguish. Is democracy dead?


This year was different. The Italian Democratic Party, which dominates the country’s left-of-centre politics, knew that it was in trouble. A flamboyant blogger and former comedian named Beppe Grillo had turned his celebrity into an online political force, Il Movimento 5 Stelle (the Five Star Movement), which promised to do well in the national elections. The new party didn’t have any coherent plan beyond sweeping out Old Corruption, but that was enough to bring out the crowds. The Five Star Movement was particularly good at attracting young idealists, the kind of voters who might have been Democrats a decade before.

What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators?

by Theodoric Meyer
ProPublica, April 25, 2013, 10:56 a.m.

April 25: This post has been corrected.

A week after a blast at a Texas fertilizer plant killed at least 15 people and hurt more than 200, authorities still don’t know exactly why the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant exploded.

Here’s what we do know: The fertilizer plant hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. Its owners do not seem to have told the Department of Homeland Security that they were storing large quantities of potentially explosive fertilizer, as regulations require. And the most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5,250 in fines.

Bayer and Syngenta Lobby Furiously Against EU Efforts to Limit Pesticides and Save Bees

These and other studies led the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to recommend a two-year ban of the most controversial neonicotinoids by the European Commission: thiamethoxam, manufactured by Swiss company Syngenta; and imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by German company Bayer. Private letters recently obtained and released by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveal that Bayer and Syngenta have engaged in furious lobbying against these measures. So far, the proposed partial ban has failed to reach a qualified majority of member states in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

U.S. gives big, secret push to Internet surveillance

Justice Department agreed to issue "2511 letters" immunizing AT&T and other companies participating in a cybersecurity program from criminal prosecution under the Wiretap Act, according to new documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

by Declan McCullagh | April 24, 2013 8:59 AM PDT

Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws.

The secret legal authorization from the Justice Department originally applied to a cybersecurity pilot project in which the military monitored defense contractors' Internet links. Since then, however, the program has been expanded by President Obama to cover all critical infrastructure sectors including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.

Speaking Truth to Power: Ridenhour Prizes Recognize Brave Journalists Who Produced Great Work Against All Odds.

By Anna Simonton

On Wednesday this year's award-winners were honored in a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC. Here's a rundown of the events:
The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling went to Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist, filmmaker and founder of the immigration awareness organization Define American. Unable to accept the award in person, Vargas sent a pre-recorded video in which he described his journey as an undocumented immigrant.

The Strange Billionaire Brothers Behind America's Predator Drones -- And Their Very Strange Past

By Yasha Levine

We're on the border of San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties. There's not much around for miles--nothing but sandy soil, rocks, Joshua trees, an abandoned trailer here and there, heaps of trash and tires. There's also a salvage yard full of airplane parts a few miles down the road, as well as a dairy plant and a foul-smelling high density feed lot crammed with miserable dairy cows reeking of shit and piss, baking in the desert sun. Next door to that is a trailer with a sign offering baby goats for sale.

We stop short of the gate, pulling over on the shoulder. Dave is a Victorville native whose dad was in the Air Force. He' s been around drones since they started popping up here in the 1990s. Right after high school, he even scored a brief gig with the infamous Pinkertons, guarding an early prototype of the Predator. But today in our drop-top Mustang rental car--a perfect car for drone hunting--Dave and I look just like a couple'a tourists. I pretend to fumble with the roof controls while we check out the scene.

Even Harsh Frontline Program on Retirement Investments Understates How Bad They Are

Wall Street must get indigestion every time Frontline rolls out another program showing the depths of its chicanery. The only problem is the industry deserves much worse punishment.

The latest report, The Retirement Gamble, focuses on the scams in the retirement industry, the retail brokers and asset managers who sell products to 401 (k)s and other tax exempt plans. Anyone who knows this arena will find that the report covers familiar terrain. But the appalling fact remains that ordinary Americans who don’t have the time or interest to be full time investors but want to take prudent steps to prepare for retirement are systematically fleeced by the industry. And due to the time limits and complexity of the terrain, the program can hit only on some important issues.

Six Claims on Detainee Torture, Skewered

by Christie Thompson
ProPublica, April 22, 2013, 4:04 p.m.

Among the news that ended up being buried in the events last week: A nonpartisan think tank, the Constitution Project, released a scathing, 577-page report on the U.S.’s treatment, and torture, of detainees in the aftermath of 9/11. The investigation began in 2009, after Obama opposed creating a “truth commission.”

With a Senate investigation of detainee treatment still classified, the report from the bipartisan task force is the most comprehensive public review to date. The 11-member panel interviewed more than 100 former military officials, detainees and policymakers.

Creatures of the Dark: Wisconsin GOP Caught Deleting Records, Again

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 10:11  
By Brendan Fischer, PR Watch | Report 

New federal court filings allege that hundreds of thousands of Republican redistricting files in Wisconsin were deleted last year, in defiance of court orders to turn over all documents. The deletions fit into a pattern of the Wisconsin GOP covering their tracks and could result in sanctions for the attorneys or individuals involved in deleting the files.

According to the April 18 court filings, a forensic analysis of computers used during redistricting indicates multiple files were deleted just after Republicans were instructed to turn them over to Democrats -- but before they had actually done so.

Recipe for Low-Cost, Biomass-Derived Catalyst for Hydrogen Production 

Promising results are a step toward a range of renewable energy strategies fueled by Nature

UPTON, NY — In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of Energy & Environmental Science (now available online), researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory describe details of a low-cost, stable, effective catalyst that could replace costly platinum in the production of hydrogen. The catalyst, made from renewable soybeans and abundant molybdenum metal, produces hydrogen in an environmentally friendly, cost-effective manner, potentially increasing the use of this clean energy source.

