Thursday, September 07, 2006

Los Alamos Environmental Impact
By Willem Malten
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 06 September 2006

When over 80% of the American public has expressed a desire for mutual nuclear disarmament and still the US nuclear labs (Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore in California) keep pursuing nuclear weapons upgrades - and now a new plutonium warhead core ("pit") factory - there is something seriously wrong. The sheer magnitude of nuclear weapons and everything that comes with them - the research and testing, the production, the contamination, the ever-increasing security - is simply incompatible with a functioning democracy. Now that democracy may have to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

The latest nuclear insult to democracy, common sense and morality is described in a document called the "Draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement," or SWEIS for short, for the operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory. In it, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an autonomous fiefdom within the Department of Energy (DOE), describes the first 5 years of its plan to turn Los Alamos into a nuclear bomb factory.

(see the entire article on truthout here)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From the heart of the global nuclear weapons complex…

On August 8th, six of the seven members of the self-described “UC Weapons Inspection Team” arrived in New Mexico for an 11-day volunteering stint with the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG). Our first day here took place at an appropriately frenetic pace. Within hours of our arrival, we were whisked away to a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) hearing regarding -- and I’m not describing the purpose of the event using anything close to official language -- the NNSA’s plans to make the Los Alamos National Laboratory the nation’s new plutonium bomb core factory, with a production rate of (ultimately) over 100 new plutonium pits per year.

None of us knew in advance we would have the opportunity to speak at the hearing, but I and a few others still provided five minutes of off-the-cuff testimony regarding such themes as the senselessness of building new plutonium pits, now or ever, and the University of California’s crucial role in legitimizing nuclear weapons research in Los Alamos. We also cobbled together a collective Group Statement that, among other things, recounted recent remarks by United Nations Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Chairman Hans Blix to the effect that the UN should investigate the Los Alamos lab for violations of international law.

The NNSA hearings -- the one in Los Alamos, as well as the ones the following two nights in Espanola and Santa Fe -- were marked by a large, unequivocal outpouring of opposition to plutonium pit production. At least 70 people spoke, combined, at the three hearings. Not a single one spoke in favor of pit production, or even of the idea of a “U.S. nuclear deterrent.” The sentiment was unanimous: New Mexicans want real security, not a toxic bomb-trigger factory in their backyard.

The UC Weapons Inspection Team stood out strongly at each of the hearings, thanks in part to our handy lab coats bearing “UC Weapons Inspector” on the back and embroidered patches that read (in part) “University of California - In Bombs We Trust” on the front.

At the first two hearings, though we spoke passionately and were very well-received by most people, we didn’t quite find our best voice. This was particularly the case in Espanola, one of the poorest cities in New Mexico, despite -- or, perhaps, as a consequence of -- being adjacent to Los Alamos, which receives over $2 billion in funding annually from the federal government and fancies itself, with absolutely no justification, as an economic godsend for those who live nearby. Many of the UC Weapons Inspectors felt hesitant about strongly asserting their anti-lab views in a place where, as Greg Mello and Trish Williams-Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group informed us beforehand, many people are strongly pro-military and roughly ¼ of the population works at LANL.

(For the record, our fears turned out to be misplaced, since the participants in the Espanola hearing were perhaps more fervently opposed to pit production than those at any of the other two).

At the third hearing, in Santa Fe, we seized the moment. Buoyed by the relatively trenchant resistance we had taken part in the previous two nights, we (semi-politely) took over the hearing mid-way through, then facilitated a democratic decision-making process for those in attendance to decide what they’re actually going to do to stop plutonium pit production, as part of the larger process of working for nuclear abolition. Given that every single person who spoke at each of the hearings is against plutonium pit production, we suggested, the question at hand is no longer what people think about pit production, but what actions they’re going to take to put a halt to it.

The crowd’s reaction told the story. Smiles brightened many people’s faces. Their eyes lit up. When we asked who among them would be interested in meeting with New Mexico legislators to tell them “no nukes,” the vast majority raised their hands. When we asked who would like to take part in non-violent civil disobedience to halt pit production, about half raised their hands. When we asked, at the outset, whether we should be allowed to conduct a democratic decision-making process despite the moderator’s protestations, virtually everyone’s hands shot up.

