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Blanche Lincoln's "Cross of Gold" Moment

Thu, 06/10/2010 - 22:51

To the surprise of many, Blanche Lincoln won her Arkansas Senate runoff. She did so as a modern-day William Jennings Bryan standing up for farmers and pushing a strong Wall Street reform proposal to help farmers and protect taxpayers. It is worth reviewing the promises made on the campaign trail and the lessons the race holds for candidates in 2010.

In a conservative state, Lincoln ran hard on her record as Agriculture Committee chair, her critical health care vote and on her strong proposal to crack down on Wall Street derivatives trading. "I am Blanche Lincoln and I grew up in an Arkansas family where I was taught to solve problems ... that's why I cast the deciding vote to pass health care reform ... And it's why I am taking on Wall Street with the toughest reform bill of anyone in either party ... and it's going to pass," she reassures with a nod. This is a winning message in a tight race.

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BP Ignoring Health Concerns in the Gulf

Thu, 06/10/2010 - 20:09

One of the first things BP did after oil started gushing into the Gulf was to spray more than 1.1 million gallons of a dispersant with the optimistic name "Corexit" onto the oil. Then BP hired Louisiana fishermen and others to help with cleanup and containment operations. About two weeks later, over seventy workers fell sick, complaining of irritated throats, coughing, shortness of breath and nausea. Seven workers were hospitalized on May 26. Workers were engaged in a variety of different tasks in different places when they got sick: breaking up oil sheen, doing offshore work, burning oil and deploying boom. BP officials speculated that their illnesses were due to food poisoning or other, unrelated reasons, but others pointed out how unlikely these other causes were, since the sick workers were assigned to different locations.

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Israel's Spin Machine: It Keeps Spinning, and Spinning, and Spinning

Wed, 06/09/2010 - 23:08

From video of Gaza flotilla (Reuters)As per usual, when push comes to shove, the right-wing Israeli government, along with the Israel Defense Forces spinmeisters, have gone back to the simple formula: when they do something illegal and barbaric, blame the victim, for the United States will obligingly agree and stand by that narrative. Like always, while the rest of the world protests in condemnation and speaks out against Israel's actions and crimes, the U.S. government stands by complicitly, continuing to shower Israel with over $3 billion per year in military aid into perpetuity.

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Take Action in the Final Days of Bank Reform Fight

Wed, 06/09/2010 - 20:27

Reckless swaps and derivatives trading played a critical role in the financial crisis, inflating the domestic housing bubble and turning it into a global economic catastrophe. As the House and Senate conference committee begins final work on the financial services reform bill, it is critically important that we wall off the casino from the taxpayer guarantee. If big banks want to gamble they need to do so with their own money. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz makes the case for strong provisions in the Senate derivatives chapter plainly: “If [Congress] fails to pass strict oversight of dangerous over-the-counter derivatives and swaps the U.S. economy will continue to be vulnerable to significant financial risk.”

To urge the House and Senate conferees to take action visit BanksterUSA.

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Obama and Israel Shun the International Community

Wed, 06/09/2010 - 20:10

From video of Gaza flotilla (Reuters)President Obama came to power promising to end the foreign policy of the Bush era and institute a commitment to international cooperation and diplomacy, especially with the Muslim world. The controversy surrounding Israel's recent raid on a Turkish aid flotilla has made it difficult for the Obama administration to fulfill that promise. The administration does not want to alienate Turkey, a large Muslim nation with aspirations of joining the European Union, nor does Obama want to anger Israel, which has strong historical ties to America. Trying to pacify both nations, the Obama administration has taken an ambivalent and ambiguous position on how to resolve the conflict, which does not include a definitive statement on an international investigation into the causes and culpability of the confrontation. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last Tuesday that the United States "supports the Security Council's call for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" and "an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria," the administration is merely "open" to the possibility of international participation.

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Can You Be on the Pork Industry's Payroll and Stay Unbiased?

Wed, 06/09/2010 - 18:18

Apparently not. Shauna Ahern of the famous Gluten-Free Girl blog is paid to write a blog for the National Pork Board. She just wrote a piece about a factory hog farm she visited and how wonderful it was. Here's an excerpt:

The entire place felt warm. Even though there were something like 2,500 pigs there, taken from birth to the market (farrow to finish, in pork production terms), the whole place felt calm and well-kept. It felt like a home.

I've been to a factory hog farm, too, and it was also a "family farm." But that didn't change the fact that there were 4,000 pigs crammed into one building eating unhealthy diets and unable to engage in natural hog behaviors, like rooting. If it felt like a home, it was a home sitting on top of half a year's worth of hog manure.

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BP's Tony Hayward: Clueless or Careless?

