Monday, March 31, 2008


Dear God,

I'm still thinking about the March 27 meeting of of the Windham Regional Commission, and I've remembered an interesting moment. Nuclear activist Gary Sachs (who back in December of 2007 at a Windham County forum on Vermont's Energy Future provided another moment of interest by saying a no-no about doo-doo) was called to the front of the room to begin his testimony. At the WRC meeting, rather than stand formally and address both the audience and the panel, he walked directly to one commissioner, leaned down in an intimate style, and whispered something that seemed like it might be obscene in the commissioner's ear.

I thought it was obscene because it clearly made the commissioner uncomfortable. Or maybe it wasn't what Gary said. May the commissioner didn't like how close Gary came to him. Maybe he didn't like being singled out. Maybe he didn't like what a whisper to him alone implied about his impartiality or lack thereof. That last "maybe" might explain why he interrupted Gary, once Gary had begun giving his testimony, to announce the one word Gary had said to him.


Why "trillium?"

Gary's testimony was a hodge-podge of items—about housing prices going up rather than down on the Bailey Peninsula of Wiscasset, Maine when Maine Yankee closed for safety reasons; about the fact that every day at Vermont Yankee, even when safety margins are high, small, deadly quantities of radiation are released; about whether speculations that the price of energy will go up if Vermont Yankee is not relicensed are reliable blah blah blah.

His testimony said nothing about trillium.

So why did Gary whisper "trillium" to the commissioner? Was he referring to trillium reliquum, a herbaceous perennial with whorled leaves? It's in the environment of the Vermont Yankee plant and the NRC commissioned a study, the results of which were reported in January 2004, that looked at Vermont Yankee's effect on it as well as a number of other endangered species. Was Gary hinting that new data show that Vermont Yankee poses a threat to trillium reliquum? (I can find no evidence of that, but it's possible.)

Was Gary referring to Trillium Corporate Communications, the PR firm that has presented Patrick Moore at NRC meetings as a Greenpeace founder whose pro-nuclear industry testimony is impartial--when he is, in fact, a long-standing paid consultant to the nuclear industry?

Was Gary referring to the Trillium Press, whose illustrations for an edition of Dante's The Divine Comedy Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard used in a January 2007 Power Point presentation called "Heavenly Aspirations." In this presentation, Mr. Leonard identified "Non-Regulatory Fleet Issues" that are obstacles to some of Entergy's holy hankerings. Interesting: Of all the plants in Entergy's non-regulated fleet, only Vermont Yankee was identified by Mr. Leonard as having "anti-nuclear groups" issues worthy of mention.

Mr. Leonard's presentation incorporated quotes from a variety of writers. For example, he used Dante's "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate"--or "Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here." He used William Shakespeare's "Fortune brings in some boats that are not steer’d”--though I do hope someone is steering this "boat" of Entergy's. He used John Kenneth Galbraith's "One of the biggest troubles for success is that its recipe is about the same as that for a nervous breakdown." He even used a quote by Jack Paar. I recommend that anyone who wants an inside view of what Entergy's corporate strategy was of January 2007 read this presentation. The entire thing is on the web, or at least it is as of March 31.

But best of all, just like The Divine Comedy, J. Wayne Leonard's January 2007 Power Point presentation listed the Seven Deadly Sins, about which you know, Lord, I am highly curious but largely without experience. (This January 2007 Power Point Presentation was, of course, created prior to the pope's very recent introduction of the New Seven Deadly Sins, which are genetic modification, human experimentations, polluting the environment, social injustice, causing poverty, financial gluttony and taking drugs. By my guess, numbers 1, 3, 4, and 6 of those may be showing up on Mr. Leonard's Power Point presentation next January as something that Entergy does very well.)

Anyway, Lord, I haven't yet figured out what Gary Sachs meant by whispering "trillium" to a commissioner of the Windham Regional Commission but I'm trying to stay ahead of this story. To do so, I must remember:

1—Sachs has an "h," not a "k."
2—To water my plants, especially my trillums, since if they become extinct due to New Sins 1, 3, or 6 I'll be able to sell them on eBay for a killing.
3—Gary might have said "titanium," not "trillium." Or maybe "titillation" or "tether ball." I'm not actually sure.



