Conn Carroll - Conservatives and Poverty
Posted: 4/4/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

Commenting on a intra-left debate between Jonathan Chait and Ta-Nehisi Coates about race and poverty, Ross Douthat wrote earlier this week:

I do think that if you’re looking for a discussion of the “culture of poverty” that isn’t particularly racialized and that’s pretty intently focused on social problems in the white (and Hispanic) working class as well as in African-American communities, you can find it quite easily among right-of-center policy thinkers, in the pages and pixels of conservative journals and magazines, and (occasionally, if too-infrequently) in the rhetoric of conservative politicians as well.

As it just so happens, the May edition of Townhall Magazine will feature a lengthy interview with former-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) about his new book, Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works. The full interview will be posted on May 1, but Santorum does touch on poverty in his book and below is a portion of our exchange in the issue:

Townhall: In Blue Collar Conservatives you write, “The poorest kids in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, for example, are more than twice as likely to reach the highest income percentiles as those in Dayton, St. Louis, and Charlotte.” Why do you think we have this widening gap in the country between urban and rural areas? Do you think that is reversible?

Santorum: If you look at where poverty is the highest, where the unemployment rate is the highest, it’s predominantly in rural areas. It’s not necessarily where most people would think it is. When most people think of poverty, they think of inner-city areas like Detroit or Philadelphia. But where the poverty is most acute is in rural areas and there you are really going to have to look at the policies of the government and what they have done to create that disparity.

Certainly a big part of it is the environmental movement and the turn against a resource-based economy. And so you look at whether it is timber or whether it is mining or whether it is agriculture, there is a whole host of other things like manufacturing. Manufacturing is predominantly done outside of the urban core of most cities.

And all of these sectors of the economy have been very much under assault from the environmentalists. And therefore there is a lack of opportunity. And because of the nature of the community, small town America doesn’t have a lot of options.

Where as in urban America there is a huge city around you. There are all sorts of places you can go for job opportunities that you don’t necessarily have in small-town or rural America.

The phrase "culture of poverty" does not appear any where in Santorum's book. But despite his desire not to be "pigeonholed" as the "social conservative" candidate, much of it does focus on the decline of American culture generally, and marriage specifically.

Santorum, however, does not blame gay marriage for any of this. In fact, he explicitly says, "Let me be clear—I am not blaming the breakdown of marriage and the family on the same-sex marriage movement."

Instead, Santorum largely blames the federal government, specifically the tax code and welfare state, for creating a series of incentives that discourage marriage.

I don't agree with all, or even many, of Santorum's policies, but his ability to address poverty in non-racial terms should be commended.

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Leah Barkoukis - Colorado's Marijuana Black Market is Alive and Well
Posted: 4/4/2014 1:42:00 PM EST

Despite legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, Colorado continues to struggle with a black market, the Associated Press reports.

“[Legalization] has done nothing more than enhance the opportunity for the black market, Lt. Mark Comte of the Colorado Springs Police Vice and Narcotics Unit, told the AP. “If you can get it tax-free on the corner, you’re going to get it on the corner.”

The problem was to be expected, however, as Jacob Sullum wrote in a January Forbes article:

The stores [in Colorado] are charging as much as $70 for an eighth of an ounce, compared to $20 or $25 per eighth for medical marijuana before recreational sales became legal. […]

The high prices are exacerbated by new taxes: a 15 percent excise tax, plus a special 10 percent sales tax. Denver, which is where three-quarters of the marijuana stores are located, is imposing its own special sales tax of 3.5 percent. All of that is in addition to standard sales taxes, which in Denver total 8 percent.

Black-market dealers do not collect any of those taxes, of course. Nor are they burdened by Colorado’s regulations or cultivation limits. The upshot is that prices for legal marijuana are, counterintuitively, higher than prices for black-market marijuana—a situation that critics of the hefty taxes imposed by Colorado and Washington have been predicting for months. One black-market dealer tells The Pueblo Chieftan he sells high-quality marijuana for $225 to $300 an ounce, compared to $400 or more charged by state-licensed stores. “People will get real tired of paying the taxes real fast,” he says. “When you can buy an ounce from me for $225 to $300, the state adds as much as $90 just for the tax.”

Recent violence has some police, marijuana advocates and prosecutors in Colorado still worried about the black market, however.

