There’s nothing courageous about it

For days, I’ve been reading in the press about the “courage” of a Republican budget proposal that abolishes Medicare to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and slashes investments in energy, education, and infrastructure.

On Wednesday, I heard President Obama say exactly what I’ve been thinking: There’s nothing courageous about it.

The Republicans are pledging to cut investments to clean energy by 70 percent, education by 25 percent, and transportation by 30 percent. Their plan would see as many as 50 million people lose their health insurance in order to reduce the deficit. Instead of creating jobs, they want to create $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.

That’s not a brave vision for the future. It’s a rejection of the idea that there are brighter days ahead.

Today, the House of Representatives will meet to vote on the GOP budget proposal, and if they insist on pushing this plan forward — if they can’t come together with the President to find common ground — we’ll make sure their constituents know about it. If they choose to try to privatize Medicare, we will put ads on the air and organizers on the ground, and we’ll talk about this vote over and over again. We’ll make this stick.

But we need your help to do it.

This week, President Obama offered a path forward that I believe in: $4 trillion in deficit reduction; responsible investments to improve our schools, fix crumbling roads, and develop clean energy; and a total rejection of the notion that spending cuts must come on the backs of seniors and poor children.

He laid out a vision where we all make sacrifices, but none of us is left to bear the burden alone. And he offered a forceful, unapologetic response to those who don’t believe in the responsibility we all share to move our country forward together.

This isn’t just about this week’s vote or the latest shiny object to capture the attention of Washington for a news cycle or two. This is about the very future of this country and the direction we take.

We know that because the Republican plan hasn’t just been adopted by a few ideologues in Congress — it’s been embraced by the candidates who want to take President Obama’s job.

If we want to win this fight about the direction our country takes, then we must start now — as Congress considers the GOP proposal.

Can you chip in?



Patrick Gaspard

Executive Director

Democratic National Committee

Rememberin​g my sister by Omar Samaha,

Four years ago this week, my younger sister Reema was murdered during her freshman year at Virginia Tech.

Reema was a star student with a 4.0 GPA. She loved being with friends and family and spent her free time with different groups on campus including the Contemporary Dance Ensemble.

Four years have passed since she was murdered, and sadly, the laws that allowed it to happen haven’t changed much.

The fact remains that Reema’s killer never should have been able to buy a gun. The federal background check system should have prevented him from getting his hands on one, but his mental health records hadn’t been entered into the database. So, like many other dangerous people, my sister’s killer was able to slip through a flaw in our gun laws, pass two background checks, and buy two guns which he later used to kill my sister and 31 other innocent students and faculty members.

The saddest part is that the solution to this problem isn’t complicated. There’s already common-sense legislation in the U.S. Senate to Fix Gun Checks by closing loopholes in the system and requiring background checks for all gun purchases.

I’ve been driving across the country since February to raise awareness of this legislation and the 34 people — the equivalent of the Virginia Tech Massacre — who are murdered with guns every day in America.

Our National Drive to Fix Gun Checks has been to dozens of states, and it’s deeply moving to see how many people have come out to participate in our events. Not just gun violence survivors and family members, but also elected officials and ordinary people who support our effort. Together, we’re calling on our leaders in Washington to fix our flawed national background check system.

I recently talked to survivors of the violent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, and their pain is so similar to what my family has been dealing with for the past four years.

It’s clear to me that the way I can send a real message to our leaders is to continue growing support to Fix Gun Checks. Every person who signs our petition and every supporter who shows up at an event brings us closer to closing the loopholes that let dangerous people get guns.

You can strengthen our movement by taking a minute to watch this brief video about the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks and sharing it with your friends and family.

Thank you for your support,


P.S. – You can get updates on the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks by following us on Facebook.

Fair Elections: Block The Vote

Since taking office in January, conservative legislators in state houses across the country have raised the specter of voter fraud to quietly — and quickly — push through a series of bills that would make it significantly more difficult for large swaths of the population to vote, including college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled, and the homeless. Proposed legislation would dramatically change how the country votes ahead of the 2012 elections, requiring Americans in some states to present their birth certificate before registering to vote and show a DMV-issued photo identification at the polls. These voter ID bills would not only dampen voter turnout — depressing Hispanic turnout by as much as 10 percent — but also cost cash-strapped statehouses (and taxpayers) millions of dollars. Yet in dozens of states, Republicans have made bills restricting voting a central part of their legislative agenda — passing voter ID bills before they even begin to work on budgets. Conservatives have claimed their assault on voting rights is necessary to combat the threat of mass voter fraud. Yet the Brennan Center for Justice notes that voters are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud, and the Bush Justice Department’s five-year “War on Voter Fraud” resulted in only 86 convictions out of 196 million votes cast. As The Progress Report’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes, “The only fraud in voter fraud is the allegation of fraud.” Instead, like their assaults on unions, Planned Parenthood, and AARP, conservatives’ anti-voter agenda is aimed at silencing the voices of those who disagree with them.