The research has already garnered widespread recognition for Shilpa and Shweta Iyer, twin-sister high school students who contributed to the research as part of an internship under the guidance of Brookhaven chemist Wei-Fu Chen, supported by projects led by James Muckerman, Etsuko Fujita, and Kotaro Sasaki.

Paul Krugman: Europe's Leaders Disregard Anti-Austerity Logic

Simon Wren-Lewis recently tried to show some sympathy for the devil. In a post titled "The View From Brussels" on his blog, the Oxford professor attempted to get into the mindset of European officials who defend austerity. And he got at an important point in the process, although he may have let the austerians off too lightly.

As he suggests, the crucial place to start at is why economists like himself, Brad DeLong, Martin Wolf, Larry Summers (at this point, anyway), yours truly and others are against austerity now. We're not always against fiscal consolidation; give me the right economic circumstances and I'll turn at least modestly deficit hawk. We are, instead, against implementing austerity when the interest rate is against the zero lower bound because the economy is in a liquidity trap, so the contractionary effects of fiscal tightening can't be offset by monetary expansion.

Unanswered Questions About Watergate

There are many—why is no one asking them?

The title of Robert Redford’s new documentary, which aired on the Discovery Channel last night, is All the President’s Men Revisited. At times, it seems more like All the President’s Men Repeated. Though created to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Watergate, the first half of the film contains little that could not be found in Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 political thriller starring Redford and Dustin Hoffman. You know the story: A pair of scrappy young reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein stick to their guns when nobody else will, and their reporting helps to bring down a president.

This is, to be sure, a terrific story. No matter how many times you’ve heard it before, there is something gripping about watching Nixon’s slow, painful descent into national disgrace. Redford’s film hits all the highlights: Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler dismissing the original break-in as a “third-rate burglary”; Woodward and Bernstein scrambling to “follow the money” all the way to the White House; Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield admitting to Congress that his boss maintained a voice-activated taping system; Nixon’s restrained farewell address to the nation, then his devastating, heartfelt goodbye to the White House staff.

How The NRA Impeded The Boston Bomber Investigation

April 20th, 2013 12:00 am
David Cay Johnston

The intense hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers illustrates another way that the National Rifle Association helps mass murderers — by delaying how quickly they can be identified.

The inability to quickly track the gunpowders in the Boston bombs is due to government policy designed and promoted by the NRA, which has found a way to transform every massacre associated with weapons into an opportunity for the munitions companies that sustain it to sell more guns, gunpowder and bullets.

Unbelievable! Bowles and Simpson Release New Deficit-Reduction Plan Based on Discredited Austerity Research

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

What’s incredible is that over the last week, the study by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff that famously warned of the dangers of government debt has been proven to be riddled with errors and questionable methodology. To recap: R&R’s paper purported to show that countries with public debt in excess of 90 percent of gross domestic product suffered negative economic growth. Austerity hawks everywhere used it to justify cuts that have cost people jobs and vital services. The original spreadsheet used by R&R was obtained by a U Mass grad student, who found that in addition to the mistakes already noted by several economists, there was a coding error in their Excel spreadsheet that significantly changed the results of their study.

Paul Krugman: The Jobless Trap

F.D.R. told us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. But when future historians look
back at our monstrously failed response to economic depression, they probably won’t blame fear,
per se. Instead, they’ll castigate our leaders for fearing the wrong things.

For the overriding fear driving economic policy has been debt hysteria, fear that unless we slash
spending we’ll turn into Greece any day now. After all, haven’t economists proved that economic
growth collapses once public debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P.?

Plan B Ruling: Fox and Family Research Council Seize Opportunity to Spread Misinformation

Sunday, 21 April 2013 00:00  
By Valerie Tarico, Truthout | News Analysis

The Fox News response to the recent Plan B ruling provides a graphic example of how the channel uses what it calls "fair and balanced" reporting to create false perceptions. A press release issued by the conservative Family Research Council uses misdirection to attain the same goal. Anyone who wants to understand why the United States is so divided need look no farther than these two pieces of political communication disguised as reporting.

In 2011, the FDA said that Plan B and other brands of levonorgestrel emergency contraception like Next Choice should be available over the counter to all who seek it. But in an unprecedented move, then-Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, countermanded their recommendation, requiring that females younger than 17 obtain a prescription. On Friday, April 5, Judge Edward R. Korman called those restrictions "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and said that "the secretary's action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent." In his ruling making Plan B unrestricted, Korman had a long list of credentialed supporters including the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics - in other words, all of the most relevant regulatory bodies and professional associations.

Police ‘Cleaning Up’ Detroit By Kidnapping The Homeless, Stranding Them In Other Cities 

By T. Steelman

Imagine that you are homeless in Detroit. You have an area where you know you are safe, where you can find food and shelter if you ask. Now imagine that a cop grabs you from the street, throws you into a van, drives you to the edge of the city or even a suburb and then kicks you out. That’s what the ACLU is accusing the Detroit PD of doing.: they filed a complaint with the Justice Department against the DPB this week.

The complaint comes at the end of a year-long investigation into claims that the department routinely drove homeless people to areas unfamiliar to them, leaving them to get back on their own. They will approach homeless people, especially in tourist areas like Greektown, force them into vans and drive them miles away, the complaint alleges. Sometimes the officers would even take what little money they had, leaving them with no recourse but to walk back to the city. Sometimes the homeless victims would even be left in neighboring towns and suburbs like Dearborn and River Rouge.