A 25-year-old is shot dead trying to sell marijuana the old-fashioned, illegal way. Two men from Texas set up a warehouse to grow more than they would ever need. And three people buying pot in a grocery store parking lot are robbed at gunpoint. […]

It's difficult to measure whether there has been an increase in pot-related crimes beyond anecdotal reports because no one at either the federal or state levels is keeping track of the numbers of killings, robberies and other crimes linked directly to marijuana. […]

Arapahoe County, outside Denver, has seen "a growing number of drug rips and outright burglaries and robberies of people who have large amounts of marijuana or cash on them," said District Attorney George Brauchler.

His district has seen at least three homicides linked to pot in recent months and a rising number of robberies and home invasions.

Marijuana legalization advocates say that what the state is experiencing is simply a transitional period, and the problem will get better as more stores open and prices in the legal market are reduced. Sullum also agreed with this assessment, but also cautioned that the “extra cost imposed by regulation and taxes will remain a problem.”

Washington, another state that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, will begin sales in June.

"There's going to be a black market here," said Washington state Cmdr. Pat Slack of the Snohomish Regional Drug/Gang Task Force, reports AP. "There will be drug rip-offs and drug debts that haven't been paid. All of that is going to stay."

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Carol Platt Liebau - Hillary Clinton, Post-Partisan: A Bad Joke?
Posted: 4/4/2014 12:23:00 PM EST

So Hillary Clinton -- no doubt trotting out a new, "post-partisan" persona for her upcoming presidential campaign -- has decided to decry partisanship. Ah, the irony. For, indeed, the First Lady is one of the most committed (and often bitter) partisans of our time. Surely she is one of the most cynical. So we are to believe that this nonpartisan bridge-builder is:

The same person who actually coined the phrase "vast right wing conspiracy"?

The same person who misled the world -- and her own fellow Americans -- about the reason for the Benghazi attacks, both to protect her party's re-election chances and her own political viability?

The same person who hasn't been above employing the old "unpatriotic" trope in furtherance of partisan advantage?

The same person who keeps a political "enemies list" a la Richard Nixon?

The same person who has been the confidant and political patron for the over-the-top partisan Sidney Blumenthal?

The same person who, according to the former secretary of defense, admitted she opposed the 2007 Iraq surge only for political purposes?

The same person who held public hearings on her health care plan only for the purposes of "inoculation"?

The same person who sicced the FBI on a bunch of innocuous, nonpartisan White House travel office employees because they weren't her (and her husband's) partisans?

The person who refused to let her daughter visit The White House during the '80's, making her wait until "someone decent lives there"? (pp. 37-38).

The same person who, as a board member of the Legal Services Corporation, helped funnel taxpayer money -- in violation of the law -- to grant recipient groups and lawyers in California to oppose a proposition that would have cut state income taxes?

Who was fired from the Nixon impeachment staff for unethical behavior?

The same person who, as Carl Bernstein has written, has more radical association in her past than even Barack Obama?:

In the 60s, as an undergraduate at Wellesley, she exhibited an academic fascination with the Left and radicalism; . . . wrote her senior thesis on the radical Chicago community-organizer Saul Alinsky (whose best-known philosophical mantra was, "Whatever works to get power to the people, use it."); and then, during the 1992 presidential campaign and White House years, insured that the thesis was locked up in the Wellesley archives and unavailable to reporters.

At Yale law school she embraced some leftist causes she perhaps wishes she hadn't today (the Black Panthers' claim that they couldn't get a fair trial, more about which later); worked in the most important radical law firm of the day -- Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, in Oakland, which represented the Communist Party and defended the Panthers in their murder trials; and became associate editor of an alternative law review at Yale which ran stories and pictures depicting policemen as pigs and murderers.

Who devoted her senior thesis to Saul Alinsky?

And we are to take this person seriously when she deplores partisanship? Really??? C'mon -- it's not April Fool's Day.

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Daniel Doherty - In Memoriam: MLK Jr. Assassinated 46 Years Ago Today
Posted: 4/4/2014 12:15:00 PM EST

As dark a day in American history as one can remember. Forty-six years ago today, the Baptist preacher and human rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee:

The day before he died, Dr. King delivered his final public address. His famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, as we've come to remember it, is hauntingly prescient. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” he said that spring evening. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

And he did.

