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  • Bulletin 204: Nuclear weapons modernization: assuring destruction forever, 24 Apr 2015
    political change falls into the exterminist category of thought It praises nuclear weapons by faint damnation and fatally temporizes the investments we need to avoid climate and resource catastrophes Ted Postol former Pentagon missile expert and now professor emeritus at MIT explains as clearly as he can in this short video the sort of overt nuclear danger we are creating by seeking military advantage with nuclear weapons Thanks to John Hallam for sending this I cannot emphasize enough how right I believe Dr Postol is about the danger of carrying over habits of thought from conventional military war fighting to nuclear war fighting an oxymoronic phrase In my limited experience that is precisely what I hear from U S generals and colonels how to threaten better how to create a nuclear war fighting advantage There is no such thing Many U S nuclear weapons modernization programs can and should be criticized on this basis by all actors both inside and outside government The heart of the modernization beast in the U S is the desire by contractors captive members of Congress and nuclear ideologues to maintain a large nuclear weapons workforce a workforce which at the Department of Energy DOE laboratories is far in excess of needs This is the semi hidden rationalization for many otherwise poorly justified programs They re created in part to keep the main flywheel which was made during the Cold War turning It s too big even for the program of record As we note in our part of Assuring Destruction nearly all U S arms control and disarmament NGOs supported the entire modernization program just five years ago as the deal we made quoting a lobbyist for one organization for New START ratification As a result it is much harder to stop today It was important for Walter Pincus to write in the Washington Post this past Monday that The treaty may have been a step forward to Obama s goal of a weapons free world but the price he paid has turned out to be two steps backward Add quote marks to Obama s goal indicating its insincerity and that sentence becomes just right It s important to comment briefly on the cover story on nuclear modernization in that flagship of U S establishment thought Foreign Policy written by John Mecklin editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists entitled Disarm and Modernize Its subhead says In terms of warhead numbers the nuclear arms race may be over But massive weapons upgrades now underway challenge the entire disarmament regime That last bit really threw me There is no disarmament regime What on earth could Mecklin mean As it turned out the article was very well written Besides providing an overview of the modernization issue it also illuminates some of the shibboleths of that particular community of readers As I read I began to understand It is most of all the myth or representation of a disarmament regime that is said to be threatened It

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  • Bulletin 203: NPT Review Conference circus begins, 24 Apr 2015
    most states and eventually for all The NPT thus contains within it a commitment by all parties to a universal ban on the possession manufacture and transfer of nuclear weapons a ban which takes effect immediately upon signature for 190 states and someday for the final five Another five states three with nuclear weapons and one with nuclear explosives at least lie outside these commitments of course The treaty s third big idea is that peaceful nuclear technologies such as nuclear power are wonderful and should be universally shared and promoted with appropriate safeguards Any final document with commitments undertaken by the NPT Parties at this RevCon requires consensus of the Parties This with the above mentioned veto provision in Article VIII means that the RevCon starting Monday like all eight preceding meetings over the past 40 years will produce no binding disarmament measures which are not embraced by all five nuclear weapon states The set of such measures is the empty set The best single NGO position statement in the run up to RevCon that we have read came across the electronic threshold this morning from the French disarmament network Armes nucléaires STOP and the French International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War IPPNW Writing for these organizations Dominique Lalanne said At the end of each Review Conference a document is submitted for consensus approval The consensus principle avoids holding a vote whereby Nuclear States would be forced to accept majority measures that run counter to their interests The opposition of a single State prevents a consensus and blocks adoption of the final document And if no agreement comes out of it the Conference is considered a failure It is clear that Nuclear States will not accept a consensus that would clarify the need for a ban treaty to supplement Article VI of the NPT which provides for nuclear disarmament So the call we make to Non Nuclear States is quite simple To highlight the urgency of a treaty banning nuclear weapons reject the final consensus of the NPT Review Conference unless it specifically sets out full disarmament as an objective with a binding timetable And after the failure of this Conference convene the international community to implement the ban treaty Strangely there are many experienced NGOs attending this RevCon which still imagine or pretend that the nuclear weapon states the five states within the NPT and the four states outside it will within the foreseeable future negotiate a comprehensive nuclear disarmament treaty This is an entirely futile hope All nuclear weapon states are by definition hostile to effective disarmament diplomacy We cannot help but conclude as we recently wrote to a large number of colleagues and subsequently posted at Forget the Rest that anybody who wants nuclear weapon states to be involved in disarmament diplomacy is in effect helping that diplomacy fail For disarmament advocates that s just dangerously naïve Recent White House nuclear czar Gary Samore expressed the U S position succinctly Nuclear disarmament is not

