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"Forget the Rest" blog


Update to local members and request for your support

December 1, 2015

Dear friends –

We had an excellent fundraising event in Santa Fe on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  I am sorry more of you couldn’t be there.

The food was terrific (thank you, Willem and Michael!), the music during dinner was fabulous (thank you, Lydia!), our digs were beautiful (thank you, anonymous host!), and our “guest” speakers (via Skype) were superlative (thank you, Frank and Bob!).  Dr. von Hippel and Robert Alvarez are really two of the most knowledgeable people on nuclear policy issues in the U.S.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to those who were also able to contribute.  Many of you on this list have already done so – thank you.  We hope more of you will join them!

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 very convenient and secure link on our web site (via JustGive, which will take 2.5%);
  • 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, boat, or real estate);
  • By calling Positive Energy and asking them to install a photovoltaic system at your home or business; when the project is completed they will give the Study Group $500 (we are just beginning this cooperative program, now that our own system is installed);
  • By making a major challenge donation in which you match other donations we raise up to some limit (alas we do not at present have any such grant or gift!);
  • By hosting a gathering at your home or workplace;
  • By volunteering with us, in the office or “in the field”; and
  • Other ways I am not thinking of just now!

We have a very long way to go on our fundraising goals.  We hope you will consider being ambassadors for us, as you reflect on what you heard on the 22nd and have seen over the years.  Few groups, even very large organizations in our field, can boast of anything like our track record of concrete successes. 

What local people often do not see is that national funders in fields like nuclear policy, as well as in climate policy, are typically caught up with our national craziness, to a greater or lesser extent.  (James Kunstler's take on this yesterday is worth reading.)  The leaven in the loaf has always come, and will continue to come, from “outside,” from the margins, including from us – all of us at the Study Group.  Your leadership must, and can, replace the leadership which is not forthcoming from places from which it ought to be coming.

There were several especially noteworthy comments made at the fundraiser on the 22nd.

One person, a retired academic from California and new to New Mexico, spoke to a couple of us about the strange deference or defensiveness toward Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) she has experienced in Santa Fe, her new home.  She never experienced anything quite like it in her previous state of California, which of course hosts Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

It is important for everybody to know that yes, New Mexico is quite unique in its subservient attitude toward our nuclear labs.  That means that we in the Study Group are, in some ways – in many ways – a resistance, and not so much the reform organization we thought we were in the 1990s.  LANL’s fence line runs through – or really surrounds – Santa Fe and nearly all of its civic life and organizations.  It runs through many families and many environmental NGOs.  Our local news organizations are increasingly captured.  Reporters can feel that they are, and maybe they really are, unsupported by their editors and publishers when it comes to critical stories about the labs.

Environmental NGOs are afraid of the labs.  They usually have significant funding from laboratory staff members or in some cases by the Department of Energy (DOE).  The State Environment Department is supported by DOE.  The LANL Foundation supports numerous individuals and families (e.g. through scholarships), and organizations.  And on and on and on it goes.

These numerous conflicts of interest in the community can, if not understood and resisted, turn “enterprises of great pitch and moment” awry so that they lose – continuing Hamlet’s speech – “the name of action.”  But this very fact makes individuals who speak out and resist far more powerful for doing so.

Another person present, who has served in a senior government position, mentioned to me the great promise for progressive issues embodied in Elizabeth Warren.  (I expected there to be a question or comment from somebody about Bernie Sanders, but there wasn’t.)  Regarding Senator Warren, that promise may be as it may be, but it need not concern us.  Both major parties, the national security Deep State and its extensive lobbying apparatus, the mainstream news media, the corporate Main Street, the Israel lobby, and Wall Street – to pick a few huge forces in American political life – are all fully committed for the foreseeable future to a militarized American Empire.  Nobody is going to get elected President who thinks differently until the political realities in our society change.  But change they will, because those realities are unsustainable.

Another local person (who did not attend) later asked if we had recordings of Dr. von Hippel and Bob Alvarez, that we could share with him.  The answer is no we do not, and if we did we wouldn’t share them.  We want people to “show up” in some way, real or metaphorical, and to find a real way to contribute.  It must be added that this was not a public meeting.  We did not invite all and sundry (see “resistance,” above).

