Thursday, September 30, 2021

Will any man with a wife, a mother, a sister, or a daughter, in our great state of Nebraska, write to Speaker Hilgers about the disbandment of the "Mother's Room" in the State Capitol building?

Will any man with a wife, a mother, a sister, or a daughter, in our great state of Nebraska, write to Speaker Hilgers about the disbandment of the "Mother's Room" in the State Capitol building?
In 2019 Senator Cavanaugh set about to secure a "Mother's Room" at the State Capitol Building. Prior to that point, mothers needing to express milk while visiting or working in our Capitol, did so in an empty stall in a public bathroom.

Leadership of the Legislature at the time told Senator Cavanaugh that no public funds would be expended for such a purpose, and so Senator Cavanaugh found a private donor to cover the expense -- The expense of providing a clean, safe, private place, for Mothers to perform a unique Life-Giving activity while in The People's House.

Last week Senator Cavanaugh, during open Floor Debate on Redistricting, let the People of Nebraska know that the Chairman of the Legislature's Executive Board, Senator Dan Hughes, had unilaterally decided to disband the Mother's Room, to provide office space for a gentleman, in relation to an ongoing  HVAC renovation in the building.

Senator Cavanaugh argued that there are many rooms in the building appropriate for an office, even during the building's renovation. Senator Hughes did not relent.

Senator Cavanaugh elected to vacate her office last week - the office of a sitting Senator - to provide an appropriate space for the gentleman currently occupying the Mother's Room. Senator Cavanaugh office sits empty even now, with Senator Hughes refusing to relent and restore the Mother's Room.
Senator Cavanaugh in open Floor Debate on Redistricting this afternoon, accused the Pro-Life Senators on the floor of hypocrisy in failing to speak up on the mic in support of mothers in the Capitol. I agree.

The "pod" currently available to mothers in a public mail room, has neither a sink with running water for mother's hygienic needs, nor a refrigeration unit for storage of a mother's milk. It is not acceptable to Senator Cavanaugh or me.

The situation at the State Legislature is gross and wrong. I wish decent people would say something about it to the people with the power to change things.
Speaker of the Legislature, Mike Hilgers -

Chairman of the Executive Board, Dan Hughes -

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh -

Transcript for the Public Hearing on LB709 - Provide for a place to express breast milk in the State Capitol -

Every woman Senator co-sponsored LB709 when it was brought in the 106th Legislature.  Senators in the Body now that were Co-Sponsors are silent in the record of the First Special Session. -

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Good morning Senator Clements,

Good morning Senator Clements,

My name is James Woody, I reside in Senator Pansing-Brooks's district.

I write you this morning, Senator, in direct response to your remarks on the mic yesterday morning during floor discussion on LR 466.

I have posted this open electronic letter on both my personal blog(1) and my social media.
Senator Clements,

I tell a story to nearly anyone who will listen about the most underhanded thing I've ever witnessed happen at the Unicameral in all these 8 years I've spent watching this body's proceedings: How when, after the resignation in disgrace of Senator Bill Kitner, the leadership of the Legislature came to a deliberated agreement to seat his just-appointed replacement onto the powerful Appropriations Committee. And how that replacement senator's very first act in the Unicameral was to demonstrate an utter and blatant disrespect of the long-standing non-partisan budget deliberation process, by sneaking in a budget provision defunding Planned Parenthood into the Appropriation Committee's main budget offering to the Body(2), without telling anyone what they had done or intended for -- because that Senator was dishonest.

And Senator, last year after a certain member of your body chose to gang up with Senator Erdman, Murman, and Lowe, to cowardly torpedo a bill of Senator Cavanagh's off the Consent Calendar(3) - again without telling anyone, particularly Senator Cavanagh herself, beforehand - I didn't accept that senator's mealy mouthed apology afterward on the floor for their actions -- because that Senator was a bully.

And Senator, yesterday morning when a certain member of your body stood and mumbled into the mic that they "didn't agree with the Court's opinion in 'Bostock'"(4), offering no justification whatsoever for their own opinion - legal, philosophical, theological, or otherwise - against a 33 page textbook textualist opinion(5) from competent lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, an opinion replete with sound legal arguments and thoroughly cited caselaw evidence for all the decision's holdings - I didn't take that their remarks seriously -- because that Senator was ignorant.
Yesterday morning you, Senator Clements, said on the mic that you considered Senator Ernie Chambers to be a friend. I do not know if the Senator reciprocates that emotion or not, but I do know that when Senator Chambers speaks into the Legislative Record that: "Christians are dishonest. Christians are bullies. Christians are ignorant of the Law." - it's your face, Senator Clements, that comes to my mind's eye.

