Saturday, May 14, 2005

Los Alamos does not need another inquisition

Comment from the


If you've ever been present at the scene of a news event, and then later seen it reported in the media, you know how things can come out distorted. But, when it's about something that really counts, like when Jeffry Gardner says:

"Working to change the arrogant nature of the scientific community that thumbs its nose at its employers (us, that is) when we ask for tighter security and better management? Absolutely."

...then it gets rather worrisome.

Nobody wants "tighter security and better management" more than the scientific community at Los Alamos. It's our work that gets impaired directly by lax security and poor management. But what we've had for the past year is anything but security and management.

When the Fourth Crusade turned aside from its mission and instead sacked Constantinople, it illustrated what damage a lot of energy, poorly directed, can do. When Pete Nanos cut loose the support and security staffs to perform vigilante justice on their co-workers, telling them bad actors were all around them, it marshalled every petty rivalry to a showdown of full-contact organizational politics.

Co-workers told me tales of being harangued by support workers for interrupting their solitaire games with security forms during the shutdown. Getting a straight answer to a policy question became nearly impossible, as support workers became afraid to commit their security policies to writing or unwilling to give someone proof of compliance. Accusing someone else of a violation (real or imagined, mostly imagined) became an accepted way of gaining points with the management. Trying to defend oneself against a spurious accusation only brought more accusations.

Los Alamos does not need another inquisition. The data do not support the claim that Los Alamos is "troubled." The scientific staff at LANL is exceptionally conscientious, professional, honest, and patriotic.

The nation does not need to hear more from an ungrateful and arrogant media culture that thumbs its nose at those people who work to defend it from harm. Journalists fool themselves into thinking they perform some national service when all they do is stir up trouble so they can profit from selling the accounts of it.

Doug Post drafted a scholarly review of the record of Los Alamos in the scientific community. The review should be presented at least as one of the reports referenced on the right magin. The report is an LAUR and I'll ask Doug for permission to post same.
Never forget, nobody ever flunked out of journalism and went into physics or engineering!
Noboby ever flunked out of journalism period. I'll bet few of the really great journalists ever took journalism in college anyway.
Didn't Al Gore flunk out of divinity school before he transfered to journalism school? But then again, that was a good way to keep your student deferment during the Viet Nam war.
Actually, there's a highly credible possible LANL director who didn't exactly "flunk out" of journalism, but did abandon it (more precisely, English) in favor of astrophysics: France Cordova, current Chancellor at UC Riverside and a former (and highly distinguished) LANL TSM. From a news release on France a few years ago:

"She spoke of growing up the eldest of 12 children, earning an English degree from Stanford and then being so smitten by astronomy that she switched gears to pursue a career as an astrophysicist. She spoke of being a woman in a field dominated by men, and of rising to become NASA's top scientist."

Personally, I'd accept France back here as Director in a heartbeat, but my impression (based on no inside knowledge whatever) is that she's not interested. This, in fact, brings up an interesting question: If not Kuckuck, then who? People with both the stature and the skills to do the Director's job right aren't exactly a dime a dozen any more, and most of the ones who do have the tools don't seem to want the job.
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