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  • Bulletin 202: Earth Day tomorrow: truth or consequences – about oil, which is politically central, 21 Apr 2015
    period and 3 per year for the 2025 2030 period This scenario leads to a 26 decline in oil production from present levels by 2030 This is a grossly similar result to model results recently published by Dennis Coyne to pick one of these independent forecasts almost at random Meanwhile the amount of oil being exported will decline faster than production as it has been already with the significant assumption that exporting countries remain sovereign and able to act in their own economic interests Further if oil markets provide oil to the highest bidders and free trade continues in oil countries where the marginal barrel of oil produces greater value will be able to outbid others for the oil on offer That is China can pay more than the U S can This smooth gradually increasing decline contains many optimistic assumptions about economics and politics Financial crises wars and insurrections epidemics droughts major volcanoes and earthquakes major storms and floods famines major terrorist attacks and nuclear meltdowns generally tend to lower economic activity and hence demand and may also take a portion of supply off the market Unaffordability and demand destruction leads to lower prices lower capital expenditures in the oil industry and lower subsequent production The implications of this quite reasonable estimate are unknowable in detail but will be generally severe Physicist David Korowicz is among those who have attempted to do so See Tipping Point Near Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production An Outline Review Feasta The Risk Resilience Network 2010 and Trade Off Financial System Supply Chain Cross Contagion A study in global systemic collapse Feasta 2012 There is a lively exploration and debate taking place on these topics on various blogs The first of these papers argues that The key to understanding the implications of peak oil is to see it not just directly through its effect on transport petrochemicals or food say but its systemic effects A globalising integrated and co dependant economy has evolved with particular dynamics and embedded structures that have made our basic welfare dependent upon delocalised local economies It has locked us into hyper complex economic and social processes that are increasing our vulnerability but which we are unable to alter without risking a collapse in those same welfare supporting structures And without increasing energy flows those embedded structures which include our expectations institutions and infrastructure that evolved and adapted in the expectation of further economic growth cannot be maintained This will evolve as a systemic crisis as the integrated infrastructure of our civilisation breaks down It will give rise to a multi front predicament that will swamp governments ability to manage It is likely to lead to widespread disorientation anxiety severe welfare risks and possible social breakdown The report argues that a managed de growth is impossible We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes From now on the risk of entering a collapse must be considered significant and rising The challenge is not about how we introduce energy infrastructure to maintain the viability of the systems we depend upon rather it is how we deal with the consequences of not having the energy and other resources to maintain those same systems Appeals towards localism transition initiatives organic food and renewable energy production however laudable and necessary are totally out of scale to what is approaching What we require is rapid emergency planning coupled with a plan for longer term adaptation In his second paper Korowicz argues that As the globalised economy has become more complex and ever faster for example Just in Time logistics the ability of the real economy to pick up and globally transmit supply chain failure and then contagion has become greater and potentially more devastating in its impacts In a more complex and interdependent economy fewer failures are required to transmit cascading failure through socio economic systems In addition we have normalised massive increases in the complex conditionality that underpins modern societies and our welfare Thus we have problems seeing never mind planning for such eventualities while the risk of them occurring has increased significantly The most powerful primary cause of such an event would be a large scale financial shock initially centring on some of the most complex and trade central parts of the globalised economy The argument that a large scale and globalised financial banking monetary crisis is likely arises from two sources Firstly from the outcome and management of credit over expansion and global imbalances and the growing stresses in the Eurozone and global banking system Secondly from the manifest risk that we are at a peak in global oil production and that affordable real time production will begin to decline in the next few years In the latter case the credit backing of fractional reserve banks monetary systems and financial assets are fundamentally incompatible with energy constraints It is argued that in the coming years there are multiple routes to a large scale breakdown in the global financial system comprising systemic banking collapses monetary system failure credit and financial asset vaporization This breakdown however and whenever it comes is likely to be fast and disorderly and could overwhelm society s ability to respond We consider one scenario to give a practical dimension to understanding supply chain contagion a break up of the Euro and an intertwined systemic banking crisis Simple argument and modelling will point to the likelihood of a food security crisis within days in the directly affected countries and an initially exponential spread of production failures across the world beginning within a week This will reinforce and spread financial system contagion It is also argued that the longer the crisis goes on the greater the likelihood of its irreversibility This could be in as little as three weeks The questions Korowicz raises are important but hardly the whole point The main point is simple as Florentine chemistry professor Ugo Bardi has taught us quoting Seneca the way to ruin is rapid It

