Letters to the Editor 2/10/2010
by Letters to the Editor, February 11, 2010
BLEEPS DEFENDING BLEEPS
The word niggardly, whether it’s an a or an e, or ending with dly, who gives a bleep? We knew what that guy was thinking when he used it to describe a black woman. The racist bleep!
Ed note: Mr. Boaz did not use the word to describe a black woman, he used it to describe the union negotiations. You slow-reacting illiterate bleep.
TAKE THIS, AL!
Regarding Al Blue’s latest, having recently read all 946 pages of Hugh Thomas’ “The Spanish Civil War” — and a great book it is, too — I am pretty well up on that conflict. The fact is Orwell was not shot by “communists” in Spain. He was shot through the throat by a fascist on the Huesca front. As for Mr. Blue’s allegation that Orwell wrote “scathingly of the Left in Spain,” it is clear from Homage to Catalonia that the elements Orwell attacked were Soviet Communists and their dupes who went out of their way to stifle genuine Socialism in Spain. His admiration for the vast majority of the working class leftists/socialists/anarchists he knew in Spain is obvious: “Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine. In the barbers’ shops were Anarchist notices (the barbers were mostly Anarchists) solemnly explaining that barbers were no longer slaves. In the streets were colored posters appealing to prostitutes to stop being prostitutes” and “the thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.”
Take that, Ayn Rand!
One could even go so far as to posit that utopia/Socialist elements of the Spanish Republic gave Orwell a reason to live and a focus for his writing beyond the Henry Miller-esque cynicism of some of his pre-1937 books: “The Spanish War and other events of 1936-7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” (“Why I Write.”)
Finally, I apologize that the same letter I went to the AVA was printed twice, I sent it as both an email and a letter under the mistaken impression that a signature was required. I am not quite as in live with my own words as that.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Mendocino!
THANKS FROM THE PAULAS
The family of Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Peterson would like to express how grateful we are to the AV ambulance and fire crews on their speedy arrival in our time of need. Thanks again to these wonderful volunteers who make the Valley a safer place.
The Paula Family
If arbitrary assertions unbacked by reasoned argumentation were music, you'd be the Berlin Philharmonic.
Obviously the tens of millions of enthusiastic readers of Atlas Shrugged have found it most penetrable and vastly exciting. One hundred years from now they will be still talking about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The critics will be long forgotten.
Democratic socialism is an oxymoron since the state still controls the economy which means the whole society. It's all based on the same discredited Marxian premises and I cited books my first letter that examine this in great depth.
I partially agree with the second and third sentences of your response but the difference was not huge and what differences existed rebounded to the credit of the Nazis. Compared to the Soviets they were almost a free society. The best examination of the statist-collectivist philosophical base of National Socialism is The Ominous Parallels by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, the intellectual heir of Ayn Rand.
The argument for free trade and against the tax known as tariffs was won over 200 years ago by Adam Smith.
Unfortunately NAFTA is much more government managed protectionism than free trade.
The three statists you cite as supermen, Bernanke, Geithner and Obama, bear no relation to Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. They are exactly like the mixed economy pull peddlers Rand cites in Atlas Shrugged as is Mr. Blum whom you exposed last week.
Glad you are one less vote for Brown.
Mrs. Cheney is familiar with Atlas Shrugged. Bush, Jr. was the biggest Big Government President since LBJ so don't try to tie him with us.
Richard Russell's letter reads no better the second time around.
As for Herr Heilig (talk about “nazi” sounding names) I'm insulted by the Pynchon reference. Now if he mentioned a truly great writer like, say, Ayn Rand… Obviously my published letters are real enough for you to publish and him to reply to.
As for Elizabeth Ryan, get a grip! There was no rape involved, it was consensual sex with a 15 year old woman. In Ontario the age of consent is 14. It's only the backward Judaeo-Christian ethic that promotes insane laws regarding sex. We need no protectors like you.
