Friday, July 29, 2011

OpenCongress version 3-- new tools for engaging with Congress and fellow constituents

OpenCongress: OpenCongress Blog
Announcing OpenCongress v.3 - Now the Easiest Way to Organize and Contact Congress

  • OpenCongress is pleased to announce the release of version 3 of its free & open-source public resource website, putting new tools for engaging with Congress at the center of the site experience.
    • OpenCongress version 3’s new engagement tools are primarily composed of two complementary sets of enhanced site features, free and open to everyone :: 
    • Contact-Congress: an open-source web tool to find and write a letter to all three of your members of Congress, send it immediately to their official government contact email addresses, track responses, and share the letter with the OpenCongress community and over social media. 
    • MyOC Groups: an open-source social network on OpenCongress that provides the necessary tools for people who share a position on an issue to work together on watchdogging, educating, and organizing actions directed at Congress. It also helps OpenCongress users link up with established organizations that are already working on issues they care about.

    OpenCongress is one of ActivismNews' "follow" sites found in the right sidebar of all of its pages.  Writing your congressmembers is a time-honored tradition and still one of the best ways to tell your representatives what you think of particular bills or issues.

    In order to access OpenCongress' blog, you need to be registered (free) with them.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    New report on increasingly undemocratic secrecy of the federal government

    ACLU- American Civil Liberties Union: Blog of Rights
    Secrecy Poisoning American Democracy

    • A new report that we’re releasing today makes the case that out-of-control secrecy is a serious disease that is hurting American democracy. More and more of our government’s actions are being hidden from the people who are supposed to be ultimately in charge of that government.
      • Classification is regularly used not to protect the national interest, but to protect the bureaucratic interests of particular agencies and particular administrations. It is regularly abused to manipulate the American public on behalf of those interests.
        • Today, we’re releasing a report: “Drastic Measures Required: Congress needs to Overhaul U.S. Secrecy Laws and Increase Oversight of the Secret Security Establishment”.

        For the details and a link to the report, please go to the ACLU post.  Thanks.

        New! The Mobile Media Toolkit from MobileActive's Blog
        Drumroll, please... It's the Mobile Media Toolkit!

        • Introducing the Mobile Media Toolkit, the newest project from that is all about Making Media Mobile.
          • The Mobile Media Toolkit helps you make sense of the growing role of mobile tech in media. The Toolkit provides how-to guides, mobile tools, and case studies on how mobile phones can (and are) being used for reporting, news broadcasting, and citizen media. We cover it all, from basic feature phones to the latest smartphone applications.

          If you're interested, please go to the post for details, and visit the toolkit.

          Tuesday, July 26, 2011

          Toolkit: Making the Case for Public Engagement

          NCDD - The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation: Resource Center
          Making the Case for Public Engagement

          • In this economic climate, the value of public engagement needs to be articulated in economic terms. Involve’s toolkit demonstrates that you don’t need specialist skills or knowledge to make the business case for engagement.
            • Download the July 2011 toolkit from Involve and Consumer Focus, Making the Case for Public Engagement: How to demonstrate the value of consumer input. Toolkit authors are Edward Andersson, Emily Fennell and Thea Shahrokh.
              • This practical Toolkit will help users understand and make the business case for engagement and present it to internal and external audiences. It can be used for all kinds of engagement from small scale ‘one off’ projects to major exercises across an entire town or wider local authority area.
                • It is aimed at those who manage, design, deliver, plan or commission public engagement projects. It does not require the reader to have detailed knowledge of economics.

                If you're interested, please go to NCDD's post for the details.

                Monday, July 25, 2011

                Tuesday, 12:00PM Eastern webinar: "Know Thy Communication Style" using SMART Conversations

                PublicDecisions: PublicDecisions Blog
                Tuesday, 26 July PublicForum Webinar: Know Thy Communication Style

                • “Know Thy Communication Style” Using SMART Conversations® to speak your truth and enhance all of your relationships. A PublicForum Webinar
                  • Date: Tuesday, July 26 Time: Noon-1:30 pm Eastern (New York) (60-minute webinar with optional 30 minute Q & A ) FREE* for Circle Club members $20* USD for nonmembers *Add $12 for telephone audio (no charge for computer audio) Registrants receive access to the session recording (a $20 value) and the program slide deck.
                    • As individuals seeking self improvement or professional development, or as practitioners of public engagement, we need the skills to deal with people on the small, everyday matters as well as the elephants in the room. But how?
                    • Dialogue is a foundational skill that can transform your conversations and give you the tools to communicate with authenticity, respect, and trust. In this webinar, you'll gain exposure to action dialogue and learn what it is, what it isn't, and how it can help you in your personal and professional life.
                    • Our presenters are Paul Weisman/Smart Conversations® and Michele Simos/Smart Conversations® and Simos Consulting.