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  • Bulletin 201: Ban bomb, save planet; stewards of the apocalypse; more, 8 Mar 2015
    to that problem Kendall said after the March 4 hearing Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work has a team that I m co leading looking at that looking at options We re going to be talking about that as we build the FY 17 budget Kendall stressed that difficult decisions would need to be made about national priorities I don t think the United States of America cannot afford it he said It s a choice We can afford it if we choose to As Admin Makes Pitch for Modernization Support Affordability Problems Loom Todd Jacobson Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor 3 6 15 Deploying nuclear weapons will cost the U S about 35 billion B per year over the coming decade according to the Congressional Budget Office CBO with costs increasing as more modernization programs enter full scale procurement Kendall is saying that in the 2020s DoD has no identified source for about 10 B year of this So where will it come from From difficult decisions about national priorities He may mean from the Army first of all which has no nuclear weapons but also from a veteran s health program here a school lunch there and a Social Security benefit over there A further discussion of the nuclear weapons budget crisis must wait until next time In the meantime I would like to point out that the inevitable budget driven gradual disarmament see below and previous Bulletins e g 180 and blog posts proceeds within the paradigm that nuclear weapons bring security and will not of itself produce all the benefits of nuclear disarmament such as nuclear crisis stability freedom from the risk of catastrophic nuclear war an end to enshrinement of contingent mass suicide as a core principle of state security and renewed human solidarity in the face of the grave crises we face which is a cornerstone of the Pope s argument An international ban on the possession of nuclear weapons by itself and without endorsement by nuclear weapon states and prior to any actual disarmament will however start to produce some of those benefits through delegitimation of nuclear weapons and their supporting policies and establishments In many ways a ban treaty on the one hand and the gradual process of disarmament induced by now inevitable crises in budget and government on the other hand are complementary and mutually reinforcing Returning to the wedge analogy above a having a ban in place helps establish which side of the wedge nuclear weapons are on the side that gets the resources the side that the harried state rallies around and holds tightly as its core identity expressive of the society s core values or the side that gets short shrift when the hungry have to be fed the transport system maintained the dikes rebuilt and the energy grid supplied In other words a ban even a prospective ban to some degree tilts the playing field toward disarmament peace and solidarity and environmental protection everywhere That is why we should support efforts to produce such a ban and act as if we had one For environmentalists and for those who care about poverty and protection of the vulnerable as we all should a ban on nuclear weapons ought to be a no brainer Please notice that I did not say a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons Such a treaty would require the participation and endorsement of nuclear weapon states It s safe to say that kind of treaty is probably not going to happen in my lifetime to quote Barack Obama That kind of de jure idealized disarmament which some are equating to disarmament period is no disarmament at all just more waiting for Godot Nuclear disarmament assuming it does not occur through catastrophic nuclear war in which case nobody will be around to enjoy it will occur by a complex process of many variables actors and events It will not occur through a comprehensive treaty designed by experts and disarmament diplomats except possibly in the very last stages It is rather the rejection of nuclear weapons per se and the development of that rejection as a political and then a legal norm through a political process between and within states which gradually opens the door to a politics of survival A ban treaty signed by some states but not all is an essential milestone in that process Nuclear deterrence as a norm makes normative a relationship of mutual existential threat not the cooperation we need to face existential threats from climate and resource exhaustion These threats have short timelines as far as both impacts and necessary mitigations and adaptations are concerned These crises are already recurring causes of war in the 21 st century and could rapidly lead to more wars of even greater extent and intensity with nuclear weapons in the arsenals of warring parties Even a small nuclear war could kill billions either through its direct physical effects on the climate or through various sequellae in scenarios you can imagine or drive humanity and millions of species over the cliff to extinction There is nothing stable about our situation We and others believe the risk of nuclear war is rising as we mentioned in the last Bulletin Avoiding nuclear extinction The Helen Caldicott Foundation recently organized a fine symposium which was livestreamed for those not physically present entitled the Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction A video of the entire conference indexed by speaker with questions and answers is available and recommended Hats off again to Helen Mali and everybody who worked on this It was also wonderful for me Greg to see friends new and old Study Group board member Ray Acheson moderated the second day so as an organization we were very much involved Ray s opening remarks were edited and published here Sherwood Ross was kind enough to convert a précis of my talk into a press release and then an op ed 3 U S Nuclear War Labs Should Be Shut OpEdNews

