Archive for the ‘CommUnity of Minds Archive’ Category

Working Together

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Malcom Jones writing in The Daily Beast today: Martin Luther King’s gifts were manifest. He was an inspired leader, a galvanizing orator, and a brilliant polemicist and prose writer. But more than anything, he knew how to rise to an occasion.

On December 10, 1964, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, he knew the world was watching. He knew that he was the public face of the American civil rights movement, and that everything he said would be weighed and judged, sometimes harshly. Put in that position, almost any of us would tremble. But King just stepped up to the podium and delivered one of the finest speeches of his life. … King was already famous as an orator, having delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before hundreds of thousands of people a year earlier (though hindsight has elevated that speech to a level of recognition that it did not receive in many news accounts of the 1963 March on Washington—the Washington Post story, for example, ignored it almost completely. …

If you watch a video tape  of the proceedings, you will be struck by the speaker’s somber reserve. There are no verbal crescendos; there is very little emotion and no drama at all. The template for most of King’s speeches was the sermon, but this is not a sermon. Quiet and reflective, it is more like a prayer.


 

1964 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Martin Luther King Jr.

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights Bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a super highway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.

Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible – the known pilots and the unknown ground crew.

So you honor the dedicated pilots of our struggle who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit. You honor, once again, Chief Lutuli of South Africa, whose struggles with and for his people, are still met with the most brutal expression of man’s inhumanity to man. You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth. Most of these people will never make the headline and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvellous age in which we live – men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization – because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1964, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1965

Working Together

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Timothy Wilken, MD writes: Human intelligence develops over time and can achieve four levels of understanding. We start with PERCEPTION then develop and sometimes master CONCEPTION, then develop and sometimes master MECHANISM and finally develop and sometimes master CONSEQUENCE. These levels are sequential–CONCEPTION follows and depends on first mastering PERCEPTION, MECHANISM follows and depends on first mastering CONCEPTION, and  finally CONSEQUENCE follows and depends on first mastering MECHANISM.

It is possible for most humans to understand, and then master their intelligence fully. Those who choose to do so, can with practice, develop the ability to access five modes of thinking: Survive, Adapt, Control, Create, and Co-Operate at will. With additional study and contemplation they can gain mastery of the four levels of knowing: PERCEPTION, CONCEPTION, MECHANISM, and CONSEQUENCE.

PERCEPTION is the understanding of space and sameness—spacial integrity— recognizing WHAT is associated with Good Space and WHAT is associated with Bad Space. PERCEPTION is also knowing WHERE to go to enable or avoid a recognized event—knowing WHERE to go to secure Good Space and WHERE to go to avoid Bad Space. PERCEPTION enables the ability of Adaptation.

CONCEPTION is the understanding of time and difference—temporal sequence—local cause and effect, and from that understanding knowing WHEN to act in time to encourage a desired event, or WHEN to act in time to discourage an undesired event from occurring. CONCEPTION enables the ability of Control.

MECHANISM is the understanding of HOW things work together—what events and actions are necessary to produce a desired resultant—knowing how PERCEPTION and CONCEPTION relate to each other. MECHANISM enables the ability of Creation.

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the understanding of the potential risks and benefits of our actions and their effects on our selves and upon others. CONSEQUENCE enables the ability of Co-Operation.

Let me provide one example of these four levels of knowing, and how they might apply to one problem currently threatening our civilization. As Albert Einstein warned us over sixty-six years ago: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Einstein had discovered one of Nature’s MECHANISMS: E=mc2

The scientists and technicians working at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico used their KnowHow to weaponize this MECHANISM of Nature with the creation of nuclear bombs.

Now let us examine the threat of nuclear weapons from the perspective of our four levels of human knowing.

PERCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to adapt to a nuclear event — to know what is associated with a nuclear blast, and to know where to go to escape from the blast of a nuclear weapon. Where is Good Space? Where can I go to avoid Bad Space?

CONCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to control a nuclear event — to know when to act to either detonate, or deactivate a nuclear weapon. What is the proper sequence of actions to control the process? And, when do I enter the activation code? Or, when do I enter the deactivation code?

MECHANISM is the level of knowing necessary to create a nuclear event — to know how reality allows the forces of nature to interact and result in a nuclear explosion — E=mc2. And, it also is the level of understanding necessary to invent and manufacture the technology of a nuclear weapon — the Manhattan Project. How do I design a nuclear device?

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the level of knowing necessary in order to co-Operate — to know why we should never have created nuclear weapons in the first place. Why are we creating these devices? What will be the consequence of their existence?

 http://i.imgur.com/ZgqmB.jpg

Unfortunately some of humanities greatest mistakes result from acting on our understanding of MECHANISM without considering the CONSEQUENCE of using a newly discovered Mechanism.

The following article was first published on September 13, 2013 under the title: Endless Fukushima catastrophe: Many generations’ health at stake from the RT website.

The author describes one of humanity’s recent great mistakes. I am re-posting this article not to frighten the reader or to blame anyone, but rather hopefully to attract the best of humanity to help our scientists and engineers address this crisis NOW!


Clear and Present Danger

Helen Caldicott, MD

This hand out picture by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority on August 23, 2013 shows nuclear watchdog members including Nuclear Regulation Authority members in radiation protection suits inspecting contaminated water tanks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. (AFP Photo)

Bio-accumulation of radioactive elements around Fukushima will devastate many future Japanese generations, while the Pacific Ocean is also being contaminated by leaking radioactive water. Yet there is still no good solution from the Japanese government.

