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"Forget the Rest" blog


Invitation to a private planning meeting this Wednesday 6/10, 5:30 pm in Santa Fe, RSVP necessary

June 8, 2015

Dear friends --

My apologies for sending this email invitation out only now, two days before this meeting.  Trish and I have been terribly busy (unremitting swarms of requests and correspondence, some very useful and others just necessary; an emergency trip to Texas; a contractor working on our house at vast (for us) personal expense, requiring much supervision; and we took the weekend off to see our children and grandchildren).
The international context is very promising as we mentioned last time, and has absorbed a considerable amount of our time as well.  We are spread very thin.

We very much hope you can come this Wednesday at 5:30 pm.  The meeting should last about two hours.  You must RSVP in writing or by phone (505-265-1200).  Thanks to a supportive friend, we have a beautiful meeting space available to us; we will tell you where the meeting will be when you RSVP.

We will not be having other meetings in Santa Fe that day, as we sometimes are able to do.  Instead please come to the meeting if you can.

The overall purpose of this meeting is to discuss some of the big picture developments we face, to discuss possible local actions, and to recruit help -- either from you or from those with whom you may speak.

  • We will report to you about our internship plans and give you some outreach materials if you want them.
  • The very encouraging international developments will open more doors for us locally but only if we collectively push on those doors.  By tomorrow you will have gotten a precis (in the forthcoming Bulletin 206) of what the Washington Post called an "uprising" of 107 (now 108) countries against the do-nothing NPT disarmament and nonproliferation regime in which any of the first five nuclear weapon states, and now for the first time Israel also (which isn't even party to the treaty) can and do veto anything they don't like.  We are happy to say that the Study Group, in a small way, has helped facilitate this uprising, by giving the lie to State Department bullshit in a very analytical and accessible way, read by hundreds of diplomats.  To be very concrete, there is momentum to ban nuclear weapons, which can affect us substantially in New Mexico if we can act in the prophetic present -- prefiguratively as the Marxists would say. 
  • Overall, the tremendous passivity and fear that permeates this state is a disability for us.  These conditions masquerade in various ways; people do at least mean well (usually).  In any case, the upshot of this long passivity is that New Mexico is now a failed state.  Nobody should now imagine that democratic reform of any comfortable variety is going to work here.  Like Wile E. Coyote, we're over the cliff.  (This is also true for our whole country, as we and many others have been saying for some time.)  Here in NM, our Democratic as well as Republican politicians have deep loyalties to the military, nuclear, and fossil fuel industries that will ensure deepening poverty, militarization, and environmental destruction, and quite likely total collapse unless the historical vector can be changed.  The (supposed) need for "hope" and "optimism" is a disease among some of us.  We need realism and commitment, not fantasies.  So what does that look like?  We want to discuss and weigh a menu of possible concrete actions with you.  Leave the theory; let's talk action.  We will bring a list and perhaps you can jot down some ideas.  The Study Group staff has very limited time, so the best ideas will be those that you can implement, lead, or at least help with.
  • There is almost no radical agenda or action being promoted by any organization in New Mexico, leading to the sorry situation where various liberal and progressive reform efforts remain separate, fragmented, and ineffective.  And that's how they will remain, because they are framed and organized as separate issues.  Yet across the seemingly-separate issues, our overall situation is deteriorating -- fast.  We see and hear concerns along these lines almost daily.  To take one example of fragmentation, I suppose the Study Group has been approached only once in the past ten years by an environmental or climate group, but even that did not involve anything beyond asking our support for a campaign already set in stone (which involved very little change from the status quo).
  • We've got a new nuclear weapons (aka Manhattan Project) National Historic Park on the way.  We fought it and we eventually lost.  But now it's a big opportunity, isn't it? 
  • Simultaneously, the Santa Fe metro area continues to be marked for increased plutonium and nuclear waste activities. All pit disposition options, not just pit production options, now run through Los Alamos (and Santa Fe), involving ~30 (-40?) tons of Pu.
(Book cover from Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, a good book.)
This leads to this kind of choice for us (from a blurb for a possible talk, which I was asked to provide, from which I have received no reply):
"Crawl Out through the Fallout, Baby*: Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Future of Santa Fe"

Does Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) benefit Santa Fe?  If not, could it do so under different policy scenarios?  Can Santa Fe emerge from the political and cultural shadow of The Bomb?  Who is Santa Fe's real patron saint now, Francesco Bernardone -- or Robert Oppenheimer?  Or is just plain old Mammon -- Plutus, let's say, to whom we offer plutonium?

The time has come when Santa Fe must choose.  We cannot have it both ways.  The state, nation and world face a new set of challenges completely different from those that animated the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.  Can Santa Fe adapt to this brave new world, or even thrive?  If so what might that look like, and what role if any could or should LANL play?  Is finally time to end the Manhattan Project in our imaginations, which lives there in a vampiric -- or should we say zombie -- form?