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin201.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin 200: Warhead budget bloat; U.S.-caused Ukraine catastrophe at the brink; hello peak oil, 8 Feb 2015
    to read and think about this fine article by emeritus MIT scientist Ted Postol Some of Trident system upgrades planned in the 1990s are now a reality and that s not the sum of it either There have been some good budget summaries from DC based NGOs setting aside the fact that they all supported the modernization program they now think is excessive Pouring gas on the U S caused Ukrainian fire There s a fine new guest post by Steven Starr over at Forget the Rest and I urge you to read it I agree with all of it It is one of many dozen fine articles we could have sent you over the past months but frankly the intellectual collapse we see around us in U S NGOs universities churches newspapers and foundations has at times left us wondering where to spend the hours we have available We have been following this catastrophe very closely for many months but have been unable to ignite any interest in our communities even among our closest supporters Hello out there We should all be talking about this about what it means which is a lot and preparing for action as we have been saying for some time The domestic implications of these events affect many issues and cry out for a concerted response In the beginning any response is better than none Turning point for oil and us That s the title of another new post at Forget the Rest I really do hope you will go there and subscribe As it happens what seems like a fine new expensive book The World After Cheap Oil by three Finnish authors was just translated into English on this very set of topics here s a fine review by Frank Kaminski The review came in just after I finished that blog post I was very pleased that these authors emphasize what happened in 2005 because we can now see that 2005 was very likely the year of peak crude oil sensu stricta and definitely the year of peak net oil and per capita oil We are now at another turning point For most people including energy experts in government and academia this is one of those invisible events an event with no precedent like the arrival of Columbus We are now grasping the strange elongated metallic object extended to us not understanding how sharp it is or what it can do It will change everything for us and for many species We must wake up News Here follows a potpourri of news articles since we last updated you in a bulletin some involving us some of which required hours of work behind the scenes With LRSO Accelerated Air Force Pushes up RFP to Fourth Quarter of FY 2015 Nuclear Security Deterrence Monitor Feb 6 2015 White House budget plan a mixed bag for state s labs WIPP Albuquerque Journal Feb 2 2015 LANL vents toxic ground vapors raising air quality concerns Santa Fe

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin200.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Bulletin 199: Back from Vienna and speaking tour; new approach to bulletins, 24 Jan 2014
    is our response Again and again we are called upon to get behind mild so called reforms that even under the most optimistic assumptions aren t reforms at all Mostly these strategies are failing even by their own lights What Martin Luther King called the tranquilizing drug of gradualism now comes in wide range of attractive flavors If we want our children and grandchildren to live decent lives or even to live at all we are going to have act clearly and successfully now to make that possible We urge you to reach out to your friends and earnestly conspire to make that possible As I believe the sage who left Walden Pond would now agree it s the res publica not the res privata that s in real danger now Our nuclear families require that we give attention not just to them but to our primordial family We have to shift our attention from the private household to the larger oikos away from conventional careers and the further feathering of private nests All these will come down in the gathering storm anyway when the rotten tree breaks as it most assuredly will All true joy untainted by denial and despair all true life giving eros all true prayer and meditation all true science even lies now in active and courageous solidarity with our wider human and animal family There is certainly no joy in the narrow cold cage of greed and debt into which our youth as a rule are being led in the miseducation to which we generally subject them in our colleges If youth aren t working for their own survival and the means to provide for that which for the most part means preventing organized greed and violence from destroying the world they are wasting their time Parents and teachers should make this crystal clear We should all be showing the way validating their anger and giving them hope and skills We have already given them everything else we could find in Pandora s Box and used up most of the planet s natural resources Thank you for your support in December s fundraising drive To all those who responded in this December s fundraising drive thank you We are trying very hard to make every dollar count If you want to help directly please contact us and let s see what fits The best way is to arrange to drop by our Albuquerque office if you can but there are options in other places also For most people various enjoyable forms of outreach and organizing will be the most productive and useful things to do preceded by a bit of learning No matter how many hours we work we just can t reach out enough There are fantastic opportunities just sitting there Why Because we are on the right side of history and history is moving and because we and others have already opened quite a few doors Nothing but concerted reliable efforts will suffice

