Stay solvent

By Steve Woodward
The North Carolina General Assembly unanimously allocated $1.6 billion to fund Wuhan Virus relief programs two weeks ago. The money was sourced out of a pot of $4 billion sent down from Washington through the federal CARES Act.
Although no explanation as to the timing was offered, two bills were filed in the state Senate only last Thursday to tap into those federal funds in an effort to rescue state restaurants crippled by dine-in restrictions.
Return America
A Return America rally in Raleigh, Jones Street, May 14, 2020, coincided with a lawsuit filing that later overturned Gov. Cooper’s ban on worship service gatherings.

The Save Our Restaurants Act proposes the appropriation of $125 million, with $50 million targeting “restaurant stabilization”, and $75 million targeting “hotel stabilization”. The bill for whatever reason proclaims compassion for restaurants but allocates more money to hotels, many of which never have closed. In fact hotels are open while churches subsequently were ordered to close by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper. (Saturday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order overturning church closures after a lawsuit was filed by Return America with the support of Republican state Rep. Keith Kidwell, D-79).

The genesis of the hotel-restaurant bill, and a parallel bill to support expansion of mixed beverage sales to take-out and delivery orders, will come as a surprise to Republicans, the party of small business and free-market capitalism. The two bills’ sponsors are Senate Democrats, Jay Chaudhuri (D-15, Wake County) and first-termer Harper Peterson (D-9, New Hanover), himself a restaurant owner.
Upon closer inspection, the Save bill is not likely to be a game changer for independent restaurants relegated to take-out service the past two months and facing deeply felt uncertainty going forward. If there is a forward. The most any restaurant will be loaned under the bill’s current language is $50,000. That’s right, it’s not even a typical Democrat bailout. It’s a loan at 3.5% interest. The bill is so weak that it gives Republicans an opening to counter it with a bill that actually sustains restaurants. It’s a no-brainer.
“I wish more of our (state) officials would get out and the realize the damage, and stop looking to the federal branch to fix things,” a Moore County chef told me. “They seem to think we will just bounce back.”
A glimmer of optimism was delivered Monday by Gov. Cooper, who described himself as “hopeful” that his incremental re-opening plan for small business will move into a long awaited Phase 2 this Saturday. Cooper also, for the first time, said he would consider regional re-openings as he stated the obvious, that “it’s important to cushion the blow to the economy.”
The blow was struck weeks ago, in reality, and will only come into sharper view as state tax revenues begin to crater. Furthermore, Cooper continues to insist that Phase 2 would extend four to six weeks, leaving already suffocating restaurants, salons and fitness clubs operating at reduced capacity. For eateries, dine-in or patio seating at 50% for an excruciating month or longer will hardly launch a turnaround and will keep employment way down.
The worst case scenario is not that people will die indefinitely from complications from the Wuhan Virus. Even the most extreme doomsayers are not pushing that narrative. Worst case is that businesses of longstanding close, never to return, even as the state sits on billions of federal relief that has not been allocated, and even as state lawmakers flirt with crushing debt by the temptation of receiving another round. The Democrats in Washington have created a new bailout monstrosity carrying a $3 trillion price tag (but it never will clear the Senate).
“When considering how best to structure federal aid, I think the best image to keep in mind is a shock absorber,” wrote John Hood, chairman of the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation. “As a condition for accepting any new round of federal funds, (state) governments should be required to restate their unfunded liabilities using honest accounting and then submit a clear plan for discharging the debt.”
This is essentially what legitimately small businesses are required to do if they were among those who managed to apply for and receive funds under the bungled Paycheck Protection Program via the original $2.2 trillion CARES Act. If it turns out they do not have enough employees left to use 75% of the PPP for payroll, the money received converts from a grant to a loan. For many, it’s not a matter of staying safe but staying solvent.

Indignation contagion

By Steve Woodward

Masks are being worn by compliant citizens in our community at an ever increasing rate. Some motorists are even donning masks while driving. In their own vehicles. Without passengers.

masksThe upside to this rather odd habit is that said drivers are masking expressions of indignation, which has become a permanent facial condition for many. Even as the Wuhan Virus continues to disrupt daily life and destroy small businesses, a secondary illness has come to the fore — staggering numbers are foregoing personal freedom and unalienable rights in the name of “safety”. Stay safe. What does it mean? Nobody really knows. But it’s the right thing to say in “uncertain times”, apparently. A media driven narrative strikes again. Those who do not assume safety is a birthright have targets on our backs.

