Monthly Archives: February 2014

Venezuela: Playing the Blame Game

By durdaneta from Caracas, Venezuela (Bravo Pueblo #venezuela #12F #plazavenezuela) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By durdaneta from Caracas, Venezuela (Bravo Pueblo #venezuela #12F #plazavenezuela) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you been to Caracas lately? Chances are, if you are an American, you will be expelled from Venezuela as a result.

On Monday, 2-17-2014, three US diplomats were expelled, following expulsion of three diplomats in October on charges of stirring up labor protests, and two were also expelled earlier in 2013 on the day former President Chavez died of cancer. The US diplomats are accused of recruiting students to lead protests in the country’s recent unrest.

The U.S. State Department called the allegations “baseless and false,” adding that Washington supported free expression and peaceful assembly in Venezuela and around the world.

Demonstrations began when students and other opposition to current President Maduro called for his ousting, citing high inflation, violent crime and the shortages of many staples.  An arrest warrant has been issued for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has pledged to lead a march in the capital Caracas on Tuesday, 2-18.

Since the demonstrations began, the reporters’ trade union said 11 journalists have been arrested, some of whom were beaten and had their equipment stolen while covering the unrest. Additionally, Reuters reports,”Opposition activists say some detained student demonstrators have been tortured, while videos and photos circulating online show uniformed men firing on protesters. Maduro insists police have been restrained in the face of provocation and attacks.”

The government has blocked Twitter, attempted to block other social media outlets, and controls all the television and broadcasting facilities within Venezuela.

Although it remains to be seen if Venezuelans in general will join the students as their demonstrations spread to other cities in Venezuela, it is highly unlikely Maduro will acquiesce to any of the demands, nor will he relinquish “even a millimeter” of his power.

Did you notice the price of gas rose? Don’t look at the Middle East this time – look south!

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Biofuels: Switching to Grassoline

By Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (USDA NRCS Photo Gallery: NRCSIA99654.tif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (USDA NRCS Photo Gallery: NRCSIA99654.tif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Editorial Note: We first ran this story in February of last year. With as much importance today as then, we republish it for your advantage.

Across America are tracts of land which lend themselves very well to the growth of native perennial grasses, the most stable and widespread of these being switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Switchgrass grows to an average height of 4 to 6 feet, is reliant only on weather once established, and will produce for 15 to 20 years in an established stand which is naturally resistant to weeds and helps prevent erosion while maintaining moisture of the ground soil. The root structure of these native plants extends to 5 feet below the surface, helping soil improve where it is grown.

Other than grazing and wild life habitat, what can we use switchgrass for?

If we are serious about alternative energy sources, a sustainable future and biofuels, switchgrass offers a much more viable option than corn ethanol. Here are some basics:

In 2008, an article in Scientific American, by writer David Biello, examines the potential switchgrass offers the biofuel industry. Highlighting the report, Biello writes “switchgrass ethanol delivers 540 percent of the energy used to produce it, compared with just roughly 25 percent more energy returned by corn-based ethanol according to the most optimistic studies.”

“Switchgrass will store enough carbon in its relatively permanent root system to offset 94 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted both to cultivate it and from the derived ethanol burned by vehicles. Of course, this estimate also relies on using the leftover parts of the grass itself as fuel for the biorefinery.

By Peggy Greb, USDA (USDA ARS Image Number K11202-1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Peggy Greb, USDA (USDA ARS Image Number K11202-1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The use of native prairie grasses is meant to avoid some of the other risks associated with biofuels such as reduced diversity of local animal life and displacing food crops with fuel crops. It is an energy crop that can be grown on marginal land, such as the more than 35 million acres (14.2 million hectares) of marginal land that farmers are currently paid not to plant under the terms of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program.

Forward-thinking companies like that of Colorado-based ZeaChem Inc. are building and beginning production of cellulosic ethanol. At their Port of Morrow facility in Boardman, one of the first operational cellulosic biorefineries in the world began producing in March of 2013, according to a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Research is ongoing to develop switchgrass biomass as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production, fuel for direct combustion in ground and densified forms, composite materials, biodegradable plastics, and as a component in potting soil substrate. Even more promising research is discussed in an article by Josh Clark in “How Stuff Works”.

We expect a coming blowback from profit-driven seed companies, fertilizer manufacturers and others who will not reap their expected rewards for the promised boom in corn ethanol, now falling both in its cost efficiencies and sustainability for a long-term solution to our future energy needs.

Research should be able to easily mow down their theories.

By Dehaan (Steve Renich) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dehaan (Steve Renich) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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That Which Weaves Us Together

In December, 2010, a man in Tunisia protested his treatment by police by burning himself to death. As the world took note, the events that followed led to what is now an unstoppable force, a genie let out of the bottle which is often referred to as “the Arab Spring.”

Photo By Hiart (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Hiart (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In a breathtaking timeline of collective consciousness, people began to say “ENOUGH!” to their oppression, suppression and brutality. They gained strength through solidarity, found in the social media as well as the streets they poured onto. City squares in major middle eastern countries were occupied by immense throngs of people, demanding change. (The Guardian offers an actual interactive timeline here.)

