Monday, January 28, 2019

Wind companies choke truth with gag orders

The wind may blow free, but the use of gag orders in lease agreements and easements that force property owners to keep their mouths shut about the realities they endure as sites for those giant wind turbines makes information flow anything but.

That's critical in this fat cat, tax-credit fueled industry which, more and more, depends on secrecy as much as it does a steady breeze. Wind farm developers like to point to thousands of lease holders at projects across the country and how few complaints they have about their gigantic neighbors, but they never mention the source of all that satisfaction – prosecution and financial ruination due to gag clauses in those signed leases and easement agreements. Indeed, where you can keep control of the smoke, there's no evidence of a fire.

Keeping tight control of information and particularly criticism from eye-witnesses is allowing wind companies like those moving against targets in Linn and Neosho counties and other rural communities in Kansas to go about their business without interference from public regulatory authorities and other outsiders who want to chronicle precisely how much damage is being done by wind turbines. Silenced victims suffer for their property, their environment and their own health. But the gag orders that bind those lease holders are clear: Speak up, particularly to the media, and not only will your lease payments disappear but we'll sue you – and we'll still have a 55-story tall tower on your land which you can't stop us from operating.

Perhaps the most damning casualty of this secrecy is in the kibosh it has put to extended research on Wind Turbine Syndrome, a health condition identified among many people living near wind turbines and believed to be caused by light flicker from the moving blades, fluctuations in air pressure as those blades move past their base tower and low-frequency noise they produce. In her book “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A report on a natural experiment,” Dr. Nina Pierpont conducted extensive clinical interviews with 10 families living near wind farm turbines both in the U.S. and abroad. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine-trained pediatrician discovered a striking uniformity of complaints from these families – migraine, motion sickness, vertigo, noise and visual and gastrointestinal sensitivity, and anxiety. Between the time of her interviews and the final publication of the book, nine of the ten families had fled their homes for residences away from wind farms, and a 10th who couldn't afford to move did extensive renovations to their house in an attempt to defeat the pressure and frequency issues, and had reduced air flow inside the home to the point it was now hard to heat.

A full-on epidemiological study however will probably never be done – one that correlates the common symptoms Pierpont identified and possible causes like setback from a turbine and what aspects of exposure to measure – because the bulk of the study subjects are all gagged.

“Better Plan Wisconsin” is a wind farm opposition organization in the Badger State which got hold of a wind farm lease from a farmer who'd had enough. The story is nearly identical state to state and lease to lease. Landowners who sign leases or easements can't discuss noise, vibration, shadow flicker or any disruptions the turbines might cause to their properties. The gag orders stop all discussion regarding the terms of the lease, or the construction or operation of the turbines, as well as speaking to reporters or to anyone in the media or issuing statements or press releases without the written permission of the wind company. Then there's this jewel:

“This section shall survive the termination of expiration of this lease,” meaning the gag order survives forever, even after the lease is terminated. Under the threat of litigation, you are gagged for life.

Still, impoverished county leaders and farmers embrace the promise of lease payments and payments in lieu of taxes (Kansas wind farms are exempt from property taxes, unlike other power plants), ignoring the deafening silence coming from those signed to the lease agreements.

Yes, silence is golden. That's just how the wind companies want it. ###

– Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

My 4 year-old, the Mexican drug mule

My youngest daughter was four years old when her Social Security number was found in the possession of an illegal alien living in Lincoln, Neb., who’d been arrested in connection with a methamphetamine bust. 

So I have a unique perspective on criminal immigration and the major underground industry which buying and selling stolen SSI numbers has become in the illegal immigrant community. The crime reaches to every corner of the U.S., even 3,000 population Garnett, Kansas.

It is an unfortunate component of countless crimes involving illegal immigrants, including the death of Iowa college student Mollee Tibbetts, whose body was discovered last fall in an Iowa cornfield a month after she went missing while jogging. A 24 year-old illegal who worked on a nearby dairy farm led investigators to the body and has since been charged with her stabbing and murder. His trial is set for April.

Indeed it’s the trade in stolen SSI numbers that helps facilitate the illegal immigration challenge that faces the U.S. Just as big a problem is that the Social Security Administration has virtually nothing to gain in helping solve the crime. 

A SSI number is the magic key for people not legally authorized to be in the country. With it comes employment authenticity and a bona fide identity; it’s a guarantee that payroll taxes can be paid and unemployment contributions withheld, and that your employment identity will fade into the woodwork like so many millions of tax paying workers. It is anonymity that illegal immigrants pay dearly to have. 

In Mollie Tibbetts’ case, Christhian Rivera apparently falsified his credentials used by the E-Verify system, the internet-based process that runs an individual’s identity through Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to determine one’s status both nationally and internationally. Rivera’s employer says Rivera passed the E-Verify check. While the full details are not yet known, it is highly likely Rivera had a stolen SSI number. 