Friday, March 28, 2008

John Shaddis Tries to Bribe the Windham Regional Commission

Dear God,

Last night the Windham Regional Commission held a meeting at the River Garden in Brattleboro to gather more public input regarding Vermont Yankee's application for a 20-year extension of its license. Nearly everyone in the crowd was either an employee of Vermont Yankee or was in some way or another on its dole, though there was a handful of depressed nuclear activists in the back of the room. Some of them spoke, though they were royally outnumbered.

It was the Entergy Vermont Yankee side that really shone. The employees spoke about jobs they love and a company they have come to need. The representatives of various nonprofits spoke. They extolled Vermont Yankee's financial contribution to children's summer programs and to a local child care center. Those who are involved with business development referred to the jobs that Entergy Vermont Yankee's presence in the community represents. Just as I was beginning to wonder what vaguely threatening letter or phone call from Entergy Vermont Yankee might have compelled such unalloyed accolades from normally public-minded people and what the social consequences to those people might be of their public testimony on behalf of a company that is threatening the health of the people their nonprofits serve , a representative of a local arts organization came to the front of the room. He deftly demonstrated how to give lip service to one's donors while hanging on however tenuously to one's dignity.

The arts organization rep is a well-liked guy; very funny and personable and extremely well-spoken. What he said was an education to PR sorts like me everywhere and should be studied by representatives of other beneficiaries of Entergy's largesse, as well. He parsed his gratitude. He said that the relicensing of Entergy Yankee is a difficult emotional issue and that he is only qualified to speak to the plant's generous support of the arts organization he directs. The marvelous thing about his little talk was that he was able to say exactly what he needed to say in order to get continuing dollars from Entergy Vermont Yankee without saying anything that actually spoke to the matter at hand--the safety of the plant. I imagined him going out for drinks later with friends. When they asked whether he testified in favor of re-licensing, he might say, "I smoked, but I didn't inhale." I was so enthralled by his ability to say much while saying little that I was disappointed when he sat down. I guess I had been hoping to hear him parse, in President Clinton style, the meaning of the word "is."

Anyway, Lord, I would like to confess that, as the evening wore on, I was beset by doubts. They weren't about you or your existence or your ability to protect the people of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts from the fatal effects (especially in children) of the plant's daily radiation emissions. The doubts were about Entergy Vermont Yankee itself. Is the company for which I spin news guilty of bribery? Had they just bought the testimony of their employees and of their nonprofit beneficiaries? The thought was so painful that I had to resort to tightening the barbed celice that I always wear on my thigh. Tightening the celice caused blood to rush from my brain to and then out of the thigh itself. When it did, I had an epiphany:

It is not Entergy Vermont Yankee that is guilty of manipulating with gifts. It is the activists!

To whit: John Shaddis, the adult son of nuclear activist Ray Shaddis, began his testimony by giving each member of the Windham Regional Commission a copy of the Academy Award winning documentary "Chernobyl Heart."

In your all-knowingness, do you know the movie, Lord? It takes its name from a heart condition unheard of prior to the Chernobyl disaster. Chernobyl Heart is when Caesium-137 attacks the heart and causes heart dysfunction, leading to severe heart damage, heart attacks, and strokes. A condition once so rare that it was never even noticed, it occurs in shockingly high numbers in children born in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus after the year 1986. Mind you, Lord, it isn't just children who were in utero during and immediately after the Chernobyl disaster that have Chernobyl Heart. You see, the entire area remains contaminated; furthermore, Caesium-137 continues to leak slowly, disastrously, from the sarcophagus that was once the main power source of that area of the world. Which means that, to this day, children are being born with Chernobyl Heart. They have extremely short life expectancies.

As an example of how contaminated the region continues to be, during the course of filming in the Ukraine and Belarus, the filmmaker herself acquired Caesium-137 poisoning, though she has since received excellent treatment and recovered.

Lord, I have not used the celise to bind and hurt my thigh since last night. Still, the epiphany it brought on has remained brilliant in my mind. Do you not agree with my new understanding of payola, Lord? Does not the passing out of gifts worth $15 dollars or so to the several members of a public board constitute bribery--even if it is done in public and the gift is supplemental to the testimony? Do you not think that John Shaddis should be ashamed? Jailed? Flagellated perhaps?

