That Email Dallas Woodhouse Sent to NC Boards of Elections Was Not The Best of Moves

When you want to do something surreptitiously, it’s probably best not to email your intentions for others to see and forward to the press.

It’s like hiding that “Peace Frog” tattoo you got on your lower back when you and your fraternity brothers got really drunk one night, but you still went to work without even putting a shirt on.

It’s like being a 32-year-old “kid” who dyed his hair, swam really fast, got a medal, got drunk, and pissed on the side of a wall and tore down a sign but claimed that he was being robbed – all the while the whole thing was on video.

It’s like trying to circumvent the law or a ruling by a higher court by sending an email with very explicit instructions on how to break the law by not really observing it and then sending that email out to people who believe that their oath to the law is stronger than partisan politics.

That first example is just a scenario, but I do know many people with unintended tattoos. There’s even a show about it – Bad Ink.

The second example concerns Ryan Lochte’s recent Olympic-sized blunder in which he actually displayed his arrogance and right of privilege in a world too much filled with double-standards. The court of public opinion will be a harsh judge on that on.

The third example actually happened this past week with Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the N.C. Republican Party.

Just check out this excerpt from the Raleigh News & Observer from a report given by Colin Campbell. ( A copy of the full email can be found here –

NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request.

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting….

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Woodhouse made statements like,

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it. Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

“Many of our folks are angry and are opposed to Sunday voting for a host of reasons including respect for voter’s religious preferences, protection of our families and allowing the fine election staff a day off, rather than forcing them to work days on end without time off. Six days of voting in one week is enough. Period.”

“No group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens.”

Wow! I don’t know what is more egregious – the fact that he literally instructed boards of elections across the state to disobey the court’s orders or that he thought he was powerful enough to send thi in an email and totally not expect to be caught Read more here: .

If you have not read the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reasoning for the repealing of the Voter ID Law, then do it. You can find it here –

They pretty much said that the Voter ID law was passed to specifically limit votes by minorities and poorer people. It was a sharp indictment against the GOP-led NC General Assembly and Gov. McCrory.

But Woodhouse did this? Whether or not a law was broken is up for the courts and people above my pay grade, but what it really shows me is one very, very strong motivating factor driving Mr. Woodhouse.

That is FEAR.

What separates the North Carolina of 2012 (and to a lesser degree, 2014) from the North Carolina of 2016 is a huge influx of new voters. NC is growing fast and many of these new North Carolinians are moving in because of the change in the economy – from rural manufacturing and agriculture to urban and suburban banking, finance, technology, and other 21st century “industries”. And these people are not necessarily die-hard republicans. Charlotte is much bigger. The Triad area (Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point) and the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh) areas are growing. Even Asheville is growing. They also have major public college campuses.

These new Old North Staters may see HB2, the Voter ID law, the Duke Energy coal ash spills, and other legislative initiatives as backwards and regressive. And they may want to do something about it.

Furthermore, there is a “YUGE” presidential election. There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a polarizing figure. So is Clinton. But I do not see democratic heavyweights not supporting their candidate. That is not the case for republicans. Many top members have openly said they would not vote for Trump. Now, if you are a Richard Burr, or Pat McCrory, or any state lawmaker who is running for reelection as a republican, you must make a choice, and an openly vocal one, to either support or not support Trump.

Deciding to support him has repercussions. Deciding not to support him has repercussions. Not making an open decision has repercussions. The only thing that some of these people could hope for is to not have more democratic leaning people vote. Repealing the Voter ID law allows such people to vote.

Hence, Woodhouse’s email.

It does make one scratch his head to think of how unintelligent sending an email like that could be. It will fall into someone’s inbox who views it as an attempt to bypass laws, and the press will obtain a copy of it – the very same press that many in the GOP rail against.

Furthermore, Woodhouse did all but guarantee that the board of elections in each county will be under a little more scrutiny, or at least have more hypervigilant eyes upon them. When they were instructed to “make things easier for the republicans” and that was made public, you simply placed a large media target on the process.

Hell, it may ensure that more people come to the polls.

McCrory and the 17-Day Window of Time

Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP mainstays in Raleigh have filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the Voter ID law that was overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently.

There are two specific items that are brought to light with this action.

First, when the 4th Circuit Court overturned the law, it stated that law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” But Gov. McCrory calls it common sense. He issued a statement that said,

“This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

So what McCrory calls “common sense”, a higher court called discrimination. Yet the “common sense” excuse McCrory incorporates here is also used by him in other nonsensical actions like HB2 which is also discriminatory.

In November, the people of North Carolina will get to what they think common sense really is.

The second, and almost humorous, item is the timing.

Ironically, it took 17 days for the Governor to make the request.

That’s seventeen. Ten plus seven.

Why is it ironic? Because part of the Voter ID bill that was passed in the governor’s term of office reduced the early voting period from 17 to 10.

Now, if I used McCrory’s common sense, then I should be able to argue that if 10 days is enough time to vote in the early process period, then 10 days should be enough time to react to a ruling about the window for early voting.

