Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UPDATE: Service Act Passes in Senate!

We recently blogged about the House’s passage of the GIVE Act, designed to provide educational grants as incentives to take part in public service.

Great news! Last week, the Senate passed similar legislation – the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act – which reinforces many of the key aspects of the GIVE Act. The bill expands service opportunities to 250,000 per year, motivates young people through educational grants, provides better service opportunities for seniors and Boomers and establishes a “Social Innovation Fund” to identify and grow organizations working to solve tough problems on a community level. Another key aspect of the Serve Act is that it designates 9/11 as a National Day of Service.

This bill is expected to easily pass the House and Barack Obama will be able to sign the measure as early as this week! However, as Obama notes,

“Our work is not finished when I sign this bill into law – it has just begun. While our government can provide every opportunity imaginable for us to serve our communities, it is up to each of us to sieze those opportunities.”

What will you do to give back to your community? Leave a comment!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Google Mapping Our Economic Recovery!

On February 17, 2008, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in a new effort to jumpstart our economy. As I write this blogpost, funds from the Recovery Act are being allocated in districts across the country to modernize our nation’s infrastructre, enhance our energy independence, expand educational opportunities, improve healthcare, provide tax relief and help Americans in need. 

All of that sounds great, but how are these funds directly affecting the American people? 

In an effort to answer that question, Representative Doris Matsui of Sacramento released a Google Map last week that details exactly where this funding is being allocated in her district. According to Matsui, “Transparency and accountability have been key components of the economic recovery bill." And how better to achieve these components than Web 2.0 technology?

Click here to check out the map. 

Curious where are funds going in your district? Email your Congressperson and ask that they put this information online like Representative Matsui!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Secretary of Labor

Name: Hilda L. Solis
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Current City: Washington, D.C.
Job at time of Appointment: served in the United States House of Representatives for CA
Age: 51

Solis was raised in California by immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico. She earned degrees from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and the University of Southern California and worked for two federal agencies in Washington D.C. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the State Senate, and was re-elected there in 1998. She is known for her work toward environmental justice and recieved the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000. She is the first Hispanic woman to serve as secretary in the U.S. cabinet.

Friday, March 20, 2009

School of Hard Knocks

A word from our Executive Director, Marc Morgenstern

I went to a college whose anthem blissfully toasted “Bright college years with pleasures rife, the shortest gladdest years of life.” I imagine these words coming out of the upturned mouths of letter-sweatered undergrads, all male of course, whose biggest concern was the ratio of vodka to vermouth in their post-game martini. After all, post-grad jobs were easy to pluck.

Those days seem quaint now. These bright college years have lost much of their wattage to chronic worry. And the loudest refrain, at least from the college students I know, is: how do I make a living in the worst economic crisis in eighty years?

So, with glasses held high we toast the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act this week. Forgive the tortured acronym because GIVE, like a similar Senate bill, provides higher education grants to students who participate in community service projects.

This effort not only triples federally-supported volunteer activities, according to our friends at Mobilize.org who were instrumental in pushing the bill, it answers the other question on collegiate lips: how can I afford to do good in this economy? All the calls for national service are as hollow as an empty glass if young people can only volunteer on 
their parents’ dole.

According to the latest federal stats, 15.5 percent of young people ages 16-24 are unemployed, way behind the rest of the nation's workforce. Education grants are great. But the “gladdest” legislative solution is creating real jobs that combine the urge to serve with a passable payday.

Secretary of Energy

Name: Steven Chu
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Current City: Washington, D.C.
Job at time of Appointment: professor at the University of California, Berkeley and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Age: 61

The Secretary of Energy position was one of the most anticipated choices of the Obama Cabinet. In recent years, the boundaries of the job description have slowly blended with other cabinet positions. With the success of the Green Jobs movement, the Energy Secretary will have to focus more on jobs and labor. Our relationships with oil producing countries overseas have given the position an international flavor, and in the coming years the Secretary of Energy will have to focus much more on National Security and foreign relations. As America becomes a greener country, the Secretary of Energy will become an important voice within the Cabinet.

Steven Chu attended Berkeley and later became a professor of physics at Stanford University in 1987. Chu comes from a family of scholars; his father earned an advanced chemical engineering degree at MIT while his maternal grandfather earned advanced civil engineering degrees at Cornell University.As a scientist, Chu is known for his research in cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. He is a vocal advocate for more research into alternative energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combat global warming.

Friday, March 13, 2009

John McCain Agrees to a "Twitterview"

During the 2008 campaign, the media often gave John McCain a hard time for not knowing how to check his email and many critics felt he was out of touch with the internet generation. At one point, McCain even admitted

“I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon... I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.” 

Now, John McCain is taking strides to combat his old image... and where better to start than Twitter?

On Tuesday March 17, at 12PM, George Stephanopolous will conduct a fifteen minute "twitterview" with John McCain! The fun part: since the interview will be conducted entirely through Twitter's microblogging platform, they’ll have to limit their questions and answers to 140 characters each.

