Contents, February 2012
Nukes in NM
Jerry Ortiz y Pino
A friend in our neighborhood always refers to the current governor as “La Chota”: the cop. It is an apt nickname for our prosecutor-in-chief, who manages to exude the chip-on-my-shoulder swagger of a particularly aggressive policewoman whenever she is in front of a television camera.
This year’s State of the State speech was classic Susana as chota. She highlighted tougher law enforcement in her planned legislative agenda: tougher sentences for political corruption; for child abuse; for second-degree murder; for DWI. Pick any crime and she wants to lock up offenders and throw away the key. It’s a one-answer-fits-all approach that requires no thought and no explanation; just drop the hammer…at every opportunity.
But one type of crime about which our hard-nosed law-enforcement governor seems completely unconcerned is environmental rape. Not a word of her speech dealt with the wholesale pillage of our state in the past 50 years by the nuclear, mining and petroleum industries. And instead of demanding that those corporate profiteers at least begin paying to clean up the mess they’ve left, our tough-talking chief executive is turning the other cheek and announcing “New Mexico is open for business!”
I realize a lot of New Mexicans may bristle at the thought that we’ve been violated environmentally. But that is precisely what reading V.B. Price’s thorough review of what’s happened in our state since the Manhattan Project, The Orphaned Land (UNM Press. 2011) will lead an honest reader to conclude.
And as Price also points out, this is perhaps the least-reported crime in our history because there has been a virtual conspiracy among governmental agencies, the media and corporate miscreants to keep the full extent of the damage that has been done—and that continues to plague us even now—hidden from the public.
Here are three quick examples culled from the dozens that Price documents, examples I have to note that are of such magnitude and that are so potentially destructive of our health and the well-being of our state, that one would expect them to be at the top of every legislative agenda until they are resolved, rather than the tempest-in-a-teapot stuff Gov. Martinez seems determined to keep center-stage.
The uranium industry is once again being ballyhooed as a future economic driver for New Mexico. Subsidies to keep the Eunice uranium fuel enrichment facility at peak profitability for its international owners sailed through the Legislature, and there is likely to be a similar attempt made to remove all the financial risk from uranium mining companies as a way to entice them to resume that poisonous activity near Grants.
The Orphaned Land reminds us, however, that we’ve never cleaned up the mess from the last uranium boom. Hundreds of tailings, open pit mines and slag heaps dot the landscape of Cibola and McKinley counties, radioactive and toxic chemicals leaching into the ground water and being blown in dust clouds all across the region. To hear the uranium boosters talk, all of the deaths, illness and devastation caused by mining and processing this stuff are things of the past. We are assured that new techniques and new federal rules will adequately protect us.
But the inescapable evidence Price’s book presents is that our government agencies are toothless watchdogs, and their assurances of “minimal danger” are bold-faced lies.
Similarly, the contamination of groundwater in Albuquerque from a government landfill on Kirtland Air Force Base, from the irresponsible dumping of industrial chemicals that went on for years at the GE plant in the South Valley, and from the
agricultural and industrial detritus that has seeped into the aquifer from many dozen corporate pirates who escaped any reckoning whatsoever, has raised serious questions about health and safety consequences of our largest city’s drinking water.
Predictably, the government agencies issue assurances there is nothing to fear; the media swallow these incredible falsehoods with total gullibility, and the public sleeps soundly, secure in the ignorance of the innocent. Cancer rates go up, even as the menace of chemical pollution of our drinking water goes up—and no health authority chooses to admit the connection; that might be bad for the economy.
The third example is equally disturbing. Los Alamos National Lab has from the start denied that its practices could possibly pose a health hazard for the people who live nearby and downstream. So important is this radioactive polluter to our state’s economy that its crimes are either ignored or handled with kid gloves so delicate that it has never been held accountable for its dumping of waste, its discharges of radioactive contaminants or its poisoning of the Rio Grande and the drinking water of Santa Fe, Albuquerque and virtually the entire central portion of the state.
Nor has the State Health department acted to question the statistically significant incidence of cancerous tumors in the region around Los Alamos. Again, we are reassured we needn’t worry ourselves about a possible link. The payroll at the Lab is way too impressive to even consider making demands of it.
The pattern is the same in all three examples I’ve used (and in many others documented in the book). We are so poor that we are easy pickings. We agree to allow our water, our air and our soil to be dumping grounds for corporate or governmental polluters—because they offer jobs. And so desperate are we for that economic fix that we permit the crimes to continue, turning a blind eye to mounting evidence about how we are being raped. Finally, even the media, the independent sentinel we rely on in a democracy to keep us honest, joins in the conspiracy of silence, out of a concern that speaking the truth might be bad for business.
These are the crimes we should be punishing. These are the crimes that pose genuine danger for us. These are the crimes our chota gobernadora ought to be prosecuting.
Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a New Mexico state senator (Dist. 12, Albuquerque, Dem.). A former social worker, he sought the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010.
Last week legislators from around the country flocked to an all-expense-paid (including travel) get-together at an exclusive island resort off the coast of Florida—the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island (http://www.truth-out.org/alec-education-academy-launches-island-resort/1328280896). The tab was picked up by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), leaving one to wonder just what the legislators exchanged in return for the pleasure of their company. The party was labeled “ALEC K-12 Education Reform Academy.” Oh, and the party was closed to the public and the press and protected from intruders by private security guards.
New legislation regarding teacher evaluations now being proposed in the New Mexico Legislature to “evaluate” teacher performance has been derived from examples of “model” legislation provided to legislators by ALEC (http://alecexposed.org/wiki/Bills_Affecting_Americans’_Rights_to_a_Public_Education). ALEC is sponsored by large corporations and billionaires with visions of new sources of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, and the organization provides legislators with what they euphemistically refer to as “model” legislation (http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed). The model legislation is provided to legislators on a number of topics and is written to specifications dictated by the corporate sponsors of ALEC to serve their ends. In the case of public schools the ultimate goals are to privatize public education, eliminate teacher unions and make money for the sponsors. Simple enough.
We have had an example in New Mexico of such ALEC-dictated legislation in the form of the ABCD-F Act. A great deal of the language and intent in that travesty flowed from ALEC plumbing where it was called the “Education Accountability Act.” At press time we were seeing two bills, HB 249 and SB 293, wending their way though the Legislature, both having to do with teacher and administrator evaluation. The two bills, sponsored by legislators sympathetic to the governor’s and secretary-designate’s agenda, correspond closely to three ALEC-authored models: “Great Teachers and Leaders Act,” “Career Ladder Opportunities Act” and “Teacher Quality and Recognition Demonstration Act.” All you have to do is add local water, shake and bake, and presto, you have made-to-order legislation, compliments of ALEC.
“Great Teachers and Leaders Act”? Just how great can a teacher be when children come to school unmotivated and unprepared to learn? That is not the question being asked, of course, by the sponsors of new legislation being presented at the Roundhouse. When I first read Secretary-designate of Education Hanna Skandera’s public exclamations about how “great” New Mexico’s teachers are and how she wanted to climb up to the rooftops to “scream” out how much she loved and respected teachers, I knew exactly what was coming. And I was right. This was a perfect example of what I call damning with cynical praise.
So what is this about? Why do teachers, administrators and schools have targets on their backs? It is because public schools can be replaced; so can teachers and so can administrators. What can they be replaced with? Vouchers for private for-profit schools and teachers from private training programs like Teach For America and K-12, that’s what. This monkey business is not unique to New Mexico either; it is going on across the country, where conservative legislators and governors have taken control of state houses. The attacks on public education are accompanied by attacks on many other public services in order to achieve a political goal of reducing government services and privatizing whatever is left.
What is not being said in this proposed legislation was perfectly articulated by a Santa Fe teacher. Laura Carthy had this bit of wisdom to offer, born of experience: “They want to hold us accountable, but how can they hold me accountable for students who aren’t here, who are constantly tardy and miss five to 20 minutes of instruction a day?” Carthy enumerated many of the issues teachers and administrators face on a daily basis and over which they have no control, such as children not eating, not sleeping and not doing their homework (Santa Fe New Mexican 12/18/11). The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is also an advocate for these neo-liberal policies, and he wants to tie federal funding to Skinnerian testing performance evaluation regimes. While Ms. Skandera is on the rooftop and Arne is shooting hoops with the president, people like Laura Carthy are in the trenches.
In December, 2003 Ms. Skandera appeared at a luncheon as a Hoover Research Fellow with her mentor and distinguished Hoover Institute professor, Richard Sousa. Interestingly, Sousa is best known as an expert on labor economics and, incidentally, K-12 education. Sousa and Skandera reported on their research and offered suggestions for improving education through school choice, testing and accountability. The term accountability in Sousa’s parlance includes evaluating teachers, hence our Secretary-designate’s ABCD-F Act, and now-proposed legislation in the form of HB 249 and SB 293. As the old saying goes, the apple seldom falls far from the tree. In this case Professor Sousa’s former research assistant is following the script, and what has followed are the three pillars of the New Mexico ABCD-F Act and the new teacher accountability legislation— school choice, testing and accountability.
Emanuele Corso has been a New Mexico resident for over 30 years. Prior to that he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he received his doctorate in education policy studies. He taught “Schools and Society” and “School Reform” to graduates and undergraduates. He holds two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s in mathematics. He is currently working on a book, Belief Systems and the Social Contract, which he started when he was teaching at Wisconsin.
David Bacon and Joni Arends
Attending the Daniel Pennock Democracy School means unlearning most everything one imagines one knows about democracy in the United States. The most recent School, presented by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), was held Feb. 3 and 4 in Albuquerque.
Thomas Linzey, senior legal counsel, and Ben Price, projects director, of CELDF, gave examples from history about the “first” U.S. Constitution, called the Articles of Confederation, written in 1777, and the Constitution of 1787—the Constitution that we know today. The Constitution of 1787 was adopted into law by a minority of the representatives from the states. It privileged corporations and the minority in power.
The Constitution of 1787 provided for a centralized government and a president. It included a commerce clause that would permit control by the minority in power. None of these appeared in the Articles of Confederation.
Shifting quickly to the present situation, we both participated in the Democracy School. Thomas Linzey and Ben Price presented at the invitation of Drilling Mora County, a citizen group advocating community rights, to teach about how communities can exert their inalienable rights, their right to local self-government and local sustainability so that they can push back against corporate threats in their communities. Today over 150 communities have passed Community Bills of Rights, including Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh, Pa., thanks to the ongoing work of CELDF (http://www.celdf.org/).
The first priority of any community should be the protection of its water. One of the most immediate concerns is to protect communities from fracking, which is the injection of toxic chemicals into the ground in order to extract natural gas. But in reality, when we talk about all the industries that want to extract or use natural resources in our communities, the core values that we express are the same. We all want clean water, air and land, peaceful skies, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, solitude and community. These are at the core of a Community Bill of Rights. It has become apparent (after the Democracy School) that we can protect our community most directly by creating and passing a Community Bill of Rights for Santa Fe County.
