If you have trouble forwarding this email, please choose "forward as attachment" from your email program menu.


November 14, 2008

Dear Study Group friends –

I always enjoy writing to you on this, our “friends” list, because this list is smaller and more intimate than our regular email list.  (There are 238 of you on this list vs. 1984 souls on the main one).  Unlike our main list this is not an open-subscription list.  You are among the hand-picked.

1. We are requesting some financial support for our work, at any level whatsoever, from each of you, hopefully right away.  You can contribute here. 

Unlike some organizations (and I hear from some almost every day), we don’t ask for money all the time.  Now, however, I am asking for money.  Just a little.  Some of you have been supporting our work regularly; others have already responded to this fundraising campaign.  Thank you! 

Others of you have given liberally of your time and attention (over time, many have done so).  Thank you for those precious gifts. 

By the way, this is not the “thank you” of a charitable educational organization, though that’s what the IRS deems us.  This is the “thank you” of strong, reliable friends who work hard to shine some light in the darkness of the nuclear policy forest. We don’t want handouts.  We want solidarity.  We offer it and want it.  We can be your agents, in Washington and elsewhere.

We obviously can’t do everything.  Specifically, we can’t do what only you can do.  Sometimes nonprofits seem to offer a bargain that goes something like “Send us money and we will take care of things for you.”  That’s not us.  Sending a contribution doesn’t diminish your responsibility to act in the public realm (sorry); we hope we can give you some tools you can use.  Crafting those tools is a two-way street: member engagement helps create and shape what we do.

At this particular historic juncture, your solidarity is especially important.  So much will be gained now – or lost. 

So, if you haven’t written us a check recently or used our secure portal for a credit card or electronic check donation, now would be a very good time to do so. 

A contribution of any amount whatsoever would be useful.  It may not be obvious why even a small contribution would be helpful.  Let me explain. 

First, breadth of support is important legally, should we be able to proceed with intervention in the Kansas City lawsuit mentioned in Bulletin 91, or with other litigation. 

Your support is important morally to the staff, board, volunteers, and to our government audiences. 

Your support is important politically, in many ways.  I recall being at a Department of Energy (DOE) confab in Washington in which our work was being discussed by a speaker who did not know I was in the audience.  He said, “They [the Study Group] have a list of cooperating organizations as long as your arm!”  Indeed.  Individual support doesn’t tally in quite that way but it is nonetheless important. 

Finally it is important financially, as it can sometimes lead to increased participation by major donors and foundations. 

On that note it is worth saying that sometimes in the past, because of their generosity, sense of purpose, and relative wealth, a few key donors have been able to match other contributions on a one-to-one basis.  We can’t offer that amplification today but we may be able to do so in the future.  Your contribution – of whatever size – may help bring us closer to that day.  Our work, like everything else in society, is the product of shared faith.  We are making stone soup, and even a tiny potato will help. 

Yes, $50,000 would be very helpful indeed, if you can spare such a sum.  And it’s not large, you know, in comparison to the gifts of time various folks have made here.  Just five dollars would also be helpful.  A five-dollar contribution would show us and others that you are generally (if not specifically in each and every case) in solidarity with our purposes.  We value that solidarity extremely. 

I am fairly confident that each and every person receiving this email can send at least $5 without too much delay.  Some may wish to send more.  We won’t pester you with requests like this often but it is my job to create political support for nuclear disarmament.  That hypothetical $5 embodies something like the smallest quantum of that support. 

We don’t share our donor or email lists with anyone whatsoever, by the way. 

Contributions to the Los Alamos Study Group are all tax-deductible. 

Please call us if you would like to make a donation of stock or some other equity, which may have tax advantages in particular cases.

2. Other ways you can help – some fairly easy, some more challenging.

An organization like the Los Alamos Study Group provides a means for individuals to achieve together what they could not achieve separately.  That being said, there is nothing magical about this process.  A few minutes work seldom changes history.  So we shouldn’t bother, right? 