As I watched the tsunami power into the reactor complex at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, I realized the world would never be the same again. No nuclear reactor can withstand being drowned in a massive wave of water without catastrophic consequences.

There were three nuclear reactors undergoing fission at the time while one, unit four, had just been emptied of its radioactive core, which was now situated in an unprotected cooling pool on the roof of the building, 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground. As the power supply to the reactors was disrupted during the earthquake, and the auxiliary diesel generators in the basements of the reactors failed because they were flooded, the pumps which supplied up to 1 million gallons of cooling water to each reactor failed.

Within hours the intensely hot radioactive cores in units one, two and three started to melt. As they melted, the zirconium metal cladding on the uranium fuel rods reacted with water to produce hydrogen which exploded with overwhelming intensity in the buildings of units one, two, three and four releasing huge amounts of radioactive elements into the air.

On March 15 alone, it is estimated that 100 quadrillion Becquerels of cesium, 400 quadrillion of iodine plus 400 quadrillion of inert noble gases (xenon, krypton and argon) escaped. Over a period of time two-and-a-half to three times more noble gases were released into the air than at Chernobyl.

Noble gases are very high energy gamma emitters similar to x-rays, which penetrate human bodies externally and, when inhaled, are absorbed from the lungs and stored in fatty tissue exposing nearby organs, including the gonads, to gamma radiation. Cesium and iodine 131 are also gamma and beta emitters which enter the body by inhalation and ingestion. But over 100 other radioactive elements were also released during the weeks and months of the accident and thousands of people were exposed to clouds of radiation. The damaged reactors continue to emit radioactive airborne releases to this day.

This handout picture taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on August 22, 2013 shows a TEPCO worker checking radiation levelS around a contaminated water tank at TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture. (AFP/TEPCO)

This handout picture taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on August 22, 2013 shows a TEPCO worker checking radiation levelS around a contaminated water tank at TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture. (AFP/TEPCO)

Luckily the wind was blowing east across the Pacific in the first several days, taking 80 percent of the fallout with it – much of which was deposited in the Pacific Ocean. But around March 15 the wind changed, blowing to the northwest and large areas of Japan, including parts of Tokyo became severely contaminated. Approximately 2 million people are still living in highly contaminated areas in the Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere, areas so radioactive that similarly-populated areas were quickly evacuated by the Soviets after the Chernobyl accident.

At the time of the Fukushima accident an unprecedented quantity of highly radioactive water was also released into the Pacific Ocean. But it hasn’t stopped. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) now admits that 300 tons of this water has been leaking into the Pacific every day since the accident 30 months ago and so far 270,000 tons of water has been released.

It is becoming apparent that the three molten cores, each weighing 120 to 130 tons have not only melted their way through 6 inches of steel in the reactor vessels, but they now either sit on concrete floors of the severely cracked containment buildings or they have melted their way into the earth itself – this, in nuclear parlance, is called ‘A Melt Through to China Syndrome’.

Because the reactor complex was built upon an ancient river bed located at the base of a mountain range, huge quantities of water flowing down from the mountains (1,000 tons daily) are circulating around these highly radioactive cores absorbing large concentrations of radioactive elements.

TEPCO constructed a type of concrete dam near the sea front to prevent this radioactive water from entering the sea. But the continuous flow of water built up behind the dam and overflowed into the Pacific Ocean. Each reactor core contains as much radiation as that released by 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs and contains more than 200 different radioactive elements, which variously last seconds to millions of years.

Medical Implications

Water in the bay beside Fukushima is highly contaminated with tritium, which is constantly increasing in concentration and now measures 4,700 Becquerels per liter – the highest level ever recorded in seawater. Furthermore a total of 20 to 40 trillion Becquerels of tritium have now been discharged into the Pacific Ocean –a Becquerel is one disintegration of radiation per second. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen, H3. It combines with oxygen to form tritiated water HTO, which is very dangerous. It emits an electron, or beta particle which, if lodged in the body, is very energetic.

Tritium combines within the DNA molecule inducing mutations. In numerous animal experiments tritium causes birth defects, cancers of various organs including brain and ovaries, and it induces testicular atrophy and mental retardation at surprisingly low doses. Tritium is organically taken up in food and is concentrated in fish, vegetables, and other food groups, and it remains radioactive for over 120 years. Ingestion of contaminated food causes 10 percent to combine in the human body where it can remain for many years continuously irradiating cells.

One of the main elements is cesium, a potassium mimicker, which concentrates in the heart, endocrine organs and muscles where it can induce cardiac irregularities, heart attacks, diabetes, hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer and a very malignant muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Cesium remains radioactive for 300 years and concentrates in the food chain.

Covers are installed for a spent fuel removal operation at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's unit 4 reactor building (R), in Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture on June 12, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Covers are installed for a spent fuel removal operation at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's unit 4 reactor building (R), in Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture on June 12, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Another very dangerous element is strontium 90, which also is poisonous for 300 years. Analogous to calcium, it concentrates in grass and milk, then relocates into bones, teeth and breast milk where it can cause bone cancer, leukemia or breast cancer.

