All posts by drlaguna

Why I’m Voting Third Party

CwgkipQUAAACzsQA voting first for me: this is the first presidential election I am not supporting, donating and/or volunteering for the Democratic presidential nominee. Voting for the candidate that best fits your values is a right and I intend to exercise my right. I’m an Independent and have been since after President Bill Clinton’s election. Like Bernie Sanders I have worked most often with the Democrats. 2016 will be the first election I will not vote for or support a Democratic presidential candidate. We are at a crisis point in our nation this election because the two major parties have lost their minds and nominated the two least popular, worse candidates possible. Each side is claiming to be the champion of the people, with neither side having ever made any real attempt to represent the views and values of the majority of the decent people in their respective parties.

The thing about elections is someone always loses. The last few elections have been all about scare tactics: America is under attack, civil rights are under attack, women’s right are under attack, Christians are under attack, the war on Christmas, etc. This election is the American horror story comes to life. We have Trump and all his racist/bigoted/fact-challenged/morals-lacking followers, the ugly side of America we have long refused to acknowledge for way too long. Presidential elections can get folks very emotional and politicians thrive on that emotional connection. The election this time is a great example of that. On one side we have the GOP-Trump and all the racist and bigots one can find, while the other side is Hillary Clinton and her army of trolls.

Let’s start with Trump and his “Trumpanzees”. This may surprise you but I have Republican friends and they are nothing like Donald Trump, they are really decent people.  It’s hard to deny Trump and his supporters are very much the result of the seeds of hate the radical side of the GOP and their supporters have planted for many years. With the election of our first black president they vigorously fed and nourished those seeds. It may not be you, if you have a brain, but you probably know someone who is all things Trump/GOP; heck, I have them in my family. You know that person who blames Obama for everything; they think Obama is a Muslim; they don’t believe he is an American; they believe Obama is destroying “Merica”. Should you actually listen to them, you will realize they seriously believe Obama is coming to take their guns. These are the kind of folks who follow Alex Jones and his type religiously; they hate gays, they think guns are the answer to everything and they probably think Donald Trump was just engaging in locker room banter. These same people are not bothered when children are murdered in schools or doctors, nurses and citizens are murdered in women’s health clinics because many believe they are doing “God’s work”. Many of us have that friend and/or relative that is anti-immigrant, hates Mexicans, Muslims, Black Lives Matter and now Syrian refugees. Being a first-generation American, immigration is near and dear to me. My ancestors came to the USA fleeing war. Members of my grandmother’s family had been massacred in the war in Mexico. Later my grandfather was killed in an ambush. My grandmother loaded my mother, 3-months old at the time, along with my aunt and uncle into a horse drawn wagon and came across the border seeking refuge. If Trump and his supporters were around at that time, I would not be here nor would any other member of my family. Making villains out of women and children seeking safety is just wrong. Too many people, way more than will admit to it, are closet racists. Being okay with racism and bigotry among friends and relatives because, in your eyes, well, they really are a pretty good person is just wrong. It was Martin Luther King that said “To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.” My opinion the USA was better when we were “E Pluribus Unum”.

The other side is Hillary-DNC and her army of supporters/trolls all working behind the scenes, classic Clinton tactics. You will rarely hear Bill or Hillary make a disparaging remark in public. They don’t have to; they have big money Super-PACS with paid mouth-pieces/celebrities/trolls that do all of their dirty work for them. Those Super-PACS do employ many folks whose mission is to make life miserable for anyone anti-Clinton. Just to be clear, I don’t buy into any of that Benghazi, email-server, Clinton Foundation scandal crap; it’s just GOP propaganda. What I am amazed at is all you Hillary backers who think that just by her winning, all will be better. Have you noticed we already have GOP congressmen threatening impeachment of Hillary if she wins or to block all her Supreme Court nominees? The fact that this GOP-controlled Congress has spent years and millions of tax dollars trying to bring her up on charges seems lost on most of you. Do you really think there will be a “Kumbaya” moment when the GOP will go “okay, just kidding, we will work with you Hillary”? Please save me the argument if the Democrats win both the House and Senate, it will all be okay. In case you forget that happened in 2008 and we ended up with 8 years of GOP obstruction. I believe the Hillary camp/voters would lead us to at least 4 more years of a deadlocked, dysfunctional government.

