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December 31, 2013

Yes Magazine:10 Hopeful Things That Happened in 2013 to Get You Inspired for What’s to Come

Beyond the headlines of conflict and catastrophe, this year’s top stories offered us some powerful proof that the world can still change—for the better.

There was something almost apocalyptic about 2013. Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, the strongest storm ever recorded on land. It killed more than 6,000 people and affected millions. But it was just one of the 39 weather-related disasters costing $1 billion or more in 2013.


In Australia, record high temperatures forced mapmakers to create a new color on the weather map. Massive wildfires swept through California, historic flooding took out bridges and roadways in Colorado, and tornadoes swept through the Midwest, destroying towns like Moore, Okla. Millions of people are on the move, seeking to escape the effects of climate-related disasters.


CO2 concentrations passed 400 parts per million for the first time this year, and yet governments have done little to curb emissions. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars—much of it from secret sources—flow to climate-denier think tanks and advocacy groups.


Pop culture often explores a change before politicians do, and 2013 saw a rash of post-apocalyptic movies—from World War Z to Oblivion—and zombie apocalypse role-playing games.


Much happened that was hopeful this year—a new pope focused on inequality, successful minimum wage campaigns spread across the country, and the number of states allowing gay marriage doubled.


But responses to the threat of the climate crisis lead off this year’s top stories as we look at seeds sown this year that could make 2014 transformational.


1. We saw surprising new leadership on the climate issue


In northeast Nebraska, Native Americans and local ranchers formed a new alliance to resist the Keystone XL pipeline. Seven thousand activists gathered in Pittsburgh to press for action on a wide range of environmental justice issues. Students across North America persuaded nine colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. Hundreds of climate activists walked out of the COP19 climate talks in Poland to hold their own climate talks.


The governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia have committed to taking action on the climate crisis. But Congress remains deadlocked and in denial, and climate scientists—when they let down their careful professional demeanor—express astonishment that world governments have failed to act on what is fast becoming a global emergency.


A new potential ally is coming from an unexpected source. Some investors are beginning to worry that fossil fuel companies may not be a good bet. Investors worry about a “carbon bubble.”


The reserves of oil, gas, and coal counted as assets by the big energy corporations would be enormously destructive to life on Earth if they were allowed to burn. Many believe that new regulation or pricing will keep a large portion of those reserves safely in the ground.


If that happens, the companies’ reserves, and thus their stock, may be worth far less than believed. Savvy investors are placing their bets elsewhere: Warren Buffett, for example, is investing $1 billion in wind energy, which, along with solar energy, is looking better all the time.


2. Native peoples took the lead in the fossil fuel fight


In response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to ramp up fossil fuel extraction on Native lands, Idle No More blossomed across Canada this year. First Nations people held flash mob round dances, blockaded roads, and appealed to government at all levels to protect land and water.


And it’s not just Canada. In Washington state, the Lummi Tribe is among those resisting massive new coal transport infrastructure, which would make exported coal cheap to burn in Asia.


In Nebraska, the Ponca Tribe is teaming up with local ranchers to resist construction of the Keystone tar sands pipeline. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the Andes, Malaysia, the Niger Delta, and elsewhere are also at the front lines of resistance to yet more dangerous fossil fuel extraction. Many are turning to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples and the new Rights of Nature movement for support.


Indigenous peoples developed ways of life that could sustain human life and the natural environment over thousands of years. The rest of the world is starting to recognize the critical importance of these perspectives, and there is growing willingness to listen to the perspectives of indigenous peoples.


3. The middle and lower classes fought for economic justice


Income inequality is reaching levels not seen since the Roaring Twenties. People stuck in long-term unemployment are running out of options, and those who do find work often can’t cover basic living expenses. The issue is now getting attention from mainstream media, becoming one of the defining issues of our time, as President Obama said.


Now a movement is building to create a new economy that can work for all. Voters this year passed minimum wage laws in SeaTac, Wash., ($15 an hour) and the state of New Jersey. An overwhelming majority favors raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Domestic workers won the right to a minimum wage after years of organizing.


The message was also clear in the election of Bill de Blasio, a founder of the Working Families Party, as mayor of New York City. Inequality is a top plank of his platform and his public record. At the national level, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s defense of the rights of student borrowers and her proposal to strengthen Social Security (instead of weaken it, as leaders in both party are discussing) is winning widespread support. There is even talk of drafting Warren to run for president.