I admonish you to do better. People like me - that believe in integrity, believe in justice, believe in knowledge and the rule of law - we are watching you and the actions you take on our behalf in the State Legislature. Ignore us at your own electoral peril.

James Woody
*address redacted*


(1) blog address

(2) Planned Parenthood defunding provision -

(3) Cavanaugh consent calendar LB 533-

(4) LR 466, "Provide the Legislature affirm the United States Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which determined that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" -

(5) "Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia" -

Friday, June 5, 2020


Earlier this week I said I wasn't ready to "add my voice to the rage saturation" going on in social media.  Since then I've been listening a lot, I've been thinking a a lot, and I would like now to try and add something reasoned to our shared conversation.
On a Sunday morning 3 or 4 years ago I was sitting in a Southern Baptist Church listening to a sermon.  As a person who engages in the serious study and practice of rhetoric, sermons are something I listen to very, very closely - they are weekly case studies for me in practical linguistics.  The preacher was talking about homosexuality, and of the proper posture of 'the church/christians' towards it.  He said: "Because we [meaning 'us in the room, people who think and believe like us', who in this particular case were white conservative evangelical people] , because we have a biblical understanding of the world - what the Bible says is right is right, what the Bible says is wrong is wrong - because we have a binary view on certain things, we are set up to be the targets of claims [from the Left] of being intolerant. *They call us bigots* because of our biblical worldview."

From my pew about 40 feet away I could feel his righteous rage at rhetorically being called a bigot because of his worldview and beliefs, which are an integral part of who he is, of his identity.

This week there was a scandal in my state of Nebraska regarding our Governor - who is a white conservative catholic man - and comments he made during a discussion with black clergy in Omaha, a discussion which was in response to the killing of an unarmed black man by a known white racist, a killing in which the City Attorney initially declined to file charges.  During a heated back and forth exchange the Governor at one point addressed the black clergy as "you people" which lead to the clergy walking out of the meeting in disgust.  I'll link to the audio below but I want to analyze what was said because I feel it's vital for understanding some of the complex dynamics at play.

What the Governor was trying to do was to find a shared value amongst the discussion participants when he asked "What do we all want?  I want safety.  I assume you want safety.  Do you want safety?" This of course is in the context of the rioting and looting happening in the city.

A member of the clergy firmly pushed back on that and responded "Yes, we want safety, but we are not talking about the same thing.  When we say 'safety' what we are talking about is that it is safe for us to exist, to not be perpetually terrorized by those who are supposed to be our protectors.  When you say 'safety' you're talking about the ability to keep your lawns neatly manicured."

This is what prompted the Governor's exasperated "Where were you people when ..." the governor was trying to get some piece of legislation that he felt responsive to the clergy's concerns, passed into law through the state legislature.

The Governor was deeply offended by the suggestion, the mere idea, that he might be casually racist in failing to understand the lived reality for people of color in this country when it comes to the very basic ideal of what "safety" IS for them.  Which might then imply that his particular worldview, one in which he believes that it is right and proper to be "color blind to race", could in fact be directly responsible for part of the suffering of others.
It is my view that these two examples are part of a very complex problem facing our society right now.

How do we respond to behavior that is actively damaging to people in marginalized communities, when that behavior goes to the core of how the person doing the behavior, defines their identity?

I see two possible paths forward:

1) The loving, empathetic way.  To reach out to people where they are, and through questioning and gentle persuasion, attempt to move that person away from ignorance and closer towards love.

2) The Navy Boot Camp Way.  To stand at attention, and with outstretched arm, point directly at the person and declare: "You are wrong shipmate. Fix yourself."

I would offer the observation that path #1 seems to be the default for many of the decent, secular people I know.  And perhaps also people like the Governor and the preacher, conservative religious people.  Path #2 seems to be the default for some activists in Civil Rights/Human Rights advocacy space, such as the much bemoaned SJW's.

I don't know what the correct path is.  Although I do realize that there is a third way, a way whose implications terrify me.

3) To treat people who hold worldviews incompatible with a free and liberal society, as un-teachable.  To collectively turn our backs on them, and instead spend our time rallying up those allies in society, who do understand how to live a loving life toward others in a world that is incredibly diverse, to actions that increase the overall level of justice in our society.

I don't want to believe that I live in a world where it's possible for people that want to be decent, that try to be decent, that fully believe they *are* being not only decent but good - to have chosen a worldview that functionally cuts them off from fully participating in our society.
I'm going to keep working in this problem space because I think it's imperative if we are to create a more just society together.  I'm going to keep listening and I'm going to keep thinking.  And if anyone who reads this would like to talk to me, I stand ready to engage with you.  Hit me up.

