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Besides the obvious presidential election, which I voted early for already, there are a few other elections and states that I’ve got my eye on this year:

  1. Back in May, a California Supreme Court judge ruled their gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  One month later, hundreds of couples (including Ellen Degeneres) got their marriage on.  This, of course, infuriated conservatives, who then garnered enough signatures to take it to the voters, resulting in Proposition 8.  Proposition 8 states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  This will make for a confusing ballot- those who believe in marriage equality have to vote no on Prop 8, while those who disagree have to vote yes.  Conservatives are pulling out all stops to make this proposition pass, including cyber attacking the No on Prop 8 website.  Check out some awesome videos encouraging people to vote no here.
  2. Another cause near and dear to my heart- animal rights.  Once again, California is taking the lead in reform and has drafted Proposition 2, an animal rights proposition that would outlaw certain types of animal confinement crates, such as gestation crates and battery crates. 
  3. The magic number right now is 60 for the Democratic Party to have a fillibuster-proof majority over the Senate.  There are 12 GOP seats up for election this year, and a few very close races:
  • Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Alaska, was convicted of corruption charges and ethics violation, yet he still claims to be staying in the race.  Here’s hoping that Alaskans maybe see that whole ethics violation as a bad trait to have in a senator and instead go for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
  • Former SNL star and political writer Al Franken is running for a US senate seat in Minnesota against incumbent Norm Coleman and seems to be taking the lead.
  • In North Carolina, incumbent Elizabeth Dole seems to be losing her steam while Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is moving forward.  It’s really tight at this point, but Dole may very well lose her seat.

This is a pretty big election year, for so many obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an amazing Election Day and a joyous Wednesday, November 5th.  As for me, I’ll be partying down at Obamapalooza in Grant Park on the night of November 4th.

Remember this number. 350 is the amount of carbon dioxide, in parts per million, that is deemed the limit for our Earth. NASA scientist James Hansen, a long-time global warming researcher (he was testifying in Congress back in the late 80’s, before we even cared about what CFCs were). For those of you who speak science, you can check out all of the supporting information here.

So, 350 is the number. We’re at about 387 right now, which means we’re a little CO2 overweight. Environmentalist, educator and all around amazing dude Bill McKibben has created the website 350 to help us understand what needs to be done to get us down to 350 ppm and to stay there. How do we do this? Says 350:

We need an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions fast. The United Nations is working on a treaty, which is supposed to be completed in December of 2009 at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. But the current plans for the treaty are much too weak to get us back to safety. This treaty needs to put a high enough price on carbon that we stop using so much. It also needs needs to make sure that poor countries are ensured a fair chance to develop.

These days, it’s all about social media, and why shouldn’t it? With the time we spend on our computers, it makes lobbying, spreading the word, and being engaged in issues a lot easier and more user friendly. With the click of a button, you can let all of your nearest and dearest (and whoever else resides in your email address book) about the awesome video that explains this issue. You can email your congressperson and let them know that you, as their constituent, want to see this issue dealt with.

So, what are you waiting for? Go to 350 now, sign up, and do your part to make sure that we keep this Earth the nice, big, beautiful place that it is and can be.

As many of you have probably heard, Cindy Sheehan, a well-known anti-war activist, has decided to step out of the game. This is truly a sad day in peace activism.

For those of you who don’t know her or her story, her son was a soldier in Bagdhad and died in a rocket grenade attack. Devastated, Cindy decided to go to Crawford, Texas and have a little chat with Bush about the war and why her son, and so many other sons and daughters had to die. Bush refused to speak with her, so she decided to camp outside of Bush’s ranch in Crawford until he would speak with her. She caused quite an uproar but also started an entirely new chapter of the anti-war movement. Soon enough, Camp Casey was a well-established institution, with a large support network. When threatened with trespassing charges, Bush’s neighbor donated 5 acres of his land to Camp Casey so that they could have a permanent place without any threat of being forced to leave. Last I heard, they were developing plans to build a rehabilitation center for those who served in Iraq.

Lots of people painted her as a crazy women, driven mad by grief. The conservative right loved to paint her in the worst of pictures, calling her terrible names and belittling her cause. Other organizations heralded her as a true peace activist. I was actually able to see her speak about 2 months ago in a small church in downtown Chicago. I was shocked by the lack of attendance. In activist circles, she’s a well-known name, yet there were maybe 30 people in attendance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her, as I’d only heard stories and read articles. When she entered the room to our singing an anti-war song, I expected big smiles, energetic movement, and an infectious energy that you oftentimes see and feel in well-known activists.