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4. A new economy is in the making


At the grassroots, National People’s Action and the New Economy Institute are leading new conversations about what it takes to build an economy that works for all and can function in harmony with the environment. Thousands of people are taking part.


And a growing cooperatives movement is linking up with unions and social movements. Some are working with large “anchor” institutions, like hospitals and universities, that can provide a steady market for their products and services. Credit unions, too, are proving their value as they keep lending to local businesses and homeowners as Wall Street-owned banks pulled back.


And a new DIY sharing economy is taking off, as people do peer-to-peer car-sharing, fundraising, and skill-sharing, and bring open-source technology to new levels.


5. U.S. military strikes didn’t happen


The big news of the year may be the two wars the United States refused to instigate.


The United States did continue its drone strikes, and the civilian casualties are causing an international uproar, with some calling for an outright ban on drones. And military spending continues to devastate the country’s budget. (The United States spent more on the military in 2013 than China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil combined.) Few dared to call for the same fiscal discipline from the military and its many contractors as they expect from schools and services for the poor.


On the other hand, the United States stepped back from the brink of military strikes against Syria and Iran—a step in the right direction.


6. Pope Francis called for care and justice for the poor …


…and for an end to the idolatry of money and consumerism. He also criticized “ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”


In his “Evangelii Gaudium” he says: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”


This call is provoking outrage from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News commentators, but elsewhere, it’s leading to a new questioning of the moral foundation for a system that concentrates wealth and power while causing widespread poverty.


7. Gays and lesbians got some respect


On June 26, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Today, married gay couples are entitled to federal benefits once reserved for straight couples. The year saw a doubling of the number of states allowing gay marriages, and a third of all Americans now live in such states.


Support for gay marriage has flipped from a slight majority opposing it to a majority now supporting the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry. As a wider range of gender identities has become acceptable, men and women, gay and straight, are freer to shed gender stereotypes without fear of bullying and humiliation.


8. There were new openings for a third party


Just 26 percent of Americans believe the Democratic and Republican parties are doing “an adequate job,” according to an October Gallup poll; 60 percent say a third party is needed. Eighty-five percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Even cockroaches (along with zombies, hemorrhoids, and Wall Street) have a higher approval rating according to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling.


But it’s not the Tea Party that Americans are looking to as the alternative. Support for the Tea Party has fallen: In an October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 21 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the party.


New space has opened for independent political work. The Working Family Party (see #3 above) is an especially interesting model.


9. Alternatives to Obamacare are in the works


Democratic leadership believed that the big profits the Affordable Care Act guaranteed to private insurance companies would make the act popular with conservatives.


But the resulting system, with all its complications and expenses—and requirements—is frustrating millions. There are features that benefit ordinary people, but it compares poorly to the simpler and more cost-effective systems that exists in most of the developed world. Canadian-style single-payer health care, for example, had the support of a majority of Americans. Some jurisdictions are still looking for alternatives. Cooperative health insurance is available in some states and others are working to establish statewide single-payer healthcare.


10. An education uprising began


The momentum behind the education reform agendas of Presidents Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Obama (Race to the Top) is stalling. The combination of austerity budgets, an ethic of blame directed at teachers, high-stakes testing, and private charter schools has stressed teachers and students—but it has not resulted in improved performance.


Peaceful Uprising photo by David Newkirk
Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical Is the New Normal


Seattle’s Garfield High School teachers, students, and parents launched an open rebellion last spring, joining a handful of others in refusing to administer required standardized tests. The movement is spreading around the country, with more rebellions expected in the spring of 2014 (stay tuned for an in-depth report in the Spring issue of YES!)


We live in interesting times, indeed. The growing climate emergency could eclipse all the other issues, and the sooner we get on it, the more we can use the transition for innovations that have other positive spin-offs.


There’s not a moment to lose.

October 6, 2011

“Occupy Wall Street” movement spreads from New York across the US

Filed under: Fightback — millerlf @ 3:29 pm

MercoPress, October 6th 2011

Movement Slogan: 99% vs. 1%

Demonstrators from New York City to San Francisco took to the streets Wednesday to protest what they call a growing wealth disparity between large US corporations and average citizens in the wake of the financial crisis.

Picketers marched as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that began three weeks ago in Lower Manhattan and has spread across the US. The New York crowd was estimated at 10,000, according to Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for the effort.