But McCrory took 17, not ten. It seems that 17 days is a minimum amount of time needed to make decisions about elections.

It’s like McCrory is telling us how important having a 17-day period is.

Seems like common sense to me.


Billy Pilgrim and the Sermon on the Mount – The Differences Between the Beatitudes and the Me-atitudes.

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Lived through the Great Depression. Fought in WWII. A POW and a social critic.

Truly a leading voice for the twentieth century. Fifty years of writing – 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. Slaughterhouse Five is a must read for anyone (and on my suggested list of works for my daughter to read) and “Harrison Bergeron” was a staple of mine in freshmen English classes.

And probably the best cameo performance ever in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.

He also was one of the most recognizable authors to ever walk the earth, sporting a mustache about as well as Mark Twain and Magnum P.I.


He also has a quote about religion and politics that a recent post by my Auntie Sherry reminded me of. It reads,

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

There’s a lot of truth to that in this political climate, especially here in this election year. For me it is more applicable to the elections in North Carolina.

I am not a Biblical Scholar. After being christened in the Roman Catholic Church, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition where services ended right at noon and softball season brought about a higher attendance in church for eligibility. I do not attend a regular church now, and I do consider religion and spirituality as being separate. My study of his words and deeds do not lead me to believe that he would endorse many of the people in office today who claim to follow his teachings. And I am very adamant that Jesus not be used as a political endorsement.

I do look to the teachings of Christ for guidance and inspiration, and the Sermon on the Mount where the Beatitudes are found are very dear to me.

They are as follows from Matthew 5: 3-10.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many believe that the word “blessed” here means “happy” and that serves well for me. I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I will trust what linguistic experts say here.

Terms like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “the meek”, “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemakers”, and “persecuted” are not simply literal references. It seems to me that what Jesus was saying was that he was going to help those (and charge his followers to do the same) who had lost faith, who suffer any form of sorrow, who put others needs ahead of theirs, who show mercy to others, who strive not to be polluted by the world, who seek peace rather than confusion, and who do right even when others disagree to find happiness.

And if we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we should as well.

I wrote a post last April after the Network for Public Education convention on Raleigh entitled “Legivangelists and Others Who Praise the Lard.” In June I wrote a post entitled “Politics and the God Complex- Putting Jesus on the Ticket.” I believe that I had Vonnegut’s words streaming in my mind when I wrote them. And both pieces deal with the use of Jesus and God as validation for what has been enacted here in North Carolina under the present leadership.

If anyone on West Jones Street can convince me that suppressing the vote through a racially motivated Voter ID bill, discriminating against the LGBTQ community, cutting unemployment benefits for many who were still reeling from the great recession, denying the expansion of healthcare through Medicaid, and allowing for people to drink polluted water, drawing election districts to deny people’s democratic voices, and allowing for over 20% of our kids to live in poverty fits in with the Beatitudes, then I will gladly withdraw this post.

It seems that in those instances it was more about the “Me”atitudes rather than the Beatitudes.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Is that still true? I am not asking it as a rhetorical question.

If I had a picture of every lawmaker in Raleigh who championed, sponsored, and voted for the aforementioned pieces of legislature, I think I might have the most homogenous looking group of lawmakers I have seen in a while.

I wonder what Billy Pilgrim would have said about that. Actually, I think I do.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Rather, please keep talking to us.

Open Letter to Sen. Jim Davis Concerning Misleading Claims

Dear Sen. Davis,

It was with great anticipation that I viewed and watched your comments at a recent Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting in which you were “invited” to rebut the legitimate claims of a highly respected, veteran educator named John de Ville.

A video of that presentation is available here –

However, that anticipation quickly turned into an exercise of patience as I listened to a three-term state senator do nothing but rehash the same talking points of the GOP establishment in Raleigh that claims to have strengthened public education when in reality has created the very circumstances that Mr. de Ville is fighting to remedy for the sake of our students.

When you were introduced by one of the commissioners, it was obvious that your presence was there to simply squash Mr. de Ville’s well prepared argument. In actuality, you strengthened Mr. de Ville’s argument.

You approached the podium with the “purest of motives” and considering the circumstances under which you were present, it seems more like you there with the purest of political motives.

As I mentioned earlier, you simply restate the same talking points that others in Raleigh have used to validate your legislative actions, and again it bears responses that clearly show that you either misrepresent the truth or simply ignore it.

  • “Stimulus money and non-recurring revenue”

You made mention of the 2008 budget and that it was bolstered by Obama’s stimulus money when he took office and when democrats controlled Congress. Not counting that fact that Obama did not actually take office until 2009 and stimulus money was not released right away, you are simply revising history about the Great Recession. Mr. de Ville actually explains this better than I could in a recent exchange. He said,

“Yes, 2008 was the high water mark for recent public education funding … Democrats were running the state. That’s why all of us who are public education advocates use that as a baseline, because that’s how well we were doing ON OUR OWN and without the current hostility to public education we are currently experiencing.  But it is IMPOSSIBLE that any federal stimulus money was spent on public education that year (2007 – 2008) because (a) the Great Recession did not hit until the fall of 2008… When George W. Bush was in office. (b) the stimulus wasn’t passed until February of 2009 and the stimulus/EduJobs monies didn’t flow to states and counties for educational use until later in 2009 for use in the 2009 – 2010 year.”