                    If interested, please go to the PublicDecisions post for details.

                    The Community Development Academy is to be in St. Louis, Missouri

                    University of Missouri Extension Conference Office
                    Community Development Academy

                    • September 19-23, 2011, St. Louis, Missouri and March 26-30, 2012, St. Louis, Missouri
                    • The Community Development Academy is an intensive, experiential, five-day course offered by the University of Missouri Extension Community Development Program.  Our three courses combine leading edge thinking with practical applications.
                    • We enhance the capacity of people to work effectively with a broad range of community issues.
                    • The Community Development Academy provides a conceptual base and develops the skills necessary to successfully bring people (often with diverse views and opinions) together around common issues.
                    • Course participants learn how to deal collectively with their issues of concern and give purposeful direction to their own futures.

                    There is an online brochure that you can read and print out.
                    Thanks to PublicDecisions for the story.

                    Sunday, July 24, 2011

                    New book out: Principles of Community Engagement, 2nd Edition

                    PublicDecisions: PublicDecisions Blog
                    New NIH Publication: Principles of Community Engagement, 2nd Edition

                    • The executive summary describes the publication as a primer that "can serve as a guide for understanding the principles of community engagement for those who are developing or implementing a community engagement plan, or it can be a resource for students or faculty."

                    PublicDecisions' post includes the book's Table of Contents and a link to the ordering page.

                    Saturday, July 23, 2011

                    Support federal bill HJR 28, the right to vote constitutional amendment

          , from The Center for Voting and Democracy
                    Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment Gathers Steam

                    • If we had a right to vote, groups such as the elderly, the disabled, absentee and military voters would have better access to polls. In a country where voter turnout is routinely less than 50%, it is foolhardy to turn away people who actually want to participate and have a voice in government. In fact, the difficulty of navigating U.S. election laws related to turnout makes our turnout rate 139th among 172 nations worldwide.
                      • The United States is one of only 11 democratic nations without a right to vote. The Help America Vote Act has improved voting in many respects, but we continue to do far too little to stand up for secure voting rights for all -- with barely two-thirds of eligible voters registered to vote, faulty voting equipment, poorly trained poll-workers and more.
                        • You can help buy taking a few moments to help build support HJR 28, which in past years earned the sponsorship of more than 60 Members of Congress. Please click here to write your representative and tell them you would like them to join you in supporting a right to vote in the Constitution.

                        Friday, July 15, 2011

                        "Politics and Polarization" session at the CADR annual conference

                        Public Conversations Project (PCP): words that matter...
                        Politics and Polarization
                        • At the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution's June annual conference, which drew mediators and other dispute resolvers from around the country, PCP's Mary Jacksteit presented a well-attended session entitled "Politics and Polarization: Are We Relevant?" Jacksteit offered several of PCP's core practices as tools for countering destructive divisiveness, invited participants' thoughts and insights into other relevant conflict resolution concepts, and led a discussion about how to go mainstream.

                        This is the most I could find on this conference session; if anyone has further details or media, please comment here.

                        The Open Government Project is a government-citizen engagement initiative of the Obama administration

                        Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ):  FOI FYI
                        U.S. hosted Open Gov Partnership meeting
                        • The State Department held the first major Open Government Partnership meeting Tuesday.
                          • OGP is an international project focused on getting solid commitments from various governments to promote transparency and fight corruption, among other things.
                            • The program could help advance the Obama administration’s plans to use technology to develop better governing methods and strengthen democracy and human rights efforts worldwide, according to the State Department’s website.
                              • Topics at the Tuesday meeting included breakout sessions on encouraging civic participation and promoting transparency efforts. Also covered was technology that could be helpful open government tools for governments.
                                • Scan the meeting agenda and OGP brochure for more details.
                                  • Put this one in the “win” category for international cooperation on some of the most important issues in government: being open with citizens about federal information and welcoming their participation.

                                  Go to the SPJ article to get more details about this new government-citizen openness initiative.