One group of people that wasn’t hearing us at this moment was the NNSA security guards, who had been hiding away in a separate room and started to approach us as soon as what we were doing became clear. In other words, we tried to introduce a bit of democracy into a process set up to be authoritarian and largely a waste of energy for virtually everyone involved, and we were nearly hauled out of the building as a result.

Though the non-violent civil disobedience we proposed probably won’t take place anytime soon, the meetings with legislators will happen in the coming days. More important, the fact that a group of young people would come all the way from California, in part to speak out at these hearings, has made a powerful impression on people. Despite having to scramble to be even psychologically prepared to be part of the meetings, let alone speak at them, we likely inspired more people in New Mexico during our first three nights here than we previously thought possible.

In the coming days, I’ll recount some of our other activities in New Mexico, as well as provide more information on the current activities of the Los Alamos lab, and pictures from the trip.

Will Parrish, Youth Empowerment Director
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chernobyl -- Lessons Learned?

(Published first in the Albuquerque Tribune Wednesday, May 10, 2006)
Climbing into an ancient relic of a bus in front of the hotel in Kiev, Ukraine, I somewhat hesitantly began my trip to the 30 kilometer exclusion zone surrounding the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Along with many of my colleagues, I felt as if we were traveling through a time warp back to the early 1980s, back to the Cold War, prior to glasnost and perestroika and everything since.

Two hours north of Kiev we arrived at the security gate on the border of the exclusion zone. We began our tour with a briefing at the “Chernobylinterinform,” a public relations office, after which we continued on into the exclusion zone. We were able to leave the bus and walk around in only a few areas within the zone, after being strictly warned not to walk on or touch any of the vegetation.

Walking around Pripyat, once an elegant and rather elaborate city built to house Chernobyl’s workers and now a ruin, the only sound that broke the silence was the interminable clicking of my colleagues’ radiation monitors. It was as though a death-shroud was still spread over the entire region – suffocating what sparse life was left. Where were the wild horses and other wildlife I was told to expect? I could count on one hand the living beings that I saw there -- a bird, a bug, and one very strange looking dog. Today there are only 338 of the original 200,000 residents living within the exclusion zone, these few having returned illegally in spite of the contamination. They do not want to leave their homeland despite the unseen dangers of the radiation.

The explosion, caused by human errors and poor design, ripped through the Number 4 reactor at Chernobyl at 1:23 am on April 26, 1986. It left its mark on the entire world, most severely on Ukraine and its neighbors Belarus and Russia but also on other European countries, which received more than half of the contaminants released. Radioactive gases, fuel, and debris from the reactor were hurled into the atmosphere. Over 1,800 tons of carbon within the reactor ignited and burned for nearly 10 days. It has been difficult to determine the actual amounts of contaminants released and number of persons affected because of the secrecy, falsified medical data and inaccurate records.

As I traveled through the region I became aware that the veil of secrecy surrounding the accident and its aftermath has only partially been rent, even after twenty years. During the three day conference I attended in Kiev later that week there were many discussions about the struggle for truth concerning the Chernobyl disaster. The full human cost is just beginning to be understood.

There have been numerous reports released about Chernobyl with greatly differing predictions of morbidity and mortality. Two recent studies, one commissioned by the European Parliament and one by Greenpeace International, estimate excess cancer deaths as 30,000 - 60,000 and somewhat greater than 90,000, respectively. In contrast, the International Atomic Energy Agency, known to be a supporter of nuclear energy, reports only 4,000.

It is honestly very hard for anyone to put this much devastation and contamination into context unless you have seen it. Standing outside the fence in front of the sarcophagus over the damaged reactor, one imagines a tornado or hurricane having struck this facility, carrying its deadly nuclear guts up into the atmosphere to ride the clouds as an angel of death, spreading deadly hands of disease and deformity over a vast area. It reminded me of a biblical plague, one that will continue to kill, deform, devastate and contaminate for many generations to come -- the people first, but also their homeland.

People making decisions about nuclear power must think how their decisions today could affect the world many generations into the future – as did the Native Americans. One mistake, one human error, and all future generations will suffer. Think about it.