  • “We have increased educational funding every year.”

Sen. Davis, you are correct, but there is so much more involved. You are making the same talking point that Gov. McCrory makes on his website for reelection.

Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession.

Here’s an analogy. Say in 2008, a school system in your district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s approximately 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2016, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to your claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly by about 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.

  • “The state budget spends 56% on education.”

That’s true. And it seems like a large amount. And it is higher than the national average. But it’s supposed to be. The very state constitution that you are sworn to uphold calls for it. I have made this argument before to Rep. John Hardister. I will repeat that argument here.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Study provides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The rest of my explanation to him can be found at this link,

However, I do want to point out that before we had a “Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature,” the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. As I stated to Rep. Hardister,

“…those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering. Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting numbers of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?”

Also lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

And that uneven distribution to LEA’s (central offices) has been cut by the most recent budget, the one you claim creates a surplus for our state.

  • The NEA statistics and the fact they “will tell you they have problems”

It’s odd that the NEA’s report on educational spending is usually considered the standard in the nation. The John Locke Foundation’s John Hood and Dr. Terry Stoops have used it to bolster their baseless claims. Even the GOP has used it to claim that teacher salaries are rising on average more in North Carolina than any other state. But you seem to dismiss it with an uneducated perspective.

Below is another source of information, the U.S. Census Bureau. It pretty much confirms the same findings as the NEA report.


Not flattering at all. And the benefits package that you refer to? Yes, it is better than some and worse than a lot.

Also, you made mention of NC in comparison to other school systems like Detroit and Chicago. It is interesting that you compare an entire state against two cities; it really is like comparing apples to oranges, or maybe vegetables. They give different tests and more glaringly, they have teacher unions which have collective bargaining powers. North Carolina is a right to work state and with the removal of due process rights and graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers, you have created an entirely new dynamic here in NC that does not exist in Chicago or Detroit.

Furthermore, Chicago and Detroit have been more known for their corruption from elected officials, not school employees. That fact that they have teacher unions might be one of the very thing that is keeping their students in school.

  • “Tax Burden”

You make many references to the easing of tax burdens. Again, that is selective. And you make references to surpluses. That too is misleading.

That “stronger, healthier economy” you refer to was built on many things that were actually deleterious to working North Carolinians. Think of the tax deductions and exemptions that were eliminated for many middle-class families. While the state could now claim to have “lowered” taxes, many families were actually giving more money to the state because they could not claim item deductions as they could in the past. Also, with the move to a consumer-driven economy newer taxes on goods and services (auto repairs, eleimiatioj of tax-free school supply weekends, etc.) has “burdened” the citizens.

And the last two years are the first in my teaching career that I had to pay the state taxes in April instead of receiving a refund.

And of course you can always create a surplus – simply by not spending the money or in this case reinvesting it in our students.

  • “Teacher Salaries”

This is still one of the most egregious claims that this current administration makes – that average teacher pay has risen to over 50K a year.

For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule within 15 years without really any raise for the last fifteen years until retirement.

And that top salary for new teachers is barely over 50K. So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. He is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgust the governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout the governor’s bold statement.

Furthermore, the governor is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of a budget that is allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

And we have not even mentioned your role in allowing unregulated charter school growth and Opportunity Grants to take even more monies and resources away from the schools in your very district.

Sen. Davis, you represent a district that borders three different states – Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. They all rank better than NC on the aforementioned chart. Considering that Mr. de Ville is a veteran teacher and a member of the Hope Street Fellows, you should be thanking him for informing his district and elected officials what will help make your district thrive.

To be someone who claims he is very proud to be among the current leadership in Raleigh, then you must be very proud of the fact that six different times you have been a part of unconstitutional laws and legal actions – gerrymandering of districts, the redrawing of Wake County districts, NCAE automatic deductions, judicial retention elections, and the Voter ID law. Furthermore, your stances on same-sex marriage and HB2 are well documented and both have been (or will be) overruled by the Constitution of the United States in the court system.

It seems to me that the Jim Davis who created the iconic Garfield comic strip has a much firmer grasp of reality here in North Carolina than you do.

Open Letter to Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, Concerning HB2

Dear Ms. Fitzgerald,

I read with great interest your remarks conveyed in an interview outside of a Winston-Salem courtroom concerning a recent federal hearing of the HB2 bill.

I read with greater concern that your ability to speak on platitudes is only surpassed by the circular reasoning you seek to influence others to continue to discriminate.

The recent article by Triad City Beat ( features an impromptu interview with you concerning your views on HB2. What was most interesting was your exchange with Lily Carollo, a J-School student at UNC-CH.

Here is what Triad City Beat posted about that encounter.

Several reporters drifted over to get Fitzgerald’s take on the legal debate, including Lily Carollo, a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill who is an intern at Indy Week (our fellow alt-weekly in the Triangle).