                                  Thursday, July 14, 2011

                                  An example of political courage: compromise from leadership during a fiscal crisis

                                  John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
                                  Award Announcement:  Bi-Partisan Effort to Close California Budget Gap Recognized at 2010 JFK Profile in Courage Awards  - Four Members of California’s Legislative Leadership Honored -
                                  May 24, 2010

                                  • The four members of California’s legislative leadership who in 2009 led a bi-partisan effort to close the state’s devastating budget deficit were presented the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ today by Caroline Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
                                    • Karen Bass, California State Assembly Member, and former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly; David Cogdill, California State Senator and former Senate Republican Leader; Darrell Steinberg, California State Senator and Democratic Senate President pro Tem; and Michael Villines, California State Assembly Member and former Assembly Republican Leader, were recognized for the political courage each demonstrated in standing up to the extraordinary constituent and party pressure they faced while working with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to address California’s severe financial crisis.
                                      • 2008 was a year of brutal fiscal crisis for the state of California. Battered by an imploding economy and wary of implementing major tax increases or massive cuts to vital programs, the California legislature spent the summer of 2008 in a deadlock over how to close a projected $15 billion budget deficit. But even as the legislature struggled to address the crisis and pass a budget by the two-thirds supermajority required by California law, the state’s financial health deteriorated. As the U.S. economy cratered, the revenue assumptions that formed the basis of the budget negotiations fell apart. By January 2009, California’s projected deficit had grown to $40 billion. In February 2009, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded California’s bond rating to A, the lowest of any state in the nation.
                                        • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called the legislature into special session to close the gap, and over the next few weeks, state lawmakers struggled to come to terms with the fiscal emergency. The February 2009 special legislative session was one of the most contentious in the state’s history. After weeks of negotiations, seeing no alternatives, Dave Cogdill, Mike Villines, Karen Bass and Darrell Steinberg – two Republicans and two Democrats – set aside party loyalties and ideological differences and agreed to a deal intended to pull California back from the brink of financial ruin. The compromise included tax increases, which set off an intense backlash among conservative constituents and activists, and deep cuts to vital programs, which brought bitter criticism from labor unions, environmental groups, state employees and social service providers.

                                        This is an extraordinary story of difficult compromise, by elected public officials, in the dire conditions of a state's debt crisis.  There are lessons to be learned for today's  congressional leadership concerning our national debt.

                                        Also at the JFK Library site are the acceptance speeches from the four legislators who received this prestigious award.

                                        Wednesday, July 13, 2011

                                        Whistleblowers now have The Whistleblower's Handbook, from the National Whistleblowers Center

                                        National Whistleblowers Center:
                                        The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself

                                        • Every single day, American workers by the thousands report fraud, violations of environmental rules, health and safety hazards, and political corruption.
                                          • From the nation's leading whistleblower attorney, comes the first-ever consumer guide to whistleblowing.  In The Whistleblower's Handbook, Stephen Martin Kohn explains nearly all federal and state laws regarding whistleblowing and set forth twenty-one basic rules every potential whistleblower needs to know.
                                            • The Whistleblower's Handbook is the authoritative reference for anyone who has ever wondered how they might blow the whistle - and, once they've done so, how to prevail.

                                            Want to help ensure success in your whistleblowing efforts at work?  This handbook may be the assistance you need.  Go to the webpage to order.