Governments responded by all imaginable means, using everything from water cannons to tear gas to live bullets and chemical attacks to stifle the rising voices. The attempts were too little, too late, and the surge took off across the world. By September, 2011, the Occupy Movement was well established throughout the United States and many other countries, and continues today through use of the very social media that gave birth to the early roots of the Arab spring.

Why? Never before have we, as humans in general, been so connected to others. A mom in California identifies with a mom in South Africa. A textile worker in Thailand finds solidarity with a cotton grower in Australia. Kids in Kurdistan want the same things as kids in Palestine. The borders of countries are invisible, as are the prejudices of race, education and economic class. Social injustice is an outrage to all.

It is this connectivity that will enable us to reach the next level of our progression of humanity: the acceptance of others in exchange for acceptance of one’s self. Solidarity in the belief that all humans deserve equal, respectful and meaningful participation within their world is not a new concept, but had deteriorated to mean something to stifle when defined by governments and powerful forces of opposing views.

As the threads of this collective consciousness begin to weave themselves into a fabric of humanity that will blanket the world in a new spiritual understanding of all people, we will prevail. Our solidarity, our united voices, our consistent outrage for the continued same wrongs will not be silenced. We can and will bring the change humanity needs and begs for.

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US State Dept. Wants YOU

Photo By Rrenner (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Rrenner (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Keystone XL will spark debate regardless of where it is brought up. The facts are confusing, the “scientific” data is questionable and the industry seems recalcitrant toward developing disaster prevention and cleanup.

News report show rights of landowners, indigenous peoples and smaller corporations being tossed under the wheels of profit-driven plans that disregard environmental, global warming, empirical science, ethical and sustainability concerns. In fact, most Americans have already made up their minds about how they feel, so to attempt persuasion at this point seems redundant at best.

Some time between now and March 7, 2014, it is your responsibility as an American citizen to express to the State Department your comments regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline. If you care significantly about this issue, this is your chance to voice that opinion. Do this before signing more petitions, going to more rallies, writing more letters to editors or representatives in Washington or complaining to coworkers.

All the official reports can be found here: State Department Keystone XL Pipeline

There are two ways to submit comments on the national interest determination. Members of the public are encouraged to submit comments to . Comments may also be mailed directly to:

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Energy Resources, Room 4843
Attn: Keystone XL Public Comments
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Comments are not private and will be made public. Comments can only be submitted
via and by mail to the address indicated above.

Get to work!

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Today, We Rise Up!

On 14 February 2013, one billion people in 207 countries rose and danced to demand an end to violence against women and girls.

On 14 February 2014, we are escalating our efforts, calling on women and men everywhere to RISE, RELEASE, DANCE, and demand JUSTICE!

ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice – courthouses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not.  It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.  It’s NOT TOO LATE! Find an EVENT NEAR YOU!

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Employment for fun and profit

By Gretschman for Occupy World Writes

Photo By Eberhard Petzold, [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Eberhard Petzold, [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Long term unemployment is at its highest level in the United States since World War II. At the time of this post being written, the prospect for any governmental intervention to help the long term unemployed gain any further benefits is stalled in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is an emblematic symbol of the inability of our government to do much meaningful to help the 99%.

How do we create an economy the provides good paying long term jobs for everyone  willing and able to work? Not by shipping our manufacturing jobs overseas along with the empty containers and debt that comes with buying those goods from the nations who NOW manufacture the goods that we used to produce here. Not by signing another trade agreement that will allow more jobs to be sent to the countries who still have no viable laws against child labor. Not by buying the goods that are produced in countries that have tariffs against IMPORTS and provide subsidies that further allow them to undermine anything that may be construed as fair trade. Not by further deregulating our commodities and allowing speculators to drive up the prices of these commodities by 30% for the simple purpose of lining the pockets of the speculators themselves.

We can no longer listen to the mantra that we are becoming a “service oriented nation” which appears to have been a cover to get us to pay no attention to the fact that our good paying manufacturing jobs were being sold for the convenience and bank accounts of the 1%.

We need to invest in OUR infrastructure, OUR education system, and OUR workers. We need to vote with our wallets. We need to DEMAND that the politicians we elect have a REAL plan for full employment – employment within our borders – not outside.

We can’t all ask each other “do you want fries with that?” if we want to prosper.

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Yes We Can

By U.S. Government ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Government ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The time leading up to the 2008 elections was a major seachange in American politics. With the Democrats, the last two standing were a woman and an African-American; a first for either group thus represented. With Barack Obama winning the nomination for the Democrats, the Republicans countered by naming a woman as their vice presidential candidate. So, no matter who won, the election would have been historic; either you’d have an African-American in the White House or a woman as Vice President. With a campaign slogan of “Yes We Can”, the Democrats took the White House.

I remember election night well. I was passing time on a music forum, and my international friends were, if anything, even more excited by the election than we were. They thought that America had finally turned the corner, and that “Yes We Can” symbolized what would be the new America; an America less imperialistic and more tolerant.

