Texas Tribune Festival

I attended the Texas Tribune Festival for the first time this year thanks to the organizers lining me up with a free pass for being a student. The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news organization based in Austin, Texas:

that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern. Our vision is to serve the journalism community as a source of innovation and to build the next great public media brand in the United States.


The opening ceremony was capped off with a live-stream interview with Ted Cruz, still in Washington D.C. because of the upcoming government shutdown. Though Cruz is touted as a fresh, independent voice in the D.C., Hollywood act, he actually served on the campaign for Bush-Cheney in 2000. It showed when he began the interview immediately tying the United States foreign policy with that of Israel’s and hypocritically denying Iran the right to nuclear energy. When I confronted one of the staff I had met at the mixer for students being held at the Cactus Cafe with the thought that he was just riding the political wave, she retorted with, “Well, isn’t that what politics is all about?” Being a nonpartisan, non profit organization, I was obviously in attendance with hopes of a fresh outlook towards the political spectrum. I responded with, “Let’s hope we can move past that onto some leaders with morals they can stick to throughout their political careers as statesmen, and not politicians.” The conversation moved to water when I brought up the fact that T Boone Pickens is pumping the Ogallala Aquifer dry in northern Texas to make a buck. I was then hit with the news that the CEO of the Texas Tribune is good friends with the ruthless capitalist. No surprise to find the leading sponsor of the event as America’s Natural Gas Alliance, T Boone’s other favorite commodity. I informed my new acquaintance of my suspicions of this “news agency” with such ties, and she reassured me of the nonpartisan stance of the organization; nonpartisan, and most definitely capitalist oriented as you go down the list of sponsors to find JPMorgan, Lockheed Martin, and AT&T, who has partnered with the University of Texas to open the new Business Conference Center and Hotel directly on campus. 



Freedom of Consciousness


How free are we as a society when we cannot even make the basic choice of what to ingest into our own bodies? Many view religion as an external experience, a building where you go once a week to sing some songs with a group of people, some of which you hold a relationship with outside of this setting, others in which you do not, and hear a sermon from a man (or woman) who you may or may not have a personal relationship with. Others see their religion, or spirituality, as a way of life, an everyday reality that makes up who they are as a person. It affects, or rather helps describe, their interpersonal relations, eating habits, meditative practices, work or career choice, and every other aspect of one’s day. The First Amendment was put in place here in the United States to protect the people from any infringement of these practices by the state. The use of a sacrament has long been held, and respected, in the Christian faith. The same idea of a sacrament exists in many indigenous cultures, and Native Americans are protected through Supreme Court decisions in their use of peyote, but where do these boundaries and restriction to usage come from when the first amendment is in place to protect the right to choose? Santo Diem churches have begun to pop up in the states, and they too have won the right, in an Oregon case, to use a natural brew, known as Ayahuasca, of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine mixed with leaves of a shrub belonging to the Psychotria genus, but not without great social and legal difficulty due to Dimethyltryptamine’s illegality, and demonization, under the Controlled Substances Act. These substances, along with Psilocybin containing mushrooms and Lysergic Acid Diethyl-amide produce an intense neurological reaction within the individual that is often described as spiritual. A new perspective on reality is quickly uncovered, a new connection with one’s environment and others follows. The right of passage ceremony, incorporating the use of one of these entheogens was once deeply ingrained into indigenous societies. This brings about a great spiritual awareness and knowledge of oneself at a young age. Not found in today’s society, other than the right to drive, drink, or die for one’s country, this may account for the moral degradation in today’s society. A Johns Hopkins study recently came out to support the use of psilocybin pills in improving the quality of life for cancer patients. The question beckons, why must one be on their death bed before being justified in improving their quality of life? Until we return to the proper function of government, and indeed Constitutionality, the soul of the nation will remain suppressed, and pressure will build like that of a pressure cooker, until a release is found.


I pledge allegiance…

Flag, Republic, Under God, we all know the semantics we dutifully spout each day we attended preparatory school; preparing for the work place and patriotic tax paying, whether immediately or postponed four to eight years down the road after pursuing the ever evasive and expansive knowledge attainable only after the sale of one’s soul and credit worthiness, or so we’re told. But, these days the word “democracy” rolls off the tongue without a second thought to describe our current form of government and foreign policy, “our gift to the world.” Another way to describe the paradigm between a democracy and republic is collective and individual, respectively. Yet, if one makes the mistake of picking up a printed form of journalism or turning on the tube, you no doubt encounter the labels of “Republican” and “Democrat” ascribed to the two parties of the day, words, which have been detached from their etymological origins. After reading and revisiting George Orwell’s 1984 and his concept of newspeak, the shaping of thought through the defining of words used in a language, I began to evaluate the present use of the words with their original meanings, and still find myself grasping for reality.