Nov 20, 2008

Waxman wrestles gavel from Dingell

By Mike Soraghan,

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after House Democrats voted to replace current Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Waxman won 137-122 in the secret ballot vote.

The dramatic intra-party showdown for the coveted position signals a leftward turn for the Democratic agenda. The outcome was a blow to the seniority system and a victory, at least in perception, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Though her aides denied it, many saw the hand of Pelosi in Waxman’s challenge for the post, which conveys great power over how the Democratic agenda of President-elect Barack Obama will be implemented.

Waxman is considered more liberal on issues like climate change, energy and business regulation, and potentially more aggressive on healthcare. Dingell, the longest-serving House lawmaker, is close to the auto industry and autoworkers.

Following the Democrats’ election sweep earlier this month, Waxman, currently the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, challenged Dingell for the top spot on the Energy and Commerce panel, which will be involved in all energy legislation and will also play a major role in Obama’s plans to put in place a national healthcare system.

The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted 25-22 on Wednesday to endorse Waxman over Dingell and the full Democratic caucus voted on the chairmanship on Thursday morning.


Anonymous said...

I would bet this is good. Waxman has some brains.

Dingell has always been anti-science.

Stupak is far worse. Check this out.

“Since the Raelian cult appeared before my committee four years ago, I have said, it is not a question of if cloning would take place; it was only a matter of when,” Stupak said. “If we continue to do nothing, the science fiction nightmares we all imagine will come sooner, and we will have no way to prevent the rogue scientists who bring these nightmare to life.”

Anonymous said...

Good??? Waxman is about as liberal as they come. You think he's gonna support weapon's funding?

Anonymous said...

Waxman may not be as bad as Dingell, but he is no friend to Los Alamos funding...

Anonymous said...

"Good??? Waxman is about as liberal as they come. You think he's gonna support weapon's funding?

11/20/08 5:37 PM""

As I said Waxman has some real brains so I think he will be pro-science, at least for energy science. Dingell does not even beleive in global warming.

Anonymous said...

Waxman is a Congressional-hearing-happy retard.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dingellberry and his little friend, "Shut-it-down" Stuppie, are very upset by this event. They had plans to role out their "Michigan Miracle" economic project to the rest of the country so that every town in America could look like Flint, MI.

It looks like that Weasily Waxman Wabbit has done them both in.

Anonymous said...

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Anonymous said...

Waxman?...humm. Hold tight NWC, my guess is we're about to be downsized even more.

Anonymous said...

Those bad democrats, they don't care about us. On the flip side, just look at all of the fabulous things the republicans have done I mean given us over the last eight years.

Anonymous said...

The finale to the destruction of the NNSA research complex looks like it has begun. Hold your ass tight because it may hurt mighty bad when it hits LANL next year.

How much longer until we see boarded up homes thrown into foreclosure on the Hill? And all of this mess happening while the US falls into what looks like a multi-year depression!

Is there any bright lining inside these storm clouds? Any hopeful news at all? Is LANL really due for more downsizing? What do people think will happen and why?

Anonymous said...

LANL got bloated because St. Pete gave us too much money and the managers hired irresponsibly.
The smart thing to do would have been to recognize that things like SDI, Stockpile Stewardship, etc., would not last forever. Then, you decide on a sustainable staffing level and subcontract out any additional work to industry and/or other DOE laboratories.

There is one downside to this kind of management in the political environment within which we exist: had we done that, then there will be layoffs at Sandia and LLNL when the LANL budget is reduced and we reduce the amount of funding that is sent to those laboratories. Having layoffs at Sandia and LLNL but not at LANL would probably raise a howl and we might get screwed anyway. I speak from experience!

Anonymous said...

Waxman will have our management at his hearings much more than they can imagine, and it won't be good.

Anonymous said...

1:11 PM, you are out of your gourd. Do you have any idea how much trouble it is to ICO work and funding around the complex?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 11/21/08 3:09 PM said...

"1:11 PM, you are out of your gourd. Do you have any idea how much trouble it is to ICO work and funding around the complex?"