Trish Williams-Mello

Friday, April 07, 2006


Most people know that Los Alamos was the birthplace of the first bombs, including Trinity, Little Boy and Fat Man, but few realize what Los Alamos’ role has been since then. During the Cold War until about 1992, Los Alamos National Laboratory was a center for the design and testing of new weapons. It devised a scheme called ‘Stockpile Stewardship’ pretending that it was only maintaining the stockpile of older weapons, but in reality, it actually designed new weapons (dozens of variations were tried), and manufactured some components (e.g. detonators) as well.

Starting in the 90’s with the closure of Rocky Flats near
Denver, Los Alamos has been repeatedly identified as the place where nuclear weapons are being manufactured. Los Alamos serves as the manufacturing center of nuclear weapons in addition to its role in design.


Despite its policies of secrecy,
Los Alamos is the ultimate center of nuclear proliferation. Making the first nuclear weapon became the first and biggest act of proliferation. Access to the information of how to build nuclear weapons was almost immediately exported out of the gate in the person of Klaus Fuchs. In order to justify the nuclear weapons program and to create a market for nuclear corporations, Eisenhower was bamboozled into “Atoms for Peace.” The US trained the Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Korean, Indians, Israelis and others, at Oak Ridge, at Los Alamos, and in Great Britain. With this training, the US offered rationalizations, information, direct training and personal mentorship. With “Atoms for Peace” also came an offer of highly enriched uranium to dozens of reactors around the world. In effect, the US built the infrastructure in other countries in order to proliferate. In some cases, the US pumped up the military of a country, such as Pakistan, to create a bulwark against communism and consequently, this because another key element in proliferation, as part of the total picture.

Recently, it was revealed that
Great Britain helped Israel significantly, as did France-- but it all came from the nuclear weapons complex established through the Manhattan Project. Nuclear science was in many ways billed as essential to becoming a modern state. Yet in many ways, democracy is incompatible with harboring nuclear weapons and other kinds of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Right now we are entering into a bold new phase of proliferation. Not only is there manufacturing and redesign of all the weapons in the nuclear arsenal, but quite beyond that: Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories are on the forefront of a nuclear power renaissance of the most polluting, least energy efficient kind, and all of these endeavors breed proliferation. The government wants breeder reactors, separation of plutonium, mixed oxide fuels with plutonium--in short, it wants a plutonium economy. The reason is money and pork barrel federal spending.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) treaty states in article 6 that signatories will make a good faith effort, and actually succeed, in getting rid of nuclear weapons. Also, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty CTBT even though he made only a half-hearted attempt to get it ratified, which in the end never happened. On the surface, there was restraint, but during the Bush administration that has changed.

The nuclear weapons are the "top cover" for all
US foreign military endeavors. They are meant to provide an aegis of power that enables US imperial ambitions. They are meant to condition military and political arrangements by frightening other countries, and quite frankly, the American public itself. It has become increasingly more apparent that fear and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) are an integral part of the public relations narrative of the Bush administration.

The civilian ideologues in the Pentagon are more prone to the use of nuclear weaponry than most of the military, since most of the military realizes that nuclear weapons are useless in any kind of geo-political conflict.
US strategic command is taking care of the weapons and integrating them into what it calls "global strike," which has both conventional and nuclear components.


Los Alamos is in violation of the NPT. Article 6 requires that the parties cease waging the arms race, as well as disarm. Yet Los Alamos, with the other two U.S. labs, is starting an arms race. They are providing cover for Great Britain and Russia to upgrade their arsenals, too. Los Alamos--the largest of the three labs--is leading the way in designing the new generation of nuclear explosives. This process is linked to innovation in the delivery systems for nuclear weapons. And this process of innovation provides work for the whole weapons complex. There are also corporate and commercial pressures, as illustrated by the prominent roles played by Lockheed Martin, Bechtel and others.

Article 6 of the NPT is equally important; it requires nuclear weapons states to dismantle their nuclear weapons and conduct good faith negotiations in order to get rid of their existing arsenals. In 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that these negotiations need to yield specific results: complete nuclear disarmament. It means action rather than more speeches.

At present,
Los Alamos is implementing the stockpile stewardship program, and in particular, the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Most of the things that are being done at Los Alamos are designed to keep nuclear weapons forever, while continually upgrading them. Thus, most of what Los Alamos does is in violation of the NPT treaty.