PS. I forgot to respond to the “Nazi” smear at the end of your response. You always know when a lib is losing the argument because they always resort to the “nazi” or “racist' or “fascist” smear, right out of Joe Stalin's 1930s Popular Front playbook. Haiti is indeed a failed people and not the only one. That observation is in accord with Objectivism which preaches a total adherence to objective reality.
Ed reply: What we've got here is another rightwing crank with intellectual pretensions, hence Ayn Rand, hence tagging liberals as Stalinists, hence the nazi implications of Haitians as “failed people.” Speaking of failed people, as a long-time resident of the Northcoast, I can’t help but notice the prevalence of methamphetamine among my tribe, the Scotch-Irish. I put it to you plainly, Mr. Blue: Is Willits a failed people? Millions read Atlas Shrugged? Billions read Barbara Cartland. The point is that America would be a much happier place if we enjoyed Norway-like guarantees of shelter, food, work, health care, education, all of which ought to come with citizenship — would have come with citizenship if The New Deal had been fully realized. We’ll get the whole package or devolve into chaos because there are lots more of us than there are of you, and because our side reads better books, if you get my drift. Apart from recommending genocide and bad novels, are you now also promoting child rape? Cheney's wife a Randian? Surprise, surprise.
WHO IS MARK YUDOF?
Peter Schrag’s recent profile of UC president Mark Yudof in San Francisco “Modern Luxury” deserves an A grade for keeping Yudof happy. This article could have benefited from enhanced reporting.
First, the Regents never “came calling” to Yudof in Texas. It is solely UC Regents Chairman Richard Blum (husband of Senator Diane Feinstein) who did so. Blum essentially imposed Yudof on the Board. Blum meant well, but a number of Regents resented this imposition. And Yudof made little attempt to overcome this resentment. Some very powerful Regents were offended that Yudof did not reach out to introduce himself to them. (In contrast, when Robert Dynes became UC President he made a point to meet and learn the concerns of every Regent on his/her home turf, showing up for lunch with me at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel even though I had only about a year left in my term). And now that Blum is no longer Chairman, some Regents admit they were unwilling to confront Blum’s method or choice of Yudof because they wished to remain in the good graces of Blum’s US Senator wife.
Second, there’s lots of contrary evidence that Yudof left Minnesota and Texas universities “bigger and grander than when he came.” In particular, Minnesotans were happy that Yudof’s leavetaking meant they could finally find a university president who would consider building them a football stadium, and a quick search of University of Texas professors’ association sites offers myriad reasons why they were happy to see Yudof go. The Texas professors’ sites also predicted a lot of Yudof’s managerial problems at UC. In other words, evidence here is mixed.
Third, after Dynes was sidelined, UC Provost Wyatt R. Hume served as Acting UC President for almost a year. It is Hume who led and managed the downsizing of 450-plus people in the UC Office of the President. Hume made a number of presentations to the Regents during that period about how he was downsizing UCOP. Indeed, Yudof currently is being criticized for adding back a number of high-paid positions to UCOP.
Fourth, how can Schrag label critics of UC administrators as populist opportunists? I believe UC Berkeley professor-emeritus Charles Schwartz is sincere in his claims that undergraduate student fees cover undergraduate student education, although I disagree with his finding and methodology. And UC Santa Cruz Professor and President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations Robert Meister is absolutely correct in reporting that UC has pledged student fees in the repayment of construction bonds. Whether this is proper or not, I do not know. UC administrators stonewalled Meister before presenting him with limited answers concerning this practice.
Fifth, I disagree that Yudof inherited an UC administration that was disengaged from the process in Sacramento. In the opinion of many Regents, UC President Atkinson, External Affairs Vice President Darling and UC Sacramento Office Director Arditti were overly solicitous to Legislative requests. Apparently Yudof and Schrag are ignorant of the Latino legislators’ leverage over numerous changes in UC admissions policies over the past decade.
