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"Forget the Rest" blog

August 17, 2011         SubscribeUnsubscribe.

Bulletin #124: Invitation to fundraising event; please reach out to your friends for political action and material support; another CMRR resource

Tipping the Balance

from nuclear boondoggles and military waste
to sustainable energy and social renewal

Aug. 25, 6 - 9 pm – Save the Date!  Spread the word! 

Please join the Los Alamos Study Group and friends for an unprecedented and stimulating evening of engagement with some of most critical issues facing New Mexico. 

This fundraising and educational event will take place at the lovely Santa Fe home of Tom and Adelma Hnasko, 1239 Upper Canyon Road.  Tom is our lead attorney in litigation against the proposed huge new plutonium facility at LANL. 

Click here for a Google map.  More details below.  Dress is casual. 

Award-winning filmmaker and technology scholar Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi) will be our keynote speaker, followed by Study Group Director Greg Mello.

Ms. Shigeko Sasamori, who survived the Hiroshima bomb after sustaining terrible burns, and turned this misfortune into a joyful life of service to children here in the U.S., will join her friend Ms. Ali McGraw, actor of stage and screen and author, in co-hosting the event. 

Peter Neils, an accomplished songwriter and musician, and president of the Study Group, will be performing.

Please RSVP by calling or writing Trish at 505-265-1200 or twm@lasg.org.  The minimum donation will be $100 per person.  Cloud Cliff Bakery is providing gourmet pizza and salad.  Drinks will be served. 

Does the individual know that (s)he is the makeweight that tips the scales?” Carl Jung

Dear friends and colleagues –

Please see, below the horizontal line at the bottom of this note, the letter we are sending by regular mail to our members and supporters and to many liberal political donors in New Mexico, asking for financial support.  We are asking for your, and their, outreach to friends

In this regard, please see the invitation in the green box above to our August fundraiser at the home of Tom and Adelma Hnasko.  Here’s a map to their house at 1239 Upper Canyon Road, Santa Fe.  (It’s just east of the Camino Cabra intersection and the Cristo Rey church.) 

We’ve mentioned this event before but some of you are new to this mailing list and may not have heard about it.  Feel free to forward this invitation (pdf) to your friends!  This is shaping up to be a truly memorable event!  Don't forget to RSVP soon, so we can buy supplies and food! 

If you can’t come or can’t afford to come, don’t worry.  Our next big event will be in late September (details to be announced).  It will focus heavily on the regional economy, local business, employment, and poverty – including the role of nuclear and coal-based institutions as barriers to renewable energy jobs, and a discussion of how we can get around them. 

To those of you who have at one time or another helped support our work, or who do so now, thank you.  We hope you will take another step and get more involved if you can and have not already done so, including reaching out to political donors

In fact we want you, and your friends in New Mexico, to consider withholding campaign contributions to political parties, congressional, and presidential candidates unless (at a minimum) they have taken a public stand against CMRR-NF construction. 

You can ask your friends to donate to this organization instead.  We think we are a more responsible recipient of those dollars than any political party (or almost any candidate) in New Mexico today. 

We are deeply unimpressed with our state’s political representation.  Most political parties in New Mexico and their main candidates will continue to give undivided loyalty to corporate military and nuclear institutions unless there are countervailing, independent voices.  That’s what we do and we think you should do that too in one or more strong, nonviolent ways. 

There is no data supporting the notion that we will get better policy outcomes from our elected representatives without much more striking forms of engagement than at present.  All the data, and common sense, support the opposite conclusion: status-quo processes lead to status-quo outcomes.

In fact, why enable what health care advocate Carol Miller calls “electotainment” in New Mexico with the scarce dollars that could and should be spent in better ways in our communities?  This idea, which we raised this past spring in public meetings, is not too dissimilar to the recent call from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to 3,000 other CEOs to boycott all political contributions until Congress meets certain (mostly functionality) goals.

As I am sure you recognize, this is a kind of organizing as well as fundraising (whether nor not it results in funding for the Los Alamos Study Group).  It isn’t electoral.  It’s not about electing this or that candidate.  It’s about taking money out of politics – the money you can influence, personally, right now.  It isn’t a boycott of democracy.  It’s a boycott of sham democracy, what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.”  We are asking you to take some of the energy that is now going into a dysfunctional part of the system – the corporate-driven election charade for Congress – and invest it in other ways in our communities, including in this organization.  We hope you will invest in what Gandhi called “the constructive program,” and we hope you will invest in resistance to corporate attack, e.g. the proposed construction of CMRR-NF (see below). 

None of our elected officials are currently providing any visible leadership in either domain (the constructive or protective), and both major political parties are deeply devoted to their corporate sponsors.  Not to you and me and the person who needs a job.  The needs in this state are enormous and our New Mexico politicians as far as I know have not made any serious, realistic proposals capable of dealing with any of them. 