US started the nuclear weapons complex in response to Hitler and ironically it has become a bit Hitlerian itself: it made weapons of mass destruction; incinerated two cities; conducted tests that have killed and will kill hundreds of thousands of people from fallout alone. And it has a defense policy that has ‘'extermination” grafted into it. People in Los Alamos are making pits and each pit can kill hundreds of thousands of people. With the push of a button, the US can destroy Iran or any nation that we choose.


What can citizens do about it? This is a major question: we have a president who lies, we have an incipient authoritarian government, and there is surveillance of citizens, etc. Bush signs laws into being and then he makes a note on the same piece of paper that the presidency may or may not follow them.

One thing we can note is that a lot of nuclear policies are made in
Washington but many of them just don’t work out in practice. Members of Congress, for instance, may not be invested in their implementation. They were in a rush to pass the law and didn't think enough about its consequences. A lot of the senators and representatives may not even know the location of nuclear weapon sites. They are sleepwalking through the policy-making process.

US just signed this shocking agreement with India, which allows it to make as many nuclear weapons as it likes, and in effect, legitimizes its nuclear arsenal--all outside of the NPT framework. By making India the junior partner in the nuclear endeavor, the US mocks all other countries that have signed the treaty, that is, virtually all of the other countries in the world. We are in a very dangerous situation indeed.

What are our sources of political strength? First, the use of nuclear weapons goes against human moral instincts, and so, you have to provide rationales for people to use them, such as so-called “stockpile stewardship.” It is not like “gee I am gonna make nuclear weapons today”--no, instead we have “Stockpile Stewardship.” The use of euphemisms, vague language, and shame-avoiding behaviors point to a larger complex of management problems for the nuclear weapons program. As one scientist said, "It took me a long time to figure it out: the customer doesn't want the product."

Many of these factors stem from the fact that making nuclear weapons is immoral and we all know that it is immoral. There is a quality of profound shame associated with it. Furthermore, the materials themselves are very dangerous for the environment (and workers), and thus for this reason, the manufacture of nuclear weapons is exceptionally dangerous.

We need to remember that our struggles are often symbolic. While we talk about one little thing, there is much more at stake. We may have initiated an environmental lawsuit but it is really about nuclear weapons and the morality of the whole thing, which affects the equities and the sense of fairness in the case. Often we feel contaminated by nuclear weapons--not just environmentally but spiritually. We have International Law, and even though the
US has thumbed its nose at it, civil society can still become engaged with it. We can enforce it, in effect, but it still must answer to the force of mobilized public opinion. In theory, the international treaty violations can be challenged in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, but the US has not agreed to make its actions subject to the rulings of that court. So currently, this court has no binding power over the US. However, Great Britain has recognized the sovereign power of this same international court. That is called a "contentious case," and we haven't had that in regard to nuclear weapons. However, there has been an advisory opinion of the court on the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

All of these things work together: stigmatizing nuclear weapons and reminding humanity that it disapproves of nuclear weapons. In this sense, we need to work together, for example, to support the European activists in their efforts to get US nuclear weapons off of their territory. This would be a blow to the legitimacy of nuclear arms. That struggle illustrates another key point: these policy decisions take place at a specific location and thus they can become the foci of protests at those locations. It would be good to get people to come to
Los Alamos to witness the situation, people who are understood to speak for humanity as a whole, such as Nobel Peace Prize winners and religious leaders.

The making of new kinds of nuclear weapons is done by real people who go to church and have children who go to schools and we should meet and talk with these people on that basis. We have to realize that in many ways, they depend on our acceptance and cannot function without it. Ultimately, it is human beings who make these weapons--so we need a human (and humane) strategy to prevent their policies from being implemented successfully.

Many of the scientists involved in nuclear weapons are very passionate about the wonders of nuclear power. There seems to be a psychological need to have the nuclear weapons project be balanced by a messianic salvational purpose. The scientists and politicians involved in the weapons program need to hang onto a shred of hoped-for legitimacy. We should expose this delusion and find ways in our daily lives to resist and uphold the conscience of the human race.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Mother's Day 2006

Mending Broken Promises, Tattered Dreams and Celebrating Life

Words were invented to conceal what we are thinking. Unknown

What are we thinking? When we say support the troops, there is no truth in any part of the sentence. Children who are supported do not grow up to enlist in an army that demands they spend most of their time across the ocean from their children. Truly supported people do not willingly enlist in a profession that demands that they kill for their supper.