Why American CEOs Get Paid Way More Than CEOs Anywhere Else (Hint: It's Not Performance Based)

By Dean Baker

But in the last three decades, the pay of CEOs has gone from just being high -- say 30 or 40 times the pay of typical workers -- to being in the stratosphere. The pay of CEOs at major corporations now averages several hundred times the pay of ordinary workers. Annual compensation packages routinely run into the tens of millions of dollars and can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Furthermore, CEOs generally can count on big paychecks in good times and bad. They tend to do well even when their companies do poorly; although they can expect to do better when corporate profits or stock prices rise. This is true even when their actions had little or nothing to do with the increase. For example, the CEOs of the major oil companies got incredibly rich as a result of the run-up in world oil prices in the last decade.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The Big Issue Is Not Miranda, It’s Presentment

Particularly given Lindsey Graham’s persistent tweeting yesterday that “the last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights,” there was a lot of discussion in the moments after Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured last night about whether he would be read his rights.
At first, there were reports he would be. But then DOJ announced he would not be read Miranda immediately; they would invoke the public safety exception to question him.
“The suspect is en route to the hospital for immediate treatment,” the official tells TPM’s Sahil Kapur. “But we plan to invoke the public safety exception to Miranda in order to question the suspect extensively about other potential explosive devices or accomplices and to gain critical intelligence.”
As of about 40 minutes ago, he had still not been read his rights.

Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street

Wednesday, 17 April 2013 00:00 
By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | Op-Ed 

Creating a Finance System That Serves the People, Part II

In Part I of this series, we examined breaking up the too-big-to-fail-or- jail banks, regulating them - especially their massive and risky derivatives trading - and more aggressively enforcing laws and regulations against security fraud.

In Part II, we examine how to remake the Federal Reserve into a transparent, democratic institution that serves the necessities of the people and the economy, not just the bankers; how to develop public banks in every state and many cities throughout the nation; and how people can opt out of Wall Street right now.

In other articles and on our web site, we examine the broader economy and how to remake it by putting in place economic democracy so that people have greater control over their economic lives and more influence over the direction of the economy.

Why Not a New Deal Financed by Workers?

Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00  
By Joe Guinan and Thomas M. Hanna, Truthout | Op-Ed 

America's infrastructure is in disrepair, but the Obama administration's proposed solution emphasizes public-private partnerships with all the risks they entail. Instead, a true partner for rebuilding America can be found in the untapped potential of workers' vast pension fund assets. Such an approach could create important institutional alliances of state and local governments, public workers and labor unions, and lay the basis for a very different pattern of political economy capable of reversing spiraling inequality and displacing corporate power.
* * *
Last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their quadrennial report card on the state of America's infrastructure - the roads, bridges, ports, railways, airports, levees, dams and public buildings that make up the core of the built environment and the basis of the US economy. Overall, the United States scored a disappointing D+, a slight improvement over 2009's D rating, but still a desperately poor grade. The physical fabric of America is literally crumbling away.

Underinvestment in basic infrastructure impacts everything from economic performance to health and safety. A recent report found that Americans spend almost 5 billion hours a year in traffic, wasting nearly 2 billion gallons of gasoline at a cost to the economy in excess of $100 billion. "More time on lower quality roads," the Economist reported in 2011, "makes for a deadlier transport network." The road fatality rate in America that year was 60 percent higher than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average.

In Case You Missed It: Congress Takes Your Internet Privacy

Saturday, 20 April 2013 10:02
By Kristina Chew, Care2 | Report

To the disappointent of advocates for civil liberties and internet freedom, the controversial Cyber Intelligence and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 288-127. 196 Republicans voted for the measure and almost half the House Democrats.

Few would dispute that cybersecurity is not a concern. A rapid flurry of recent cyberattacks of government and corporate websites has highlighted the issue. But as Internet security experts argue, CISPA approaches the problem in a wrongheaded manner, allowing companies to share information to make their networks more secure but at a cost to users’ rights.

Worker-Owned Cooperatives: Direct Democracy in Action

Saturday, 20 April 2013 10:45  
By David Morgan, | Report 

Flashpoints—those unexpected events that movements gather around, when everything is accelerated, exciting, and energizing—fizzle. Whether they fail to gain traction, or splinter off to catalyze multiple new efforts, movement events serve an important function: they are short­lived and inspiring.

At the same time, they are moments of immense opportunity when we can make strides and pool our collective power. The cooperative movement is experiencing a string of these moments now, and is burgeoning with renewed activity. I see this first­hand as a co­-owner of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker­-owned cooperative that participates in many co­op networks. We’ve facilitated hundreds of co­op workshops around the country, and taught thousands with our resource Co­opoly: The Game of Cooperatives.

Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons

April 19, 2013
The revelation that the family of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings was from Chechnya prompted new speculation about the attack as Islamic terrorism. Less discussed was the history of U.S. neocons supporting Chechen terrorists as a strategy to weaken Russia, as ex-FBI agent Coleen Rowley recalls.

By Coleen Rowley

I almost choked on my coffee listening to neoconservative Rudy Giuliani pompously claim on national TV that he was surprised about any Chechens being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings because he’s never seen any indication that Chechen extremists harbored animosity toward the U.S.; Guiliani thought they were only focused on Russia.

Giuliani knows full well how the Chechen “terrorists” proved useful to the U.S. in keeping pressure on the Russians, much as the Afghan mujahedeen were used in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1989. In fact, many neocons signed up as Chechnya’s “friends,” including former CIA Director James Woolsey.