Omaha Community Meeting Audio | 6/1/2020 | Omaha, NE.
[The controversial part with the Governor begins at timestamp 1:01:00, and the clergy walked out about 4 mins later]  

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" - Who watches the Watchmen?

Who watches the Watchmen?  This eternal question of power and government could not be more important for the safety and freedom of the American People than today.

In a Police Department it is the Office of Internal Affairs (IA) who 'watches the watchmen'. They are responsible for ensuring that the department-as-a-whole complies with all applicable rules, regulations, and laws, from the Chief of Police down through the ranks to the newest Rookie.  If someone breaks the rules then Internal Affairs is tasked with holding them accountable, and as a consequence, a strong and objective IA can be - very broadly speaking - generally disliked by both the rank and file and the brass.  Human Nature does not like being held accountable because it's uncomfortable and embarrassing.  But when an IA Office becomes corrupted, when they look the other way from wrongdoing for their friends or creatively misconstrue facts to punish enemies, it is the Public that ultimately suffers.  Bad Officers who abuse their powers are allowed to continue menacing the Public, and The Little Guy suffers for it.

In our State and Federal Governments it is the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) who is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse by government officials.  This office has always been rife with controversy because it lives on the knife edge of the balance of powers between the branches of government.  Legislatures enact the laws that give the OIG it's oversight authority and the OIG reports to them, but it is the Executive who actually hires and pays the OIG and who physically holds the information that the OIG must access to perform their investigatory duties. --  I don't think I can over-stress just how important the office is to normal people, people who don't have the power to independently protect themselves from a rogue government that might allow dangerous situations to manifest that endanger ordinary peoples lives (Flint MI water crises), or allow unjust procedures to exist that endanger people's liberty (Ferguson MO Police Department).  It is vital to our own well-being that OIGs remain un-politicized, non-partisan, and robustly protected.

There's a lot of politically un-plugged people in America today.  A minority of the public actually votes, which I believe is a sign of a crumbling Democracy, and even fewer people actually pay attention to bills, laws, and court rulings.  Outside the privilege that some are born with, it is the OIGs who provide that security which allows those people not to pay attention, not to care what the government does, because the OIG does that for them.

But right now this Presidential Administration is gutting OIGs across the face of the federal government.  It is true that an Executive has the authority to fire an OIG, but it is not completely an absolute power.  In the legislation that creates those offices, some OIGs can only be fired "For Cause", which is to say there has to be some rational reason for the firing.  Sometimes the generic "Lost the Confidence of the Executive" will suffice, but this is not always the case.  If an OIG is being fired to cover up wrongdoing, that is an Obstruction of Justice. It is the willful misuse of Government Power for Personal Gain.  It is antithetical to the principles of Democracy.

I urge my politically un-plugged countrymen and women to do some research into these recent OIG firings by this Administration.  Because in America it *IS* possible that *YOUR* drinking water can be contaminated and you wouldn't know it, or that the COVID-19 tests the government procured don't actually work, or that evidence won't actually be required to put you into jail or take your property from you, or that dams, bridges, and other infrastructure, can be allowed to deteriorate to the point of catastrophic failure and kill you.  This is not fear-mongering, these things have happened and are happening right now.

If any of this sparks concern in you, you are welcome to reach out to me with questions or for more information.

"The Watchfulness of the Citizen is the Salvation of the State" - Hartley Burr Alexander

Monday, July 22, 2019

Do you take me for a Redneck?

The attached article came across my desk this morning, but my wife and I were just discussing Rednecks last night:

I self-identify as ethnically Redneck.  I grew up in the woods shooting guns(1) and fishing, riding four-wheelers and driving tractors, drinking beer.  Mostly stuff I still very much enjoy doing today.  But...

I don't know if other people see me as Redneck or not.

I value hard work and personal accountability - I believe all honest labor is virtuous.  I believe freedom isn't free, and I honor the spilled blood of *all* the reactionaries whose sacrifices have allowed our society to progress to where we are today.  I don't think a Fancy Degree from some Ivy League School makes you one bit better than me with my GED and college drop-out status.  I grow my beard, that God gave me, like a man was meant to.  And yes, I own an American Flag and 12-ga shotgun, both of which I keep in good repair.

And yet...