Here are some recent examples of the threats to Santa Fe County. They entail how plans for the cleanup of radioactive, toxic and hazardous pollutants from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) can be changed, cut back and delayed without community input. During the Las Conchas fire last June, international and national media attention focused on the approximately 36,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste being stored in fabric tents at Area G. In September, Gov. Martinez announced that removal of the LANL waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) was a priority, along with the protection of surface and ground water. She said the Las Conchas fire highlighted the risks to the waste drums and surface and ground water. In the meantime, LANL changed its tune as to the number of drums: during the fire they said there were fewer than 10,000 drums; now there are 42,000.
It appeared that things were moving ahead. However, at the same time, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), at the direction of the governor, granted 26 two-year extensions of time for cleanup work required under the 2005 Consent Order, or cleanup order issued by the NMED for LANL. This work includes submitting workplans, installation of ground-water monitoring wells and sampling for pollutants released from the dumps.
Originally scheduled for completion in December 2015, the Consent Order required the removal of all of 42,000 drums (or drum equivalents) of the plutonium-contaminated waste stored above ground. But the new “framework agreement” between NMED and LANL requires the removal of only 17,000 drums by the same deadline of June 30, 2014. See http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/ (right side of page).
In spite of this shift in policy, no one has provided a risk assessment to demonstrate that removing 17,000 drums will result in less risk than removing all 42,000 drums within the same time period. We are disheartened to learn about the change, which was done without public participation as required by the hazardous waste laws and regulations. With the change of plans, fewer than half of the drums are now scheduled for removal in the next two years or so. Our community deserves better protection than a regulatory system that permits the continued harms.
And with recent findings of elevated PCBs, metals and radionuclides in storm water that flows east from LANL into Santa Fe County on its way to the Rio Grande, a Community Bill of Rights is needed now. Please see map that shows that the Santa Fe County line runs north and south, to the east of LANL.
It is examples like these that make it clear that it is time for a change. Santa Fe County needs a carefully written and agreed-upon community rights-based ordinance that asserts the powers it has to protect its water, air and land—our inalienable rights! There is no “no” in the regulatory system. It is only about how much harm and how much destruction will be regulated.
A gathering of interested people will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Santa Fe Main Library to develop community support for a Community Bill of Rights for Santa Fe County. Please join us!
For more information contact David Bacon at 505 474-0484 or [email protected].
American spring: more conflict than rebirth?
As the dollar-driven confectionary splurge of early February gives way to the close of another contentious session of the New Mexico Legislature, and the partisan rhetoric of an election year fans the smoldering embers of America’s perpetual culture wars, the hopes that many of us began to entertain last fall are running up against some cold realities.
It was promising, at times exhilarating, to watch the dialogue about the national deficit give way to a new focus on greed, injustice and runaway corporatism as the new meme, “We are the 99 percent,” helped launch Occupy Wall Street and became a household phrase. Millions of Americans paid at least rudimentary attention as disparate groups from social justice activists to unions and more traditional hierarchical nonprofits joined OWS in connecting the dots between all the troubling things happening in this country: model legislation from ruthless special-interest groups like ALEC; the Citizens United decision further corrupting the political system; increasing global environmental pillage and pollution; obscene Wall Street bonuses built on taxpayer bailouts; attacks on workers’ rights; disguised efforts to privatize education, and the alarming assault on democracy and on the economic stability of all but the wealthiest Americans.
Amid floods and wildfires, conservative obstructionism at home and heightening tensions abroad, the strong appeal of a sweeping new progressive movement that was on its face both directly democratic and leaderless caught the attention of older generations of activists as the energy of a broad, younger wave of protesters began to lay bare conventional wisdom and speak out against the brainwashing that was literally snatching the roofs from over our heads while deepening our addiction to the delusion known as the American dream.
And many of us acknowledged progress on a number of fronts: hundreds of thousands of people ditching their big banks in the Move Your Money action that also made Bank of America walk back its $5 monthly fee for Internet banking; pressure from a national campaign against the Keystone XL Pipeline, including a circle of protesters surrounding the White House, leading to the Obama administration’s refusal (so far) to fast-track the project; the viral online opposition to SOPA-PIPA legislation, compelling Congress to back away from bills many saw as a dangerous leap in attempted regulation of the Internet. When nonviolent Occupiers were attacked on campuses and in parks, the videos of police casually pepper-spraying peaceful protesters in the face or viciously clubbing them and slashing their tents to ribbons brought sympathy from many Americans and new dialogue about collusive and brutal police-state tactics.
But it wasn’t long before cracks began appearing in the Occupier communities—schisms between more political-minded activists and transient or homeless campers, some of whom were alcohol- or drug-users, some of whom were violent. Sub-groups among the activists, especially in larger cities like Oakland, stretched the definition of nonviolence that had marked the movement’s origins, and lines began to blur between mic checks and direct actions and other kinds of civil disobedience. The mainstream media flocked to the internal conflicts like flies to, well, excrement. The social prejudices against counterculture and anything communal that was not under a revival tent soon expressed themselves in disparaging public comments about spoiled and filthy hippies. Despite denials, instances of escalating hostility and confrontation (though often instigated by bloodthirsty police or security forces) indicated an increasing presence of anarchists or agents provocateurs, or both. Initial allegiances with labor and social justice groups began to sputter as those working within the system quickly realized that the most radical elements of Occupy had no interest in compromise when what they wanted was a new world order right now.
In New Mexico, certain elements of Occupy and coalition groups’ bore fruit, as the Legislature this week became only the second state in the nation (after Hawaii) to pass memorial resolutions condemning Citizens United and urging Congress to enact a Constitutional amendment repealing it. Several New Mexico lawmakers signed the 99 Pledge, rejecting corporate influence in politics.
But Sen. Peter Wirth’s SB9 to level the corporate taxation playing field, while it passed the Senate in greatly weakened form, needed to make its way through the House, where it faced a veto from Gov. Susana Martinez. Other progressive bills seemed headed to death by adjournment in a divided Legislature. A month ago we asked whether the people would be heard. The answer so far is that those in power heard but many are doing their best to avoid listening.
Much better news for New Mexico came from Washington, where the president’s budget request zeroed out funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) which, while it will cost some temporary construction jobs, will leave the state safer from the dangers of expanded plutonium weapons manufacturing. We know New Mexico’s dedicated antinuclear activists will keep the pressure on to stop all nuclear weapon-making at LANL.
Victories in a few battles are always better than defeats, but on the big stage the forecast is looking anything but sunny for a nation racing against the clock to avoid both the environmental and political consequences of growing domination by the 1 percent. Those of us on the left must work a lot harder to rise above our differences as an American spring with more conflict than rebirth looms before us.
Many sympathizers of the Occupy movement suggest that it is time to draw up a set of demands and direct them to those in public office. Some of the best-informed and well-intentioned of their numbers, such as Bill Moyers, claim that for the movement to gain political traction it must draw up a charter for social change and forge a broad-based coalition in order to force Congress to enact its provisions into law. It seems to me, however, that such a suggestion misses something essential, for what these people fail to grasp is the radical transformation over the past 35 years of the political space occupied by the state. Within this new political space, it is not simply that the state is unwilling to accede to the demands of the people, it is institutionally incapable of doing so.
The function of the state in any class-divided society is to ensure the stability of those institutional structures of domination and subordination that circumscribe the class relations of that society. In a capitalist society the role of the state is to secure those property relations that divide those with access to capital from the vast majority whose labor generates capital’s wealth. From the inception of industrial capital at the beginning of the 19th century to the mid-1970s the locus of capital was territorially bound within the configuration of the nation state. Its organizing body was the national corporation, and even though its business activities led to its being nested in international networks of exchange through cross-border trade, the corporation remained heavily dependent on the nation state in which it was domiciled and was responsive to the political winds that blew from the seats of national power. In this environment the state itself could be, and very often was, a terrain of contestation between the dominant classes and those classes subordinate to the economic power of capital.
All this changed beginning in the mid-1970s. Prodded by the stick of a counter-cultural rebellion that saw millions of young workers break from the ethic of an unchallenged obedience to capitalist-structured labor and to the imperial adventures of the U.S. state in Southeast Asia, and drawn forward by the carrot of innovative information technologies that allowed for the transfer of unlimited amounts of money capital to any spot on the globe in a matter of seconds, capitalist production shed its national confines and became transnational. Manufacturing and assembly could now be carried out on three or four continents simultaneously, while coordinated from a corporate command center located in a financial hub such as New York, London, Frankfurt or Tokyo.
This globalization of manufacturing led to a fundamental alteration in the nature of capital itself: In freeing capitalist production from its historical ties to a nation state and a national workforce, it transformed capital from what had been pools of national capital, owned and controlled by various national capitalist classes, to transnational capital under the command of a new transnational capitalist class.
This transnational capitalist class consists of those global elites who own and who occupy seats on the boards and serve in executive managerial positions of transnational corporations. A transnational corporation is not simply one that does business in several countries, nor is it one with subsidiaries in many nations; it is a business entity that is funded by pools of transnational capital. This capital takes the form of off-shore hedge funds, private equity funds, sovereign wealth funds, global commercial and investment banks—entities that aggregate money capital from super-wealthy individuals and from nations with capital surpluses such as the oil Gulf States, and commit those funds to investments in production and commerce anywhere on the globe that promise the highest rates of return. This invariably means areas of the world where low wages, a compliant workforce and an absence of environmental and worker safety regulations are enforced by oppressive political regimes installed and supported by the American national security state.
If, as argued above, the role of the capitalist state is to subsidize and defend those institutional structures of domination that transfer the wealth produced by labor onto the balance sheets of the corporations whose sole purpose is to capture that wealth, then a transformation in the fundamental structures of capital—the shift from national to transnational corporations and the attendant rise of a transnational capitalist class—must result in a corresponding change in the nature and role of the capitalist state itself. In this era of global capital, the individual nation states, along with such newly created governing bodies as the World Trade Organization and the World Economic Forum, together with a reconstituted World Bank and International Monetary Fund, plus the central banks of the major economic players, have been folded into the new world order and have been transformed into the constituents of an emergent transnational state.
Such a transformation is a process, not an event, and is today in the process of development. And although there remain fractions of capital that are still national, and that are under the control of still vibrant, if declining, national capitalist classes, for the Occupy movement to appeal to the holders of public office to put in place policies that will roll back the socio-economic tide of the past quarter-century is naïve and misguided. It is naïve in that it fails to realize that what we call the state today is not the state that existed in the 1960s. In those days the state was responsive to the demands of grassroots organizations such as the NAACP and insurgent student movements such as SDS, and to the charismatic leadership of individuals such as Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. Back then a political redress of grievances—such as those grounded in racial discrimination, or embedded in “hidden” poverty, or in unspoken gender inequality—was possible because of the integration of national corporations, the nation state and a domestic workforce represented by national unions. Today no such integration exists, and because of this the state of the 1960s no longer exists. The political space it once occupied is empty.
The role of the nation state today is not to assist in a social compromise or compact between capital and labor, nor is it primarily to promote the interests of its own national capitalist class; it is to further and support, by any and all means possible, the interests of transnational capital and the program of the emergent transnational capitalist class. This, in my opinion, is the reality that the Occupy movement must come to understand if it hopes to end and reverse the barbaric trend toward the commodification of all aspects of social life on the planet. Understanding this new reality is not an answer to our problem. But it is the problematic within which a set of answers—political and social, theoretical and practical, collective and individual—can be, and must be, forged. Suggestions to this end will be addressed in part two of this essay in the next issue of The Light of New Mexico.