No!  As Edmund Burke said, “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”  Quantitative considerations are useful but they can also be confusing.  “[D]oes the individual,” wrote Carl Jung, “know that he is the makeweight that tips the scales?”  

Here are some other ways to help:

a.       Ask your friends to sign up for our Bulletins, which we hope to send out once per week, on Friday or the weekend.  To sign up, send a blank email to this address

b.      Ask your friends to support us financiallyEven a little bit helps, as discussed above.  In return they will find themselves on this more intimate email list (unless they would rather not be), where they can find out about more Study Group events and get more details on the issues. 

Going beyond this light but crucial support, many of you know people who could support our work substantially – support it financially, politically, or both.  If you believe in the value of our work, talk to them about it.  Most of us do not realize how much social power we have.  If we want to save the planet and humanity, or build up our state’s economy and polity in the face of general decline, we are going to have to use that power intelligently and firmly.  Our society and environment are now in a position something like the Titanic after striking the iceberg.  Let’s not waste one another’s time. 

c.       Learn more about the issues yourself, and write.  For example, you can write letters to the editor (150 words or less) or longer guest editorials (600 words is usually a good length). 

d.      Discuss the issues with your friends.  This is a little different than talking up the Study Group as an organization.  Read what we have written; get background from anywhere and everywhere.  Caveat emptor, of course.  Meet with your friends and think about things together.  If you have unresolved questions, or if something doesn’t seem to make sense, ask one of us or ask us to meet with your group. 

e.       Go to meetings and speak up.  There is precious little public dialogue about key policy issues these days, and much of it is controlled by a very few agenda-setting financial nodes. 

f.        Make an inventory for yourself of the organizations to which you belong or in which you might have some voice.  Right now, our elected representatives do much less than they might because they can get “cheap” endorsements, or at least a lack of public accountability, in return for “access” or a few policy trinkets.  Issues of nuclear disarmament, environmental protection, social justice, and economic sustainability are all cut from the same cloth.  Narrow institutional interests and an extreme lack of political consciousness keep many or perhaps most nonprofits from contributing to the development of a broad-spectrum progressive politics.  Nearly all the state’s environmental groups won’t support nuclear disarmament, for example.  With their endorsement, our congressional delegation need take no position on nuclear weapons production (e.g. Bingaman) or actively supports it (Udall). 

There are no cookie-cutter substitutes for genuine political leadership and real political enfranchisement.  I am not going to send you Astroturf e-grams asking you to do fruitless things.  As we work together in creating a more just and sustainable society we will build the road as we travel.

3. We need your help to halt efforts to bring a nuclear weapons factory to Albuquerque.

We have written to you (on August 13, 17, & 25; September 23 & 30; October 14; and November 7) about the efforts of some national, New Mexico, Livermore, and Kansas City organizations and individuals to move the functions of the Kansas City Plant (KCP) to Albuquerque.  John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal picked up the story this past weekend in his blog and there have been a couple of articles in a trade publication (behind a paywall) about our efforts to keep KCP exactly where it is vs. the efforts of some others to move this factory to New Mexico. 

We have written a great deal on this subject which is not yet published.  You will see more of that soon.  Some of our conclusions are summarized here (pdf), though these do not include the conclusions we draw for the disarmament and social justice communities, still to come. 

Meanwhile as you know from our November 7 Bulletin (#91) we hope to intervene in the litigation recently filed by the folks who want to bring the plant here.  If we petition to intervene, we will do so to protect New Mexico (and its 1st Congressional District) from further major nuclear weapons investments as well as bring some new issues to the court’s attention as to why the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) does not need a new KCP in Kansas City either. 

If we can afford to join and if are admitted, we will be the only party in this suit opposing a new plant anywhere.  Moving KCP to New Mexico would mean building a major new facility or combination of facilities about two-thirds the scale of Intel’s Rio Rancho plant in employment and physically about the size of Cottonwood Mall.  If built, that factory would be the second or third largest building in New Mexico.  We believe it would have an outsize deleterious political effect on our state and a negative effect on nuclear policy nationwide.  If the last 40 years are any guide it would make this state poorer while also contributing to the large and growing gap between rich and poor. 