I am 1:11 PM. I did not have that much difficulty doing that. I can tell you that it was easier and faster than staffing up with competent experienced people.

Anonymous said...

Waxman Win Is Boon for Environmentalists, Bust for Utilities

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- A wall-sized poster of Earth hangs in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, an image that Chairman John Dingell once boasted showed the reach of his panel.

Dingell will no longer rule the planet. House Democrats yesterday handed the committee's gavel to Representative Henry Waxman, 69, a Californian who promises a different agenda for a panel that touches nearly every sector of business -- climate change, health care, telecommunications and trade.

Energy providers such as Allegheny Energy Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. and polluting industries including carmaker General Motors Corp. and Dow Chemical Co. will be most affected by the leadership shift. Waxman, whose district includes Beverly Hills, has long been at odds over environmental issues with Dingell, 82, a Dearborn, Michigan, lawmaker who during his 52 years in Congress has defended automakers and their unions.

``The champion of the environment has replaced the champion of the automotive industry,'' said Daniel Becker, an environmental lawyer and director of the Safe Climate Campaign in Washington.
Environmental issues have been a chief focus of Waxman's oversight panel, which has taken aim at greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental Protection Agency decisions and coal pollution.

Waxman's win ``signals a sea change'' in congressional efforts to move global-warming legislation, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said. ``It's going to be a big difference in the sense of having a colleague on the other side rather than someone with whom I disagree.

Waxman also is a foe of ``hydraulic fracturing,'' a decades-old drilling technique that environmentalists complain threatens the safety of drinking water. Waxman last year held a hearing on the practice, which is regulated by states, and called for tougher oversight.

Obama has promised to spend $15 billion a year to help private industry develop clean energy technology and to institute a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Waxman's win signals rough times ahead for energy producers, said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, a free-market research group in Washington.

``Waxman is as liberal as it gets, and he's a very effective legislator,'' Pyle said.

For energy providers, Waxman's win creates ``about as hostile a climate as there could possibly be.''

Amid his sometimes-impassioned rhetoric, Waxman has a track record of bipartisanship on the oversight committee, working closely with the top Republican, Representative Thomas Davis of Virginia, on government contracting issues.

Waxman's biggest lifetime donors have been unions and trial lawyers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Dingell's top lifetime contributors were the automotive industry.

Anonymous said...

If you do climate research or clean alternative energy research at LANL then you've probably won the lottery with Waxman as the new Chairman. Unfortunately, that covers only a small percentage of the scientists who work at LANL.

If you work in weapons, then now is a good time to start looking for another job. The weapons side of the house is probably going to be walloped by a frightful amount.

Environmental cleanup at LANL may also do well under Waxman.

Pit production and TA-55 will be put on hold. If you work with plutonium or weapons engineering, then consider your job a dead end from this point forward.

It too early to tell how well non-poliferation will fare under this new Administration. Early indications are that they will be supportive, but it may not pan out.

When all the changes are made we'll see a lab that is much smaller than today. I would think that somewhere around 6000 employees is all that will be needed under this new regime.

Unfortunately, both LANS and NNSA have set LANL upon a course that is diametrically oppose to where this new Administration wants to go. Pits and plutonium science are not what works for LANL going forward.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but this guy looks like - and no pun intended - Porky the Pig.

Anonymous said...

4:51pm is pretty much spot on. Good, honest, sensible post.

Anonymous said...


The return of nuclear history

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned Congress and the next administration that they face a stark choice on the future of the nation´s nuclear weapons capabilities. In a recent speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he said that if the nation wants to remain a nuclear power, it must, without delay, either resume nuclear testing or authorize the construction of new, improved nuclear warheads.

Secretary Gates makes a persuasive case that Congress should overcome its ambivalence about new warheads and authorize a program, advocated for the last few years by the Bush administration, for building a "Reliable Replacement Warhead."

According to the defense chief, the nation´s existing weapons were not designed for long shelf life or easy modernization. After making the large number of changes required to extend their useful lives, the Defense Department would not be able to certify their reliability without new underground nuclear tests.