The Obama administration and Congress would like to spend billions of dollars in new construction for industrial-scale plutonium processing, waste handling, and weapons manufacturing -- dirty and risky work, on a scale never seen before in Los Alamos.  Is such a future compatible with a sustainable, attractive, and economically resilient "City Different?"

Can LANL ever even be "cleaned up," for that matter?  The simple answer is no, not really, and that's not the intention either.  The reality is that the lab is making and burying new waste on site all the time, and plans to make more.

Well, maybe the lab be converted or effectively diversified to new missions, you may say.  If you come you will find out why "conversion," like "diversification," is neither realistic nor desirable.

Greg Mello, long-time director of the Los Alamos Study Group, will share insights on these and other questions from 25 years of policy analysis and advocacy in New Mexico, Washington, DC, and international disarmament diplomacy.  Mr. Mello was trained as a systems engineer and regional planner.  He worked as a hydrologist for the State and private industry, and led the first regulatory enforcement actions at LANL.  He was a HUD Fellow in Urban Studies at Harvard and has been a Research Fellow at the Princeton Program on Science and Global Security.


*"Crawl Out through the Fallout, Baby," Sheldon Allman (1960)

FYI, I am heading back to Washington for another week on Saturday so this week is extra jam-packed.  See you Wednesday I hope!

Let us know if you are coming.  We may be able to help arrange car pooling also.

Greg Mello

PS: Here's a summary of part of what we discussed at our last meetings in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, prepared for a meeting in Albuquerque.

As those of you know who were at the previous [ABQ] meeting, we are looking for potential full-time "hires," i.e. research fellows, and interns.  We can, we believe, provide a modest stipend, in-kind support, training, and networking for highly-qualified persons.  We can't provide real-world salaries at the present time.  (Those don't exist here for any of us.)  Such a program is the only way we know of to expand the hours per day available, but it will be costly in terms of time especially, so we need be very picky about this commitment.  Successful applicants will need to present an uncommon combination of skills, willingness to work, maturity, willingness to take direction, and to persevere.  The Study Group has an internal culture more akin to Washington, DC than to New Mexico.  Despite almost no money, we play in the big leagues.  We have to.  That can create some culture shock.

Who and where are such people?  That's not a rhetorical question.

At our last [ABQ] meeting we discussed "The Swamp," the complex of negative net energy and miscommunication phenomena associated with a politically demobilized, privatized (i.e. atomized, nuclearized) society.  The Swamp arises from many causes and we can’t fix it. We simply must avoid it.

We had an excellent meeting in Santa Fe.  Highlights include:
  • New Mexico is so undemocratic and culturally conquered it cannot save itself via standard liberal political reform, which is widely failing.  Like the country as a whole it has been sliding downward politically and is very likely to get worse.  New Mexico is an occupied territory, and "liberal" Santa Fe is no exception – far from it.  Albuquerque, the Nuke City, is obviously no exception either]  Far more radical measures are needed.
  • For a variety of reasons, there is no possibility for a grassroots disarmament movement, sensu stricta, in the U.S. or, especially, in NM.  To the extent nuclear issues are salient, overt nuclear politics in US civil society is guided and controlled, or in other cases tethered, by powerful private-sector interests which seek to perpetuate the status quo for their own personal and corporate financial gain and for their personal careers and prestige.  All the way up to the pinnacles of power, the actors involved cannot accurately assess what to do or what they are doing because the ideas, values, and behaviors involved are so universal -- and required.  Mere citizens are at the mercy of a long chain of manipulation and social engineering, much as ordinary Ukrainians were in the Maidan "color revolution."  The blind lead the blind.
  • We want to convey to you and to others a dual sense of great possibility and extreme danger at this moment in history, more than ever before.  People tend to see neither.  The future will be very unlike the past and frankly it will be full of human suffering and animal and plant extinctions.  For the most part progressives deny most or all of this.
  • Probably the greatest danger and obstacle we face is mild reformism, or “liberal progressivism” as Bob Anderson (who thinks similarly) called it last week in an email to the Stop the War Machine list.  We see many fake policies promoted, which would not result in the outcomes advertised.
  • Wrong turns are legion, so we want and need an aware, alert phalanx, a solid core.
  • Narcissistic issue framing will go nowhere interesting or real.  No “purity of our precious bodily fluids,” please.
  • Loyalty is essential for all serious relationships and endeavors (marriage, politics, the military, diplomacy).  It’s not about “the issues.”  It’s about people, and truth, the latter being an ideal that is very much at risk.  When truth as an ideal goes, people are next.

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