The good works he was engaged in -- namely, abolishing injustice everywhere he saw it and securing human dignity -- required both moral courage and sacrifice on his part. Few would dispute, too, that the modern American civil rights movement could have progressed as far or as fast without his leadership. He could not have known, however, that so soon after delivering those remarks he would suffer martyrdom:

Word of his death spread like wild fire. More than 100 U.S. cities experienced rioting. One major city, however, did not. As it happens, Bobby Kennedy was campaigning for president in Indiana at the time. Speaking in Indianapolis that night, he broke the news to the unsuspecting crowd gathered to hear his campaign pitch, admonishing them to honor Dr. King's legacy not with violence but by adopting the principles he stood for: unity, tolerance, and peace:

The memorial in Washington, D.C. serves as a fitting reminder of what Dr. King stood for -- and accomplished -- during his short life.

May he still inspire us.

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Cortney O'Brien - Gun Company Changes Design of AR-15 To Comply with ‘Second Amendment Trampling’ NY SAFE Act
Posted: 4/4/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

Governor Andrew Cuomo's gun restrictive SAFE Act has been the source of much controversy in New York. The bill is a burden for gun owners who simply want to carry their firearms and it bans AR-15 assault rifles with military-style features.

Now, one Missouri-based gun manufacturer, Black Rain Ordnance, has produced an AR-15 rifle that is compliant with New York's rules. Based on Black Rain Ordnance's description of the new gun, it's easy to tell they're a little bitter (emphasis added):

With the continual trampling of the 2nd Amendment in New York, Black Rain Ordnance is proud to announce their “New York Compliant” rifles. These rifles feature all of the quality and craftsmanship of the standard BRO-lines, but with the added features that allow for legal possession.

New York Compliant Features:

- No Pistol Grip

- Non Threaded Muzzle

- Fixed Stock

- 10 Round Low Capacity Approved Magazine

- NEW Black Rain Ordnance, Inc. Lo-Pro gas block without the evil bayonet lug

Take a look at their new design:

 photo NYcompliant1_zps1bd17b0b.jpg

Black Rain Ordnance is not alone in changing the style of its weapons. Many gun companies, like H&H Firearms, are making their own alterations to try and keep up with New York's new restrictive laws:

H&H Firearms, has been working on modifying its semi-automatic rifles to meet state law.

“It’s basically an AR-15 without the features,” a lawyer representing H&H Firearms told the Times Union.

“People are champing at the bit” for a legal version of the popular rifle, said the company’s manager Justin Reickart, adding that the modified rifles look “like a paintball gun.”

How ridiculous that gun manufacturers have to waste time and effort to comply with Cuomo's unfair legislation. Having to change their guns so much that they no longer look as threatening, is both cumbersome and dangerous. Now they may look like "paintball guns," but I'm sure it won't be long until liberal New York leaders demand they be no more intimidating than squirt guns.

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Heather Ginsberg - Study: Gay Marriage Could add $50 Million to Colorado's Economy
Posted: 4/4/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

As Colorado considers allowing gay marriage, a new study has come out touting one major benefit for the state if they do. The study from UCLA’s Williams Institute found that allowing gay marriage could add as much as $50 million to Colorado’s economy over a three year period of time.

Not only would more money be spent on the wedding industry itself, but out of town guests will be contributing to tourism. The authors of the study state,

“If the State of Colorado grants same-sex couples the right to marry, we predict that the State will see a surge in spending related to weddings by same-sex couples who currently reside in Colorado, as well as an increase in tourism spending by wedding guests from other states,” the report concludes. “This increase in spending would benefit Colorado’s wedding and tourism-related businesses and would generate additional tax revenue for state and local coffers.”

Colorado currently offers civil unions to gay couples who want all the benefits of a married couple, except for the title. According to Colorado census data, there are over 12,000 same-sex couples in the state. Based on data from other states, it can be assumed that nearly half of those couples would wed within the first 3 years of legalizing same-sex marriage.

The study estimates that spending on the wedding industry itself would amount to roughly $40 million, and guest spending in the area would add the extra $10 million to get to their estimate of $50 million in the first three years.

The study concludes that marriage equality is not necessarily all about religious beliefs of what’s right and wrong, but that allowing gay couples to marry could actually be extremely economically beneficial for states.