Sixth, Yudof’s current push for the federal government to save public research universities is contrary to Yudof’s published statements attributing diminished state support, first, to the aging of the US population, as resources are shifted from education to senior citizens’ other areas of interest, such as health care and security, and, second, to globalization, as multi-national corporations become less tied to specific geographic locations and thus less interested in developing well-educated, local workforces. These arguments explain why UC’s advocacy requests for increased funding from the California Legislature yield limited results.
Finally, like Schrag I find Yudof personally engaging and smart. And, like Schrag, I question whether UC — and society — can afford a law school at UC Irvine.
Velma Montoya, Ph.D., UC Regent-emerita
In case anyone missed reading last week's “Library Lines,” the new lyme disease dvd film (“Under Our Skin”) is now at the A.V. Boonville library. This film is free to check out.
This is a film that lyme patients have long been waiting for. Finally the truth of the complexities of testing, diagnosis, treatment, and the politics of corporate money and medical boards. This film made this year's short list (top 15) for an Academy Award nomination for a full feature documentary. A well deserved honor.
Also at the library, is an excellent lyme disease book, “Cure Unkown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic” by Pamela Weintraub. Weintraub tells of her lyme odyssey when all of her family contracted chronic lyme disease.
Pamela Weintraub is a literary and investigative science journalist. She is a senior editor at Discover magazine. She has covered, science, health, and biomedicine for the national press for 25 years.
This book won the prestigious American Medical Writers Association Award for best book, 2009.
I suggest viewing the film before reading the book, in order to connect more of the dots.
Be educated and informed on this topic!!
EDUCATION? WHAT EDUCATION?
I read with interest the sad story written by Mark Scaramella about the jury verdict in the Matt Murray case. I attended a good portion of the trial and from what I saw the article appears to me to be accurate. For those who aren't aware of what I'm talking about, this is the principal of Point Arena school who finally brought the school up to snuff and then was promptly fired.
This kind of stuff doesn't make sense to most normal people, unless you know some of the background. So I'd like to suggest a very well researched book by a teacher who won New York City's Teacher of the Year award three years in a row. His name is John Taylor Gatto and the book is called “The Underground History of American Education.” It's a huge book but fun reading. You can download it for free online because Gatto is a good guy. He also wrote the book “Dumbing Us Down.”
Charlotte Iserybt, a whistleblower who was a Senior Policy Advisor in the Department of Education, wrote another tome called “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.” Her book is also available online.
If you're too lazy to read either book, here, I'll give you the cliff notes: They don't want the kids to learn. That's right: THEY DON'T WANT THE KIDS TO LEARN.
The system is designed to fail. Hell, you don't even have to read these books to know that. You just have to pay slight attention. But if you don't believe me, go educate yourself and read a book.
Please withhold my name
BLUE’S KIDDING, RIGHT?
Douglas Roycroft here.
There is an Aliene Blue in the phone book. Could this be the infamous Al Blue, in virtual drag for the purpose of touting Ayn Rand? Considering Rand's uncomplimentary view of women, it is possible that being a member of the feminine gender would be considered a drawback. No matter. Male or female, Al Blue has provided us with much needed entertainment.
Reading Ayn Rand is much like reading Playboy magazine. One can take a virtuous stance and say, I don't get Playboy to leer at the luscious young ladies, I get it to read the thoughtful commentaries on American politics and society. In the same way, one can say: I don't read Atlas Shrugged for the violent misogynistic sex, I read it for the Positivist philosophy.
In both cases, no one believes you.
When I was branch secretary of the NYC IWW back in the 60s, both the Murrays Al Blue mentions were looked upon dismissively by the black flaggers with whom I associated. Bookchin publicly broke with the Anarchist movement later in life. I met him at the Libertarian League, an organization he helped found. Rothbard was an anarcho-capitalist, a stance considered impossible by many.
A good book exploring the maze of movements involved in the Spanish Civil War is, The Spanish Labyrinth, by Gerald Brenan.
