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The Right Wing's Next Target: The Greenlining Institute

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 04:34

Last year, right-wing activists masqueraded as a pimp and a prostitute and used a phony storyline and a hidden camera to take down the community group ACORN. ACORN was eventually absolved and the unsavory tactics of the right exposed, but that hasn't stopped the right from moving on to a new target: the Berkeley, California-based Greenlining Institute. Like ACORN, the Greenlining Institute is a progressive organization that advocates for the poor and works for economic justice. It also supports implementation and enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law passed in 1977 to mitigate deteriorating conditions in low and moderate-income neighborhoods by addressing the practice of redlining -- denying credit or insurance to people based on their ethnic background or neighborhood. Groups like ACORN and the Greenlining Institute draw the wrath of wealthy corporate interests because they seek government regulation of lucrative but abusive or harmful business practices.

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Take on the K St. Bank Lobby on Monday!

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 19:15

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

If you're sick of lobbyists and their bought off legislators, come to the next showdown in Washington DC. Next Monday (May17th) at 11:45 AM, it's time we go right after some of the most powerful people in the world -- the bank lobbyists who work on K Street. The campaign for fixing Wall Street has grown tremendously in the past year. It's now or never to show that we, the public, want our big banking problems fixed, not dodged. Meet at 15th and K Street.


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How Much Oil Is Really Spilling into the Gulf of Mexico?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 17:43

Map of Gulf spill on May 8, with fishing closure areaAt first, right after the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore rig exploded on April 20, BP and U.S. government officials reported the underwater well was pumping about 1,000 barrels a day into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A few days later, that figure was challenged by the non-profit group SkyTruth, which uses remote sensing and digital mapping to evaluate environmental issues globally. Ten days later, by April 30, some industry experts said the well could be leaking at a rate of 5,000 barrels daily -- five times the previous estimate, and the one that has been the most widely and persistently used in the media.

Wildly Disparate Estimates

But estimates continue to change. On May 4th, BP executives in a closed-door meeting reportedly told Congress that the well is discharging anywhere from 5,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. At 42 U.S. gallons per barrel, that means the spill could be growing by 210,000 to 2.52 million gallons of oil each day. But how much is that, really?

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Midnight Massacre Pending, Let's Whip our Senators

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 17:00

The good news on the Senate financial reform bill these days is that we have a few provisions worth fighting for. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has introduced one of the most important - a bold section in the Dodd bank reform bill (Section 716, colloquially known as 106) that will force the biggest banks to spin off their swaps (or derivatives) desks into a separate entity. That entity will be regulated and can remain part of the bank holding company, but it no longer has access to the Federal Reserve's flow of funds, FDIC insurance and the taxpayer guarantee. Supporters include legendary economists and public policy experts such as Robert Reich, Joseph Stiglitz, Nouriel Roubini, and Michael Greenberger.

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NPR Erases Domestic Terrorism

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 21:05

National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a story on May 9 by Dina Temple-Raston titled Terrorism in the U.S. Takes on a U.K. Pattern that started out with the following flawed premise:

"For years, the U.S. seemed largely immune to homegrown terrorism, but experts think the recent attack [in Times Square] is more proof that has changed."

Raston then proceeded to discuss "home grown terrorists" only in the context of Pakistani-Americans, Afghan-Americans, South Asian Americans and others originally from outside the country who became citizens and then somehow became "radicalized."

The story completely ignored the fact that the United States has a long history of domestic terrorism committed by home-grown, home-radicalized terrorists.

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A Victory for the People!

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 20:20

Today a right-left coalition scored a victory for the American people when Senators voted 96-0 to audit the Federal Reserve.

The Center for Media and Democracy’s Wall Street Bailout Tally shows that since 2008, the U.S. government has flooded Wall Street banks and financial institutions with $4.7 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, mostly in the form of loans from the Federal Reserve. The Fed has never told us which firms got these loans and what type of collateral American taxpayers got in return. This will now be revealed. We will also get an accounting of the Fed’s “stealth” bailout of Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac.

It is important to note that in November 2008, Bloomberg News submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the most basic of bailout information, but the Fed stalled forcing Bloomberg into court. Two sets of judges have ordered the Fed to turn over the information, but the Fed keeps stonewalling, appealing the case again last week. The Senate bill now forces the Fed to turn over this critical information. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pulled together a right-left coalition that got the job done.

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Dylan Ratigan Coins the Phrase "Bankster Party"

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 19:52

Dylan Ratigan (MSNBC) is the host of the only honest business show on cable. He doesn't spend his day talking only about the ups and the downs of the stock market and encouraging people to "buy, buy, buy!" Instead, Ratigan covers real issues, like how the financial crisis is affecting average Americans, and what the chances are for real reform in Congress.

