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Happy holidays Howard Dean

...and many other good causes

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My friend Betsy Kane was in the swarm of folks who turned out at Helios Coffee in Raleigh Sunday night to see Uncovered, the documentary about the Bush Gang's Iraq deceptions. Naturally she had her Howard Dean for President petitions with her. "I never go anywhere without them," she smiled, gathering up a few more registered voters' names for the cause. Dean, because he's not taking public financing in the primaries (and because of our state's antediluvian election laws), needs 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot in North Carolina. Don't worry. He'll get them.

By splendid convergence, the forces--and people--behind Uncovered are the same as those delivering the Democratic nomination to Dean. They are: anger at the whole right-wing Republican agenda; disgust at the failure of puffy-faced Democrats to fight back; and the exhilarating campaign being waged on the Internet, and so-called "alternative media," in which literally millions of grassroots activists are redefining Democratic politics.

So, Happy Holidays. MoveOn.org, which is at the center of it all, sponsored more than 2,650 Uncovered parties around the country Sunday night, a number that only hints at its influence. Started in 1998 by a couple of Silicon Valley techies who said the country should get over Monica Lewinsky and "move on," the MoveOn family of political enterprises now numbers over 2 million supporters with the ability to raise--current campaigns--$5 million for congressional candidates and $10 million for anti-Bush TV ads. Big bucks, in other words.

MoveOn's nimble leaders put out the calls (e.g., stop the FCC, kill the energy bill) while also providing the online feedback loop that lets us masses shape the agenda. For instance, the leaders wanted to endorse someone for president last summer, but held back after an online plebiscite gave Dean 40 percent support, but not the prescribed 50 percent.

Guess what? Now that Al Gore's endorsed Dean, MoveOn will move that way, too, helping Dean sew up the Iowa caucuses. Dean's already far ahead in New Hampshire, and (sorry, Johnny) he's leading in South Carolina, too. He's the only Democrat raising enough money to run a national campaign. Barring calamity, it's all over but Dean's choice for vice president.

By the way, those Al Gore speeches that've had you thinking he wasn't as bad as you thought? He was speaking to MoveOn audiences--you can read Gore's Nov. 9 speech, in which he accused Bush of using the "war on terror" to evade accountability, on the MoveOn website. You can also buy your own copy of Uncovered for $15.

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Holiday giving: Santa has spoken, and my nephew Branch will not be receiving the trampoline with a net around it, as hoped. An insurance agent was consulted and the word came down: Bad idea.

But Santa's all for this "gifts of a gift" idea for adults--and was thrilled to hear from you about good causes to consider. Remember, the idea is to make a contribution in the name of someone who just doesn't need another sweater:

  • Urban Ministries, P.O. Box 26476, Raleigh 27611; 836-1642. Thanks, Elizabeth Axtell, for the recommendation. UM runs a free health clinic for the needy, a homeless shelter, and also provides food and stopgap cash to folks down on their luck. It was started by the downtown Raleigh churches, but its programs are secular and offered to all.
  • CASA, P.O. Box 12545, Raleigh 27605; 754-9960. Thanks, Bill Towe: "CASA is a great organization. It was established in 1992 to provide housing for persons with disabilities (mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance addiction, and HIV-AIDS). ... It has developed and owns 125 units and manages another 90, all in Wake County."
  • Meals on Wheels, 707 W. Jones St., Raleigh 27603; 833-1749. Thanks, David Dunson. This volunteer-run bunch needs just 10 percent of your contribution for overhead; 90 percent goes to the food. "We provide hot, noontime meals to thousands of folks, which have allowed them to maintain their dignity, independence and remain in their homes." They've delivered 4 million meals over the past 30 years. Your gift of $60 supplies a daily meal to someone for a month.
  • Heifer International, www.heifer.org; 1-800422-0474. Also, Seva: Compassion in Action, www.seva.org, 1-800-223-7383. Thanks, Don Moffitt. Both groups work in Third World countries, and both make it easy to choose a gift, and send a gift card, online. Heifer started in 1944. It gives animals to needy families, on the excellent theory that a heifer ($500, or $50 a share) or goat ($120, $10 a share) not only enables people to support themselves, but can turn out another little cow or goat every year. At Seva, 25 years old, your $40 gift will pay for cataract surgery, and a blind person will see again.
  • N.C. Community Shares, P.O. Box 783, Durham 27702; 687-7653. It raises money for some 30 social justice organizations, many of which (e.g., Good Work, TROSA, Student Action With Farmworkers) serve the neediest of people. It also supports groups like the ACLU and N.C. Lambda Youth Network that couldn't be more valuable in the Bush era. EndBlock

    For the holidays, email rjgeary@aol.com with your charitable giving suggestion. Thanks.

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