Board of exacerbation

By Steve Woodward

The Moore County School Board met for a daylong work session. Around the lunch hour, members took a break to feast on a catered lunch paid for on the taxpayers’ dime.

Throughout the meeting the board chairman was dismissive of board member David Hensley.

The chair was quite deferential to the Moore Schools superintendent, however.

The chair expressed concern that the budgetary outlook for schools is grim. But when Hensley pointed out that the cost per student budgeted in Moore County Schools has risen about 50 percent in just three years, to $14,701 per student, there was silence.

When Hensley noted that $750,000 has been spent to hire architects to remodel six school gymnasiums, noting that a single architect could have been hired full time for considerably less than $750,000, there was mostly silence.

Around the same time, a staff member reported that the fourth quarter 2022-23 budget would exceed earlier projections by $805,556, which is only slightly more than $750,000.

Hensley presented a report to the board showing how students are forced to pay nominal fees for the “right” to attend school, take an art class, or participate in graduation. He noted that the fees are collected in direct violation of the North Carolina Constitution, which provides for a free education for every student.
Hensley suggested removing some of the fees, but the board chair dismissed the fiscally conservative proposal, saying, “I don’t think we can pay for it right now.”

Another board member spoke up during a discussion about identifying age inappropriate books in school libraries and targeting these for removal. A fellow board member said, “We should not be in a position of banning books.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that your humble author lapsed into Biden-esque confusion and mistakenly posted a commentary written after a school board meeting in 2019-2020, when board chair Libby Carter and, later, board chair Pam Thompson, repeatedly were dismissive of Hensley for daring to address uncomfortable topics involving excess spending. 

But you would be wrong. The aforementioned took place during the board’s July 10, 2023, work session. Today.

The board seated last December, with Robert Levy named chair, had been elected, first in 2020 after victories at the ballot box by Hensley, Philip Holmes and Levy, and in 2022 (after Ken Benway, Pauline Bruno and Shannon Davis won their races), to reform failing schools, restore campus discipline and rein in profligate spending. Rightfully, there was optimism that a 6-1 conservative majority would steamroll bad policies and banish poisoned curricula of the past.

Now we know why so many citizens decry politics and campaign promises. While this board has several shining achievements worthy of praise, the past three months have seen all of that positive energy replaced by hostility.

The responsibility for this unfortunate about-face lies at the feet of chair Levy, who is deliberately ignoring the will of voters by failing to demonstrate leadership, by ignoring the work of school board sub-committees to help navigate important items onto the monthly agenda, and by alienating his former, most staunch ally, Hensley. It is painful to watch.

Meanwhile, some of the other board members seem at a loss to respond to Levy’s open hostility. They mostly sit silently, bringing little passion to the proceedings. Indeed, they appear hesitant to challenge Levy or question his disruptive conduct. At one point during the aforementioned meeting, Levy interrupted Hensley, shouting, “You’re just wrong!”

Levy referred to Hensley’s contention that a funding “deal” he and Superintendent Tim Locklair have hashed out with the county Board of Commissioners, which controls local education purse strings, is a bad deal.

Hensley, who is a well qualified chair of the school board finance subcommittee, was excluded by Levy from discussions with the commissioners.

He contends that agreeing to a fixed 38 percent cut of the commissioners’ annual pie leaves the school budget vulnerable to inevitable economic fluctuations.

Hensley rightfully fears that fixed annual funding coming from the commissioners will preclude the board from going back to the commissioners when a crisis arises, or inflation surges upward, to request additional funding.

Commissioners chair Nick Picerno has said he will allocate the funds with the understanding that “you guys make it work”. Or as Hensley puts it, Picerno is saying, “Don’t come back asking for an extra nickel.” In other words, live within the means of your 38 percent.

There always will be debates about budgeting and spending on public education.

But Moore County citizens did not vote for a school board hijacked by a chair who has lost his way, obsessed with silencing conservative advocate Hensley. If he cares about education reform, Levy resigns.

Board member Bruno said it best about Levy’s tyrannical bent.

“This stops right now. We are trying to win (community) respect, their trust. To do this is awful. You are destroying the work we have done since we were elected.”