Protesters criticized the government for propping up hobbled financial giants, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., with a 700 billion dollars taxpayer-funded bailout in 2008, while leaving Americans to struggle with unemployment, depressed wages, soaring foreclosure rates and slashed retirement savings.

US labor unions will support the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstrations with rallies next week because the protests have tapped into the anger of unemployed Americans, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said on Wednesday.

“We’re not going to try to usurp them” Trumka, leader of the US largest labor federation, said on a conference call with reporters. “We’ll support them around the country and we’ll continue to work collectively with one another.”

In New York, members of National Nurses United, the profession’s largest US union; Transport Workers Union Local 100, the biggest labor organization in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Working Families Party, a coalition of community organizations, marched to Wall Street from Foley Square, north of City Hall.

The Transport union “applauds the courage of the young people on Wall Street,” the union said on its website. “Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up all the sacrifice and the financiers who imploded our economy are getting away scot-free.”

The protesters stopped at an office building in the Financial District whose tenants include Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, to chant, “We are the 99 percent!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

“We are the 99%” is a reference to the fact that one percent of Americans make a quarter of the country’s income.

“Occupy DC”, which has an encampment in Washington’s McPherson Square, a few blocks north of the White House, is planning a rally Thursday according to its Twitter feed.

Since Sept. 17, thousands of protesters have transformed New York’s Zuccotti Park, near the site of the World Trade Center, into a sea of blue tarps, sleeping bags and tables offering free medical care, food and library books. Their signs and slogans oppose everything from bank bailouts and corporate influence in politics to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and insufficient job prospects.

The protesters had a permit to demonstrate, said Paul Browne, deputy commissioner of the Police Department. Brian Sessa, a police spokesman, said 12 were arrested last night, including one accused of assaulting a police officer.

Last weekend, police halted a march over the Brooklyn Bridge and took about 700 activists into custody.

In San Francisco, demonstrators set up a camp of tents on a half-block stretch of Market Street outside the Federal Reserve building, where some have been meditating and playing guitars.

According to an Occupation Status Board at Zuccotti Park, the movement has spread to 147 cities in the US and 28 overseas, netted 35,000 dollars in donations and led to the arrest of 805 people. The website listed events planned in more than 45 states and in cities including Boston, Chicago, Denver and Seattle.

The Occupy Wall Street coalition has the potential to become the “Tea Party of the Left” if the protesters can transform their disparate list of grievances into targeted policy To prescriptions, said Brayden King, who’s written on social and political movements at Northwestern University.

To view Video of events go to:

February 26, 2011

Over 100,000 March in Madison

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 6:55 pm

“Madison Police Estimate Biggest Crowd Yet.”

The Wisconsin State Journal estimated the crowd size at 70,000 at 12:30 PM, which was 2 and a half hours before the rally was to begin. By 3PM over 100,000 anti-Walker marchers filled the capitol square.

I was there on Saturday the 19th with 70,000 marchers and today. This was significantly larger. The density of the crowd in the street was much greater. Plus the capitol building was filled with protestors. Also there was a constant crowd of thousands on the steps and on the snow covered lawn area where the rally was held.

Scott Walker needs to listen to the people.

February 21, 2011

See Great Videos of the Wisconsin Uprising

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 9:15 pm

They are compiled at the following web site:

February 16, 2011

Cheddar Revolution!

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:54 pm

Gwen Moore Support for Wisconsin Workers

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:21 pm

Dear Friend,

As you know there is a fight happening right now in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker has put forth an initiative that will nearly eliminate the collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public employees. We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. This controversial bill will come to a vote in the Wisconsin State Senate on this Thursday. And your help is needed RIGHT NOW!

Through the years, we’ve watched the labor movement build a strong and skilled workforce, and we know that when our workers thrive, our economy thrives. The facts tell the story clearly – a strong community fighting for workers’ rights goes hand in hand with strong middle class wages.

Wisconsin’s workers represent the best our state has to offer — and they are real people not widgets or statistics. They care for the patients in our hospitals and in their homes. They teach our children. They provide the vital services that keep our communities running. They are us.

Governor Walker is cavalierly trying to eliminate rights that Wisconsin workers have historically fought and died for. Public workers are not the enemy. They are skilled and trained workers. They are taxpayers, volunteers, neighbors and friends. They should be invited to the table and treated with respect – just like they have been historically by Republican and Democratic governors alike.

