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December 21, 2015

Bulletin 212: The turning? It depends, and partly on us. Also: critical fundraising appeal

Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety. And now it is to be expected that the other of the two ‘Heavenly Powers,’ eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?

Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents.”

Dear friends –  

As solstice approaches there are some recent glimmers of light in this dark America, even on intractable issues like nuclear disarmament and climate protection. There are always sparks, but as Roethke said, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” The next Bulletin (213) will summarize those.

Seeing is just the beginning. These glimmers have to be nurtured and fed, and the way to do that is to join, to see and join them rather more intimately than we are used to doing. How to do that is unique for everybody. 

If we really look, part of what we see is that we can make some of the trends, even some difficult ones, our friends. There are a lot of political and social silver linings out there, a lot of common ground to bring allies and even former adversaries together. But we can’t keep pretending everything is hunky-dory, or can easily become so, as fantastists of every political stripe are saying, preying on fears as they do. As one of our breakfast club discussants last week, a former Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) scientist, said, our ability to resist tyranny – our freedom, in other words – depends on being “reality-based.”

“Reality-based” does not describe much if any of our current national dialogue, let alone major institutions like that man’s former employer and our other nuclear labs, or our public utilities and the planning agencies which cling to fossil fuels like addicts, just to take a few examples. As a result of interminable global war alone, leaving aside the rest of our national follies, the "ship is sinking," as retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson put it recently.  

In this dark context “our” political power – our potentially very great and useful political power, if we assent to it – largely lies in a simple quest for understanding and the willingness of a few people to accept, communicate, and otherwise hold and act upon the truths uncovered. The more that lies imprison us, the more essential and powerful truth becomes. While “living in truth” (Havel) is never luxurious, it can be far easier in mind and spirit than the alternative. It calls us to a citizenship that is even pleasant, rewarding, and sociable – and with effort, compatible with our traditions. It is the opposite of propaganda and “advocacy” as commonly understood in the nonprofit world. It presents us with a problem of quality – our own – much more than quantity, as Gandhi taught.

So, before getting to the “good” and “bad” news, which is piling up to such a depth that it has to come later today in Bulletin 213, we can say that beyond these categories it’s all, all of it, news we can use.  

We are the good news, in other words. The main thing for we who know and care – even just a little, a glimmer – is to not sit and watch outside events, but to stand up and participate inside. We are all invited.

If you want to work with us, please write or call.

Important fundraising appeal (see also here for more complete version)

To all of you who have supported the Los Alamos Study Group financially – this year, and in previous years – please accept our heartfelt thanks. We also want to thank the volunteers who are directly helping, and the many others who have helped in the past, donating precious hours of their skilled work.  

Without generous support of both kinds there almost certainly would be a huge construction project under way, sprawling across two mesas and a dozen or more technical areas at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), aimed at greatly increasing U.S. manufacturing capacity for plutonium warhead cores (“pits”). In early 2012 that project was deferred “for at least 5 years.” It was finally cancelled in 2014.

Those of you who wish to help support our efforts and have not yet done so can donate by check to the address below, by credit card over the phone or via secure link, by donating stock (thus avoiding capital gains and the associated taxes), or by donating your car, boat, or real estate. You can set up a monthly donation. If you live in New Mexico 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. If you are already a donor please consider being an ambassador for us.The Study Group is a 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are fully tax deductible.

We set great store on peer-to-peer fundraising. You have contacts and friends that we do not. Fundraising conversations are themselves important political work – among the most important, in fact.  

Returning to LANL’s “great expectations” in processing and manufacturing plutonium, pit production at any scale is very poorly justified, even to maintain a huge, diverse U.S. arsenal. U.S. pits age very slowly (see here and here); they all have several decades more “deterrence” (translation: “apocalyptic threat to most life on earth”) remaining. In addition to the pits in 7,200 intact warheads and bombs, the U.S. also maintains an inventory of several thousand other pits (the “war reserve”; see also p. 19 here). One kind of planned new warhead might “need,” sometime after 2030, more pits of a certain type than are present in current inventory. The new pits would be “needed” just to make extra warheads, enough to quickly double or triple the number of warheads on U.S. ICBMs if desired, after the New START treaty expires in the early 2020s. The new pits to be made, and the new industrial capacity to quickly build them, are “needed” solely to enable, and thus threaten, breakout from New START nuclear deployment levels.

This proposed new and gratuitous warhead is the main justification for what is now a $4.2 to $6.1 billion (B) plutonium factory expansion project at LANL. (The estimated cost of the expansion just rose by another $800 million this month; see here vs. here. These costs do not include hundreds of millions in new waste infrastructure and other new facilities. Neither do they include hundreds of millions in annual program expenses.) Once the new works are built, even more billions will be required to actually operate this factory complex and actually build the warheads, plus still more tens of billions for the new (or renewed) ICBMs to carry the new warheads, plus major silo and communications upgrades, all of which together will cost many tens of billions more.  

All this is still just a small part of the whole enchilada. All in all, Obama’s nuclear weapons plans and programs are expected to cost at least $1 trillion over the next 30 years, assuming all goes smoothly. (It won’t.)

Nobody knows for sure where all this extra money will come from. It is significantly more than current DoD and Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear spending. Full funding to replace the entire nuclear arsenal – Obama’s plan – implies further rebalancing of U.S. priorities away from society and the environment, toward the military and the corporate nuclear complex. It implies a different America.  

OK, stay tuned for more later today, grace allowing. We have been deeply preoccupied with fundraising this month and have a very long ways to go on that, but we have to set such concerns aside to bring you news today.


Greg Mello, for the Study Group 

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