Among my friends at the time was a man who had gone to Spain in the 30's. His trip was sponsored by the Schactmanites. You don't know about the Schactmanites? Look up Max Schactman. My friend, who took the nom de guerre of Rossoli Negretti (Red Black), arrived in Madrid on the day of Durruti's funeral. You don't know who Durruti was? Not surprising in this quasi-educated time. Look him up. Buenaventura Durruti.
It changed Rossoli's life. Thirty years after the fact he told me that Durruti's funeral was the most impressive thing he'd ever seen.
He started working with the CNT-FAI (National Confederation of Labor, the Anarchosyndicalist union, and the Spanish Federation of Anarchists — Federation Anarquista Iberica). He was never at the front, but he was wounded in the leg while working in the union's office when the Stalinists did a drive-by and sprayed the place with bullets. So much for leftist solidarity. Al got that one right at least.
My fondest memory of him was at a May Day rally in Little Italy. The Communists were singing Bandera Rossa (Red Flag) and the Anarchists were singing the same song, but it was Bandera Nera (Black Flag). When one of the young anarchists tried to speak to the assembly, he was physically attacked by an elderly, cane-wielding Communist.
Gonna hit me back? I'm an old man. (punchslap) Gonna hit an old man?
Rossoli mounted the platform, shouting, I'm about your age, and decked him. They were separated by their factions and the rally proceeded with an uneasy truce, red flags on one side, black/red and black flags on the other.
Scripture tells us that, By their fruits ye shall know them. On this basis, Positivism is an abject failure, given the performance by it's adherents in the US government. Al “bubbleman” Greenspan? Hillary the Horrible? “Too-big-to-fail Bernanke? Obummer? Please. Spare me. Disappointment, thy name is Democrat.
If you are going to subject yourself to Ayn Rand, I suggest you skim over the tedious philosophy and give your attention to the parts where the hero throws that bitch down and starts ripping off her clothes. Whoo-ee! First he beats her. Then he fucks her. She doesn't enjoy it but she loves him. Almost an allegory of the relationship between the Positivists in power and the American people.
I think I'll go take a cold shower.
LISTEN UP, MEREDITH!
Letter to the Editor,
I am Aaron Vargas’s sister. I attended the February 5th hearing when arguments were heard regarding the prosecution’s motion asking the Judge to order Aaron to be examined by their psychiatric expert. The prosecution filed the motion right after the new year and a new bill, which allows the court to make such an order, took effect. So I couldn’t help but wonder if the new bill was the reason that the prosecution asked for that fishy continuance last Fall that caused the trial to be postponed until after the new year.
While the prosecution’s psychiatric expert testified in support of their motion, she made an effort to not even so much as glance in the direction of the sexual abuse victim accused of murder, and she eventually turned her back to him. She argued that she couldn’t thoroughly rebut the defense’s two psychiatric experts if she hasn’t examined Aaron herself or had an expert who she knows will “call it like he sees it” examine him. Is it that the defense's experts aren't calling it like they see it or that they just aren't calling it like she's being paid to see it?
It became clear to me, and the rest of my family, that she has already formed an opinion that aligns with the prosecution’s argument that Aaron does not have PTSD caused by the many years of sexual and psychological abuse that he has suffered. So why would she even need to examine Aaron if her opinion has already been formed? Because that is how our dysfunctional justice system works. She appears to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the prosecution’s arguments and she will give whatever opinion that she is paid to give. So much for truth and justice.
Listening to the prosecution’s hired mouthpiece dance around the defense’s questions, for what felt like an eternity, gave me a headache and caused the bailiff to nod off. In all fairness, it may have been Assistant DA Beth Norman’s child-like temper tantrums, in response to the Judge’s reluctance to trample over Aaron’s Fifth Amendment rights, which gave me the headache. In between tantrums she appeared to be texting on her blackberry, and I wondered who was on the other end of those texts — maybe DA Meredith Lintott was texting from her Ivory Tower, or maybe it was her cold-hearted colleague, and former prosecutor on Aaron’s case, DDA Jill ‘abuse is irrelevant’ Ravitch.