The present administration has no interest in moving KCP to Albuquerque, but the next one might, even in the face of the very challenging management problems that such a move would unleash.  We are working in various ways to forestall that possibility, with what success we do not as yet know. 

To keep on with this in DC and to intervene in the litigation filed by others (aimed at helping bring KCP to New Mexico), we need your financial help.  We have a wonderful attorney who has been working on the case and who is willing to keep on working on it for very little financial recompense.  We also have been talking to a fine attorney in Washington, DC who would serve as local counsel for us there.  We have done most of the research and have written most of the initial filings.  We are, however, shockingly poor.  Somebody, or an adequate combination of somebodies, has to step up a little closer to the plate on this.  We have done so.  So have some others.   But the bigger checks needed to continue this litigation and lobbying have not come in. 

It is a very New Mexico situation, I am sorry to say. 

This is, of course, only one of the proposed New Mexico nuclear weapons factories.

4. It is time for a big push to stop the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility (NF).

Just this week the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) published word of yet another major problem in the design of this $2++ billion (B) project – sort of a “mine shaft gap,” as General Turgidson said to President Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in the film of that name.

It appears that the tunnel once designated for conveying plutonium and/or other special nuclear material from the basement of the existing Plutonium Facility (PF-4) to the proposed CMRR is needed for (plutonium pit) radiography, so space for another tunnel must be found and PF-4 modified accordingly, a non-trivial matter.

This is just the latest issue with the CMRR NF, the budget for which has at least tripled so far.  Groundbreaking, and a validated cost estimate, are still about a year and a half away, assuming the project gets that far.

The momentum is significant, unfortunately.  The CMRR is now the Swiss Army knife (or maybe the Veg-O-Matic) of plutonium facilities.  It does, we are told, everything!

Yet the burgeoning cost and as-yet-unresolved engineering problems related to seismicity and the structure’s ambitious design, together with the nation’s need for real jobs in quantity, jobs that create productive and energy-saving or renewable-energy–producing infrastructure, could doom this project.

Make no mistake: this is a new nuclear weapons factory, the single most pivotal part of the NNSA’s Complex Transformation scheme.  The recent Complex Transformation hearings throughout much of the State had essentially no bearing on this issue.  It has to be opposed clearly and directly, not just made “safe.”  It can never be safe.  We can halt the CMRR NF, and with it NNSA’s hopes for a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), but we need your help. 

5.      It is also time for a big push to cut nuclear weapons spending.

As we said to key congressional actors earlier this year (as in previous years), the nuclear weapons complex is over-funded.  (See for example “Letter to Congress re nuclear appropriations,” Parts I & II (both pdf), May 13 & 14, 2008; “Letter to appropriators” (pdf), Dec 3, 2007; or “Note to Congress re NNSA infrastructure decisions pending” (pdf), Aug 24, 2007).

The House has been inclined to cut budgets (more or less along the lines we have recommended, though not as deeply or broadly), especially at the New Mexico labs and especially at Los Alamos.  Up to now Senator Domenici has ridden to the labs’ rescue, more or less.  Next year, if the House cuts these programs again, either someone else must rescue them – or they won’t. 

Even despite Domenici, nuclear weapons budgets have been falling since 2005:

It is finally widely understood that the United States is very, very broke.  Even a Pentagon business advisory board is saying major weapons programs must be cut.  Under these conditions projects like the CMRR may not be politically viable (even though it is said to facilitate, with perfect benignity, all things dark and plutonium).

Today’s recession has no obvious end.  Our society will henceforth have fewer fiscal and material resources available.  Long-term projects like the CMRR, that have weak mission justifications and huge, growing price tags, may well suffer the fate of many DOE projects, ending up as half-finished “beached whales,” as wounds on the federal fisc that just never seem to heal.

We want your help to explore these realities in depth with Congress and the Obama Administration, where we have a ready audience.  We can’t do it without you.

Thank you for your attention and solidarity,

Greg Mello

To subscribe to the LASG main listserve, send a blank email to lasg-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

[back to top]