Republican cruelty

NC's Death Row a legacy of past mistakes

And every single one of these cases needs a thorough review:

With 142 inmates waiting to die, North Carolina has the sixth largest death row in the country. But a report released Tuesday says most of the prisoners would not be awaiting execution if their cases were investigated and tried today.

In “Unequal Justice: How obsolete laws and unfair trial created North Carolina’s outsized Death Row,” the Center for Death Row Litigation in Durham says the state’s death row is stuck in time while the views of capital punishment continue to evolve. “They are prisoners of a state that has moved on, but refuses to reckon with its past,” the report says. “Today, the death penalty is seen as a tool to be used sparingly. Instead of a bludgeon to be wielded in virtually every first-degree murder case.”

With all the political issues confronting us these days, people might be prone to back-burner this one based on two flawed assumptions: 1) They are in no danger of being executed due to the de facto moratorium, or 2) They would still be incarcerated somewhere else anyway. As to that first thing, the term "de facto" should be enough to demonstrate that fallacy. New technology and/or a shift in opinion could get the execution machine rolling again. As far as the second assumption is concerned, these factors definitely come into play:

Fight for $15? We may be about to lose $7.25 per hour

Supreme Court could make filing wage-theft claims much more difficult:

On Monday, the day that kicks off the Supreme Court’s new term, the justices will hear arguments in three consolidated cases with far-reaching implications for wage-earners. The cases—Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.—are all about whether employers have the right to compel workers go through onerous individual arbitration proceedings in order to bring labor law claims. If the justices answer that question in the affirmative, then the affected workers will—as a practical matter—find it nearly impossible to win back pay in cases involving wage law violations.

This feels eerily similar to what has been going on in the healthcare debate. While many Democrats have been pushing adamantly for Universal healthcare or Medicare for all, fantastic ideas that have little chance of being implemented, Republicans have been scheming to repeal the ACA and deeply slash funding for Medicaid. Truthfully, we've been lucky as hell the GOP has failed to do these things (so far). By the same token, while we've been arguing over whether a moderate increase in the minimum wage (actually, $11 per hour is like a 45% increase) is a "lame" effort, and any Democrat that doesn't shoot for at least $15 per hour is a corporate stooge (or something), Republicans have been helping companies pay workers like $3-$4 per hour. And now the Gorsuch-tainted Supremes are about to give those companies a free hand in stealing from their own workers:

President of Duke Energy to elderly ratepayers: Take colder showers

And Meck Commissioner Pat Cotham wasn't having any of it:

When Duke Energy’s top executive in North Carolina defended the company’s case for a rate hike this week, he sounded “out of touch” with struggling families, says Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

“The NC Duke Energy President bragged about how they were more efficient and installing smart meters so we could track our electric usage on our phones,” Cotham wrote. “But most struggling people and seniors don't have smart phones or access to the internet ... Then he said it.....poor people can take colder showers.”

He's more than just a little out of touch. Everything is relative, and it never ceases to amaze me when wealthy people make value judgments about what things cost. He actually said $18 a month "wasn't that much" of an increase. For him, that's only a couple of cocktails at his favorite lounge. But for a lot of other people, that's groceries for 3-4 days. What may be even more astounding, but it's not mentioned in the Char-O piece: Fountain said if customers are worried about their bills spiking up, they could "prepay" them. What? Aside from the fact that creative financing won't reduce the total dollars due from the customer, that program is complicated as hell, and most people would end up having their power disconnected here and there because their account zeroed out and they didn't immediately fix it. And one of those here or there's might happen when it's 22 degrees outside. As "options" go, that's pretty much useless. Just like the rest of Duke Energy's rationalizations.

NC's "hit and kill" bill one of many designed to stifle protests

And of course it was started by Big Oil protecting its profits:

State lawmakers in Florida, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas also considered similar measures, which the American Civil Liberties Union nicknamed "hit and kill" bills. The bills were part of a broader package of anti-protest legislation floated in at least 19 states after an upsurge in activism over the last year.