At least something productive did take place: a decision was made. That has been a rare occurrence this past year as dozens of Aaron’s supporters, along with our family, have packed the courtroom for hearing after hearing. The prosecution’s hired mouthpiece will be allowed to examine Aaron, only to arrive at the already-formed opinion that she has been paid to give. A couple of questions Mendocino County residents should be asking are, “how much are we paying her to give that opinion” and “should we vote DA Meredith Lintott out of her Ivory Tower this June?”
WHO REALLY WON THE MURRAY CASE?
There was no surprise, on my part, by the article appearing in the Independent Coast Observer (ICO) by D. Glenn O'Hara in which he stated Iacuaniello was “cleared” in the civil suit. Mr. O'Hara was able to compile his entire article without taking the time or effort to leave his office in Gualala, drive in the rain to go to Ukiah in order to obtain one piece of information from the trial to get the “real scoop” as the reporters from the Anderson Valley Advertiser did on a daily basis.
Did Mr. O'Hara report Mr. Murray's ex-boss flew in from the Long Beach School District to support Mr. Murray, a person he stated was “key” in the team which helped to obtain the highest award a school district can receive which was presented to them by President Clinton? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara report that two ex-board members took the stand to support Mr. Murray with one of the board members flying in from Colorado? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara report on the number of teachers, community members and parents who took the stand on behalf of Mr. Murray because of the many outstanding acccomplishments Mr. Murray did, not only for our children but for the whole community? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara report the only persons Mr. Iacuaniello could find to personally take the stand on his behalf were his wife, a handful of disgruntled teachers, and a classified staff member? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O’Hara report there is absolutely no “paper trail” of so-called grievances the teachers had against Mr. Murray to terminate him? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O’Hara take the time to find out that Mr. Murray’s demise began in early Spring of 2006 when the teachers began to “circle the wagons” with Iacauaniello as the wagonmaster? No, he did not.
How could he? He would have had to leave his office, drive in the rain in order to obtain the real truth!
What, Mr. O'Hara did was stay out of the rain (perhaps, out of the truth would be more appropriate) and relied on information previously written in the ICO; information from his “good friend” Superintendent Iacuaniello; information from a teacher who claims “anonymity” (that *isn't* exactly the word I would use). This anonymous teacher, I believe, was willing to step forward because “he” received a less than favorable evaluation from Mr. Murray but, at least, he can now receive all the “hugs” needed from the current elementary principal, Paula Patterson to do his job.
Yes, Mr. O'Hara did speak to Mr. Murray “for a minute” but the article remained skewed in favor of the superintendent and, again, his “good friend,” Mark Iacuaniello which is not surprising because the ICO has taken this stand since Mr. Murray’s termination.
What really happened on Friday, January 29th, 2010, at the Mendocino County Court House in Ukiah? The jurors, under legal constraints, handed down the following verdict: On two counts Superintendent Iacuaniello was found *guilty* (concealment and false promises) Did Mr. O'Hara report that? NO, he did not! And on two counts Iacuaniello was found not guilty.
After the jurors handed down the verdict, they gathered around Matthew Murray, the “terminated” ex-principal of Point Arena Elementary School and his wife. Two of the women jurors tearily stated they were “so sorry, we ALL believed you got screwed but there was nothing legally we could do.” Did Mr. O'Hara report that? No, he did not!
So, who really won? A legal system that protected Mr. Iacuaniello because he is a public employee. If Mr. Iacuaniello was employed in the private sector, the case, most likely, would have had a different outcome. Mr. Murray would have had the legal right to prove wrongful termination, and I believe he would have won his case hand’s down!
Mr. Iacuaniello was quoted in the ICO as stating, “It's been hell.” However, it is a “hell” he himself created. If he wants to know what “hell” really is like, he should walk in Matthew Murray's shoes.
