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"Forget the Rest" blog

August 29, 2011

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Bulletin #126: Thanks to many, we had a wonderful benefit evening last week; the next events are September 27 (Santa Fe) & 28 (Albuquerque)

In the meantime there will be no public meetings in Santa Fe.

Dear friends and colleagues –

1.  We had a wonderful benefit evening last week; thanks to all!

Last Thursday’s benefit was splendid.  Godfrey Reggio’s talk was spellbinding; hibakusha Shigeko Sasamori’s story of survival and service (the latter mostly implied in her talk) was inspiring. Peter Neils sung a couple of great songs, including “New Mexico Nuclear Waltz” – which many people in Santa Fe had never heard (!). The gourmet pizza provided by CloudCliff was first-rate; some of us are still gratefully munching leftovers from the truly giant loaf of whole-wheat cranberry-walnut bread CloudCliff unexpectedly provided. We met many people we had not known, and many old friends as well. 

Thanks again to our hosts Tom and Adelma Hnasko, and the many more that helped so very generously, some even driving up from Albuquerque to help.  To all those who came and contributed: thank you very much. 

In the coming days we hope to be talking further with some of you who indicated a desire to work with us. 

On a more sober note, we did not raise much money.  This will require some serious and clear-headed thought from many of us in the coming days.  I hope many of us will search our address books (real or virtual), and think about whom we know and how they can help defeat the proposed plutonium fortress on The Hill.  Many of us need to plan some frank conversations with our friends.  That means you, as well as Trish and I. Generally speaking, many people are generous, but too many of the best people also tend to be rather shy.  Please: this historical moment is no time to be shy.  It is rather a time to come forth and take upon ourselves the burden of inserting ourselves into the world as political actors, a “second birth” as Hannah Arendt called this maturation.  “Shy” once had a rather worse connotation than it does today, more like “easily frightened” than simply avoiding others.  As Philip Kapleau, my first Zen teacher, used to quote (this, in a school that values silence), “Silence is sometimes golden, but more often it is just yellow.” The great silence of well-meaning but shy people has created a power vacuum in this country, which I don’t need to tell you has been filled just as fast as it is created. 

As I said on Thursday, the Los Alamos Study Group is but one vehicle.  The main thing is to be serious about what we are doing.  As Cornel West recently said, “Like [Martin Luther] King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.” 

After the formal events ended, a couple of people communicated with me their ideas for big campaigns.  These are fine, but I hope all those who were present heard me say that I thought something entirely different was in order now.  Now is not the time to focus on what he should do, she should do, or they should do – those third person pronouns.  Now is the time to go into ourselves, examine our lives, and find what it is I can do, we can do, and what you and I can do together.  Leave the third grammatical person in favor of the first person, who is the actor we need to be most concerned about, and the second person, the one to whom we listen and speak.  As a first approximation, we can forget the rest. 

If you want to work with us, please contact us in any of the ordinary ways (see the bottom of this email). If you or your friends wish to help financially, here is our secure donation portal.  Please write Trish if you are interested in becoming a sustaining, monthly donor, or to make any special arrangements.  You can mail a check (which saves us about 5%) to the address at the bottom of this email. 

2.  No meetings in Santa Fe until Tuesday, September 27. 

We are moving to a monthly, not a weekly, schedule in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  Several of us will speak or meet in other places as invited and time allows.

On Tuesday, September 27 we will meet at St. John’s United Methodist Church, 1200 Old Pecos Trail, in Santa Fe, to host a panel discussion regarding our deteriorating economic prospects, together with some of the policies that could address that and the rest of the related converging crises we face.  We will meet in a much larger room (the “Gathering Room”) than the one in which we have been meeting. The following evening (Wednesday, 9/28/11) we aim to hold a similar discussion in Albuquerque.  We are awaiting confirmation on the hall.  

In this regard, some of you may imagine the New Mexico economy will just keep puttering along, that when the recession is over and the economy gathers steam the tourists will come back, that the White House and the Republicans have some plans, somewhere, to restart the economy.  I think you would be wrong about all those things. We can halt at least some of the most destructive elements of our slide, but it will take a concerted effort.  

As an aside, I cannot help repeating that the proposed CMRR Nuclear Facility – the proposed new pit factory – will create very few jobs.  You knew that, of course.  It is a totally socialist, command-economy project that also happens to create no useful goods, services, or productive infrastructure for our economy.  It draws in no private investment, builds no new manufacturing, sculpts no new civil society institutions, educates no new generation, and offers no products for sale.  It gives us no good story to tell our grandchildren; instead it offers secrecy, moral incoherence, and a suspended intention of mass destruction, the so-called “credible deterrent.”  But let's not think we are better or more pure than the people who make bombs to feed their families.  We aren't.  We are in this situation together. 

As far as the rest of the economy goes, the project is the economic equivalent of an expensive money incinerator.  At a cost of about $6 billion, the 9-year construction process will employ an average of 410 people, many of whom must come from out of state; NNSA expects about 250 indirect jobs to be created during construction.  Thus each 9-year job in New Mexico will cost roughly $9 million, or $1 million per job-year. 

Then comes the roughly two hundred million per year in operating overhead – which will produce, NNSA tells us, no new jobs at all. 

All is not lost.  The richest county in the West aims to create a sovereign wealth fund with the money it will rake in from gross receipts taxes.  Already, Los Alamos County has about 650 employees for about 18,000 residents.  “Topperman” rules the valley below. 

This facility is being promoted by a Democratic White House and by our Democratic senators, Rep. Lujan, and Rep. Heinrich.  Our New Mexico delegation doesn’t want to talk about this project, by far the most expensive government construction project ever conceived for New Mexico, but when they do, we  hear they sometimes talk about “jobs.” The very few jobs this facility would create, if it is built, can be seen as coming from potential renewable energy projects, low-income heating subsidies, and other programs funded in the Energy and Water appropriations bill.  At present, with nuclear weapons and nuclear power hogging so much, there’s very little money left for “green jobs.” In this state, the “green jobs” agenda of the New Mexico Democrats has fallen into a very deep hole at TA-55 – the plutonium facility – in Los Alamos.  For New Mexico “Democrats,” the corporate nuclear weapons agenda always comes first. So I wouldn’t believe a word of the propaganda coming from any of our candidates about “jobs.”  None of them have a program to rebuild the economy.  The steps required would alienate the “people” that really matter – big corporations. 

3.  The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for CMRR has been released. 

In brief: impacts have increased; there are no new alternatives proposed. 

The fact that no new alternatives were proposed is an expression of the inherent bankruptcy of the process.  The decision was made long ago to build this project, as NNSA has patiently explained to anyone who cared to read.

4.  Our 10th Circuit Appeal is well underway. 

We will be filing a major brief and its appendices in two days.  We will post this when it is filed. 

5.  We are heading to DC again in two weeks.

As you know, the House proposes to cut the Administration’s CMRR-NF budget for FY2012 by $100 million, and would bar construction.  The Senate has not yet spoken, although the Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a truly independent cost estimate for the project, to be reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

Will NNSA and its various grandiose projects be exempt from the budget cuts proposed for most other agencies funded in discretionary programs?  We will see.  But no matter what happens this year in appropriations, we believe (for reasons we have presented, say here, pdf, in part C) next year will be worse economically, and the following year worse again.  NNSA may seem immune from gravity temporarily, like Wile E. Coyote, but for how long? 

6.  To all our friends: thank you. 

Greg and Trish for the Study Group


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