Carollo asked Fitzgerald how she thought transgender people who have physically transitioned yet have not updated their birth certificates should handle the bathroom dilemma created by HB 2.

“I think the law offers them the opportunity to update their birth certificate once they have sex-reassignment surgery,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo quickly personalized the question in a way Fitzgerald might not have anticipated.

“I haven’t had my birth certificate updated, but I don’t have a penis anymore,” she said. “Should I be allowed to use the women’s bathroom?”

“I think you are allowed to apply for a new birth certificate so that you can,” Fitzgerald replied.

“What do I do in the meantime though?” Carollo pressed.

“Well, I think you should go right now today to apply for that,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo persisted.

“But it takes three months for the birth certificate to come through,” she said. “So what do I do in the meantime if I’m on campus or if I’m in a state building?”

“I don’t know,” Fitzgerald said before recovering her talking point.

“Under HB 2 you should continue and use the bathroom on your birth certificate,” she said.

Ms. Fitzgerald, those are empty answers to real questions. It seems when you are actually pressed for an explanation on your views points and why they are valid you seem to stumble.

You seemed to rely on the use of “birth certificates. “

So did the Voter ID law that was just overturned in time for the November elections. With the current ruling of the 4th Circuit Court came a strong statement concerning the deliberate use of racial motives in denying some people the right to vote. It had to do with the use of birth certificates and knowing that poorer people and older people who needed them to obtain valid ID’s would have a tough time getting them.

The very people that your coalition praises in your NC 2014 Pro-Family Scorecard as “Champions for the Family” (NCVC-2014-Pro-Family-Scorecard-Final1.pdf) voted for House Bill 589 (the Voter ID Law). In fact, all of the House of Representatives you single out to praise on the Scorecard (except only five) were sponsors of that very bill.

(Might I also add that your list of “Champions” in both the House and Senate is comprised solely of white individuals who obviously hold religious views that are close to yours and the coalition’s – Judeo-Christian.)

Is it not interesting that your coalition and those you support seem to rely so much on the birth certificate argument to validate the passing of discriminatory laws to create politically motivated solutions for problems that never existed? Voter fraud is practically nonexistent in North Carolina; Sexual assaults by transgender people is the same – practically nonexistent.

But you said in court earlier that day that it was a big problem. In another example of giving of empty answers to real questions you made a claim and then could not back it up with proof or data. As reported in the Winston-Salem Journal on August 2nd by Michael Hewlett (“Judge hearing request to halt House Bill 2 questions why legislators passed the legislation”),

“Tami Fitzgerald, president of N.C. Values and a strong supporter of House Bill 2, said there is a false narrative that men haven’t gone into women’s bathrooms dressed as women and sexually assaulted women. She said there have been 100 incidents around the country but didn’t give specifics. According to PolitiFact, there have been few incidents in which sexual predators have pretended to be transgender in order to sexually abuse women.”

You presented no specifics given for a claim that is under scrutiny to begin with. Sexual assault is already against the law.

Ironically, on the NC Values Coalition website (, your profile as the Executive Director states that you were “Chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC, the official referendum committee that successfully passed the North Carolina Marriage Amendment.” That amendment was struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals as being unconstitutional. The Supreme Court followed that up with legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. In essence, you were supporting something that was unconstitutional.

The Voter ID Law – (HB589 from 2013) that you supported was just declared invalid and in essence, unconstitutional.

And now comes HB2, which will be decided upon in the courts. However, recent court cases suggest that it is a matter of time before it is repealed. And Butch Bowers assertion that HB2 is merely a law of reaffirmation of privacy and could not really be enforced is not a strong precedent to stand upon. It is a law, like the Voter ID law, based on hypothetical situations that became gospel due to fears of others interpreting happiness in their own way.

And it’s strange that you would defend hypothetical situations such as transgender sexual assault of voter fraud when you yourself seem not to take stock in “hypothetical” situations. Allow me to refer back to the Triad City Beat article, farther down the post.

Paul Garber, a reporter with the Winston-Salem public radio station 88.5 WFDD, picked up the question and took it in a different direction.

“Look, I’m a guy and if a transgender woman wants to use the same bathroom as me, it’s not a big deal to me,” he said. “But what if a very masculine looking person with facial hair who is biologically female comes in the women’s bathroom. How would you feel about it?”

Fitzgerald hesitated, as if wary of a trap.

“You’re asking me a very hypothetical question,” she said.

Reactions from the handful of reporters hovering nearby were immediate and visceral.

“It’s a hypothetical, but entirely predictable situation, given HB 2,” Winston-Salem Journal reporter Michael Hewlett protested.

“And it’s a situation you created,” an unidentified camerawoman seethed. (Fitzgerald is not a lawmaker, but her son-in-law, Chad Barefoot, serves in the Senate.)

After getting Garber to repeat the question, Fitzgerald acknowledged, “Probably there would be some discomfort before there’s a change in the birth certificate.”

Then, back to another talking point.