Rather than resume underground testing - a measure that would raise international tensions and bring domestic protests - it would be wiser to resume nuclear warhead production with a new, more reliable warhead designed for future modernization. The design, suggested Secretary Gates, would allow the weapons to be tested for reliability by computers, without having to detonate them.

As for why the nation should be concerned about its future nuclear posture. Mr. Gates noted that the end of the Cold War has not meant, as some had hoped, the end of international conflict. As author and defense expert Robert Kagan argues in a new book, "The Return of History and the End of Dreams," the new peaceful international order many hoped for after the fall of the Soviet Union has not arrived.

By deterring aggression, American nuclear weapons helped keep the world from facing a third world war during the second half oof the 20th Century. They play a similar role today in deterring the ambitions of rogue nations like North Korea and Iran, and in keeping a balance of forces with Russia and China, both significant nuclear powers. A world in which the United States unilaterally disarmed its nuclear forces would be a far more dangerous place.

Mr. Gates warned that unless action is taken, that could become the case. "Currently the United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead," he said.

Congress must correct that deficiency without further delay.


(Short summary: The return of nuclear history, starts today, November 21, 2008, and the naive dream of zero nuclear weapons in the world, vaporized at the same time.)

(In reality: Nuclear history never vaporized.)

(In summa: Zero nuclear weapons in the world, is zero national security in US.)

Anonymous said...

LOL, 4:15, you do have a point there!

Eric said...

A lot of very useful comments in this thread.


Anonymous said...

Bob Gates may be correct in his assessment, but no one is listening to him. Therefore, no bold action will be taken to fix the precipitous destruction of America's nuclear weapons infrastructure and the scientific decline of our nuclear weapon labs.

The biggest fear of politicians going forward is not national security. It's the sickening decline of our American economy. We are starring into the face of a possible US depression. The next few years are probably going to be historic, but not in a good way.

We're currently living in a period that is somewhat analogous to the decline of America's defenses that occurred after the 1930's economic collapse. US defenses went down in those years even though many experts warned Americans about the dangerous decline of our defense posture. FDR put money in to building bridges and dams and not into military planes and ships.

The 1930's were followed by Pearl Harbor and WWII in the 1940's. Let's hope we don't repeat that ugly part of world history.

Anonymous said...

Dingell Buried

Henry Waxman's victory is the biggest gift Obama could have asked for.

By Christopher Beam
Nov. 20, 2008 - Slate Magazine

...Stylistically, Waxman is a better fit for an Obama-led Democratic charge. He's crazy, but unlike Dingell, he's happy-crazy. Dingell's craziness is darker. He was known for strong-headed, Lyndon Johnson-style political arm-twisting. He leaked dirt about his enemies and fed the news cycle to keep favorable coverage alive. He sometimes went overboard, as with his hearings alleging scientific fraud against Nobel Prize-winner David Baltimore, who was later exonerated, and AIDS researcher Robert Gallo, whose allegations were also dropped. Waxman is tough, too, but in a matter-of-fact, bury-you-with-evidence kind of way. He's a famed tightwad with a righteous streak, but he's not a drama queen. As head of the House oversight committee, he earned the moniker the "Mustache of Justice."

Anonymous said...

Not to sound vicious or mean, but Waxman looks like he could use a really good nose job. He and Barney Frank have got to be two of the ugliest looking men in America. And Pelosi! She has a stone cold face that could crack a mirror!

No doubt, we'll soon be getting lots of quality face time with these politicians on TV. At least Obama is a decent looking fellow, even though his tiny ears stick out a little bit too far and his legs are skinny.

Republicans tend to look more polished. I mean, just get a gander at Mitt Romney. He looks like something out of a Madison Ave ad, a real "Ken Doll". And Tom Delay? He always struck me as a guy who has that evil con-man good looking quality about him.

Anonymous said...

"Pit production and TA-55 will be put on hold. If you work with plutonium or weapons engineering, then consider your job a dead end from this point forward."