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  • Bulletin #198: Vienna Conference vigorously advances efforts to ban nuclear weapons, 17 Dec 2014
    efforts we have known in these positive ways It is not based in the U S and not subject to the adverse political conditions that prevail here Its leadership is a full generation younger than that in U S nuclear policy organizations which by and large have not been successful in generational renewal Its funding does not come from nor is it hostage to U S foundations Its leadership is multinational naturally diverse and does not lie in any particular organization Indeed instead of being institution centric or even network centric which invariably lead to strong inside outside dichotomies and turf battles the campaign is organized around a clear moral vision and a clear political objective namely a ban Many of the leading organizations involved are not primarily or exclusively focused on nuclear weapons but rather on broader humanitarian and development objectives in peace and or war and most crucially Achievement of a ban on nuclear weapons does not depend on the sympathy or even the participation of nuclear weapon states I want to linger on this conference a bit more and provide a few references to convey its flavor because it is a rather different kind of effort than that to which most of our members most U S experts and most U S journalists are accustomed That difference begins in the basic framing of the issues In the nuclear deterrence paradigm of discussion familiar to most U S parties nuclear weapons are seen as having security value The non military destruction they entail is relegated to collateral damage if it is discussed at all By contrast in the humanitarian law and morality or weapons of mass destruction paradigm it is the morally and legally transgressive qualities of nuclear weapons as almost universally regarded which are the starting point for discussion In this paradigm any security benefit supposedly gained by nuclear possessor states by nuclear threats i e deterrence or by nuclear use is inherently immoral corrosive of existing law and anticivilizational However uncomfortable it may be to the nuclear weapon states and the states which participate in nuclear deterrence through nuclear sharing or extended deterrence arrangements it is a matter of settled law that mass murder genocide or the global destruction of life that would result from nuclear winter can never be justified by any supposed political or military outcome Needless to say we believe the second paradigm is a more factual and fertile starting point for discussion It does not exclude the universal need for security in all its aspects but in doing so it does not privilege the security desires of one set of countries over others It puts human security not state power relations in the foreground The fruitfulness of the humanitarian approach can be seen in the far reaching arguments for an explicit ban on nuclear weapons and deterrence that were read to the Conference from His Holiness Pope Francis by Papal Nuncio Silvano Tomasi It is a powerful testament An excellent and detailed

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  • Bulletin #197: Moment of truth for Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS)?, 30 Nov 2014
    timely completion of this waste campaign the Framework Agreement which was itself a scaled down piece of the larger cleanup of the Consent Order which was just part of what will never be a fence to fence cleanup of the site To complete the terms of the Framework Agreement corners upon corners were cut This particular accident is one result At WIPP on February 14 one of the drums LANS mixed got very hot and burst open creating what was apparently a flare or deflagration in the room and contaminating most of the mine with radionuclides The final bill to the taxpayer assuming WIPP eventually reopens is unknown but will be at least several hundred million dollars If WIPP does not reopen the cost of establishing a new disposal site would be at a minimum several billion dollars Inexplicably no one has ever sampled the burst drum though samples taken near the drum in late May are consistent with combustion of the LANS created waste in the drum No one seems to want to know more Since May no one has returned to the scene No little off the shelf drones disposable at the price have been bought and flown No sampling boom has been deployed DOE has not issued its accident report Although LANS and DOE have admitted serious violations of law and others can be inferred no fines or penalties have been issued by DOE or the New Mexico Environment Department NMED Despite the fiasco DOE is keeping LANS as the cleanup contractor for now while DOE reorganizes its bureaucratic boxes Meanwhile DOE and NMED are both launching additional investigations but not at WIPP Not with real data The problem with obtaining forensic samples isn t the safety of the situation which is not worse than many other jobs DOE and its overpaid labs could easily take those samples safely But nobody in charge actually wants the answers they say they need As we know from conversations in Washington many powerful people do not want LANS blamed Now here s the kicker over the next few weeks DOE and NNSA will complete their annual evaluation of LANS The criteria to be used vague as they are are here Will DOE recommend extending the LANS award term What profit will be allowed It is or ought to be a real moment of truth for LANS as we have explained But will it be Another test will come soon in the annual DOE budget request to Congress to be unveiled on the first Monday in February but mostly finished by now Will the Administration reward LANL financially for another massive failure beyond that is leading government astray for a decade about the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research and Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF a mid 9 digit waste of money and all the minor 8 digit failures along the way Will LANS be fined or be made to bear any part of the costs it has incurred To make a difference

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