Fred Goldberg has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Brandeis University and has taught philosophy at M.I.T., San Jose State University, Montana State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz. For the past several decades he has been an investment adviser and a securities portfolio manager, initially with his own investment company, more recently with a New York-based securities firm. Over the past several years he has taught philosophy courses at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Greg Mello, Executive Director
Trish Williams-Mello, Operations Director
Los Alamos Study Group
Cut to the bone
As part of its fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request released Monday, Feb. 13, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) proposes to delay, “for at least five years,” all spending on a proposed $4-to-$6 billion plutonium facility to be located in Los Alamos.
This facility, called the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility,” or “CMRR-NF,” has been the flagship U.S. nuclear warhead infrastructure project and the first priority of the NNSA’s program of weapons complex modernization for the past decade. The project has been under development since 2001 and will have absorbed a total of $994 million by the end of the present fiscal year, unless Congress halts current-year outlays. These funds have been used primarily for design, and also for construction of a multi-function support facility for the proposed new building, now indefinitely delayed.
NNSA’s FY2013 Budget Request requests zero (0) dollars for this project in FY20131and requests $35 million to replace the storage functions of this facility.
Why was this “flagship” put on the back burner for five years? The obvious answers are 1) our country is broke, 2) the NNSA already has plenty of infrastructure that can be used as is or upgraded as needed to fulfill all of its missions—an alternative that the Study Group has been recommending for several years, 3) there is currently no official mission for warhead core (plutonium pit) production—the facility’s core mission, 4) the chosen construction area is totally riddled with earthquake faults, as is most of Los Alamos, and 5) to comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the U.S. is legally bound to decrease its nuclear weapons stockpile, not build it up. All of us here at the Los Alamos Study Group are pleased to note that the NNSA has determined, after getting hit with our two lawsuits, pressure from Congress and many others in government, that they agree with us—they have plenty of infrastructure they can utilize and they can save $1.8 billion over the next 4 years.2 The Study Group is pleased to share credit, but the real heroes in this story are the professional staff in Congress, the White House and the Pentagon, who did their jobs.
We can only hope that this about-face by the NNSA augurs a deeper programmatic reexamination and a very aggressive effort to end the poor performance by NNSA’s contractors, in this case Los Alamos National Security (LANS), which has contributed to a great waste of taxpayer money. In that light we also welcome NNSA’s announcement of late last week that it would make public its Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) of its site contractors.3 There needs to be a congressional investigation of how exactly the perennial bad management within NNSA has been allowed to persist, and what to do about it.
The CMRR project has been a fiasco from the get-go. In the beginning, NNSA and LANL—then run solely by the University of California—proposed CMRR structures which even the most cursory examination revealed could never be built. The construction materials specified in environmental documents could not have built a shed, much less a fortified, seismically sound nuclear facility to hold and protect several tons of plutonium. As the project developed, NNSA and its contractors kept the bad news from Congress, as they always do, until the last moment, which generated huge (tenfold and greater) cost increases before the design even began to firm up. At this point, after spending $665 million on the Nuclear Facility, NNSA had not even decided which major design concept to follow—deeply buried or shallow construction—and is very far from a completed design. NNSA is spending between one-half and one million dollars per day to complete the design for this facility, which is highly unlikely to ever be built—and if it were, much of the design would need to be redone anyway. Congress should end this unnecessary waste.
There is a dire need for a broader discussion of priorities. The United States spends far too much on nuclear weapons, not just because we have too many of them but also because our so-called “stewardship” of them has been designed to maximize, not minimize, spending in many program elements. At the labs in particular, there is abundant wasteful overhead, non-value-added work of all kinds, “vaporware” posing as science, and grandiose ideas that make no sense, of which CMRR-NF was one. In addition to this “pure” waste, there is waste associated with needless warhead modernization, which “churns” the warhead complex for highly dubious reasons. Beyond that, we have the waste embodied in superfluous warheads and delivery systems, which deliver no extra “value” even under the “nuclear deterrence” paradigm, which we believe to be destructive, absurd, and immoral in any case. This FY2013 budget is a very tentative beginning at the deeper reforms we need. Failing those reforms, the nuclear warhead enterprise will eventually suffocate from its excessive privatization and its extremely high internal rate of inflation for the actual services rendered.
Completely out of control—history in the making
In late 2001, with the events of 9/11/01 fresh on its collective mind, George W. Bush’s national security team was busy. One war (in Afghanistan) was just getting going, and another (in Iraq) was on the drawing board.
This was also when the Bush administration was putting the finishing touches on a brand new plan for U.S. nuclear weapons. A bit of it was made public in January 2002, but by March shocking classified details began to emerge. Nuclear weapons, citizens learned, would not just be for “deterrence” but also for what came to be called “compellance.” The nuclear arsenal would have to evolve, and promptly, to adequately project U.S. power in a dangerous post-9/11 world.
This would require a much larger production capacity than was available. The new and upgraded factories would be cornerstones in a new “capability-based deterrence,” in which nuclear and non-nuclear forces were to play important roles. The capacity of the nuclear factories and labs would be so great, and the flexibility of the forces they produced so dazzling, that would-be nuclear competitors would simply give up, ceding military advantage to the U.S. Our new, more “usable” nuclear weapons and the factories that made them would awe our enemies and rivals into submission.
Call it the “Ozymandias” theory. “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”
It was nuclear “shock and awe,” except that the “shock” was to be industrial, embodied in a new “responsive infrastructure” for nuclear weapons. The “shock” also would be financial, of course, and environmental, in the lucky communities chosen to host the new factories. The problem with giant new facilities for weapons of mass destruction involving highly toxic, flammable, fissile materials that had to be kept under the highest security was of course, the public. “Shock” was for enemies, not the “homeland”—especially during the environmental review process, which provides at least some limited opportunities for litigation.
Particular urgency was attached to establishing a new factory to make plutonium cores for warheads—“pits.” Insufficient pit production capacity was the single biggest perceived bottleneck by the NNSA since the raid and closure of the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado in 1989.
By mid-2002 two parallel efforts were underway to fix this. The first involved re-purposing an existing proposal to replace a large, old nuclear facility at Los Alamos called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) Building. The original idea, hatched in 1999, was to replace CMR with a lab limited to less than 900 grams of plutonium. Senator Bingaman’s spokesperson said at the time that the new lab “would not be a ‘Taj Mahal’ but a scaled-down, streamlined facility that would meet the needs of the lab at a lower cost than they are met now.”
But the Bush nuclear planners thought on a different scale altogether. They took this “Replacement” project, now christened “CMRR,” and turned it into a plan for a huge plutonium building with twice LANL’s existing processing area—tripling that space. It would hold six metric tons of plutonium, enough to remake all the strategic warheads in the U.S. arsenal today. According to one NNSA official, it “will have the plutonium stores for the Nation.”4 Much like a mythical dragon’s hoard.
The total cost of the early, non-“Taj Majal” project was, in 2001, a cool $375 million, which seemed large enough at the time. By 2004 the cost had risen to $600 million. We didn’t notice that the combination of falling space and rising cost had already jacked up the cost of useful space by a factor of four, in hindsight a portent of much larger increases to come. In 2005, the estimated total CMRR cost rose again to $838 million. Fast-forward to November 2010 and the costs for the CMRR-NF had risen to an estimated $3.7 to $5.9 billion. The higher, more credible estimate is 15 times the cost estimated in 2001.
The other 2002 plan to make pits was called the “Modern Pit Facility” (MPF). Unmistakably, MPF was what it was, and it quickly became a magnet for opposition to über-hawkish Bush nuclear policies and was finally killed.
The CMRR-NF was to be far from the benign facility as it was described in the 2003 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—supposedly having no significant environmental impacts of any kind. The NNSA ignored our pleas to examine cheaper and safer alternatives, to reexamine the seismic situation, to reexamine the underlying purpose and need of the facility, and so on.
Already in 1997, the Study Group had prepared a review of existing LANL seismic data, showing far greater hazard than was admitted—or, as DOE’s reaction showed, understood—at the time. Curiously, the 2003 CMRR EIS was based on an obsolete, highly optimistic analysis from 1995 that had been severely criticized by LANL’s peer reviewers. It was precisely the rejection of that early, over-optimistic seismic picture which had been the raison d’être for the CMRR project in the first place. In 2007 LANL and its consultants published an updated seismic analysis based on long-standing LANL research, showing significantly greater accelerations and earthquake frequencies than previously admitted—as great as those experienced at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, or even greater.
The bigger part of the project went underground—both figuratively, and as we later learned, literally as well. A support building—the Radiological Laboratory, Utility, and Office Building (RLUOB)—was designed and its construction began. All RLUOB’s labs combined were to contain less than nine grams of plutonium. In terms of radiological protection this is not so very different than a hospital, or ordinary college lab. The larger nuclear facility was quietly under design—and in all its aspects, including any problems, quite secret.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the House of Representatives was never happy about this project. For five years, starting in 2004, House Appropriators saw a train wreck coming and tried to kill this project but were overruled each time by an inflexible Senate Appropriations Committee, whose lead negotiator on nuclear issues was Sen. Pete Domenici, a senator who never saw a radionuclide—or pork barrel project for New Mexico—he didn’t like.
The story of CMRR is an important story of the slow-motion collapse of imperial overstretch in nuclear weapons, a clear-cut case of neoconservative ideology running into limits set by management competence and contractor greed, geology and geography, and the limits of public finance of a debt-ridden empire. Not just CMRR but also the entire thrust of ambition in nuclear weapons that has been demanded by neoconservatives and the nuclear contractor spokespersons in Congress are now failing.
1 Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, FY 2013 Congressional Budget Request, February 2012, Vol. 1, 188.
2 Ibid., 185.
3 ExchangeMonitor Publications and Forums, Weapons Complex Morning Briefing, Feb 13, 2012.
4 Donald Cook, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, NNSA, Testimony, Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee, March 30, 2011: “… it’s not only a facility we’re putting in place for actinide research and development, but will have the plutonium stores for the Nation.”
Nuclear Watch New Mexico is predicting a bit of a rough year for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy. That’s okay; NNSA wouldn’t increase new permanent jobs in northern New Mexico anyway.
Two of NNSA’s three nuclear weapons labs are located here in New Mexico—the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories—plus the world’s only geologic waste dump for bomb-making materials contaminated with plutonium, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. We’re talking big money by New Mexico standards, with DOE in-state spending totaling around $4.8 billion per year, while in comparison annual state government operating expenses for all of New Mexico is only another billion or so on top of that.
This begs the question of what does all this DOE spending do for the average New Mexican? The answer is very little, as it has long benefited mostly an isolated nuclear weapons enclave that colonized New Mexico in the WWII years. [Please see related article, “Occupy Los Alamos!”]
The good news is that over time colonies tend to overturn their masters. New Mexicans have a special responsibility to work toward a future world free of nuclear weapons since some 45 percent of nationwide NNSA spending on nuclear weapons research and production programs is spent in our state alone.