Miriam’s eagle

By Steve Woodward

A brilliant sun rose July 4, 2023, over Moore County and, soon a brilliant Carolina blue sky emerged. In every hamlet and town, children were reminded anew what this day is about. Mom and dad brought out the red-white-and-blue shirts, and little American flags to be waved by little hands. There was conversation about a parade, and when it would start, and which neighbors would be coming out, and about leaving in time to give Gramma a ride.

Vehicles were adorned by colorful banners, flags, signs, and driven into the streets by costumed operators, sweltering beneath  military attire and headgear. Everywhere, there was optimism and joy. The air was full of freedom, and we made sure to breathe it in because a mere two or three years ago government tyrants empowered by a presumed “health crisis” started crushing our freedom. Nothing was off the table. School, work, Christmas dinner, fireworks and, sadly, parades — our uniquely American way of uniting amid division, in sprawling cities and one-traffic light towns.

But we are back in 2023, with so much to parade about, so much to march about, shout about and, yes, worry about.

Independence Day on this, America’s 247th birthday, was readily anticipated, easily embraced and responsible for cherished memories. We always wonder what the world is thinking when it sees these images, the fireworks, the big, jacked up pickup trucks, the sporty convertibles, and the people. Amid all of the strife in this world, and the relentless attacks by radical Left throngs spreading into every aspect of American life, and the attacks on morality, Christianity and the most basic characteristic of human beings, gender, the people still gather, prayerfully and defiantly. 

Why are our spirits not dampened on our national day of celebration? Because of what we do the other 364 days of the year. Because of the work we do in the shadows, the toiling and the contemplating, and the strategizing. Because there remain parents who know it their responsibility to raise their children and shield them from the deviance poisoning our popular culture and our education systems. Because we know what time it is. The hour is late in America.

But be not dismayed. Let me tell you about a friend of ours in Moore County, and let me remind you that it is not always soaring rhetoric and political discourse that has the power to inspire.

If we want to save our Republic, and make America even greater again, and stand in the breech of history and shout, stop, we need to take a cue from Miriam Chu. We need to be selfless in volunteering our time and talents (and hers are vast). We need to put in the time it takes to complete the task, and be gracious toward those who bring more excuses than excitement to the project at hand. We need to forego sleep, forge on when we’re tired, and hot, and sweating, and covered in paint, and glue, and choked by dust. We need to get by on Diet Pepsi and a slice of pizza, or a burger. We need to measure twice, cut once, create, recreate, imagine, reimagine, and seize a new idea only to replace it by an even better one. 

We need to make the impossible happen using limited resources and against ominous odds. We need keep our eyes always on the prize. And in that final hour, when we know the end is near and our work is nearly done, we take a nap, and rise up stronger than ever to stand victorious with the wind and a soaring eagle at our back.  

This is not platitude. This is the story of how Moore County’s Republican Party was represented on July 4, 2023, on the streets of Carthage, with throngs of waving, applauding citizens as far as the eye could see, observing with awe Miriam’s Eagle. 

It was the perfect expression of what Americans can do when we summon our best instincts and get to work in the spirit of our Founders. 

Our kids: The hunted

By Steve Woodward

What if an entity declared April “Bigot Month”? What if another organized group designated August as “Homophobia Month”?

Of course, these groups would not succeed. Corporations, television networks, universities, pro sports leagues, and federal and state governments never would embrace these themes. Normal citizens would quickly dismiss them as well.

And, yet, Pride Month enjoys free rein, and now arguably attracts more attention than the well established Black History Month (February). Pride celebrations are infused into the culture by forces not readily identifiable. At least we know the origin of the Wuhan virus. But the Pride Plague seems to have spread like locusts, devolving from a focus on love to outright deviance and child molestation. Corporate geniuses willingly forfeit millions in profits to impose these vile themes on their customers.

In New York City a recent drag parade featured an orchestrated chant: “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re coming for your children.”

So, let us assume that we must accept Pride Month every June. Let us accept that brands will forego sales and customer loyalty in favor of plastering products with rainbows and naughty nuns. Let us turn our backs on children watching drag shows with their obscene bodily gestures, and hearing books read out loud espousing girls denouncing their breasts and boys their penises.