What You Need To Know About Why The Boston Bombing Suspect Hasn’t Been Read His Miranda Rights

By Ian Millhiser on Apr 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Despite initial reports to the contrary, FBI agents did not read Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights immediately after he was taken into custody. Instead, they invoked what is known as the “public safety exception” to delay reading those rights to the alleged bomber. Here’s what you need to know about this narrow exception to the Miranda rule:

The Public Safety Exemption Is Real

The Supreme Court first held that there is a public safety exemption to Miranda in a 1984 case known as New York v. Quarles. In Quarles a woman told police that a man with a gun raped her, and that he’d run into a nearby grocery store. Police quickly found the suspect within the store, arrested him after a brief chase, handcuffed him, and discovered that he was wearing an empty shoulder holster. Before reading him his rights, an officer asked him where the gun was, and the suspect told the cop where to find it. After retrieving the gun, police then read the suspect his Miranda rights.

'People's History' of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit

Report released on eve of Deepwater Horizon anniversary tells of BP lies and government collusion in oil 'clean-up'

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer 
Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to "clean up" the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely "appear invisible" all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.
According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit—the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill's aftermath—was widely applied "because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared."

The Hidden Money

By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed 
"Hiding money in the ways and amounts lately revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is a deep kind of social corruption," writes Wolff. "It goes beyond questions of legality to the heart of modern political economy."

Recent revelations of hidden money by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) have embarrassed governments, large and small, and exposed many rich businesses and individuals. They used places like Lichtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and, of course, Cyprus. Those countries' private banks wanted the money much as their governments wanted the revenue benefits of hidden money inflows. The rich around the world took advantage of those banks' services to launder money with some illegality attached to it, to evade or avoid taxes, to hide business deals from government scrutiny, and so on.

Reasonable estimates, based on ICIJ and other reports, suggest that many trillions of dollars sit in such hidden money accounts. It follows that debates in most countries about rates of taxation are missing the point. Many among the rich long ago found ways to avoid taxes, whatever the rates. They just needed and used that one "loophole" in the tax law that allows them to hide their money (or "offshore" it) in either personal or corporate accounts or both.

The Fed’s Foreclosure-Relief Fail

Like far too many Americans, Debbie Marler of South Point, Ohio has her own foreclosure horror story. It involves one house, seven fraudulent mortgage assignments, three foreclosures, as many states, and five years. It ruined her career prospects, threatened her retirement security, and turned her life into what she calls “a living nightmare.”

This week, Debbie walked to her mailbox and found what the federal government considers appropriate compensation for this odyssey of suffering at the hands of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank.

A check for $800.

How Congress Quietly Overhauled Its Insider-Trading Law

‘Carbon bubble’ leading to another financial crisis, economists warn

By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
Thursday, April 18, 2013 20:11 EDT

The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.

“The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was “very big indeed” and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.

Paul Krugman: The Excel Depression

In this age of information, math errors can lead to disaster. NASA’s Mars Orbiter crashed because
engineers forgot to convert to metric measurements; JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale” venture
went bad in part because modelers divided by a sum instead of an average. So, did an Excel coding
error destroy the economies of the Western world?

The story so far: At the beginning of 2010, two Harvard economists, Carmen Reinhart and
Kenneth Rogoff, circulated a paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” that purported to identify a
critical “threshold,” a tipping point, for government indebtedness. Once debt exceeds 90 percent of
gross domestic product, they claimed, economic growth drops off sharply.

How Your Pension is Being Used in a $6 Trillion Climate Gamble

Fossil fuel companies' bet that climate agreements won't stop them from burning carbon puts pension funds at risk
by Bill McKibben and Jeremy Leggett
Suppose you weren’t worried that we humans are destroying our water supply and eroding our ability to feed ourselves by burning coal and gas and oil and hence changing climate. Suppose you thought that was all liberal hooey. What might worry you about fossil fuels instead? How about a six trillion dollar bet, including a big slug of your own money, on people not doing what they have said they are going to do, and that some have already sworn to do in law?

Six trillion dollars is what oil, gas, and coal companies will invest over the next ten years on turning fossil fuel deposits into reserves, assuming last year’s level of investment stays the same. Reserves are by definition bodies of oil, gas or coal that can be drilled or mined economically. Regulators allow companies, currently, to book them as assets, and on the assumption that they are at zero risk of being stranded - left below ground, "value"unrealized - over the full life of their exploitation. Yet a report published today shows they are at very real risk of being stranded, and in large quantity.

Why the ‘Spreadsheet Scandal’ Should Kill Obama’s Social Security Cut


A recent “Spreadsheet Scandal” has rocked the economics world. It also seems to have eliminated the last remaining technical argument in support of the President’s “chained CPI” Social Security cut.

Not weakened it. Eliminated it.

CISPA passes U.S. House: Death of the Fourth Amendment?

Summary: The controversial cybersecurity Bill has passed the U.S. House and is now on its way to the Senate chamber. Privacy groups believe this tramples on the Fourth Amendment.

By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day | April 18, 2013 -- 18:53 GMT (11:53 PDT)

The controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) just passed the U.S. House, and will now head to the upper Senate chamber for further deliberation.

Rinse and repeat. This isn't the first time that this has happened, but it still poses a major threat to Fourth Amendment rights, according to civil liberties campaigners.

A Brief History of Our Deadly Addiction to Nitrogen Fertilizer

As investigators and rescuers move through a destroyed fertilizer factory in West, Texas, it makes me think about just what nitrogen fertilizer is, and why we use so much of it.

Nitrogen is one of the nutrient elements plants need to grow. Every apple or ear of corn plucked represents nutrients pulled from soil, and for land to remain productive, those nutrients must be replenished. Nitrogen is extremely plentiful—it makes up nearly 80 percent of the air we breathe. But atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is joined together in an extremely tight bond that makes it unusable by plants.