“I’m more comfortable defending the right of privacy.”

You use the word “right” in discussing privacy. The word “right” comes up many times in our revered historical documents that defined our nation.  There’s the wonderful statement from the Declaration of Independence that says,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”

I do think it right of me to say that it includes men and women despite their sexual orientation or identity. And with religious freedom (that NC Values Coalition states is a key issue with them) the word “Creator” could mean anyone’s conception of a higher power. Then how can I or anyone stand in the way of someone else’s happiness much less their need to relieve themselves?

Ms. Fitzgerald, I also noted that on the website for NC Values Coalition that there is a strong connection with Biblical teaching. “The Mission statement” says,

The mission of the North Carolina Values Coalition is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture of North Carolina from a Christian worldview.

“The Primary Strategy” states,

  • Educate and equip voters to elect to public office those who hold a Christian worldview
  • Hold elected officials accountable for anti‐faith, anti‐family, & anti‐freedom votes
  • Educate, inform, and influence NC citizens, politicians and policymakers
  • Engage pastors, churches and people of faith
  • Coalition building and networking with other like‐minded organizations to accomplish common goals and optimize resources
  • Organize and equip grassroots advocacy

In both of those excerpts you say the word “Christian.” I would like to ask if that worldview takes into account what Christ says about homosexuality and transgender people. Actually he said nothing about either one of them. He talked of love. There is the Golden Rule of “love one another as you would love yourself” (John 13:34), but other verses come to mind as well, not just from Jesus, but from his disciples and apostles.

For example there is 1 Corinthians 13:13. (And I use the NIV.)

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Galatians 5:6

“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.”

Discrimination is not love Ms. Fitzgerald.

And you’re discriminating.

What The Recent Voter ID Law Ruling Can Do For Our Public Schools

The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory for many here in North Carolina. And the public system may be a major beneficiary both directly and indirectly.

What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to complete before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting periods, same day registration, and the ability for people to vote in a different precinct.

NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes. The race between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan was very close. And now we have a governor’s race, another senatorial race, races for all House seats and all General Assembly seats.

A recent Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.

If one looks at the demographics of those who tend to support the Democratic Party as opposed to the GOP, it is not hard to see that democrats are the clear beneficiaries of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system.

So why could this ruling have such a huge effect on schools? Actually, there are many reasons, but they all center on the fact that most of the changes that have hurt public schools in the eyes of so many have been designed and enacted by current GOP members. Due process elimination, graduate degree pay bumps removed, disproportionate “average” pay raises, unregulated charter school growth, Opportunity Grants, and the establishment of an Achievement School District are just a few of the GOP ordained “reforms” of the past four years.

So what specifically may happen and why? First, the fact that more people will be able to vote is foremost. Many more minorities in rural areas that have been GOP strongholds may now come out in droves, not just because they can vote with less restrictions, but now with a new lease on exercising their constitutional rights they will make sure to do so. And the opportunity to make a statement against those who supported the very Voter ID law that was struck down may be inviting.

Secondly, the timing of the ruling now puts North Carolina in more of a spotlight regionally and nationally. While the governor’s race has been in the national news with HB2, this ruling certainly puts more cameras on how North Carolinians will respond. With Citizens United allowing for major money to pour into candidates’ coffers, this ruling may loosen the purse strings even more. In the last week both Clinton and Trump have campaigned here. Kaine and Pence will be back soon. If political “tourism” was an industry, we would be leading the nation.

Next, with more people voting, candidates will need to try and sway their votes. And while not all citizens are directly affected by the Duke Energy coal ash spills or fracking, all citizens do have a stake in public education. It is the strongest common denominator that binds communities. Even if people do not have children in the public schools, they certainly pay taxes to support them. Public education will be put into the conversation even more.

Lastly, the overturning of the Voter ID law is another example of how this current administration has pushed the boundaries of constitutionality. There was the overturning of the teacher tenure laws. There was a court fight for the Opportunity Grants. There is the fallout from HB2 and the impending lawsuits to strike it down. They all are GOP initiatives. With public schools the largest employer in over 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and at least the second largest employer in over 90, it might be a safe bet that teachers and those who are close to them will vote in November. People who support LGBT rights will certainly come to the ballot box. People concerned with the environment will come out.

But no matter what prognosticators may say or polls may communicate, this ruling will galvanize the fight for public schools even more. It certainly has afforded many more people a way to make their voices heard.

Those people have a stake in public schools.



“A Confederacy of Redundancies” – McCrory, Berger, and Moore’s Weak Responses to Voter ID Ruling

If you have never read the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, then do yourself a favor and get a copy. It’s exquisite. It’s about an out-of-shape anti-hero who sells hot dogs and frets over a supposed heart-condition in New Orleans who is courting a radical gal from New York and ultimately survives a parrot attack. No kidding.

A top-five all time book for me.

It’s the nonsensical element that drives this book and its ability to showcase a lot of the meaningless fodder that we as humans give so much power to.

We seem to be living in our own alternate reality here in NC as well, but maybe with the recent ruling to overturn the Voter ID law, reality may be coming back to the real.