Amongst the many other radioactive elements which are almost certainly escaping into the sea is plutonium which lasts for 240,000 years and is one of the most potent carcinogens known, such that a millionth of a gram can cause cancer. Each reactor core contains 500lbs of plutonium, but Reactor 3 contains even more, because it also contained plutonium/uranium fuel rods which were placed inside the core as an experiment.

As plutonium resembles iron in the body, it induces cancers in the lung if inhaled, and also cancers in the liver, bone, testicle and ovary. As an iron analogue, it readily crosses the placenta causing severe birth deformities similar to those produced by the drug thalidomide. All radioactive elements which irradiate the reproductive organs will induce genetic mutations in the sperm and eggs, thereby increasing the incidence of genetic diseases over future generations such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, hemochromatosis and 6000 others.

These are only several of over 100 deadly radioactive poisons polluting the Pacific Ocean and the air, each of which has its own pathway in the food chain and the human body. Radioactive elements are tasteless, odorless and invisible, and it takes many years for cancers and other radiation-related diseases to manifest – five to 80 years for most cancers.

Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radiation than adults, fetuses are thousands of times more so. One x-ray to the pregnant abdomen doubles the likelihood of leukemia in the baby. Females are also more sensitive than men at all ages. Radiation is cumulative, there is no safe dose and each dose received by a person adds to the risk of developing cancer.

Of great concern is the fact that 18 cases of childhood thyroid cancer in children under the age of 18 have already been diagnosed and 25 more are suspected in Fukushima. This is a remarkably short incubation time for cancer, indicating that these children almost certainly received a very high dose of iodine 131 plus other carcinogenic radioactive elements that were and are still being inhaled and ingested.

A worker checks radiation levels on the window of a bus during a media tour at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture on June 12, 2013. (AFP Photo)

A worker checks radiation levels on the window of a bus during a media tour at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima prefecture on June 12, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Thyroid cancer in Chernobyl victims did not appear for four years. Thyroid cancer is rarely found in young children. Iodine 131 is radioactive for 100 days, and is a potent carcinogen. Iodine 129 on the other hand lasts millions of years. Over 350,000 children still live and go to school in highly radioactive areas, and as juvenile thyroid cancers are arising, so the number of leukemia cases will start to increase about two years from now, with solid cancers of various organs diagnosed about 11 years later. These will increase in frequency for the next 70 -80 years.

Food in the contaminated zone will remain radioactive for hundreds of years because it will continue to bio-accumulate radioactive elements from the soil, thus ensuring that an increased incidence of cancer will devastate many future Japanese generations.

Medical doctors in Japan are reporting that they have been ordered by their superiors not to tell the patients that their problems are radiation related.

Water and the Pacific Ocean

Now back to the reactor complex. TEPCO is still pumping hundreds of tons of salt water over molten reactor cores daily as another 1,000 tons of underground water also flows through the damaged reactors. In order to try and control this frightening situation, TEPCO is pumping 300 to 400 tons of this highly contaminated water on a daily basis into 1,060 huge holding tanks adjacent to the reactor complex. These tanks now contain 350,000 tons of water and more tanks are being added each week to accommodate this endless flow of water.

TEPCO originally attempted to filter this water using an Advanced Liquid Processing System to remove some of the radioactive contaminants, but one of its tanks corroded and it was closed down in June this year.

The tanks have been hastily constructed to last five years, some have rubber seams, others have metal bolts which are corroding and very few are securely welded. Recently, workers discovered that the highly radioactive water is leaking and contaminating the tank site. Three hundred tons of water escaped from a tank measuring 100 millisieverts, or 10 rems, per hour and some of this water had also drained into the sea. A nuclear worker is allowed a yearly exposure of 5 rems. Because of this finding the present accident level was raised from 1 to 3, the original accident being labeled 7 – equivalent to Chernobyl, and the worst possible case.

It is suspected that many more tanks are leaking. Until recently TEPCO had only two men patrolling 1,060 tanks twice a day armed with inadequate Geiger counters. When new instruments were provided, radiation of 1,800 millisieverts per hour, or 180 rems, was discovered in leaked water at another tank, while several days later a reading measuring 2,200 millsieverts, or 220 rems, per hour was discovered! This was estimated to be mostly beta radiation, which would not penetrate the clothing of the workers. However high levels of gamma are radiating continually from the tanks and gamma, like x-rays goes right through a human body unimpeded.

Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture is pictured in this combination photo taken December 15, 2011 (top), and September 6, 2013, released by Kyodo on September 7, 2013, ahead of the two-and-a-half-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Would-be 2020 Olympic cities of Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo parade before the Games' organising body on September 7, 2013 in a "least ugly" contest as they attempt to conceal their blemishes and win the right to host the world's biggest sporting extravaganza. (Reuters/Kyodo)

Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture is pictured in this combination photo taken December 15, 2011 (top), and September 6, 2013, released by Kyodo on September 7, 2013, ahead of the two-and-a-half-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Would-be 2020 Olympic cities of Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo parade before the Games' organising body on September 7, 2013 in a "least ugly" contest as they attempt to conceal their blemishes and win the right to host the world's biggest sporting extravaganza. (Reuters/Kyodo)

The LD 50, a dose at which half an exposed population dies, is 250 rems! Not only are these workers in serious jeopardy, but TEPCO is fast running out of people to manage this disaster which could continue for 100 years or more. TEPCO said tritium levels in water taken from a well close to a number of storage tanks holding irradiated water rose to 64,000 becquerels per liter on Tuesday September 10, from 4,200 becquerels/liter at the same location on Sunday.