No god that I can conceive would want his children to battle one another, to send the brightest of his students to a far-off hill to craft the deadliest way to deal with the diverse and colorful people he has sent to the far reaches of the earth. He would, if his children listened to him, have them invent the most elegant way for all his young to live, to prosper in safety, preserving the safety and dignity of all who draw breath.

Los Alamos, New Mexico, far from the beaten path so few will notice, is gearing up to build another round of nuclear weapons. Only those who have become accustomed to the ‘war is peace’ twist of the language can believe that this effort which costs us edible food, sound health, proper education, potable water, renewable energy and a secure place to lay our heads believe that any nuclear weapon buys a shred of safety. Only those who profit from the endeavor believe that one single bomb more will pull us back from the brink of global self-annihilation.

I‘m a grandmother now and I’ve had more of this ‘war is peace’ propaganda than I can stomach. I want no flowery cards this year that say what a great mom I’ve been. I have, so far, failed my children and my birthright by not noticing when a country becomes the enemy of its people. This year, I want a real mother’s day. I want cards that say we do not have to obey any law crafted behind closed doors. I want cards that announce the end of strife and bullets and babies who have lost their arms and legs because some bully thinks he should be able to rummage around in another country and take what he wants.

In case you think that this statement comes from a Democrat railing against Republicans, you could not be more wrong. In the last presidential campaign I knocked on countless doors for a candidate who had an exit plan from Iraq, regardless of the party name. I love my country. But I have also been mourning its loss for I recognize not the US in the Patriot Act but the same paranoia of my homeland, the Germany of 1937. I do not see a great country in the laws that allow the wild and beautiful lands to be swept from under us like a table cloth pulled, by some stealthy magic, out from under our plates with our wineglasses still standing. Politics, like this war, is the art of taking from the many and bestowing on the few while words assure, it is for your own good. The ranks of believers are shrinking, as are the ranks of those willing to wage peace.

If we do not get this right, our children will inherit only the wind, the earthquake, the drought and the fury of a world that has been disrespected nigh unto death. This mother’s day, I want cards and home-made drawings from all the children, from once shining sea to once again shining sea. I want the parents who love their children and want a clean, safe and democratic future for them to gather a few friends, have their children design earth-loving art and writing and together, on Mother’s day, dressed to the nines in celebration of life, put on a parade or a pageant.

To really mark the rebirth of democracy and the earth, make a beautiful flag to replace the one that has become the symbol of bloodletting and stealing someone else’s stars. Paint a flower on it, a sun, clouds for the earth that has so few tears to water its soil and carry it proudly to the nearest military base, nuclear power plant or, go to the home of the mother of all bombs, Los Alamos, and lay down the gifts that come from your hearts. Then stand tall and proud, refreshed and renewed in the knowledge that you have helped make mother’s day what it was intended, a proclamation for a livable peace.

To learn more, visit on the web. Help bring about nuclear disarmament and sign the call.

Astrid Webster

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Budget of Bombs

The international outcry against Iran for stating it has the right to develop nuclear power for energy belies the fact that the U.S. and a couple of handfuls of other countries claim the exclusive right to such energy and bomb-making ability. Some would argue that we can't take a chance that a terrorist group might develop this ability or steal what's already around.

That's precisely why international inspections are needed in treaties we must not disregard, as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such a policy would make it clear we reject might makes right. And would prove we are interested in international security.

One of the worst mistakes of this administration has been its failure to use diplomacy and listen to the voices of those at home and abroad--other than special interest donors and military
industry CEO's. If our present leaders had continued backing the U.N. inspections in Iraq in 2003, they would still not have found the WMD's which the president, vice-president and their cohorts proclaimed were certainly there. And tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of our
soldiers, National Guard, citizens, and paid mercenaries would not be dead or maimed.

Now our president is submitting a budget which proposes funding for production of plutonium cores right here at Los Alamos -- beginning more bomb-making under the name of "Reliable
Replacement Warhead." The name fits the militant attitude of the whole executive branch -- reliance on warheads. The concern about the radioactive and other waste, which already is found seeping into the groundwater and our rivers, isn't addressed. And with the privatization of the management of the Los Alamos Labs, public oversight of the contamination is blocked. Moreover, while this same budget pushes for cuts in social programs, health care, and help for college students, it increases military spending by 6.9% to 439.3 billion! And that doesn't even consider more billions the president is ready to ask for his Iraq initiative.