Everybody knows that nuclear weapons are genocidal weapons that will indiscriminately kill non-combatants (or perhaps worse, leave the living with horrible suffering), the elderly and babies at the same time, women and children, and to top it off can permanently (by mortal human standards) poison our biosphere.
New Mexico is a very special place. Surely our legacy is not to leave fallible humankind with nuclear weapons, but to also follow up producing them with the deeply maturing step of eradicating them too, for the sake of all. We are not just dreamers: nuclear weapons will be eradicated because they must be, otherwise they will eradicate us. Further, that abolition will be made to be truly and verifiably universal (the only way it can happen), because the possession of nuclear weapons by anybody is a global threat to all.
The official doctrine by the first and only nation to use nuclear weapons (ouch, that’d be us!) is that they are needed to deter other nations from using nuclear weapons. Okay, we could possibly be good with that, except for the fact that “only” a few hundred nuclear weapons are necessary to hold the lives of millions of humans at grave risk in the name of “deterrence.” The stark truth is that both the U.S. and Russia keep thousands of nuclear weapons within 30-minute quick launch for the single purpose of nuclear war, fighting against each other’s military targets. Pretty crazy, given that the Cold War ended more than 20 years ago, and no “peace dividend” was ever returned to the taxpayer (but rest assured that the usual defense contractors continued to profit). And pretty crazy, given that the NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs keep operating within the orbit of that hopeless Cold War-relic—nuclear war-fighting capability. How does that help to meet the threats of today?
But back to the nuclear weaponeers’ not-so-good coming year (sorry, this gets down a bit into the weeds):
• The Obama administration requested $7.6 billion for NNSA “Total [Nuclear] Weapons Activities” in its Fiscal year 2013 Congressional Budget Request just released this Feb. 13. This was a political calculation to not appear to walk away too soon from a “deal” to gain Senate ratification of a modest new arms control treaty with Russia (“New START”), a deal which Senate Republicans extorted to win concessions for increased funding for “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and its research and production complex. So-called modernization included “Life Extension Programs” for existing nuclear weapons that could give them new military capabilities, and two new huge facilities for expanded nuclear weapons production. The previous “deal” was supposed to net nearly $8 billion for NNSA nuclear weapons programs in FY 2013, but now even that has fallen victim to hard economic times.
• An amazing citizens’ victory (and long time coming) is that the controversial CMRR-Nuclear Facility to support expanded plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been zeroed out! The official reason is that because of federal budget constraints the ~$6 billion CMRR Project will be “deferred” until an even more expensive ~$7.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility is built at the Y-12 Plant in Tennessee. Despite the exorbitant expense, the CMRR Project would have created zero new permanent jobs because it would merely have relocated existing Lab jobs.
• Design and construction of the Uranium Processing Facility will now be on an accelerated schedule. Nevertheless, this probably means a 10-year delay for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, therefore likely meaning its eventual termination. The unofficial reason for the Nuclear Facility’s demise is its lack of clear need. Since it was first proposed in 2004, Congress rejected new-design nuclear weapons (which would have required expanded pit production), and in a study requested by NukeWatch NM through Sen. Jeff Bingaman independent experts found that pits have reliable lifetimes of 85 years or more, twice as long as previously believed.
• Given the demise of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, there will now be increasing reliance on and funding for upgrading existing nuclear weapons facilities, particularly LANL’s existing plutonium pit production facility (“PF-4”) and the Superblock at the Lawrence Livermore Lab in California. The 60-year old, unsafe CMR Building at LANL may also see increased funding for upgrades, indefinitely delaying its long-anticipated decontamination and demolition.
• There will also be increasing consideration of a stand-alone vault at LANL’s Technical Area-55 for “special nuclear materials” (i.e., plutonium). LANL and the Army Corp of Engineers so poorly designed and built a vault in the mid-1980s that the Lab never could put plutonium in it, and a new vault was a major justification for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility as a whole. Clearly a standalone vault will be far cheaper to build and could help free up some floor space in PF-4, thereby further undermining the need for the “Nuclear Facility.”
• Nationwide, there will be increasing Congressional concern that the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore Lab will never achieve its main goal of ignition of nuclear fusion, or at least certainly not within FY 2012 as originally advertised (at which point NNSA will have some explaining to do). Congress will begin searching for a Plan B to salvage what science it can out of the ~$5 billion-plus that NIF ate up in taxpayers’ money.
• NNSA’s “Life Extension Program” to refurbish existing B61 nuclear bombs has dropped proposed new technologies to improve “surety” (preventing the unauthorized use of nuclear weapons) because of Congressional doubts that they are proven and tried. The idea of intrusive modifications to plutonium pit cores was also eliminated. While this is a dramatic downscaling of proposed work, total estimated costs will nevertheless climb from $4 billion to $5 billion or more. This will result in an unpublicized cost to refurbish each warhead of around $17 million per unit (which doesn’t include original design and production costs), in part for the archaic Cold War relic of continued forward deployment in Europe. We think that Congress will begin to seriously question these costs.
• To recap, for all these reasons and more, we predict that fiscal year 2013 will be a rough year for the National Nuclear Security Administration, due to (among other things) its failure to achieve ignition at the ~$5 billion National Ignition Facility, the effective termination of the CMRR-Nuclear Facility (even after more than $400 million has been spent on its design), rising nuclear weapons costs and growing Congressional doubts over NNSA’s “Nonproliferation” program to burn up military plutonium in commercial reactors (which sounds good in theory, but will proliferate plutonium into the global market).
Added to this, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and DOE will probably fail in its ~$13 billion (originally $3.5 billion) Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. DOE will remain on the federal Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list for the 20th consecutive year. Public and Congressional exasperation with DOE and NNSA wasteful spending will continue to grow, leading to increasing budget cuts in FY 2014.
The bottom line is that the high-water mark for funding wasteful nuclear weapons research and production programs at Los Alamos and nationwide has hopefully been reached. It is now time to carefully conserve taxpayers’ dollars and invest in real job producers that also protect the long-term security of our groundwater and the Rio Grande. Comprehensive cleanup is the real potential job producer at LANL, not nuclear weapons.
The Lab has estimated that entirely removing the wastes from its radioactive waste dump Area G would take up to 108 million labor-hours, with $13 billion in labor costs. That could employ thousands of workers for 20 years with high paying jobs. Let’s get the New Mexican Congressional delegation, state and local governments, and interested citizen organizations and individuals united to push for comprehensive cleanup at Los Alamos. Together we can get it done!
Jay Coghlan is executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, www.nukewatch.org
One could dismiss Bud Ryan and Stuart Overbey’s powerful documentary, The Forgotten Bomb as a shamelessly manipulative exercise in preaching to the choir about the horrific legacy of the Manhattan Project that spawned the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, the present-day Los Alamos National Laboratory and all other things nuclear. One could, but one shouldn’t.
Written by Ryan and directed by Overbey, the film quickly announces its intent to discover what the bomber can learn from the bombed. The narrative begins in Japan, with recollections of Hibakusha (survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and takes us on a somewhat meandering journey back and forth in time and place, using archival footage, interviews, animation and Ryan’s modulated, low-key narrative to paint a portrait of the horrors unleashed on the world in the name of defense and to dissect the propaganda that arguably has brainwashed three generations of Americans.
There is no doubt that images of charred victims, their eyeballs literally hanging from blackened faces in the ash-filled ruins of two Japanese cities, are intended to evoke an emotional response. Even more powerful is the translated narrative of a woman whose sister suffered such damage from injuries and radiation that maggots infested the open wound in her abdomen and drove her to a desperate suicidal act I won’t describe here. As the woman tells her tale over several riveting minutes, her expression stony, the matter-of-factness of her words is belied by the gradual welling of tears in her eyes. This incredibly moving understatement of personal tragedy—and global inhumanity—continues to resonate days after I watched this film.
At the same time, authors such as Gar Alperovitz, whose book, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, is cited heavily in the film, argue that the reasons for Truman’s decision had less to do with saving the lives of GIs than with global politics—and revenge for Pearl Harbor—a perspective that surely will prove unsettling to Americans raised and taught in school to believe the choice, though difficult, was absolutely necessary.
But what about the Pacific Islanders, the uranium miners throughout the West, early tourists at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico, and “downwinders” who were neither warned nor protected or even acknowledged, and few of whom were compensated for the cancers they later suffered as a result of the radiation to which they were exposed?
What about current residents of New Mexico, dealing with an all-powerful national laboratory that has consistently underplayed and underestimated the dangers from manufacturing plutonium pits, not to mention the legacy contaminants that line the canyons of the Pajarito Plateau and wastes that to this day sit above ground in thousands of metal drums, protected only by canvas tents?
Interviews with former Secretary of State George Schultz, Father John Dear, Rabbi Michael Lerner, authors Jonathan Schell and Jim Douglass and others reinforce the film’s themes that not only is use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons immoral and against the teachings of every major religion, it is irrational and strategically unnecessary, especially in the post-cold-war world.
In fact, the film effectively connects the dots that show this nation, along with the Soviet Union relentlessly built up an arsenal that would so effectively destroy human (and most other forms of) life on Earth that continued stockpiling is nothing short of insanity. Of course it is very lucrative insanity for the defense industry, into the coffers of which it has poured trillions.
Ryan tours museums in Japan, which depict the horror of those August mornings in chillingly graphic detail, then juxtaposes those displays with the sanitized contents of American atomic museums, designed to appeal to children, and where he is told that photos of the casualties and devastation were deemed inappropriate for family viewing, but that videos may be viewed upon request. And Los Alamos’ Bradbury Museum not only refused admittance to Ryan and his film crew but confiscated their video and rudely interrogated them outside the building.
In a telling interview with Harold Agnew, former director of LANL, Ryan probes his reasons for supporting the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Incredibly, Agnew asks what the difference is between using atomic weapons on these cities or simply firebombing them. And he alludes to a major, though seldom-acknowledged motivation for the attacks: retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
Archival footage of Truman, JFK and Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis, promotions for the safety and miraculous advantages of nuclear energy, Boy Scouts touring the Trinity Site and very effective use of animation serve to support and reinforce Ryan’s cautionary tale, and his narrative style is both accessible and non-threatening (think a less-strident Michael Moore).
In the end, The Forgotten Bomb does far more than preach to the choir; it appeals to our logic, our morality, and above all our humanity in seeking to persuade all viewers that the dangerous proliferation of nuclear weapons demands our urgent attention and denunciation.
To learn more about The Forgotten Bomb, visit the film’s website, www.theforgottenbomb.com, where information on bookings and purchasing the DVD are available. The film recently won the award for best feature documentary at the Irvine International Film Festival—a well-deserved accolade.
When I came up with the idea for the documentary The Forgotten Bomb (www.forgottenbomb.com) that I made with Stuart Overbey, I wanted to show that every step in the nuclear weapons cycle is accompanied by death and illness. Most Americans are under the impression that the only real casualties from nuclear weapons have been the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki way back in August of 1945. That faulty conclusion unfortunately stems from the propaganda of most high school textbooks and too many other books written on the subject. There are also fatalities among uranium miners, scientists, atomic veterans and “downwinders” throughout the U.S. and the world. We don’t know any of this because our nuclear history has been sanitized to give us the false impression that we really have nothing to fear from anything nuclear. Even in terms of nuclear weapons we have been told that we are one of the few countries on Earth that is responsible enough to possess them, while states like Iran are not. This is ironic, as the U.S. is still the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in war, and dropping those two atomic bombs on Japan was totally unnecessary.