This week Ratigan went ballistic after the Brown-Kaufman amendment to cap the size of the biggest banks was voted down in the Senate. He created a new term for those who voted against it: the "Bankster Party." In the process, he gave us a target list of Senators who need to be convinced of the need for meaningful structural reform of the banking system. Ratigan's site currently links to BanksterUSA and also CMD's Total Wall Street Bailout Cost table.

Below are excerpts from his great article on Huffington Post. You can also check out the video by clicking here.

Is Your Senator a Bankster?

by Dylan Ratigan

What we have now is a group of politicians with shifting alliances on a case-by-case basis to the special interests who fund them. And currently, the most damaging one to our nation is the rise of the Bankster Party. Thankfully, we can now better identify its members.

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What If BP Was a Human Being?

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 06:47

(Publisher's Note: The Center for Media and Democracy is strongly supporting efforts to redress the Supreme Court's terrible decision in the Citizens United case through laying the foundation to amend the U.S. Constitution. We will be sending out an update of CMD's work in coalition efforts on this critical issue later this month. In the meantime, we have obtained permission to re-print this provocative editorial commentary on Corporate rights and British Petroleum's role in the devastating oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, by fellow amendment proponent Bruce Dixon. -- Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy)

What If BP Was A Human Being? By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The third largest oil company in the world, BP was born in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and was partly owned by the British government. Its headquarters offices are in the UK.. So if it were a flesh and blood person, it would be far and away the wealthiest person on earth, and a nominal British subject. Assuming that our imaginary human BP got into the oil business at the youthful age of say, 20, and stayed at it for just over a century, BP the human being would be closing in on his 121st birthday. Damned few of us will see triple digits, and none of us that reach even our 60s and 70s retain the level of energy, or often of interest that we possessed only a couple decades before. A normal 120 year-old human will have more than a few ailments and bodily systems on the brink of failure. But not our human BP. If BP were a person, it would be immensely, almost inconceivably wealthy AND perhaps immortal.

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An Insider's View of the Spin about Elena Kagan, President Obama's Supreme Court Choice

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 05:01

Elena KaganAs soon as I heard that Elena Kagan was President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court's latest open seat, I knew the first criticism of opponents would be that she "lacked judicial experience." That does not make her unqualified for this role, given her exceptionally distinguished career as a lawyer and policymaker. It does, however, reveal the deeply disingenuous games Republicans are playing with the U.S. judicial system. I want to tell you how that is so, based on my prior experience as the lead attorney on the Justice Department Working Group on Judicial Nominations and as the former Chief Counsel for Nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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SourceWatch Preserves History Unwritten by the Family Research Council

Tue, 05/11/2010 - 04:14

Dr. George Rekers of Family Research CouncilRecently, SourceWatch helped preserve history when the Family Research Council (FRC) deleted one of its co-founders from its website after he was caught in an embarrassing scandal. The FRC was co-founded by James Dobson and George Rekers, and the organization attempts to inject what it considers to be evangelical Christian values into the public debate. Most recently, as noted in SourceWatch, the FRC held a "prayercast" against health insurance reform in which Dobson publicly prayed that his savior would "frustrate the plans of the Evil One and revive us again with conviction and forgiveness,” referring to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

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It’s Time for the Big Banks to Spin Off their Craps Tables

Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:48

Last week’s “flash crash,” which sent stocks plummeting 1,000 points in an afternoon, was just the latest indicator that the U.S. financial system is still spinning out of control and desperately in need of new rules.

Wagering On Angelina Jolie

When I visit London, I can drop into a corner kiosk and bet on anything I want. I can put down a million dollars on whether or not Angelina Jolie’s next baby will be a boy or a girl, but these bets are regulated for what they are -- gambling. In America, the big banks can spend billions in a far more destructive type of speculation, but this speculation in the so-called “swaps” or derivatives market is completely unregulated.

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New York Times Nails the Big Financial Reform Issues

Wed, 05/05/2010 - 20:33

A lead editorial by the New York Times on May 5, 2010 parallels arguments made by the Center for Media and Democracy's "Real Economy Project" and publishers of BanksterUSA on the necessity of shrinking the "Too Big to Fail" firms and cracking down on the gambling in the derivatives market. True leadership in the aftermath of Wall Street's reckless disregard for our country's economic future requires tough reforms, not watered-down compromises in the name of "bipartisanship." With all the misinformation out there about who is really on the side of the American people and who is in the pocket of the Big Banks, now is the time for clarity, not for the sake of political expediency, but because the flawed de-regulation and market-knows-best policies of the recent past must be put in check for the health of our economic opportunities and for our nation's future prosperity.

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Critical Week for Financial Reform!

Wed, 05/05/2010 - 17:24

The financial reform bill is now on the Senate floor. The bad news is that Senate leadership has not yet decided if critical amendments will see a vote. For instance, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware) have not been assured of a vote on their amendment to cap the size of "too big to fail" banks. Is this a democracy or a dictatorship? Senators should be allowed a debate on their measures followed by a vote. Send a message to Congress at Also Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has not yet seen a vote yet on his simple amendment to audit the Federal Reserve. If you have not taken action yet, send a letter to the Senate by clicking here.