Will we insist that all our senators and representatives vote no to such mistaken policies? Whose security are they protecting? The nuclear scientists could well be put on a crash program to find ways to downgrade the bomb material, and there would be no loss in job security for lab
employees. Converting the state's labs into research, production and harnessing of renewable, clean energy belongs in the budget, not more nuclear weapons!

Then New Mexico and America could undo the dubious distinction of birthing nuclear bombs.

Donald Baltz

Pajarito: Leaving the Enchanted Mesa

In Los Alamos last night, during the discussion following the film, on the media’s treatment of the Iraqi war, we discussed how social activists such as we could respond to the disturbing events we had just witnessed. Just before the film began, I had had a brief conversation with a beautiful woman, just a bit younger than I, I hope, because she looked far younger, more aristocratic, as though life’s cares had barely glanced her. Had she read The Children of Los Alamos I asked. Parts she said. I told her I wanted to write a less hygienic version, and she replied that she had a very protected, almost idyllic childhood and would like to write another about the funny things in her childhood that could have only happened in a protected environment like that of Los Alamos. I was reminded of a book that came out of postwar Germany called Visiting the Swans.

The discussion after the movie seemed to pick up where we left off. One person observed that the film series was preaching to the choir. Another said we need to be doing something in light of the disturbing events we had just witnessed. What could we do, here, now?

With a deftness that even now stills me, the discussion turned from a heap of military, administrative and media lies stacked higher than the naked male prisoners at Abu Ghraib to what should we do when the Monitor does not publish our letters to the editor and how can we effectively fight the guard posts that will once again obstruct free coming to and going from Los Alamos.

My earlier conversation with the serenely beautiful woman had included mention of the woods around Los Alamos and how the family’s ability to retreat to them at every possible moment had been their salvation in what might otherwise have been an intolerably stressful life for the parents.

Having had no such retreat as a child, we lived on a dirt farm near Alamogordo, and the White Sands Missile Range, and kept it out of the clutches of a harsh and dry nature by virtue of constant attention and sometimes back breaking work. My own experience had been grim by comparison, much as our society is becoming as more and more resources are funneled into the military industrial pipeline.

How quickly the conversation turned from the horrific consequences of our living in the world our media has drawn for us rather than in the light of a reality where we project onto others the gross violation of treaties we signed but never intended to keep to the inconvenience and economic threat of putting guard stations between Los Alamos residents and their beloved woods was stunning.

I thought of a recent meeting of Tewa Women United in the dusty outskirts of Los Alamos, San Ildefonso and Espanola. We worshiped the often ignored sacred amidst the tumbleweeds, praying for a cleansing of the land that gave birth to the bomb. Our discussion last night was on the site of sacred land that the U.S. government had taken from the people of San Ildefonso with the promise of its return as soon as the war was over. What no one here seems to have noticed is that has not happened. Either the war is not over or the U.S. has failed to keep its promise to a subset of its people, the previously conquered. I propose that both are true, a pair of lies in a long, well-established line.

I had spent the day at the Los Alamos Disarmament Center, sponsored by the Los Alamos Study Group, so disarmament was on my mind. Surrounded by pictures of the devastation we visited on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I had a dull headache as though someone had hit me with a sharp, blunt object and left it imbedded in my head. Hearing of the imbedded press in Iraq only deepened the pain, a combination of physical and psychological that need not have surprised me.

I watched a movie about the nuclear colonies in Russia about a year ago. I could resonate with how protected and privileged the families were because my family shared in that privileged status as members of a German rocket scientist’s family after the war. Where others went hungry we were fed. While others were the vanquished, we moved seamlessly to the camp of the victorious. As has often been observed, the rocket scientists moved from a fascist, genocidal society to the American oasis: freedom, material privilege and a limitless future. At least that is what my father got. I was the fifth of seven children and the trickle down effect of all that largesse was nigh invisible. Perhaps that is why I cannot quite shake my underdog status or the lines that tell of a less than idyllic life.

