Monday, February 28, 2005

It is Simply Not Possible

From Anonymous:

Some have noted that Senator Domenici and Secretary Bodman did not say anything directly in support of Director Nanos last Friday. However, there was body language that might not have been apparent to those watching on Labnet. The Senator found two occasions to pat Nanos on the back (literally), the last very conspicuously after leaving and returning to the stage, possibly just for this purpose so it could not be missed by anyone in the audience. Then there was his “get over this stuff” statement at the end, just in case anyone misinterpreted his more subtle communications. As a long time supporter and admirer of Senator Domenici, this was extremely disappointing. Since I believe Domenici is above crass political payoffs, I conclude that he really doesn’t fathom the seriousness and significance of the situation at LANL.

It is simply not possible to “get on with [things]” in the present environment. The time for a simple apology from Nanos is long past, and it would make no difference anyway. The basic fact is that, in addition to his irrational temper and disregard for the truth, Nanos is simply incompetent to direct a national laboratory and is driving LANL into mediocrity, from which it may never recover. He has purposefully manufactured crises to divert attention from his failures, and will do anything and crush anyone to ensure his own survival. The way he condescendingly intercepted Mary Hockaday’s question, before it could solicit a response unfavorable to himself, was disgraceful.

Unfortunately, the notion at DOE and Congress persists that it is just a few discontents that feel this way. It is my belief that the vast majority, maybe up to 90% of LANL technical staff including most managers, believe that Nanos is an unmitigated disaster, but are afraid to speak up publicly. We need to find a way to allow everyone to petition for change without personal risk. Whether this is cowardly or not is irrelevant; it is a basic fact of the fear and loathing environment. Can any of you more imaginative bloggers think of a way to accomplish this? The time is short, if it is not already too late.

Speaking up publicly is always dangerous in oligarchies and this laboratory is managed by one. Look at the number of managers with the word "acting" as a prominent part of their title sometimes for almost a year. These are people promoted without competition by the Principal Oligarch. Fortunately, the last time I checked, we still have a Constitution that affords due process. I realize that this reality might be of no immediate consolation to those who have been wronged. However, for those who are protesting working conditions -- such as threatening or abusive language or an unauthorized diversion of funds -- it would seem that if two or more workers get together to complain as in this blog, the employer probably can't fire them because of those complaints. This immunity derives from the fact that their complaints would fall within the category called "concerted activity" that is protected by federal law even though no organized union activity per se is involved. Were something like this to happen to a blogger, that claim should be brought to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is the agency that handles labor union complaints. The impacted individuals must file that claim within six months of the date the employer fired them. The University of California might find it difficult to pay for the legal costs of one of its oligarchs hauled before the NLRB and accused of violating US labor law. See there is hope and, if all else fails, we can always wear Ukrainian orange and dance in the streets!
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