The presumption of safety and the delusion of certainty are woven more deeply into the fabric of the American culture than we knew, as demonstrated by the hysteria and tyranny-to-the-rescue solutions of recent weeks. The United States was not founded on either presumption. In fact, it could not have been founded by men paralyzed by fear. They viewed the world in quite opposite terms. Thomas Jefferson specified a preference for dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.

A tee shirt enshrining Jefferson’s words can be purchased via Amazon. Sadly, fewer Americans than ever seem inclined to wear one. It now appears certain that the weapons unleashed to battle the Wuhan Virus will remain intact long after virus hysteria has subsided. Democrat governors such as North Carolina’s Roy Cooper will feed on a permanent indignant class that embraces peaceful slavery in the name of safety.

Masks forever. Social distancing as a norm. No handshakes. No hugs. No salad bars. No buffets. Permanent requirements to register body temperatures of airline passengers and sports fans. No high fives, or low fives. No church communion. And these are merely the behavioral issues that some will want to impose, even absent edicts from Democrat lawmakers. Just because they know best.

The comfortably enslaved also will cheer for punishing lawsuits post-Wuhan aimed at everything imaginable, but especially products and companies that might have exposed innocent souls to the “deadly” virus. Also: higher hourly wages for employees of businesses that were bailed out (and falsely presumed to be awash with cash); or, permanent $600-a-week federal unemployment benefits for those who prefer to make a minimum of $15 per hour by staying at home. Which raises another one. Staying at home as a way of life? Just in case. No cozy cafes. No theaters. No street fairs. No cruise ships. No pilates classes. Heck, no classes, period.

A government large enough to give you everything we (think we) need, including absolute safety via rolling quarantines, is large enough to take everything we have, materially and ideologically, especially if we fail to stand up to it.

“The absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage, is the massive power that Americans have given to their federal, state and local governments to regulate our lives in the name of protecting our health,” writes syndicated columnist and George Mason University economics professor Walter E. Williams. “Taking back that power should be the most urgent component of our recovery efforts.”

Aided by hysterical throngs, Democrat governors Cooper, Andrew Cuomo (NY), Gavin Newsom (CA), Ralph Northam (VA) and Gretchen Whitmer (MI), to name some of the worst, are demonstrating they will be hesitant to relinquish the power they’ve claimed in recent weeks. In Michigan, a Republican-led legislature filed suit May 6 against Whitmer, seeking to force an end to orders that have closed down many nonessential businesses and largely confined residents to their homes. Whitmer is a power grabber.

In California, Newsom faces no such legal challenge. Knowing that, he moved the goalposts this week just as restrictions on citizens and the economy were about to ease. He declared nothing will be normal until such time as immunity to and a vaccine against the Wuhan Virus becomes reality. Newsom encouraged counties to override any easing of behavioral restrictions as they see fit. He has ceded martial law to the counties. Now that’s leadership.

Will Cooper be next? Friday, North Carolina enters “Phase One” of his plan to re-open the state’s economy. This will “allow” more retail activity for small businesses, but it keeps restaurants closed for at least two more weeks. Restaurant owners are pleading with Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly to help, but they have largely been met with silence. Lawmakers simply do not seem to have the will to take on the indignant class, which clearly has drawn people from both parties. They know best.

The reality is that freedom, too, is essential to health and welfare and is far more powerful than government responses to a pandemic. This was driven home by a letter in the Wall Street Journal by a Michigan reader. He quoted patriot John Locke: “This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power, is so necessary to, and closely joined with a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it.”

World history largely has been defined by human suffering, plague and tyranny. The American experiment proves that this does not have to be. Those who will yield everything to government to achieve “safety” in the 21st century ignore this history. Draw the battle lines. Let’s get on with it.

The long game

By Steve Woodward

It is impossible to understand what religious persecution feels like until it comes home to a free land. It feels surreal. Worshipping inside the four walls of a church this past Sunday with a small gathering of Christians marked the first time I have experienced this horrible feeling. We were where we were not supposed to be, doing what we were not supposed to do in the company of others — praying, singing, contemplating scripture.

“Stay at home,” decreed North Carolina Democrat tyrant and Governor Roy Cooper back in March, joining governors across the nation imposing mass shutdowns to slow the spread of the Wuhan Virus. Cooper’s order specifically prohibits gathering for religious services in churches, or for that matter, anywhere. Dutifully, the churches closed and adopted streaming video services, excluding those most in need of their church community, the ones without internet or the know-how to use a device to access it.