Disturbing report finds U.S. hospitals profit more when surgery goes wrong

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 20:59 EDT

US hospitals face a disincentive to improve care because they make drastically more money when surgery goes wrong than when a patient is discharged with no complications, a study published Tuesday found.

“We found clear evidence that reducing harm and improving quality is perversely penalized in our current health care system,” said study author Sunil Eappen, chief medical officer of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Noam Chomsky: How Close the World Is to Nuclear War

Laray Polk:What immediate tensions do you perceive that could lead to nuclear war? How close are we?

Noam Chomsky:Actually, nuclear war has come unpleasantly close many times since 1945. There are literally dozens of occasions in which there was a significant threat of nuclear war. There was one time in 1962 when it was very close, and furthermore, it’s not just the United States. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the issues remain. Both India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear arsenals with US support. There are serious possibilities involved with Iran—not Iranian nuclear weapons, but just attacking Iran—and other things can just go wrong. It’s a very tense system, always has been. There are plenty of times when automated systems in the United States— and in Russia,it’s probably worse—have warned of a nuclear attack which would set off an automatic response except that human intervention happened to take place in time, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. That’s playing with fire. That’s a low-probability event, but with low-probability events over a long period, the probability is not low.

There is another possibility that, I think, is not to be dismissed: nuclear terror. Like a dirty bomb in New York City, let’s say. It wouldn’t take tremendous facility to do that. I know US intelligence or people like Graham Allison at Harvard who works on this, they regard it as very likely in the coming years—and who knows what kind of reaction there would be to that. So, I think there are plenty of possibilities. I think it is getting worse. Just like the proliferation problem is getting worse. Take a couple of cases: In September 2009, the Security Council did pass a resolution, S/RES/1887, which was interpreted here as a resolution against Iran. In part it was, but it also called on all states to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s three states: India, Pakistan, and Israel. The Obama administration immediately informed India that this didn’t apply to them; it informed Israel that it doesn’t apply to them.

Dean Baker: How Much Unemployment Did Reinhart and Rogoff's Arithmetic Mistake Cause?

That's the question millions will be asking when they see the new paper by my friends at the University of Massachusetts, Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin. Herndon, Ash, and Pollin (HAP) corrected the spreadsheets of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. They show the correct numbers tell a very different story about the relationship between debt and GDP growth than the one that Reinhart and Rogoff have been hawking.

Just to remind folks, Reinhart and Rogoff (R&R) are the authors of the widely acclaimed book on the history of financial crises, This Time is Different. They have also done several papers derived from this research, the main conclusion of which is that high ratios of debt to GDP lead to a long periods of slow growth. Their story line is that 90 percent is a cutoff line, with countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above this level seeing markedly slower growth than countries that have debt-to-GDP ratios below this level. The moral is to make sure the debt-to-GDP ratio does not get above 90 percent.

International Energy Agency warns: Lack of progress in clean energy could be catastrophic

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:16 EDT

Progress towards the use of cleaner fuel technology has stalled, with production of the world’s energy as “dirty” now as it was two decades ago, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

Two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector and the lack of change should “serve as a wake-up call”, the IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven told a Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in New Delhi.

Tales of Reagan’s Guatemala Genocide

April 16, 2013
Exclusive: Guatemala is finally putting ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt on trial for genocide in the extermination of hundreds of Mayan villages in the 1980s, but Ronald Reagan remains an American icon despite new evidence of his complicity in this historic crime, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The first month of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt has elicited chilling testimony from Mayan survivors who – as children – watched their families slaughtered by a right-wing military that was supported and supplied by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

As the New York Times reported on Monday, “In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached ‘100 percent support.’”

Yes, Let’s Talk About Kermit Gosnell

Post by Sarah Posner

Kermit Gosnell is on trial in Philadelphia, charged with eight counts of murder at his grisly abortion clinic. The Associated Press covered the opening proceedings of a trial expected to last eight weeks. A New York Times reporter was also present when the trial opened. His story appeared on page A17, which apparently wasn’t prominent enough for conservatives who are complaining that the media is under-covering the story because, as Charles Krauthammer put it, it places the issue of late-term abortion “starkly into relief.”

Gosnell is charged with illegally performing third trimester abortions, and slitting the spines of the babies, acts that were loudly condemned by pro-choice advocates. It doesn’t bring the issue of late-term abortion “starkly into relief”; it’s the story of a monster completely flouting the law and medical standards. When the story came to light more than two years ago, legitimate providers made that perfectly clear.

Poverty Expert Peter Edelman Explains How Low Wages and Racial Politics Line the Pockets of the Rich

By Adele M. Stan

Edelman finds his answers in the tangle of racialized politics, mass incarceration, displacement caused by globalization, the explosion of low-wage jobs and the dilution of democracy by moneyed interests. In his 2012 book, So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America [4], Edelman writes, "The American economy did not stagnate over the past 40 years: it grew, but the fruits of that growth went to those at the top."

Monday, April 15, 2013

FDA Let Drugs Approved on Fraudulent Research Stay on the Market

by Rob Garver and Charles Seife, Special to ProPublica,

April 15, 2013, 9:17 a.m.

On the morning of May 3, 2010, three agents of the Food and Drug Administration descended upon the Houston office of Cetero Research, a firm that conducted research for drug companies worldwide.

Lead agent Patrick Stone, now retired from the FDA, had visited the Houston lab many times over the previous decade for routine inspections. This time was different. His team was there to investigate a former employee's allegation that the company had tampered with records and manipulated test data.

Paul Krugman: The Antisocial Network

Bitcoin’s wild ride may not have been the biggest business story of the past few weeks, but it was
surely the most entertaining. Over the course of less than two weeks the price of the “digital
currency” more than tripled. Then it fell more than 50 percent in a few hours. Suddenly, it felt as if
we were back in the dot-com era.