Just like we do in Washington, leaders in Wisconsin need to make some tough budget decisions. But eliminating the rights of our public workers is an attack on Wisconsin’s middle class. It’s an attack on our state’s rich history. And it’s a crushing blow to our working families who are struggling to climb out of this recession.

I urge you to contact your State Senator by calling 877-753-5578 and tell them to support Wisconsin’s working families!

Wisconsin cannot recover and grow again without a strong middle class. Thank you for your time and attention and let’s do what we can to help stop this vicious attack on Wisconsin Workers.

In Solidarity,
GSM Signature

Gwen S. Moore
Member of Congress, WI – 4

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Green Bay Packers Stand Up to Walker

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:16 pm

Green Bay Packers Sound Off Against Gov. Scott “Hosni” Walker

by Dave Zirin | February 16, 2011

Less than two weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers — the only fan-owned, non-profit franchise in major American sports — won the Super Bowl, bringing the Lombardi trophy back to Wisconsin. But now, past and present members of the “People’s Team” are girding up for one more fight and this time, it’s against their own Governor, Scott Walker.

Walker, after the Super Bowl victory, bathed himself sensuously in the team’s triumph, declaring at a public ceremony [1]that February was now Packers Month. He oozed praise for the franchise named in honor of the state’s packing workers. But just days later, the Governor offered cutbacks, contempt, and even the threat of violence for actual state workers.

Walker has unveiled plans to strip all public workers of collective bargaining rights and dramatically slash the wages and health benefits of every nurse, teacher and state employee. Then, Walker proclaimed that resistance [2]to these moves would be met with a response from the Wisconsin National Guard. Seriously.

Yes, in advance of any debate over his proposal, Governor Walker put the National Guard on alert by saying that the guard is [3]”prepared” for “whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for.” Considering that the state of Wisconsin hasn’t called in the National Guard since 1886, these bizarre threats did more than raise eyebrows. They provoked rage.

Robin Eckstein, a former Wisconsin National Guard member, told the Huffington Post, [4]”Maybe the new governor doesn’t understand yet – but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent. The Guard is to be used in case of true emergencies and disasters, to help the people of Wisconsin, not to bully political opponents.”

Already this week, as many as 100,000 people have marched at various protests around the state with signs that reflect the current moment like “If Egypt Can Have Democracy, Why Can’t Wisconsin?,” “We Want Governors Not Dictators,” and the pithy “Hosni Walker,”

But also intriguing is the intervention from past and present members of the Super Bowl Champs. Current players Brady Poppinga and Jason Spitz and former Packers Curtis Fuller, Chris Jacke, Charles Jordan, Bob Long and Steve
Okoniewski issued the following statement: [5]

“We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.  It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work. The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class. When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin’s long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work. These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.”

The players who signed on don’t have quite as high a profile as Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, but give it time. Rodgers is the Packers union representative in negotiations with the NFL, and on Tuesday the players union issued their own statement in support of state workers, writing, [5]

“The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.”

The support of the Packers players hasn’t been lost on those marching in the streets. Aisha Robertson, a public school teacher from Madison, told me, “It’s great to see Packers join the fight against Walker. Their statement of support shows they stand with us. It gives us inspiration and courage to go and fight peacefully for our most basic rights.”

Walker no doubt envisioned conflict when he rolled out his plan to roll over the workers of Wisconsin. But I don’t think he foresaw having to go toe-to-toe with the Green Bay Packers. As we learned in Egypt, envisioning unforeseen consequences is never an autocrat’s strong suit. As we’re learning in Wisconsin, fighting austerity is not an Egyptian issue or a Middle Eastern issue — it’s a political reality of the 21st century world. And as Scott Walker is learning, messing with cheeseheads can be hazardous to your political health.

[Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

February 14, 2011

Hundreds of Students Protest Walker’s “Repair” Legislation at State Capitol Today

Filed under: Fightback,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:03 pm

Hundreds protest at the Capitol
Jack Craver on Monday 02/14/2011 1:10 pm

When I arrived at the Capitol Rotunda and only found the TAA’s Peter Rickman waiting anxiously with another union activist, I figured I might be witnessing a monumental disappointment. However, the thunderous cries that drew us outside the building revealed a greater crowd of student protestors than I could have ever imagined. A Badger Herald reporter estimated “at least 700.”