They are also running out of room to accommodate more tanks, the water keeps coming, and if there is another earthquake measuring 6 or above on the Richter scale, the plastic piping connecting the tanks and the tanks themselves could shatter releasing their contents into the ocean. If an earthquake does not eventuate, what will the Japanese do with this water? Obviously it is going to have to be discharged into the Pacific Ocean. However Prime Minister Abe recently announced that the government will spend $320 million dollars to construct a wall of ice 0.9 miles (1.45km) in length and 100 feet deep behind and around the complex to prevent the mountain aquifer from rushing in to engulf the damaged cores.

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer estimates that trying to clean the site and control the situation would cost at the minimum half a trillion dollars, and he says that the ice wall may not even be deep enough to block the water.

Furthermore maintaining the ice wall would require huge amounts of electricity, presumably to be generated by coal as the reactors will all be closed, which will add to global warming and obviously the ice will melt should there be a power outage. Not a good solution as the ice must remain intact for over 100 years. The government also plans to spend $150 million attempting to remove the radioactive elements from the water so they can be discharged into the sea, a Sisyphean task, virtually impossible to conduct successfully.

But there are other problems which defy solution. The whole reactor site sits on sodden ground, which has now become unstable, muddy and possibly liquefied. The site itself experiences many minor earthquakes each day, but should a quake greater than 6 or 7 on the Richter scale occur, it is likely that one or several of the buildings could collapse with absolutely disastrous consequences.


Helen Caldicott, MD Dr Helen Caldicott is one of the most articulate and passionate advocates of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises. More…

Working Together

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

From the SynEarth Archives. … Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.


 

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


More about Dr.Marin Luther King

Watch the Rev. Al Sharpton Speech at 50th Anniversary Celebration of MOW

The Radical Roots of the March on Washington

President Obama Marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Former President Clinton remarks on the 50th Anniversary of MOW

Working Together

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

The animals have perceptual intelligence. It is perceptual intelligence that allows the animals to survive in the fight or flight world of adversarity and to adapt to their environment.

We humans share the perceptual intelligence of the animals, but are blessed with a 2nd form of intelligence called conceptual intelligence. Conceptual intelligence allows us to speak with a voice, be aware of Time, and learn from our mistakes. It is conceptual intelligence that allows we humans to control the events in our lives by understanding how cause and effect work, to use tools to leverage our actions, and lets each new generation start from where the last generation left off.

Some humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual intelligence to generate a 3rd form of intelligence called  genius intelligence. Examples of humans possessing  genius intelligence include: Albert Einstein in science, Michael Jordan in sports, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in music. It is genius intelligence that allows some humans to understand mechanism. Those understanding mechanism can invent new tools of science and technology, create new ways of playing basketball, and create original musical masterpieces.

A few humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual and together with their genius intelligence to generate a 4th form of intelligence called goodness intelligence. Examples of humans possessing goodness intelligence include: Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the Dali Lama to name a few. It is goodness intelligence that allows a few humans to understand consequence. Those understanding consequence can see the truth. They can see good action. They know that they should avoid hurting others, and whenever possible they should help others.

As today’s author warns: “Beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared.”

Goodness intelligence grants us humans the ability to understand consequence. If we understand consequence, then we realize that we should move as quickly as possible to understand the plight of the honeybee. For only if we understand this crisis can we hope to rescue the honeybee, and perhaps rescue ourselves as well. …

This mornings article is re-posted from the August 19, 2013 issue of Time Magazine.


The Plight of the Honeybee

Bryan Walsch

You can thank the Apis Mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food you’ll eat today. From the almond orchards of central California–where each spring billions of honeybees from across the U.S. arrive to pollinate a multibillion-dollar crop–to the blueberry bogs of Maine, the bees are the unsung, unpaid laborers of the American agricultural system, adding more than $15 billion in value to farming each year. In June, a Whole Foods store in Rhode Island, as part of a campaign to highlight the importance of honeybees, temporarily removed from its produce section all the food that depended on pollinators. Of 453 items, 237 vanished, including apples, lemons and zucchini and other squashes. Honeybees “are the glue that holds our agricultural system together,” wrote journalist Hannah Nordhaus in her 2011 book, The Beekeeper’s Lament.

And now that glue is failing. Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began noticing something disturbing: their honeybees were disappearing. Beekeepers would open their hives and find them full of honeycomb, wax, even honey–but devoid of actual bees. As reports from worried beekeepers rolled in, scientists coined an appropriately apocalyptic term for the mystery malady: colony-collapse disorder (CCD). Suddenly beekeepers found themselves in the media spotlight, the public captivated by the horror-movie mystery of CCD. Seven years later, honeybees are still dying on a scale rarely seen before, and the reasons remain mysterious. One-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared during the past winter, a 42% increase over the year before and well above the 10% to 15% losses beekeepers used to experience in normal winters.

