University of Perpetual Anxiety

I shouldn't have to be thinking about nuclear war on Christmas Eve. But we've got a University of California campus here in the San Joaquin Valley now. UC Merced has brought us a brand new perspective.

I read the news today, oh boy.

I read this week that after a period of uncertainty, the UC retained control over Los Alamos National Laboratory. The press speculates winning the Los Alamos bid will strengthen UC's chances for retaining Lawrence Livermore National Lab. My immediate concern was the numerous articles since the Wen Ho Lee affair, of security breaches, thefts, and accidents at UC's two nuclear weapons labs. The day before the decision was announced, workers were imperilled by a plutonium spill at Los Alamos.

I shouldn't have to be thinking about nuclear war on Christmas Eve because I am a war baby, taught to crouch under my little desk in grammar school to protect myself from the bombs that could fall on David Farragut Elementary School, near the ocean in San Francisco.Many of my classmates' fathers had recently returned from the Pacific Theater. Some, no doubt, had expected to invade the Japanese mainland. One of our neighbors had been in that PT boat with Kennedy.

I shouldn't have to be thinking about nuclear war on Christmas Eve but the decision, and all the hoopla around it, brought back memories of the Cold War, bomb shelters, the Cuban Missile Crisis, "acceptable losses," decades of nuclear disarmament negotiations and anti-communist campaigns, the Vietnam decade, Star Wars, the "Peace Dividend" and the recent marches against the invasion of Iraq -- the whole national insecurity in which I have lived all my life as a citizen of an aggressive imperial power that has lied to its citizens about its most basic foreign policies.

I shouldn't have to be thinking about nuclear war on Christmas Eve.

In the early 1950s, atomic fever gripped our burgeoning desert town. Bartenders served atomic cocktails. Hairstylists coiffed the atomic hairdo. Revelers danced to the "Atomic Bomb Bounce." Hotel marquees listed detonation times. And Candy King was crowned Miss Atomic Bomb. Tourists were even transported to Mount Charleston's Angel Peak armed with blankets, sunglasses and box lunches so they could watch in awe as the Atomic Energy Commission let 'em rip at the Nevada Test Site. -- Las Vegas Living, June, 2000.

Not being a scientist, I tend to see nuclear weapons as being like Checkov's shotgun on the wall. They aren't just for decoration. My view is Biblical: things come to pass. American corporations' long love affair with the rightwing has finally yielded its reward, an illegal, quasi-monarchy hell bent on imperial militarism and crooked voting machines to hold power. In the midst of this political play for absolute power, here comes UC down to the San Joaquin Valley to build it's "enviromental campus" with, incidentally, memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore Lab in its purse and, now, the new contract to keep running Los Alamos. Locally, about all we've seen them do is corrupt environmental law and regulation and public process, bribe a failing newspaper, organize the local Mr. and Ms. Merceds, and lie about a bobcat. Now that they're riding high on the nuclear hog again, UC Merced's proximity to the Castle base and wide-open spaces, along with that little LLNL MOU in their purse, ought to ring alarms. But to Mr. and Ms. UC Merced, nuke-lab annex looks good for business. And there you have it: in a planet suffocating in the surfeit and waste of the products of man's industry, war is good for business. Mr. and Ms. UC Merced are already investing their anticipated profits. Meanwhile, nearly a billion people are chronically malnourished and little wars keep breaking out here, there, and everywhere.

Fortunately, not all the world is mad enough to regard control of the production of weapons of mass destruction is a cause for rejoicing at Christmas.

There is the story of a man at the UN, a specialist in nuclear proliferation, who disputed the Bush administration line that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. This man had been running inspection teams in Iraq for a number of years and had found nothing. He and several people working with him testified before the UN Security Council that they had found nothing. The US shouted them down and invaded Iraq anyway. Lately, President Bush has admitted that the intelligence he had that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons wasn't true.

On Dec. 10, Mohamed ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His lecture was an excellent antidote to the orgy of triumphalism surrounding the UC "victory."

In the real world, this imbalance in living conditions inevitably leads to inequality of opportunity, and in many cases loss of hope. And what is worse, all too often the plight of the poor is compounded by and results in human rights abuses, a lack of good governance, and a deep sense of injustice. This combination naturally creates a most fertile breeding ground for civil wars, organized crime, and extremism in its different forms.

In regions where conflicts have been left to fester for decades, countries continue to look for ways to offset their insecurities or project their 'power'. In some cases, they may be tempted to seek their own weapons of mass destruction, like others who have preceded them.

* * * * * * *
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Fifteen years ago, when the Cold War ended, many of us hoped for a new world order to emerge. A world order rooted in human solidarity – a world order that would be equitable, inclusive and effective.