As part of our documentary, we went to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque to film its director, Jim Walther, as he gave us a tour. While our crew was setting up for a shot, I thumbed through the museum guest book, and one of the notes that caught my eye was from a student named Chelsea who wrote, “I really feel sad about what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So many innocent people were killed and I wish we could’ve found a different way to end the war with Japan. The thing is, so many more people would have died if we had kept going to kombat [sic]. I don’t think Japan would’ve surrendered if we hadn’t set those nuclear bombs off.”
Like Chelsea, that is what I used to believe because it was what I was taught in history class. My ignorance continued until I read Gar Alperovitz’s exhaustively researched book, The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb. From Gar’s book I learned that we had broken the Japanese code and were reading all their dispatches and knew that they were trying to surrender through the Soviet Union. The only condition was that Japan keep their emperor, which of course was the eventual outcome, despite the fact that President Truman insisted on an “unconditional” surrender. In our film we show a clip of President Truman saying that he wanted to keep the emperor safe for after the war as a way of controlling the Japanese population. So for the sake of one word—unconditional—200,000-plus Japanese people died from our two atomic bombs.
In our film we conclude there are three reasons why the United States dropped the atomic bombs: 1) as a warning to the Soviet Union, 2) as an experiment to see what these new “atomic” bombs would do to people, and 3) as revenge for Pearl Harbor. We all know Pearl Harbor was a military base, and while there were some military targets in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were mainly civilian centers.
Some people have questioned why we started our film with what happened in Japan, but that is where our country’s nuclear lies and misinformation started. Most Americans don’t know that many of the Manhattan Project scientists signed a petition that they unsuccessfully tried to get to President Truman, asking him not to drop an atomic bomb on a Japanese city, but to demonstrate it on a deserted island or in Tokyo Bay, for the Japanese High Command. Of course we’ll never know what decision Truman would’ve reached had he received that petition, just in the same way that we as Americans cannot make informed decisions about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if they are based on lies, misinformation and propaganda.
None of us likes to learn about any of the bad things our country has done throughout our history, but hiding our heads in the sand, or becoming apologists for those errors in some misguided sense of patriotism, is not the answer. We must learn from our mistakes and make sure we never repeat them because we don’t want to fall prey to that old axiom: those who fail to learn history are bound to repeat it. As a society we cannot learn from history if our textbooks and museums whitewash it, distort it, or fail to report it at all. My hope is that Chelsea and many high school and college students, along with many other Americans, will get to see our film, and read books like Gar’s. Citizens can only make informed decisions about nuclear weapons, or anything else, when they know the facts. For me, based on what I know now, adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which should mean eventual abolition, is the only course that makes any sense.
Bud Ryan lives with his wife Tomoko in a solar home in an off-grid community south of Madrid, NM. He is co-coordinator of Pax Christi NM, a part of an International Catholic Peace Group, and is a volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s Homeless Shelter.
• There is no more stark example of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent than Los Alamos County and New Mexico. Out of 3,142 counties in the USA, Los Alamos is the 2nd richest, has the most millionaires per capita, the very lowest poverty rate, and is tied for lowest unemployment. At the same time, some of the poorest communities in the country live next to Lab boundaries.
• Los Alamos County’s population is 83.4 percent “white persons, not of Hispanic/Latino origin.” However, New Mexico is the only state with a “minority” majority population (54.6 percent Hispanic, Native American, and Other Minorities).
• Los Alamos County’s wealth is compiled from taxpayer dollars for weapons of mass destruction. This year’s funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) nuclear weapons research and production programs is $1.4 billion, 64 percent of the Lab’s total funding of $2.2 billion, while some other programs indirectly support those programs. Meanwhile, national domestic programs such as education and environmental protection are on the chopping block. The average wage per job in New Mexico was $39,258 in 2010, while the average wage per job in Los Alamos County (nearly two-thirds for WMDs) was $73,629. At the same time, New Mexico has the highest rate of children living in poverty. What do nuclear weapons do for our children?
• LANL planned to spend more than $7 billion on an expanded production complex for plutonium pits, the fissile cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons. This expanded nuclear weapons production complex would have been anchored by a ~$5 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) – “Nuclear Facility” that would produce zero new permanent jobs (because it would merely relocate existing Lab jobs). Fortunately, Congress has zeroed out funding for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility, offering an unparalleled opportunity to implement profound mission change at the Los Alamos Lab.
• Imagine if $7 billion was put into real job creators such as renewable energies and cleaning up LANL’s mess! Instead, funding this year for renewables research at LANL is only $1.2 million, a pathetic 0.1 percent of the Lab’s budget. Moreover, LANL plans “cleanup” on the cheap through “cap and cover” and leaving most of its immense radioactive and hazardous wastes in place, when over time the ultimate repository for that contamination is our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande.
• LANL’s own documents estimate that full cleanup of the Lab’s biggest radioactive waste dump (“Area G”) would take 108 million worker-hours at a labor cost of $13 billion. Talk about job creation! That could employ thousands of workers for 20 years. Federal and state New Mexican politicians, if they are really sincere about creating desperately needed jobs, should be pushing to redirect the Lab toward comprehensive cleanup. That will protect the environment and our scarce, precious water resources, in contrast to gargantuan, unneeded nuclear weapons programs that will produce little (if any) in the way of new jobs.
• Much is made of the Energy Department’s vaunted economic presence in New Mexico. Our state hosts two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos and Sandia) and the world’s only geologic repository for radioactive bomb-making wastes (the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant). Yet despite the vaunted presence of the nuclear weapons industry New Mexico has fallen from 37th in per capita income in 1959 to 43rd in 2010. So what good are nuclear weapons programs really doing for New Mexicans, other than the privileged nuclear weapons elites?
• The Lab is now managed by “Los Alamos National Security” (LANS), a limited liability corporation, in which the University of California (UC) and the Bechtel Corporation are the dominant partners. The for-profit LANS now receives more than $80 million annually in profit. New Mexico has been a colony for UC nuclear weapons programs since 1942, when Los Alamos land was seized by the U.S. Army. Bechtel is the U.S.’ largest construction and engineering firm, reporting $27.9 billion in revenues in 2010. Bechtel is building the “Waste Treatment Plant” in the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State, which has exploded in costs from $3 billion to $12.5 billion (similarly, the CMRR Project exploded from an estimated $660 million to ~$6 billion). Bechtel had a reported $2.8 billion in mostly non-competitive contracts in Iraq, many of which were canceled after evidence emerged of fraud and war profiteering.
What should we do? Occupy Bechtel, Occupy Los Alamos!!!
To stay informed and get involved please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/226519817418501/
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau data, the Department of Energy FY 2013 Congressional Budget Request, the Corrective Measures Evaluation Report for Material Disposal Area G, Revision 3, LANL, September 2011.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
All indications are that 2012 will be a very tumultuous time. From troubling Wall Street investigations to destabilizing economic swings to nail-biting presidential and Congressional elections, the country will probably be on a rollercoaster ride most of the year.
In January, President Obama appointed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the co-chair of a committee to investigate mortgage and securities fraud by the nation’s big financial institutions that caused the 2008 crash. Schneiderman is well known for his strong opposition to the extensive mortgage foreclosure abuses of the last decade. While this inquiry is long overdue, the timing of it raises the question of whether it’s an election-year maneuver or a serious effort to right the wrongs that created the economic meltdown.
At the same time, the Obama administration has been negotiating a settlement of its nationwide mortgage foreclosure abuses case that once again bails out the financial industry. According to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine, “The potential liability each of the banks faces from foreclosure litigation is vastly greater than [the proposed] $25 billion” settlement. If President Obama approves this deal, he will be giving Wall Street a mere slap on the wrist at the expense of the millions of families who lost their homes due to the corruption in the mortgage financing industry.
Taibbi concludes: “If the Obama administration wanted to be 100% real on the Wall Street crime front, it would suspend this deal pending the investigation by the new mortgage committee. But if the deal does indeed go through, we’ll know that the banks still have major influence with our populist president.” So, keep your eye on the pending settlement as well as the Schneiderman investigation.
Meanwhile, another economic catastrophe looms on the horizon. During the last year or so, a number of financial professionals have predicted the collapse of the dollar. Doug Casey, author, professional investor and Chairman of Casey Research, believes we are already “in the early stages of the Greater Depression.” In Casey’s view, the weight of the United States’ government debt, which is at least $15 trillion, if not much larger, is just too great to avert an economic crisis. He sees the country soon defaulting on its debt obligations.
James Turk, international banker and author of The Freemarket Gold & Money Reportnewsletter, suggests the dollar’s collapse will occur sometime in the next three years. He predicts the demand for the dollar will drop sharply because the government will oversupply the market: “Today far too many dollars are sloshing around the global economy. All it takes is a little break in confidence, then people quickly understand that the dollar is not worth the paper it’s printed on…. That will lead to the flight from the currency that will ultimately bring the dollar down.”
Since the very wealthy, the top 1 or 2 percent of income earners, controls most of the country’s hard assets, a significant devaluation of the dollar would not harm them nearly as much as it would the average American. In fact, as crazy as it may sound, it is quite possible that the plutocrats are manipulating the financial system to increase the likelihood of the dollar’s collapse and, thus, further consolidate their power over the government.
While the super rich have hardly, if at all, been negatively impacted by the economic downturn, a great number of the rest of the citizenry have taken a serious financial hit over the last few years. With the Republicans’ strong opposition to further assisting the long-term unemployed or extending the payroll tax cut, 160 million Americans will soon suffer even more if Congress fails to provide for the continuation of these programs. Additionally, as the value of the dollar falls, the level of poverty will rise dramatically. By the end of the year, the financial circumstances of a great many Americans could be significantly worse than at present.
Which brings us to the grand finale of 2012–the November elections. Right now it sure looks like President Obama will be running against Mitt Romney, thus pitting a semi-populist against a plutocrat, a member of the top 1 percent income class. Romney, whom Newt Gingrich labeled a “vulture capitalist,” is the perfect antagonist for an Obama campaign geared to the plight of the average voter.
However, Mr. Obama can’t seem to decide whether to stand up for the American people by getting tough with the financial industry or to stick with his Wall Street backers. Actually, he appears to want it both ways. Such ambivalence will not bring back to the polls many of his 2008 supporters who are disillusioned by his failure to fight for numerous progressive policies he promoted during his first campaign. Nor will Obama’s inspiring rhetoric be enough to put him back in the White House next year. Despite total Republican opposition, Obama must find a way to evade Congress and deliver a noteworthy economic achievement that will arouse millions of Americans to support his bid for a second term.
Which brings me back to Eric Schneiderman and the committee to investigate mortgage and securities fraud by the nation’s major financial institutions. If President Obama puts the full weight of his administration behind this investigation, demands that those found culpable for the economic crisis be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law, insists on strong measures to prevent future Wall Street corruption and replaces Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and others in his administration who advocated policies leading to the economic meltdown, with officials committed to serving the needs of all the people, then Americans will have good reason to back Obama again and give him four more years to deliver the “change we can believe in.”
