NC SHOULD END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR JUVENILES: It is time for our state to replace juvenile life without parole with a more sensible scheme, adopted by states from California to Wyoming, in which lengthy sentences are automatically reviewed at set time periods and juveniles are given the chance to demonstrate rehabilitation. Why make this change now? For one, overly harsh sentences for juveniles are a holdover from the 1990s, when the “superpredator” theory that predicted a surge in violent crime caused a nationwide panic. Here in North Carolina, judges sentenced 94 juveniles between ages 13 and 17 to life without parole, most of them in the 1990s. The superpredator theory has long been discredited -- the surge never materialized and juvenile crime actually decreased. And few of these sentences are handed down anymore: since 2011, juvenile life without parole has only been imposed five times in the state.
THE ANSWER IS BLOWIN' IN THE WIND: Green is super idealistic. It calls for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” by 2030, which is totally commendable. And you’d think more than enough ambition for one resolution. But the sponsors — Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and the increasingly famous Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Queens — added, among other things, the creation of “economic security for all people of the United States” and “repairing historic oppression” of 12 different groups, ranging from “indigenous peoples” to women to “depopulated rural communities.” How about just one really important climate-control thought? How about windmills? If the country really threw itself into wind power, we could, er, breeze toward our goals on that alone. Wind turbines are clean, and they work well in places like the Plains states that are flat and in need of economic development. And you can put them way out in the water and still get all the energy you need.
IT'S NO BIG SURPRISE THAT RICHARD BURR "SEES NO EVIL" IN TRUMP/RUSSIA PROBE: In an interview with CBS News, Burr said: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Clearly, in North Carolina political pantheon, Sen. Sam Ervin’s historic role as leader of the Watergate Committee is in no danger of being upstaged by Burr’s muted turn as chief inquisitor into a possible presidential scandal. Indeed, the only substantial applause for Burr’s performance has come from the one most threatened by the committee’s investigation. President Trump greeted Burr’s assessment with a triumphant tweet: “Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA! Is anybody really surprised by this?” Burr’s skeptics weren’t. The senator served as national security adviser to the Trump campaign and early in his committee’s inquiry acted on a White House request that he call reporters to knock down stories about collusion.
ROLLING BACK PROTECTIONS AGAINST PAYDAY LENDERS: Turning its name into a cruel joke, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is planning to pull back important regulations on lenders who prey on people who struggle to make it from one paycheck to the next. Under President Barack Obama, the CFPB came up with tough rules designed to protect the most vulnerable borrowers from the all too common trap of short-term, high-interest loans that turn into a monster of ballooning debt. But Trump made it clear that protecting vulnerable consumers was not in his plans. He named Mick Mulvaney, who as a congressman from South Carolina had tried to abolish the bureau, as its acting head. Mulvaney delayed implementation of the rule, and now the new CFPB head, Kathy Kraninger, is proposing to scrap it, along with the rule to limit the number of rollover loans. The CFPB was created in response to the 2008 financial crisis and the recession. It is supposed to be an independent watchdog agency to protect consumers from lenders and financial institutions that would take unfair advantage of them. But the Bureau now seems to be intent on protecting unscrupulous lenders rather than the people who need its help.
IT MAY BE TIME TO PANIC ON CLIMATE CHANGE: The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island. In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists have felt this way for a while. But they have not often talked like it. For decades, there were few things with a worse reputation than “alarmism” among those studying climate change. The climatologist James Hansen, who testified before Congress about global warming in 1988, has called the phenomenon “scientific reticence” and chastised his colleagues for it — for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat actually was.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DOUG JENNETTE: CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS BELONG IN THE CEMETERY, NOT THE PUBLIC SQUARE: In the Feb. 9 piece “Confederate groups have a right to gather in peace,” the writer, as a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, made valid points about groups having a right to peacefully assemble without undue harassment. Unfortunately, by presuming to know the thinking and overall motivations of those who protest, he committed the same errors he attributes to the protesters. More importantly, this spokesman missed an opportunity to enlighten all of us on what it is that is being honored by Confederate monuments. I fail to see how the origins and legacies of the Confederacy offer positive models for 21st Century America, but I am open to learning. Throughout human history, brave men and women have died in the service of regimes and causes that most of us would find repugnant. Their courage and honor on the battlefield does not sanctify or legitimize the causes for which they fought. I’m waiting for someone representing Confederate groups to articulate why these monuments should occupy a prominent place in the public square rather than the hallowed ground of an appropriate cemetery.
CLAUDIA LANGE: DUKE ENERGY CONTINUES OBFUSCATION ON COAL ASH: I was shocked to read the article regarding the fifth anniversary of the Dan River coal ash spill. One cannot “move forward” until mistakes are admitted and corrected with alacrity. Duke Energy has done neither. Further, the N&R is complicit in sweeping the ash into the river. First, the N&R used informational sources from Duke Energy itself, which minimize the dangers of coal ash. Independent sources citing the dangers of coal ash were sorely lacking in this article. Next, Duke has balked against fulfilling its duty from the start with its relentless efforts to pass the cost of cleanup on to taxpayers. Finally, Duke elevates dodging responsibility to an art form when it focuses on “cap in place” as its option of choice, keeping the offending material in unlined ponds at all six “low-risk” sites. So no, Duke has not worked with the community to “clean up and move forward.” Duke Energy continues to obfuscate while citizens fight for their fundamental right to clean water. When a drug manufacturer issues a recall, it does not charge patients for the tainted drug(s). Duke Energy should be held to the same standard, as should those covering the issue.
STEVE LAWLER: STATE HEALTH PLAN SHOULD PUT PEOPLE BEFORE POLITICS: In his campaign to change the payment system for the State Health Plan, our elected State Treasurer Dale Folwell has opted to spread misinformation, create uncertainty for state employees and retirees, and sow doubt about the dedication of healthcare providers in our state instead of exploring sustainable solutions to solve the complex challenges facing the Plan. Healthcare leaders across the state have offered to work with him on numerous occasions, but have been rebuffed. The treasurer’s latest assertions, that physicians and hospital employees are fraudulent, wasteful, and would “order more tests” in response to his ill-conceived plan, is offensive and inaccurate. I have worked with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals for more than 35 years, and consider them heroes. We put our trust in them to deliver our babies, care for our aging parents and treat our illness and injuries. They deserve our respect and admiration. The issue at hand is protecting an important benefit for state employees, retirees and their families, while ensuring the state’s dollars are being spent wisely. Simply paying less for the same services does nothing to modernize the State Health Plan or to address the underlying causes of rising costs. It ignores the prevailing movement to value-based care, which is already working in North Carolina to prevent illness, eliminate unnecessary spending and testing through integrated care, and manage chronic diseases. It’s time for our elected officials to put people ahead of politics and work with, not against, healthcare providers to build a better State Health Plan that improves the health of its members and protects access to care for all of North Carolina’s 10 million citizens.