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December 8, 2015

Bulletin 211: Support us financially if you can; “Coffee Club” opens; our plans; framing the issues

  1. To our supporters: thank you.  Others, please consider supporting the Study Group financially or in other ways!
  2. Of local interest: LASG “Coffee Club”
  3. Our general plans for 2016
  4. Highlights from our presentation at the last meeting (already sent to local members)

Tomorrow: Bulletin 212: Selected issue updates

Dear friends –

1.      Thank you; please consider supporting the Study Group financially, or in other ways!

First of all, thank you, everybody, for your generous contributions in response to our November 17 request for support. We have been in contact with many of you since then. Some of you have come forward wanting to help in other ways as well.  We will work with you.

Your initiatives comprise and embody real hope, far beyond and different in spirit than the sentimental “hopium” to which our society is generally addicted.

We had a wonderful fundraiser this past November 22nd – see below for some highlights – but we are a very long way from our fundraising goals for the year.Those of you who haven’t contributed – please do so if you can. The Study Group is an IRS 501(c)(3) public charity with broad public support (so yes we can, and do, lobby). All contributions are fully tax deductible.

You can donate in any of several ways:

  • By check to the address below;
  • By one-time credit card use over the phone (call Trish at 505-265-1200);
  • Through a convenient and secure link on our web site (via JustGive, which will take 4.7% for this convenience);
  • Via a direct monthly donation (call Trish);
  • By donating stock (thus avoiding capital gains and the associated tax increment; call Trish);
  • By donating something valuable which can be sold (e.g. a car, a boat, or real estate);
  • If you are in or near Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, or Santa Fe, you can ask Positive Energy to install a photovoltaic system at your home or business; when the project is complete they will give the Study Group $500 (we are just beginning this cooperative program now that our own system is up and running);
  • By making a challenge donation in which you will match other donations up to your limit (thus doubling the power of your gift; again, talk to Trish);
  • By hosting a gathering at your home, workplace, church (very important!), or organization, with fundraising as a minor, or in some cases a major, theme for some meetings, depending;
  • By volunteering with us, in the office or “in the field” (about which more below).
There are a number of ways to volunteer, such as:
  • (Repeating this point because it is of primary importance) you can organize meetings and discussions, formal or informal, especially in your church and other organizations;
  • You can be a fundraising “ambassador” for us, reaching out to possible new members and other donors;
  • You can table at events for us;
  • In connection with tabling and in other ways you can help us sell anniversary mugs, posters, prints; we also still have a few nuclear videos and other products (most prices are negotiable); plus
  • Various specialized jobs of which we (and perhaps you) are already aware, or will imagine.
In return for your precious time, skills, and solidarity we can offer a context with political traction, an atmosphere of harmony, awareness, and hope, and the companionship of other volunteers, supporters, and our staff.

There are relatively few organizations in our field that can boast of anything like our track record of concrete successes over the years.  These are not easy times, but still we aim to win and to recruit, support, and train a new generation of activists.

There is nothing at all dated about the fundraising letter we sent many of you last year at this time – except for the little detail that the U.S. has now doubled down on a resurgent, neoconservative foreign policy not just in Ukraine but now also in and around Syria, with attendant casualties and blowback affecting millions and badly damaging the whole polities of Europe and the United States.

Our country is now in an unprecedented “national crisis of great proportions,” as Dr. Robert Anderson, a local history professor and activist, put it the other day in a useful Facebook post.  As Bob rightly said,
I urge all people, Americans and others to grasp the seriousness of the present crisis and how it is being managed in ways that are destined to tear us apart…[I]t is not the foreign threat that is greatest but it is the domestic power structure that has evolved here under the banner of America right or wrong.
Nuclear weapons policy stands at much the same impasse as last year, although there has been terrific progress toward an international treaty banning nuclear weapons (including progress just this past week).

Our linked environmental, energy, and economic crises have become more serious, and a political year has passed with insufficient national (or regional, or local) leadership. We will discuss these developments and what they imply for us in greater depth in the next Bulletin, but meanwhile it is important to generally outline our anticipated organizational response (section 3 below), since we are asking for your financial contributions and your precious time, attention, and solidarity.