                                            Tuesday, July 12, 2011

                                            Good deeds are the heart of great political activism

                                            Social Capital blog: People for Good aims to spur acts of kindness
                                            • The Canadian “People for Good” effort has tried to encourage Canadians to do good deeds.  Here are some suggestions they make:
                                              • Smile at a stranger – or wave at your fellow subway passenger
                                                • Open and hold the door for someone
                                                  • Give up your seat on the subway, bus or streetcar
                                                    • Buy a coffee for your co-worker
                                                      • Surprise your colleagues with freshly baked brownies
                                                        • Cut grass or shovel snow for your neighbour
                                                          • Help a stranger change a tire on the road – or put in a coin in expiring parking meter for someone you don’t know
                                                            • Return a grocery cart after someone has used it or let a stranger ahead of you in a store line
                                                              • While  on Facebook, just pick up the phone and give your friend a call
                                                                • Simply say ‘‘Thank you’’ to someone who helped you – and really mean it
                                                                  • Mow your neighbor’s lawn
                                                                    • Instead of an email, send a handwritten note.
                                                                      • Call your mother
                                                                        • Bring home flowers.
                                                                          • Make cookies for your neighbors
                                                                            • Do a chore, even if it’s not your turn.
                                                                              • Give up the remote
                                                                                • Make breakfast for the household
                                                                                  • Go say hello to your neighbor.
                                                                                    • Tell someone you love them.
                                                                                      • Unload the dishwasher.
                                                                                        • Have dinner at the table with the whole family.
                                                                                          • Wake up in a good mood.
                                                                                            • Give someone first dibs on the morning paper.
                                                                                              • Clean out your closet and donate your old clothes.
                                                                                                • Say good morning to a stranger.
                                                                                                  • Help someone cross the street.
                                                                                                    • Offer to give someone directions
                                                                                                      • Pick up a piece of litter.
                                                                                                        • For more suggestions, visit here.
                                                                                                          • See also Social Capital's list of 150 things you can do to build social capital.

                                                                                                          In a way, this is the heart of political activism.  A great civilization starts with manners and good deeds to your neighbors.  Be a good citizen today!

                                                                                                          Monday, July 11, 2011

                                                                                                          Compromise in Washington is more important now, than perhaps at any time in American history

                                                                                                          Public Agenda: Compromise: A Political Dirty Word?
                                                                                                          • February, 2005
                                                                                                            • Progress occurs in America when consensus builds around a set of compromises or trade-offs. That seems to be an important characteristic of how democracy works.
                                                                                                              • Too often, compromise is portrayed in politics as either selling out your cause or a tactic employed by politicians who don't really have any cause at all. We need to recognize the value that consensus building and compromise have played in the past, and that these processes for coming to understanding are part of our nation's core values.
                                                                                                                • It is difficult to say if the decrease in certain groups' willingness to embrace compromise on difficult issues is feeding the political system's increasing contentiousness, or vice versa.  Regardless, America needs leaders who recognize this tension and seek constructive ways to create dialogue between firmly held, divergent positions - and who seek new opportunities to create solutions capable of winning broad public support.

                                                                                                                Although this article was published in 2005, it is just as relevant today.  In fact, due to our current national crises, such as the issues of the national debt, climate change and corporate personhood, political compromise in Washington is more urgently needed than perhaps any time before.

                                                                                                                Unclassified federal information: agencies defy Obama open government policies

                                                                                                                Secrecy News: Pentagon Tightens Grip on Unclassified Information
                                                                                                                • The net loss of public access to information is a new trend that is at odds with the Obama Administration’s declared policy.  Although the President promised to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government,” in practice new barriers to access to unclassified information continue to arise.
                                                                                                                  • Many executive branch agencies have not met their obligations to post basic agency information on their web sites, such as staff directories, reports to Congress, and congressional testimony, according to a new survey from

                                                                                                                    One of the basic requirements of civic engagement by the public is having unfettered access to unclassified government information.  If we, the people don't have the information we need, we can't act on it; democracy demands open and honest communication between government officials and the general public for it to function properly.

                                                                                                                    The National Popular Vote is needed to solve political party hyper-partisanship problem

                                                                                                                    From Bipartisan Over-Attention to Battleground States
                                                                                                                    • Both parties, and all candidates, place overwhelming emphasis and resources on the few swing states in order to win precious electoral votes. This is due to one simple reason: the current system of electoral vote allocation based on state popular votes.
                                                                                                                      • If enough states adopt the National Popular Vote (NPV) system, the inequities of presidential candidate attention would be eliminated. Each candidate would need to campaign in all states, as individual votes would matter no matter where they are cast . The entire country would be a battleground.

                                                                                                                      NPV has been legislated in some states already, with mixed results-- some states passed it, others haven't, others are considering it and more will.   Enough states need to pass the plan-- but not all-- in order for it to become into effect.  Go to FairVote's National Popular Vote and see where your state stands thus far, and take action.

                                                                                                                      The national debt: what you can do right now

                                                                                                                      AmericaSpeaks: National Town Meeting results Final report
                                                                                                                      • 3,500 Americans gathered together at 57 sites across the country to deliberate about our nation’s fiscal future on Saturday, June 26, 2010.

