California voters will decide on a plethora of ballot initiatives Tuesday that carry critical implications for the future of the Golden State and, potentially, the nation.

Take Proposition 37, a measure to require labeling of genetically modified food. The “Right to Know” campaign has stirred a multi-million-dollar backlash from biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont, but polls show the proposition in a dead heat. If approved, Prop 37 could trigger similar efforts in other parts of the country, given California’s tradition as a vanguard state.

Organized labor, meanwhile, is fighting off one of the biggest threats yet to its survival. Proposition 32, backed by wealthy conservatives, would cripple unions’ ability to raise money and donate to political campaigns, effectively silencing the voice of labor in state politics. Recent polls suggest the issue is unlikely to pass, but the measure’s presence has sent chills down the spines of union activists.

Public education in the state is hanging by a thread as voters debate Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30. The initiative would raise taxes primarily on rich Californians to fund schools and higher education, as well as some services. Should it fail, education would be hit with $6 billion in cuts this year, driving an already ailing system into further disrepair.

“The consequences are almost too dire to imagine,” said Karla Zombro, Field Director for California Calls, a coalition of social justice organizations campaigning in support of Prop 30.

The remaining eight ballot propositions, three are of special interest: increasing penalties for human trafficking, reforming California’s draconian three-strikes law, and outlawing the death penalty.

Here again, California could lead the way.

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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