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Sites that help make our democracy flourish

ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -
ACORN was the nation's largest community organization of low and moderate-income families, with over 150,000 member families organized into 800 neighborhood chapters in 65 cities across the country. ACORN advocated: better housing for first time home buyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. The organization used to be 80% self-sufficient, deriving its funds primarily from members' dues, raffles, ad sales, dinners, and other events.

Unfortunately, they are no longer providing essential services to the underprivledged. In 2009, selectively edited videos were released by two conservative activists using a hidden camera to elicit damaging responses from low-level ACORN employees that appeared to advise them how to hide prostitution activities and avoid taxes. This created a nationwide controversy resulting in a loss of funding from government and private donors. On November 2, 2010, ACORN filed for Chapter 7 liquidation, effectively closing the organization.

post-script: Read the story on how they were shut down.

Alliance for Democracy -
THE ALLIANCE is a new Populist movement --- not a political party --- setting forth to end the domination of our economy, our government, our culture, our media and the environment by large corporations. They have a terrific quarterly newsletter for free in .pdf form that you can download from their website, too.

AlterNet -
With over 1.5 million readers every month, AlterNet has grown dramatically since its inception in 1998 to become an internet information source that provides readers with crucial facts and passionate opinions they can't find anywhere else.

Americans For The Arts -
As their website exclaims: A Little Art is Not Enough!
"There's not enough art in our schools or in our children's lives. But ask almost any parent, and they'll say that arts education is very important to their child's well being. Which makes it so surprising that the arts have been allowed to virtually disappear from our children's learning experiences."

They ask further: Why Ask For More?
"The arts are much more than just fun "extra" activities for kids. Participation in the arts opens up children's worlds and minds, and offers them the skills they need for a bright future. And chances are, your kids are not getting enough art, in or out of school."

And if enriching our lives through a vibrant culture isn't enough reason to support the arts, the following stats should convince you to give often and give generously to support the arts in this country:
"America's nonprofit arts industry generates $134 billion in economic activity every year, including $24.4 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues. The $134 billion total includes $53.2 billion in spending by arts organizations and $80.8 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences."

Support the arts and visit their website!

American Civil Liberties Union -
Majority power is limited by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which consists of the original ten amendments ratified in 1791, plus the three post-Civil War amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) and the Nineteenth Amendment (women’s suffrage), adopted in 1920. The ACLU is devoted to preserving all of these protections and plays an essential role in our democracy.

Black Box Voting.org - Created by Bev Harris, this website is devoted to tracking the problems of the paperless electronic voting system and the subsequent risks posed to the sanctity of our democracy. Both a forum for discussion and a platform of facts, Ms. Harris "spent over two thousand hours researching voting machines, and interviewed dozens of witnesses including many election officials and even voting machine programmers who work directly for the firms that build these machines."

Book TV C-Span 2 - Each weekend, Book TV features 48 hours of nonfiction books from 8am Saturday to 8am Monday. This web site will enhance information on those books, provide an opportunity to watch or listen to programs you might have missed, and provide additional information not available on the network. Always a great line-up of leaders and thinkers!

Building Bridges Radio - A weekly radio show on WBAI in New York City, this program highlights issues in the workers movement and labor sector. They examine the issues that affect workers' everyday lives, with a particular sensitivity towards human rights abuses, environmental concerns, and the U.S. drive for global domination.

Center For Public Integrity - The Center's books, studies and newsletters combine political science and investigative reporting, unfettered by the usual time and space constraints. Through its hard-earned reputation for "public service journalism," the Center aims to produce high-quality, well-documented, investigative research resulting in a better-informed citizenry that demands a higher level of accountability from its government and elected leaders.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) - CSPI is a consumer advocacy organization whose twin missions are to conduct innovative research and advocacy programs in health and nutrition, and to provide consumers with current, useful information about their health and well-being. This organization is completely supported by subscribers of their monthly newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter, the largest-circulation health newsletter in North America. At $10 for the entire year, it's a bargain, too!

Center for Voting and Democracy - This organization is devoted to putting the power back in the people's hands through various changes in our voting system, the most important being Full Representation or Proportional Representation. Visit this site for the argument against our Winner-Take-All system of voting.

Democracy Now! - For true democracy to work, people need easy access to independent, diverse sources of news and information. Democracy Now! is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 140 stations in North America. Funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, and foundations, this organization does not accept advertisers, donations from corporations, or donations from governments. When our media landscape has gone from some fifty media conglomerates dominating all media outlets in the 1980's (including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music, publishing and film) to just six corporations dominating our means of expression today, it's more than just refreshing to hear another point of view at Democracy Now! - it's essential.