                                                                                                                      AmericaSpeaks: The American People Want Leaders in Washington to Find Common Ground on Our National Debt

                                                                                                                      • The report issued by the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform challenges our political system and the American people to confront the difficult trade-offs required to address our nation’s long-term deficits. The public is willing to have a hard conversation about taxes and spending and Americans want Congress to pair this conversation with action.

                                                                                                                        American Democracy Project: Get on the (Budget) Ball with National Debt!
                                                                                                                        • Thought about the National Debt lately?  Or your own credit scores?  It’s all so very overwhelming!  But – if you want to have a good time with managing debt and savings….check out the new fiscal sport called Budgetball!  Budgetball is an innovative sport that combines fiscal strategy and physical activity. Players enjoy a fast-paced physical and mental exercise that encourages thoughtfulness about managing your debt and savings.

                                                                                                                          Miller-McCune: New Role-Playing Game: You vs. the National Debt
                                                                                                                          • The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has invited people to  an online “exercise in hard choices,” a game about as fun as filing your taxes but probably more satisfying for anyone who finishes it.

                                                                                                                            Public Agenda: The National Debt Clock
                                                                                                                            • The National Debt Clock widget updates constantly to show the current amount owed by Uncle Sam and his taxpayers (that's you, me, and if nothing is done, our children and grandchildren). To put the National Debt Clock widget on your own web site, copy and paste the following code into the body of the HTML code of the page where you'd like the widget to appear:

                                                                                                                              Public Agenda: National Debt Repayment Foundation
                                                                                                                              • Organization that is dedicated to increasing public awareness of and finding workable solutions to problems it believes are created by the national debt.  1730 K St., NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006; phone: (202) 223-1000

                                                                                                                                Saturday, July 9, 2011

                                                                                                                                Report: Civic knowledge is the leading factor in political civic engagement

                                                                                                                                From the Intercollegiate Studies Institute report Enlightened Citizenship: How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement

                                                                                                                                  This is the fifth report to the nation issued by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's (ISI) National Civic Literacy Board. While each past study has had a different point of emphasis, all share a common thread of examining the relationships that exist between higher education, civic knowledge, and citizenship. 
                                                                                                                                  ISI asked its randomly selected sample of 2,508 Americans ten electoral questions to assess how engaged they were in electoral activities. With this data in hand, ISI employed multivariate regression analyses to determine the independent influence that earning a college degree, acquiring more civic knowledge, and other factors have on the political participation of American citizens.
                                                                                                                                  Below are our findings.
                                                                                                                                  • A College Degree Fails to Promote Active Civic Engagement Beyond Voting. 
                                                                                                                                  • Greater Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree as the Leading Factor in Encouraging Active Civic Engagement
                                                                                                                                  • Civic Self-Education Increases Active Civic Engagement; Video Games Detract
                                                                                                                                  • Greater Civic Knowledge Discourages Elective Office Holding
                                                                                                                                  Conclusion: The Successful Study of America's History and Institutions is the Key to Informed and Responsible Citizenship.
                                                                                                                                  The mission of Activism Today is to educate and share the latest news on political civic engagement, an essential role of American citizenship.

                                                                                                                                  Friday, July 8, 2011

                                                                                                                                  How to begin advocate grass roots organizing

                                                                                                                                  From Advocacy Associates Back to Basics: Old-Fashioned, But Very Effective, Approaches to Advocacy

                                                                                                                                  When faced with the daunting task of creating a strong grass roots campaign, I found that many people are unsure of where to start. 
                                                                                                                                  In addition to the new [social media] technologies that are available, let’s turn to some classic advocacy strategies that we have refined based on our work with our clients. 
                                                                                                                                  1. Information Gathering-
                                                                                                                                  2. Organization-
                                                                                                                                  3. Old-Fashioned Phone Calls – 
                                                                                                                                  Apply these three strategies in the beginning of your campaign and I promise that you will have the solid foundation needed to have a strong influence over legislation.

                                                                                                                                  These are common sense strategies, based on experience.  Please read the entire post for details.

                                                                                                                                  Thursday, July 7, 2011

                                                                                                                                  Cure for the common redistricting partisanship

                                                                                                                                  From Curing Our Democracy: The Toxic Combination of Partisan Redistricting and Presidential Electoral Vote Allocation Part II: The Redistricting Connection and the Pitfalls of the District-Based Electoral Vote System

                                                                                                                                  Electoral vote splitting by congressional district and partisan redistricting has the potential to be a toxic concoction to a properly functioning democracy. Without independent redistricting, the current system allows state legislators the opportunity to poison the political chances of their opponents, and even infect the race for the presidency. In addition, some proposed drugs, such as winner-take-all rules, are worse than the illness, leading presidential candidates to completely ignore large segments of voters and entire states. 
                                                                                                                                  There are remedies though. The National Popular Vote plan would make every vote worth campaigning for in a presidential race, and multimember districts with proportional voting would help foster fair elections and fair representation. It's time for the country to get serious about taking its medicine.