Meanwhile, as we wrote last year,
A much more trenchant, non-partisan political conversation is needed all across civil society – in churches, environmental groups, schools, businesses, and in our homes and families. What seems to be missing is any sense of urgency or scale. We drift. “Progressives” don’t progress — in fact the “progressive” agenda hasn’t been successful, overall, in decades. There have been no net environmental victories. So this is no time to take more of what Martin Luther King called “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” Revolutionary changes are at hand and will seem abrupt, however much we would like them not to be. That rough beast is on the move. We need to wake up. Now more than ever, for sanity’s sake if not for our children, we must “remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” In that forgetting[, which is to say, simplicity] there is freedom. Use it.
2.      Of local interest: LASG “Coffee Club”

Trish and I have decided to open the office for discussions on current political topics and news twice a week. We are aiming for a warm and supportive atmosphere, given the times. We will serve healthy snacks as well as coffee and tea.  Children are welcome. We will meet:
Thursdays, from 7:30 to 9:00 am
Fridays, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm
We will not meet on Christmas Eve and also not on Christmas Day, but will meet New Year's Eve and New Year's Day if anyone is interested. We will not meet during the first week in January (i.e. on 1/7 and 1/8) but will pick up again the following week (1/14 and 1/15).

3.      Our general plans for 2016

We cannot lay out our program aspirations in detail here, for a number of strategic reasons that should be plain. Funding for example is uncertain. But we can do so broadly, both as to the issues and as to staffing.

As to issues, we will work in three connected and mutually reinforcing areas: U.S. nuclear disarmament; a treaty prohibiting nuclear possession of nuclear weapons; and related aspects of the Crisis in which we have special expertise, local responsibility, or simply cannot evade engagement.  Omitting most details and all tactical aspects, we will work on these issues:
  • U.S. nuclear disarmament, specifically
    • U.S. plutonium policy, primary as regards weapons but not excluding surplus disposition;
    • U.S. nuclear weapons modernization and deterrence policy overall, which we perceive as ripening toward change; and
    • Department of Energy (DOE) weapons complex management and infrastructure issues.
  • A treaty banning nuclear weapons; and
  • Closely-linked efforts mostly led by others in which we must lend a hand:
    • Resisting U.S. wars, now increasing again in desperation, recklessness, callousness, dimensionality, and locations; the associated militarism (the war at home);
    • Helping halt global warming, perhaps the largest context for everyone’s work now;
    • Elucidating linkages between our downward-spiraling economy (regionally and nationally), the all-but-invisible energy crisis, global warming, and militarism;
    • In all of these, foregrounding vulnerable people, communities, and species, a morally and politically-necessary perspective which is mostly missing; and
    • Recruiting additional, independent activists in our communities, e.g. in the churches.  Without them we cannot win.
We want more staff and we want you to help us recruit them. We see huge leadership gaps and we know we can help.  We don’t have much money but we do have a strong and supportive community.

We could put about five new staff members to work immediately in these ways (depending on skills): research and related communications (two or three people); foundation and major donor fundraising (one person); and organizing, social media, and member services (one or two people).

It would be unwise to offer “real” employment and career expectations in these jobs even if we had the money (which we don’t). What we can offer are room and board, local transportation (mostly by bicycle), mentoring and supervision, a really good context, fellowship, and decent cash stipends for U.S. citizens (or for those with work visas of one kind or another).  At least a provisional personal commitment must come first.