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Guy Benson - Update: Testimony Reveals More Contradictions on Benghazi Talking Points Evolution
Posted: 4/4/2014 10:36:00 AM EST

On Wednesday, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. He was grilled over the infamous administration "talking points," which were revised to exclude references to terrorism, Al Qaeda, and security warnings that were ignored leading up to the deadly raid. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes discussed what happened on Special Report, noting that Morell was forced to change and clarify previous statements he'd made on these subjects:

Among other things, Morell had previously claimed that the FBI, rather than the CIA, had been responsible for some of the edits, and had failed to acknowledge that he himself had made a number of the changes. His current story is that although CIA operatives on the ground in Libya reported that the multi-wave assault was a coordinated terrorist attack "from the get-go," that assessment was overruled by CIA analysts at Langley. Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson provides additional insights and context:

The formulation of the talking points has been a key point of confusion and a story that has greatly evolved over time. On Fri. Nov. 16, 2012, Petraeus told members of Congress that it wasn't the CIA that revised the talking points to remove controversial references to “terrorism” and “al Qaeda.” The White House and the State Department said it wasn't them. The CIA then told reporters that the edits were made at a "senior level in the interagency process” so as not to tip off al Qaeda as to what the U.S. knew, and to protect sources and methods. Soon thereafter, another reason was given. A source from the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) told CBS News' Margaret Brennan that ODNI made the edits as part of the interagency process because the links to al Qaeda were deemed too "tenuous" to make public. Then, in November of 2012, Morell provided yet another account. In a meeting with Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Morell stated that he believed it was the FBI that removed the references "to prevent compromising an ongoing criminal investigation." But it was just a matter of hours before there was yet another revision. A C.I.A. official contacted Graham and stated that Morell "misspoke" in the earlier meeting and that it was, in fact, the C.I.A., not the F.B.I., that deleted the al Qaeda references. "They were unable to give a reason as to why," stated Graham at the time. After retiring from the C.IA. last year, Morell was hired as counsel to Beacon Global Strategies, a communications firm operated primarily by former Obama administration and Hillary Clinton officials.

That last nugget is interesting, isn't it? Though Morell's statements painted the least damaging picture Team Hillary could have hoped for, he did confirm that the State Department was "very upset" over initial language in the talking points acknowledging that warning signs had been missed or disregarded:

Those references were scrubbed because the State Department didn't want to be "thrown under the bus." But hadn't they earned that criticism? They denied repeated requests for more security in Libya, they pulled existing resources out of the country, and they recklessly kept their people both in Benghazi and under-protected, even after a series of attacks on Western targets (including our own mission) in the months leading up to the deadly terrorist blitz. They even renewed their lease on the Benghazi mission, including a waiver that allowed the acting consulate to operate below minimum security standards. In other words, they had missed signals, and they did make terrible decisions that led to four dead Americans. But they didn't want the political blowback from their failures, so the "official" story was sanitized -- replete with misleading references to "spontaneous protests" and an obscure, largely irrelevant video. Morell's testimony also refuted a New York Times story that purported to prove that Al Qaeda had no involvement in the Benghazi attacks. That misinformation has been completely debunked by other media outlets, numerous witnesses and a bipartisan Senate report. The same report concluded that the lethal raid could have been prevented, and that red flags were ignored -- precisely the verdict the administration was desperate to obfuscate shortly before a presidential election. Another question: Even if there was initial confusion and disagreement over whether Benghazi was an act of terrorism, how were those discrepancies not cleared up and accurately resolved before Susan Rice made her inaccurate statements on national television days later? More than 18 months after Amb. Chris Stevens and three fellow Americans were assassinated in an Al Qaeda-affiliated attack on the anniversary of 9/11, zero people have been held accountable for what happened -- neither in DC, nor in northern Africa.

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Kevin Glass - March Jobs Report: The Mild Economy Continues
Posted: 4/4/2014 8:51:00 AM EST
The March jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is out, finding that employment growth was roughly in line with expectations. Many analysts predicted growth of 200,000 jobs, and the report came in with 192,000 nonfarm payroll jobs added - entirely in the private sector, as 1,000 government jobs were shed during the month.

The workforce participation rate increased very slightly, and the unemployment rate stayed constant at 6.7%. The U-6 measure, which captures broader "underemployment" numbers, actually rose to 12.7%.

Just as important, the BLS's estimation of employment in previous months was revised upwards. BLS now estimates that 37,000 more jobs were added over January and February than previously estimated.