I do understand the Clinton charm. I’ve been there, and I have donated and volunteered to both President Clinton in South Texas and Senator Clinton in New York. I also learned they, the Clintons, are like many politicians, will say anything to get elected, and they are very smooth talkers. This election has been the typical Clinton pattern (replay the 2008 elections). In 2008, I was the n-word lover because I supported Barrack Obama. This year, as a long time Bernie supporter, I have been subjected to all sorts of name calling by Hillary and her supporters, even some of you. This time it’s things like “clueless basement dweller” and “Bernie Bros/Bernie Bots” by Hillary herself. Add to that list all the so-called celebrities who regularly call me fucking loser, whiner, immature, clueless, irresponsible, wetback, wetback idiot, traitor, Trump patsy, communist/socialist all because of whom I supported in the presidential primaries and who I now support in the election. True to their 2008 presidential election form, this election has the Hillary troops and paid trolls spewing all kinds of hate in my direction.

Let me take a few minutes to educate you Hillary fans.
I have been around government quite a bit over my 62+ years. You know I always figured, if you don’t get involved in elections at some level, you can’t bitch and there is a pretty good chance you could be really ill informed in matters of public concern if you don’t pay close attention. As a former Firefighter union officer, I have advised on health and safety laws, testified to the Texas Legislature and lobbied the US Congress on the behalf of firefighters and first responders. The law firm I worked at in later years was a big Ann Richards campaign supporter and I have been part of a Texas State District Court Judicial election. The Jimmy Carter campaign in 1980 was the first presidential election I was ever involved with. Maybe that spoiled me on what a decent campaign looked liked. There have been many elections since President Carter’s, Mondale-Ferraro, Dukakis-Bentsen, Clinton-Gore, etc. Many times helping with Presidential elections for me meant taking time off, traveling to less than friendly places to knock on doors, make phone calls, etc. I’ve been cussed at; I’ve had liquids thrown at me; I’ve been threatened with violence/guns/dogs; I’ve had had many doors slammed in my face. You should try convincing Alabama and Florida panhandle residents that a black man with a funny sounding name is their best choice for a President. In 2012 during the second President Obama election, Bastrop, Texas was no better than Alabama.

My years of experience has shown me one sure thing; Hillary Clinton has some of the worse judgment of any politician I have ever seen and people have suffered and died because of her poor choices. The list is long, but here are the tops three in my view:

1) The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was signed and championed by both Clintons and the GOP. Estimates are that that piece of legislation put 2.6 million families below poverty levels when it basically let states decide how to use federal funding for social service programs. Of those 2.6 million, over a million were children cut off from food and medications they depended on. Were you enraged then? When many civic-minded groups protested the changes, did you? What I heard and saw back then was indifference, even from Hillary. I realize all those cuts in services probably didn’t affect you. It mainly hit the poorest and the least educated in our nation. What is more amazing, this opened the door for GOP-governed states to start working towards cutting funds to other things like Planned Parenthood, Child Protective Services, public education, research grants, etc. I got a first hand, up-close and personal look at the results of that law during my days at the 98th District Court. So Hillary, who now claims to be the champion of women and children helped usher in all these problems we now suffer.