Demos - A Network for Ideas & Action is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization committed to building an America that achieves its highest democratic ideals. They focus on four areas: 1) Democracy Reform, 2) Expanding Economic Opportunity, 3) Restoring Trust In A Government By-and-For The People, and 4) Promoting New Ideas in the Public Debate

Drum Major Institute - Originally called The Drum Major Foundation, Drum Major Institute was founded by Harry Wachtel, lawyer and advisor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the turbulent years of the civil rights movement. Relaunched in 1999 by New York attorney Bill Wachtel, Harry’s son, and Martin Luther King III, DMI is committed to adding a rigorous progressive voice to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

"If you want to say that I was a drum major,
say that I was a drum major for justice,
say that I was a drum major for peace,
say that I was a drum major for righteousness,
and all of the other shallow things will not matter...
I just want to leave a committed life behind."
         --- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church, 2/4/68

FairVote.org - FairVote pursues an innovative, solution-oriented pro-democracy agenda: a constitutionally protected right to vote, direct election of the president, instant runoff voting for executive elections and proportional voting for legislative elections.

Frontline - Since January 1983, FRONTLINE has served as American public television's - PBS - flagship public affairs series. Hailed upon its television broadcast debut as "the last best hope for broadcast documentaries," FRONTLINE's stature over 20 seasons is reaffirmed each week through incisive documentaries covering the scope and complexity of the human experience. They post each show, where you can watch it in its entirety, and have additional information not shown on TV. An incredibly comprehensive site, this institution is indeed "television's last fully serious bastion of journalism" (newsday).

The Green Party - Ecology, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Nonviolence - the mantra of the Greenies. Go to their website and learn all about the movement that Ralph Nader led - until he abandoned them for his own narcissistic motives.

IntelligenceSquared - Based on the highly successful debate program based in London, Intelligence Squared, Intelligence Squared U.S. has presented 39 debates on a wide range of provocative and timely topics. From global warming and the financial crisis, to Afghanistan/Pakistan and the death of mainstream media, Intelligence Squared brings together the world’s leading authorities o n the day’s most important issues.

JustForeignPolicy.org - is an independent and non-partisan mass-membership organization dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy to serve the interests and reflect the values of the broad majority of Americans, rather than those of special interests both inside and outside of government.

Move To Amend - Formed in September 2009, Move to Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.

They are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.

The National Security Archive at The George Washington University - The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by a group of journalists and scholars who had obtained documentation from the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act and sought a centralized repository for these materials. Over the years, the Archive has become the world's largest non governmental library of declassified documents. Located on the seventh floor of the George Washington University's Gelman Library in Washington, D.C., the Archive is designed to apply the latest in computerized indexing technology to the massive amount of material already released by the U.S. government on international affairs, make them accessible to researchers and the public, and go beyond that base to build comprehensive collections of documents on specific topics of greatest interest to scholars and the public.

News Trust - This nonprofit news service provides a wide range of tools that empower citizens to access quality news and information -- and learn to separate fact from fiction about important public issues. We promote good journalism, news literacy and civic engagement.

OurCourts.org - Our Courts is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. Our Courts is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.

Oyez - The OYEZ Project provides access to more than 2000 hours of Supreme Court audio. All audio in the Court recorded since 1995 is included in the project. Before 1995, the audio collection is selective. According to the site: "It remains our aim to create a complete and authoritative archive of Supreme Court audio covering the entire span from October 1955 through the most recent release." This is a fascinating site that lends insight into the inner workings of our least exposed branch of government.

Sunlight Foundation - The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike. 

Transparency International - Transparency International, the only international non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption, brings civil society, business, and governments together in a powerful global coalition. A principal tool in the fight against corruption is access to information. It is in this spirit that T.I. offers this web site to everybody with an interest in the fight against corruption.

White House Tapes.org - Between 1940 and 1973, six American presidents from both political parties secretly recorded just under 5,000 hours of conversations. This site is designed as a service to the research community by making freely available all of the presidential recordings, along with relevant research materials, so that scholars, teachers, students, and the public can hear and use these remarkable tapes for themselves.

Why Tuesday? - America ranks 139th out of 172 countries around the globe in voter turnout. That's in the bottom 20% of all countries! Each Tuesday, they post a new episode to their video blog about problems with (and proposed solutions for) our broken voting system. Why do we vote on Tuesdays? Because of an 1845 federal law that was passed when 80% of Americans lived on farms:

At the time it could often take a day or longer to get to the polls, and Congress did not want this travel to conflict with days of religious observance, which left Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday was market day. So: Tuesday.

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