Analysts have pointed out that the total number of jobs in the American economy has now - finally - passed the pre-2008 recession peak. That doesn't mean that the economy is in any healthy status; it's more to explain that it's taken this long to get back to where the economy was six years ago - and that the economic recovery still has a long way to go.

House Speaker John Boehner released a statement after the jobs report calling for the consideration of the Republican jobs plan, saying:

House has passed dozens of bills that would help fuel economic growth by expanding all types of energy production, protecting families and small business from ObamaCare, improving education and job training, and more. Senate Democrats have no excuse for standing in the way of these common-sense jobs measures, many of which passed with bipartisan support, and I urge them to act immediately.”

What is clear is that there's still a long way to go to a "healthy" economy - this is a status quo report that means little more than that the economy is still sputtering along.

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Conn Carroll - Clean Energy Isn't Clean
Posted: 4/4/2014 8:30:00 AM EST

In the April issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, Brian McNicoll explains how clean energy is anything but clean.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. helps run Riverkeeper Alliance, serves as a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and has been named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes For The Planet.”

But his real job, of course, is to be a Kennedy.

That means a messy personal life (a divorce and two drug busts) and that accompanying sense that the rules that apply to others do not apply to himself.

Take, for example, his views on energy. They are fairly boilerplate given his background. Oil companies are bad, fierce, controlling, greedy, and manipulative. They pollute with impunity and exploit with immunity and they use their enormous checkbooks, bolstered by government subsidies and rapacious profits, to coerce cash-starved congressmen into doing their bidding.

Renewables are, of course, good. Particularly wind energy. RFK Jr. brags that he has been involved in advancing the technology, even helping with the siting of some projects.

But that doesn’t mean he supports every wind project. In fact, the project with which he is most closely identified does not enjoy his support at all.

Not in this Kennedy's Backyard

The Cape Wind project would be the first domestic offshore wind farm in the United States. It would operate in Cape Cod Sound, with 130 turbines about six miles off the Massachusetts coast. That’s a little too close to ... you guessed it ... the Kennedy compound for RFK Jr.’s liking.

So, in 2005, he wrote an op-ed piece, dutifully printed by The New York Times, in which he outlined his objections.

Those turbines six miles out would damage the view from the shore, he wrote, even though they would barely be visible over the horizon, and then only on the clearest of days.

Their noise, he claimed, would drown out the sea crashing into the dunes on Cape Cod. The twinkling red lights above them to warn aircraft would constitute unacceptable light pollution. Seriously.

But many of Kennedy’s objections would apply to any wind project.

He says energy from the wind farm would cost twice as much as that from fossil fuels, and the project would not be viable if not for extensive federal subsidies. He says thousands of birds, many of them from protected species, would be killed in the turbines. All true.

He says offshore wind costs more than onshore wind. Indeed, it’s nearly three times as expensive. But he then curiously argues it would be more eco- nomical to put the turbines 12 or even 27 miles offshore.

He says the chemicals that make the turbines turn pose a threat in their own right. Correct again.

His case is what it is, a mishmash of hope, experience, and self-serving arguments. But it’s downright jarring to hear all this from a genuine official “Hero For The Planet.”

Subsidies for Nothing

But it’s not just Kennedy or Cape Wind. There is something about renewables in general, but wind power in particular, that makes people do and say and support crazy things. It inspires a public and private “logic” that is costly and impractical and hypocritical, all in the name, supposedly, of making the Earth a cleaner place.

For instance, all renewable energy sources are subsidized; they would not survive otherwise. But none are as de- pendent on government largesse as wind.

It can barely construct a turbine without government money.

From 2009 to 2012, when the Wind Production Tax Credit was in full force and a program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was dispensing handsome cash incentives to companies to build wind farms, wind power added 30,000 megawatt hours, more than doubling U.S. capacity. In 2013, with the cash program dead and the PTC on the way out, it grew all of 1.6 megawatts.

By making marginal projects viable and projects planned for later urgent, the ARRA program “changed the economics of the industry overnight,” said Lisa Linowes, an expert on the impacts of industrial-scale wind energy development. “The industry’s project pipeline was emptied by the end of 2012, and it could take several years before additional proposals reach the shovel-ready stage.”

And although other renewables have found their own niches, think single-family solar panels in Arizona, wind has gained market share almost solely by government force.