The economic significance of this roller coaster was basically nil. But the furor over bitcoin was a
useful lesson in the ways people misunderstand money — and in particular how they are misled by
the desire to divorce the value of money from the society it serves.

Cutting specific pollutants would slow sea level rise

BOULDER – With coastal areas bracing for rising sea levels, new research indicates that cutting emissions of certain pollutants can greatly slow down sea level rise this century.

The research team found that reductions in four pollutants that cycle comparatively quickly through the atmosphere could temporarily forestall the rate of sea level rise by roughly 25 to 50 percent.

"To avoid potentially dangerous sea level rise, we could cut emissions of short-lived pollutants even if we cannot immediately cut carbon dioxide emissions," says Aixue Hu of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the first author of the study. "This new research shows that society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal cities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants."

Sweatshops on Wheels

By Chris Hedges

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The deterioration of the nation’s public transportation, like the deterioration of health care, education, social services, public utilities, bridges and roads, is part of the relentless seizing and harvesting of public resources and programs by corporations. These corporations are steadily stripping the American infrastructure. Public-sector unions are being broken. Wages and benefits are being slashed. Workers are forced to put in longer hours in unsafe workplaces, often jeopardizing public safety. The communities that need public services most are losing them, and where public service is continued it is reduced or substandard and costlier. Only the security and surveillance network and the military are permitted to function with efficiency in their role as the guardians of corporate power. We now resemble the developing world: We have small pockets of obscene wealth, ailing infrastructure and public service, huge swaths of grinding poverty, and militarized police and internal security.

Shell’s Plot to Silence Protests Against Arctic Drilling

Phil Radford

Corporations want to work in secret. It’s what they do, and why they have lawyers. In secret, they can spill, clearcut, burn and otherwise destroy the environment and local communities while telling the world they’re doing just the opposite. Shell Oil’s legal team is currently working overtime to keep the company’s Arctic work secret from advocacy groups like Greenpeace. It’s a battle that will have implications well beyond the Far North. If Shell ultimately wins the legal battle with us this month, corporate secrecy will have the blessing of a federal court—and America’s First Amendment rights will take a devastating hit.

The thought is chilling.

It's Time to Shine a Light on the Poverty Creation Industry

Sunday, 14 April 2013 12:05

By Joe Brewer, Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk, Think Africa Press | Op-Ed

It's about time we called out the great myth that mass poverty just is, as if it were a natural part of some universal moral order. Such thinking is both profoundly untrue and disastrously misleading.

Poverty is human-made. It is created – knowingly and with scientific efficiency – by a vastly sophisticated industry that includes private companies, think tanks, media outlets, government policies, and more. This ‘Poverty Creation Industry’ is about the least talked about feature of our global economy and yet it is perhaps the greatest market force in the modern world. Until we acknowledge this startling truth, progress towards global prosperity and sustainability will fall far short of what is possible.

When capitalism consumed the Internet

The Web today is a far cry from the utopian digital playground envisioned by its early users and pioneers

By James Orbesen

“Let’s grab all this new technology in our teeth once again and turn it into a bonanza for advertising.” These are the words of former Procter & Gamble CEO Edwin Artzt. Renowned for his business acumen, Artzt, always one to turn a profit, told his fellow captains of industry to aim their attention to something new, something unseen before, something that needed to be conquered.

The early Internet was certainly a different place. It seemed a time of unlimited potential, when the old barriers to communication and information were said to melt away like so much butter in the microwave. People would be linked in ways never seen before, all in a purely public and noncommercial space. Early analysts claimed that the old media conglomerates were going to be swept aside by a coming Digital Age. For those looking to the future, the Internet would be the democratic space since its underlying principle, the networked sharing of data, was inherently leveling, free, and transparent.

The Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making

By Andrew Gavin Marshall 

April 12, 2013  |  Where there is the possibility of democracy, there is the inevitability of elite insecurity. All through its history, democracy has been under a sustained attack by elite interests, political, economic, and cultural. There is a simple reason for this: democracy – as in true democracy – places power with people. In such circumstances, the few who hold power become threatened. With technological changes in modern history, with literacy and education, mass communication, organization and activism, elites have had to react to the changing nature of society – locally and globally.

From the late 19th century on, the “threats” to elite interests from the possibility of true democracy mobilized institutions, ideologies, and individuals in support of power. What began was a massive social engineering project with one objective: control. Through educational institutions, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations and advertising agencies, corporations, banks, and states, powerful interests sought to reform and protect their power from the potential of popular democracy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Elizabeth Warren’s Foreclosure Settlement Bombshell: Banks Determined the Number of Victims of Their Own Foreclosure Frauds

By Pam Martens: April 12, 2013

There is only one thing more Kafkaesque than the ongoing Wall Street frauds and that is watching a live United States Senate investigation of a diabolical settlement the banks themselves concocted to repay the victims of their own fraud. Such was the case yesterday when Senators Sherrod Brown, Jack Reed, and Elizabeth Warren grilled regulators from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Reserve along with outside consultants over allowing banks to hand pick the consultants to do their foreclosure reviews, negotiate confidentiality agreements with them and pay them directly.

Republicans Try To Nullify NLRB And Labor Law


There Is a Battle Raging Over What America Will Look Like in 21st Century

By Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez

April 11, 2013  |  As tens of thousands rallied on Capitol Hill for humane reform Wednesday, more details emerged on the bipartisan immigration plan being drafted in the Senate. The deal will reportedly require greatly increased surveillance and policing near the U.S.-Mexico border. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. immigration officials would have to certify complete monitoring of the southern U.S. border and a 90 percent success rate in blocking unlawful entry in certain areas. Only then could the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants apply for permanent residency. The process is expected to take at least 10 years. Juan González, Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist, calls the looming congressional debate on immigration "a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century."