ASSAULT ON VOTING RIGHTS: After picking up more than 650 seats in state legislatures across the country last November, Republicans have moved quickly to make their anti-voter agenda into law. Kansas has already passed a bill requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. If signed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R), it would be the nation’s strictest registration requirement. Similar laws in Arizona and Georgia have been invalidated by federal courts or are waiting review from the Justice Department. Texas and Ohio are now in competition to be the first to pass the most restrictive voting rights legislation in the country. Both state Houses have already approved bills that could disenfranchise more than 12 percent of the electorate . And in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Montana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri, at least one legislative chamber has approved a photo ID bill. By the end of the year, these states could join eight others that have already passed and implemented voter ID requirements. They’ve been able to move so quickly with the help of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which has distributed “model” voter ID legislation to conservative lawmakers that bears a striking similarity to bills in at least two states. But conservatives may come to regret passing the laws they now so eagerly support. In Indiana for example, photo ID laws have forced election workers to turn nuns and college students away from the polls. And voters may not be very happy to bear the cost of implementing new voter systems. As the Brennan Center notes, “in a difficult fiscal environment, citizens may reasonably question whether there are more pressing needs on which to spend their tax dollars than photo ID rules.”

THE NEXT FRONTIER: Last month, conservatives were on the verge of passing voter ID bills in at least two dozen statehouses. But in the past few weeks, progressive lawmakers and organizations have fought back, killing bills in seven states. And progressives are not just playing defense. In four states, lawmakers are moving forward on what The Progress Report’s Scott Keyes has called “the next frontier in voting rights”: online voter registration. Already implemented in eleven states, electronic registration is not only cost-effective but has, according to t he Pew Research Center, increased “voter list accuracy, streamlined the process for government officials, and enjoyed overwhelming public support.” But most importantly, online registration has a track record of raising voter turnout, especially among younger voters, compared to those who registered using “traditional methods.” While conservative statehouses across the nation work to make voting more expensive and more difficult, progressives have found “a welcome reform” that will make the country’s voting system more accountable, more cost-effective, and more inclusive.

FROM JIM CROW TO THE TEA PARTY: Today’s battles over voting rights are just the latest episode in the right’s long campaign to restrict voting rights. For more than a century, conservatives have ginned up the threat of voter fraud to restrict the voting rights of minorities and the poor. In the Jim Crow South, historian Leon Litwack notes, “respectable” Southern whites justified their support for poll taxes and literacy taxes — which disenfranchised millions of African-Americans — “as a way to reform and purify the electoral process, to root out fraud and bribery.” Since 1958 both the RNC and state GOP committees have en gaged in more than half a dozen “voter caging” efforts supposedly designed to “prevent voter fraud” by challenging the residency, and voter eligibility, of thousands living in low-income and minority communities. Most recently, during the lead-up to the 2010 election, the Koch-funded front group Americans for Prosperity planned a soph isticated voter caging campaign that would have used GOP lawyers and Tea Party volunteers to challenge the eligibility of voters at the polls in an effort to stop “voter fraud” and prevent “stolen elections.” And in 2006, U.S. Attorneys David Iglesias and Tom Heffelfinger lost their jobs after they ran afoul of GOP activists for refusing to prosecute voting fraud cases where little evidence existed and expressing “deep concerns” about laws curbing Native Americans ability to vote.

Girl Scout Cookies

Yes, we love Girl Scout cookies. They support the important work of the Girl Scouts, and they’re ridiculously tasty.

Here’s the problem: Almost every type of Girl Scout cookie contains palm oil, which is commonly harvested through the clearing and burning of irreplaceable tropical rainforests.

This method harms the global ecosytem, endangers local indigenous populations, and threatens the survival of orangutans, humankind’s closest relative.

It would be easy to change — Girl Guides, an equivalent organization in the United Kingdom, recently eliminated palm oil from its cookies and has even offered Girl Scouts USA help to do the same.

Girl Scouts Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, both 15-year-olds from Michigan are urging Girl Scouts USA to make the switch. Click here to add your name to their petition.

Five years ago, while doing research for a Girl Scouts Bronze Award, Madison and Rhiannon were horrified to learn that the cookies they sold contributed to this serious global problem. The two girls have written letters and made presentations to Girl Scouts USA, and even launched something called Project ORANGS (Orangutans Really Need and Appreciate Girl Scouts).

These girls are the embodiment of the Girl Scouts’ mission to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” But instead of becoming poster children for the organization, Girl Scouts USA is still giving their campaign the run-around.

Madison and Rhiannon need our support. They’ve launched a campaign on with the help of the Rainforest Action Network. Please sign their petition today:

Thanks for taking action,

– Judith and the team

Thank Your Senator for Protecting Public Health

The Clean Air Act has a 40-year track record of using sound science to save lives, protect human health, and safeguard our environment. In 2010 alone it prevented an estimated 160,000 premature deaths and delivered net benefits of $1.2 trillion. And yet, certain senators are working to undermine the Clean Air Act by preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from reducing dangerous global warming emissions.

Last week, senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Rockefeller (D-WV), and Max Baucus (D-MT) all proposed amendments to an unrelated small business bill that would have prevented the EPA from protecting us from dangerous climate change. The most egregious of these anti-climate amendments went so far as to reject the EPA’s science-based finding that global warming emissions threaten public health and welfare. Others included provisions to delay or obstruct EPA action.

Fortunately, your senator opposed these amendments, all of which were ultimately defeated. But similar attacks on the Clean Air Act are sure to continue.

Please help ensure that the Clean Air Act continues to save lives and money by thanking your senator today for voting against these attacks on science and public health.

Take Action Today!


Kate Abend

National Field Organizer

UCS Climate and Energy Program