However, if you listen to the responses from our governor and leading lawmakers in the General Assembly, then you can see why in some ways we are still in that alternate reality, one called “A Confederacy of Redundancies”.

After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling and opinion, the governor’s office released the following statement from Gov. McCrory (

“Photo IDs are required to purchase Sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal court room. Yet, three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state. We will immediately appeal and also review other potential options.”

Why is this redundant? It is the same red-herring argument that was used for the “Bathroom Bill” (HB2), when a nonexistent circumstance like transgender sexual assault in locker rooms for school children was used to validate the removal of LGBT rights across the state. In the case for this response, the governor is referring to non-existent voter fraud. If he can make people focus on voter fraud, then it takes the focus off the fact that the Voter ID law really is discriminatory.

The governor is responding with a lot of words that seemingly do not have much substance. When he shines a light on the Photo ID aspect, he tries to shadow over the fact that the law also lifted early voting, same day registration, and out of precinct voting. All of those directly affect minority voters and in this election cycle it is not a stretch to see that those citizens will primarily vote for the Democrats.

Also, there is that using an ID to buy Sudafed, cash a check, board and airplane, and enter federal court argument. Well, most of those are legal transactions that now need ID because of actual (not nonexistent) fraud committed – Sudafed for the meth problem, check cashing because of identity theft, airplanes because of terrorism threats, all of which are very real.

Entering a federal court usually means you are entering a federal building. There’s security measures used for all federal building – ALWAYS. ID would be a sensible way to enter; however, the last time I went to go vote in my precinct, I was not asked for an ID to get in the building. Security measures do not necessitate it. It is a church. God already knows my ID.

And if the governor was really worried about ID’s maybe he should see how easily it is to get a gun without an ID.

The joint statement released by Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore offers more rich redundancies. It says,

 “Since today’s decision by three partisan Democrats ignores legal precedent, ignores the fact that other federal courts have used North Carolina’s law as a model, and ignores the fact that a majority of other states have similar protections in place, we can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election. We will obviously be appealing this politically-motivated decision to the Supreme Court.”

“Partisan”? From these two people? Really?

North Carolina as a model? Tell that to Wisconsin and Texas. Both of those states were just ruled upon too for their Voter ID laws – by different court officials.

“Reopening the door for voter fraud?” You mean the nonexistent instances of voter fraud that occurred before you changed the laws to help “steal the election” for GOP members in NC in this election cycle?

Furthermore, Berger’s website offered more explanation of his position (

“The voter ID law ensures any North Carolina citizen who wants to vote will have that opportunity. The law establishes a list of valid government-issued photo IDs that voters can present at their polling places, allows anyone without a photo ID to obtain one at no cost through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and allows anyone who still has difficulty obtaining a valid ID to fill out a reasonable impediment affidavit and still have their vote counted. It also brings North Carolina into the mainstream of other states on matters of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

More than 30 other states have voter ID requirements, and a similar law was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2008.

Polls – including those commissioned by groups challenging the law – consistently show the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians support voter ID. And political opponents of the law failed to produce a single witness who would be unable to vote under the law in court. “

Isn’t it ironic that the response from these two gentlemen from rural counties would be produced after the ruling in about the same time frame as it took for them to ram through the Voter ID law after the federal courts loosened voter discrimination rulings? Hell, look at how quickly HB2 was conceived and passed.

If Berger and Moore want to cite polls, then that means they may want to get more public input in their decision making. Where was that with HB2? Would they have allowed voters to actually give input to voting? No, I think not. Besides, if you talk about polls, then allow polls to rule everything else.

Furthermore, some people cannot get one of those “ID’s” without a birth certificate, which is really the only form of
ID that shows proof of citizenry. Just ask Donald Trump with his obsessive birther scandal with Obama. Many older people do not have birth certificates. Minorities and poorer people do not have access to medical records easily.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals also took into account another item that Berger and Moore do not explain. An NPR report stated,

“The appeals court noted that the North Carolina Legislature “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices” — then, data in hand, “enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”

The changes to the voting process “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” the circuit court wrote, and “impose cures for problems that did not exist”( ).

That sounds more like voter fraud to me.

Oh, my valve!

Ricky Don’t Lose That Number -The Suppression of The Suppression of our Voter ID Law

I just wanted to use a Steely Dan song title for once. You should go and research how that band got its name.

The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory here in North Carolina. As Rob Schofield highlighted in his posting on NC Policy Watch’s “The Progressive Pulse” blog, there are two paragraphs that really stand out in the 80+ page opinion paper ( ).

“It is beyond dispute that “voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.” Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 184 (1979).  For “[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964).  We thus take seriously, as the Constitution demands, any infringement on this right. We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court. We remand the case for entry of an order enjoining the implementation of SL 2013-381’s photo ID requirement and changes to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.”

The phrases “beyond dispute”, “infringement of rights”, and “largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history” are strong uses of diction. Emphatic actually.

And there is more in the report that offers an even stronger repudiation of the Voter ID law.