What I think it boils down to is Mr. Murray was, indeed, the moral victor in this case, as confirmed by the comments of the jurors above “you (meaning Murray) got screwed.” Matt Murray proved that in our small coastal community you CAN raise the bar and have our children achieve and meet or exceed state and federal goals. After all, he was able to set a gold standard for our children in which they did achieve passing goals with flying colors. However, since his termination the school has taken a nose dive and currently is back into State Program Improvement because of the inability to meet state and federal goals.
Did Mr. O'Hara report that? No, he did not! Perhaps, our teachers need more “hugs” by the current principal, Paula Patterson, to get the job done as suggested by our ever anonymous teacher!
Hopefully, someday we can do away with our small town, good ol’ boy politics and do what should be done, as Mr. Murray did: assure that our children succeed by obtaining the best education that is available to them (I have said this many times the future of our communities are definitely within our schools). Of course, look at what happened to Mr. Murray for doing an outstanding job for our children and community: he was terminated without cause. Go figure!
FILM FANS & MOVIE BUFFS
Dear A.V. Film Festival Supporters and Sponsors,
On behalf of the beneficiaries of The 4th Annual Anderson Valley Film Festival, we would like to pass on our sincere gratitude for your support of our recent benefit event at The Grange. Without having the huge crowd that last year’s locally set ‘Pig Hunt’ movie uniquely provided, we still had a good turnout, particularly for the Saturday evening music program and the Sunday session of local and environmentally based films. This, together with the generous sponsorship from 43 (significantly more than last year) of the 54 Valley businesses and wineries that we approached, meant that a total of $2200 in profit was raised for this year’s recipients” The AV Senior Center, The AV Elderhome, AV Animal Rescue, AVHS Film Class, and The AV Grange. In recognition of their contributions, here is the list of businesses and wineries who made generous donations of money or wine:
The AVA, The Anderson Valley Inn, Anne Fashauer/Century 21 Realty, Alicia’s Restaurant, All That Good Stuff, The Apple Farm, Boonville General Store, Farmhouse Mercantile, John Hanes Gallery, KOZT-FM The Coast, KZYX&Z, Lauren’s Restaurant, Lemons’ Market, Mendocino Brewery, Mosswood Market, Navarro Store, Perry Gulch Farm, Pic‘n’Pay, Pugh’s Pumps, Rookie-To Gallery, Rossi’s Hardware, Mike Shapiro & Jimmy Humble/North Country Realty, The Other Place, Shooting Star Vacation Rental, Toulouse Winery, Zub Zub Ice Cream and Joe Dresch and Ann Carr at The Philo Post Office. Wineries: Breggo, Brutocao, Claudia Springs, Esterlina, Golden Eye, Greenwood Ridge, Handley, Husch, Jim Ball, Maple Creek, Meyer Family, Navarro, Philips Hill, Roederer, Yorkville Cellars.
Steve Sparks & Heidi Knott
AV Film Festival Organizers, Boonville
What Every Weaponeer Knows
On April 5th, 2009, the new President, Barack Obama, stood before a crowd in Prague, Czech Republic, to proclaim “…the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons…We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy…” Fine words for a president, you might say. Obama also promised to work with the Russians on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-2). Little mention was made in the press that the U.S. Senate has refused over many years to ratify the existing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Obama spoke grandly of drafting yet another test ban treaty that would “verifiably end (s) the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons.” So much for grand words that he must have known were falling on deaf ears in the halls of Congress. To the public at large he proclaimed that “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.”
Perhaps President Obama needs to be reminded, or educated, on what it felt like as a school child practicing the “duck and cover” drill. Throughout the United States, from the early 1950, children were told that when they saw the blinding flash of a nuclear bomb detonating nearby, that they should fall to the floor, crawl under their desks, and cover their eyes and the back of their neck. If this was done, one was told, the coming shock wave would not shred them to pieces by flying glass and debris. To drive home the lesson, there were the regular evacuation drills which led the children, in orderly fashion, down into the basement civil defense shelters of thousands of school buildings. In the dim light, anxious children filed by the stored civil defense boxes of food and water. “Will I die when the bomb drops,” so many, many children asked their teachers as they waited in the dark for the drill to end, if it was a drill and not the real thing. The children were shown a film, featuring Bert the Turtle, a cartoon character that made the idea of ‘duck and cover’ almost fun.