The sobering phone call I got at my office that day 11 years ago from a DEA agent based in Omaha was as enlightening as it was terrifying. His first question: Did we have any domestic help working in our house? It’s common, he explained, for house cleaning staff working in people’s homes to gain access to children’s SSI numbers and sell them to brokers who then resell them to illegals in package deals that set them up in this country. Hospital staff in children’s wings or doctor’s offices work their opportunities too, he told me, because they have access to those numbers from the minute they’re assigned at birth through any time the child seeks medical treatment thereafter. 

They like kids’ numbers, he told me, because they’re less likely to be used much and they’re pretty much inactive until the first time the kid pays taxes from a summer job or has to file a tax return. In our case we believed our daughter’s number had been compromised for at least two years – and at no time did it ever seem strange to anyone who worked at Social Security that a four year-old would be paying employment taxes from a construction job in Nebraska?

But then again, why should Social Security care who pays into the fund? The more the merrier, as far as SSI is concerned, considering its pyramid scheme mechanics have it set for eventual insolvency anyway.

I also have reason to wonder how extensive is the background check within the E-Verify system if a four year-old paying employment taxes from a construction or farm labor job doesn’t raise a red flag with someone.

Now our family's worries are double.

Not only do we have to be concerned that multiple as yet unknown others may have been sold our daughter’s SSI number, but we have to wonder, when one day included as a part of her college applications, car loans, mortgage documents or military enlistment papers, will her SSI number be flagged by some leftover error from a drug bust in Lincoln, or who knows what else? 

Common sense dictates, as border patrol agents and those who live close to the border recount constantly, that we need a wall or "physical barrier" or whatever you want to call it to help stem the tide of illegals surging into our country. But we need a credible screening system within the Social Security Administration to ferret out stolen numbers and bogus employees to countermand the damage done by criminal illegals who are already here.

-Dane Hicks is president of Garnett Publishing, Inc., and publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Let's make vacations great again

EDITORIAL – Are you a rock-bellied Red Stater tired of spending your entertainment dollars in liberal bastions that elect socialist-leaning ne’er-do-wells? Are you anxious for a list of places where your hard-earned R&R dollars can go to benefit businesses and voters more akin to your political persuasion? 

Many of us have come to realize we’d prefer to support #MAGA believers by making our long-awaited time off this year a Red State Vacation. 

Heck, in a lot of cases it’s a simple safety issue. We were barely 12 minutes into the New Year last week when Chicago, where Democrats have voted early and often for three generations, logged its first incident of gun violence of 2019. A 12 year-old boy was looking out a second story residential window when a bullet whizzed through the glass and hit him in the hand. 

Four more shootings would follow on New Year’s Day, miraculously all non-fatal. 

The thugs had pretty much taken a holiday to ring in the New Year in the Windy City. The prior day – New Year’s Eve – only nine people were shot and two murdered within the Chicago metro area. But all in all, 2018 was a banner year for homicides in the city – 561 for the year (1.53 killings a day) compared to 660 in 2017 and 770 in 2016. 

So forget those fabulous weekend flight deals to Chicago, or the smog-ridden Hollywierd beckoning of the People’s Republic of California, or the Cheech & Chong intellectualism of Denver or the Colorado Mountains. Say goodbye to the overpriced calamari and tomato basil appetizers at those vanilla latte Johnson County hives where RINOs plot Democrat governorships and socialist takeovers of the 3rd Congressional District. Why not spend your recreation dollars in places where people vote like you do? 

Consider for instance Bedford County, Tenn., which went 75 percent Trump, 22 percent Clinton in 2016. There’s the Champion Run Golf Course in Shelbyville and the Tennessee Walking Horse Museum, and the jam-packed annual Moon Pie Festival featuring a slice of the world’s largest Moon Pie! 

Las Animas, Colo., flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016, 55 percent Trump to 39 percent Clinton. There’s not much Red in Colorado, but in this little pocket you’ll find tons of Santa Fe Trail history with Bent’s Old Fort and Boggsville, both historic trail points. Plus, you’ll find the best guacamole and salsa in Southern Colorado at Carmen’s Restaurant. 

Don’t forget Hooker County, Neb., whose population of 736 souls don’t see many visitors, but which mustered 86 percent of their vote for Trump and 10 for Clinton. The Sandhills are cool, and you can float the Middle Loup River. Mullen has a new disc golf course, and the Hondo Lanes bowling alley is newly renovated. 

Calhoun County, MI., also flipped Blue to Red in 2016, with 54 percent voting Trump to 41 for Clinton. Battle Creek boasts the Binder Zoo with some 400 acres and more than 600 specimens on exhibit. Don’t forget the Fort Custer State Recreation area, a former WWII training ground now a 3,300 acre nature park with hiking and horse trails, river beach areas and more. 

And let’s not forget Scott County, Ks., whose stalwart Republican corps voted 85 percent Trump to 11 percent what’s-her-name. In Scott City, culture, natural wonder and science abound with the El Quartelejo Museum, Jerry Thomas and Keystone galleries, Monument Rocks and Spender Flight and Education Center – and the really cool Majestic Theater Restaurant. 

So take heart, monied Republican believers – divert your dollars from the clutches of those traditional loony liberal strongholds, and let’s Make Vacations Great Again.

 – Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Ks.