Withholding campaign contributions to candidates who can’t articulate, say, a defense against corporate nuclear attack is just the beginning of the remobilization we need.  We need to take energy out of this, which is manifestly not working, and put in that, which will. And how do we know that will "work?"  Because we will do it personally, with our friends.  We will realize that we are the ones we have been waiting for.   

We meet people everywhere who are dispirited about the current situation.  It seems overwhelming.  Well, it isn’t.  It’s one step, then another, then another, and pretty soon we are getting somewhere.  The step you take makes it easier for the next person. 

We want you to change your lives as we have changed ours.  Come in, the water's fine!  We want you to support young people in changing their lives.  We want to end business as usual, nonviolently, before violence takes over even more completely.  Structural violence is already severe; great injustice is occurring, between people and between generations.  Our children’s future is being stolen, and the few are enriching themselves on the backs of the many. 

The letter below attempts to touch upon many of the major issues at play in the momentous decision – momentous for New Mexico, the nation, and even the world – about whether or not to build the proposed additional plutonium pit factory, the so-called “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility” (CMRR-NF) – at Los Alamos. 

Why momentous?  Because the sole real purpose of this facility is to renew and extend the nuclear arms race by making new kinds of nuclear warheads in large quantities and to provide a “breakout” capacity vis-a-vis Russia.  It lacks any other coherent purpose, except of course that of bringing billions of tax dollars to the for-profit contractors who would manage and build the project. 

Surely everyone on this list understands that with almost 5,000 warheads in the U.S. arsenal, the “nuclear deterrence” contribution of the nth U.S. warhead, delivery system, or innovation, refers to deterring nuclear budget cuts and nothing else?  That “national security” in this context is a code for “contractor security?”

Many of you have heard of (or read) Naomi Klein’s fine book, The Shock Doctrine, which exposes the practice of “disaster capitalism.”  That’s what this is.  In this case, the “disaster” is an imagined future one, a projection favored by propaganda, and one considerably more likely to occur if these disaster capitalists have their way.  The “capitalism” part is very here-and-now.  CMRR-NF is a corporate attack on northern New Mexico, facilitated by feckless politicians (which happen to be mostly in the Democratic Party in this case; Rep. Pierce is not on the right committees and it's not in his district).

To paraphrase Clausewitz’s remark about war, we may not be interested in the CMRR-NF, but it is interested in us – specifically in our acquiescence, passivity, and of course our tax dollars, which are pretty much the whole point of the exercise.  War is what it is all about: war on the poor, war on the environment, war on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, “preventive war” on competing programs for renewable energy and energy-saving retrofits and the community renewal and jobs that would go with those investments. 

This monstrosity does not just suck money (anywhere from $4 to $6 to perhaps $8 billion in construction and one or two hundred million dollars annually in increased operating overhead) for an amazingly few number of jobs.  The political nature of the funding competition is, very starkly: community development, jobs, and a clean energy economy vs. the Cold War revividus.  In this competition, the New Mexico Democrats are very much in favor of nuclear weapons, and not “green jobs,” because they all to one degree or another fawn before the corporate interests involved.  In general, jobs and businesses which do not exist do not fund political campaigns, so change is not what they believe in.  That would require leadership.  Since they aren't supplying it, we must.

Greg Mello

PS: You (and your friends) may be interested in this two-page summary and update of the CMRR-NF issue (pdf).  Some of your correspondents may also be interested in these more detailed presentations:

Feel free to pass them on as needed or desired.


Los Alamos Study Group

Nuclear Disarmament • Environmental Protection • Social Justice • Economic Sustainability

August 10, 2011

Dear friends and colleagues –

I am writing to ask for your support (and that of your friends if they are so moved) to help us halt a proposed new $6 billion plutonium warhead production and storage complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

At the heart of this complex would lie a single building, deceptively named the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility” (CMRR-NF).  CMRR-NF would be the most expensive government project ever built in New Mexico by about a factor of ten, with the exception of our two interstate highways. 

This one plutonium processing and storage bunker would cost, in inflation-corrected dollars, as much as all the construction and operating expenses of Los Alamos from its inception through 1958.  It would dwarf, by a factor of five, what the Manhattan Project spent in New Mexico during World War II. 

If it proceeds this giant nuclear project would dominate all New Mexico construction for the crucial decade ahead.  With other unnecessary nuclear weapons “modernization” projects it would hog resources in the annual Energy and Water appropriations process, crippling the creation of new energy jobs.  For New Mexico, it would drive our State in exactly the wrong direction – toward poverty and despair for most. 

The 600 temporary jobs it would create (many or most of which would be given to out-of-state nuclear-certified workers and engineers) would cost taxpayers a staggering $10 million apiece, under the optimistic assumption that costs do not rise further.  The estimated cost of this project has already increased by a factor of fifteen.  No permanent jobs will be created. 