Though beekeepers can replenish dead hives over time, the high rates of colony loss are putting intense pressure on the industry and on agriculture. There were just barely enough viable honeybees in the U.S. to service this spring’s vital almond pollination in California, putting a product worth nearly $4 billion at risk. Almonds are a big deal–they’re the Golden State’s most valuable agricultural export, worth more than twice as much as its iconic wine grapes. And almonds, totally dependent on honeybees, are a bellwether of the larger problem. For fruits and vegetables as diverse as cantaloupes, cranberries and cucumbers, pollination can be a farmer’s only chance to increase maximum yield. Eliminate the honeybee and agriculture would be permanently diminished. “The take-home message is that we are very close to the edge,” says Jeff Pettis, the research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory. “It’s a roll of the dice now.”

That’s why scientists like Pettis are working hard to figure out what’s bugging the bees. Agricultural pesticides were an obvious suspect–specifically a popular new class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, which seem to affect bees and other insects even at what should be safe doses. Other researchers focused on bee-killing pests like the accurately named Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that has ravaged honeybee colonies since it was accidentally introduced into the U.S. in the 1980s. Others still have looked at bacterial and viral diseases. The lack of a clear culprit only deepened the mystery and the fear, heralding what some greens call a “second silent spring,” a reference to Rachel Carson’s breakthrough 1962 book, which is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. A quote that’s often attributed to Albert Einstein became a slogan: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live.”

One problem: experts doubt that Einstein ever said those words, but the misattribution is characteristic of the confusion that surrounds the disappearance of the bees, the sense that we’re inadvertently killing a species that we’ve tended and depended on for thousands of years. The loss of the honeybees would leave the planet poorer and hungrier, but what’s really scary is the fear that bees may be a sign of what’s to come, a symbol that something is deeply wrong with the world around us. “If we don’t make some changes soon, we’re going to see disaster,” says Tom Theobald, a beekeeper in Colorado. “The bees are just the beginning.”

Sublethal Effects

If the honeybee is a victim of natural menaces like viruses and unnatural ones like pesticides, it’s worth remembering that the bee itself is not a natural resident of the continent. It was imported to North America in the 17th century, and it thrived until recently because it found a perfect niche in a food system that demands crops at ever cheaper prices and in ever greater quantities. That’s a man-made, mercantile ecosystem that not only has been good for the bees and beekeepers but also has meant steady business and big revenue for supermarkets and grocery stores.

Jim Doan has been keeping bees since the age of 5, but the apiary genes in his family go back even further. Doan’s father paid his way to college with the proceeds of his part-time beekeeping, and in 1973 he left the bond business to tend bees full time. Bees are even in the Doan family’s English coat of arms. Although Jim went to college with the aim of becoming an agriculture teacher, the pull of the beekeeping business was too great.

For a long time, that business was very good. The family built up its operation in the town of Hamlin, in western New York, making money from honey and from pollination contracts with farmers. At the peak of his business, Doan estimates he was responsible for pollinating 1 out of 10 apples grown in New York, running nearly 6,000 hives, one of the biggest such operations in the state. He didn’t mind the inevitable stings–”you have to be willing to be punished”–and he could endure the early hours. “We made a lot of honey, and we made a lot of money,” he says.

All that ended in 2006, the year CCD hit the mainstream, and Doan’s hives weren’t spared. That winter, when he popped the covers to check on his bees–tipped off by a fellow beekeeper who experienced one of the first documented cases of CCD–Doan found nothing. “There were hundreds of hives in the backyard and no bees in them,” he says. In the years since, he has experienced repeated losses, his bees growing sick and dying. To replace lost hives, Doan needs to buy new queens and split his remaining colonies, which reduces honey production and puts more pressure on his few remaining healthy bees. Eventually it all became unsustainable. In 2013, after decades in the business, Doan gave up. He sold the 112 acres (45 hectares) he owns–land he had been saving to sell after his retirement–and plans to sell his beekeeping equipment as well, provided he can find someone to buy it. Doan is still keeping some bees in the meantime, maintaining a revenue stream while considering his options. Those options include a job at Walmart.

Doan and I walk through his backyard, which is piled high with bee boxes that would resemble filing cabinets, if filing cabinets hummed and vibrated. Doan lends me a protective jacket and a bee veil that covers my face. He walks slowly among the boxes–partly because he’s a big guy and partly because bees don’t appreciate fast moves–and he spreads smoke in advance, which masks the bees’ alarm pheromones and keeps them calm. He opens each box and removes a few frames–the narrowly spaced scaffolds on which the bees build their honeycombs–checking to see how a new population he imported from Florida is doing. Some frames are choked with crawling bees, flowing honey and healthy brood cells, each of which contains an infant bee. But other frames seem abandoned, even the wax in the honeycomb crumbling. Doan lays these boxes–known as dead-outs–on their side.

He used to love checking on his bees. “Now it’s gotten to the point where I look at the bees every few weeks, and it scares me,” he says. “Will it be a good day, will they be alive, or will I just find a whole lot of junk? It depresses the hell out of me.”

Doan’s not alone in walking away from such unhappy work. The number of commercial beekeepers has dropped by some three-quarters over the past 15 years, and while all of them may agree that the struggle is just not worth it anymore, they differ on which of the possible causes is most to blame. Doan has settled on the neonicotinoid pesticides–and there’s a strong case to be made against them.