There was so much outrage about businesses that were forcibly closed, hospital procedures that were deemed unnecessary and the suspension of education inside classrooms that the trampling of a Constitutional right to assemble and worship God was all but overlooked. This should never have happened. Churches should have been granted the freedom to make their own decisions about how to conduct services amid virus hysteria, using the same formula that determines how many people can enter a grocery store.

We know the left has poisoned higher education and K-12 education. We know the corporate-owned media has been coopted and is corrupt and compliant. We know voting integrity is increasingly at risk as the left becomes ever more brash about rigging elections. We know the courts have been packed with activist judges to render the will of the American voter meaningless (see NC voter ID lawsuits). And now, sadly, we must acknowledge that clergy and denominational governing bodies apparently have been similarly hijacked. Where was the outrage when Cooper abruptly banned church services? There was none expressed by the church where I am a member.

Thankfully, along came one pastor who stood up, opened the doors of his church and exercised his rights as a U.S. citizen.

This came in stark contrast to John Nagy’s Sunday column in The Pilot. The virus is “everywhere,” he wrote, failing to specify his source, scientific or otherwise, behind this declaration. Nagy’s was a tone of doom, of resignation that North Carolinians should not expect to live the lives we knew only a few weeks ago. Ever again. I sensed an underlying motive for writing it. This is what they’ve always hoped for in America on the left. Less freedom. More governance by edict. More social shaming of anyone who fails to comply with orders, no matter how extreme.

These ambitions were forecast as long ago as 1963 when a member of the U.S. House of Representatives placed into the Congressional Record the 45 goals of communism derived from a book recently published at the time, entitled “The Naked Communist”. Read the list here. It is clear the left has played the long game. More than a half century later the unthinkable goals they articulated are being achieved, one by one.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge, as Americans and as Republicans, and as North Carolinians, the Wuhan Virus appears increasingly to have spread across our world deliberately with a lot of collateral damage but one target, the United States. The U.S. economy, our health care system, our food supply, President Donald Trump, our Constitutional freedom, religious and speech freedom specifically (who will soon forget a Raleigh police officer announcing that protests are “non-essential” activities under Cooper’s iron boot orders?), and anything else the virus can disrupt along the way. Note the surge of nodding heads as the State Board of Elections turns up the volume on the necessity of 100% mail-in voting this fall. For our safety, of course.

The Wuhan Virus is exacting a sad but hardly unprecedented human toll. The broader death toll remains to be seen. The left is counting on historic carnage. God empowers us to win the war now being waged outside of labs working on vaccines, the war on liberty. Let us pray we have the courage to leverage that power so that churches, like some American businesses, do not close their doors forever.

Fraud unmasked

By Steve Woodward

Stay at home in your senior care facility this fall. And vote. Someone you’ve never seen before will show up and collect your absentee ballot, removing the danger of licking a stamp or walking to the mailbox. If you do not know for whom to vote, we can help with that, too. Just leave it to us.

Oh, and do not worry about finding your state issued ID. The collector will not ask for it. He will not even ask for your name. It will be added to the ballot in advance.

Although this proposed scenario reads like something out of a Soviet-era proclamation, it seems perfectly logical to the director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Director Brisson Bell outlined a lengthy wish list of statutory changes as to how we vote in a memo to Governor Roy Cooper and the General Assembly to “address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our elections.”

The memo — perhaps we should call it the Bell Dossier — was dated March 26, authored only nine days after Cooper’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre that shut down restaurants at 5 p.m., thus it was released at the initial onset of corona-steria. The timing strongly suggests Bell and her “voter reform” gang had this list ready to roll out long before a few bad servings of bat tartar rocked Wuhan, China.

The eternal struggle to rig our elections to give the left permanent power is not unique to North Carolina. In fact, erstwhile presidential pretender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) this week submitted a bill, the VoteSafe Act of 2020, that proposes to spend $5 billion of taxpayers’ dollars “to ensure that voting is safe and accessible.” And easily compromised by teams of fraudsters long after the masks and gloves come off.

The Harris plan is dead on arrival. In hindsight we should be thankful it was not quietly inserted in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Closer to home, it will surprise no Republican that Gov. Cooper will do everything in his power to enable Bell and the state BOE to drag her reforms across the finish line.

