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Bulletin #139: NNSA, LANL “tight-lipped” re spending $170 M on CMRR-NF this year; thank you all; what you can do TODAY

December 31, 2011

Dear friends –

With just twelve hours left for tax-deductible donations in 2011, we hope some of you will consider suggesting TODAY to some your friends that they make a donation to the Los Alamos Study Group, or become a sustaining donor (pdf), at any level. 

It’s my job to offer this reminder, and I do so knowing full well that there are many unfilled needs in the world. 

At the same time I want to say THANK YOU to all our supporters and friends for what has been a very successful year for us.  The coming year will be even more important – and we hope even more fruitful.  There are now far more doors open to us than a year ago.  We can’t walk through them without your help, and that of your friends.  

Our work has been successful but also unusually costly, and we are financially weak.  Our staff – Trish and I – work on salary for less than the minimum wage, if it were a wage, and by having the Study Group office in our home there’s no office rent either.  But as you know, everything legal is horrendously expensive, even when most of our lawyers are generously donating their time. 

The tide is turning against the odious CMRR-NF project.  This is a very concrete result.  If this adverse tide should quicken, the project could suffer the ignominious fate it has deserved since its inception. 

We hope that some of you, especially perhaps some of you in New Mexico (which would in that case be spared a terrible outcome), will pick up the phone and call some of your friends, who may be able to help us.  One of the very few advantages of working in New Mexico is that it is a small state.  People know each other.  This is a huge advantage but we need your help to capitalize on it. 

LANL’s New Plutonium Lab Delayed (Albuquerque Journal North, Dec 24, 2011)

On Christmas Eve the Journal delivered a small present, namely the news that NNSA and LANL officials were “tight-lipped” about how exactly they would be spending the $170 million Congress gave them to spend on CMRR-NF this year, given that construction is barred.  (Another $30 M was provided to complete the first CMRR building.)  As reporter John Fleck put it,

The start of construction on a new plutonium laboratory at Los Alamos will be delayed at least a year because of a congressional decision to throttle back funding for the project and restrict how the money can be spent.

The congressional action also raises questions about the long-term prospects for the new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.

Lab and federal officials have been tight-lipped in the wake of the decision this month to allocate $200 million for the project, rather than the $300 million the administration requested for fiscal year 2012. Congress also restricted the funding, saying none of it could be used to start construction.

Fleck’s story was picked up by the Associated Press and in another version, distributed on Capitol Hill by a trade journal.  The gloss on the mighty CMRR-NF is fading. 

Legal developments

In our appeal to the Tenth Circuit of what we now call “LASG I,” the federal defendants filed their Response (pdf) a week early, so we could have the pleasure of working through the holidays on our Reply, which is underway. 

In our second lawsuit (“LASG II”), we filed a motion to initiate the discovery process (pdf), which we expect defendants to oppose.  Los Alamos and NNSA have never liked fact-based discussion in any forum they do not control. 

“What can I do?”

Especially but not limited to TODAY, reaching out to friends and acquaintances who can make a financial contribution is important.  Many of you have already responded to our recent requests.  For major donors and political donors, financial participation is also important politically.  More than money is involved. 

In the same vein, it is more powerful than we usually think to talk to your neighbors and friends, share information, and plot your own action.  Every person’s situation is different, and what each of us can do at any given time is very different too. 

If you can, reach out to people with power and agency, not merely to numerous, atomized citizens.  The same amount of effort will be much more productive.  Be politically realistic. 

There is great value in autonomous small groups of civically interested persons, not just for any single goal but for all of them.  You might want to see http://www.lasg.org/Connect.pdf and http://www.lasg.org/what/HelpStopLANLNuclearFacility.html.  All the information you need is at http://www.lasg.org/CMRR/open_page.htm.

If a single one of the New Mexico congressional delegation publicly or even secretly opposed CMRR-NF it would die.  That's your challenge.

For people outside New Mexico, here are the congressional appropriators who are in the best position to kill it: http://www.lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin135.html

But now let’s very briefly look deeper, because we are all barraged by debased answers to this perennial question. 

What are we trying to accomplish, exactly?  Gandhi wrote (pdf, p. 173),

There is no road, except through living the creed [of truth and nonviolence] in your life which must be a living sermon.[1]

That is, any road traveled in such a manner will lead to a worthy goal.  The better answers to what we can do all start with getting more clarity about what exactly we are trying to do and how we want to do it. 

In preparing these remarks, I reviewed Johan Galtung’s summary of Gandhian conflict norms, which Trish has posted here (handy table, 1 page, pdf) and here (23 pages, including the table, pdf).  Gandhi makes today’s political discourse – even the best of it – look very thin and weak.  

There is no way to peace – peace is the way,” advised the great A.J. Muste.  It is easy to rush past this statement, seemingly a cliché.  We all know it has depths we scarcely understand.  It suggests freedoms we are usually told do not exist, based on a dynamic peace we seldom experience. 

Gandhi emphasized “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  Perhaps we also need to hear we can be the change we want to see in the world.  As he also said, "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."  

We live in a culture that constantly tells us “you can’t” in regard to everything related to the future health of our communities and the living earth.  That’s the unspoken, unconscious background we all bring to the “what can I do” question, and it’s a prison.  Simone Weil said instead, “I can, therefore I am.”  She meant that our identity as a human being depended upon our full acceptance of certain basic obligations to each other -- and, we might add, to nature -- which are always in our power to discharge.  That way lies freedom.  

You and I can do a lot more than we think.  Our general posture and attitude of limitation, as opposed to specific tactical concerns we must examine, is not our friend and is not a friend of the poor, or of the earth, which need us now.  “That we have but little faith is not sad, but that we have but little faithfulness.  By faithfulness faith is earned,” said Henry Thoreau in a letter to his friend Harry Blake. 

Here’s to a wonderful New Year to all of you, from

Greg, Trish, and the Los Alamos Study Group

[1] In Johan Galtung, The Way is the Goal: Gandhi Today, (pdf, p. 173).


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