Again, TA-55 hosts more than pit production. There is a large non-proliferation component that may appeal to the Dems. Lets also not forget stockpile certification, stewardship, and Pu-238 heat sources for NASA.

Anonymous said...

"TA-55 hosts more than pit production." - 12:26 PM

Correction: 75% of TA-55 will be put on hold.

Anonymous said...

Obama just announced an aggressive 2 year job stimulus plan to create over 2.5 million new jobs by 2011. Of course, what he forgot to mention is that he'll likely be destroying good paying high-tech science jobs at our national labs, like LANL.

You win some, you loss some.

Anonymous said...

America, land of ill-informed citizens and political leaders who are even less educated than the people who elected them to office! ("Is are kids learning?" - GWB)...

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics

Thu Nov 20, 2:24 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.

The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

Anonymous said...

The rumors this weekend are that Obama and the Dems plans on issuing a gigantic $600 billion two year stimulus package to rescue America from massive job losses and economic collapse.

It will be interesting to see if, at the same time as they are doing this huge job stimulus, they also drastically cut high paying jobs at LANL by starving the lab's budget.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Obama's "scalpel" theory, funding the bailout package by cutting the NWC budget is akin to saying you will pay the mortgage on a beachfront vacation home in Malibu by cutting out one visit to Starbucks each week.

Anonymous said...

The average science FTE at LANL costs an outrageous $450 K per year. Think about it for a minute. You can fund nine construction jobs at $50 K per year based on that amount!

The stimulus money will not be spent at LANL. It will go much further if it is used for construction jobs elsewhere, and the politicians know this only too well.

Anonymous said...

12:18, check out the backgrounds of those in congress making the decisions re federal expenditures. It does not appear to be many undergrad or advanced degrees in science or engineering.

Rounded up the following NM bios from various websites:

Ben Ray Lujan - Ben Ray Luján earned his Bachelor's degree from New Mexico Highlands University in Business Administration.

Martin Heinrich - Heinrich earned a Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree from the University of Missouri and has taken several graduate courses in the University of New Mexico's Community and Regional Planning program.

Harry Teague - Attended, High School. Teague dropped out of high school at age 16 to work in the oil fields and eventually started an oilfield services business.

Jeff Bingaman - BA Harvard University, 1965; JD Stanford University, 1968

Tom Udall - Tom Udall graduated from Prescott College in 1970. In 1975, he graduated from Cambridge University in England with a Bachelor of Law degree. That fall, he enrolled in the University of New Mexico School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1977.

Bill Richardson - Richardson received a BA from Tufts in 1970 and a MA from Tuft's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.

Have to keep it in perspective though, a few Feynman quotes:

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts."

"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy."

Anonymous said...

Look at all those politicians who made it to the big time with either JDs and BA's in business!

I get it. They don't want competition for their perk-filled political jobs. Therefore, they tell everyone to go get out and get an education in science and math. Sneaky bastards.

Anonymous said...

"Rounded up the following NM bios from various websites:"

It is better than I thought and better than many of the politicians
from the other states. Did you ever see Tom Delay's bio?

" spent two years as a pre-med student at Baylor University before he was expelled for drinking and vandalism"

"he is estranged from much of his family, including his mother and one of his brothers.[5] DeLay has not spoken to his younger brother, Randy, a Houston lobbyist, since 1996, when a complaint to the House Ethics Committee prompted Tom DeLay to cut his brother off in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.[2]"

"He spent three years working for Redwood Chemical. This work was the source for his nickname "the Exterminator". In the 11 years DeLay ran the company, the IRS imposed tax liens on him three times for not paying payroll and income taxes.[2]"

"DeLay opposes the teaching of the theory of evolution. After the Columbine High School massacre, he entered into the congressional record a statement saying that shootings happened in part "because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup of mud."[36]"

"By the time of his election to Congress, he drank "eight, ten, twelve martinis a night at receptions and fundraisers."[2] In 1985, DeLay became a born-again Christian, and later gave up hard liquor. He has stated that he "was no longer committing adultery by [the time of] the impeachment trial" in 1998.[4]"

"After being indicted on September 28, 2005, DeLay stepped down from his position as Majority Leader. He was the first congressional leader ever to be indicted.[17]"

Anonymous said...