An unyielding assault on corruption in the financial industry would pay tremendous dividends for Obama and the nation. It would even create the potential for bringing the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street together. Of course, we don’t know if President Obama has the vision or courage to go down this road. But, as Americans who have a huge stake in the outcome, we need to do all we can to persuade him to champion this cause in earnest.
Bruce Berlin is a Santa Fe attorney who has been a political activist most of his life. For ways to help take back America, go to MoveOn.org; DemocracyAtTheCrossroadsSF.org; or moneyouttapolitics.org.
On January 17, Occupy and allies of the political left gathered on one side of the Roundhouse to proclaim “We are the 99 percent”; on the other side, the Tea Party and political right declared “We, the People.” The irony reached a crescendo with “The People United Will Never Be Defeated.” This demonstration of popular disunity exposed the reality of our divisions, not just along partisan lines, but by the priority of all the special-interest advocacy in evidence.
As the Occupy movement falters, many are asking why. It’s not enough to conclude that the self-described “radical left” has taken it rogue and driven off the moderates or that as “managed opposition” it was never intended to succeed. We must dig deeper. How did a proposition that accurately, if simplistically, defined the interests of the plutocracy and corporate state as anathema to those of the majority fail to coalesce the support of that same majority?
The answer lies in form, not in substance: while Occupy correctly identified substantive issues, it persisted to blindly follow the rules—the form—set out by the establishment. That form is the politics of special interest and bears the hallmarks of a well-played divide-and-rule strategy. By using the language and principle of division, Occupy has unwittingly upheld the status quo, further polarized political society, and achieved the opposite of its stated objective—the politics of common interest. In its efforts to oppose the establishment, Occupy has furthered the establishment agenda by engaging on its terms: division via the politics of special interest. And the harder it pushes in this direction, the greater will be its failure.
Two divisions exist: the wealth and power differential between the few and the many, which is material and real; and the left-right political division of the many, which is real only within the limited perceptual frame of the politics of special interest, which is itself a tactic and an epic deceit. Occupy appropriately identified the material divide which must be named and redressed, but it failed to address partisanship or the effect that using the principle of division to define the movement (the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent) has on maintaining it. If we call for a lynching of the few, not only should we expect a fight involving all the weapons of the police state at their disposal, but that it will be joined by all those who perceive their special interest values to be under attack. Division begets division.
The politics of special interest are those of separate interest. They’re about superficial self-interest and secondary identity. They focus us on our differences and advocate for or oppose the oppression of our identity features. They’re nominally benign—promoting women, children, seniors, first peoples, people of color, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, religious groups, labor, veterans, immigrants, those with illness, mental illness, the environment, animals, etc. The subdivisions are endless. But that’s what they are—subdivisions of the human family, the American nation, our primary identity.
We’re assured by all establishment channels, from education to media, that our core American values are secured by constitutional law and government checks and balances, then directed, via party politics, to fight for the representation of our differentiated values in the politics of special interest. We have been successfully set against each other. The politics of special interest is a war of influence that a people, divided against itself, cannot win and are not supposed to. The war will always be won by the most powerful forces—those who called it in the first place. Presently, that power is money—organized, aggregated wealth in the simple pursuit of its self-interest.
If we understand that the establishment controls the political party system and that establishment interests converge at the top, then we must see how the model of the politics of special interest undermines fundamental self-interest—which is common interest—and figure out how to unite in action at the grassroots level, while respecting each other’s rights to hold special-interest values.
The politics of special interest are not morally wrong. In a society with a just and representative government, they’re surely healthy, and we find our way toward appropriate balance. Sometimes the interests of the few or the one outweigh the interests of the many; sometimes the interests of the many outweigh the interests of the few, or the one.
But when government has been taken by a corrupt few and oppresses the many—albeit unequally; when our “unalienable” constitutional rights and natural human rights are being systematically obliterated through “legal” structural revisions of our constitutional framework, and when the means of these misappropriations has been our effective division against our common interest and fundamental self-interest, the politics of special interest are practically wrong. They maintain us engaged in matters of no real consequence to the powers that stand above government—and therefore to government itself.
In a republic, we do politics by proxy; but where our supposed representatives serve themselves and the powers above, our popular political energy is ultimately wasted. We dissipate ourselves chasing the manifestations of systemic corruption according to our special-interest values, then have to choose between the two faces of a monolith come election time, dissipating our frustrations upon each other throughout. Divided, we have no access to effect systemic change. We are powerless. As individuals, we can barely endure the battles, let alone the war.
Rome is burning! And no matter what you hear from the anarchists, that’s not a good thing.
We are literally on the verge of losing all we hold sacred. We face the ignoble end of America. Promoting division isn’t radical or effective, it’s just another elaboration of the establishment model of oppression. What we suffer is effective self-oppression, which we further every time we engage, minds and hearts, in upholding division. It’s imperative that we see the common enemy as division itself, stop arguing whose interests are more special, stop debating wedge issues or anything we know we disagree about. Stop! ¡Basta ya!
Put it all down and take a deep breath. Step back and look at the big picture.
We have a choice. Unity of action must be our primary question and focus. Unity would be radical. Cooperation would subvert the model. Collaboration would restore what we’ve lost.
We, the People, would become the most powerful force. There is no possible way forward to freedom but by a shift at the level of form, a quantum shift to the politics of common interest, which are about the rights of all people. They are best identified by their unifying effect. We will know we have achieved this shift when we have found a way to work together within our communities to restore America the Beautiful.
Chris Hassell is a Santa Fe business owner and instigator of the Patriot Circle project. For more on the politics of common interest, see www.patriotcircle.org
An audience of farmers, ranchers and small landowners packed a Socorro County courtroom Feb. 7 to hear attorneys’ arguments on a motion to dismiss an application by the owners of the Augustin Plains Ranch in Socorro and Catron counties. The owners propose to pump 17.5 billion gallons of water a year from the San Augustin Basin, then pipe most of it to the Rio Grande for a laundry list of uses elsewhere in the state.
New Mexico Environmental Law Center attorney Bruce Frederick, who represents about 80 area residents who oppose the application, said 17.5 billion gallons is about the amount of water the city of Albuquerque consumes in a year.
Those opposing the application have waited for action from the Office of the State Engineer since February 2011, when the motions to deny it were first filed, and they will now need to wait a little longer for a decision that will apparently be made by newly appointed State Engineer Scott Verhines.
Once arguments for both sides were finished, OSE Hearing Examiner Andrew Core told the crowd that, while he and fellow Hearing Examiner Uday Joshi would file a report on the hearing, the state engineer himself would make the final decision on dismissing the application. Core said he hoped to “have that out fairly soon.”
In an amended application filed in 2008, the ranch’s representatives check off the water’s proposed uses as “domestic, livestock, irrigation, municipal, industrial, commercial and other.” In an attachment, they explain, “The purpose of this Amended Application is to provide water by pipeline to supplement or offset the effects of existing uses and for new uses in the areas designated in Attachment B.”
The “areas designated in Attachment B” are the ranch itself, as well as those parts of Catron, Sierra, Socorro, Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties within the boundaries of the Rio Grande Basin.
Frederick told the hearing examiner the OSE shouldn’t even consider the application, since it is too broad and violates state statutes that require applicants to be specific about a water right’s purpose and place of use. He said the ranch is attempting to speculate in water.
“The ranch’s desire to exploit a free public resource for private profit is nothing new. The courts have consistently held that speculation in public water harms the public and conflicts with the [state] law of prior appropriation,” he said.
Stephen Hernandez, attorney for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which opposes the application, said accepting the application would set a precedent—a very bad one.
If the application is allowed, every lawyer filing a water rights application from now on will do as the ranch’s lawyers had done and check every box on the application, according to Hernandez. Besides violating state law, this would effectively block any other water rights applications in the same basins, he added. The OSE’s Water Rights Division would hold off accepting any new applications until the overbearing one was approved or denied, Hernandez said.
“Applicants will lock up basins for years,” he said after the hearing.
But John Draper, the ranch’s attorney, said no statute limits the number of uses an applicant can list or specifies only a small area of use. The opposing attorneys were just trying to deny the application a chance to be heard on its merits, he said.
“This represents an effort by private enterprise to bring water to an area of the Rio Grande Basin that has an ever-increasing need for water. If you find their [opponents’] arguments are acceptable in this case, you’re essentially excluding free enterprise,” he said.
Catron County resident Monte Edwards told the hearing examiner the ranch’s application represents a threat to the small homestead he and his wife maintain outside of Datil.
“Based on the little bit of water I have, there’s no study anywhere that shows my water wouldn’t disappear if that amount of water were pulled out of the ground,” he said.
Jack King has been a reporter and public relations writer in New Mexico for 15 years. For most of that time, he has covered water issues.
Non-profit groups launch after-school programs at Zona del Sol
In response to the increasing demand for quality educational opportunities for children and youth living in the Southside of Santa Fe, several non-profit organizations have launched new after-school and weekend programs at Zona del Sol, the building located on Jaguar Drive across from the Southside Library.
The public and Southside neighbors are invited to an Open House on Saturday, March 3, 11am to 2 pm, to celebrate the re-opening of the Zona del Sol building, 6600 Valentine Way, Building A. Free food and activities for all ages will be part of the festivities. The event is sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank.
Jim Leehan, president of the Zona del Sol Board, said, “We are inviting the community to celebrate the fact that a wide variety of programs are now being offered in the Zona building.”
He said Zona is now alive and full of activities for all ages, genders, and interests. The organizations’ individual missions each focus on engaging, inspiring and teaching young people through hands on, experiential learning in the visual arts, environmental studies and hip hop. Leehan added, “Since 43 percent of Santa Fe youth live in our part of town, it is a great neighborhood for these organizations to offer opportunities for young people. Zona is back in operation for the whole community.”
Fine Art for Children and Teens (FACT), a 22 year old Santa Fe-based visual arts education organization, will provide hands on art making programs for children and youth ages 5-18 in after school, evening and weekend classes. FACT will launch its first Zona del Sol program with an ARTcamp during spring break the week of March 12th, followed by ARTclub after school programming. Programs for teen students will be ongoing throughout the spring and summer months.
“FACT has offered visual art education programs at Sweeney, Cesar Chavez, Ramirez Thomas and the Southside Santa Fe Public Library for many years. We are thrilled to now have a home at the Zona del Sol campus where we will be able to expand services and provide a wider range of fun and engaging arts learning opportunities to the Southside and Tierra Contenta community,” said FACT Director Julia Bergen.
Earth Care’s Youth Allies Network of teenagers who take action to further sustainability and social justice in the community meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 5:30 pm, and the first Saturday of the month.
“Earth Care plans to work with neighbors to create a new youth and community garden on the empty lot adjacent to the building. We are already working with Capital High and will reach out to Sweeny, Ortiz, and Cesar Chavez to involve youth in meaningful environmental and social initiatives that educate and empower youth to create a healthy, just and sustainable City” said Earth Care Co-Founder and Executive Director Christina Selby.
For further information, contact [email protected] or call (505) 424-3949.