AMY GOODMAN: Juan González, co-host on Democracy Now!and columnist with the New York Daily News on Wednesday wrote a piece [3] called "With Much at Stake, Gang of Eight Senators’ Immigration Bill, Due to Be Unveiled Soon, Awaits Uphill Climb." Juan, talk about what is happening here. You’ve been covering this very closely.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think the first thing that people have to understand is that what’s at stake here, what this battle—which is going to go on for all the spring and summer and probably into the fall, is really a battle over what will America look like in the 21st century, what will be the—who is legitimately in the country, and who will be legitimately allowed to come into the country over the next several decades.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 9 'Chained CPI' Facts They Don't Want You to Know

Posted: 04/11/2013 12:58 pm

The "chained CPI" proposal in President Obama's budget continues to draw much-deserved fire, which is only likely to increase as more information about it becomes known.
Here are nine embarrassing facts about the chained CPI which the White House and its defenders would prefer to see overlooked:
1. Of course it's a benefit cut.
Chained-CPI defenders say it's not a benefit cut. It's just a slowdown in the rate of the benefit's planned increases. That's a silly semantic game unworthy of serious leaders or analysts. The Social Security benefit, as laid out on the Social Security Administration's website, includes adjustments designed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
Those adjustments aren't a benefit increase. They're designed to prevent the benefit from being decreased as a result of inflation. If you lower that adjustment, you're cutting benefits. Period.

Paul Krugman: Lust for Gold

News flash: Recent declines in the price of gold, which is off about 17 percent from its peak, show
that this price can go down as well as up. You may consider this an obvious point, but, as an article
in The Times on Thursday reports, it has come as a rude shock to many small gold investors, who
imagined that they were buying the safest of all assets.

And thereby hangs a tale. One of the central facts about modern America is that everything is
political; on the right, in particular, people choose their views about everything, from
environmental science to gun safety, to suit their political prejudices. And the remarkable recent
rise of “goldbuggism,” in the teeth of all the evidence, shows that this politicization can influence
investments as well as voting.

10 Tax Dodges That Help the Rich Get Richer

By Alexander Arapoglou, Jerri-Lynn Scofield

April 11, 2013  |  Have you read about the billionaire who pays a lower income tax rate than his secretary [4] and gives advice for how much income tax other people ought to pay? You might want to ask: “How does he do it? ”

We don’t know the complete answer to that question. No doubt, only his army of tax advisers does. What we’d instead like to share are 10 ways the current tax code allows the rich to accumulate vast fortunes, subject to little or no tax. And, unlike the offshore account tax fraud that gets so much press and regulatory attention, many of the most egregious tax avoidance scams are perfectly legal.   

Will Voters Forgive Obama for Cutting Social Security?

William Greider on April 10, 2013 - 3:33 PM ET

President Obama has riled loyal Democrats by tossing Social Security onto the table in his poker game with Republicans. Not to worry. I think I know how this story ends. A year from now, when the 2014 congressional campaigns are hot underway, Republicans will be running against Obama-the-slasher and promising to protect Social Security from the bloodthirsty Democrats.

By then, having lost on his too-cute strategy, the president will be reduced to lamely reassuring old folks. Really, he didn’t actually intend to cut their benefits, really he didn’t. It was just a ploy to get tightwad conservatives to give in a little on tax increases. Republicans can pull out the videotapes in which Obama and team explain their high-minded purpose—sacrificing the Democratic party’s sacred honor in order to get Republicans to play nice.

Can We Kiss Internet Privacy Goodbye?

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is moving swiftly again–and this time, Obama’s veto is less certain.

BY Ian Becker

When the House introduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in 2011, purportedly to help prevent cyber threats to national security, the measure was criticized heavily by Internet policy watchdogs and civil liberties groups, who argued that the bill would likely encroach on internet users’ Fourth amendment rights. The bill passed the House in the spring of 2012 but died in the Senate under threat of a White House veto.

Now CISPA is back, reintroduced in the House by its original author, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). By all accounts, the “new” version poses the same threats to privacy rights that alarmed the White House a year ago. In an unusual secret session on Wednesday, the House Intelligence committee passed the bill without additional privacy protections proposed by Jan Schakowsky (D.-Ill.). The measure could be up for a full House vote as soon as next week.

New Research Confirms Gun Rampages Are Rising—and Armed Civilians Don't Stop Them

And the data further debunks the NRA claim that "good guys with guns" stop mass shooters.
By the time the nation confronted the unthinkable school massacre in Connecticut last December, Mother Jones' groundbreaking [1] investigation of mass shootings [2], launched the prior summer, had shown that mass gun violence in America was on the rise. The trend appeared to be no coincidence in light of the proliferation of guns and looser gun laws [3] nationwide. One leading criminologist took issue with our criteria [4], arguing that mass shootings had not become more common. But now, research from an expert on criminal justice at Texas State University further shows that gun rampages in the United States have escalated.

The research [5], to be published in a book in July, confirms that:
  • Public shooting rampages have spiked in particular over the last few years
  • Many of the attackers were heavily armed
  • None of the shootings was stopped by an ordinary citizen using a gun

Debate: After Activists Covertly Expose Animal Cruelty, Should They Be Targeted With "Ag-Gag" Laws?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 11:43  
By Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate, Democracy Now!