Over the last five years, we’ve seen that our wishes were half realistic and half a pipedream. The grim face of racism and paranoia over the changing demographics of our society led to an opposing party dedicated to obstructing every policy of the President, and the sound bites and media firestorms thus generated distracted us from the fact that our government under the guise of “national security” monitored phone calls and emails without a warrant on an unprecedented scale. Not only were we as private citizens victims of this breach of any privacy, but foreign leaders who were supposedly our allies were also targeted. Edward Snowden’s revelations brought the government’s data collecting into the public spotlight, and made all of us aware of what our government was doing behind our backs.

As you might have noticed, yesterday was a national day of action calling for we as citizens to call and email our Congressthings and let them know this is not OK. Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with the Today We Fight Back movement, and we displayed their banner yesterday in a show of solidarity with the cause.

So, how did we do? As of 10:30 last night, 82,309 calls had been placed and 167,724 emails had been sent to your Congressthings nationwide. We’ve seen that with the rise of social media that we can influence events on both a local and national level. We’re honored to be a part of yesterday’s action, and we thank all of you who participated with us, either by putting a banner on your site, by emailing or calling your Congressthing, by spreading the word via social media or a combination of the above. If we come together and make our voices heard, we can move mountains.

Yes We Can!

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“You Will Inspire Us”

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Raleigh, North Carolina had a rather exciting weekend, one which the news media has chosen to largely ignore. Nearly 100,000 gathered in the streets of Raleigh in support of the Moral Monday, a groundswell movement that is now beginning to taking hold in other states in the deep south.

Starting in 2013, Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Monday movement, has rallied North Carolinians who have seen draconian legislation passed by their state GOP controlled government aimed at the most vulnerable of the populace. The group has five demands;
• Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;
• Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
• Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities;
• Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
• Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Barber addressed the crowds with a keynote speech, according to an article in The Nation. “You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us,” Barber said.

Barber and the Moral Monday activists realize 2014 will be a year that the political climate in the state will only become more divisive.  As other states follow the example of the North Carolina’s legislation, the struggle becomes “a state fight with national implications,” as Barber states it.

Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with the Moral Monday Movement and all groups voicing demands for change when local, state or national governments fail their responsibility to govern without discriminatory laws or policies.

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Making the Good seem Bad

Corn, Jack, 1929-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464440) Public Domain, via WikiMedia Commons

Corn, Jack, 1929-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464440) Public Domain, via WikiMedia Commons

Years ago, while working for a distribution company, I met a gentleman that greatly impacted me. “George” was elderly, and had a wife with serious health conditions. George was past retirement age, but had run all the numbers numerous times, and simply could not retire because the health care costs would be too great to balance with limited retirement income.

As a result, George came to work every day, as cheerful and dedicated as any employee could ever be. His manager decided George did not need to be treated fairly, and would humiliate the man on a daily basis. This was because he knew George would not quit, that George had no recourse, and that George never complained.

When the CBO released the report saying the ACA would allow freedom from job-lock of health insurance coverage, I immediately thought of George. I thought about the thousands of people like him, who can now choose to leave employment years after they should have been able to. I thought how it might be for George and his wife to have the ability to take care of her health conditions without worrying about George’s work schedule.

Since George worked in the IT department at the distribution company, it would make sense that when he can now retire, the company can bring a new. fresh face from the unemployed sector in to take George’s place, who will bring new ideas from a recently acquired education in the field.

When two different messages are drawn from the same report, it tells me the writers of the report are unable or unwilling to state facts in clear, concise enough ways to truly inform the American public of the facts; the intent seems to be only to ramp up the rhetoric. Clarity is as obscure in the reports as is it in the shaping of policies. It also tells me that politicians will seize anything that can be twisted into misconception and used as a false talking point to drum up support and spur fundraising campaigns.

Plain English, people. You expect it from immigrants, we expect it from you!

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What if filing taxes wasn’t so… taxing?

By Gretschman for Occupy World Writes

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are at least 1,910 forms and supporting documents on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. The tax form that most Americans fill out for the purpose of federal tax liability has a 206 page set of instructions that go with it. American citizens are taxed at varying rates: up to 39.6 percent of their income.

The IRS calculates a burden of 7 hours and $120 for the average taxpayer to complete a federal tax return (Form 1040). For businesses, the IRS calculates a burden of 24 hours and $430.

Can’t we simplify this ? What if the existing tax code with its page after page of additions and exclusions was thrown out so that all citizens and businesses would pay the same flat rate on their income? No more having multi-billion dollar corporations paying less taxes than the average citizen pays.

Instead of pages and pages of tax code that favor those who helped write the tax code, one flat tax rate would apply to all. If all income was subject to a 7 percent tax paid to the federal government and a 3 percent tax was paid to the state or local municipality where the citizen or business resided the federal, state and local governments would have enough money to provide the types of programs and services that are now at the mercy of political wrangling. Most, if not all, citizens would be overjoyed to bring home 90 percent of their gross wages.

How much money and time would be saved by having a simplified tax code? How much less would the government spend on implementation and enforcement of a simpler tax code? How much more money would the average citizen have to spend on education, entertainment, or just the basic necessities of daily living?

If the only things that are certain in this life are death and taxes, can’t we at least try to make the second one feel a little less like the first?

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