Perhaps President Obama was too young, in 1959, to see the movie On the Beach, another missing link to his education? Personally, I was in college by then and though the movie was all the rage I could not bring myself to see it. The very thought of a movie detailing the aftermath of a nuclear war in which all humanity, every last person, was either dead or about to die from radiation exposure was too much. But times changed. The Soviet Union collapsed. There was all this talk of a “peacetime bonus” that would decrease military expenditures. No more reason for ‘duck and cover’ drills existed. So, I did see the movie. At last, I believed, life was free of the threat of mutual assured destruction (MAD). The strategic doctrine that demanded heavy investments in a large nuclear arsenal was at an end.
How wrong can a person be? Today, the United States and Russian strategic nuclear arsenal totals somewhere in the neighborhood of 22,000 nuclear weapons. This does not tell the whole story, either. Seven other countries (China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, France, Britain) are said to field almost 1200 nuclear weapons. The number of nuclear weapons and the number of nuclear states is all but certain to grow over the next few years.
But before the number of weapons blurs the picture it is important to understand how the arsenals of the nuclear states have changed. In July, 1945, the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in the 18 and 21 kiloton yield range respectively. Try to imagine the explosive force of 40,000 tons of TNT. But by the early 1950s the weaponeers were designing and testing bombs in the 2 megaton range (two million tons, a good fifty times the power of both the bombs dropped on Japan). To date, the weaponeers have designed, tested, and/or put into production somewhere in the neighborhood of 91 models of a nuclear weapon in the United States. The backbone of the nuclear arsenal today is the B61 (1963), which can be configured to yield 9 different “physics packages,” including the recently lauded “bunker buster” (1997, B61 MOD11). You would think that the United States, whatever its nuclear strategy posture is, would have enough weapons to deter any aggressor. However, the peace dividend has never materialized.
There was a moment when the expenditures of the weapons labs at Los Alamos and Livermore were showing signs of being contained, even downsized. The irony is that this containment was evident during the last three years of George Bush’s tenure, when he had a Democratic Congress to contend with. On February 1, 2010, however, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress which includes what is called yet another ‘surge’ strategy., this one not for Afghanistan but for the weapons labs. According to Greg Mello, of the Los Alamos Study Group, Obama has requested warhead funding to “rise 10 percent in a single year, with further increases promised in the future.” Los Alamos National Laboratory “would see a 22 percent budget increase, its largest since 1944.” The funding would in part go to a new plutonium pit factory. This can only mean a fresh commitment to new nuclear weapons. Where, then, is Obama’s commitment “to seek…a world without nuclear weapons.”?
On this morning’s Democracy Now show, Amy Goodman spent a good deal of time with a food critic who was disparaging the use of food coloring in cereals that turn the milk red. Must we, too, be subjected to Nero’s fiddling while Rome burns? Or, can we again renew our focus on what is really important: the end to the nuclear threat that this tired world has lived under for going on 65 years. If you believe that it is important to call our leaders to account, now is the time to write President Obama, members of Congress, and yes, even Amy Goodman, and say now is the time to get it right, to stop the weaponeers from producing yet more bombs---bigger bombs, better bombs, more bombs. You might even join the efforts of Greg and Trish Mello, who keep the Los Alamos Study Group going by logging on to their website (gmello @lasg.org) and donating your time and, yes, donation to help curb this latest ‘surge’ in nuclear weapons development and stockpiling. Don’t think for a moment that because the cold war “bogey man’, the USSR, is gone that the nuclear holocaust clock has been set back much, if at all. Every time a new plutonium pit is fashioned for yet one more bomb, you can hear the clock tick.