Tue, 06/08/2010 - 18:24

BP CEO Tony Hayward has gone from being a little known CEO to a household name made infamous by the Deepwater Horizon disaster that has led to 70,000 to 90,000 barrels of oil, according to a new analysis, pouring into the Gulf daily, for over a month. At 42 gallons per barrel, that's an astonishing 2.94 to 3.78 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf every day. Ever since the incident, Hayward has provided the public with a goldmine of quotes and misleading information. Possibly the most famous instance of poor propriety was when Hayward, while apologizing to the people of Louisiana, told them "I would like my life back", a comment that sounded particularly insensitive after the Gulf catastrophe claimed 11 lives in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Further casualties now include nearly 500 birds, 227 turtles, and 27 mammals, including dolphins. Hayward's poorly-conceived statements do not stop there; he also famously said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

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Who is Trying to Undo Montana’s Century-old Clean Elections Law?

Mon, 06/07/2010 - 22:48

Montana’s law states, “A corporation may not make a contribution or expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” The law was passed in 1912 to curb the influence of the notorious mining interests, known as the “Copper Kings.” Now, a right-wing, 501(c)(4) group based out of Colorado called Western Tradition Partnership, has teamed with the local Bozeman, Montana Champion Paint store to challenge the constitutionality of that law in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United. The suit was filed in the Helena District Court.

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Bank Reform Bait and Switch

Sun, 06/06/2010 - 16:05

When the Senate bank reform legislation passed in May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said it sent the message to Wall Street that they can no longer "recklessly gamble away other people's money." The bill told Main Street, "you no longer have to fear that your savings, your retirement or your home are at the mercy of greedy gamblers in big banks. And it says to them, 'never again will you be asked to bail out those big banks when they lose their risky bets,' " according to Reid.

Reid was correct. The bill the Senate passed did protect the taxpayers from reckless gambling by the big banks, largely due to the last-minute inclusion of strong derivatives reforms authored by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). So why is it that Senate and House leadership are now busy behind these scenes trying to kill the best provisions in their own banking reform legislation?

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CMD Director Lisa Graves to Address America’s Future Now!

Thu, 06/03/2010 - 15:53

CMD Executive Director Lisa GravesAmerica's Future Now! -- the biggest progressive conference of the year organized by Campaign for America’s Future -- convenes June 7-9 in Washington, DC. Join Lisa Graves, Mary Bottari, and Dave Johnson from the Center for Media and Democracy as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alan Grayson, Arianna Huffington, Markos Moulitsas, Van Jones, Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Richard Trumka, Andy Stern, Bob Herbert, Juan Cole, Digby, Deepak Bhargava, James Rucker, Drew Westen, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Robert Kuttner, Lizz Winstead and thousands more.

Progressives must lead to make sure 2010 is not the year of the Tea Party. Jobs, financial reform, clean energy, clean elections, fair workplaces, civil liberties, health care and human rights are at all stake. Let's show Washington that progressives now how to fight!

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The Latest on Rick Berman, Attack Dog Extraordinaire

Wed, 06/02/2010 - 20:57

A new investigative report published by the Humane Society of the United States examines the self-dealing activities of front group king Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).

Berman has developed a lucrative lobbying scheme that protects his corporate clients' anonymity while they attack the credibility of public interest groups and fight popular movements away from their products.

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Full Disclosure: A Response to Citizens United

Wed, 06/02/2010 - 20:20

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United, many people thought a flood of corporate funded, pro-industry political ads would hit the airwaves. Corporations, however, have hesitated in exercising their newly-announced freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Why would corporations pass on the opportunity to exert even more influence on the government? The answer seems to be fear of backlash: corporations may want to support campaigns against certain regulations, but not at the risk of antagonizing Congressmen, consumers, and employees. Instead of offering outright support for campaigns, it seems some corporations have funneled funds into political organizations. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, and American Action Network have pledged to raise $127 million for the upcoming election season.

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The Final Fight: No More Gambling with Taxpayer Money

Tue, 06/01/2010 - 14:38

Even though the bank reform bill working its way through Congress is far from perfect, there are some strong provisions well worth fighting for as the bill moves to a House-Senate conference committee.

Two recent articles illustrate the pros and cons of this behemoth bill. New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, does a great job reminding us that the original Glass-Steagall legislation was only 34 pages long and it was key to keeping our financial system stable for 60 years. She points out that the two bills that the Senate and the House have now passed are a whopping 3,000 pages combined:

Yet despite all that verbiage, there are flaws in both bills that would let Wall Street continue devising financial black boxes that have the potential to go nuclear. And even if the best of both bills becomes law, investors, taxpayers and the economy will remain vulnerable to banking crises.

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Shifting BP's Clean Up Costs to Consumers? Say It Ain't So!

