Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green Mountain Daily and Me

Today, in the Green Mountain Daily, Ms. Maggie Gundersen made several statements about me which are not true.

My first idea was to ignore these statements. However, my friends told me that a charge un-answered is a charge believed. Okay. I'll answer.

My second idea was to answer the statements by leaving a comment on the Green Mountain Daily site. Unfortunately, you have to create an account on that site in order to post a comment. In other words, you have to give Green Mountain Daily your email address, get a password, etc. Setting up such an account is usually considered to be "opting in" to mailings from a web site, and becoming an addition to the site's mailing lists. Most people believe you should only set up such accounts with websites you trust. Since the latest Green Mountain Daily posting is filled with lies about my affiliations and background, I don't trust the site. Obviously, I chose not to set up an account.

Please note. I am not accusing Green Mountain Daily of mis-using their email lists. I am simply saying that I don't personally trust them, and I don't want to be on their lists.

So I had a third idea: answering the charges on my own blog and hoping Ms. Gundersen reads it. That's what I am doing here.

Lies and Truth

So. What did she say? Material in italics is written by Ms. Gundersen.

Finally, pro-nuke blogs from around the country, led by Vermont's own Nuclear Energy Institute's connected Yes Vermont Yankee, also jumped in to condemn the NRC meeting with the Intervenors.

Pro-nuke blog Yes Vermont Yankee is written by an industry insider who makes her money working for the industry as does Rod Adams with his Atomic Insights. Although they all portray themselves as independent concerned citizens, all receive income from the nuclear industry and are part of an online group that spreads the same biased (sic) throughout the country. Like the Vermont Energy Partnership, these blogs are heavily connected to the lobbyists and nuclear industry groups of which they claim to have an unbiased opinion. [Don't believe what I say, do the research yourself via SourceWatch and Google.]

Some General Issues

Where to start on Gundersen's assertions and lies?

Insider: I like the "insider" statement, so I will start there. Yes. I am very knowledgeable about nuclear energy. Does this make me an "insider" or an "authority"? You can guess the word I would choose.

NEI: Gundersen says I'm connected to Nuclear Energy Institute. No. I have no connection with Nuclear Energy Institute, beyond having their blog on my blog roll and having visited their offices once. They served some coffee, as I remember. (Maybe Ms. Gundersen is confusing Nuclear Energy Institute with EPRI. I was a project manager at EPRI, a research institute, and I am proud of it.)

Connections: I am not sure what Ms. Gundersen means by "heavily connected" to the industry. Does "heavily connected" mean that I read blogs and have friends? That I used to work in the industry? All true, and nothing I am hiding. (My blogger profile is a pretty good summary of my background. ) Perhaps Ms. Gundersen would like to be described as "heavily connected to anti-nuclear groups"? Sounds kind of sinister, doesn't it?

Sourcewatch and Google: I'm not on SourceWatch, and Googling me shows boring stuff about this blog and my company, Carnot Communications. However, there is a Meredith Angwin who lives in Australia, used to work for IBM, and visits Thailand. When I Google myself, I find her. I think she leads a more interesting life.

Down to the Real Issue: Do I Get Paid?

I'm not paid to blog. I'm not paid by the industry. Gundersen is simply lying about this. No possibility of just having made a mistake. (Nuclear Energy Institute versus EPRI could be a mistake.)

I do not "receive income from the nuclear industry" except for an occasional free-lance writing job for Fuel Cycle Week. These small freelance gigs add up to less than $1500 a year. This is not a major part of my income.

Ms. Gundersen also accuses Rod Adams of being an insider and "receiving income." Rod is a Naval Officer and unpaid nuclear blogger. He writes for Fuel Cycle Week on occasion and probably makes about the same amount of money I do. I know Rod pretty well, and he has no other income from nuclear.

Gundersen Gets Paid

Mr. and Mrs. Gundersen are heavily connected to anti-nuclear groups. (Hmm. I might enjoy writing this way. Live and learn...) Mr. Gundersen used to be paid by the New England Coalition. Now, Mr. Gundersen gets lucrative contracts on Vermont legislative panels, where his main activity is attacking Vermont Yankee.