And getting back to the guy from the arts organization, the one who smokes but doesn't inhale: Do you think he can definitively answer at long last whether President Clinton ever "had sex with that woman?"



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No J. Wayne Leonard News Today

Dear God,

Today, to the best of my knowledge, J. Wayne Leonard, the CEO of Entergy, did not:
  • Go into rehab
  • Lose custody of his children
  • Go out on the town with Paris Hilton without benefit of his underwear
  • Pose naked for Vanity Fair
  • Pay Ashley Alexandra Dupré $4,000 for a single evening of sex
Thank you so much Lord, for keeping Mr. Leonard out of trouble like that,'cause those would all be hard stories for me to spin.

Mr. Leonard did, however, average $56,777 per day (or $7,097 per hour) in income in 2006, and a web site called is making a big deal out of that. Here is information that I found at that site:

According to Entergy’s 2007 proxy statement, the Board of Directors awarded CEO Wayne Leonard nearly $14.8 million in total compensation during 2006. Leonard’s compensation package included the following:

Salary of $1,168,577
Stock Awards of $7,429,048
Option Awards of $1,622,682
Non-Equity Incentive Plan Payments of $2,235,870
Change in Pension Value of $2,250,100
Other Compensation of $55,663
Total of $27,317,078 also notes that, in the same year (2006), "New Orleans and Louisiana officials certified Entergy New Orleans to receive $200 million in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)[Katrina relief] funding" and "Mississippi officials awarded $81 million in CDBG funds for Entergy Mississippi." This means that roughly 9.7% of the disaster relief funds went into J. Wayne Leonard's pocket.

Lord, would you consider letting me spin an Ashley Alexandra Dupré story rather than this one? I mean, wearing one's knee-high socks while having sex with a prostitute roughly the same age as one's daughter is one thing. Sticking it to the people of the tragedy-stricken Gulf Coast is a whole different kettle of Cajun Blackened Fish.

Thanks, Lord. I look forward to your flexibility on this matter.


Surrender Dorothy!

Dear God,

I'm trying to learn to pay attention to things. Which is probably why, today, on this working vacation I'm enjoying at the joint headquarters of all of Entergy's Cayman Island holding companies (at my last count there were 10 or 11, though these things spread spores faster than mushrooms do), I was able to notice a strange message in the sand of the famed Seven-Mile Beach.

Kind of creepy, yes Lord? I mean, what's up with that? Anyway, moments after I snapped a picture of it, a wave came in and when it washed away.

When the water cleared, what was left was this new, even creepier message.

You're aghast and agape, yes,too, Lord? In this open-mouthed, astonished, this-can't-be-happening reaction, I was made in your image and likeness. I wonder who might have watched too many early color movies and been inspired thereby to leave such an obscure, dire message? I can only assume that dark forces are coalescing around us. For in the past week alone, while I and other PR types have been cavorting in the surf:

  • Entergy Corporate has hinted that it might allow an independent safety assessment of Vermont Yankee.

  • Entergy has gone all the way to saying "yes" to an ISA of Indian Point.

  • The Vermont Senate has advanced a bill requiring the decommissioning fund to be fully funded before Entergy Nuclear sells Vermont Yankee and five other reactors off to a new spin-off company.

Well, we have lost our way on the yellow brick road, if you ask me. But no one here is asking me.

Anyway, thank you, Lord, for watching over lowly me during this time of surfy turmoil. Thank you, too, for inventing parasailing, at which I am having a wonderful time. Finally and most importantly, thank you, Lord, for giving us the wind that keeps my parasail afloat. Wind, truly, is an energy form that's "too cheap to meter."



Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Childhood Cancer Not Bad for Children, NRC Spokeswoman Says

Dear Lord,

Actually, Lord, the NRC spokeswoman did not say that childhood cancer is not bad for children. She said that nuclear leaks and explosions are no big deal.