Page 11 of the report (found here – ) states,

“In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation. “In essence,” as in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (LULAC), 548 U.S. 399, 440 (2006), “the State took away [minority voters’] opportunity because [they] were about to exercise it.” As in LULAC, “[t]his bears the mark of intentional discrimination.” Id.

“Surgical precision?” Wow! “Intentional discrimination?” Double Wow!

What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to be galvanized before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting, same day registration, and ability to vote in a different precinct.

Furthermore, it highlights why North Carolina is such a huge state in this presidential election.

Whether some would like to admit it or not, NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes.

A Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.

If one looks at the demographics of those who are supporting the Trump campaign as opposed to the Clinton campaign, it is not hard to see that Clinton is the clear beneficiary of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system. And since NC is considered a vital swing state with FL, PA, and OH, this decision looms LARGE!

And we already knew that NC was big, right? Look at it closely.

  • Clinton was in Charlotte the night the DNC started to convene.
  • Trump was in Winston-Salem the night the DNC came to order.
  • Two of the speakers Thursday at the DNC were North Carolinians, most notably Dr. Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP who has spear-headed the legal challenge to the Voter ID law.
  • North Carolina is a huge military state.
  • NC has been in the national spotlight already with HB2.

So, take that Ohio, Birthplace of Flight! Just kidding.

What I am more interested in is the response that will come from the governor’s office, particularly his spokesperson, Ricky Diaz.

This will weigh heavily on McCrory. Not only will thousands of more people vote for president, they will also vote for the next governor. McCrory has championed this bill for voter suppression and it has been declared unlawful. Polls were showing he and Cooper close, but now 29,000 new voters are in the mix. I don’t think that bodes too well for McCrory.

And it might be worth noting that this may have an effect on whether or not a special session convenes for the NC General Assembly to get HB3 on the ballot. That’s the TABOR Bill – you can read about that here – ( ).

Oh, and when HB2 gets challenged, guess who might make the ultimate decision –

Yep. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Moving to “Greenerer” Pastures Fertilized by “Specialer” Interests – Sen. Tom Apodaca has Resigned from the NCGA

Sen. Apodaca is going to “greenerer” pastures fertilized by more “specialer” groups. In other words, he will become a lobbyist for the very entities that he already lobbies for as a state senator.

State Senator Tom Apodaca resigned his seat in the NC General Assembly last week shortly after the summer session was ended in a state of “Sine Die”. (If you have no idea what Sine Die is then you can look here –

As reported in the Raleigh News & Observer by Colin Campbell on July 15th in an Under the Dome blog post entitled “Sen. Tom Apodaca steps down early, might become a lobbyist” (,

“Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca resigned his Senate seat Friday, a few months before his term officially ends.

Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican, has said he’s considering taking a job as a lobbyist. Resigning early means he can start the clock on a six-month “cooling off period” required for lawmakers who become lobbyists. The legislature won’t return to Raleigh until January.”

It would make sense that Apodaca stay in the political arena. He is after all ranked 2nd in “Legislator Effectiveness” according to the NC Center for Policy Research.

According to, Apodaca does have strong political ties with many whose policies are still to be enacted in Raleigh that would create profit. His ratings with entities that are rather conservative is very high, but on issues that seem very relevant to the upcoming elections he is not rated highly by those who lean to the democrats. Of course he will become a lobbyist.

Here’s a slight summary of that report from

  • 93% rating from the NRA – think of all the debate about gun control
  • 91% Lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union – this is one of the oldest right-wing lobbying groups in the nation and founded by William F. Buckley
  • 100% rating by Civitas Action – think of Art Pope, the former budget director for McCrory
  • 17% rating by the ACLU – these are the people fighting against HB2
  • 0% rating by the NC League of Conservation Voters – think of the Duke coal ash spills and fracking

However, when I think of a politician who has served the very conservative faction of the state in such a way as Apodaca has, I can’t but think that his transition to becoming a lobbyist is really not a transition at all.

Think about it. He has been called the “Bull Moose” by many Western NC newspapers because he is considered the muscle for the GOP in state politics. And while the “Bull Moose” may be going to “pasture,” it really is not retirement but a move to a “greenerer” pasture that is being fertilized by more “specialer” interests.

And I even have a special interest license plate made for him now. It actually is available from the NC DMV.


We’ll make Charlotte pay for it. Or at least Sen. Apodaca would.

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Cannot Really Be Measured

Public school teachers,

You can’t really be measured.

In fact, those who are measuring you do not have instruments complex enough to really gauge your effectiveness.

If you are a public school teacher in North Carolina, you are always under a bit of a microscope when it comes to accountability. Everybody in the community has a stake in the public education system: students attend schools, parents support efforts, employees hire graduates, and taxpayers help fund buildings and resources.

But there are those who really question the path that public education has taken in North Carolina and lack confidence in our teachers and their ability to mold young people. The countless attacks waged by our General Assembly on public schools is not a secret and part of that is framing teachers as the main culprit in our weakening schools.