Mr. Gundersen's going rate in Vermont is $185 to $300 an hour, according to public records. Unfortunately, though the contracts are public records, they are not easy to access. However, I was informed of Gundersen's rates in emails from the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) and the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office. The Joint Fiscal Office also sent me a copy of their contract with his company, and I think I might be able to find the DPS contract if I were willing to spend more time on it.

Okay. I will also admit to finding these contracts a little weird, because Gundersen is not a Licensed Professional Engineer, and I thought that state governments were required to hire Licensed Professional Engineers for engineering assessment projects.

At any rate, we see that anti-nuclear activists often make a living at activism. Sometimes, like Gundersen, they make quite a good living.

In Contrast to Mr. Gundersen...

I don't have a job in nuclear. I don't get paid for blogging. I receive trivial amounts of money for writing occasionally for Fuel Cycle Week.

I think the Gundersens should follow my lead, and simply do everything they do---for free. They should aim at true purity of purpose.

Or maybe, just maybe, they should do whatever they want to do and earn money from people who will pay them. You know, it's a free country and all that.

However, they should also stop lying about how other people earn money, what institutions other people are associated with, and so forth. Instead, they should spend some time putting their own rather questionable (professional engineer? anti-nuclear guru?) house in order.


Jason Ribeiro said...

Great post Meredith. It should also be noted that is not an objective source of information AT ALL. Anyone can create an account on that site and say anything. In fact, because it is open to everyone, the site has degraded into a soap box platform for all kinds of groups to smear one another.

Here's my disclaimer. I think I've made a total of $80.00 selling a few t-shirts and mouse pads with a design I created that says "Real Environmentalists Support Nuclear Energy" from the blog. If I wanted make money with a blog I should have chosen to write about celebrities. Silly me.

Edward Kee said...

Excellent post!

Greg Molyneux said...

Excellent work taking Maggie Gundersen to task point by point. It's easy to make lazy and casual assumptions that align to bias, and it seems that's all Maggie did.

Regarding registered accounts: From a UX (User Experience) perspective signing up for an account only makes sense in the context of whether or not a user has value and incentive of returning and participating in a site (i.e. Facebook or Twitter). On this fundamental principle alone I think it is generally a poor decision for blogs because it eliminates most potential counter points from ever occurring in the comments. And what use is that? As you explained Meredith, what user wants to sign up for a site they really do not care for?

Keep fighting the good fight.

donb said...

Meredith Angwin wrote:
My second idea was to answer the statements by leaving a comment on the Green Mountain Daily site. Unfortunately, you have to create an account on that site in order to post a comment. In other words, you have to give Green Mountain Daily your email address, get a password, etc.

You can always open an e-mail account on Yahoo, Google, etc, and use it to sign up for the Green Mountain Daily site. If you start getting too much unwanted trash, you can then just shut it down, or ignore it for a month to two after which time it goes away by itself.

Meredith Angwin said...

Hello Jason, Edward, Greg and donb,

Thank you for the support!

I wanted to add a few words about commenting at Green Mountain versus posting on my own blog.

First, I agree with donb, and I could have started a new account under a different name and commented on the Green Mountain site.

However, that would have been a certain amount of trouble. Also, if you look at the comments on my post about the strontium in the fish (It's the Nukes What Gets the Blame), you see that one of my readers tried to post at Green Mountain without success. Furthermore, after Gundersen's latest post went up, another person emailed me that they had tried to post a rebuttal at Green Mountain, also without success.

Therefore, attempting to comment at Green Mountain looked like a poor use of my time. I would need to start a new email account, but posting to the site still might not happen.

More important, perhaps, is Greg's note. Greg is right. The requirement to have an account before posting discourages people from posting, and limits diversity of opinion on the site.

KitP said...

I will be happy to confirm that neither Meredith or Ron Adams are not nuclear professionals. This not intended as insult just a fact.

Nuclear professionals understand that we are fairly held to a high standard for operating nuke plants. It does not matter how other industries do things. TMI and Chernobyl are examples of avoidable events that remind us of the need for those high standards.