Let’s just write off June as the one month of the year during which Americans turn away and allow the deviants to control the national narrative.

If we cut this deal, let’s make sure we get something in return. According to my extensive research (and the Ultimate Calendar of Heritage Months), January, April, August, October and December have no official designations.

Here are some no-brainers for consideration. Military Salute Month. Religious Freedom Month. Mental Health Awareness Month. Morality Month. Family Month. Patriotism Month.

Let’s flood the calendar. Let’s start today. There are not enough months left for my personal favorite. But if a 13th month comes along, I’m campaigning rigorously for “Dressing in Adult Clothing Aboard Airplanes Month”. No pajamas. No hoodies. No crocks. Mandatory bathing. Baseball caps forbidden.

A man can dream.

Speaking of men, there is at least one who proposes extending Pride Month beyond June. He is the Biden administrations token transy, Admiral “Rachel” L. Levine (photo nearby), an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services. “She” used her Twitter account to lobby for a “Summer of Pride”. For those keeping track at home, Levine’s drag costume of choice is a military uniform.

It only was a matter of time before the cross-dressers would dare to overreach in an attempt to advance their vile agenda as a permanent feature of American life.

Columnist Deroy Murdock, an openly gay black man, recognizes where the Pridesters are going and is warning the “Gs” to distance themselves from the LBGTQ orgy.

Writing for The Daily Caller, Murdock observes, “The G in LGBTQIA2S+ stands for ‘Guilt by association.’ Normal gay people should flee the Alphabet People before we get fatally trampled.

“The original gay rights movement operated within America’s broadly Jeffersonian ethos: Individuals enjoy the liberty to pursue happiness, if they do not limit the rights of others.”

Other than an occasional case of gay couple threatening to sue a bakery or a florist for declining to participate in their wedding, our American society in the 21st Century largely has embraced the normalcy of legal gay marriage. But as with the crumbling of bygone racial and gender barriers, there always are extremists who decline to give us any credit.

This is precisely what Murdock fears among the emboldened maniacs elevated to cultural prominence by the ever invasive ad campaigns and demonstrations attendant to Pride Month.

“The Alphabet People cannot keep to themselves,” Murdock writes. “Instead, they are in everyone’s face 24/7/365. They sexualize damn-near everything, jackhammer girls’ sports, penetrate female spaces with male genitalia, erase women (Oops! I mean non-men), and — worst of all — covet America’s children.”

As disgust builds, June might soon be occupied by a parallel theme rising like a Phoenix: Leave Our Kids Alone Month.

Power play

By Steve Woodward

What was not heard during Richard Hudson’s congressional hearing on energy security echoed the loudest: a path forward to protect grid infrastructure.

Pinehurst’s Village Hall was humming June 16, 2023, as an array of political power brokers assembled to see a microcosm of Washington sausage-making on public display. The U.S. House sub-committee on Energy and Commerce, co-chaired by Moore County’s congressman Hudson, did not disappoint.

Attendees witnessed firsthand what lawmakers sit through interminably on Capitol Hill week after week. They ask questions. The panelists recite scripted responses. At the end, everyone agrees there is more work to be done. Everyone regrets that regulations and funding shortages deter the work.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (third from left) was joined by House committee members on June 16, 2023, during a hearing in Pinehurst.

Experts on North Carolina’s electric power grid called as witnesses instead subjected the audience to a series of rolling information brown outs. There was more tap dancing than you’d expect to find in an old Fred Astaire film. Expressions of concern proliferated; while assurances of future proactivity flickered like lamps during a thunderstorm.

Our power grid is more vulnerable than ever. Almost no actionable game planning resulted from Moore County’s December 3, 2022, blackout caused by targeted shootings of two sub-stations. Law enforcement and state emergency response personnel are no closer to identifying the perpetrators of a deliberate attack that plunged 45,000 households into darkness.

One of the most memorable exchanges cast light on the hubris at the core of Duke Energy’s culture. Another, more humorous theorem, put forth solar energy as the last best hope for keeping our lights on when bad actors attack the grid. If you guessed that came out of the mouth of a college professor you would be right.