Wed, 05/26/2010 - 20:09

Who is going to pay to clean up BP's disastrous oil spill, besides BP? After all, they made $14 billion in profit last year alone. BP has asserted it will pay all "legitimate claims" for damages -- talk about a lot of wiggle room there -- but beyond actual cleanup costs, BP's economic damage liability is legislatively, and outrageously, capped at $75 million, a pittance to a company that made 186 times that amount in profit in 2009. Senate Democrats attempted to increase the liability cap to $10 billion by proposing and passing a bill, but their efforts were thwarted by Senate Republicans. The current tally for the cleanup cost stands at $760 million, but that is surely understated.

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Banksters Create New Fake "Consumer" Group

Wed, 05/26/2010 - 19:59

According to a story in the Washington Post by Mike Konczal, the Big Banks have just created an astroturf or cashroots group called the "Consumers Against Retail Discrimination Alliance" to fight a provision of the financial reform bill: This nominal "consumers" group is constituted of really, really big "consumers," according to Konczal, including "Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Citi" and almost every banking association that is part of the more accurately named "Electronic Payments Coalition." They have attempted to label this a corporate "civil rights" issue by talking about "discrimination" -- or "retail discrimination," that is.

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CMD Welcomes New Lawyer and Law Fellow

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 21:16

The Center for Media and Democracy is pleased to welcome two new additions to our team fighting against spin and for the truth this summer, Janos Marton and Monica Chang.

Janos graduated magna cum laude from Fordham Law School last year and returned this month from Liberia, where he served in the Office of General Counsel for the Ministry of Health. He previously worked for Norman Siegel, the former Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, on civil rights issues, and he also worked for the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, for the criminal defense clinic, for disaster relief in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and on get-out-the-vote efforts for America Coming Together. Janos earned his Bachelor of Arts in history from Dartmouth College, where he was twice elected president of the student body. This distinguished scholar sought out CMD to aid in our efforts to respond to the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, which expanded corporate "rights."

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Down Under Consumers Leading the Way?

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 20:59

A special report for the Center for Media and Democracy by Glen Frost, Editor of The PR Report: "Class action against banks ensures 'access to justice' says Australian Minister"

According to the organizers, it’s Australia’s largest class action lawsuit: a case of disgruntled bank customers versus the big banks.

Financial Redress, a specialist in recovering compensation from financial institutions for excessive charges or mis-selling, and a subsidiary of litigation funder IMF Australia, is launching a class action against a number of Australian and foreign banks (with operations in Australia) who have allegedly overcharged customers for years.

The fees in question are honour and dishonour fees on overdrawn bank accounts and over-limit and late payment fees on credit cards. Financial Redress refers to these as “exception fees” and alleges that the banks have been charging customers an “unfair” amount. Customers are both individuals and businesses.

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Bank Fight Continues -- Now It's Lincoln v. Obama

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 20:48

Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas)At the end of last week, the U.S. Senate passed a financial reform bill that was far stronger than what had been proposed by the Obama administration and passed by the House. Now it’s time to hold President Obama’s feet to the fire to ensure the strongest possible bill.

Not long after the financial crisis, it was clear that the “solutions” that would emerge from the administration would be weak. With Tim Geithner and Larry Summers in the driver’s seat it was clear that there would be no bold transformative vision, no “New Deal” for the 21st century, but tweaks like a “systemic risk regulator” that would somehow endow failed regulatory bodies with the foresight needed to predict the next crisis and the back bone needed to take decisive action.

The Obama team set such a low bar on structural reform that public interest groups despaired. But a funny thing happened on the path to weak-kneed financial reform: democracy got in the way.

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Defend Derivatives Reform

Wed, 05/19/2010 - 17:11

UPDATE ON THE BANKING FRONT: The only thing with teeth left in the Dodd financial reform bill -- provisions introduced by Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln that would force the biggest banks to spin off their swaps (or derivatives) desks into separate entities -- may be taken out without even getting a vote. It may be stripped out via a Dodd "manager's amendment," which is being created privately in negotiations with Senators. A manager's amendment is a package of numerous individual amendments agreed to by both sides in advance.

Right now is an important moment to call Senator Lincoln's office and tell her to defend her original language to end federal and taxpayer backing for reckless Wall Street gambling. You can reach her office at (202) 224-4843.

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Lincoln, Chief Architect of Massacre?

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 19:29

Guest Blog by Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of "A New Way Forward"

UPDATE: We are winning this one. Our effort to call for a filibuster of any amendment to kill Lincoln's language on structural reform has worked -- Senator Dodd is pulling out his late-night, backroom amendment to kill Lincoln. We're in the home stretch. Please keep calling your senators to call for a filibuster of any amendments that strip Lincoln's language.

Our effort to fight for the only thing with teeth left in the Dodd bill, is going to be taken out without even getting a vote. It's probably going to be stripped via a Dodd manager's amendment, which is being created privately in negotiations with Lincoln, Shelby and likely dozens of bank lobbyists.

Right now is an important moment to call Senator Blanche Lincoln's office and tell her to defend her original language to cut federal support for banks' swap desks. You can reach her office at (202) 224-4843.

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