But today we are nowhere near that goal. We may have torn down the walls between East and West, but we have yet to build the bridges between North and South – the rich and the poor.

Consider our development aid record. Last year, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments. But we contributed less than 10 per cent of that amount – a mere $80 billion – as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger.

My friend James Morris heads the World Food Programme, whose task it is to feed the hungry. He recently told me, "If I could have just 1 per cent of the money spent on global armaments, no one in this world would go to bed hungry."

It should not be a surprise then that poverty continues to breed conflict. Of the 13 million deaths due to armed conflict in the last ten years, 9 million occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where the poorest of the poor live.

Consider also our approach to the sanctity and value of human life. In the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, we all grieved deeply, and expressed outrage at this heinous crime – and rightly so. But many people today are unaware that, as the result of civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 3.8 million people have lost their lives since 1998.

Are we to conclude that our priorities are skewed, and our approaches uneven?

* * * * * * *
Ladies and Gentlemen. With this 'big picture' in mind, we can better understand the changing landscape in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

There are three main features to this changing landscape: the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and the stagnation in nuclear disarmament.

Today, with globalization bringing us ever closer together, if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all.

Equally, with the spread of advanced science and technology, as long as some of us choose to rely on nuclear weapons, we continue to risk that these same weapons will become increasingly attractive to others.

I have no doubt that, if we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security.

To that end, we must ensure – absolutely – that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons.

We must see to it that nuclear-weapon states take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.

And we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.

ElBaradei spoke 11 days before Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo,

rallied California lawmakers behind the UC-Bechtel team and said the announcement had her ``dancing in the streets.''

``I thought on the merits, they delivered a knockout punch, but the politics of this have always been trending away from us, to put it mildly,'' she said. ``This is a great day for Claifornia but it's also good news for the American people, who not only have the best science and national security but also the best management for Los Alamos.''

In moments like these, the essential barbarism shines through. Advanced evidence, if our growing poverty and the "Christian" heartlessness aren't enough, is the recent exposure of fraudulent payments to UC administrators, apparently involved in another intramural feeding frenzy for public funds. These frenzies occur regularly, about as often as security breaches and fatal accidents at UC's two nuke labs. Sitting on top of a mushroom cloud is bad for the mind. Everyone wants more money, but you get the impression with these people that they think if they don't fleece the public, they don't rank.

According to ElBaradei's priorities, UC has it backwards.

A recent United Nations High-Level Panel identified five categories of threats that we face:

1. Poverty, Infectious Disease, and Environmental Degradation;
2. Armed Conflict – both within and among states;
3. Organized Crime;
4. Terrorism; and
5. Weapons of Mass Destruction.

ElBaradei's closing remark starkly opposes the danse macabre of California business and political leaders.

Imagine what would happen if the nations of the world spent as much on development as on building the machines of war. Imagine a world where every human being would live in freedom and dignity. Imagine a world in which we would shed the same tears when a child dies in Darfur or Vancouver. Imagine a world where we would settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue and not through bombs or bullets. Imagine if the only nuclear weapons remaining were the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children.

Imagine that such a world is within our grasp.

Probably, AlBaradei had in mind the anniversary of John Lennon's murder two days earlier.

"Imagine," Lennon sang:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

The song is an anthem for all those in the world who resist war and a view of science that holds that its greatest prestige is in the technology of mass destruction.


I read the news today, of course, oh boy. Last year there were 21,256 murders in the United States of America. The number, and the percentage, is so staggeringly more than anywhere else in the world that you can't help but think we're at war with each other. The great majority of these people were killed not by burglars or muggers but by people they knew. We are at war with people we know. One broadcast said that what's-his-name – I don't even want to type his name – who killed John Lennon identified so strongly with Lennon that at times he used Lennon's name. He killed himself. -- Michael Ventura (LA Weekly article, December 1980)

Los Alamos in the right hands...Editorial
AWARDING A NEW contract to the University of California for management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory is good for the nation -- as much as it upholds California's long-standing scientific renown. Keeping UC in charge of the nuclear weapons program it helped inaugurate more than six decades ago serves to recognize the university's unique credentials in a field vital to national security. UC was teamed with the Bechtel Corp. and a pair of other partners to win out over a bid submitted by Lockheed Martin Corp., the biggest arms-maker, and the University of Texas. The new seven-year contract is worth up to $512 million, but its greater importance to UC is the scientific prestige.

