walls.corpus

By Nathan L. Walls

  • Sunflower Field/Raleigh
  • Attention/Raleigh
  • Empty Cases/Raleigh

Articles tagged “civics”

Constituent letter to Senator Tillis after the Sept. 27, 2018 Judiciary Committee Hearing

Senator Tillis,

I watched significant portions of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing involving Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh today. Between listening and catching up on recaps of the questions and testimony, I’m angry.

I’m angry and I have questions that I would greatly appreciate hearing from you on:

  • Did you find Dr. Blasey Ford’s hearing truthful? If not, what specifically in her testimony was not truthful?
  • Why did you abdicate your time to a hired special prosecutor for Dr. Blasey Ford?
  • Were the questions asked during your time allotment the questions you submitted to be asked?
  • If you did not submit those questions, who did? Why did you not use that time?
  • Do you feel that Dr. Blasey Ford’s expressed wish to keep her letter confidential to Sen. Feinstein should have been respected?
  • Do you feel it was inappropriate for Dr. Blasey Ford to be represented by counsel in front of the committee?
  • Do you feel that Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement reflected what a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States would be expected to say? If this statement was from a Democrat, would you feel the same way?
  • Are you concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s non-answers to whether or not he would request an FBI investigation?
  • Are you concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s repeated disrespect of the Democratic members of the committee? If the nominee was a Democrat, would you find this behavior acceptable for any position?
  • Why, after July 1, 1982 came up as a possible date for a party or gathering described by Dr. Blasey Ford, did the Republican members of the committee adjurn and then cease the use of the outside special prosecutor?
  • Why did you chose to use your time with Judge Kavanaugh directly after yielding your time for Dr. Blasey Ford?
  • Do you feel that other recent Supreme Court nominees have been treated unfairly during the nomination process? If so, who and why?
  • Are you comfortable with the lack of public information about how Judge Kavanaugh paid off hundreds of thousands of debt suddenly in 2017?
  • Are you comfortable with pressing ahead with the nomination without a full public understanding of the role Judge Kavanaugh had as a political operative in the George W. Bush administration?
  • Are you comfortable voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without requiring Mike Judge to appear before the committee?
  • Are you comfortable voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without hearing from Julie Swetnick or Deborah Ramirez and the allegations they have about Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior?
  • If you will not be hearing from Mr. Judge, Ms. Swetnick or Ms. Ramirez, why not?
  • If you believe the Senate has a deadline to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, what is that deadline and who imposed it?
  • If “timeliness” is the issue in hearing from Ms. Swetnick or Ms. Ramirez specifically, under what circumstances would you have entertained hearing from them?
  • Before you vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, will you be returning to North Carolina and meeting with constituents in person and without condition to discuss and explain your views?

Finally, while I expect your answers to my questions, I will plainly state that Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly demonstrated throughout his public confirmation hearings that he lacks forthrightness, transparency and the temperament to be on the Supreme Court. In fact, his displays today ought to call into question his fitness to sit on the Federal bench at any level.

I appreciate your prompt consideration and reply.

Your voting constituent,

Nathan L. Walls
Raleigh, NC

🔗 MRI costs: Why this surgeon is challenging NC’s certificate of need law

Dylan Scott Writing for Vox:

Dr. Gajendra Singh walked out of his local hospital’s outpatient department last year, having been told an ultrasound for some vague abdominal pain he was feeling would cost $1,200 or so, and decided enough was enough. If he was balking at the price of a routine medical scan, what must people who weren’t well-paid medical professionals be thinking?

The India-born surgeon decided he would open his own imaging center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and charge a lot less. Singh launched his business in August and decided to post his prices, as low as $500 for an MRI, on a banner outside the office building and on his website.

There was just one barrier to fully realizing his vision: a North Carolina law that he and his lawyers argue essentially gives hospitals a monopoly over MRI scans and other services.

I hope Dr. Singh’s lawsuit succeeds. American healthcare in 2018 is supposed to be driven by consumerism. Call around to different providers and determine how much you’ll pay for quality care. Choose a provider based on wherever you want to land on the quality/price matrix that accepts your insurance and you’re golden, right?

No.

Healthcare is not a market. First, not all qualified players can join the market, as is the case here. That effectively prevents Dr. Singh (and others) from putting downward pressure on prices. Second, medical pricing isn’t necessarily discoverable, transparent or negotiable.

NCGA Republican leadership to everyone else: 'Drop dead'

Paul A. Specht and Will Doran writing for the News & Observer, covering the latest in a long series of the North Carolina GOP freezing out Democrats from involvement in the legislative process:

Democrats are upset that Republican legislators are mostly excluding them from state budget talks, as it’s unlikely any proposed changes will be adopted once the budget is revealed.