Got a question you want to ask @JohnMcCain? Tweet your proposed question to @GStephanopolous right now! Then tune in to Twitter on Tuesday to see if your question makes the cut!

Secretary of the Treasury

Name: Timothy F. Geithner
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Current City: Washington D.C.
Job at time of appointment: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Age: 47

Before his nomination to the Treasury, Secretary Geithner served as the ninth president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he began on November 17, 2003. He served as the vice chairman and a permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the group responsible for preparing the nation's fiscal policy. Geithner's nomination came under scrutiny due to his failure to pay more than $30,000 in overdue taxes.

Geithner ultimately received Senate confirmation, but he was condemned for not following the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, which is a child agency of the Treasury Department he now oversees.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not Good Enough!

24 million young people voted in the 2008 Presidential Election, but registration problems stopped millions more before they could get into the voting booth. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) began hearings March 11th on how to fix problems that hit 18-29 year olds especially hard. 

Calling voter registration "the life blood of our republic," Schumer opened arguments with an impassioned plea to address the voter registration problems that our last election made plain:
"In the 21st century people shouldn't be denied their constitutional right to vote because of problems caused by an antiquated voter registration system that was set up in the 19th century by the Whig Party."
The time has come to modernize our voter registration system.

Use our Gov It widget to tell Schumer and your congressman that we need new laws to protect our fundamental right to vote. Next year’s critical Congressional election will be here before we know it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Extra! Extra! Check Out the Latest Headlines at the Newseum!

Last year, I helped my grandma move. Going through her garage, I happened upon a stack of old newspapers she’d kept in honor of important dates in history: the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the first moon landing, the election of Ronald Reagan.

Since 2003, The Newseum in Washington has been doing the same thing – only on a broader scale. Every day, the Newseum features hundreds of front pages from newspapers around the world. Today, for example, they feature 748 newspapers’ front pages from 69 countries! Check out their amazing tool that maps daily newspaper front pages by city and state:

Visit the NEWSEUM site to play around with this great tool.

Also, if you’ve got a nostalgic streak, you can peruse their Archives section which features important headlines dating back to 2003 (when they first started building this archive). In an age of globalization, where news travels quickly, it’s refreshing to see that newspapers can still thrive on a local level.

Personally, as a member of the Millennial generation, I must confess that I do read most of my news online. But on occasion, I still find myself drawn to the newsstand, laying down my fifty cents for a published, printed record of the life-changing events that define my era.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Attorney General

Name: Eric Holder

Hometown: Bronx, New York
Current City: Washington, D.C.
Job at time of Appointment: Senior Legal Advisor to Barack Obama during his presidential campaign
Age: 58

In 1988, Eric Holder was appointed judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by President Ronald Reagan. In 1993 he stepped down and accepted an appointment by Bill Clinton to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Holder remained there until his promotion to Deputy Attorney General in 1997. In late 2007, Holder joined Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign as a senior legal advisor and also served on Obama's Vice Presidential Committee.

Holder recently came under fire for his remarks to the Department of Justice on race in America. As the first African-American to hold the position of attorney general, Holder is in an unique position to speak to this issue. Check out this video of his remarks:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsfree video player

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pappas v. Faar: The Case for Automatic Voter Registration

It's been exactly four months since Election Day and some counties are still dealing with the aftermath of recounts, registration issues, and challenged ballots!

In the Santa Barbara County Supervisor race, a trial has been raging between the incumbent, Steve Pappas, and his challenger, Doreen Farr. In November, Farr won the election by 806 votes. After a recount, ordered by Pappas in December, one vote was switched to Pappas’ favor. Pappas contested the outcome, citing forgery and illegal registrations – most of which, he contends, occurred in the UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista areas.

9,000 votes specifically from the UC Santa Barbara campus have been challenged. Due to exponential growth of voter registration efforts on the UCSB college campus, Pappas believes that registration fraud – and ultimately, voter fraud, has occurred. Pappas’ attorneys claim that (allegedly) incomplete and late voter registration forms should not be processed, and correspondingly, those votes should not be counted.

The voter fraud trial between Pappas and Faar is currently on hold, but when proceedings resume on March 11th, Pappas’ attorney is expected to call witnesses who participated in voter registration drives on the UCSB campus. With the echoes of these registration issues still reverberating throughout the local and national news, Americans must look for a way to modernize the system. The time has come for Automatic Voter Registration!

America relies on one of the most outdated systems of voter registration in the world. Wouldn’t life be easier if every American were automatically registered at the age of eighteen? This way, organizations like Declare Yourself could focus less on registering and more on getting out the vote! Also, elected officials like Pappas and Farr could spend less time tied up in court and more time legislating on issues that matter most to Americans!

Visit the Declare Yourself website to talk back to your officials and write a letter to your Secretary of State. Ensure the validity of your vote – and the votes of Americans across the country – by demanding Automatic Voter Registration!