Nov 8, 2009

Comment of the Week


A while ago when Frank asked me if I would help him run his current instantiation of the LTRS blog, I initially said "Hell No!" When he asked again later I basically repeated the previous answer. But then I began to think about it, and I realized that I was still interested in the changes that were going on at LANL, even though I no longer work there. After all, I grew up in Los Alamos and worked at the lab for 20 years.

So I finally agreed to do this Comment of the Week feature. I saw reviewing the hundreds of comments posted here each week as an opportunity to track the impact of all the changes being imposed at LANL. It's a bit of a masochistic process, given the frequent illiterate, virulent, and sometimes just plain mean-spirited "contributions", but reading them all does provide a general insight into what the environment is like at LANL these days.

This week's COW highlights one of the more significant changes at LANL that I've observed since NNSA and LANS took over: a much diminished level of respect that is constantly being demonstrated by DOE, the NNSA, and LANL management towards lab employees. Our COW below is the last in a series of comments on the For the Love of Sex and Money post, in which drug testing at LANL is being discussed. I believe the point is well made that NNSA and LANS appear to have gone out of their way to implement a drug testing program that was designed to humiliate, as well as screen for drugs.


"Are you saying scientists don't use drugs? Does having a PhD make you immune from making a bad decision? Please enlighten me. "


1.
Are you saying scientists don't use drugs?
There is nothing in 11/7/09 3:01 PM that would state this, either explicitly or implicitly. Please reread it again.

If you'd like to ask a relevant question, it perhaps should be: Which of the recent highly publicized safety or security incidents were caused by scientists using drugs? Answer: None.

Next reasonable question would've been: If a scientist or engineer is using and it interferes with his or her job performance, what do we do? Answer: Test whenever you have probable cause.

Finally, another good question to ask is this: What's the downside of instituting random, blanket pee tests for everybody? The answer: It makes already unhappy people feel abused and humiliated and gives all the more reasons for the best of them to leave.

Calling people in the middle of their workday and demanding that they drop everything and rush to the peemobil to urinate in a cup on queue (remember,
without any probable cause whatsoever) is degrading and demeaning. It makes you feel like a piece of meat, a sheep, and certainly not an respected individual in a respectable organization. I personally know two people for whom the pee tests were the last straw before leaving the lab.

No other scientific institution in the country treats its scientists worse than LANL at this moment. If most of the A and B people leave the lab, the long-term damage to the national security will far outweigh whatever you may hope to achieve with your pee tests.

2.
Does having a PhD make you immune from making a bad decision?
No, it does not. Proof by explicit counterexample: Mike Anastasio and Terry Wallace both have PhDs. Yet, both are responsible for countless bad decisions.

3.
Please enlighten me.
This appears to be a tall order.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, peeing in a cup is just another way for LANS management and the DOE in general to keep scientists under their thumbs. Polygraph testing is another. Random rules, shoes that grip, lack of respect, management by fiat etc. Is it clear yet what is valued? You will comply.

Anonymous said...

Peeing in a cup at least has some chance of getting the answer in a quantitative fashion. They only test half of the sample. The second half is kept in case the first test shows some problem.

On the other hand, the polygraph is totally subjective. Most of the polygraph technicians are poorly trained.

Anonymous said...

"A while ago when Frank asked me if I would help him run his current instantiation of the LTRS blog, I initially said "Hell No!"

Just my opinion, but I wish you had moved on elsewhere. With you Doug, this blog is much more negative than with Frank.

Yes I know, it's not my blog & Frank can do as he wishes. I’m just expressing my opinion.

From my perspective, with Frank there were posts other than just some BS about LANS.

I enjoyed the post dealing with Arms Control/NP, DOE/ NNSA, the future of the NWC, etc. But this constant blither about LANS has made this blog only laughter to many. Just how many ways can you say I don’t like LANS? Most of these posts are simply inane or trivial.

I’m nearing the end of my career in the NW business but I still visit other NWC sites & I can say that others like me find this blog nothing more serious than a “laugh of the day”.

As for the idiot who does not agree with drug/polygraph test, I guess he's never really had his hands on a bare HMX NE with det cables hanging out.

Anonymous said...

How can you tell a polygraph tec is "poorly trained" when every scientific study concludes the polygraph theory is bogus? The only purpose of the polygraph is to intimidate staff and show them that the DOE/NNSA/LANS can destroy them whenever it pleases. Remember the Iraqi Hussein's and Stalin's technique of picking somebody at random and killing them?

Anonymous said...

Take a look around you, 4:31, if in fact you actually work at LANL in Los Alamos. It is more negative here with each passing day. It comes as no surprise to those of us who still actually work here that Frank's blog is becoming increasingly negative.

As to just "BS about LANS" being posted here, that's what is in the news. If you don't like reading about LANS' bullshit, don't read the news, or this blog. We won't mind.

Anonymous said...

LANS upper management and NNSA could pee directly into the employees' faces to humilate them, but I suppose that would be considered sexual harassment, and we just had online training in that great big no-no. Therefore, employees are instead constantly harassed to pee into a little cup at a second's notice, else they immediately lose their job.

However, if they did the former rather than the latter, I suspect that would probably be a more accurate indication of exactly how LANS upper management and the NNSA really feel about LANL employees.