                                                                                                                                  This is the conclusion of a well-written article, a critical examination and cure for a very sick-- a very partisan-- electoral system.

                                                                                                                                  Civic engagement tip: politics is always a "team sport"

                                                                                                                                   #188 / Personal Involvement
                                                                                                                                  The land use planning process provides a great example of how democratic self‑government is supposed to work. 
                                                                                                                                  In fact though, as I did say on the Land Use Report, effective involvement and engagement in the politics that creates our world requires not only the involvement of individuals, but their involvement through an organized effort. Individual, personal involvement can make you a “gadfly.” Connection with a dedicated group, focused on an issue you care about, can really affect the future, and make you and the group a “political” force to be reckoned with. 
                                                                                                                                  This is a shorthand way of saying that politics is always a “team sport.”

                                                                                                                                   A little wisdom from experience.

                                                                                                                                  Read "Hands-On Elections," a handbook for citizens; watch videos

                                                                                                                                  From Election Defense Alliance: Hands-On Elections: An Informational Handbook for Running Real Elections, Using Real Paper Ballots, Counted by Real People

                                                                                                                                  BUY THE HANDBOOK HERE 
                                                                                                                                  An Informational Handbook for Running Real Elections, Using Real Paper Ballots, Counted by Real People
                                                                                                                                  Authored by Nancy Tobi  
                                                                                                                                  Do you believe in secret vote counts? If you don't think secret vote counting belongs in the greatest democracy on earth, and you want to do something about it, then this handbook is for you.  
                                                                                                                                  Hackable e-voting machines began to be used in America's elections in the mid-1960s, then exploded in use after the 2000 election, and they now count the lion's share of America's ballots. With computerization came privatization of our elections as well. Your vote-the right by which all your other rights are secured-is now the private property and trade secret of corporate e-voting industrialists. These for profit corporations seize our ballots, count them in secret, tell us what the results are, and then lock away the records, so nobody can ever verify our election results.  
                                                                                                                                  This is no way to run a democracy! We need to reclaim our public elections. Fortunately for us, it turns out this is something we all can do!  
                                                                                                                                  Using this Handbook you can learn about:
                                                                                                                                  *voting rights 
                                                                                                                                  *public elections 
                                                                                                                                  *election laws 
                                                                                                                                  *how our votes are or are not being counted 
                                                                                                                                  *the people running our elections 
                                                                                                                                  *how to run real elections 
                                                                                                                                  *how to overcome challenges in taking back our elections 
                                                                                                                                  *the federal government's role in our elections 
                                                                                                                                  *the people making the decisions affecting our elections 
                                                                                                                                  *citizen election watchdog groups

                                                                                                                                  Book details and an author bio are at the EDA webpage.  Election Defense Alliance seeks to expose election fraud and restore electoral integrity as the foundation of American democracy.

                                                                                                                                  Nancy Tobi's Youtube videos can be seen at

                                                                                                                                  African American youth voter turnout during presidential years is on the rise

                                                                                                                                  From CIRCLE article Black Youth Civic Engagement

                                                                                                                                  African American young people set the all-time record for youth turnout by any racial or ethnic group in 2008:

                                                                                                                                  It’s important to note that the trend was already up in 2004, so the high turnout was not just an Obama effect.

                                                                                                                                  African American Youth powerpoint presentation.

                                                                                                                                  Wednesday, July 6, 2011

                                                                                                                                  Meet your own government representative: things to prepare for

                                                                                                                                  From Advocacy Associates article Conventioneers Everywhere!