Big Wind preys on the 30 states with laws that require certain percentages of their electric power be derived from renewable sources and the six where these so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards are “voluntary.” Rate payers in tiny New Hampshire spend $30 million per year to comply. Other states spend far more.

Utilities are forced to enter into long- term contracts with wind providers to assure they can meet the mandates. Wind advocates say these contracts lock in lower prices. What they lock in is dependable income for wind companies. “It’s $60 per megawatt hour for a product that is worth nothing most of the time,” Linowes said. Nothing? Yes, nothing.

A Burden On Other Power Sources

The industry then uses subsidies that can add up to more than $100/kilowatt hour and predatory pricing practices that would not be tolerated from any other industry to drive down the prices of its competitors.

Grid operators send a price signal of what they are willing to pay at that point for power. These can range from $100/ kwhr during peak demand on a hot summer day to $10/kwhr at night, when it’s cooler, offices are unoccupied, and most people are asleep.

Bolstered by their subsidies, their mandates and $60/megawatt hour deals with utilities, wind operators, who have the most product on hand to sell at night because that is when the wind blows, bid $0 or even a negative number. Nuclear power plant operators are forced to match this because it’s cheaper to sell the power at a loss than to shut down and power back up their reactors. Coal, natural gas, and heating oil plants can either match at a loss or forego sales.

“It’s dumping energy on the market like China used to dump steel,” said Linowes.

And it can do this only because of its near-stranglehold on federal subsidy dollars.

The wind industry consumes nearly 80 percent of all federal subsidy dollars for renewable energy and 55 percent of all federal energy subsidies, according to David Brown, senior vice president for government affairs for Exelon, a nuclear power company. Because wind farms almost always are located far from where the energy will be used, power companies must construct huge transmission lines to take in this additional capacity they do not need. And since wind performs worst when it’s needed most, those traditional power companies it does so much to undermine must stand ready to make up for the needs it cannot meet.

A Failed Experiment

In 2012, a series of 100-degree days in Chicago put the area’s grid to the test. At one point, the power companies of the area were producing an incredible 22,000 megawatt hours of power. Wind, which generally produces less than 10 percent of its capacity during peak demand times, produced just 0.2 percent during this particular heat wave. “A 99.8 percent failure rate,” Brown deadpanned.

And there are consequences. The rules that encourage wind production make nuclear impractical, Brown said. As a result, his firm is considering closing three reactors, two in Quad Cities, Illinois, and another in Clinton, Illinois, both near the Mississippi River, beyond which lies Iowa, a leading producer of wind energy.

“You’re taking a lot of predictable, reliable capacity off line,” Brown said. “All so wind can have a bigger piece of a stagnant pie. Between the subsidies, the negative pricing, and other costs we’re forced to absorb, it’s becoming impossible to compete.”

No Choice For Consumers

On top of the financing to build and the subsidies to operate, government conscripts wind’s customers for it as if they were so many Vietnam-era draftees. Not only do most states require power companies derive some percentage of their output from renewable sources, many also require power providers to purchase any excess capacity generated by wind power.

“You have to add wind power whether you need it or not,” said Mark Glaess, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, which represents 50 small rural electric co-ops. “Right now, we’re paying for wind we don’t need, we can’t use and can’t sell.” And rate-payers are bearing the burden to the tune of $70 million in 2011 for MREA’s 625,000 business and residential customers.

And it’s not just the raw dollars. It’s the way they are obtained. Most federal subsidies arrive through the Investment Tax Credit and the Production Tax Credit, which has been allowed to expire, at least for now, by Congress, although it will continue to pay existing projects for 10 years. Together, they cost $12.2 billion in 2012.

The ITC, which dates to 1978, provides a 30 percent tax credit for wind, solar, and fuel cells and less for other types. As recently as 2010, these tax credits cost the U.S. Treasury less than $100 million. Even today, they amount to only about $500 million per year, approximately 90 percent of which goes to solar.

In 1992, Big Wind decided it needed its own tax credit, or at least one it could control, and the PTC was born. The PTC costs taxpayers five times as much as the ITC, and three-fourths of the money, about $2.3 billion per year, goes to wind. Its share of that ARRA program was 68 percent.

And the special dispensations don’t stop there.

