Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What Reprisal Are you Talking About?

There have been many posted comments on the "Petition to
Remove Nanos" posting that refer to fear of reprisal for
signing a comment. In fact, only three comments are
signed! ( Mine is one.) Would someone care to post
a comment or send me an email describing exactly
what kind of reprisal they are afraid of? e.g.
-- reprimand
-- bad performance appraisal
-- reassignment
-- verbal warning
-- termination
-- clearance suspended
-- set aside as a cowboy
-- tires sliced?
-- car bombed?
I'm puzzled because I have received no hint of any
intimidation whatsoever resulting from my postings
on this BLOG and the LANL Newletter. And I
had at least one pretty outrageous posting.
To the contrary, I have received friendly and
curious comments from
several managers in my division.
Granted, I have resigned from the Lab effective in
March. And maybe management doesn't think it's worth it
to kick me in the butt on the way out the door.
I've heard some horror stories about events in
DX-3 during the CREM fiasco but what are these
other people posting comments talking about?
Do these people who won't sign really have
anything to fear? Why not sign the comments?
If you post a response about retaliation
please omit names.
This is the old cowhand from the Rio Grande remindin'
you to keep them doggies movin'.
Happy Trails!
David F. Simmons
Soon-to-be-Ex TSM
DX Division
(where never is heard a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day.)

Surprisingly, I have received very little indication that I have become the next future victim of LANL management retribution for having provided this blog as a LANL discussion forum (in the sometimes absence of the LANL NewsBulletin). My management has been polite, courteous and professional. My colleagues send me frequent "Have you won the lottery?" messages, but I have received no official word of condemnation. I have been receiving an average of two phone calls per week from reporters wanting to interview me after having discovered the blog. I have dutifully reported each reporter contact to the Public Affairs Office, which office has graciously provided me, in writing, with the following assurance: "Of course, all Laboratory employees have the right to blog, talk to reporters or make speeches on their own time and using their own resources."

On the one hand one hears stories of retribution that takes the form of firings, demotions, and other forms of punishment. On the other hand, here we are, speaking our minds, in public, without the Hammer of God falling upon us.
Dear David,
A retired lab fellow is no longer authorized to perform classified work at Los Alamos as a result of his criticism of the director last summer.
Reprisals for simply speaking your mind are illegal. Therefore they will always be disguised as something else, and will occur after such a long delay that the real reason for the punishment will not be immediately apparent or provable. No manager in his right mind would simply declare "you can't say that, you're fired." (Nanos is not in his right mind.)

The lack of immediate and obvious retaliation is no guarantee of safety. They can bide their time and strike when it's safest for them.

The easiest punishment to implement is to pass you over when raise time comes. The "OCR score" being highly subjective, it is very easy for your manager to simply declare that your OCR score is low this time around because your work is now less relevant to "the mission." No need to claim poor performance.

Similarly, you can be passed over for promotions, and for funding from group or division sources. Your manager might neglect to inform you of important opportunities. Or assign you to the least desirable projects. And when, a year or two from now, the funding picture looks particularly bleak and RIFs are in the air, you might find yourself on the short list for being RIF'ed.

Or, you could be singled out for special scrutiny on saftey and security issues. Approval of your IWDs and security plans might be delayed indefinitely, and if you complain, you can be charged with not taking safety and security seriously. Or they could insinuate to the investigators that you might be a security risk (alla Teller vs. Oppenheimer) and you could lose your clearance.

Etc., etc. There are hundreds of ways you can be harrassed and punished on cooked-up pretenses. This can be so subtle that you yourself may barely suspect the real reason for your punishment, and will be extremely hard-pressed to prove it.

That's the way it works in normal circumstances. In the current enviroment, it is quite possible that Nanos could simply decree "I want that person silenced. Fire him." They'll still probably find some other pretext (ever surf non-work-related web sites at work? "borrow" office supplies? take a long lunch? miss a group meeting?)

That said, I'd be willing to take the risk if I felt there were enough others willing to do the same for there to be safety in numbers. I view these "anonymous signatures" (oxymoron) on the petition as a guage of how the numbers are stacking up. So far, it seems a bit thin to stick my neck out just yet.
after more than 20 years of excellent performance appraisals, awards and promotions i was overheard making a negative comment in the hallway and got zero raises for three years.

