Me Myself and Ty, Politics

It’s not just about bathrooms

 

When the N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 2 last month in an hourslong special session, it effectively nullified an anti-discrimination policy put into place by the Charlotte City Council and a handful of similar policies across the state.

Much ado has been made about the law and its requirement that visitors to bathrooms in North Carolina use facilities assigned to the gender they were assigned at birth.

There is good reason for this kerfuffle. It wasn’t long ago when “separate but equal” bathrooms, schools and water fountains in this state existed solely as a reminder that our state was somehow heterogeneous; that we weren’t all equal.

There are other troubling parts of the law besides the bathroom rules, however, as it prohibits cities from creating minimum wage policies or anti-discrimination policies on their own, limiting local control of municipal governments.

It is not solely the fault of news agencies that they have come to focus solely on the bathroom rules within the law, however. It has been Gov. Pat McCrory and his homophobic partners who have put watchful eyes on the bathroom stalls.

But that’s precisely the point: Making North Carolina a spectacle over this law does more than cancel Bruce Springsteen; it gives McCrory a national stage for his re-election battle.

So what else is House Bill 2 about? Continue reading

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$Texas, Journalism, Me Myself and Ty, Politics

Cruz, Cornyn await report from VA

Revelations from Inspector General reveal culture of fear led to wait time manipulation

The Department of Veteran Affairs Office of the Inspector General has released reports from 49 investigations into whether patient appointment wait times were being manipulated throughout the VA Health Care System.

Photo by Ty Johnson

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks to reporters ahead of a rally near Raleigh, North Carolina on March 8, 2016. Cruz is seeking the Republican nomination for president.

The release of the reports has led to additional pressure from Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, who together passed an amendment last year requiring VA Secretary Robert McDonald to report to Congress on any corrective measures and share a timeline for remedying the problems, which surfaced first in Phoenix, Arizona in April 2014.

“Veterans in San Antonio deserve better than long waits and barriers to care after selflessly putting their lives on the line to serve this nation,” Sen. Cornyn said in a statement last November.

“Our veterans deserve the very best care our nation can provide,” Cruz said in a statement on the amendment, which became law in December 2015. ” Unfortunately, veterans in South Texas often do not receive timely access to health care.”

Cruz, Cornyn and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott authored a joint letter to McDonald last week asking for an update on the department’s progress in the wake of the reports.

“We remain troubled that the VA continues to fail to provide timely health care to our nation’s veterans, despite receiving enhanced authorities and funding from Congress to hire new employees and address additional problems facing the VA,” the letter reads.

There were 12 investigations into Texas facilities from Dallas to El Paso, all of which can be accessed online through the VA IG website.
“The IG reports indicate that improper training, lack of supervision and non-centralized scheduling are the primary causes of the data manipulation,” the letter reads. “However, some employees reported feeling pressure to change wait times or risk getting fired.”

In their letter, the senators and Abbott call for McDonald to make “more robust use” of his power “to remove any individual from the VA Senior Executive Service whose poor performance or misconduct warrants such removal.”

“These ongoing scheduling problems clearly evidence failures of leadership at senior levels of these Health Care Systems in Texas and, more broadly, within the Veterans Health Administration,” the letter continues.

The investigations were based on complaints filed by employees and former employees. One such investigation into Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio found that schedulers based patient’s desired dates on clinic availability to manipulate the system into recording shorter wait times for care.

While investigators at the Harlingen VA facility found no evidence that employees had been threatened with termination for not following the schedule manipulation policy — as one complainant claimed — the report did note a culture of fear that contributed toward the manipulation of wait times.

“There was evidence that the employees felt pressure from the TVCB Health Care System management official, which led to the manipulating of VistA in order to keep scheduling numbers within standard,” Quentin Aucoin wrote in his report.

Larry Smith, a U.S. Army veteran living in South Texas, said in 2014 that three veterans reportedly died while waiting for treatment at the Harlingen clinic. At least 40 veterans in Phoenix were died while enduring artificial wait times.

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$Texas, Journalism, Me Myself and Ty, Politics

On the fence no more: Texas rejects Trump, wall

Border state officials ask for personnel; not wall

The Republican presidential primary blew through Texas last week, where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) got a much-needed win in his home state.

The freshman senator received an endorsement from Gov. Greg Abbott one week before the Texas primary and went on to win all but five of the state’s 254 counties, earning half a million votes more than runner-up Donald Trump, who has suggested he’ll build a $12 billion wall along the state’s southern border.