Why? Because it is easy to manage data in such a way that what many see is not actually reflective of what happens in schools. For example:

  • We have a Jeb Bush school grading system that “failed” schools where wonderful learning is occurring.
  • We have lawmakers allowing charter schools to be created with tax payer money without much regulation.
  • We have a voucher system that is allowing people to send children to schools that do not even have to teach the same standards as public schools.
  • We have virtual charter schools that have loose regulations.
  • We have an Achievement School District established even though no real evidence exists in its effectiveness.

Since you are a government employee, your salary is established by a governing body that probably does not have a background in an educational career. The standards of the very curriculum that you must teach may not even be written by educators. And the tests that measure how well your students have achieved are usually constructed by for-profit companies under contract from the state government. Those same tests are probably graded by those very same companies – for a nominal fee of course. And now that we have less money spent per-pupil in this state than we had before the start of the Great Recession, we are demanded to teach more kids in bigger classes with less resources.

There simply is a lot working against us.

However, if anything could be said of the current situation concerning public education in North Carolina it is that teachers have not failed our students. That’s because you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement”. There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic. Take a look at the definitions of three words often used in our lexicon: “art”, “science”, and “craft”. These definitions come from Merriam-Webster.

  1. Art: skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
  2. Science: the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
  3. Craft: skill in planning, making, or executing

Every teacher must display a firm foundation in his or her subject area. However, teaching at its source is an art and a craft. A teacher must marry that knowledge with skill in presenting opportunities for students to not only gain that knowledge but understand how they themselves can apply that knowledge to their own skill set.

There are not many people who are masterfully skillful without having to develop their craft. They do exist, but the term “Master Teacher” is usually given to someone who has a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.” That “Master Teacher” has perfected an art form and married it to a science. And most of all, that “Master Teacher” understands the human element.

A good medical doctor just does not deliver medicines and write prescriptions. There must be willingness to listen in order to make a diagnosis and then there is the “bedside manner”. A good lawyer does not just understand and know the law. A good lawyer knows how to apply it for his or her client in unique situations. A master chef doesn’t just follow recipes. A master chef takes what ingredients are available and makes something delectable and nourishing. A great teacher does not just deliver curriculum and apply lesson plans; a great teacher understands different learning styles exist in the same classroom and facilitates learning for each student despite the emotional, psychological, social, mental, and/or physical obstacles that may stand in each student’s path.

How schools and students are measured rarely takes into account that so much more defines the academic and social terrain of a school culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not anything like a standardized student. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. Yet, our General Assembly measures them with the very same criteria across the board with an impersonal test.

Ironically, when a teacher gets a graduate degree in education, it is often defined by the college or university as a Master of Arts like a MAEd or an MAT, not a Master of Science. That’s because teaching deals with people, not numbers. When colleges look at an application of a student, they are more concerned with GPA rather than performance on an EOG or EOCT or NC Final.

And when good teachers look at their own effectiveness in their art and craft, they usually do not let the state dictate their perceptions. They take an honest look at the each student’s growth throughout the year – growth that may never be seen in a school report card or published report.

Like many veteran teachers, I have taught the gambit of academic levels and grades from “low-performing” freshmen to high achieving AP students who have been admitted into the most competitive of colleges and universities. And while I may take pride in their passing state tests or AP exams, I try and measure my performance by what happens to those students later in life.

  • When a student ends a “thank you” card because she felt like she learned something, then I did a good job.
  • When a student stops me in the grocery store years after graduating to introduce me to his child, then I made an impression.
  • When I read an email from a student in college who sends me a copy of her first English paper that received one of the three “A’s” given out of a hundred students, then I feel good about what I did in the classroom.
  • When a student comes to visit me on his break and flat out tells my current students that what I did in class prepared him for college, then I was successful.
  • When a former student emails me from half-way around the world to tell me what life is like for her since graduating, then I am validated.
  • When a parent comes to you to ask how his/her child could be helped in a matter totally unrelated to academics, then you have made an impression.
  • When you speak at a former student’s funeral because that student loved your class, then, well that’s just hard to put into words.

None of those aforementioned items could ever be measured by a test. Students do not remember questions on an EOCT or an EOG or an NC Final or a quarter test. They remember your name and how they felt in your class.

However, the greatest irony when it comes measuring a teacher’s effectiveness in the manner that NC measures us is that is it a truer barometer of how much NC is being hurt by this current administration and General Assembly.

  • Think about Medicaid not being expanded.
  • Think that nearly a fourth of our children live in poverty.
  • Think about the Voter ID law.
  • Think about the lax regulations for fracking and coal ash ponds that hurt our water supply.
  • Think about less money per pupil in schools.
  • Think about more money coming from out-of-state Super PACS to fund pilitiacl races here in NC than exists in the operating budgets of many counties.
  • Think about TABOR and HB3.
  • Think about HB2.
  • Think about cut unemployment benefits.

All of those affect students in our schools. And we still do the job. Rather, we still heed the calling.

That’s the best measure of what we do.

That and the drawer where I keep all of those cards and letters because I keep every one of them.