These are some highlights from our presentation (“Nuclear Disarmament, Society, Environment”).

  • 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 dimensions.  So please join us!
  • 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, as a Republican friend recently remarked.  The suffering is already 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 are embraced.
    • The current decline is likely to induce peak oil, since new supplies are unaffordable.  Post-peak oil is likely to mean peak GDP also given their historic tight correlation, making growth-dependent loans difficult to service across society.
    • Tensions within the EU ramping up rapidly.
    • Increasing migrations and deaths en route.
    • With each passing year the competition for lower-cost hydrocarbons and pipeline routes has intensified and this will continue.
    • 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. now seeks military and political dominance vis-à-vis Russia, and Russia is responding.  Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are even more 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 fight is against militarization and empire and its associated domestic austerity and pervasive 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 bodily fluids.”
  • 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 in warheads and bombs present (though not deployed).  These priorities are incompatible with economic growth, climate and energy progress, and all other sound 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 loss of prestige is very damaging.
  • The nuclear weapons enterprise is very fragile.  This fragility occurs because of its immorality, its dangers, its complexity, 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 within the military and 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.

I want to close with something I wrote over Thanksgiving, first to a long-time supporter and then (with edits) to the "Stop the War Machine" discussion (SWM-D) list serve in Albuquerque, and then again to attendees on the 22nd.  (Those who attended need not read further.)  I will put the whole SWM-D post on the Study Group's blog, to which I hope you all subscribe, tomorrow.

Face-to-face conversation, learning, mutual responsibility, bodily commitment, personal skills practiced in a human context, identity formation in a political and moral context, and resurrection of moral life, are central [to successful activism].

As Marge Piercy put it, "The pitcher cries for water to carry/and a person for work that is real."

In about 2006 or 2007 we [LASG] realized that there was nothing whatsoever we could do, short of a million or more dollars a year and a large staff, to change the mind of (then-congressman) Udall and others in similar positions in New Mexico.  It was not a matter of doing this or that better.  It is simple impossible.  That was when we began going around our delegation.

The results were [surprising and] delightful.

The U.S. as a whole is now pretty much in that same post-democratic, militarist position [as New Mexico was then].  Everything has gotten worse.  [On the national level], Obama has squandered the last best hope of democracy in the U.S., quite probably.  There are however other countries in the world, and they are more and more acting to limit U.S. reach and the destruction which pretty much now always accompanies it.  That’s a good thing.

Trish thinks the only way major positive change will come to the U.S. now is through massive catastrophe, provided the living seeds are there.  We have gone past some points of no return.  I agree.

It is these living seeds -- real people and their human-scaled institutions, with real, local accountability -- which we must nurture, while halting some critical damage and building out positive real-world changes we need.  It won't be "enough," but it will be better than not doing so, and we can't tell how much better overall.  It could be decisive.

For example, without a new pit factory there will be no new pits, and no new nuclear weapons requiring new pits, and no design of same, and no military policies depending on same, and no recruitment of staff for same, and no budgets for same.

The soldier in his position [just] cannot know how the whole battle will turn out.  It might, or might not, depend on his bravery, loyalty, and skillful initiative.

It is quite possible we, LASG, have already killed a new pit factory for all time (despite support for that factory from nearly all NGO's – herded as they were by their funders and by their tired DC leadership), but that won't be known for another decade, during which time we have to be vigilant, creative, and effective.  On all our issues, we need to advance to avoid defeat.

As far as national policy and international disarmament outcomes go, we have to link a devoted local set of people, in and through this organization, with the people who can actually make desired outcomes happen.

History is on the move, chaos is rising, and we want certain very specific, key, short- and medium-term outcomes, as well as new vocations.

See Bulletin 211, which will follow tomorrow, for more.  Thank you for your attention and support.

Please help us if you can.

In gratitude, wishing you all a wonderful, deeply joyful, and insightful holiday season,

Greg Mello

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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200