Bell’s memo runs five single-spaced pages, laying out 14 specific recommendations that she insists are vital because election season is close at hand. Voting as we have known it could kill us all if we do not act. In reality, early voting will not begin until October, half a year from now. Cooper might have opened and closed the state two or three times by then but the threat of the Wuhan Virus carrying over into the fall is unlikely, even if that is the dream of the Left and their media soldiers. Don’t forget, the New York Times early on called it the Trump Virus. They’s rather see Trump go away and the virus stick around for as long as it’s useful. Unfortunately, a few “experts” have suggested a second outbreak later in the year, but these were the same people urging us to fill movie theaters in February.

Some minor aspects of how we live might permanently change when this horror is behind us. Bell’s memo addresses permanency, too. A majority of the changes she proposes would be permanent with a few exceptions. In the same breath, Bell says she is merely reacting to the virus, for the greater good don’t you know, in the short term even as she schemes rigging elections into perpetuity. Her lack of sincerity is almost amusing.

Voter Integrity Project / North Carolina (VIP/NC) provided the public service of reviewing the Bell memo, point by point, and providing analysis of where the red flags are lurking. There are nearly as many as in a Chinese military parade. Here are some of the more reviling elements:

Expand options for absentee ballot requests. Allow fax and email absentee ballot requests. Allow county boards of elections to pre-fill a voter’s information on an absentee request form (and usher in future ballot harvesting).

Reduce or eliminate the witness requirement. Bell uses terms like “social distancing” and again, “COVID-19”, in (explaining) her dream to reduce the ballot witness requirement to one or even none. Let’s see how long this full-blown panic keeps everybody homebound before you allow something this stupid.

“Temporarily” modify restrictions on (ballot) assistance in care facilities. 

In the name of COVID-19, Bell wants county BOEs to be allowed to rig (early voting) operating hours as they did in 2012. We cannot speak for all counties, but the abuses in Wake County were extremely heavy-handed. The Wake BOE also only allowed certain Republican-leaning sites to be open for 10 days while the Democrat sites were open all 17 days.

The bottom line, concludes VIP/NC, is that this is not a response to a rampant virus. This is a page out of a yellowed, dog-eared playbook: Overwhelm the system and then exploit the chaos.

Virus, bad. Remedies, worse.

 

 

 

Liberty and death

By Steve Woodward

A physician and UCLA academic writing in The Wall Street Journal lays out the near future in the clearest terms: “If we can’t shut down (the United States) for 18 months on the gamble that an effective (COVID-19) vaccine will arrive, how long will it be worth committing millions of families to poverty and uprooting lives, education and every other part of the economy?

If a life is not worth living, is it worth saving?

This is the question no one wants to ask in a thriving free society. But is must be asked.

Give me liberty or give me death. This is the original bumper sticker assigned to the American experiment. But does anyone actually embrace it? We will know soon.

Because liberty is being drained even as the Swamp stands strong. Americans are yielding rights and freedom because one person in a community, a person with many health issues, might contract COVID-19 and die. This is the justification for governors — who are more capable of denying us liberty than we previously knew — decreeing shut downs of churches, restaurants and other thriving businesses. Stay safe! Yet America was not built on the presumption of safety. We are a strong nation because we believe in God and his will, which will deliver different fates across humanity. We are a great nation because we have sent young men and women into battle, knowing many would not come back, We did not assure them of safety. We did not say, “Sign up and stay safe”.

If a life is not worth living, is it worth saving? Ronald Reagan famously said, “Our’s is a rendezvous with destiny.” And if you doubt it, look up and face destiny. Reagan didn’t say we would like it, the rendezvous. But here we are.

Is it a choice or an obligation? To preserve liberty even in the face of a health crisis? Do we stand by as the federal government plunges our society into debt? Do we stand by as governments prohibit us to assemble to worship on Easter Sunday, and beyond? Do we relinquish our God given right to be free of government tyranny?

No one knows how many will die in the weeks ahead. But now is not the time to cower in fear. Our founding fathers risked everything, their careers, their riches, their way of life, and very lives, to give birth to our nation. Today, our nation is just getting started, and again it faces turmoil.

We must ask, as did our founders, why do we want to live if life is shackled by tyrants who claim to know better than we, who threaten penalties if we hug a fellow human being, visit a restaurant or worship inside a church?

Give me liberty. Death is inevitable.