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"Forget the Rest" blog


Strategy discussion Wed May 13, 5:30 pm -- must RSVP

May 4, 2015

Dear friends --

This is an announcement of a Study Group discussion on Wednesday, May 13 at 5:30 pm.  We're just sending this invitation to a hand-picked group of people in Santa Fe.  Please RSVP if you want to come to this meeting and we will tell you where it is (right now, we've got two possibilities).

Also, please do not forward this email.

This is not going to be a public meeting, since we want to talk about information we are privy to, our own plans and strategies, and why what you can do is so essential to success.  Attendance will be restricted to those receiving this email and their spouses.  We don't see the benefit of public gatherings at this time but that could change and become part of our planning later, with your help.

A couple of you were told this meeting would be this coming Thursday but we had to delay the meeting one week.

We wrote on 4/19 expressing our desire to discuss outreach to churches with you.  We have already had one small meeting in Santa Fe on that topic.  It remains essential, and some further background on this subject is appended below.

I (Greg) have just returned from a week of discussions with congressional and White House staff, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) and others in Washington.  Also, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference has gotten underway in New York at the U.N., and general elections in the U.K. -- significant for the future of nuclear weapons -- will have occurred (May 7).

I wanted to mention, before going further, that while in Washington I heard in greater detail than before how NNSA told an impatient Congress again and again over the course of a year how our litigation was making it impossible to proceed with the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF).  They could not proceed until our litigation was resolved.  This was very gratifying, as that endeavor was very costly for us in many ways.  Our final success was in no small part due to you, who helped support this litigation with your dollars, volunteerism, and prayers.

On Wednesday, May 13, we anticipate 2 hours of discussions along these lines:

  • Introductions (5 minutes)
  • Update on nuclear issues in Congress, the Administration, and NM (10 minutes, plus 10 minutes Q&A).
    • $1+ trillion in nuclear weapons over next 30 years on track but will need considerable new money from civilian spending. Resources you can use in your outreach to churches.
    • Plutonium pit production and related construction: on track until we take it off-track. A new government report, which we have seen and commented upon in draft, will soon emerge that will help.
    • Albuquerque now almost certainly the largest cache of nuclear weapons in the world, with all this implies in war and in "peace."
    • All excess metallic plutonium (~40 tons or so, in round numbers) to be shipped through Santa Fe and into Los Alamos for processing into oxide, and then out again through Santa Fe, over many years.
    • LANL's plutonium factory and waste complex are growing.  Is any net cleanup occurring?  Not really. 
    • WIPP reopening will be delayed.
    • Related: spent nuclear fuel (SNF) storage site attempts in NM, and in Andrews, TX and Loving Co., TX both adjacent to NM.  Udall and Heinrich oppose the NM plan, for now. So NM could get #1 rankings for nuclear weapons (Albuquerque), plutonium (Santa Fe metro), and maybe someday also nuclear waste (Lea-Eddy cos.)
    • The DOE-NMED WIPP settlement: what it says.
    • Meanwhile, the sun shines and wind blows.  Massive opportunities are open or almost open, and too few working on them.
  • Update on current developments in nuclear weapons diplomacy (5 minutes, plus 5 minutes Q&A).
    • NPT RevCon the scene of many tired clichés, provides nuclear weapons states with cover
    • Reaching Critical Will (overlaps with Study Group board) and ICAN (Study Group a partner in it) are distinguishing themselves.
    • Opportunities for us, and key resources.
  • The U.K. elections and The Bomb: no matter what happens, the situation is fluid there (5 minutes, plus 5 minutes Q&A). The anti-nuclear Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is expected to do very well at the expense of Labor in Scotland, so well that Labor, if it wins a majority, would not be able to govern without the SNP MPs.  Retiring Trident is a core demand of the SNP.
  • Main topic #1: Study Group plans and hopes to significantly expand our staff.  We need your help with this. (5 minutes, plus 10 minutes discussion)
    • Several openings available, albeit without much money; will describe possibilities, and key tasks. We need your help.
  • Main topic #2: The need for full-time or near-full-time activist-revolutionaries and how best to reach out to religious leaders and other communities in Santa Fe to create those positions.  Pope Francis and nuclear weapons. (10 minutes, plus 30 minutes discussion)
  • Your urgent concerns not mentioned in the above (questions: 5 minutes; discussion of same: 15 minutes)

We can't think of anything citizens in Santa Fe can do on most of the issues facing our society, or regarding the structural conditions in our society, other than to be or make possible, full-time committed organizers, researchers, writers, lobbyists, citizen diplomats, and activists.  Each of these roles is loosely associated with various complementary strategies but what unites them all is depth and duration of commitment and the experience and independent knowledge that will come from that.  Nothing powerful can be done without these.  This is now the only answer we are giving to the question "what can I do?"

In more detail:

  • Convince churches and other organizations (businesses, nonprofits, associations) to support more full-time activists, possibly including yourself;
  • Raise funds to support more full-time people at the Study Group, which we will more than match in kind;
  • Locate and recruit committed, skilled, mature candidates for us, especially young adults whom we can employ and train; and
  • Get very seriously involved in electoral activity but only for a very good candidate (which might be yourself).