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BP's "Beyond Petroleum" Campaign Losing its Sheen

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 19:31

Back in July, 2000, British Petroleum launched a high-profile, $200 million public relations ad campaign designed by Ogilvy & Mather to position the company as environmentally-friendly. The company introduced a new slogan, "Beyond Petroleum," and changed its 70 year-old logo to a new, cheerful green and yellow sunburst. To many, the "Beyond Petroleum" campaign has always been ludicrous. After all, not only did it pitch BP's smallest energy sector while ignoring its major one, but BP's investment in extractive oil operations dwarfed its investment in renewable energy. BP spent a mere $45 million in 1999 to buy a solar energy company called Solarex -- a microscopic acquisition compared to the $26.5 billion it invested to buy ARCO to expand its oil drilling portfolio. BP is also the company behind the environmentally controversial (and some would say disastrous) oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. Now, in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP's greenwashing campaign looks even less slick. The company's hypocrisy and greenwashing have risen to the surface, and are spreading uncontrollably.

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Blanche Lincoln Rambos Wall Street

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 14:37

The financial services reform bill is on the Senate floor this week. The recently announced criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs, the bumbling testimony of Goldman's "Fabulous Fab" and the rocking Wall Street protest last Thursday show that momentum is with reformers.

This bill could codify the "doom loop" of a "boom and bail" economy or it could set us on the path to a more sustainable future. The good news is that a group of Senators has stepped forward to champion a critical set of issues worth getting excited about. Send a message to your Senator in support of these "too big to fail" amendments at

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A Firing Squad Execution, and Utah Worries About Tourism?

Thu, 04/29/2010 - 16:36

Utah death-row inmate, Ronnie Lee Gardner, selected the firing squad as his method of execution, and the Salt Lake Tribune has responded by highlighting how this event may impact Utah tourism at large. Given the highly contentious nature of use a firing squad in the first place, one would expect the coverage of this news to focus more on the barbaric nature of this practice.

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Why Facts No Longer Matter

Wed, 04/28/2010 - 19:04

A recent PRWatch blog discussed how corporations are increasingly turning to cause marketing to get around people's ability to tune out their daily deluge of advertising. Cause marketing, or "affinity marketing," is a sophisticated public relations strategy in which a corporation allies itself with a cause that evokes strong emotions in targeted consumers, like curing cancer, alleviating poverty, feeding the hungry, helping the environment or saving helpless animals. The relationship avails the company of a more effective way to grab the attention of their audience, by telling them compelling stories linked to the cause, for example tales of survival, loss, strength, good works, etc. Once the company gets your attention, it links its name and brands to the positive emotions generates by the cause. The company then leverages that emotion to get you to buy the stuff they've linked to the cause -- and improve its corporate image.

Cause marketing works, which is why its use is spreading like wildfire. The operative word that the whole idea turns on is "emotion," because the ability to manipulate people depends completely on generating an emotional connection that the company can exploit.

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Showtime for Bank Reform in the Senate

Wed, 04/28/2010 - 17:03

Sign the petition at BanksterUSA.

A financial services reform bill passed the House in December. Now the action moves to the Senate. The Republicans (and one Democrat) are currently obstructing a vote to debate the bill, but few think their resistance will last in the face of public outrage about bailouts, bonuses and other Bankster shenanigans.

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Will the Fabulous Fab Push the Bank Reform Bill Over the Top?

Wed, 04/28/2010 - 16:04

On Monday night, Senate Republicans lined up like lemurs and voted “no” on a motion to bring the Senate bank reform bill to the floor for a debate. Forty Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Kansas), stood shoulder to shoulder with 1,500 bank lobbyists and said “no” to Wall Street financial reform. (Evidently, Nelson was displeased that his friend Warren Buffett did not get special treatment in the bill.)

Before gloom sets in, it is worth noting that on Tuesday, all eyes will be on the “Fabulous Fab,” the Goldman Sachs trader at the heart of the SEC’s recent charges against the firm. Some of us are rooting for the Fab, hoping that his testimony will put financial reform back on the floor and put us on the path to reform.

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Larry Summers: “Mistakes Were Made,” But Not By Me

Tue, 04/27/2010 - 17:30

Larry Summers, President Obama's Chief Economic Adviser President Obama’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, was interviewed on PBS late last week about the state of play on financial reform. In an odd, shifty-eyed discussion, Summers admits “mistakes were made,” but none by him.

Maybe Summers felt compelled to defend himself after President Clinton recently admitted to ABC reporter Jake Tapper that he should not have listened to the advice to deregulate the derivatives market from Summers, Robert Rubin and others. Clinton admitted: "On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency."

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