The negative impact of a huge plutonium processing center on real estate markets and housing construction may more than offset any supposed economic “benefit,” outside Los Alamos itself. 

The political impact is worse.  Already the entire New Mexico delegation is four-square behind this boondoggle, even though this giant project (and the new warhead production it implies) would crowd out green energy jobs.  Make no mistake: this facility competes directly each year with green jobs, with low-income heating assistance, with wind and solar energy, with energy-saving building renovation – in fact with all peaceful Department of Energy (DOE) programs. 

This huge building would do much more than “replace” a half-abandoned old lab at Los Alamos.  It would vastly expand plutonium operations at LANL, making Los Alamos into the successor to the former Rocky Flats plutonium plant.  Plutonium warhead core (“pit”) manufacture has never been done safely anywhere, at any time.  It is an inherently risky and dirty business. 

We have a very good chance of stopping this fiasco.  The Republican-led House of Representatives has voted against construction next fiscal year for a number of reasons and has proposed cutting $100 million from its requested appropriation even prior to the recent deficit reduction law.  The Senate Armed Services Committee has expressed doubts about the extravagant cost of this facility.  The Government Accountability Office also has doubts about the project and is investigating it.  This unnecessary project even has opposition within the Executive.  Last week’s deficit reduction legislation introduced even more uncertainty – as it raises the stakes for what is left of our social contract. 

In part through our efforts, this project has been delayed for several years already, most recently for a year while our litigation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ran its course.  Our case was eventually dismissed, but the steps taken by DOE to defend against us are still preventing construction today.  We are appealing this local decision – which we believe was based on faulty law – to the Tenth Circuit in Denver. 

The tide in Congress is turning in our favor but the project’s momentum is considerable.  Preliminary construction could begin as soon as October if we are not successful.  We need you to help us tip the balance. 

We are not a NIMBY group.  There is just no need for this building to maintain U.S. warheads indefinitely, as President Clinton’s technical advisor Dr. Frank von Hippel, and the former Sandia vice president responsible for designing most U.S. nuclear weapons, Robert Peurifoy, have both testified in our litigation.  All the proposed functions of this building are gratuitous, duplicative of existing capabilities, or both. 

This project is nonetheless “unequivocally” supported by President Obama, and nearly all foundation funders do not (yet) oppose it.  Many “disarmament” organizations have tried to protect this project since its inception in 1999, as a political necessity for various real and imagined arms control “deals” to be struck with Republicans.  Only this month are we beginning to see what may become the development of significant opposition by nonprofits in Washington. 

That’s why your financial help is so important right now.  Please look over the enclosed materials and respond as generously as you can.  Share them with your friends.  You can learn more about us and about this project at lasg.org.  We have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for your convenience (add a first-class stamp, please!).  You can donate on-line at lasg.org.  To make other arrangements call 505-265-1200 or write Trish at twm@lasg.org

We are experts, we are winners, and we are determined.  We have successfully fought off variations of this monstrosity for 21 years amidst our other work.  This long struggle has now reached a crucial stage, and we are reaching out farther than before for critically-needed financial and political help. 

We are powerful in this fight for two main reasons.  First, we are widely respected on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in government.  We have a respectful and attentive audience where it most counts.  Our ideas have become legislation.

Second, some truths are just too big to hide.  The very crowded mesa on which this bunker would squat lies between powerful, active earthquake faults.  Seismic investigations (ordered in part by a federal judge in Washington as a result of our litigation and testimony in 1997) have revealed that seismic accelerations in Los Alamos can be even greater than those which struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.  Worse, LANL would place this behemoth above a weak volcanic ash deposit with little resistance to seismic motion – or else dig out this entire stratum, installing a giant block of concrete 60 feet thick to replace it in a pit some 130 feet deep, to be dug next to operating nuclear facilities.

These and other problems make this project terribly expensive.  It would require a vast amount of concrete (371,000 cubic yards) – more than 100 times what was originally envisioned.  It would need more steel than the Eiffel Tower.  All to buy very little “useful” space: 90% of the building would be for support equipment and the structure itself.

One of those uses is a vault to store 6 metric tons of plutonium, “the nation’s storehouse,” enough to re-make the entire strategic stockpile.  Oddly, until George W. Bush was elected, a lab housing 900 grams of plutonium was adequate. 

Now, the new deficit legislation is forcing a momentous clash between wasteful military spending (including this project) and the socially and environmentally responsible investment we need.  Please fight with us.  There are many ways to do that – contact us for more on that topic – but contributing financial resources is paramount right now. 

Deciding not to build this project – as opposed to abandoning it later for lack of money – is very important for New Mexico and the country as a whole.  With your help, we can finish turning the tide.  Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely, 

Greg Mello, for the Los Alamos Study Group


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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

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