The chemicals are used on more than 140 different crops as well as in home gardens, meaning endless chances of exposure for any insect that alights on the treated plants. Doan shows me studies of pollen samples taken from his hives that indicate the presence of dozens of chemicals, including the neonicotinoids. He has testified before Congress about the danger the chemicals pose and is involved in a lawsuit with other beekeepers and with green groups that calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend a pair of pesticides in the neonicotinoid class. “The impacts [from the pesticides] are not marginal, and they’re not academic,” says Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety and a lead counsel in the suit. “They pose real threats to the viability of pollinators.”

American farmers have been dousing their fields with pesticides for decades, meaning that honeybees–which can fly as far as 5 miles (8 km) in search of forage–have been exposed to toxins since well before the dawn of CCD. But neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the mid-1990s and became widespread in the years that followed, are different. The chemicals are known as systematics, which means that seeds are soaked in them before they’re planted. Traces of the chemicals are eventually passed on to every part of the mature plant–including the pollen and nectar a bee might come into contact with–and can remain for much longer than other pesticides do. There’s really no way to prevent bees from being exposed to some level of neonicotinoids if the pesticides have been used nearby. “We have growing evidence that neonicotinoids can have dangerous effects, especially in conjunction with other pathogens,” says Peter Neumann, head of the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Ironically, neonicotinoids are actually safer for farmworkers because they can be applied more precisely than older classes of pesticides, which disperse into the air. Bees, however, seem uniquely sensitive to the chemicals. Studies have shown that neonicotinoids attack their nervous system, interfering with their flying and navigation abilities without killing them immediately. “The scientific literature is exploding now with work on sublethal impacts on bees,” says James Frazier, an entomologist at Penn State University. The delayed but cumulative effects of repeated exposure might explain why colonies keep dying off year after year despite beekeepers’ best efforts. It’s as if the bees were being poisoned very slowly.

It’s undeniably attractive to blame the honeybee crisis on neonicotinoids. The widespread adoption of these pesticides roughly corresponds to the spike in colony loss, and neonicotinoids are, after all, meant to kill insects. Chemicals are ubiquitous–a recent study found that honeybee pollen was contaminated, on average, with nine different pesticides and fungicides. Best of all, if the problem is neonicotinoids, the solution is simple: ban them. That’s what the European Commission decided to do this year, putting a two-year restriction on the use of some neonicotinoids. But while the EPA is planning to review neonicotinoids, a European-style ban is unlikely–in part because the evidence is still unclear. Beekeepers in Australia have been largely spared from CCD even though neonicotinoids are used there, while France has continued to suffer bee losses despite restricting the use of the pesticides since 1999. Pesticide makers argue that actual levels of neonicotinoid exposure in the field are too low to be the main culprit in colony loss. “We’ve dealt with insecticides for a long time,” says Randy Oliver, a beekeeper who has done independent research on CCD. “I’m not thoroughly convinced this is a major issue.”

Hostile Terrain

Even if pesticides are a big part of the bee-death mystery, there are other suspects. Beekeepers have always had to protect their charges from dangers such as the American foulbrood–a bacterial disease that kills developing bees–and the small hive beetle, a pest that can infiltrate and contaminate colonies. Bloodiest of all is the multidecade war against the Varroa destructor, a microscopic mite that burrows into the brood cells that host baby bees. The mites are equipped with a sharp, two-pronged tongue that can pierce a bee’s exoskeleton and suck its hemolymph–the fluid that serves as blood in bees. And since the Varroa can also spread a number of other diseases–they’re the bee equivalent of a dirty hypodermic needle–an uncontrolled mite infestation can quickly lead to a dying hive.

The Varroa first surfaced in the U.S. in 1987–likely from infected bees imported from South America–and it has killed billions of bees since. Countermeasures used by beekeepers, including chemical miticides, have proved only partly effective. “When the Varroa mite made its way in, it changed what we had to do,” says Jerry Hayes, who heads Monsanto’s commercial bee work. “It’s not easy to try to kill a little bug on a big bug.”

Other researchers have pointed a finger at fungal infections like the parasite Nosema ceranae, possibly in league with a pathogen like the invertebrate iridescent virus. But again, the evidence isn’t conclusive: some CCD-afflicted hives show evidence of fungi or mites or viruses, and others don’t. Some beekeepers are skeptical that there’s an underlying problem at all, preferring to blame CCD on what they call PPB–piss-poor beekeeping, a failure of beekeepers to stay on top of colony health. But while not every major beekeeper has suffered catastrophic loss, colony failures have been widespread for long enough that it seems perverse to blame the human victims. “I’ve been keeping bees for decades,” says Doan. “It’s not like I suddenly forgot how to do it in 2006.”

There’s also the simple fact that beekeepers live in a country that is becoming inhospitable to honeybees. To survive, bees need forage, which means flowers and wild spaces. Our industrialized agricultural system has conspired against that, transforming the countryside into vast stretches of crop monocultures–factory fields of corn or soybeans that are little more than a desert for honeybees starved of pollen and nectar. Under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the government rents land from farmers and sets it aside, taking it out of production to conserve soil and preserve wildlife. But as prices of commodity crops like corn and soybeans have skyrocketed, farmers have found that they can make much more money planting on even marginal land than they can from the CRP rentals. This year, just 25.3 million acres (10.2 million hectares) will be held in the CRP, down by one-third from the peak in 2007 and the smallest area in reserve since 1988.