Film project to tell story of New Mexico ‘downwinders’
More than six decades after the United States launched what some describe as a surprise nuclear attack on the citizens of southern New Mexico, residents there feel they have been abandoned by their government and left to deal on their own with three generations of what appear to be radiation-induced illnesses and deaths that have left few families unscathed, and that continue to this day.
With the public’s help, a planned feature-length documentary film will tell the story of these forgotten and apparently expendable Americans, and perhaps bring about recognition and compensation for their sacrifices. The ranchers, citizens of small towns and the Mescalero Apache community, scattered in some cases within 10 miles of the first detonation of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, were at the epicenter of an epochal historical event—the unleashing of the unparalleled might of the tiny atom. But little has been told about their decades of suffering since the blast.
A recent 10-year study by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the New Mexicans on ranches and in surrounding communities were never warned of the impending blast. No one was ever evacuated, and no precautions were ever advised, either before the blast or since, regarding the safety of their health, the water or food supplies.
The Trinity downwinders fear that their communities are still being poisoned by toxic remnants of the Trinity detonation. They have generations’ worth of evidence that something is very wrong.
Focusing on the lives of several individuals and their families, the filmmakers will follow the Trinity downwinders’ multigenerational journey as unwitting participants in the world’s biggest science experiment more than six decades ago.
Among other things, the film will address these questions and issues:
- Why have these Americans been ignored and dismissed for nearly 70 years?
- Why were Trinity downwinders left out of federal legislation that recognized and compensated the downwinders of subsequent atomic bomb tests in Nevada and elsewhere who were much further away from the detonations?
- Why is it that in all the years since the detonation, no one has ever returned to assess possible damage to the environment or the health of the residents and their children and grandchildren?
- What is the evidence connecting the illnesses and deaths to radiation relased in the Trinity test?
- Why has it taken so long for the Trinity downwinders to connect the dots between the 1945 blast and their illnesses and deaths?
- Business leaders in southern New Mexico have reportedly warned familes of the dead and dying and those trying to help them not to talk about their ailments or the Trinity test.
- What is the significance of the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. including that radiation levels immediately after the blast near homes were recorded at levels 10,000 times higher than those considered safe?
- How do the experiences of the Trinity downwinders, and the Trinity blast itself, relate and compare to the more recent releases of radiation from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Contributions are essential for getting this costly project underway. The immediate goal is to begin producing an extensive promotional trailer with the elements that will be developed further in the film itself. Donations will help cover the costs of beginning that phase, initial reporting, taping and other production and editing costs.
Donations can be made through the filmmakers’ 501(c)3 nonprofit fiscal partner Quote…Unquote Inc. and will be tax deductible. Quote…Unquote is an Albuquerque-based community media provider and supporter of journalistic efforts. Visit the following web site to learn more or to contribute online: www.indiegogo.com/Ameroca
Map documents water concerns in New Mexico
A map documenting the concerns about water held by the communities of New Mexico and people of faith was released as part of a Legislative Day for People of Faith Concerned for Water, Land, Air and People. Initiated by people of faith and communities concerned about water, the map project–over a year in the making—is funded by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy—Northeast Community of the U.S.
The map documents how current and historical industrial activities impact urban and rural populations and the health of wildlife, plants, birds and fish, as well as the natural resources of water, air and land.
“As we experience increased and longer droughts–an expression of climate change–the precious gift of water becomes more threatened by pollutants. We are morally obligated to speak for the children, the Earth and the future ones whose voices are usually not represented. Actions addressing pollution from coal fired power plants and calling for accountability in the oil and gas industry are expressions of an informed faith,” said Sr. Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, who also worked on the map project.
Joni Arends, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, said, “When we look at the map we see contaminated areas around the state. It is essential to know that the safeguards to protect people and environment are based on a Reference Man… The Reference Man is not protective of the most vulnerable, including pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Nor does it take into account the life styles and food sources of Indigenous and Land-Based Communities. We must work together to clean up and protect our health and environment.”
Nadine Padilla, Coordinator for MASE, said, “The map is a wonderful tool to use to show people the devastating legacy of past uranium mining and its contamination in our communities’ water supplies.”
The map and corresponding information in the brochure and on websites details the major waters of the state and areas that are compromised from dirty energy sources of oil and gas industry, the nuclear fuel chain and coal fired power plants. Lead organizations involved in the map creation, with the professional map maker Deborah Reade of Santa Fe and Designer Anna Hansen of Dakini Design, include CCNS, MASE and the Partnership for Earth Spirituality.
The map was distributed to city, state and federal legislators. All of the materials are posted on the web site, http://SacredTrustNM.org
Marshall Curry Productions
Co-directed by Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
Review by Claire Ayraud
The Earth Liberation Front, an organization dedicated to protecting the environment, goes awry in its struggle to gain national attention and stop the cutting of old-growth forests. Moving on to any and all protests against affronts to nature, ELF members plunge headlong into arson, violence and self-destruction. This documentary shows a secret brother/sisterhood with silence as protection against the FBI. They create an organization of many separate cells and plot terrorist activities with an agenda that precludes any harm to humans. They are successful in that goal; however, some of the incendiary actions are widely condemned (including the torching of a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colo.), and when that happens, the group splinters.
The human side of this film records the plight of Daniel McGowan, who was arrested by federal agents in 2005 along with 13 others in a government crackdown. McGowan, convicted of terrorism, is under house arrest awaiting sentencing, and he recounts the events that led him to be involved in the group and his life now, facing imprisonment with violent terrorists. Everyone arrested has a hard choice to make: take a deal and testify against their friends, or go the hard way and spend their lives in prison. Judgments are easy to make from your place on the couch watching, but with family to consider, many feel they have to cooperate with officials. There are twists and turns that you don’t see coming, and I would like to view this film again just to see the perceived villains from the beginning of their involvement, to learn how they arrived at their fateful decisions. The FBI agents are interesting, as they spent years studying the crimes and became vengeful because they are unable to catch anyone except by entrapment. There are the victims in this story too, who are interviewed with surprising results.
Filmmakers Curry and Cullman take you through the history with interviews with many of the key players, observers, FBI agents and victims. Their research is many-sided and gives the viewer a very balanced take so perspectives remain open and unbiased. An Academy Award Nominee for best documentary feature, 2012, and winner of a documentary editing award, 2011 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in the environmental movement but also anyone who is fascinated by human behavior under extreme circumstances. I am still undecided on who the victims and villains really are in this story. A true-life mystery thriller: If a Tree Falls, will anyone hear?
Claire Ayraud worked for the Crested Butte News for five years in the ‘90s writing columns on the history of that old Colorado mining town and the people who live there now. Also in her portfolio are many film, theatre and book reviews including interviews of directors and dance masters. Finishing her degree in English at the SF Community college, she became a Santa Fe resident in 2001 and lives in Nambé.
LOCAL AND AREA BOOKS/TALKS/LECTURES/THEATER/CULTURE
To be included in the monthly calendar, please send suitable items of interest to [email protected] by the first of the month of publication.
839 Paseo de Peralta
Lectures and discussions on Who Controls Education, Bioregional Democracy, Water, Food, Energy and other vital subjects, hosted by David Bacon and others.
Friday, Feb. 17
Old Senate Chambers,
Second floor, Bataan Memorial Building
407 Galisteo St, Santa Fe
Meeting of the Cultural Properties Review Committee.
Friday, Feb. 17
The Lensic presents, as part of the National Theatre Live (NT Live) series, Nicholas Wright’s new play, Travelling Light, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Following Vincent in Brixton and The Reporter, Wright’s new play is a funny and fascinating tribute to the Eastern European immigrants who became major players in Hollywood’s golden age. The award-winning Antony Sher returns to the National to play Jacob. How was it that a 22-year–old pretentious layabout made a discovery that would elude every other cinematic pioneer for years to come? In a remote village in Eastern Europe, around 1900, the young Motl Mendl is entranced by the flickering silent images on his father’s cinematograph. Bank-rolled by Jacob (Sher), the ebullient local timber merchant, and inspired by Anna, the girl sent to help him make moving pictures of their village, he stumbles on a revolutionary way of story-telling. Forty years on, Motl – now a famed American film director – looks back on his early life and confronts the cost of fulfilling his dreams. (505) 988-7050.
Friday, Feb. 17
7 -9 pm
CCA’s Munoz Waxman Gallery
1050 Old Pecos Trail
Theater Grottesco presents: STORM
STORM is a play about environment; a journey into the social paradigms that prevent the world from taking action: and a breath-taking ride that audiences and artists take together into unknown artistic form. Out of Context works with a vocabulary of signs transmitted by a conductor, providing instantaneous possibilities for altering or initiating harmony, melody, rhythm, articulation, phrasing or form. Projections provide scenography, sometimes in abstraction, other times with realistic images with which the actors interact. Projected images of scientists and news reporters provide information like the changing of a radio dial. Two actors portray six characters, crossing cultural and historical barriers, moving from character to character, colliding with the information and blending with the emerging music. Technicians make instantaneous choices based upon the rhythmic intensity of the unfolding action and sound. STORM includes contributions from writers, visual artists, environmental and social scientists. The artistic form is a unique structured improvisation leading audiences to the brink of a chaos closely capturing the spirit of these times.
Barbara Hatch, managing director. Theater Grottesco, (505) 474-8400.
Saturday, Feb. 18
Exhibit Space at La Tienda
7 Caliente Rd., El Dorado
Opening reception 5 SUBMERGING: Thayer Carter, Andrew Davis, Geraldine Fiskus, Dee Homans, J. Barry Zeiger. February 18 through March 11. Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 11 am – 6 pm.
Scheduled in concurrence with 5 SUBMERGING at the Exhibit Space: a dance performance with Kordance /Sarah Berges, Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 pm with reception to follow; poetry reading of IMPLUVIUM by Andrew Davis Wednesday, Feb. 29 at 7 pm; artist talk Wednesday, March 7 at 6:30 pm. (505) 424-0024 or (505) 629-6418.
Sunday, Feb. 19
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Journey Santa Fe
Sacred Headwaters – Honor Our Pueblo Existence with
Marian Naranjo, Michael Aune and KSFR Radio Host David Bacon: A
conversation on where our drinking water comes from and the potential for a
crisis. Free and open to public. www.journeysantafe.com
Sunday, Feb. 19
2 – 4 pm
The DeLavy House (Sandoval County Historical Society)
161 Edmond Rd, Bernalillo, NM
Manuel Lopez, Hunting Methods and Stories of the Ciboleros
Manuel Lopez, a noted historical interpreter, will discuss the hunting methods and stories of the Ciboleros, the Spanish buffalo hunters of the 1700 -1800s who hunted on the open plains of the American Southwest for meat and hides.
Lopez has a B.A. from the University of New Mexico and has been a member and board member of the Association of Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM). A seasoned presenter, he has participated in numerous events and made presentations at Bent’s Fort, El Camino Real International Heritage Center, the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs, El Pueblo Museum in Pueblo, Colo. and the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. He has worked with El Rancho de Las Golondrinas (living history ranch) in La Cienega for nearly 20 years.
Lecture, $5/adult, free to Members of the Friends of Coronado State Monument.
Located off Hwy 550, 1.7 miles west of I-25, Exit 242 (Just west of Coronado State Monument; turn north on the gravel road between the Phillips 66 Station and the new IHOP Restaurant).