But what I saw was a grieving mother who wasn’t made to be an activist but felt compelled to do it anyway. Forced into the activist’s life because of the injustice she felt, yet lacking the natural endless energy that you see in other activists. In some ways, though, that made her even more admirable. She was just like everyone else’s mother, sister, neighbor, friend. She had just experienced probably the most horrible experience a parent could ever have and felt compelled to do something about it.

She never played the politics. She held both parties equally responsible for the decisions that were made. She found peaceful ways to make her point, such as camping out in front of Bush’s ranch (and being arrested for blocking the road once), wearing an anti-war shirt in the House gallery (and again being arrested for unlawful conduct because of it), and many others. She really was an inspiration.

She sacrificed everything to try and convince Americans to help her end this war, including her health, finances and her marriage. All she wanted to do was help save other sons and daughters from suffering the same fate as her own son while also trying to make his sacrifice meaningful. I gotta believe that the past week’s happenings in Congress probably had a little to do with her stepping down. She gave everything she had and then some to try and make a difference. I think it’s only fair to allow her the ability to say “enough is enough” and claim defeat. Because, really, how different is the Iraq war now than it was 2 years ago? Last time I checked, thousands were still dying and every month is becoming the bloodiest month of the war. We’re still funneling billions into it, and there’s still no end in sight.

I can’t blame Cindy Sheehan at all for making the decision that she did. I only hope that it serves as some sort of catalyst to move others forward, carrying the torch even further and ensuring that all of her sacrificing was not made in vain.

As she said in her final goodbye, “It’s up to you now.”

I’ve recently encountered a pretty interesting website, and while I’ve done a little bit of investigating, I can’t claim to be fully educated on it yet. From what I can tell, this is a group that encourages intuitive learning as well as promotes ways to grow positively and adapt to change more readily. Sounds pretty good, right? This month, they’ve started a movement called “Sacred Cow Tipping”. Basically, for each day in November, they state what they call a Sacred Cow. From the website:

“Sacred Cows are social agreements, decrees, doctrines, adages or points of law that have outlived their positive purpose, if there ever was one, and have become a burden to our evolution.”

What they then do is try to empower readers to “tip” that sacred cow over and come to terms with any connections they’ve had with that cow, thus overcoming them. There’s a visual process to it as well, which I believe helps you concentrate on what your inner-self is telling you. Being an uneducated believer in the power of thought and mindfulness, I really dig this whole process. Their first Sacred Cow (scroll down to November 1st) really caught my eye as something we can all strive to tip:

“Approval from the outside world is more important than inner direction.”

I personally find this to be very appropriate as a budding activist. I think there are many times when we want to take that next step forward in our commitments to the causes we hold dear, but oftentimes that next step is a little scary. Whether it be soundly voicing your opinion on an issue you formerly stayed quiet about, signing a petition, canvassing, attending a march/rally/protest, or even just forcing yourself to think about an issue in a different light, the idea of the outside world disapproving of it can cause us to hesitate from moving forward. There’s a reason that we feel moved to do the things we do, and I think if we listened a little more to that voice pushing us to move forward and less about what society or even our friends and family think, we may be able to make some real and positive changes. I mean, where would we be if all the great leaders and activists in the world never took chances due to fear of the outside world’s reaction?

So, I challenge everyone (all 4 of my loyal readers) to try and listen to that inner direction more and see where it takes you. More often than not, the result will pleasantly surprise you.

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

ac·tiv·ism
Function: noun
: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue

When did the word “activism” become such a dirty word? From the above definition, it sounds like activists come from both sides of the coin, regardless of the issue. So, when did the idea of activist judges become something bad? Aren’t judges supposed to take action on controversial issues? That’s why the issues are in court in the first place: a decision couldn’t be made between two parties, thus the need for a third, non-biased (well, supposed to be non-biased) party to intervene. Apparently, when the decision is against what President Bush thinks, that makes the activism bad. I’m sure that when Roe v. Wade is overturned (thanks, South Dakota), the Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn it will be considered “sensible” as opposed to activists.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered a civil rights activist. I pride myself in the fact that I can be considered an activist. Let it be the dirty word of our generation, just as “feminst” has been for the past 20+ years. Let’s just hope that someday these “activist judges” will be looked on with the same amount of respect given to those in our past who have fought for equal rights of all human beings.

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