Apart from these or similar endeavors, what is there?  All campaigns, so-called, will either be flashes in the pan or they will acquire real institutional infrastructure of some kind, i.e. full-time people, as we understood at the outset of the 25-year "nonviolence campaign" of the Los Alamos Study Group.  Experience tells us that either you are in such a campaign all the way or you are mostly just pissing in the wind and calling it rain.

Now, a little more on why we hope you will reach out to churches (we can help, but you will need to do the lion's share):

Probably many or most of you saw Tim DeChristopher's letter to churches, "Lead, Don’t Follow on Climate Justice," republished at Truthout.  The same letter could as well have been written regarding nuclear disarmament, and many other issues.  These issues aren't really distinct anyway.

For many of us, political activities will be naturally combined with "transition" activities that generally fall under the heading of the Gandhian "constructive program."  But the constructive program in all its forms is not enough, because there is a war going on.  Multiple wars, or one war, depending on how you count.  There won't be peace, and there won't be justice, and there won't even be a tomorrow for millions of people and species unless we protect them.

As we have said previously "we" need to offer jobs to capable young people with whatever resources we have got in order to accomplish particular, highly disruptive, political goals.  We are in an emergency situation.  This quality is somehow missing from most of the political discourse we see on the left, here and everywhere.  Where are the resources to do this?  They are in our own homes and bank accounts and those of our friends and their friends, but the social and political "software" is largely missing.  We are a society which bowls alone, as Robert Putnam wrote so long ago.

Those of you getting this email are among the most generous people there are, but I have to inform you that some pieces of the social circuit that are needed are missing today.  Not news to you I am sure.

Buried deeply in their "operating systems" (but often not activated), churches have that software of faith, love, commitment, joy, trust, and tradition.

By contrast we certainly cannot count on foundation philanthropy to provide appropriate leadership, for example through the nonprofit industry (including climate nonprofits and nuclear disarmament nonprofits, such as they are).  It never has and it never will.  Such philanthropy sometimes responds, but does not lead.  More frequently, it destroys the conditions for effective organizing and democratic reform.

At the Study Group, our role has evolved to deploy the most truthful power we can with the least time and money.  This has led us to analysis, lobbying, writing, and sometimes (as of late, as at times before) international citizen diplomacy.  We live in a state that supports, at almost every level and in almost every relevant institution, weapons of mass destruction.  What that has meant is that we have had to go elsewhere to be effective, with perhaps 3/4 of our time.  Most people in NM are terrified of opposing the structures of domination, to an extent I for one never imagined 25 years ago.

But at the same time we live and work here with you, our friends, and also we know that even if we win elsewhere, say with a nuclear weapons ban treaty, those victories are implemented (or not) here, and we know that our economic life in this state and ALL life will be cut off if we do not end our political addiction to ways of life that destroy it all.

We ourselves are able to provide housing and training in exchange for work, but not to just anybody.  We can't provide free tutoring or free parenting, so we are very demanding as regards skills and maturity.  We can't be that first encounter with workforce reality that often characterizes post-university life.  We can't afford to interview a long line of strangers, either.  A mere 10 hours per week, say, is not enough to do anything significant.  We can't pay much.  Everybody in our situation has similar "Catch-22s."

Churches can solve such problems far more easily, and as we have previously written, I think that every church which can afford to pay a pastor can also afford to support a full-time climate/energy worker supported by a committee of people with free housing, free food, free social and spiritual support, a stipend or low salary, and so on.  Such a person would amplify the moral and political effectiveness of the church a hundredfold.  Pious homilies and petitions mean about zero.  It takes boots on the ground, as the other side says.

What is essential is to get beyond the constraints of liberalism as well as the politically-correct fads of today, and to learn and gain experience, and to learn to respect reality.  All this will happen if the commitment is strong enough.  To be effective, these communities have to know the issues themselves and can't take marching orders from the big professional nonprofits.

As matters stand, there is no social infrastructure, not much experience, not much independence from the political parties and from foundation philanthropy, and so on, which means there is no social movement, no media and political traction to speak of, and very little effectiveness.

What stands in the way, more often than not, is thinking the situation, at every level and in every way, is better than it is.

We want you to be ambassadors and emissaries, because we can't do it all ourselves, so be prepared for that.

Best wishes to everybody,


PS Here's a photo Trish took at the Faslane base in Scotland in early January.  A Vanguard-class Trident submarine with its police escorts is shown heading over to Loch Goil to be acoustically checked and then, later that same day, out to sea.  It carries 16 Trident D5 missiles leased from the US missile pool, each with up to 8 100 kiloton warheads (in practice, fewer).  The UK activists will win, we believe -- if not this year, then later as economic conditions bite harder.  Stopping the UK Trident replacement this year or next is however crucial to avoid a long slog later.

Trident sub at Faslane 5 Jan 2015

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