Committee member Gary Palmer, a Republican representing Alabama’s sixth congressional district, asked Duke Energy managing director Mark Aysta about a directive issued November 30, 2022, by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, warning that the United States “remains in a heightened threat environment”. The bulletin specifically mentioned “U.S. critical infrastructure” and 15 occasions on which energy sabotage was threatened.

Aysta, who heads Duke’s enterprise security operations across seven states, affirmed that the organization received the DHS bulletin, adding, “We receive these routinely.”

Palmer countered: “Routine? I don’t think I’d consider it a routine warning.”

Earlier, during opening remarks, Aysta rattled off his rehearsed lines, citing the 100,000 square miles of infrastructure Duke protects on behalf of more than 10 million customers, increased monitoring of substations and an ongoing “review of all assets” and “rapid response protocols”.

After the question about the DHS alert of November 30 — released three days before the Moore County attack — Aysta made a fatal mistake, inferring that safeguarding of such a vast network is an ongoing effort.

“I’m not going to buy that ,” Palmer said. “That you can’t protect (substations). I’m talking about 24/7 surveillance with someone sitting in an office. I don’t think you do that. You didn’t take additional steps (ahead of December 3) to secure your infrastructure.”

Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-8th) pressed witness William Ray, director of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management, about his interactions with Duke Energy. Ray said Duke “has been a good partner” but when asked specifically about the December 3 attacks and Duke’s response May declined to provide an answer.

Although he was not a witness, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields was more direct than May when asked a similar question about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s outreach following the December 3 incident. Fields told Raleigh television camera crews after the hearing concluded that the FBI let him down in the aftermath of the attacks.

Aysta was non-committal on any number of security solutions proposed by panel members. Rep. Hudson asked him about emerging microgrid technology, whereupon Astay said he would get back to Hudson. (A microgrid is a self-contained electrical network that allows organizations to generate their own electricity on-site. It’s a good guess Duke Energy will always protect its monopoly and resist an autonomous solution).

Aysta squirmed when asked by Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-9th) if it was possible to stockpile transformers to mitigate supply chain delays after infrastructure damage occurs. “We’d definitely engage in a conversation,” Aysta said.

Residents and news camera crews in Pinehurst Village Hall on June 16, 2023.

Another witness provided by far the most inane testimony of the morning. N.C. State assistant professor Jordan Kern launched into a climate change lecture, dismissing the hearing’s focus on grid security because, after all, most power outages are caused by extreme weather.

And what causes extreme weather? Climate change, he said. So rather than fixate on infrastructure, Kern admonished, let’s talk abut “more reliance” on wind and solar energy.

Kern advised that “distributed solar energy offers unique solutions for improving grid resiliency” and said that assessing the “plausibility” of the nation’s power system in the future depends on embracing alternate sources.

Kern was asked no further direct questions and after the hearing concluded was seen driving away in a hybrid electric Toyota Prius. Even Prof. Solar and Wind apparently isn’t ready to put his faith in an all-electric vehicle.


By Steve Woodward

In the closing hours of the July 10 business session of the North Carolina Republican Party convention, the stifling hall, packed like the last flight out of Kabul, had the aura of a modern day Third World shelter after a Cat-5 hurricane.

Of course, cell phone reception was abysmal. The WIFI was insecure and unreliable (and generally inaccessible for those without a room reservation in the nearby Sheraton). Nearby, lines formed to enter restrooms. Announcements were obscured by the din of a hostile audience. Men in suits were huddled in remote corners trying to agree on the least bad solutions.

So, what did we learn in Greensboro after a 12-hour marathon Saturday? The only thing now emptier than the soul of the party is the shuttered adjacent mega-shopping mall, Four Seasons, which resembles Chernobyl post-1986.

The take-away from Greensboro certainly was not anticipated and sent many state Republicans away contemplating how we go forward into a consequential election cycle that concludes in November 2024. 