Perhaps it is time to share what the people of Los Alamos are not being told. Maybe we are promise keepers after all but have simply not been let in on the promise that those guiding our ship of state onto the shoals have been clandestinely sharing among themselves in the hallowed halls of nuclear science. We have not been able to return the land to San Ildefonso because the real war is not yet over. The dogs of war that Churchill and Roosevelt unleashed are still snarling and straining, bared teeth waiting for another group of poor indigenous people with dark skin to tear apart and seize their assets. It has never been different, nor will it as long as we can sit in a comfortable church, see and hear of the egregious sins our military and corporations are committing against our poor fellow beings in less favorable circumstances and worry that our letters of complaint and our free, unrestricted passage are being threatened.

Did no one notice all the bloody and missing limbs of those Iraqi children? Did no one hear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in that tiny, bereft country that we are turning into a DU parking lot, that 50% of the people there are mere children and that we are destroying anything that smacks of a normal life while taking their future in the form of oil that no one can account for? Perhaps I am the only one in on the secret because I have been there before. I was one of the conquered, the one from the evil nation that lost the war because I was a German citizen before I moved here and became American. I can recognize the change from freedom to oppression because it happened the first time I sat down in my father’s house once the mom and kids rejoined him on this side of the ocean.

The form is different but the intent is the same. Those with wealth and weapons will take from those without. The intent is the same even if the dividing line is moving ever so imperceptibly to some of us. New Orleaners know. They have been in the bread lines. Their skins are dark and they have been cut off from the golden promise of America. The people of Los Alamos should be writing letters to the editor and far more. They have been living on a military base all along, one whose mission was thinly veiled. The veil is off but few have caught up with the knowledge because life has been so good. Welcome to the New America. The New Management has a few New Rules in store for you.

Astrid Webster

Friday, January 27, 2006

"N.M., We've Got a Problem: Pay, Education Hurt State Grades" by Andrew Webb, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer, Friday, January 27, 2006

New Mexico's high-tech assets could be eclipsed by its deep-seated social problems, according to a study of states' economic performance released Thursday.

Though the state ranked high for its concentration of highly educated residents, technology industry employment and employment growth, measurements such as its number of working poor, lack of insurance coverage and high teen pregnancy rates could stunt its growth, according to the 2006 Development Report Card for the States.
The state earned an F for overall economic performance, a D for business vitality, and a D for development capacity— the positioning of the state for future economic growth. Those scores were unchanged from the last study, which was issued in late 2004.

"The Report Card's data suggest that New Mexico's disappointing performance is fueled largely by the marginal quality of jobs available to its residents, the high degree of income inequality faced by its low-wage workers, and inadequate education investments," the study's authors wrote.

Greg Mello writes:

The highly-interesting and important analysis on which this story is based can be found here.

Some of the strengths listed for NM aren't so strong, upon closer examination. For example, the Ph.D.s at Los Alamos do not contribute that much to the state's innovation as far as economic development is concerned. Sandia's either, for that matter. Subtracting, say, 80% of the LANL Ph.D.s and 60% of the Sandia Ph.D.s (a reasonable correction) would leave us ranked....where?

Of especial interest: NM ranks dead last among all the states in "change in private R&D investment," with a decline of 78% noted from 1999 to 2002, the study's period of record. This significantly negates the presumption of R&D value from NM's federally-funded "innovation centers."

NM's change in absolute quantity of renewable energy -- + 0.22% for 1997 - 2001 -- was truly pathetic, thanks to PNM's vigorous efforts to block innovation and key enabling legislation. Perhaps it is somewhat better now that PNM has decided there is value in letting this industry develop a little -- as long as they, PNM, own as much as possible of it.

Our end of year fundraising letter contained the following remark:
The huge stream of federal funds associated with this work has not brought New Mexico wealth or jobs. It has brought us poverty. New Mexico’s decline relative to other states has occurred right along with the rise of nuclear weapons spending in our state. ... there will be no significant progress in alleviating poverty and other social ills in New Mexico without a different kind of political life than we now have. The level of respect for human beings implied in the humane and environmentally aware political life we need is incompatible with even tacit support for nuclear weapons.
The CFED report highlights NM's failure to invest in the people who live here. Strong support for the dignity of human beings is politically and morally incompatible with support for the nuclear weapons in our midst. The policy changes we need will require a different kind of politics and a different kind of leadership.

greg mello

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