We keep hearing about massive job stimulus planned by Obama, but what will he do with all the defense jobs and how will he and the new Democratic Congress effect places like the NNSA labs? This MSNBC article provides a small glimpse. It sounds like cuts are planned for some parts of the Federal budget:

Obama’s challenge: Stimulus and cut budget - MSNBC, Nov 25

Jump starting economy necessary, he says, as is trimming federal spending

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama named Peter Orszag as his budget director on Tuesday and said his job will be to conduct a thorough review of federal spending programs, "eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those we do need operate in a cost-effective way."

With the economy in crisis, Obama said, "Budget reform is not an option. It's a necessity."

Echoing Abraham Lincoln, Obama added, "I will ask my economic team to think anew and act anew."

Orszag is the director of the Congressional Budget Office, a man who the president-elect said "knows where the bodies are buried."

Obama's focus on careful federal spending marked something of a contrast from Monday, when he declared that restoring the economy to health took priority over the budget deficit. He called on Congress to prepare an economic stimulus program for him to sign as soon after Inauguration day as possible. Estimates of the measure range from $500 billion to $700 billion over two years.

"We are going to have to jump-start the economy ... but we have to make sure that those investments are wise. We have to make sure we are not wasting money in every area," he said Tuesday, defining the two objectives that will guide his economic program.

Obama summed up the challenge Monday.

"The way to think about it is short term, we've got to focus on boosting the economy and creating 2.5 million jobs, but part and parcel of that is a plan for a sustainable fiscal situation long-term, and that's going to require some reforms in Washington," he said during a news conference in Chicago to introduce Geithner and Summers.

"To make the investments we need," he said at another point, "we'll have to scour our federal budget, line by line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices, as well, something I'll be discussing further tomorrow."

Anonymous said...

"..eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those we do need operate in a cost-effective way." (Peter Orszag)

I suggest Mr. Orszag start by examing the wasted $80 million profit fee that is now paid out yearly to LANS LLC (aka Bechtel) for LANL's management.

Before the LLC, it only cost the government about $8 million for LANL's management, of which any left over was given back to the lab. The pension and benefits were well handled, for free, by the vast resources of the UC system.

When you consider the GRT taxes, profit fees, etc, the NNSA LLC decision has increased operating costs at LANL by about $200 million per year, a 25 fold increase!

Begin saving money here, Mr. Orszag. Boot the LLCs out of the NNSA labs and return both LANL and LLNL to non-profit management status.

Stopping burning Federal money needlessly. That wasted $200 million could even help cover for the big weapon budget cuts that are probably headed LANL's way.

This nation can't afford the gold-encrusted LLC management of our nuclear weapon labs.

Anonymous said...

"Look at all those politicians who made it to the big time with either JDs and BA's in business!"

Yes, imagine that. People who are responsible for passing laws and allocating money might have degrees in law or business.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 8:45, while laws cover many areas of activity, it would appear that in the midst of the current economic issues facing the country not many in congress have a background in economics.

"The research by the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy [CEEL], which aims to educate the general public about finance issues, showed that about 14% have degrees in economics-related fields and just 6.7% specifically have an economics degree. More than 30% of members have degrees in politics and government, while 18% majored in humanities.

“It’s interesting that those who are responsible for solving the biggest economic crisis in generations don’t have the educational background to know the difference between commercial paper and copy machine paper,” said James Bowers , managing director of CEEL.

CEEL looked only at undergraduate majors or minors and graduate degrees in economics, business and finance. Law degrees weren’t included in the tally."

Personally, I'm rooting for Mike Mallory to be the next Lab Director. Also encouraging my kid to go to law school.

Anonymous said...

Here's a two page quick stats to the new 111th Congress.

Here is a six page summary for the current 110th Congress put out by the CRS, which will be updated. It has a bit more detail on occupation. Footnote 8 refers to the previous version of the above. Interesting, looks like they had more MDs than scientists and engineers.