My United States naval service provided me an opportunity to live for six years in two different European countries - democratic socialist countries - and opportunity to better understand what it really means to be a minority in society dominated by someone else's culture.  This means I can see with my own eyes the people in this country who are excluded from mainstream society, people now excluded that have been excluded for decades and for centuries.  It also means that I do not as readily accept the "Communist Boogeyman" arguments that Right-wing media so often peddle to my Redneck brethren.  And although I don't think the labels of "Leftist" or a "Socialist" come anywhere near defining me, I'm not afraid of being labeled as such when I stick up for Organized Labor, or to assert that the our country is doing a piss-poor job of taking care of our sick and impoverished, of treating the people in our prisons humanely, or that "Late stage capitalism" isn't working out all that great for most people - These positions may make me a pariah among the Rednecks I grew up with, although in total honestly, I'm not completely sure.

My experience at University studying Engineering provided me with new skill sets in math and science, and taught me how "vigorous research" is performed in an academic setting.  This means I'm not intimidated when Experts or The Media break out their flashy interactive graphs and damned statistics to lie to me for their stockholders' and advertisers' benefit - I can work through issues for myself because I know how to read and how to use a library.  And so while the Liberal Elites don't intimidate me, I don't think I have the visceral hatred of them that many of my fellow Rednecks do.

I am very proud of where I'm from.  But I now live 600 miles to the North and have no plans of "going home" to live anytime soon.  That's because the Arch-Conservative(2) Policies of Oklahoma's government over the past 30 years of my life, combined with the knock-on effects of Bill Clinton's NAFTA, and the Housing Bubble's Burst in 2008 - which led to the largest redistribution of wealth in our nation's history to the rich from the middle class and poor - these things have destroyed my home.

Fort Smith used to be a manufacturing powerhouse where any man could get a decent job if he were willing to work hard at Rheem/Ruud, PREDCO, Baldor, or any of the Furniture Plants.  Those high paying jobs are now gone, probably forever, and all of that manufacturing equipment now lies in Mexico being operated by people who make a few dollars an hour with no healthcare or retirement benefits.  The Public School System of Oklahoma is in shambles, as evidenced by the Teacher Strike last year (oh, and the GOP in the Legislature has since voted to pull back most if not all of the concessions the Teachers were formerly granted).  Public Healthcare is a nightmare there with so many unemployed turning to alcohol and methamphetamine to cope, and the politicians couldn't care less (although promises of "Cracking down on the Druggies" will win some Sheriff's races for you).  My home is a shell of the place it once was.

I still see myself as Redneck, but maybe the Navy turned me Pirate.  Maybe some Rebel Blood once watered my Cherokee roots, and that's the source of my dissent with the American Status Quo.  Or maybe this Redneck just got lucky enough, to get educated enough, to crawl out from under my would-be Corporate Masters.

If you'd like to get to know this Redneck better, my family has an Open Dinner Table.  Hit me up, we'll break some bread, trade some stories, and hopefully both be better equipped to understand our neighbors better.
(1) I tend to prefer using the nomenclature I learned in the Navy of "weapon", although firearm, sidearm, long arm, and shotgun are perfectly descriptive and equally acceptable terms for personal weapons.  "Guns" fire 2,700# rounds 24 nautical miles from aboard the deck of warships.

(2) Arch-Conservatism dominates in Oklahoma in both the political and popular-religious spheres.  It is a firmly held belief of mine that the two of these reinforce one another, by design.  If I'm right, it means the solution to the woes of my home may be neigh un-fixable... unless the Rednecks Revolt taking back both their government and their religion from The Powers That Be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The people who want the Citizenship Question on the Ballot are totally not-racist towards Brown People

This 20 minute podcast from Slate does a very good job of explaining what's going on with the Census Question, and explains the "smoking gun" evidence that was very recently found in the hard-drives of a deceased GOP Political Operative.
Deceased GOP Operative: "So, uh, *TrumpAdministration/RepublicanLeadership*.  Um, you know, if you do *THIS*, then it is *STATISTICALLY GUARANTEED* to help Conservatives and WhitePeople get greater representation in Congress and hurt MexicanAmericanCitizens' representation in Congress.  As a bonus it will piss off the Liberals.  Oh, and uh, when you inevitably get sued for this, make certain you *DON'T* say that I came up with it or what it will do.  Instead you say "We, the Federal Government, we need the citizenship question on the census so that we can better enforce the Voting Rights Act."[1]
This is not an exaggeration.  It's not hyperbole.  It's not my opinion.  It's what the record reflects.