The restlessness among the Koury Convention Center audience of 1,800+ was palpable. Perhaps it was due in part to uncomfortable seating akin to stepping into a row in the cabin of a discount airline (with eight middle seats). But the sources ran deeper, partially owed to the reality that we are a party led by stalwarts across 100 counties, and the stalwarts have heard repeatedly about the NC GOP’s commitment to election integrity. Cell phone issues would have not mattered, but the integrity czars the day before had assured delegates that using them to vote for party chair and vice chair was the best choice.

Integrity proponent and party chair Michael Whatley was re-elected on a platform that he deserves to put before us – under his chairmanship Republicans have won, and won, and won, consequential elections. Foremost among them, the victories in 2022 that secured a majority vote on the state Supreme Court. 

President Trump in Greensboro

Later Saturday, President Donald Trump strode onto the stage, reaffirming by his opening remarks that he appreciates Whatley, anti-establishment N.C. congressman Dan Bishop, and his ranking colleague, Moore County’s U.S. Representative Richard Hudson. This is one reason Trump perseveres. He understands that without the connection between grass roots folks and his larger-than-life persona, he’s just another status quo Republican, aka, the last thing he’d ever want to be.

What Trump likely would not have known as he approached the podium was that Whatley’s re-election was highly contentious and utterly chaotic. Many in the ballroom, while inspired by Trump, remained distracted by what they had endured earlier. Whatley was said to have won with 62 percent of the vote. But questions about the “integrity” of the process linger still. How many votes cast for worthy opponent John Kane were sent into the app’s black hole? How many votes for Whatley were cast by delegates who were not actually in the hall (as required by convention rules)? Consider the story of Melodi Fentress

The author’s NCGOP voting app registered a vote after 12 attempts on June 10

With so many questions unanswered, there seems to be not one mainstream media outlet reporting on the technical glitches that made a mockery of the chairmanship election process. When all we needed were slips of paper and a few passed hats, we sat through infuriating techno paper cuts and jeers. The app reportedly cost the NC GOP around $300,000 to develop.

“It’s not about (Kane) losing,” posted delegate, 2022 U.S. House candidate and Kane supporter Courtney Geels on Facebook. “It’s about a man (Whatley) who gets up and screams he has led the best election integrity practice of any state, a man who was nominated to be over all of election integrity for the whole country, the same man who was responsible for the chaos that ensued in the most unsecured election I have ever witnessed.”

Make no mistake, the app flap was THE story of the day – it even cancelled a $125 per person (pre-paid) VIP reception and delayed until who knows when the election of a vice chair, a consequential miscue. Party rules dictate that a vice chair is elected for two years or until a replacement is elected. Conceivably, the vote could be delayed until the 2024 convention.

Otherwise, the buzz would have been – should have been — all about the 2-to-1 vote by delegates to censure Sen. Thom Tillis (a vote taken by old fashioned head counting, not via smartphone app), followed by Bishop’s emergence as one of the few reliable conservatives in the NC GOP universe in Washington. Bishop’s steadfastness during the debt ceiling debate positions him as a guy who can run for any office he desires going forward. The establishment keepers in the convention hall squirmed as Bishop recounted the lies underpinning the so-called debt ceiling “deal” last week. 

“The quarterback (House Speaker Kevin McCarthy) fumbled the football,” Bishop said, addressing the convention. “You may have heard claims that we materially cut spending. None of that is true.”

Despite establishment bloviating “this was not a step forward; it was a missed opportunity,” Bishop said, amid standing ovations by many delegates. He pledged that he will not back down from calling out hypocrisy “because the hour is too late.” 

The third top story was Mark Robinson’s remarks during which he made not one mention of why he should be elected governor. He rightfully belittled Democrat opponent, sitting Attorney General Josh Stein. It was a typically rousing Robinson speech but one who did not know better could have presumed Robinson is running for President of the United States. His handlers will not even permit him to dab his sweat beaded forehead any longer with his signature red towel. 

Robinson’s new signature is a line insisting he does not “want” to run for NC governor, with the inference being that the times in which we live demand that he run, just as a soldier does not want to, but must, run toward the sounds of cannons. 

Until Robinson begins to lay out the life-after-Cooper plan for voters we might begin to take him at his word about what he does not want and listen more carefully to a substance laden gubernatorial candidate, one Dale Folwell.