Of the half-dozen states entertaining proposals to shield drivers who hit protesters, North Carolina is the one where it has the best chance of passing. And despite the violence that recently unfolded in Virginia, the bill's sponsors have come to its defense, although its prospects appear to have dimmed.

My reference to Big Oil in the intro has to do with how protesters often use their bodies to block access to pipeline or fracking sites, where contractors have gotten into the habit of just rolling slowly through the crowd, like they're trying to push sheep off the road. But even North Dakota balked at passing such an ill-advised law:

Disabily Rights NC files lawsuit to push for home care

Breaking free from institutional roadblocks:

Advocates for people with disabilities are suing to force North Carolina officials to do more to keep thousands of people out of institutions. The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Disability Rights North Carolina says 10,000 people are waiting for services needed to let them live outside institutions.

The group says taxpayers now house disabled people in state-operated or privately run centers costing about $150,000 a year per resident, while providing needed services outside the institutions would be less than $60,000 per year.

Even if those cost numbers were around the break-even mark, "quality of life" issues alone should propel leaders to pursue the home care model. But to save the state $90,000 per-year per-person? That seems like a no-brainer, to me. Unless somebody's profiting from the institutional model and doesn't want that gravy train derailed. Wouldn't be the first time that factor was in play, especially when you take a step back and look at the for-profit prison formula plaguing our nation.

Left behind: The GOP cuts funding for special needs children

Because tax cuts for the wealthy take precedence:

About 2,200 children are part of the state's CAP/C program, which gives medically fragile children, and their families, access to money for nursing and other special needs. News that the state was reducing those services stunned the Weaver family when they found out Sophia's allotted nursing hours would be cut in half.

"It was completely shocking," Weaver said. "I was stressed and in shock for a couple of days and then I just got my mom spirit going and decided I needed to fight this. I will do whatever it takes to fight it, and that's what I'm doing right now."

If lawmakers were forced to spend just one hour taking care of one of these children, at least some of them might get it. But that would never happen, because they keep themselves insulated from such suffering. And their policies reflect that disconnect.

DHHS proposes cuts to special needs funding

Adding insult to tragedy:

Robin and Dan Marx of Cary are in a similar situation. Their 13-year-old son, Aidan, has a form of muscular dystrophy, and they receive $72,000 a year to pay for nursing aides for him as well as a modified van and alterations to their home to accommodate his wheelchair.

"This is a 350-pound wheelchair. You can’t just put in a car and drive around with it," Robin Marx said. Changing CAP-C would cut the family's Medicaid benefits by $40,000 a year.

Although it appears DHHS is re-evaluating this move after the negative feedback from families who would suffer from it, why is such feedback necessary? I'm sure somebody at DHHS could have made these calculations and predicted these horrific outcomes; if they couldn't or didn't they have no business managing these resources. What if nobody had spoken up? Is that now the way to gauge the effects of policy changes? The term "mismanagement" comes to mind, but I have a feeling they (DHHS) knew good and well the suffering that would result, and were merely gauging the public relations damage they'd have to deal with.

Is privatization behind NC Senate's cuts to mental health?

I wouldn't bet against it:

Insko is also vice chairwoman of the House's appropriations committee for Health and Human Services. Her committee proposed allocating about $712 million for LMEs this year, a slight bump from the $705 million budgeted last year. The Senate, however, wants to cut LME spending to about $519 million, forcing the organizations to drain their reserves.

The co-chairmen of the chamber's appropriations committee for Health and Human Services—Sens. Louis Pate, Ralph Hise and Tommy Tucker—did not respond to the INDY's interview requests for this story. But when lawmakers rolled out funding cuts for community treatment options in 2013, Pate, a Mount Olive Republican, told the INDY that runaway Medicaid expenses were strangling the state budget. (Medicaid ran a $130 million surplus last year.)

Don't confuse them with real numbers, it might shatter their carefully crafted delusions of private for-profit supermen coming to the rescue. And one of the most active managed care organizations as far as lobbying and campaign donations is United For Health (United Health Care):

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