i know of another case where an innocent hallway comment was used to start a security witchunt that kept a tsm from doing any work for months and ultimately drove him from the lab
Nanos is that worst kind of coward: a bully. He is famous for screaming "Sit down and shut up!" at one or another of the unfortunate ADs during is private meetings with them. The ADs and Division Directors all work at "the will" of the Director -- he can fire them without cause, and he obviously derives great pleasure in humiliating them. It would not surprise me to learn of him ordering some form of retribution against Mr. Roberts for having made this blog available to LANL staff for their discussions. I hope he does not. Perhaps the blog is now too visible for him to think he can silently squash it.
The relatiation is a real fact from the director's office all the way down to many of the Division level managers. After nearly 6 years of service to the Lab and our country, I was forced to resign from my TSM post because I refused to become part of the good ol' frat boys network, did not embrace the LANL leaders' majority extreme right wing political views, and had tried to complain about the corruption, cover-ups, and outright theft of taxpayer money going on in my division. The people I worked for were more interested in their recreational outdoor hobbies and sports than their day jobs, and cared more for keeping up their upper middle class lifestyles than looking out for their employees. Sadly, much of the upper management at LANL is much the same way. This blog is great! Keep it up, Doug. Maybe if the New York Times picks up this story LANL's leadership will get the necessary public attention that it deserves. Better yet, let's invite Michael Moore (of Farenheit 9/11 fame) to do an expose of the real story at LANL.
The retired lab fellow sent in email what many are posting on the blog. And he is no longer badged at all. However, some of his remarks bordered on the threatening, not excusable for any reason.

However, if anyone is interested, discuss with the Waterman's their interactions with Nanos over the Science Museum rent. And talk to Bill Enloe about Nanos pulling LANL's banking from him.

He seems to totally disregard DOE/UC's promise to work with northern New Mexico businesses.
Do the names Walp and Doran ring a bell?
In 1995 more than 100 employees were selected for a Reduction in Force. D. Cobb and other managers were instrumental in the firings. There was a lawsuit. LANL spent more than $13 Million defending and seemed to win. The legal costs, incidentally, didn't come out of the lab budget. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance, OFCCP, however, saw that LANL had violated its own contract which said that "objective" means had to be used for the firings. There were no such criteria used for the RIF and just about everyone got their job back. Those improperly fired employees form much of the UPTE community. Has anyone thought of unionizing? Aren’t we a bunch of bold men with irreplaceable skills?
Sometimes a paranoid really does have people following him/her. Sometimes a hypochondriac really does have a difficult-to-diagnose illness. In these days of intimidation and lies, one is tempted to be cautious, keep one's head down, not risk the comforts being taken away, keeping in mind the Air Traffic Controllers--our beloved President Ron Reagan busted them, flat. They thought they were indispensible. No sir, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

Nevertheless, it does feel good to stand up and do the right thing, and then to breathe deeply the crisp New Mexico air.

Remember, when a bully calls you a "cowboy," that the profession of cowboy is a real one; it's honest, it's dangerous, and it's hard work. But if a cowboy's work is done with common sense, he can live to be an old cowboy.

I'd say (like an old cowboy), ya might as well ride that horse, rather than get off and walk him all the way back home.
In my recent experience the "retaliation" is more of a passive-aggressive sort of thing. Your career path sort of has a way of getting erased right in front of you; you suddenly get passed over for assignments or jobs that you once would have been a shoo-in for. After 10+ years of getting wonderful performance appraisals, you begin to slip a notch.

Maybe you were part of an IPT and you suddenly find that you aren't once you stop putting forth the company line. Soon you are out of the loop, out of the action and relegated to the sideline.

And I have tried to be very tactful and discrete about some of the things that I have seen in the weapons program. I can probably chalk some of it up to a need for charm school, but not all of it. Especially given my past record, when I have risen quickly and gotten excellent appraisals and raises.

A few weeks back I was in a meeting in which the subject of an upper manager came up. The quote from an intimate of his was "He's a great friend, and an awful enemy."

There are plenty of ways to retaliate that are all perfectly legal. They may be unethical, but they are legal.
Here's what happened to Chuck Mader, according to PN himself: Chuck was sending incendiary e-mails comparing Nanos to the Fuhrer, among other things. Chuck even presented an autographed (not sure whose) copy of "Mein Kampf" to Nanos. All was tolerated, according to Nanos himself, until Chuck said, in one of his e-mails, that the Director should "better wear a bullet-proof vest". That was interpreted (by those who chose, I suppose) as a threat to violence, and Chuck's contract was terminated immediately. I'm not sure if Chuck was a Fellow, but he was certainly communicating with the Fellows.

Frankly, there are Fellows and then there are Fellows; I don't know how much Chuck is missed and vice versa.

I've not experienced retaliation in my 15+ years at the Lab, although I have heard enough stories that made one wonder. Pete Nanos, in my humble opinion, is the worst, most fearsome of retaliators: he claimed he would go after those who retaliate, and he may even have (he did get rid of that rat Stan Busboom, didn't he?); however, his actions suggested a degree of vindictiveness never seen in senior management at LANL (witness what he did to Brad Holian, even without naming him explicitly).

For obvious reasons, I'm staying anonymous for these comments...
His "retribution" against Brad Holian backfired. Nanos only succeeded in making himself look like a fool with his bizarre claims. He also raised the ire of Physics Today and Nature, both of which are doing articles on Nanos, his claims on the quality of Physics Today and the missing December 2004 issues of same.
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