Lonely Spring

For all the enemies that are massing against honeybees, a bee-pocalypse isn’t quite upon us yet. Even with the high rates of annual loss, the number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has stayed stable over the past 15 years, at about 2.5 million. That’s still significantly down from the 5.8 million colonies that were kept in 1946, but that shift had more to do with competition from cheap imported honey and the general rural depopulation of the U.S. over the past half-century. (The number of farms in the U.S. fell from a peak of 6.8 million in 1935 to just 2.2 million today, even as food production has ballooned.) Honeybees have a remarkable ability to regenerate, and year after year the beekeepers who remain have been able to regrow their stocks after a bad loss. But the burden on beekeepers is becoming unbearable. Since 2006 an estimated 10 million beehives have been lost, at a cost of some $2 billion. “We can replace the bees, but we can’t replace beekeepers with 40 years of experience,” says Tim Tucker, the vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.

As valuable as honeybees are, the food system wouldn’t collapse without them. The backbone of the world’s diet–grains like corn, wheat and rice–is self-pollinating. But our dinner plates would be far less colorful, not to mention far less nutritious, without blueberries, cherries, watermelons, lettuce and the scores of other plants that would be challenging to raise commercially without honeybee pollination. There could be replacements. In southwest China, where wild bees have all but died out thanks to massive pesticide use, farmers laboriously hand-pollinate pear and apple trees with brushes. Scientists at Harvard are experimenting with tiny robobees that might one day be able to pollinate autonomously. But right now, neither solution is technically or economically feasible. The government could do its part by placing tighter regulations on the use of all pesticides, especially during planting season. There needs to be more support for the CRP too to break up the crop monocultures that are suffocating honeybees. One way we can all help is by planting bee-friendly flowers in backyard gardens and keeping them free of pesticides. The country, says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who has studied CCD since it first emerged, is suffering from a “nature deficit disorder”–and the bees are paying the price.

But the reality is that barring a major change in the way the U.S. grows food, the pressure on honeybees won’t subside. There are more than 1,200 pesticides currently registered for use in the U.S.; nobody pretends that number will be coming down by a lot. Instead, the honeybee and its various pests are more likely to be changed to fit into the existing agricultural system. Monsanto is working on an RNA-interference technology that can kill the Varroa mite by disrupting the way its genes are expressed. The result would be a species-specific self-destruct mechanism–a much better alternative than the toxic and often ineffective miticides beekeepers have been forced to use. Meanwhile, researchers at Washington State University are developing what will probably be the world’s smallest sperm bank–a bee-genome repository that will be used to crossbreed a more resilient honeybee from the 28 recognized subspecies of the insect around the world.

Already, commercial beekeepers have adjusted to the threats facing their charges by spending more to provide supplemental feed to their colonies. Supplemental feed raises costs, and some scientists worry that replacing honey with sugar or corn syrup can leave bees less capable of fighting off infections. But beekeepers living adrift in a nutritional wasteland have little choice. The beekeeping business may well begin to resemble the industrial farming industry it works with: fewer beekeepers running larger operations that produce enough revenue to pay for the equipment and technologies needed to stay ahead of an increasingly hostile environment. “Bees may end up managed like cattle, pigs and chicken, where we put them in confinement and bring the food to them,” says Oliver, the beekeeper and independent researcher. “You could do feedlot beekeeping.”

That’s something no one in the beekeeping world wants to see. But it may be the only way to keep honeybees going. And as long as there are almonds, apples, apricots and scores of other fruits and vegetables that need pollinating–and farmers willing to pay for the service–beekeepers will find a way.

So if the honeybee survives, it likely won’t resemble what we’ve known for centuries. But it could be worse. For all the recent attention on the commercial honeybee, wild bees are in far worse shape. In June, after a landscaping company sprayed insecticide on trees, 50,000 wild bumblebees in Oregon were killed–the largest such mass poisoning on record. Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee has no human caretakers. Globally, up to 100,000 animal species die off each year–nearly every one of them without fanfare or notice. This is what happens when one species–that would be us–becomes so widespread and so dominant that it crowds out almost everything else. It won’t be a second silent spring that dawns; we’ll still have the buzz of the feedlot honeybee in our ears. But humans and our handful of preferred species may find that all of our seasons have become lonelier ones.


From TIME Magazine:

PHOTOS: The Bee, Magnified: Microscopic Photography

MORE: The Origins of Nine Bee-Inspired Sayings

MORE: The Trouble with Beekeeping in the Anthropocene

Working Together

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Wise woman Ellen Brown tells that we do have options.


The Public Bank Solution: San Francisco

Ellen Brown

When the Occupiers took an interest in moving San Francisco’s money into a city-owned bank in 2011, it was chiefly on principle, in sympathy with the nationwide Move Your Money campaign. But recent scandals have transformed the move from a political statement into a matter of protecting the city’s deposits and reducing its debt burden. The chief roadblock to forming a municipal bank has been the concern that it was not allowed under state law, but a legal opinion issued by Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now overcome that obstacle.

Establishing a city-owned San Francisco Bank is not a new idea. According to City Supervisor John Avalos, speaking at the Public Banking Institute conference in San Rafael in June, it has been on the table for over a decade. Recent interest was spurred by the Occupy movement, which adopted the proposal after Avalos presented it to an enthusiastic group of over 1,000 protesters outside the Bank of America building in late 2011. David Weidner, writing in The Wall Street Journal in December of that year, called it “the boldest institutional stroke yet against banks targeted by the Occupy movement.” But Weidner conceded that:

“Creating a municipal bank won’t be easy. California law forbids using taxpayer money to make private loans. That would have to be changed. Critics also argue that San Francisco could be putting taxpayer money at risk.”

