ME OR YOUR LYIN' EYES: We've made no secret regarding our take on any purported health issues with so called "smart meters." As we wrote on December 1, 2011, when it comes to the science behind claims of cumulative health problems caused by "non-ionizing 'radiation'"- "radiation" being a sort of misnomer since it is not in any way, shape or form the same as the "ionizing" radiation in radioactive substances- there really is no "there there."
Despite almost a century and a half of man-made RF beginning with the telegraph, although it can burn the crap out of you if the waves are long enough and it's placed right next to human tissue, studies have failed to find any accumulation of these waves that are generated by everything from cell and cordless phones to remote controls to radio and television broadcasts.
And, even if somehow it could be shown that there was a "cumulative effect," the amount and proximity to people of the signals in smart meters pales in comparison to placing a cell or cordless phone next to your brain.
It is certainly not "a hundred times worse" as the self-proclaimed "biggest smart meter activist in the state" told the county council on Wednesday.
So why then are so many otherwise rational people on Kaua`i going nuts over the Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op (KIUC) purchase and imminent installation of these new wireless meters which should be welcomed as a way to increase the amount of "intermittent" energy generation (such as wind and photovoltaic) we can reliably accommodate?
Opponents have been successful by basically telling others that any information on health effects or other issues such as "privacy" are all generated by "the industry" and "the government"- even though that is patently false- asking "how can you trust the 'electric companies'" or the "'big brother' of government" to tell you the truth.
Of course that is what's called an "ad hominem" attack which, according to Wikipedia, "is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy."
But the fallaciousness of an ad hominem argument is dependent on how much the source is worthy of trust. If the track record of an individual or organization for truthfulness, honesty and open, transparent dealings with controversies is that they have never been truthful, open, honest or transparent in the past, people tend to take the old "how do you know if KIUC is lying?- because their lips are moving" joke as gospel.
Well we're pretty sure you can see this one coming up Rice St. because when it comes to a track record for deceit and opaque decision-making, KIUC is very model of modern major mismanagement.
We don't really have to go through the liturgy do we? Whether the bungling of the roll-out of proposed hydroelectric power projects by imposing the potential for federal meddling in local state environmental protections or the lack of any membership consultation- supposedly the hallmark of cooperatives- in the decision-making that preceded the underhanded manipulation of the petition-driven ballot effort to overturn the board's decision, KIUC has been exemplary in how not to gain the trust of the people of Kaua`i.
Even KIUC's inception was fraught with controversy with a group of hand-picked members of the "good old boys and girls" political elite offering an absurdly high- and later to be rejected by the PUC- original bid and eventually paying former owners Citizen's Electric of Connecticut what many say was up to twice what was shown to be the "book value," of Kaua`i Electric... as our "highest in the nation" electricity rates can attest.
Is it any wonder that, no matter how silly, no matter how unscientifically-based, no matter how self-defeating the rush to ban smart meters is, it has gained the support of so many otherwise rational people?
The reason is clear. It's because KIUC is a cooperative in name only when it comes to governance.
KIUC is what's called a "Consumers' Cooperative" in which, according again to Wikipedia, "(m)embers vote on major decisions and elect the board of directors from amongst their own number."
A normal cooperative board simply oversees the day-to-day operations but any major decision- such as strategic planning or even the decision to sign a power purchase agreement with a news solar or wind farm- is supposed to be made by the members.
How hard is that concept to understand? Apparently it's like reading hieroglyphics for the majority of the board of directors which has yet to consult the membership on any decision much less ones of great magnitude, in direct violation of the precepts of a co-op.
According to the same article:
Cooperatives are based on the cooperative values of "self-help, self-responsibility, democracy and equality, equity and solidarity" and the seven cooperative principles:
-Voluntary and Open Membership
-Democratic Member Control
-Member Economic Participation
-Autonomy and Independence
-Education, Training and Information
-Cooperation among Cooperatives
-Concern for Community
Does that sound like KIUC? Just ask yourself if there is true "Democratic Member Control" or is the nature of board decision-making that it's done behind closed doors often citing "proprietary" information- a concept directly in opposition to the basics of co-op decision-making principles.
Education, Training and Information? Information is anything but free-flowing at KIUC and, as a matter of fact, the flow of information from individual board members is tightly controlled through a gag rule preventing them from speaking publicly unless the content is approved by the board's chair or- get this- the CEO, meaning that the employees are telling the employers what they can and can't say.
Voluntary and Open Membership? People are automatically members as soon as they sign up for electric service and, although there is a way to "opt out," users are told they will pay more if they do so because they will not receive the "patronage capital"- a sort of rebate that represents the "profit" that would be there if it was an investor owned company. And there certainly isn't an "open membership." The majority of electricity consumers are not members because membership is reserved for those who pay the electric bill. Assuming the average household is between two and three people that means that most people cannot become members.
Concern for Community? The concern seems to be for the company rather than the community with the community being kept in the dark about major decisions and even routine matters through the gag rule and a general attitude of paternalism left over from the plantation days that is at the very root of the origins of KIUC.
Is it any wonder that when KIUC says "white" people assume "black?" When they say "up" can't we say with some certainty that the likelihood is that the real answer is "down?"
And when KIUC tells us "smart meters are safe," even if they are, it's no wonder more and more people are willing to believe that they are not.