                                                                                                                                  The Washington Post had a fun and "tongue in cheek" article recently about conventioneers in Washington, DC. ...
                                                                                                                                  It's important to remember that many of those groups are coming to DC to talk to their elected officials and their staff. ...
                                                                                                                                  Advocates can get ready by: 
                                                                                                                                  • Learning a little about the legislators you'll be meeting with (try the House and Senate sites at and  Review their positions on your issues (if applicable) as well as their overall political perspective. In addition, it's always good to know what bills they've introduced, which you can find at  
                                                                                                                                  • Developing your personal story, with an understanding particularly of how it connects to the policy issues that will be discussed. For example, patient advocacy group advocates should understand how to connect requests for more funding and/or better coverage to their own personal experience.  
                                                                                                                                  • Reviewing some of the logistics before coming to Washington, DC (see metro maps at and Capitol Campus maps at Having these facts down will reduce the stress associated with navigating an unfamiliar city and allow advocates to focus more on their messages.

                                                                                                                                  The personal meeting is one of the most successful ways you can engage with your government representative.  Take every opportunity to advocate your issue as your representatives make themselves available.

                                                                                                                                  Tuesday, July 5, 2011

                                                                                                                                  Notion of a taxpayer: know your representatives!

                                                                                                                                  Paying Taxes

                                                                                                                                  I'm an oddity in this day and age. I don't mind paying taxes because I know that my taxes help pay for emergency services, maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure of my local city, state and the country as a whole. I know part of my taxes also provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of my fellow countrymen in state and federal civil service jobs. I understand that occasionally taxes go up because the cost of everything goes up. 
                                                                                                                                  What I don't like is the fact that my elected representatives are becoming more insulated from the people they represent and that they are becoming less responsive to the will of their electorate.

                                                                                                                                  The author goes on to list some very common sense problems he sees his elected officials are doing, such as fundraising/ campaigning for their party, and their abuse of earmarks.  We must remember that the citizen is boss, and that the people can keep or lose their representatives at will (legally, of course!)  Stay informed, and remember who's boss!

                                                                                                                                  California doesn't allow electronic signatures on petitions

                                                                                                                                  Court: Citizens Can't Sign Initiative Petitions with Electronic Signatures

                                                                                                                                  A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal ruled in San Francisco Thursday that the state [California] elections code doesn't allow electronic signatures on petitions. The panel said it would be up to the Legislature to decide on whether to change the law.

                                                                                                                                  Electronic signing of petitions would be a good thing across the United States.  It allows petition access to much more people, and isn't the views of the jurisdiction's people what is important for the issue at hand?

                                                                                                                                  Monday, July 4, 2011

                                                                                                                                  Public libraries can be of great service to activists

                                                                                                                                  From Journalists and Librarians Finding Common Ground

                                                                                                                                  What can journalists and libraries do to create opportunities for local news and civic engagement? Leading-edge thinkers in both fields have come together recently in several different venues to explore answers to this question. The early feedback on these discussions is that this is a worthwhile topic to discuss at a critical time for both institutions. 
                                                                                                                                  Mike’s key takeaways from the ALA discussion, summarized on the Biblionews website, include ideas that resonate with the Knight Commission’s Informing Communties report: 
                                                                                                                                  • Librarians see civic engagement as an important element in what they do and how they make their case for public support. Civic engagement helps democracy, but it also has economic benefits to communities.

                                                                                                                                  In this information age, public librarians serve a vital role in gathering and helping to manage data and information for activists.  Their potential contributions to individual and group research should not be underestimated.

                                                                                                                                  Saturday, July 2, 2011

                                                                                                                                  On the nature of public deliberation

                                                                                                                                  On the Nature of Public Deliberation - A Message from Dr. David Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation

                                                                                                                                  One, possibly the primary, obstacle to acting together wisely is that people disagree, sometimes to the point of violent conflict, about what kind of action is appropriate. Dealing with conflict is inescapable. The most difficult disagreements are about what is the right thing to do; that is, the conflict is more normative than simply factual. Early on in human history, people learned that making decisions to act under these conditions requires exercising the best judgment possible. Such judgment requires, in turn, carefully and fairly weighing various options for action against the many things people hold dear, which is deliberation.

                                                                                                                                  America must come together and deliberate on the top issues of the day.  Presently there is too little trust between the two major political parties.  Debates within open and respectful environments move the issues forward.

                                                                                                                                  Video: Five strategies to revive civic communication

                                                                                                                                  Featured: Five Strategies to Revive Civic Communication

                                                                                                                                  The strategies posed in the report include reforming existing federal, state and local programs and institutions that could make significant contributions to the information environment and health of local communities through a Civic Information Corps; engaging young people in building the information and communication capacity of their communities; realigning incentives in higher education to turn these institutions into local information hubs; investing in public deliberations; and mapping the civic networks that exist in communities.