4.      Highlights from our presentation at the last meeting (already sent to local members)
  • State- and socially-sanctioned mass violence is politically incompatible with economic, social, and environmental health, let alone development, nationally and in New Mexico.
  • Trenchant, fact- and value-based, “all in” opposition builds bridges, supports and is civilization.  It succeeds in multiple ways and dimensions.
  • Pope Francis, in his message to the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference (Vienna, 2014), eloquently described the core values in our work:
“Now, more than ever, technological, social, and political interdependence urgently calls for an ethic of solidarity…, which encourages peoples to work together for a more secure world, and a future that is increasingly rooted in moral values and responsibility on a global scale.”
  • In many ways World War III has already started. The suffering is tremendous, is growing rapidly, and we need to stop it.  Colleague Sam Husseini’s recent remarks about “perpetual war” remind us of how this connects with everything in our polity and society:
I’ve got news for you: Perpetual war is going to cost you a lot. The Vietnam War helped undermine the war on poverty — Martin Luther King called it a “demonic suction tube.” Perpetual war is going to make you lose your soul. Perpetual war will make you an accomplice to murder many times over. Perpetual war will mean generations more of Muslim youth driven to madness against the U.S. Perpetual war is going to potentially lead to nuclear war. Perpetual war will mean an even more militarized police force. Perpetual war will likely mean more of a repressive state. Perpetual war will mean you can’t march against climate change — or anything else. Perpetual war will mean that refugees and other folks get treated like trash. Perpetual war means your kid can’t get a job in much of anything other than the military. Perpetual war means soldiers with PTSD coming home and beating the crap out of their wives and traumatizing their children. Perpetual war will mean at every public venue you’ve got to go through security so that you can scratch yourself without court approval.
  • We must re-frame the issues properly while we can.  Why?  Just ahead:
  • More and wider war, and terrorism, challenging the foundations of our civilization and society.
  • Deepening economic decline, with widening financial crises that are spinning out of control and will unravel economies fairly fast.
  • The current economic decline could make investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency at the appropriate and necessary scale more difficult than otherwise unless renewable energy Keynesianism coupled with new, progressive taxes is embraced.
  • The current decline in production is likely to induce peak oil, since new supplies are unaffordable and capital investment is waning. Peak oil is likely to mean peak GDP also given their historic tight correlation, making growth-dependent loans difficult to service across all societies. This has now begun.
  • Tensions within the EU are ramping up rapidly and may tear it apart.
  • Increasing migrations, and deaths en route.
  • With each passing year the competition for affordable hydrocarbons and pipeline routes has intensified and this will continue until either we dramatically change our way of life or the world is engulfed in war. There are no technical fixes that can support the American Way of Life.
  • The risks of major power war are increasing year by year in ways that are not controllable without major changes in what has been our overall foreign policy since at least World War II, and our energy policy since 1900. The risk of nuclear war is rising rapidly. The U.S. and its vassal NATO now seek military and political dominance vis-à-vis Russia and Russia is responding. U.S. policymakers with whom we have spoken do not understand what they are doing.  Congress definitely does not.  Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are also fraught.
  • The battle we must fight, which will unite all life-affirming strands and constituencies, is for human solidarity and preservation of a living planet.  The struggle is against militarization and empire and its associated domestic austerity and pervading violence, and for solidarity and survival.  In NM, this battle must be in major part nuclear.  We are not fighting for “the purity of our precious bodily fluids,” or for preservation of gemuetlichkeit or our cherished myths.
  • New Mexico currently leads the U.S. in WMD, in both absolute and relative expenditure, in unwavering political support for WMD from Democrats, in nuclear design laboratories and spending, and (probably) in warheads and bombs stored (though not deployed).  These de facto priorities are incompatible with economic growth, climate and energy progress, and all other sound, humane policies.  They lead nowhere, in fact.  We are fighting for our lives here.
  • The U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise – the “empire of [nuclear] might,” to paraphrase Simone Weil – needs unwavering, enthusiastic support in and from New Mexico to successfully expand its production facilities, for recruitment, retention, and motivating employees, for successful program management, and for corporate prestige and profits.  Real opposition and the associated loss of prestige is very damaging to this enterprise.
  • The nuclear weapons enterprise is in fact very fragile.  This fragility occurs because of its immorality, its inherent dangers, its complexity and opacity, the extensive privileges it has amassed relative to the rest of society, its secretive, cloistered wastefulness and stupidity, its irrelevance to society’s real security needs, the inherent robustness and longevity of nuclear weapons, and the competition for funds a) within the military and b) between military and non-military government objectives.  These factors have combined to tip the DOE warhead complex into a rolling crisis, which limits its present and future possibilities.  And this, needless to add, is good.
That concludes this Bulletin.  Thank you for your attention and stay tuned for a précis of some issues tomorrow.

Greg Mello, for the Study Group

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