Republican leaders plan to gut an old bill and amend it as a “conference report” to include their budget plans, meaning state lawmakers will have no method for amending the legislation.

The NCGA leadership isn’t denying the accusation.

Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said the purpose of the short session is to adjust the two-year state budget that was passed over a six-month period last year — “not to write an entirely new plan.” Republicans hold a supermajority in the House and Senate, so it’s unclear whether Democratic proposals would be adopted even if under a more open process.

“It’s clear Gov. Cooper and legislative Democrats are upset they won’t be able to abuse that process to try to score political points in an election year, but lawmakers of both parties will have the opportunity to vote on the bill and make their voices heard,” Carver wrote in an email.

The thing is, this supermajority is the result of an unconstitutional racially-based gerrymander. Delaying motions have allowed the state GOP to delay a reckoning with redrawing both the state legislative districts and the state’s congressional districts. So, the reason why Democrats won’t be heard during the budget process is because the NC GOP explicitly set up the process to allow exactly this.

“(A)n entirely new plan” talks past recent events in Raleigh, specifically the May 18, 2018 rally of state public school teachers in Raleigh for better pay and better school funding.

Jeff Jackson, a state senator representing Charlotte put it this way, as part of a thread put it thusly:

Ultimately, this is about teachers. Republicans know that Democrats are going to offer amendments to raise teacher pay and Republicans don’t want to be on record voting against that. So they’re going to torpedo the whole process to avoid publicly saying “No” to teachers.

Both my NC Senate and NC House representatives and neither is involved in this process. I effectively have no representation at the state level.

A tool to facilitate questions about Triangle tactical team usage

Yesterday, David Forbes of The Asheville Blade tweeted the results of a records request he made to the local law enforcement agencies in Asheville. He also published a story on The Asheville Blade resulting from the records request:

The unrest in Ferguson, Mo. has raised a multitude of important issues, including systemic racism in law enforcement and the level of violence directed at African-American citizens, like the disturbing shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

On Thursday, Aug. 14, I made records requests with the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office to disclose all the military equipment obtained under this program over the past decade. The Sheriff’s Office responded within 30 minutes and wrote that they are in the process of gathering the information.

A city spokesperson replied the next morning with a similar response. Later that day, they revealed that the only item the APD had obtained through the 1033 program since 2004 was an armored car in 2007. According to city officials, the vehicle is no longer in use.

Just seeing Forbes’ tweets, I was wondering about local to the Triangle research on the same topic.

The New York Times has a worthwhile interactive map that Forbes referenced in his story. That’s a start. Going back to my brief story about having the (a?) Raleigh Police Department tactical team in our backyard, I can tell you it was incredibly stressful seeing multiple officers carrying rifles, bringing dogs and shining flashlights in the dark of the woods behind our house looking for one or more armed robbery suspects.

To me, this instance seemed an appropriate instance to have a tactical team present. However, I want to know other instances where this team would be deployed. So, I’m thinking through some questions I would like to have access to the answers to:

  • Which Triangle law enforcement agencies – local, state or federal – have tactical/S.W.A.T. teams?
  • How large is each agency’s tactical team?
  • What equipment have these agencies acquired from the federal government that a reasonable person consider “war gear”?
  • Are the tactical teams the only teams with access to this equipment?
  • What rules govern the use of this equipment?
  • Are agencies obligated to use the equipment or return it to the federal government?
  • Under what circumstances is a tactical team activated?
  • Who is responsible for activating a tactical team?
  • Are these teams and equipment preemptively deployed to public events? When and why?
  • How many times a month are these teams deployed?
  • How many times a month is military-grade equipment deployed?
  • Where are these deployments?
  • Would less forceful tactics have been more or less effective? Why?
  • What reports are available regarding these deployments?
  • Were any complaints against officers filed in the wake of the incident?
  • Can these deployments be correlated with news reports of the incident?
  • What are the trends of deployment? Are they going up or down?

A local news agency would do well to ask these questions and report the answers. They would do better to get an ongoing update of records from area law enforcement agencies and get at trending data or look at particular incidents in more detail. This is in the ballpark of something I could expect to see from EveryBlock, a local Code for America brigade – the Triangle has several – or again, any of the local news agencies as a public-facing, web accessible application.

I’m thinking through these questions because these are sorts of questions I would like answered in the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Mike Brown. I want you to think through questions of your own along these lines. These questions don’t replace community involvement in policing through oversight or review commissions. They don’t replace community policing. They don’t replace beat reporting. Instead, these questions that a tool helps answer should inform us for deeper conversations about what law enforcement agencies are doing in claim of protecting and serving the public. The goal should be to increase transparency and build trust that communities and governments understand where police powers are used, why they’re used and citizens believe these powers, when used, are used judiciously, proportionately, appropriately, equally and fairly.

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