Oh, and where, exactly, are the results of that recent LANS morale survey, Mikey? Having second thoughts, are we?

Anonymous said...

4:31 PM, how does the fact that you supposedly held "a bare HMX NE with det cables hanging out" negate any of the arguments in the original post? How does it justify the ongoing humiliation and abuse of the LANL scientists by the management?

Your inability to parse the message and make a logical counter-argument suggests that perhaps a triple installment of the drug test needs to be administered to you ASAP. Drink more water.

Anonymous said...

I still visit other NWC sites & I can say that others like me find this blog nothing more serious than a “laugh of the day”. - 4:31 pm


Yeah, it will be a real laugh riot in a few years when the nation finally wakes up and realizes they have lost all of their nuclear weapons expertise due to LANS and NNSA mis-management.

Until then, there is no need for Congress or the Administration to pay any heed to the destruction and terrible morale at the NNSA "for-profit" labs. Let the corporate pillaging and raping continue.

Oh, and about those high grade explosives with det cables, no one here is a bit impressed with your bravado, 4:31. Try using it as a pick-up at some sleazy bar, but not here. Here, it just makes you look like a clueless jerk trying desperately to look like a he-man.

Anonymous said...

4:31 Kevin? Is that you?

Anonymous said...

11/8/09 4:31 PM - the Blog reflects the morale at LANL these days. Once you realize that, your commentary is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Last time I looked, Mikey and everyone esle on the seventh floor is wearing the yellow strap. I can assure you they don't get a break on that.

Anonymous said...

The drug tests and this blog are actually meant to improve the quality of LANL!

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/11/does-being-said-or-complaining-make-you-smarter.html#comments

Anonymous said...

5:23 pm: "Yeah, it will be a real laugh riot in a few years when the nation finally wakes up and realizes they have lost all of their nuclear weapons expertise due to LANS and NNSA mis-management."

Guess what? The "nation" doesn't want nuclear weapons and doesn't care about "nuclear weapons expertise". Who do you think your supporters are? They may be misguided, but they're our citizens. You're way out there on your own, bucko. Nobody's got your back.

Anonymous said...

"The "nation" doesn't want nuclear weapons and doesn't care about "nuclear weapons expertise"."

Bingo!, this is way LANL and LLNL are in such trouble. No one cares.

Terry said...

I agree that the random drug tests humiliate, but dispute the viability of the conclusion that they were designed that way. The flaw in:
"Answer: Test whenever you have probable cause."
is that "probable cause" can vary with the intent of the finder of same -- i.e., it can be abused for nefarious purposes. The "solution" is random tests, the same reason that TSA frisks 93-year-old grandmothers and lets tattooed, jackbooted 6-foot tall young males pass unexamined. Don't get me wrong -- I'm only identifying the reason, not agreeing it is a good one.

Anonymous said...

LANS has the plan for making LANL grand!

Mike is "The Man" who carries out the plan!

Staff are his fans who give "The Man" a hand!

Strike up the band as LANL says... "I CAN!"

We're #1, the best lab in the land!

Anonymous said...

Hi Terry 4:26 PM,

I have to disagree: When someone's using, pretty soon it becomes noticeable to the coworkers. Now, it is actually your job and duty as a manager to order a test for your employee if you have even a trace of suspicion. Similarly, if you feel your coworker is using, you must report your suspicions to your manager, or call the security team.

What if you saw your coworker taking CREM home? Would you report? I hope you would. Well, the drug use situation is no different.

Anonymous said...

7:22AM:

>"The "nation" doesn't want nuclear weapons and
> doesn't care about "nuclear weapons expertise"."
>
>Bingo!, this is way LANL and LLNL are in such
>trouble. No one cares.

This statement is hopelessly naive. Even if we agree that we do not want to design new weapons (I don't want new ones), you would probably agree that we want to have the expertise to enforce a strong regime of nonproliferation. This requires having people who know what to look for. "Nuclear weapons expertise" doesn't simply mean expertise in making new weapons -- it also means knowing what to look for in identifying activities and objects that are relevant to NWs in general. This is a more complex task than simply chasing after high-z materials.

However unhappy it might make people of certain ideologies, it is hard to argue that a strong stance towards nonproliferation does not require a fundamental expertise in nuclear weapons. From "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu:

"So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.

If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.

If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself."

Anonymous said...

"This statement is hopelessly naive."

Indeed, but than again so are most people in Congress.

Anonymous said...

Actually 11/9/09 9:47 PM, you can submit letters to your managers indicating that people are using and they will get tested. Works everytime. So if you really dislike someone, you could make their life quite miserable.

Anonymous said...

Mikey looks like he's using.

Anonymous said...

The lab has a good drug program. If someone is offended by drug testing, they are welcome to leave. I am happy to see the lab is ambitious about getting rid of users. If the price for that is that some people leave, so be it. Have a good life.

Anonymous said...

11/10/09 9:00 PM, you are correct.

Anonymous said...

Actually 11/9/09 9:47 PM, you can submit letters to your managers indicating that people are using and they will get tested. Works everytime. So if you really dislike someone, you could make their life quite miserable.

11/10/09 9:00 PM


Well, LANS simply hates all of us. So, they are testing all of us, to make our lives "quite miserable".