Here's the story of that:

In 2002 the NRC began distributing to states (for distribution to citizens) potassium iodide pills that help block radioactive iodide from entering people's thyroids. These were to be used in the event of a catastrophic event at a nuclear power plant. Children are especially susceptible to thyroid cancer resulting from radiation leaks, so parents of children living near nuclear power plants were especially happy about those pills. The New York Times even described the distribution sites as scenes of "fear and anger" for parents desperate to protect their children from, say, the blunders of control room operators stoned on marijuana brownies.

But those parents liked those pills way too much. People started giggling and calling them "mother's little helpers" and the "new drug of choice." Because they were. What mother in her right mind wouldn't want to protect her children? But, recognizing a PR downer when they saw one, last October the White House announced that it may stop distribution of the anti-radiation pills altogether.

Not surprisingly, this move met with dismay and charges of the political use of a regulatory agency by the industry it was supposed to regulate. Worse, my phone started ringing and I got a headache.

But all the confusion has been cleared up. In fact, there never should have been confusion in the first place. You see, Lord, evidently Patricia Milligan, the NRC’s senior adviser for preparedness, explained way back in October that the NRC opposes broad distribution of the pills not because it is a sex spa worker enslaved by flatulent multibillion dollar corporations who don't give a darn but because there is a much better way than potassium iodide pills to reduce cancer risk for children. It is to make sure that, if there is a leak or explosion at a nuclear power plant and they have to evacuate and their dog gets trampled in the confusion and their entire way of life and everything they hold dear vanishes, they don't eat anything because it might be contaminated!

Simple solution, yes? Except if that's true, why do hazmat workers, for example, wear hazmat suits? Why don't they just go on diets?



Sunday, March 2, 2008

Entire Managerial Staff of Vermont Yankee Arrested for Stalking

Dear Lord,

Will belief in you protect me from my worst nightmares? All of them? Ok, well here's one:

As reported by the Brattleboro Reformer
Dateline: Some otherwise perfect Spring day in Brattleboro, Vermont

As part of a new corporate emphasis on "Corporate Honesty: Spreading the Love" created and encouraged by Burson Marsteller Chief Executive (and Clinton campaign chief strategist) Mark Penn, the entire managerial staff of Vermont Yankee congregated on the playground of Vernon Elementary School yesterday. Pointing to plumes of irradiated steam arising from Vermont Yankee, which is just across street, the VY Managers serenaded the 275 five-to-eleven year-olds (a photogenic mix of tow heads and the like) with the 1970's Carpenter's hit "Close to You."

The managers' smooth blend of voices was no deterrent to the Brattleboro Police Department. Having been awakened to the evidence tying proximity to nuclear power plants to cancer incidence among children, and particularly unnerved by the title of the song, individual policemen brought it on themselves to arrest the managers for endangering the welfare of children and then trying to make them feel happy and peaceful while they suffered.

"Thank God the nightmare is finally over," said a school employee who asked not to be identified. "We're looking forward to helping the children get on with their lives in the secure idea that major corporations who would do them mortal harm have to stay at least across the street from them."

Thank you, Lord, if you can protect me from having to spin a hellish story like that.



World's Most Boring Regulatory Commission Issues World's Most Boring Statement

Click the table to enlarge and read it.

Dear Lord,

I'm sure you've noticed I haven't prayed in over a week. That's because during that week, the NRC issued a report saying that Entergy's Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is safe enough to be re-licensed.

And I got too bored to pray.

The NRC has consistently displayed a conflict of interest in regulating the nuclear industry. Well, "conflict of interest" may be overstating the case. It's not that they're not perfectly ok people doing exactly what they've been hired to do. But remember the saying about "if you don't want to go to war, don't bring in the generals" or something like that? (I'm in PR. It's way beyond my call of duty to remember exact pithy sayings. I just need to remember that there are pithy sayings and then allude to them inexactly.) Well, like generals who (trained to wage war) tend to see waging war as the solution, the NRC (established to enable nuclear power) tends to enable nuclear power.

This is why so few people have responded--either with expressions of support or expressions of outrage. Like me, they slept through the announcement and the whole week, to boot. Like me, they forgot to pray.

Go ahead, Lord. If you haven't already, click the table at the top of this prayer for a really eye-opening "Boring to Boring Comparison." It's probably the only amusing part of this prayer.