The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched what it is calling a virtual march on Washington to oppose financial reforms being considered by Congress this week. With relatively few actual Americans willing to take their summer vacation in D.C. to march in favor of the Big Banks whose gambling broke the economy and whose practices have pillaged the financial security of working people, the Chamber has resorted to urging "avatars," or computer representations of people, to march on the virtual capital of the U.S. This so-called march seems a fitting symbol of the emptiness of the whole gambit by the Chamber. With Wall Street lobbyists swarming the capitol and Wall Street spending millions of dollars to thwart the reforms most needed and wanted by actual American people, the Chamber has had to manufacture a people's protest against the reforms, but sans real people. Apparently, they could not even enlist their buddies orchestrating the Tea Party, like former Congressman Dick Armey, or their cashroots allies in astroturf over at the Orwellian-named FreedomWorks, to cajole or even hire stand-in protesters to come to the National Mall to take up pitchforks against financial reforms. But lest all this computer gamesmanship be in vain, the Chamber is taking steps to ensure that Members of Congress know how many of the avatars are their purported constituents -- residents who love the Big Banks enough to send the very best: their idealized computer images.
News Articles By Lisa Graves
The Center for Media and Democracy is pleased to welcome its three newest additions to our team this summer, Ross Wolfarth, Max Abbott, and Sue Izevbigie. These new law fellows all hail from Columbia Law School, one of the very best law schools in the country, and one which has a terrific program to support public interest careers by sponsoring placements in public interest groups like CMD. Please join us in welcoming our newest legal/policy researchers and spin-fighters!
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.
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.
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."
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.
(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.
As 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.
Recently, 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.
In a straight party-line vote, ten people on the Texas "Board of Education" voted Friday to change history textbooks to advance right-wing ideological positions on historical matters (the five members of the other party voted against the measures as a whole). Because Texas is one of the most populous states in the union, the contents that it requires in its history books will affect the quality of historical education students receive in other states. (Hawai'i, for example, lacks the population leverage to push for a laid-back island view of history.) In all, the Board has passed over 100 amendments to the curriculum since the beginning of the year. According to the New York Times, "no historians, sociologists or economists" were consulted during the Board's meetings on these right-wing changes, which were spearheaded by board member and dentist Don McLeroy, who claimed expertise in a host of serious educational matters not involving tooth decay.