Keeping talking about the excellence of nuclear plant performance. Avoid the temptation to fight unimportant battles. There is great story of improving performance. Meredith is correcting the record about something that really does not matter and not talking about how much electricity VY is producing today.

Anti-nukes like personal attacks. Do not play that game.

Karen Street said...

Re pay vs working for the public, I just spent time today typing up quotes from the excellent Risk and Culture by Douglas and Wildavsky. From page 169,

The label “public interest group” is more than merely convenient; it is also flattering. It suggests that these groups are pure (their interests are public, open, and shared) in contrast to other groups presumed to be impure (behind their public advocacy lies their privates interests). Each claims to place general public interests, such as health, safety, and proper procedure above particular private interests. This elevation serves them well. At once they are able to disclaim selfish motives, such as direct pecuniary gain, while advancing policies to use public money upon what Inglehart would call their postmaterial preferences. Whether the seeking of power, status, leadership, and personal visibility belongs to a higher moral plane than seeking better wages and profits we do not judge; but on a principle we challenge clams to extra holiness.


I really hate to give ideas to the other side, but like you, I like to play the "here's what they'll try next" game.

After your spirited ( and 100% righteous) defense of your integrity, you can expect the Gundersen howlers to start calling you an "Industry shill".

The very word "shill" has a shrill slang menace to it, and even those ignorant of its dictionary meaning can instinctively surmise what it means, imagining some cigar-smoking , unkempt, greasy-faced fat guy wearing arm-garters and a gambler's green eyeshade, trying to convince 12-year-olds to buy some alcoholic laudanum-laced potion at a carnival somewhere, all to help the other greasy fat guys down at Entergy central, in the Tennessee Williams neighborhood of New Orleans.

"Shill" is such a powerful weapon, just on its sound alone, that the howlers who hurl it won't even have to know anything. In fact "Shill" substitutes for a reasonable argument, and permanently renders the honest words of an innocent speaker into strontium laced lies, direct from Jay Thayer.

Its the cult of demonization at work, with its most powerful juju spell.

There have been others through the centuries...


shill (s̸hil)
1.the confederate of a gambler, pitchman, auctioneer, etc. who pretends to buy, bet, or bid so as to lure onlookers into participating
2. a person who works energetically to sell or promote something

I have the greatest admiration for your principled stance. However, expect the mudslinging to get will.


Meredith Angwin said...

Karen, Kit and G Murphy

Thank you and I agree with all of you. Actually, I agree most strongly with Kit. If you remember, my first reaction was not to answer at all. Some of the charges were so ridiculous: "we portray ourselves as independent concerned citizens." We ARE independent concerned citizens, but we also portray ourselves as pro-nuclear advocates. Words to that effect are on our profiles, and our profiles are visible on every blog post.

I'm still not sure if I should have answered this. The option I thought of first, was...ignore it. But friends suggested this was a bad idea, and frankly, It is hard to be lied about in print and make no response. I hope I haven't gotten myself into a bind, here, though. There are a ton more important things to blog about VY. As Kit says, the real story is how much power it produces for our state and neighboring states!

And one of the problems of answering is simple: let's say she comes back with an even more outrageous attack: "Meredith and Rod not only are paid BIG BUCKS, but they LIE about it and they MURDERED THEIR GRANDMOTHERS!"

If I don't answer the new charges, she will crow that I have no answer, she finally found the real dirt. If I do answer, I will be involved in a mudslinging contest that will take my time, energy and perhaps most important, blog space.

Whatever she says next, I think this post has to be the end of it, for me.

David said...

Hi Meredith

Your reply was both needed and well done. Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) play to the benefit of those complaining about something. Failure to address those issues leaves swing voters at least hesitant to be involved. This is a battle with a real win-loss effect. The plant will shut down or continue to provide electricity.

The object of lying about you is not personal - but political, cause hesitation for those who would support your position. Yes, VY produces wonderful electricity but according to many people so will wind, waves and sunlight. Non-technical people will not be able to discern what the difference is, but having a vocal advocate who is NOT paid, will swing them in support. Your integrity matters.