Thursday, Feb. 23
5:30 – 7 pm
Temple Beth Shalom | 205 East Barcelona
Santa Fe Time Bank New Member Orientation
This is nuts and bolts for new and current members. Have a question about
how things work? This is the place to gather with your community and find an answer.
With the new software, many people are not getting email reminders… please mark
Thursday, Feb. 23
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo Street
T. Zane Reeves, Reading
Albuquerque author T. Zane Reeves, Ph.D. for a reading of his latest book, Shoes Along the Danube. Based on a true story, the book follows the lives for two Hungarian families, the Rézlers and the Földes, one gentile and the other Jewish, through three decades. (505) 988-4226.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Exhibit Space at La Tienda
7 Caliente Rd., El Dorado
5 SUBMERGING at the Exhibit Space
Dance performance with Kordance /Sarah Berges
Reception to follow; poetry reading of IMPLUVIUM by Andrew Davis.
Sunday, Feb. 26
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Journey Santa Fe
An Overview of Santa Fe Community Collectives
Planning member Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz
presents An Overview of Santa Fe
Community Collectives, with KSFR Radio Host David Bacon. Free and open to public.
Tuesday, Feb. 28
Unitarian Universalist Church, 107 West Barcelona
We Are People Here!
Town Hall Meeting (public meeting)
Santa Fe’s democracy group, founded by Craig Barnes.
Thursday, March 1
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo Street
Joseph Marshall III, Book Discussion
Join author Joseph Marshall III for a discussion of his latest book, The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage: Lessons in Resilience from the Bow and Arrow.
Joseph Marshall is a member of the Sicangu (Rosebud Sioux) tribe. Raised in a Lakota-speaking household, he learned the ancient tradition of oral storytelling from a young age. He is the author of nine nonfiction books, three novels, a collection of short stories and essays and several screenplays. A proud educator, he co-founded Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation in 1971. In The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage, Marshall explores the metaphorical significance of the bow and arrow in Lakota tradition. In the bow’s resilience and flexibility, the arrow’s grace and power, and the archer’s focus and patience, the Lakota find the essential qualities for living a life of strength, purpose, and simplicity. Marshall builds upon this central metaphor to create a treasury of insights, stories and irreplaceable wisdom.
Sunday, March 4
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Journey Santa Fe
David Bacon in Conversation with Jan-Willem Jansens
from the Galisteo Basin Water Restoration Project.
Jansens is the former executive director of the Earthworks
Institute. Free and open to public, www.journeysantafe.com
Sunday, March 11
The Travel Bug
839 Paseo de Peralta
Journey Santa Fe
Political Activist Mark Rudd (and former member of the
SDS) discusses The Progressive Voters Alliance Of Doña
Ana County. The PVA is a great model for organization that actually gets
political results! Free and open to public, www.journeysantafe.com
Thursday – Friday, Feb. 23-24
Crown Plaza Hotel
1901 University Blvd. NE
17th Water Conservation Conference and Xeriscape Expo
“Collaboration for New Solutions”:
Integrated Architecture, Community Organization, New Technologoes, Adaptive Agriculture, Urban Forest, etc. Speakers include author William deBuys, David Gutzler, Ph.D., Karlis Viceps, Nate Downey, Miguel Santistévan, Stephen W. Kress, Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., and others. Registration is $200; students, $100. http://www.xeriscape.nm.com
Sunday – Monday, Feb. 19-20
9 am – 1 pm
Española Valley Fiber Arts Center, Española
Introduction to Pueblo Weaving
This workshop explores a short history of the Pueblo textile tradition with expert Pueblo fiber artist Louie Garcia (Tiwa/Piro/Ysleta del Sur). Participants will examine Pueblo weaving styles and designs, learn warp-faced weaving technique. $170-$210 plus materials. (505) 747-3577, [email protected], http://www.evfac.org
by Chuck Shepherd
“Dementiaville”: Swiss health officials have authorized construction of an assisted-living “village” of 1950s-style homes and gardens designed to “remind” patients with Alzheimer’s and similar afflictions of surroundings that they might actually recall and with which they might be more comfortable and secure than they are with modern life. The 150-resident grounds, near the city of Bern, will be similar to a Dutch facility set up in 2009 in a suburb of Amsterdam. “To reinforce an atmosphere of normality,” reported London’s The Independent in January, the Swiss caretakers will dress as gardeners, hairdressers, shop assistants and the like.
Can’t Possibly Be True
– The varsity girls’ basketball teams at predominantly white Kenmore East High School near Buffalo, N.Y., have, for several years, apparently, psyched themselves up in a pre-game locker-room ritual by chanting, “One, Two, Three, (n-word (plural))!” before running out the door and onto the court. Although the white players this year called the use of the word a “tradition” (passed down from year to year), and not a racial “label,” the team’s only black player not surprisingly had a problem with it and reported it to school officials. According to a December Buffalo News report, it was always a players-only tradition, and no adult was aware of the chant, but upon learning of it, officials immediately imposed player suspensions and team penalties.
– The U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax matters revealed in January that the IRS certified 331 prison inmates as registered “tax preparers” during a recent 12-month period, including 43 who were serving life sentences. None of the 43, and fewer than one-fourth of the total, disclosed that they were in prison. (The agency blamed a 2009 federal law intended to encourage online filing of tax returns, noting that “tax preparer” registration can now be accomplished online by passing a 120-question test.) (USA Today reported in February 2011 that prisoners filing false or fraudulent tax returns scammed the IRS for nearly $39.1 million in 2009.)
– The Olympic Committee Will Not Be Calling: (1) Mr. Badr Al-Alyani told a Saudi Arabian newspaper in November that he was nearing the world record for squirting milk from his eye. The current champion, Mehmet Yilmaz of Turkey, reached 2.7 meters (almost 9 feet), and Al-Alyani reports one squeeze of 2.3 meters. He said he “will continue training.” (2) In San Francisco, there is an annual refereed “Masturbate-a-thon,” and the supposed world record, set in 2009, is held by Masanobu Sato, who remained aroused for nine hours, 58 minutes. In a series of videos released recently, Sato calmly explained how he “practices” for about two hours every morning while his live-in girlfriend goes about her business (in one video, ironing). Sato said he trains by swimming twice a week and has “gained about (11 pounds) in muscle,” which helped him with “stamina.”
– David Belniak, now serving 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter for killing a woman and her adult daughter and her husband in a Christmas Day 2007 car crash, filed a lawsuit from prison in January against the victims’ family, demanding justice from them in the form of compensation for medical expenses and his “pain” and “anguish.” Police records show Belniak was driving between 75 and 85 mph when he rear-ended the victims’ stopped car (and that he had alcohol, Xanax and cocaine in his system). Attorney Debra Tuomey, Belniak’s sister, represents him and called her brother’s imprisonment “government sanctioned assassination.”
– Not One Second Longer With That Wench: A man identified as Antonio C., 99, filed for divorce in December against his wife of 77 years, Rosa C., age 96, in Rome, Italy. According to an ANSA news agency report, Antonio became upset when he discovered 50-year-old letters from an affair Rosa once had.
– Christopher Bolt pleaded guilty in September to felony destruction of property in Loudoun County, Va., for spray-painting more than 50 vehicles. Some were marked with the number “68,” which a sheriff’s detective explained was probably because Bolt had initially sprayed “69″ but realized it “didn’t look right.”
Unclear on the Concept
– Brogan Rafferty, 16, in jail in Cleveland, Ohio, awaiting trial for assisting in at least one murder in a robbery scheme, wrote to his father in December (in a letter shared with the Plain Dealer newspaper) that he was certain God would not allow him to suffer a long prison sentence. That would mean, he wrote, that “all my meaningful family members would be dead” when he got out. “(N)o way God would do that to me.”
– Benjamin North, 26, was apprehended by deputies in Humboldt County, Calif., because they were pretty sure he was the man who used a stolen credit card at a Safeway supermarket in December. They knew this because North, for some reason, insisted that the purchase be credited to his personal “Safeway Club” card, which he presented to the cashier along with the stolen card.
Fine Points of the Law
– Gayane Zokhrabov, then 58, was knocked down by the flying corpse of Hiroyuki Joho, 18, during a rainstorm in Chicago in 2008, and in December 2011 filed a lawsuit against Joho’s estate for compensation for the various injuries she suffered that day (broken leg, broken wrist, shoulder pain). Joho’s corpse was “flying” because he had just been fatally struck by a fast-moving train as he dashed through the storm across several tracks — while Zokhrabov was waiting on a nearby station platform. A judge initially ruled that Zokhrabov’s injuries were not a “foreseeable” result of Joho’s crossing the tracks, but in December, a state appeals court reinstated the lawsuit.
– PayPal confirmed to a Toronto Star reporter in January that its refund policy required the shattering of a violin that may well have been a pre-World War II classic easily worth the $2,500 the seller was asking. The buyer had balked after paying, claiming the violin was counterfeit and produced one expert’s opinion to that effect, demanding that PayPal refund the money, which it did, provided that the buyer first “destroy” the property. (According to PayPal, the laws of many countries, including the U.S., prohibit mailing knowingly counterfeit goods, and hence, PayPal could not simply order the violin returned to sender. The seller, certain that the violin was authentic, was left with neither it nor the money.)
Least Competent Criminals
Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Police in London stepped up their search for the man who tried to rob the Halifax bank in October but escaped empty-handed. He had demanded 700,000 pounds from a bank employee and then, intending to hand over the bag that he had brought for the money, instead absentmindedly handed over his gun. Realizing his mistake, he dashed out the door. (2) Verlin Alsept, 59, was arrested in Dayton, Ohio, in January and charged with trying to rob a Family Dollar store. He had demanded all the money in a cash register and, apparently as an attempt to intimidate the clerk, he pulled out a .38 caliber bullet from his pocket and showed it to her. She was, of course, undaunted, and he walked away (but was arrested nearby).
In Jerusalem, It’s Good to Be a Man: Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, already responsible for excluding or segregating women on public transportation, advertising images and even use of sidewalks, struck again at a January medical research conference in Jerusalem. Despite their obvious interest in the conference’s topic (“Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha (Jewish Law)”), all women in attendance were required to sit apart from males, and no female was allowed to address the audience from the podium.
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Gun Safety Training
2000 Darwin Award Runner-Up
Confirmed True by Darwin
(28 February 2000, Texas) A Houston man earned a succinct lesson in gun safety when he played Russian roulette with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Rashaad, nineteen, was visiting friends when he announced his intention to play the deadly game. He apparently did not realize that a semiautomatic pistol, unlike a revolver, automatically inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. His chance of winning a round of Russian roulette was zero, as he quickly discovered.
DarwinAwards.com © 1994 – 2012 Woot!
Submitted by: Casey, Larry Legendre, Eric Burns, Richard Lacap, Brian Miller
Reference: Houston Chronicle
1996 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
(1996, Toronto) Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane of glass with his shoulder and plunged twenty-four floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry, thirty-nine, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower as he was explaining the strength of the building’s windows to visiting law students. Garry had previously conducted the demonstration of window strength without mishap, according to police reports. The managing partner of the law firm that employed the deceased told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Garry was “one of the best and brightest” members of the two-hundred-man association.
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