UC wins fight for Los Alamos - The Deal - University beats Lockheed Martin-Texas bid to manage nation's top nuclear weapons lab...Keay Davidson, Zachary Coile
The University of California, besieged by criticism over its management of Los Alamos National Laboratory, beat back a strong challenge Wednesday from a team headed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and the University of Texas for control of the storied weapons lab it has run for over six decades. The actual decision, Bodman said, was made by Tom D'Agostino, assistant deputy administrator for defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration, a quasi-independent agency that oversees the nuclear weapons department for the Energy Department. Loss of the contract by the UC group, officially known as Los Alamos National Security LLC, could have hurt not only UC but California's reputation as a world center of scientific and technological excellence. Danielle Brian, head of the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight, a frequent Energy Department critic, asked: "What does it take for UC to suffer the consequences of screwing up? Lockheed wasn't a great alternative, but it is hard to see how UC could possibly have been given a vote of confidence. We expect a continuation of the era of chaos at Los Alamos."

UC's problems at Los Alamos Lab...
From January 2003 to present

UC wins fight for Los Alamos - The Implications: Bechtel partnership will put lab on a more businesslike footing...James Sterngold
Now, the famed lab faces a challenge it has long resisted: the need to change fundamentally -- from an intellectual institution devoted to science, to a facility run more like a business whose product is nuclear weapons. "The academic and public service aura of 63 years of UC affiliation with Los Alamos ... may ultimately be compromised to some degree, as yet unknown, by the profit motive of a corporation, to whose pockets will flow an extra load of national debt from American taxpayers of the future," Brad Lee Holian, a Los Alamos scientist, wrote in a popular employee blog. But most inside the lab and outside understand that Washington has embraced an approach to nuclear weapons that will have a deep impact not only on Los Alamos but also on its sister institution, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Contra Costa Times
Partnership won't affect lab's research...Matt Krupnick
Michael Anastasio said the public-private coalition is "positively, deeply" committed to scientific research. "Basic research is the fundamental core that we bring to the country," said Anastasio, who will step down as head of Livermore National Laboratory to take the new job. "This is not a de-emphasis on science. If we do this well, this will actually enhance the science we do." The university's next challenge is competing for management of the Livermore lab,... Also Thursday, the Department of Energy announced it would fine a contractor more than $190,000 for exposing its employees to radiation while removing waste from Livermore National Laboratory in 2004.

Hairstylists coiffed the atomic hairdo. Revelers danced to the "Atomic Bomb Bounce." Hotel marquees listed detonation times. And Candy King was crowned Miss ...

UC hush money?...Editorial
Every few years, the University of California mires itself in another set of scandals over outrageous pay and perks for top UC administrators. The latest scandals, brought to light by the San Francisco Chronicle, have created a stench that now stretches from the office of UC President Richard Dynes to the office of UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. Now we learn that UC paid Celeste Rose, a former UC Davis vice chancellor, to go away, keep her mouth shut... "separation agreement" not a litigation settlement...At the best, UC officials are playing word games in claiming this payoff didn't require top-level review. At the worst, they broke UC rules or exploited a vague policy the regents need to clarify. President Dynes, stop making excuses. Release the numbers.

UC's paid leaves called 'Betrayal," Regents' edict ignored, 3 top managers were given lucrative furloughs in violation of university policy...Todd Wallack, Tanya Schevitz
More than a decade after promising to end the practice, the University of California has given several top administrators lengthy paid leaves when they stepped down. In the past 13 months alone, at least three senior managers have received paid furloughs at their executive salaries before returning to teaching. UC granted the leaves despite a policy approved by the university's governing Board of Regents in 1994 limiting paid administrative leaves for senior managers to a maximum of three months. The regents reaffirmed the limit in September. UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said the senior managers who received the leaves were tenured faculty members, who otherwise would have qualified for yearlong academic sabbaticals at their faculty pay. The charge is the latest in a string of accusations that UC hid perks and pay from the public and lawmakers. The revelations come at a time when the university has said budget constraints have forced it to boost student fees, cut services, increase class sizes and freeze pay for thousands of lower-paid workers. 2005/elbaradei-lecture.html - 14k - Dec 22, 2005

Lübeck's dance of death (as all other dances of death) were inspired by The Black

UCI misled Liver Unit regulators on staffing...Alan Zarembo, Charles Ornstein12-21-05,1,5056965,prin...
As regulators threatened to close the troubled liver transplant program at UCI Medical Center last year, the hospital's chief executive provided false information to keep the unit running, according to a government document. Details of how UCI misled regulators were included in a letter sent Monday from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who is investigating inequities in the national transplant system. The troubles caught up with UCI last month, when the federal Medicare program announced it would stop paying for transplants. The program closed the same day.

Holding UC accountable...Editorial
Scrutiny of University of California admnistrators is intensifying. Rightfully so. Something must be done or UC will lose what Regents Chairman Gerald Parsky describes as its "unique public trust." Californians, thousands of whom sacrifice to educate their sons and daughters, deserve to know what's been going on and how university officials are going to control and justify compensation packages of top-level administrators. Especially those who no longer have jobs to perform but still are being paid. The more scrutiny the better.