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February 8, 2015

Bulletin 200: Warhead budget bloat; U.S.-caused Ukraine catastrophe at the brink; hello peak oil

  1. Administration punches its Armageddon timecard in FY16 budget request
  2. Pouring gas on the U.S.-caused Ukrainian fire
  3. Turning point for oil, and us
  4. News
  5. What we’re up to

Dear friends and colleagues

Do we have your attention?

  1. Administration punches its Armageddon timecard in FY16 budget request

Here is an updated version of this past Monday’s press release about the Administration’s proposed nuclear warhead budget.  We didn’t cover every moving part, but overall there wasn’t that much new.  Cruising for a bruising, still.

We know it’s tough to run the warhead program, but that’s why NNSA is paid the big bucks.  (Yes, they give 96% of those bucks to greedy contractors, but that’s a choice too.)  The Administration is just punching its time card, going through the motions – or so it seems.  The Armageddon train didn’t slow down or speed up in this budget, just kept going toward its final stop.

By “Armageddon” I elliptically refer to two things mainly.  First, maintaining a posture of mutual nuclear deterrence – and especially, “launch under attack,” which is “how we live now” – is like rolling dice every day for the destiny of the planet.  Worse than that, since nuclear weapons structurally create animosity and destroy human solidarity.  Many keen and experienced observers, from Noam Chomsky to Mikhail Gorbachev (here, here, and here, for example) and many others, are now telling us that the risk of nuclear war has become very high (Chomsky: that risk has never been higher).

Later this month I and many others will be speaking on this and related topics at a conference at the New York Academy of Medicine – see below.

Second, the normal work of warhead and missile life extension is quietly creating very dangerous new forms of instability within the old deterrence paradigm.  You will hear more about this very soon in future bulletins but in the meantime you may want to read and think about this fine article by emeritus MIT scientist Ted Postol.  Some of Trident system upgrades planned in the 1990s are now a reality, and that’s not the sum of it either.

There have been some good budget summaries from DC-based NGOs, setting aside the fact that they all supported the modernization program they now think is excessive.

  1. Pouring gas on the U.S.-caused Ukrainian fire

There’s a fine new guest post by Steven Starr over at Forget the Rest and I urge you to read it.  I agree with all of it.

It is one of many dozen fine articles we could have sent you over the past months, but frankly the intellectual collapse we see around us in U.S. NGOs, universities, churches, newspapers, and foundations has at times left us wondering where to spend the hours we have available.  We have been following this catastrophe very closely for many months but have been unable to ignite any interest in our communities, even among our closest supporters.  Hello out there!  We should all be talking about this, about what it means (which is a lot), and preparing for action, as we have been saying for some time.  The domestic implications of these events affect many issues and cry out for a concerted response.  In the beginning, any response is better than none.

  1. Turning point for oil, and us

That’s the title of another new post at Forget the Rest.  (I really do hope you will go there and subscribe.)

As it happens, what seems like a fine new (expensive) book (The World After Cheap Oil) by three Finnish authors was just translated into English on this very set of topics; here’s a fine review by Frank Kaminski.  The review came in just after I finished that blog post.  I was very pleased that these authors emphasize what happened in 2005, because we can now see that 2005 was very likely the year of peak crude oil sensu stricta and definitely the year of peak net oil and per capita oil.

We are now at another turning point.  For most people – including energy experts in government and academia – this is one of those invisible events, an event with no precedent, like the arrival of Columbus.  We are now grasping the strange elongated metallic object extended to us, not understanding how sharp it is, or what it can do.  It will change everything for us and for many species.  We must wake up.

  1. News

Here follows a potpourri of news articles since we last updated you in a bulletin, some involving us (some of which required hours of work behind the scenes).

  1. What we’re up to

At the moment we are getting our ducks in a row to meet with congressional members and staff, military, corporate, and administration officials during over 10-day period in Washington, DC.  We will then be speaking at the aforementioned conference organized by Helen Caldicott in New York at the end of this month.

We are also preparing a précis on nuclear weapons modernization for use at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, researching some dramatic new developments we will tell you about later, and preparing some new fact sheets for public and congressional education.  We have a couple of new guest blog posts stacked up.  We will be briefing diplomats at the U.N. in May.

That’s part of it, anyway.

Meanwhile, we really appreciate the wonderful support so many of you share with us – financial, moral, and intellectual.  Our main regret is that we don’t see more of you more often.

People ask us sometimes, “Aren’t you discouraged?  Aren’t these topics ‘heavy’?  I suppose the implication is that the facts will somehow go away if we can just stick our heads in the sand (or in some other canonical dark place) deeply enough, or pretend we don’t care about our children, grandchildren, and the plants and animals.  Well we do care, and so do you, so here we are.  There is no other place.

Each of these bulletins contains only one or two percent of the life of the Study Group – just a little trace.  We’ll try to increase that percentage.  Please do what you can from your end.

Best wishes,

Greg (the “I” in this piece) and Trish, for the Study Group


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