February 6, 2011

Please Act: Don’t Allow the Further Demise of Public Education in Milwaukee

Filed under: Fightback,Right Wing Agenda,School Finance — millerlf @ 9:31 am

Dear Families, Students, Educators and Community:

Wisconsin families face economic hardships. Now their children’s educational future is in jeopardy. MPS is facing huge budget cuts. Many of our schools will lose valuable staff and programs.

Early reports from the MPS 2011-2012 school year budget process show many schools forced to eliminate art, gym, music, librarians and media specialists, program implementers, para-professionals and general aides, along with reducing hours, for many positions.  This year’s cuts seem to surpass what we have seen in the past.

Milwaukee Public Schools face a loss of funds from many directions:

  • Title I ARRA funds – $35.9 million
  • IDEA ARRA funds – $24.2 million
  • School Improvement ARRA – $2.9 million
  • Title IID ARRA funds – $2.1 million
  • Education Jobs funds – $14.7 million
  • Title I funds – $10 million, $3.5 million less to schools
  • Title IID funds – $0.8 million
  • School Improvement funds – $1.2 million
  • Safe Schools/Healthy Students – $2.2 million
  • Futures First – $0.8 million
  • School operations – $13.6 million budget shortfall

Governor Scott Walker warns of significant cuts in state aid. For example, some Republican legislators want to eliminate K4 early childhood funding.

Money is being taken from schools that have already been cut to the bare bones. This is not a case of throwing money at a problem. This is a matter of what is mandated and guaranteed under the law of the State of Wisconsin. Wisconsin students are guaranteed a “sound basic education” which is a “fundamental right.”

The Wisconsin legislative statute, 121.02(L) (1997-98), sets clear standards for what is mandated to be taught to Wisconsin’s public school students. These mandates go far beyond the core curriculum to guarantee that all students receive instruction in physical education/health, art, music and have access to library resources.

This was reaffirmed in the Wisconsin Supreme Court 2000 majority position on school funding by Justice Patrick Crooks (Vincent v. Voight):

“We further hold that Wisconsin students have a fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a sound basic education. An equal opportunity for a sound basic education is one that will equip students for their roles as citizens and enable them to succeed economically and personally. The legislature has articulated a standard for equal opportunity for a sound basic education in Wis. Stat. §§ 118.30(lg)(a) and 121.02(L) (1997-98) as the opportunity for students to be proficient in mathematics, science, reading and writing, geography, and history, and for them to receive instruction in the arts and music, vocational training, social sciences, health, physical education and foreign language, in accordance with their age and aptitude.”

The cuts being forced on MPS abandon our students’ right to a “sound basic education.”

We must fight for our kids!


Larry Miller-MPS School Board Director, District 5

February 2, 2011

NY city councilmen among 24 arrested in school protest

Filed under: Fightback,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 12:58 pm

The stakes are being raised to defend our kids education.

– Mon Jan 31, NEW YORK (Reuters) –

Twenty-four people, including two members of the New York City Council, were arrested on Monday at a protest over plans to close two dozen city schools, authorities said.

Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams, City Council members from Brooklyn, were arrested along with 22 other adults after the group formed a human chain across Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan outside the city’s Department of Education headquarters.

The group, some of whom wore signs saying “Fix schools, don’t close them,” was protesting plans to close 25 schools ahead of this week’s meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy.

“It’s not our fault that John F. Kennedy (school) is below standard. It’s the Department of Education’s fault,” said one student, who claimed that the school was “set up” to be closed years ago when officials started “dumping” low performing and special needs students there.

The arrested protesters were being held on charges of disorderly conduct pending issuance of summonses or court appearances, police said.

The acts of civil disobedience followed an earlier rally by students of schools targeted for closing, along with parents and education activists.

The demonstration was the latest of a series of protests in recent weeks over the proposed school closings, which unions say are the most ever in New York City.

The Panel for Educational Policy is an oversight group with a majority of members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose offices assumed control of the school system in 2002.

Critics of the plan to shut what the city calls failing schools say it masks a move to usher in more charter schools.

Such schools receive public money but are exempt from certain rules that apply to other public schools due to higher accountability in standards set by their charters. The schools often have long waiting lists.

Deputy schools chancellor Marc Sternberg defended the planned closings last week, telling a city council member: “When we feel the supports we’ve given to a school are not getting the job done … we are going to consider every intervention possible.”

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