Ty Johnson

Supporters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. cheered Donald Trump’s plan to build his ever-growing border wall, but Trump won just five counties in Texas, the only border state to have its primary so far.

The rebuff from the Lone Star State, while not unexpected because of Cruz’s popularity there, served to show that voters in a state with a third of the Mexican border running alongside it don’t want to see a wall running along it.

Abbott, still one of Cruz’s biggest endorsements as the March 15 primaries draw near, last year signed into law a first-of-its-kind $800,000 border security package and has made border relations a touchstone of his administration, even naming Mexican native Carlos Cascos as his Secretary of State.

Abbott’s election came months after the Rio Grande Valley saw the summer arrival of some 50,000 refugees, mostly women and children escaping violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The crisis reached such fever pitch that in summer 2014 the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security scheduled a field hearing in McAllen, Texas; the city where each day refugees were turning up.

Throughout testimony from then Gov. Rick Perry and state and federal officials, there was never discussion about continuing the Southern Fencing Strategy, the national plan to wall off the border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Besides the cost of the fence and its inability to deter illegal crossings — there is testimony that it saves Border Patrol agents just 15 seconds — the fence has disrupted migratory patterns for a plethora of native wildlife and in some cases cut off citizens from their property.

border

The Texas Department of Public Safety “border surge” concentrated troopers in an area already bound on the north and south by U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.

Perry sent the National Guard, militarizing further a region already bound on the north and south by border checkpoints.

The deployment was viewed more as a political stunt after Perry slinked toward another failed White House run, but the border continued to stay in the news long after hope for the Gang of Eight bill had faded.

When Abbott took office, he asked Washington for 250 additional U.S. Border Patrol agents to handle the influx of immigrants. When it didn’t happen, he sent 250 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers into Deep South Texas to support federal agents along the state’s border.

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$Texas, Journalism, Politics

Trump sees New York, New Jersey in reach

 

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Donald Trump signs autographs after a rally in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Speaking a day before he won the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump began listing off a number of prized states typically considered out of contention for Republican nominees.

“I have a chance to win New York,” Trump said. “Can you imagine? If you win New York it’s over.”

Trump may have been overestimating his popularity outside of Lower Manhattan, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump Friday leaned support to the notion that the real estate mogul may be favored in the Garden State, where his name is still synonymous with Atlantic City. Continue reading

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Journalism, Me Myself and Ty, Politics

The gigantic microcosm

(Editor’s note: Rape is a serious issue. I am ignoring the political issues of this news item to make a more theoretical argument, which, I hope, will show that the weight of ending sexual assault in this world rests solely on the shoulders of mortals, 90 percent of whom are men.)

Gigantic because it has made national news.

A microcosm because it brings to the forefront some of the most widely accepted and hotly debated theories of our existence in the finite vehicle of our national dialogue while those theories are embarrassingly exploited by our flippant 24-hour cable news channels as pundits talk for hours about how it will impact the one election that matters because the hell with Congress, everyone knows there’s nothing more important than Romney/Obama.

I’m referring, of course, to Richard Mourdock’s comments concerning rape, although if I had written this a week ago, you could rightly assume I was referring to any of 30 dozen other mini flare-ups of political discord leading up to Nov. 6 like so many acne breakouts before the big dance.

Continue reading

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Me Myself and Ty, Politics, Uncategorized

Bunforgivable

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It’s not what you think!

Today I did a terrible thing.

After weeks of Chick-fil-A overexposure due to a media firestorm the likes of which real press coverage could only hope to match, I was hungry today.

I wanted it.

I wanted the deep fried chicken breast. The two pickles. The warm bun.

I wanted that sandwich.

Continue reading

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It's in the vault, Journalism, Me Myself and Ty, Politics

(Re)affirmation (re)visited

I recently followed up on a candidate for City Council who put down two separate addresses on his voter registration form.

One was the address at his recently purchased home in the district he was aiming to represent. The other was his work address.

I did due diligence, especially since I knew he was living out of district very recently, but N.C. laws concerning residency are very ambiguous. A formal challenge to his residency filed by a resident fell flat, as well, mostly because the challenger didn’t appear to read my stories, but to make a long story short, the young man is still on the July 17 ballot.

I know the guy well since he’s one of the young professionals in the area and we’ve shared quite a few beers before and since his candidacy. He’s a nice enough guy, but the story isn’t about him or his candidacy. Like nearly everything on this blog, this story is about me.

I had just arrived in Canada and it was 12:01 a.m. when I received a text message from the candidate whose campaign I had nearly stamped out. Continue reading

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