When the Trump Administration and GOP originally decided to put the Citizenship Question on the Census, they did so to hurt Hispanic Citizen's representation in Congress.  And then the government lied about it, under oath, on the record.  But because this evidence only came out after Oral Arguments were held before SCOTUS, it is yet to be seen what influence this new evidence will have on the case.
[1] The Conservatives that support this Census Citizenship Question measure and supported the Robert's Court gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 [a], they insist that they aren't racists... And that's probably right, even if it requires applying a somewhat tortured definition of "racism".

For example, I used to live next to a Christian Separatist compound called Elohim City [b].  The flavor of Christianity that they follow is called "Christian Identity" (CI) [c].  They believe the biblical "Curse of Ham" [d][e] cast upon Noah's son is where black people originated.  Following from there they assert that the Bible teaches that black people are "mud people" and that white, christian people should not inter-marry with them.  These CI folks don't lynch black people to my knowledge.  Being kind, Southern Folk, I can imagine that they would help a solitary black motorist who broke down on the road.  But ... if that black motorist has a white woman riding shotgun with him, then that couple is an Abomination Before God and should be shunned, you know, kinda like how some conservative evangelicals see gay-people.

So, if your bar for racism is: "I am not lynching people."  Then yeah, CI people are totally not-racist against black people - they just have firmly held religious beliefs.  And the conservatives that want to rob Hispanic American Citizens of their rightful representation in Congress, since they aren't actually laying any white hands on those brown bodies, it could be that they're not racist either.

But then again if that's *really* your bar for racism, you just might need to "have a little talk with Jesus."

[a] Robert's Court overturns a key provision of the VRA

[b] Elohim City

[c] Christian Identity

[d] Curse of Ham

[e] Resolution unsuccessfully denouncing the Curse of Ham at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

To Argue, or not to Argue? Is that the question?

The other day I was asked how effective I was at changing the minds of the people I call RepubliChristians.  How well I perform at convincing them that they are wrong about things and that I am right.  I'd like to explore that a bit, because I believe the question was asked in Good Faith, and propriety in argumentation is a very important thing me.

In my rural public high school I was blessed to have the privilege of participating in debate class. Two debating disciplines were available to students: Cross-Examination Debate (Policy Debate) and Lincoln-Douglas Debate (Values Debate).  The year I won my Class 2A Lincoln-Douglas Debate State Championship the question was "Resolved: the intervention of one nation in the domestic affairs of another nation is morally justified." [As an aside, this was 17 years before Russia interfered in the United State's 2016 domestic elections, but when I read the Mueller Report today, it covers ground that I've already put a significant amount of intellectual work into] Students participating in L/D debate construct two cases addressing the question utilizing concepts from Philosophy, one case supporting the resolution, one case opposed.  Then, at competitions after a coin-flip to determine who takes which side, we argue those cases one-on-one against another debater before a judge.

That experience changed my life.  It taught me how to construct an argument: What do I value? What criteria do I apply for Judgement? What evidence do I offer to support my position?  It taught me to think critically, to look at both sides of an issue and ask Good Faith questions.  It taught me to covet precision in my speech.

Making a Good Argument is a feat of skill - and so is something that can be learned.  A good argument is logically consistent, unambiguous, and supported by evidence.  But a good argument is only persuasive to participants who will engage with it in Good Faith.

It is my personal view that RepubliChristians do not operate on Good Faith - they are religio-political ideologues who presuppose the answers to big questions being asked of our society.  They are the 4 out of 5 white evangelicals who are followers of President Donald Trump, himself the counter-archetype of one who makes Good Arguments.  President Trump perpetually makes claims that are logically inconsistent, vastly ambiguous, and don't even attempt to be supported by evidence.  Critically, this means that when he says something he actually says nothing.  Because what he says is *nothing*, his followers can take him to mean *anything*.  This is a situation that cannot be refuted with Good Arguments, because the only response to nonsense is to call it such and those who will accept nonsense as reason will not be swayed by rational arguments.

And so I stand on my social media soapbox and scream into that black nothingness the truth of reality as I see it.  Not to convince the RepubliChristians to change their views, but to call out to Faceless Non-Voters of our society and alert them that RepubliChristians exist, they *do* vote ... and they are driving national policy towards racist, hateful, misogynistic ends that are very much real, because that's what they think the right thing is to do and they have Bible verses to "prove" it.

I understand that voicing the utterance "White Evangelical Christians are an existential threat to our liberal democracy" is pretty much the flip side to the GOP's "Hurr durr durr Democrat Party Communists hate America!!" argument.  I don't like having to say it.  But it is consistent with what I see, and I believe I would be derelict in my duty as a citizen to sit in silence and let the RepubliChristians run this country unchallenged.  The stakes for my neighbors is too high.