So-called "ag-gag" bills that criminalize undercover filming on farms and at slaughterhouses to document criminal animal abuse are sweeping the country. Five states, including Missouri, Utah and Iowa, already have such laws in place. North Carolina has just become the latest state to consider such a law, joining a list that includes Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Many of these bills have been introduced with the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a mechanism for corporate lobbyists to help write state laws. We host a debate on the ag-gag laws with two guests: independent journalist Will Potter, and Emily Meredith, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

Paul Krugman: Poland's Risky Euro Gamble

Poland is not yet lost. But its leaders remain determined to give disaster a chance.

Poland is one of Europe's relative success stories. It avoided the severe slump that afflicted much of the European periphery, then had a fairly strong recovery.

Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities

Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.

That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves.

Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute — the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities — released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That’s a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I’ve ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence.

Before Next Crash, Create Finance System That Serves Public, Part I: Shrink, Regulate Banks, and Enforce Law 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 00:00  
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis 

Big finance - the too-big-to-jail banks that dominate the economy and government - is designed for financiers and does not benefit most people. That is why many are in rebellion against the looting class of Wall Street. But if we don't like Wall Street finance, what would we replace it with? What would a finance system that served and protected the people look like?

 It is time to put together a new kind of financial system. Since the crash of 2008, not only do fraud and high-risk investments continue with little regulation and lax enforcement, but policies that protect people have weakened. Experts predict that another collapse of the big banks is very possible. In our fragile economy, another crash could have devastating consequences. 

Secret Tape: McConnell and Aides Weighed Using Judd's Mental Health and Religion As Political Ammo

A recording of a private meeting between the Senate GOP leader and campaign aides reveals how far they were willing to go to defeat the actor/activist.

Solidarity NOT Forever: How the Supreme Court Kicked Retirees Into the Gutter

Thursday, 11 April 2013 10:16  
By Ann Hodges and Ellen Dannin, Truthout | News Analysis 

The Supreme Court's decision in Allied Chemical Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass to give employers complete control of retiree benefits undercuts the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act and leaves vulnerable, retired employees powerless to protect themselves from costly changes in benefits.

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act to balance the power of employers - who could operate as corporations or partnerships - by giving employees the right to band together and deal with their employer as a group. A second way Congress gave employees power was by giving them the legal right to support any employee, whether or not they were employed by the same employer. In other words, the NLRA gave employees the right to make common cause with other workers, just as employers had the right to form industry groups to support one another.

Why do people hate deficits?

Posted by Dylan Matthews on April 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm

People really don’t like deficits. Polls measuring national priorities tend to find that the deficit/debt is the second most important issue to voters, after “the economy” generally and ahead of health care, guns, foreign policy and immigration.

Politicians don’t like deficits either. Both President Obama and the Republican leadership in the House pay lip service to wanting to reduce the national debt burden, and almost all their fights to date have centered on how best to do that.

But hold on a second. Why do we hate deficits? “Balancing the budget” sounds really nice, but what reason do we have to believe it’s actually valuable? There are a number of reasons to think it might be good for the debt load to be smaller rather than larger, but almost all of them are controversial among economists, and some more so than others. Here are the common reasons for balancing the budget you hear, and what the evidence says about each.

How Did Margaret Thatcher Do It? 

Gary Younge
April 9, 2013

On the day Margaret Thatcher resigned my brother was stuck in the London Underground. The dispatcher informed them over the intercom that there train would hopefully be moving in another few minutes. The carriage groaned. Then he informed them of the prime minister’s resignation. Two thirds of them started cheering and clapping.

With the exception of the immediate aftermath of the Falklands war, Thatcher was never a massively popular politician. She never won more than 44 percent of the vote, though in Britain’s winner-takes-all parliamentary system that was enough to secure massive majorities. Her reign over the country was partial. She left her party decimated in Scotland, the North of England and most urban centers, relying on her electoral fiefdom in the South, the Midlands and rural areas. She was divisive, apparently revelling in the acrimony engendered by massive strikes, riots, hunger strikes and economic upheaval for which she was in no small part responsible. She was authoritarian, abolishing the city’s elected authorities because they opposed her agenda and banning Sinn Fein representatives’ voices from the television because they advocated armed resistance to the British occupation of Northern Ireland. (For six tedious years they would be shown with the lips moving, the sound of their voice turned down and their words read by actors). She was a crude majoritarian who never had the support of the majority and became a liability even to her allies. Her political career perished when she was shot by her own troops who tired of her leading them into reckless battle.

Tomgram: Barbara Garson, Going Underwater in the Long Recession

By Barbara Garson
Posted on April 9, 2013, Printed on April 13, 2013
They call it the “spring swoon.” For the third straight year, the American economy bounded out of the starting blocks, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs in January and February. And for the third year in a row, that momentum melted away in the spring like the last traces of winter snow. Employers added only 88,000 jobs this March, the Labor Department announced on Friday, the worst monthly jobs report since June. Economists predicted gains of at least twice as much, and the news fed fears that the economy's modest recovery might be faltering. And this before we’ve even felt the real effect of the "sequester," those $85 billion across-the-board budget cuts recently approved by Congress and President Obama.

The biggest cause for concern, however, isn't actually that anemic monthly job-gain figure. Measuring the job market is, at best, an inexact science, and the number crunchers at the Labor Department could yet revise that number upward (or, god forbid, downward) in time for next month's report. Here's the real news, as U.S. corporations rake in record profits (and shift record amounts of money into offshore tax havens): nearly half a million workers "disappeared" last month. Yes, disappeared. The Labor Department tracks what it calls the "labor force participation rate" -- wonk-speak for the percentage of people working or actively hunting for a job. In March, that number slumped to 63.3%, the lowest point since 1979. That means there are millions of people out there who have lost their jobs, stopped interviewing or even applying, who have packed it in, given up. The government excludes them when it calculates the main unemployment rate.  They have entered the invisible workforce.