                                                                                                                                  A video of this presentation by Peter Levine is the original link above.

                                                                                                                                  Engage in a safe environment in The American Square

                                                                                                                                  The American Square is Here!

                                                                                                                                  AmericaSpeaks has just launched The American Square, an experiment designed to bridge the online political gap and provide a safe space for civil, multi-partisan conversations about public policy and politics.

                                                                                                                                  This is the first website I know of dedicated to responsible engagement and debate; it's an idea who's time has come long ago for the internet...

                                                                                                                                  A 10-point plan for national civic renewal

                                                                                                                                  Peter Levine's 10-Point Plan: 
                                                                                                                                  1. Choose one grave national issue and use federal policy to support participatory, deliberative solutions. 
                                                                                                                                  2. Pass the Fair Elections Now Act or a close equivalent. 
                                                                                                                                  3. Make voluntary national service a means to develop civic capacities. 
                                                                                                                                  4. Prepare a new generation of active and responsible citizens. 
                                                                                                                                  5. Put citizenship back in the civil service. 
                                                                                                                                  6. Support charter schools, Community Development Corporations, watershed councils, and Federal Qualified Health Centers. 
                                                                                                                                  7. Give the public a voice in policymaking. 
                                                                                                                                  8. Use the Internet to make the regulatory process more deliberative. 
                                                                                                                                  9. Launch a Civic Communications Corps. 
                                                                                                                                  10. Incorporate immigrants into civic life.

                                                                                                                                  This is an occasional public engagement to-do list by a national leader, Peter Levine. Let's get busy-- all citizens on call!

                                                                                                                                  Engage with the White House in a Twitter Town Hall and in tweetups

                                                                                                                                  #AskObama at the First Ever Twitter @Townhall at the White House

                                                                                                                                  The White House is all a-Twitter about an exciting event that's happening next week. On Wednesday, July 6th at 2pm ET, President Obama will answer your questions in the first ever Twitter Town Hall at the White House, and you're invited. Starting today, you can tweet your questions about jobs and the economy using the hashtag #AskObama and follow @townhall for the latest updates. Then, come back to watch the President respond to your questions in a live event moderated by Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman.  
                                                                                                                                  Today, we're also kicking off White House Tweetups (h/t NASA). For our first Tweetup, a portion of the town hall’s live audience will be drawn from people who follow @whitehouse and register online. We look forward to hosting future Tweetups that will give @whitehouse followers the opportunity to attend events, engage with Administration officials, and share their ideas with other @whitehouse followers. Visit to sign up and learn more.

                                                                                                                                  How hip is that??  Good going Mr. President, you're using the latest in internet communication technology.

                                                                                                                                  Redistricting resources galore at!

                                                                                                                                  FairVote's Redistricting Resources

                                                                                                                                  With the completion of the 2010 Census, state legislatures are now in the process of the decennial redrawing of congressional, state, and local electoral districts. The process of creating new boundary lines is highly partisan and often comes at the expense of voters. By gerrymandering districts, legislators and their political allies use redistricting to choose their voters instead of giving voters the opportunity to choose them.  
                                                                                                                                  FairVote's number one priority in relation to redistricting is to modify winner-take-all voting rules to make the act of drawing district lines less determinative of outcomes. Ideally in tandem with such new voting methods, FairVote also backs a more independent, more transparent and more criteria-driven process.  
                                                                                                                                  FairVote has developed a number of new resources regarding redistricting, including: 
                                                                                                                                  Glossary - An A to Z guide to terms and definitions 
                                                                                                                                  Litigation - A summary of ongoing lawsuits to redistricting plans and procedures throughout the country  
                                                                                                                                  Reform Legislation - A report on proposed laws in all fifty states to improve redistricting processes  
                                                                                                                                  Resource List - A guide and review of the best redistricting resources from around the web  
                                                                                                                                  News - A compilation of tweets to news stories and opinion by state  
                                                                                                                                  Alternative Appoaches - Drawings of proposed "super districts" for all states used for proportional voting systems  
                                                                                                                                  Additional Links - FairVote also contributes to and tweets current redistricting news

                                                                                                                         is the preeminent nonprofit organization promoting advances and improvements in our election system.  All seekers of knowledge of such projects go there first; please show them your support today.