Bird Killing Machines

Oil and electric companies have been fined as much as $100,000 when birds of protected species were drowned in oil waste pits or electrocuted on power lines. But the Obama administration has yet to fine a wind company for birds killed in turbines, even those, according to The Washington Post, who have violated the law repeatedly.

“What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK,” Tim Eicher, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement official, told the Post.

And this bird-killing is no minor problem. Nearly 50 golden eagles have been killed since 2009 at just one small wind farm in remote Wyoming. Raptors, condors, of which there are fewer than 300 on Earth, and eagles of all kinds are in danger throughout the West.

Experts say the industry’s response is to serially and seriously understate the problem. Jim Weigand, who studies avian mortality from wind energy, says turbines kill as many as 39 million birds per year and the industry hides 90 percent of the problem.

In the name of safety, he says, it builds bigger and bigger turbines with larger rotor sweep and faster blade tip speeds, which means more birds will die in wind turbines and those that do will be flung considerably farther to their deaths. Then, the industry gets government to decrease the size of the areas around wind farms that are searched for bird bodies. This means more deaths for birds but fewer dead birds found and thus less accountability for wind producers.

This is a pattern with the wind industry. Mete out consequences for others, but avoid scrutiny by pushing the environmental line. Wind’s output has in- creased from 6 billion kilowatt hours in 2000 to 140 billion in 2012, but it still accounted for just 3 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. And President Obama was right about wind entrepre- neurs. They truly didn’t build that.

A Toxic Mess

It wasn’t just American taxpayers who picked up the tab. The American wind industry was built on the backs of the people of Baotou, China, too. There, a series of government-operated plants process the rare earth metals used to produce neodymium, which is used to make the powerful magnets in wind turbines. In an area where waves of wheat and corn used to thrive now sits an “immense lake of bubbling toxic waste covered in black dust,” according to the Daily Mail of London.

The lake, a dumping ground for 7 million tons per year of radioactive mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its compo- nents, actually hisses like a cauldron in a creepy old movie. Just a few minutes of exposure to the lake will cause eyes to water and a powerful, acrid stench to fill the lungs, according to the Mail.

Those who live near the lake report their teeth fall out and their hair turns white at unusually young ages. They suffer more from severe skin and respiratory diseases. Children are born with soft bones, and cancer rates have skyrocketed. The lake’s radiation levels are 10 times that of the surrounding countryside. Nothing will grow for miles around. Residents wear hospital masks wherever they go.

Even the Chinese government has become alarmed and begun to study the problem, although it won’t share its findings or even acknowledge the risk.

“There’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment,” Jamie Choi, an expert on toxics for Greenpeace China, told the Mail. “Ores are being extracted by pump- ing acid into the ground, and they are processed using more acid and chemicals.”

Because of the expansion of wind power, China no longer provides enough of this substance. New sources are being sought, including one location in Colorado. That could set up an interesting battle, Big Wind v. the environmental movement, and many Americans will re- alize for the first time those two are not on the same team.

If It Feels Good Do It

Linowes, however, doubts wind will lose. “The public has long been predisposed to see wind as a good thing and folks like me who mention the darker side are either misinformed or paid by the fossil fuel industry to stop wind from stealing market share,” she said.

“The wind guys were first in the room pushing for state mandates, so it’s not an accident wind is a primary resource for meeting the mandates. They also convinced legislators that wind was the only renewable that could scale up to large quantities. It’s not unusual to see a 100- plus megawatt-hour wind project, but the largest biomass facility capped at just 50 megawatts and solar at sub-10 megawatts.

“Most legislators do not stop to think that wind could only produce, at best, 30 percent of the installed amount, and most of that arrived at night when it was least needed. What mattered was they were building thousands of megawatts of renewables.

“And that felt good.” •

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Daniel Doherty - Video: David Letterman to Retire Next Year
Posted: 4/4/2014 7:50:00 AM EST

This news first broke yesterday on Twitter. David Letterman, who has worked as a late-night television host for more than 30 years, will follow Jay Leno’s lead and call it quits in 2015. “I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much,” he told his unsuspecting audience. His 22 year run as host of The Late Show, it seems, is coming to an end.

Of course, the media is already speculating as to who will replace him. Possible candidates include, but are not limited to, Craig Ferguson, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler, Conan O’Brien, and even Jay Leno. However, as the network owner, Leslie Moonves, said in a statement: “There is only one David Letterman.”

That’s certainly true enough. Check out the clip below:

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