Republican cruelty

Culpable in genocide: American involvement in Saudi war crimes

We need to get out of the war business:

American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. The pilot has likely been trained by the United States Air Force.

And at a flight operations room in the capital, Riyadh, Saudi commanders sit near American military officials who provide intelligence and tactical advice, mainly aimed at stopping the Saudis from killing Yemeni civilians.

It's likely readers found the above headline verging on hyperbole. I do not use the term "genocide" as freely as others do when discussing military conflicts, but here's another word that may help you understand why I arrived at that conclusion: "Knowingly." It is often used in war crimes trials to demonstrate the difference between intentional acts of brutality and collateral damage. War criminals *always* claim that latter occurred, and proving it's the former makes all the difference. Case in point:

VA drops the ball on veteran suicide prevention

And Trump's mismanagement is the main reason why:

Suicide prevention efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs fell off sharply in the last two years, even though reducing the high suicide rate among veterans is the agency’s top clinical priority, according to a new report.

With the department’s top management in turmoil, the suicide prevention effort lacked leadership, planning meetings were repeatedly canceled, millions of dollars budgeted for outreach went unspent, and the television and radio ads that had been broadcast thousands of times across the country in previous years went all but silent.

If something like this had happened on Obama's watch, Congressional Republicans would be holding hearings back to back, and Fox News would have endless coverage of the failure. But Trump? Crickets. One of the most important gauges of how effective an executive is performing is the performance of subordinate institutions that fall under his (or her) authority, and by all measures, Trump has failed miserably in that category. But his failure with the VA has been breathtaking, and with fatal consequences:

Burr & Tillis vote in support of journalist-killing Saudi Crown Prince

And for continuing the genocide in Yemen:

Furious over being denied a C.I.A. briefing on the killing of a Saudi journalist, senators from both parties spurned the Trump administration on Wednesday with a stinging vote to consider ending American military support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.

The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

This was merely a procedural vote, indicating an interest in intervening in Trump's War Powers Act authority, but it will likely be followed next week by genuine action. The ironic (and extremely hypocritical) move by Richard Burr to vote against this centers on his role as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In any other instance, the refusal of the CIA to cooperate would have Burr turning red in the face. But since the CIA (apparently) has overwhelming evidence of the Crown Prince's involvement in Khashoggi's brutal assassination and dismemberment, Burr simply "doesn't want to know." But luckily for us (and maybe those Yemeni children), other Senate Republicans refuse to play possum:

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.

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