The law in question was California Government Code Section 23007, which prohibits a county from “giv[ing] or loan[ing] its credit to or in aid of any person or corporation.” The section has been interpreted as barring cities and counties from establishing municipal banks. But Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now put that issue to rest in a written memorandum dated June 21, 2013, in which he states:

“1. A court would likely conclude that Section 23007 does not cover San Francisco because the City is a chartered city and county. Similarly, a court would likely conclude that Article XVI, section 6 of the State Constitution, which limits the power of the State Legislature to give or lend the credit of cities or counties, does not apply to the City. . . . [A] court would likely then determine that neither those laws nor the general limitations on expending City funds for a municipal purpose bar the City from establishing a municipal bank.2. A court would likely conclude that the City may own stock in a municipal bank and
spend City money to support the bank’s operation, if the City appropriated funds for that purpose and the operation of the bank served a legitimate municipal purpose.”

A number of other California cities that have explored forming their own banks are also affected by this opinion. As of June 2008, 112 of California’s 478 cities are charter cities, including not only San Francisco but Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and Berkeley. A charter city is one governed by its own charter document rather than by local, state or national laws.

Which Is Riskier, a Public Bank or a Wall Street Bank?

That leaves the question whether a publicly-owned bank would put taxpayer money at risk. The Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only state-owned bank, has posed no risk to depositors or the state’s taxpayers in nearly a century of successful operation. Further, in this latest recession it has helped the state achieve a nationwide low in unemployment (3.2 percent) and the only budget surplus in the country.

Meanwhile, the recent wave of bank scandals has shifted the focus to whether local governments can afford to risk keeping their funds in Wall Street banks.

In making investment decisions, cities are required by state law to prioritize security, liquidity and yield, in that order. The city of San Francisco moves between $10 billion and $12 billion through 133 bank accounts in roughly five million transactions every year; and its deposits are held chiefly at three banks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Union Bank. The city pays $2.7 million for banking services, nearly two-thirds of which consist of transaction fees that smaller banks and credit unions would not impose. But the city cannot use those smaller banks as depositories because the banks cannot afford the collateral necessary to protect deposits above $250,000, the FDIC insurance limit.

San Francisco and other cities and counties are losing more than just transaction fees to Wall Street. Weidner pointed to the $100 billion that the California pension funds lost as a result of Wall Street malfeasance in 2008; the foreclosures that have wrought havoc on communities and tax revenues; and the liar loans that have negatively impacted not only real estate values but the economy, employment and local and state budgets. Added to that, we now have the LIBOR and municipal debt auction riggings and the Cyprus bail-in threat.

On July 23, 2013, Sacramento County filed a major lawsuit against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other mega-banks for manipulating LIBOR rates, a fraud that has imposed huge losses on local governments in ill-advised interest-rate swaps. Sacramento is the 15th government agency in California to sue on the LIBOR rigging, which Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi calls “the biggest price-fixing scandal ever.” Other counties in the Bay Area that are suing on the LIBOR fraud are Sonoma and San Mateo, and the city of Richmond sued in January. Last year, Bank of America and other major banks were also caught rigging municipal debt service auctions, for which they had to pay $673 million in restitution.

The question is, do taxpayers want to have their public monies in a bank that has been proven to be defrauding them?

Compounding the risk is the reason Cyprus “bail in” shocker, in which depositor funds were confiscated to recapitalize two bankrupt Cypriot banks. Dodd-Frank now replaces taxpayer-funded bank bailouts with consumer-funded bail-ins, which can force shareholders, bondholders and depositors to contribute to the cost of bank failure. Europe is negotiating rules imposing bail-ins for failed banks, and the FDIC has a U.S. advisory to that effect. Bank of America now commingles its $1 trillion in deposits with over $70 trillion in risky derivatives, and has been pegged as one of the next banks likely to fail in a major gambling mishap.

San Francisco and other local governments have far more than $250,000 on deposit, so they are only marginally protected by the FDIC insurance fund. Their protection is as secured creditors with a claim on bank collateral. The problem is that in a bank bankruptcy, state and local governments will fall in line behind the derivative claimants, which are also secured creditors and now have “super-priority” in bankruptcy. In a major derivatives calamity of the sort requiring a $700 billion bailout in September 2008, there is liable to be little collateral left for either the other secured depositors or the FDIC, which has a meager $25 billion in its insurance fund. Normally, the FDIC would be backstopped by the Treasury — meaning the taxpayers — but Dodd-Frank now bars taxpayer bailouts of bank bankruptcies caused by the majority of speculative derivative losses.

The question today is whether cities and counties can afford not to set up their own municipal banks, both to protect their money from confiscation and to take advantage of the very low interest rates and other perks available exclusively to the banking club. A government that owns its own bank can keep the interest and reinvest it locally, resulting in government savings of an estimated 35 percent to 40 percent just in interest. Costs can be reduced, and taxes can be cut or services can be increased. Banking and credit can become public utilities, sustaining the local economy rather than mining it for private gain; and banks can again become safe places to store our money.


Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. She turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org, and has websites at http://www.publicbanksolution.comhttp://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

Read her newest book: The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity