Friday, June 03, 2005

The role of the Public Affairs Office at LANL

From Anonymous:

Doug, an interesting dialog on the role of the Public Affairs Office at LANL has begun in the

thread. Could you elevate John Bass's comment of 10:03 PM to a top level post?


I'd like to say something about the comment:

"But again, I think that Public Affairs dropped the ball. The rumor mill was already winding up before they said anything at all. Then they don't tell the whole story either. They made it sound less sever than it was. I also agree that some of the news about LANL is sensational - but we can't seem not to be in the news either."

I work in Public Affairs.
As long as I've been reading the blog I've seen lots of comments about PA (not PR) "dropping the ball" and engaging in all kinds of "spin-meistering." I'll address that only with regard to the above comment.

What does "dropping the ball" mean beyond shoulda, woulda, coulda? The only thing we can do when we take a call from the media is relay the facts.
The majority of us have journalism backgrounds, and we are conditioned from the beginning of our education not to engage in speculation. We aren't the ones who say we downplay anything. Someone else does that.

The media will believe what they want to believe about LANL and form their own conclusions, no matter what we tell them. It's a herd mentality, and for us it's based on all the bad press we've accumulated since Wen Ho Lee. If you think they'll remember good things and the good science when there may be more manure to pile on the heap, then you don't know media.

Do they do it intentionally? A few do; others do and honestly don't know they are doing it, and a precious few are indeed professional and balanced enought to know what they are doing. But, they ALL want the story, and it's from that point unfortunate delineations begin. Most all have short memories while others, depending on their personal preferences (or agendas) have longer ones. Take a bunch of facts, throw them in a shaker along with hazy impressions, preconceptions, a pinchof a response from the subject and shake it all up. You tell me what you get. I l'll tell you it's different every time. You can only do your best to get your side of the story out.

It's a problem PA addresses every day. There aren't simple solutions and proceedures to "fix" the situation, It takes time, and a lot of "one step forward, two step back."

"They don't tell the whole story."
Consider this: What DIDN'T they use that we DID give them.

The people I work with are very experienced, very good at their job and have the best interest of the Laboratory's employees in mind when it comes to doing their job. I wish I had spent most of the years in newsrooms with the same caliber of people I work with. It's real easy to say "PA should do this." That's easy from the outside when you don't have the facts and other considerations of an issue, and don't have to make the decision.

There have been some pretty snarky comments about some of the PA people in the blog. Do you know them...personally? When you have a camera or a microphone in your face...well...ask somebody who had to do it on an easy topic, like their science. Think it's easy?

The Lab is a target because of what it is. Think Manhattan, it started there. It's a source of pride for us, massive hate from the activists, and something more ulterior to others. Some of our detractors are in bed together with each other with one objective in mind - GET LANL. That, by the way, is NOT a comment about those involved in the competition. No where near them.
You know who I mean. They want "Saved the world from nuclear danger" on their headstone. Symbols are very big to them.

We get the headlines because we are, have been and will continue to be the target because we are the symbol. Does anyone really think that anyone or anything OTHER than the people who do the work here will really solve the problem?

Ya'll give me a call, anytime.
John Bass
Broadcast Media Specialist
Public Affairs Office

Thanks for the excellent post John. I personally think PA did their job regarding this recent incident. I'd rather it wasn't released at all, but if it has to be, I'm not sure how it could have been done better.

However, I think there are very real concerns about the integrity of Roark and the PA folks supporting him. I can recall many statements from him that were nothing short of complete lies. For instance, stating in February that the lab is 100% up and running when in reality most of DX was still not able to do work. Or when he was repeatedly asked throughout the stand-down whether the lab was concerned about an increase in retirements. His reply was literally to laugh off the question. He stated that it was all false rumors started by a 'very vocal minority'. I especially remember a day when I came in and read the morning news and Roark stated that Nanos was not at all worried about retirements. Then, about 10am I get an email from my group leader asking all people who are considering leaving, either through retirement or for other jobs, to email him so that Nanos can have an accurate tally.

These are just a few examples of the propaganda that Roark has spewed at the media. With this level of prior deceit, why would anyone in the media believe anything lab PA has to say?
John, I also appreciate your comments. However, there is a reason that Jim Fallin is known as "Baghdad Bob", and Kevin Roark is "Comical Ali". They have repeatedly been observed mouthing outright lies. "The blog is the home of a just few highly vocal malcontents..." being just one example.

Now, maybe they were told to express warped versions of the truth by Chris Harrington, but regardless of the reason their credibility is shot. Their integrity is also in question.

Let's also not forget that it was "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin's decision to begin censoring the reader's forum section of the NewsBulliten during last year's shutdown.

PA does not have a good image at LANL these days.
I remember back when PA staff proudly wore tee shirts that said "No spin, no lies". I'd like to see those days (and shirts) back again.
During the days, weeks and months of the shutdown, it was a huge disappointment to observe the Public Affairs Office serving as the mouthpiece of Nanos and helping him to promote his inaccurate and completely dishonest version of the events that he used as his excuse to shut us down last year. And then, as if this was not bad enough, Jim Fallin had the gall to institute a censorship policy on the one venue where is was sometimes possible for LANL staff to post dissenting views -- the Reader's Forum. That one act alone was probably responsible for the blog having been created.

John Bass may indeed be that rarest of all rarities -- an honest LANL PA spokesperson, but some of his co-workers are provably not.
Isn't it interesting how so many Lab organizations these days appear to lack any semblance of integrity? Consider the horrible reputations of HR, OMBUDS, Legal, Public Affairs, Audits/Assessments, Procurement. So what's the common denominator with all of these orgs?--Rich Marquez. Nanos is gone but Rich Marquez, his hatchet man, stays? How brilliant can Kuckuck be, really?
The problem with PA is their role, which is provide a screen, not information. They confer "deniability", which has come to be prized at LANL. They know what they are told, and that is frequently incomplete and spin. They then, for good wages paid, spew it forth. They don't have to do this; they choose to.
And, from media folks that I know, they rag on the media, and threaten them with denial of access, if they don't like their coverage.
Truth is not their objective, control of public opinion is. That is the nature of the beast.
How about this for a solution? Get rid of PA, and put the info on the Lab's web site. The Occurrence Reports were once public, now they are hidden. Why? Hiding such information serves to keep the truth is short supply, and we are left with flacks, who get their feelings hurt, apparently. If they want to work for "trust and openness", let them work on making the lab more open, and their own role smaller. Until then, they are just an ugly part of the disinformation campaign.
I remember when LANL didn't have such folks.
For those of you who secretly stashed the Nerdsletter, go look up Wayne Dickman. It was perfect satire of PA and the person who from time to time makes statements on behalf of LANL, denying that everything up to and including gravity exists.
I don't know John Bass, but he works with a bunch of dishonest, untrustworthy people.
I am frequently contacted by reporters to get the "real" story. They express nothing but frustration at LANL PA. Nor are the ones I know out to get LANL. They simply know a story when they see one and are trying desperately trying to get some info. As a result they have a long list of names of employees they call in an effort to get the real story.
And I have to say that I am very grateful for the press coverage of LANL. I often learn the real story the phone calls I get from the press. I think a strong dose of truth would cure a great many problems at LANL. LANL's real problem isn't the press, it is the fact that it has become a political football.
Hiding the safety reports just shows, LANL isn't proud of its safety record. Gee, how could that be? Could it be that they aren't reporting everything they should be? If our published safety record is so great, why do they have to hide the accident reports? Why did they get so upset when Brad Holian published the real information? Hmmmm.
As a reader, I can't help but automatically give a great deal more credibility to John Bass, who signed his name, than to the people trashing him and his colleagues, who did not sign their names.

For the record, I have many times in my 15 years as a working journalist written stories that pissed off folks at the lab, and I have *never* been threatened with denial of access as a result. I'm not saying it doesn't get testy at times - that's the nature of the beast. But please. Anonymous gossip is cheap, but if you're gonna question your colleagues' integrity, name names and sign your own.

- John "signing his name" Fleck
Maybe we shouldn't be giving PA such a hard time - they aren't directly involved in the events that they have to report on, and ususally have to rely on what they're fed by other organizations. Just remember that PA guys don't always get all the facts, or even accurate facts, before they have to go out and face a hungry and sometimes antagonistic media that believe they already have all the facts they need and just want a good quote to go along with it.
Okay, here is a concrete question for PA. Back in March we were promised some sort of official report on how so many issues of Physics Today with Brad's piece came to be missing from the laboratory mail. Where is it?
Hey, John (Fleck). I understand you getting hot under the collar over your fellow media colleagues getting flayed. You should know that most of us at LANL do not feel that the entire PA office is lacking in quality, but that there are two or three who have displayed outright dishonesty during this past year. Those individuals now are being taken to task for their performance, and rightly so. Whether you believe that the veil of anonymity is still necessary for LANL employees who wish to express views that are critical of LANL management is another issue. You have the luxury of working elsewhere, with the freedom to use your name that not working for LANL gives you.
There are many professionals in Los Alamos Public Affairs. Bass is certainly one of them. However, in the N*N*S era laboratory news was engineered more than it should have been in a public institution. The architects of this new strategy were imported specifically to engage in "image management" for the benefit of the director, not the institution. Remember, the institution after all was full of buttheads and cowboys. The heroic director, white knight that he was, was going to drain the swamp. Local reporters including John Fleck remained stoically silent in the face of the tyranny that daily was being perpetrated, sustained, and condoned under their very noses. Isn't it amazing that at much greater distances reporters in the national printed media, e.g., the New York Time, Physics Today, and Aviation Week responded the abuses in stark contrast to the silence of the local press. Possibly, the Los Alamos Monitor in particular needs to change its name for it sold its soul to the image makers across the canyon.
Pardon me John but reporters like yourself have lived their entire lives on outfall from anonymous sources. Have you not heard of Deep Throat for example? So givet us a break. Your fortissimo is exposing your strategy. Nothing is as effective in your profession as buying a future scoop by loudly defending a spotlighted source today. It's a game. The news is a poor player that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Well, that's something like Hamlet might have said it.)
Hello again all,

Imagine my surprise to see that my post had been elevated to "top story." I didn't see that one coming. I began to think my mother had a hand in writing parts of the posts.

There are some comments in the reply posts that I have to reply to. Many of them I expected to see.
I am not going to second guess editorial content and timing of statements coming from PA over the past year. To be honest, some of them have made me blink hard and do double-take as well. Nor am I going to address the characterizations of Jim Fallin and Kevin Roark and the actions and statements they have made.
You want to go off tangent to the truth and timing of their statements, why not give them a call and take it up with them directly.

Keep in mind..PA is in a position where it can only advise. What happens after that, I'll leave for you all to speculate. PA doesn't make policy, we work for the same people who do and they make the rules. Like it or not.

I could bail out of this whole thing by saying the decisions and statements made in the postings were "above my pay scale," or the issues were "above John's level" as one PA staffer said (which, to me, was a personal insult). My concern is with the negative characterization all of us are getting in PA, the worker bees.

When I came here, the "No lies, no spin" logo/legacy of then PA DIrector Scott Duncan was the one thing that made me feel good about leaving news and coming to the here. But, I did come here with eyes wide open. I fully expected and did see variations-of-theme that changing situations and priorities dictate. That's the way things are everywhere. If you want to live in Perfect...go watch the TV commercial.

To 10:18:11 who suggested PA "provides a screen," confers "deniability," threatens "denial of access," seeks "control of public opinion," and further suggests getting rid of PA and putting info on the Lab's web site I say: What planet are you on?

Screen is a less valid word when you consider the reading into a story of elements by media despite the facts we give them.

Deniability? One of PA's biggest frustrations has been watching the Lab figurativley turn it's back and wait for the media to "just go away." It did this a lot in the past, pre Nanos.
Contrary to your perception, this drives PA absolutely nuts. If you have an issue you deal with it promptly. There are examples of Public Affairs practices by private and public entities nationally that have shown that accountability, even "falling on the sword" if you have to, will make damaging issues go away quickly. Even the news media will tell you that "cover up" is the shortest route to disaster.

Threaten? Threaten what? The media can tell us to kiss off anytime and then go do whatever they want. We HAVE to develop the best working relationships with them we can and, whether you want to believe this or not, have an honest dialog.

Denial of Access? I believe I did do that once to Tom Joles after a story he was suckered into covering by Greg Mello back in '98. It wasn't just me, but everyone up here for a long time held KOB persona non grata. It was a long time ago.
That's an example of an extreme caseand it rarely happens. But, you're not going to sit back and say "Shucks, guys. You really got us on that one." Can they come up and do stories now? Absolutely, without question, and that even means Joles if he wants to make the trip.

Control of Public Opinion? That's the best one yet. In northern New Mexico, near Santa Fe, near Taos? I've gotten better and more extensive press on Lab stories in other states.

To the poster who said "I don't know John Bass, but he works with a bunch of dishonest, untrustworthy people," I say: How dare you paint such a broad brush on all of the people in PA. I meant every damn word when I said I wish I had worked with such a caliber of people in all the newsrooms I have been in. I spend at least eight hours a day with them and consider them friends whether I agree with what and how they've done their job or not. Prove to me you know people in your group as well and wouldn't say the same thing. Prove to me I couldn't dig up a bunch of hearsay about yours or any group in this Lab.
Get the point?

Finally, to the poster who said I've lived my entire life on outfall from anonymous sources, I'm sorry, I didn't see you standing there judging my entire life. Few sources are anonymous, unlike the posters on this blog. You show me your resume' in this arena and I'll show you mine.
Your portrayl shows a far greater understanding of preconception as opposed to actual fact when it comes to journalism. Having taught Journalism (back in the early 80's) I can tell you that its face has changed and mophed beyond recognition from when I studied it (in the 60's) to the pale spirit it is now. Much like your overtheatrical prose. Would I want to go back now? Not a chance. On top of being too old, too ugly and too principled (at least in my own mind) I wouldn't want to be part of something I know I wouldn't respect. Feel better now?
So, your point is....

John Bass
Broadcast Media Specialist
Public Affairs
To John Bass; just what is wrong with putting information on the LANL web site; e.g. the occurrence reports and such, which were on the web site at one point. You didn't address the question, you simply came back with; "what planet are you on"? That is bull shit. LANL is run on tax dollars, and the citizens have a right to know what is going on with their taxes; a right you seem intent on denying. It seems that the more folks PA adds, the less information gets out. Put the info on the web, as it once was, and get out of the way. We don't need you to interpret it. You are part of the problem, not the solution.
Or, if you are solving a problem, what is it?
This thread is really starting to get ugly. Perhaps before people type anymore responses they should take the time to sit back, cool off and think about what they'd like to say. Then say it respectfully.

I'm a regular poster on the blog. I'm actually glad to see someone from PA post here. Access like that is invaluable to helping the rest of us understand what was going on this past year. The people in PA are our co-workers. While there's quite a bit of very concrete evidence to support the notion that Roark and Fallin have lied, we have no evidence that John Bass or any other member of PA has been a participant. It is highly unlikely that all of them, especially the old-timers, are bad.

Let's not drive people away from this blog by directly attacking them or making highly emotional statements. More analysis, less drama, please.
Who's going to put the information on the web. Do you want to take the time to do it? How is it going to be financed? Who is going to be responsible to whom for it? The mechanism is and always has been PA.

Occurence reports, I don't have a problem with that...let it ride.

And I say again, what planet are you from? Show me you know how public communication works, rather than how you think it works and we'll talk.
Call me anytime. But then, I guess you'd have to use give name.
What's BS is you accusing me of wanting to deny public information, which, on top of being massively ludicrous, makes your planet seem even further out. My resume backs up my qualifications and it's the kind of work I've always enjoyed. Talk to the people in EM&R about the work I've done about getting the word out to the public when things happen. They've seen my goals and they've heard my frustrations.

"It seems the more PA folks add...," Seems, being the operative word. Show me you know the facts about the work I do and the part I play, instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

John Bass
The John "living off the outfall from anonymous sources" in 6/3/2005 09:17:46 PM related to the posting immediately preceding it, i.e., it referred to John Fleck. Like in the case of the recent influx of "Bobs" one should be careful in talking about "Johns" speaking anonymously or not. Before I plunge into the following sermon, I should specific that "the press" in this context does not include PA (or PR). That said, it is the responsibility of the press to speak openly in the defense of those who can't. That fundamental is what "freedom of the press" guarantees are all about. In that regard, I hope that the press will be successful in its long legal campaign to protect anonymous sources. Unfortunately, the local press for reasons that remain a mystery to me chose to keep silent in the face of staff members being scapegoated, punished, fired, isolated, and abused in an organized strategy to suppress those who had the courage to question actions of those in authority who refused to listen to alternate opinions. This silence from local media is and was inexcusable. Before closing, I believe that it is clear that certain elements of PA(or PR), in their defense of the Director's image, were part of that suppression strategy and need desperately to have Scott Duncan's mantra "No Lies, No Spin" inscribed on phylacteries permanently affixed to their arms, foreheads, telephones, and word processors. --30--

Signed: Fan (not his mother or his brother) of J. Bass. Also a fan of S. Duncan, formerly of PA (PR), and anonymous others still in PA ( PR)
John, I appreciate your signed replies (and feel that there is much to be gained in being 'out' instead of hiding behind anonymity).

You expressed the same frustration that I did in a post in a different thread in that PA hasn't always been proactive in responding to claims made by external organizations, especially the media, nor to promote the good work that is being done within our ranks. I apologize that it didn't fully occur to me that PA might be under the same constraints or stress that much of the workforce feel by what I can only term abberant management behavior. Now I see more clearly that the 'current administration', whomever that is at any given time, appears to operate in more of a political administrative fashion than in the support and management of a supposedly non-political scientific organization. In that light, it makes more sense that PA would be subject to or limited by [manipulated seems the wrong word] the administration's policies and whims than serving the greater needs of the laboratory as a whole and providing a clearinghouse for all the news that might be notable or worthy of release.

I completely agree with your statement about treatment by the nearby press but then, New Mexico doesn't strike me as the hotbed of literary excellence in the mainstream media (and I'm not a recent transplant - been here since the early 60s in addition to living abroad and trying to stay in touch with the Los Alamos I missed). I found that people abroad knew more about current and historical events at Los Alamos than people in Albuquerque or Las Cruces or any other state in the union.

Thanks again for your responses, please understand that much of what I might complain about (less good news being released) may have to be ferretted out within the LANL ranks as I assume others have thought that PA would come looking or that someone 'above my level' would naturally be inclined to tout the good work being done and that if I were the one to contact PA, it would be an unwelcome deviation from the chain of command method.
To the anonymous poster who suggested I am part of a tradition of journalists who have "lived their entire lives on outfall from anonymous sources" - you're mistaking me for someone else.

The last time I quoted an anonymous source in the newspaper was 1997. I talk to plenty of people who remain anonymous, whose information helps guide me toward documentary verification and sources I can name, and who provide great insight into my understanding of issues, but whose words never appear in the paper.I just don't quote 'em.

Anonymous sources are used today in the media in two very different ways. One is the whistleblower whose job is at stake. The second is the anonymous spinner who simply wants to avoid accountability for his/her words. The first is important and treasured. The second is far too often abused today.

It's hard to imagine how your critique of my comments, and your questioning the integrity of the "sound and fury" of my words, meets the first test. Why not sign your name? You're not taking shots at lab management. You're taking shots at some schlubb at the newspaper. There have been plenty of things on this blog that meet the first test. That's what has made it great and important. Your words are not among them.

My point was that a very specific accusation had been made - that reporters have been denied access as punishment for unfavorable reporting. My point is simple: in my case, that is not true.

- John "signing his name again" Fleck
John Bass and John Fleck:

Welcome to the blog! Please don't let some of the drama queens' statements get under your skin. The contributions that both of you have already made have provided significant insight into the often elusive world of journalism and have helped the rest of us understand the complexity of the lab's public relations problem. I look forward to further contributions from both of you.
John F:
"Anonymous sources are used today in the media in two very different ways. One is the whistleblower whose job is at stake." You are moving in the right direction here but don't go far enough. Sometimes, it's more than a job that's at stake. Sometimes it is reputations, careers, and lives. Sometimes, it might be the security of this nation whose liberation was initiated by anonymous patriots called "Sons of Liberty." I do wish the Journal, the Monitor, and the New Mexican had been more alert as to what was happening within the Laboratory. A little relief was expected for nearly two years. It would have been welcomed. It did not come. I still find it difficult to describe to you how much of a pressure cooker we lived under. That story was borne by anonymous bloggers, in hallway conversations, and unfortunately finally told in the passing of Todd Kauppila. I am more saddened than angry I suppose that the story was not carried on the front pages of local media. Had it been maybe the last telling would not have happened.
To be fair. I have a good friend who works in PA.... All their best intentions get squashed by UCOP. The dopes in UCOP stayed mum about the tyranny of Nanos and his ridiculous stand down, but they speak up when PA tries to issue news on breaking stories. UCOP wants to squash everything and see if it goes away. UCOP needs to be replaced as badly as we needed to be rid of Nanos. UCOP is made up of a bunch of pussies and bullies. Too many admirals stirring the pot with a stinky finger---and yes that means Foley.
Hello Posters,
Great stuff from everyone beginning with 6/4, 8:17.

The press, ah the local press. It has been my observation that print media have been far better at covering what has been happening at the Lab than the broadcast side. That's almost a given since they have the space. Where print can make a series of phone calls and write a story, broadcast has to make the trek up here with all their gear. That is, when they don't use the same file footage (over and over and over and over...). Albuquerque stations don't have the manpower, basically reporter and photographer combos, to take out of their daily assets for a day to come up here and do stories, unless there's an obvious reason they can't ignore it.
I could make a comment about the over emphasis on crime coverage, but then...I just did.
Even for what WE know are big stories, PA cannot ever guarantee we can get TV up here. We're real happy when they do show up, though.
Tha's one reason Albuquerque's home-town Lab, Sandia, gets more coverage. They're in the same city...right next door. That's just the way it is. I've been working on a way to help improve that situation, though.

I noted an interesiting item on the news yesterday that the number of anonymous sources utilized by the media has dropped by a third in the last 20 years. Essentially, it quit being fashionable. Sunshine laws and protection of sources have proved their worth time and again. The really interesting thing this past week has been watching the sides form up pro and con on the validity of Deepthroat's actions. It's spawned an important question: at what point do things get so bad you have to leave your professional ethic behind and go outside? I'm sure you see the parallels.

I can't answer to the alertness of media with regard to covering Lab issues. John Fleck is in a far better position for insights for print media than I.
I can say not to expect much from broadcast. The reporters wouldn't be given airtime to adequately explore an issue by their producers IF they were willing to spare the crews.
Here's an example: CBS's Sharyl Atkissin's stories about the Lab (don't get me started on her) have been, on several occassions, taken by the local affiliate, Channel 13, and re-edited with a local anchor's or reporter's voice track. It really surprises me that, with everything we've been going through playing in national media, the locals haven't been up here once (about as many times as Atkisson has been up here in several YEARS of stories) to try and do anything on these issues themselves. A few have tried. But just speculating, the dilemma of going against what the "Big Boys" have written would conflict with their tendency towards herd mentality. 8:19's comment about media not being a "hotbed of literary excellence" is very perceptive.
To be fair though, a lot of these people are new to their profession and are still developing their journalistic chops. They do try hard, but not often in the right place.

I hope Fleck doesn't mind if I say, based on observation of his work since I've been here, that he has been the best reporter covering things at the Lab hands down. I know what he's gone through doing stories here, what and who he's had to put up with over the years, and he does the job staright up, fairly and honestly every time. Others in NM media could learn by his example. I don't deal with him on a regular basis but I do hear what others say.
And no, I don't suck up to reporters. That's professionally demeaning.

By the way, when media calls the problems PA faces are not just on the LANL side. You would be amazed at some of their demands, lack of basic knowledge about what the Lab does, our history, and even the issues they are calling about.
In the early days it was called "Rip and Read."
Every caller gets treated the same. But there are some "querys" that really stand out. That's another reason why simply posting information on the Lab's website could really be a dangerous thing.

To 8:19 AM again, that's it. You're right on.
An example is that since WHL, I've noticed a decline in coverage of science being done at the Lab by PA. No finger pointing here, it's a fact. Things in PA tend to ball up in dealing with an issue and it sucks the life away from answering outside requests from media interested in science.
That's going to change. Doing video on new science was what I was hired for and I'll be getting back to doing it more real soon. There are venues out there that would be glad to get this material, and it allows me to document what we really do here besides weapons work. It show what this science and engineering research Lab does, contrary to the perception of us being a bomb factory.

The blog has been a boon to people at the Lab.
The value of human opinion varies widely between the comparison - part of the anatomy/ everyone has one - and as something that is essential to the foundation of Democracy. Even then, it come down to the individual's perception, and that's when things start to get difficult.
As 9:15 said about not letting the drama queens get under my skin...absolutely. Letting your emotions go is the first thing you do. Only after that can you really think, really reason, and deal with the issues and their associated perceptions. It's the emotions, though, that keep us human.

I've had the thought that a couple of the posters are not Lab people and are trying to stir up the pot and formulate from the outside by hiding behind "anaonymous." I think I have a sense of who is and isn't by their postings. To those who would try, don't bother. LANL is an unbelievably important place that serves the entire country...even you.

The blog, indeed, has posters who are malcontent but it wasn't until I started reading it that I realized the level of emotion that existed at the Lab. None of us are that out there. Whether they want their pound of flesh is not as important as the fact that they had a chance to express themselves. PA can only go so far in what it does, and people should have a place to go where they can be heard.
At least being around each other at work and on the blog, can we sense each other as people. That's an advantage our detractors don't have. That's why they'll NEVER be as successful against us as they want.
I do tip my hat to Doug Roberts.

I'm sincerely sorry if I got too preachy.

As I closed in my first post.
Ya'll call me anytime. 5-9204.
John Bass
Public Affaris
To 6:43:06-I agree with some of what you said but I think the perspective is slightly skewed. The fact that PA goes along with the "pu**ies and bullies at UCOP(a point on which we definitely agree)is exactly the act that paints them as the propoganda ministry they have become.

How often do we see the press declaring themselves to be the dogged reporters in search of the truth at all costs only in the end to be shown to be dogs that are on the tight leash of their handlers.

It took a computer scientist named Doug Roberts to stand up for the truth in this matter. Doug risked just as much or more than those who just go along with their handlers in PA. His display of courage and desire to ensure that the truth was told in this forum is one that they should emulate.

Everyone in PA who assisted in concocting and perpetuating the lies told about the CREM incident shares in causing the death of Todd Kauppila. It was this relentless disinformation campaign that placed so much stress on Todd and on me. I witnessed the toll it was taking on Todd every day for the last ten months and it was finally more than he could endure.
So, to all of you in PA, is destroying an honest mans life and reputation worth your paychecks? Todd's reputation is still in tact because of the way he lived his life and served his country. I think the fact that you are still trying to defend your actions here
answers my question and is indicative of the lack of integrity that has become so pervasive in the political segments of the laboratory.

Doug: Todd and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for having the guts to stand up for what is right. There were many occasions when Todd and I discussed the value of this forum.
It gave us a venue in which we could tell the truth in our own words without any filters from the media. For that we are eternally grateful to you.


John N. Horne
I agree with you about the importance and success of the blog---was just stating that PA cannot always release info because UCOP squashes it until it ist the print media, making it look like the Lab is hiding info and covering up. Blame UCOP for this consistent stupidity over the last few years.
John N. Horne said:

"Doug: Todd and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for having the guts to stand up for what is right. There were many occasions when Todd and I discussed the value of this forum.
It gave us a venue in which we could tell the truth in our own words without any filters from the media. For that we are eternally grateful to you."

Doug: I want to add my voice to those of Todd and John as a person from outside the fence. After I retired last July, I thought I would never know what was happening after the shutdown. All I had was the LANL public web page and local newspapers. When I discovered your blog last January, I finally began to learn what had happened to the Lab after I gave up and retired. Sometimes I learned more than I wanted to know, but I'm better of for it.

To Todd and John: Thank you for your courage in standing up for our rights. You are true heros.

Larry Creamer DX-1, Retired
John Bass, and John Fleck:

Thank you each for taking the time to contribute your opinions and insights to this thread on the blog. As John Bass recently pointed out, the levels of emotion LANL employees have been experiencing are quite high, and as a result many of the comments posted here are quite raw in their expression. However, some people are just natural-born drama queens; thanks for recognizing that.

Unfortunately, there is still some venom to be drained at LANL, as there are still unresolved issues. The treatment of Todd Kaupilla and John Horne, for example. Also, unfortunately, there is the fact that PA was complicit in assisting the former Director Nanos in his attempts to cover up the fact of his overreaction with respect to the CREM incident, at the cost of two good people's careers, and in all likelihood, at the cost of one good person's life.

Perhaps the folks in PA should be thinking about how to help remedy these remaining issues.
We evacuated to ABQ during the Cerro Grande Fire and watched the national TV news to see what was going on in our hometown of Los Alamos. To a blow-dried bimbo, the TV news people were there to get pictures of 55 gallon drums of radioactive waste rocketing through the air - destroying the environment. When it didn't happen, they were terribly, terribly, dissapointed and packed up their trucks and went home.

One of them was quoted as saying to a LANL spokesperson, "You were lucky, this time." The network news - all of them, Fox included - has ZERO credibility.
I think that the news coverage of the Cerro Grande fire was one story the media did exceptionally well. I am hard pressed to come up with another example in which such stories were covered "fair and balanced."
Hi gang,

The lively discussion here on the role and many apparent sins of LANL PA has been most informative. And for someone who has been a Public Affairs person for two national laboratories, the comments have been, in many cases, startlingly hurtful. But it's been tough few years for all of us here, and I'll put down the Kleenex box and let it pass. I would, however, like to say a word or two about why PA people such as myself do what we do, and what gives us nightmares.

First, PA folks are here doing this because even though we're not the scientists, we're hugely proud of this institution, what it does, what it has done, and what it stands for. We get up in the morning ready to try and field any and all questions about this place, from whether LANL has alien bodies in storage, to whether the Lab has just made another brilliant advance in detecting smuggled nuclear materials or understanding the AIDS virus. And just about every time we talk with a reporter, we have the same gut-churning, headache-inducing reaction all night, "Will that turn out OK? Did I say that the best way I could? Did I damage the institution by not describing things clearly?"

As John Bass pointed out, we often are laying out evidence of Laboratory excellence in front of an audience that will have none of it. See Congressman Stupak singing our praises? Heck no, although he's held our Palm CZT isotope identifier in his hand, seen demo's of a new biosensor and met great people from here. He, like many of the reporters we get, has a different agenda. But in PA, we get to beat our heads against these walls all day, every day. We look for great examples of our scientists' work to promote, and we drive science writers at the nation's newspapers crazy encouraging them to write about the brilliant work done here. More often than not, a nice little story comes out, "New Widget Shows Promise," and most folks miss it. The stories they notice are those other ones, "Los Alamos Does Something Terrible Again," the stories we tried to deflect, clarify or at least render neutral, and you can bet everyone forwards those to everyone they know.

As for why PA doesn't stand up and give the X or Y version of the truth, when tough times are upon us? We can provide input to the process, we can make recommendations. We can tell senior management when the emperor has no clothes. But we don't get to wing it. We work for the institution and its management, and if they really, really want something said, then it will be said, or PA heads will roll. Being in PA does not give any of its employees a free soapbox on which to state anything we please.

We hope, from the bottom of our hearts, that we will always be the good guys, providing no spin, no lies, and helping lab management keep those thoughts uppermost. We want to be able to read THE TRUTH "off the insides of our eyelids." We work here because this lab is where the good guys work, and we want to be part of that.


Nancy Ambrosiano
Los Alamos Public Affairs
Unquestionably, various folks, ranging from the SVR, to domestic unilateral disarmament fanatics, clear around the world to the ErBu, are reading not only this thread, but, this entire blog.

Just a fact.
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