2) The United States of America has roughly 5% of the world’s population, but we imprison 25% of all those incarcerated worldwide and we do it for profit. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was another Clinton-supported bill. It was during this time that Hillary made her infamous quote about “Super Predator” kids. The act’s provisions implemented many things, including a “three strikes” mandatory life sentence for repeat offenders, money to hire 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for jails/prisons, the militarization of police departments and an expansion of death penalty-eligible offenses. Other parts of the crime bill stripped Pell Grant funding for education and rehabilitation of prisoners, even though education is now seen as an effective tool against recidivism. President and Hillary Clinton also championed a “one strike, you’re out” policy for evicting public housing tenants if they or their guests were involved in any criminal activity, causing a jump in evictions and making it more difficult for former inmates to find housing. Some states even went as far as making kids who skipped too much school felons. The for-profit prison/jail industry exploded. Hillary had many chances to correct this problem but she didn’t because there was money to be made by her biggest contributors. The Clintons knew the justice system was stacked against people of color, the impoverished and poorly educated but they decided to ramp up the punitive punishment. Criminal punishment became big business and the lobbyists from the for-profit prison industry became very big players in defining criminal justice laws. I’ve heard Hillary say she is sorry, the law went too far, she promises to be a champion for justice reform. One big problem with that is Richard Sullivan of Capitol Counsel, until recently, a Raleigh, N.C.-based federally registered lobbyist for the for-profit prison operator GEO Group. Mr. Sullivan is the second-most prolific lobbyist/contribution bundler for the Clinton campaign. Sullivan’s firm, Capitol Counsel, has been registered for years to represent GEO Group subsidiary BI Inc. While the firm continues to represent BI, officially Sullivan no longer intends to do so, according to a disclosure form filed with Congress on Nov. 9, 2015. I have grave reservations about the intentions and sincerity of Hillary with her good buddy Mr. Sullivan so close to her. So how exactly will Hillary fix this huge miscarriage of the justice within the legal system? In 2009, it was estimated there were over 1200 innocent people convicted of crimes just in Texas. Tens of thousands innocent and non-violent crimes offenders are in jails all over the nation and we are paying for it. President Obama has made a small dent in the prison population by commuting the sentences of many, but there are so many more. Most of these are people of color, the poor and the poorly educated. Does Hillary plan to have a mass national pardon or will they just be written off as collateral damage because that would be her normal operating pattern? I really want to know that answer; lives are at stake, innocent, long-suffering American lives and time is running out for many of them.

3) The Iraqi war. Hillary’s vote and support of the Iraqi is the ultimate deal breaker for me. Officially there were approximately 4,500 American military casualties and the best estimate is 183,000+ civilian casualties in that conflict. Despite pleas from many of her supporters Hillary sided and voted with President Bush. When I raised my concern during the primaries, I was told, and I kid you not, “I think you put too much emphasis on that one vote, dead and wounded happen in war.” Wow, such compassion! If you’re okay with that, a war where innocent people died so Hillary’s donors could earn a profit, then by all means vote for her. Personally I think we didn’t put enough emphasis on all those lost lives.

I actually had someone tell me I needed to be patient because change doesn’t happen over-night. As I approach 63 years old I think I’ve waited long enough. I don’t dare leave the future of our nation in the hands of the people who caused this mess. For those reasons, and I could list many more, I will vote Green. Jill Stein like Bernie Sanders is much closer to my ideals. Do I think she can win? No, not this time, but very soon it could be possible. Who knows, if enough Independents vote Green Party perhaps we can push the major party election loser to 3rd place. In the best scenario we will push the Green Party over 5% of the vote and that is important for future growth. If our system is to get back to actually representing citizens, elected officials should answer to everyone, not just the social elite or corporations bent on destroying our planet for profit.

So you can cuss me, call me names tell me I’m letting America down, but my conscience and morals will not be compromised. There have been years of cries for help, fairness and justice from so many and it has been ignored by so many because it didn’t affect them until now. I would like to believe America is the great country we have all been led to believe it is. If America is still has any morals left, Hillary will win in a landslide; but if Trump wins, we will have to rethink what this country is really about. The election this time highlights how broken our current political system is. I do believe it’s possible the losing major party could cease to exist as we have known it and they will have no one to blame but themselves. I personally hope it’s the Trump crowd that goes down. I will accept a Hillary victory, even if I don’t like it. I won’t even ask to see the long form of her birth certificate, but I will never vote for her and because of actions by DNC officials, I will no longer work for the Democrat Party. Go Green!

Adios Texas

Adios Texas, the time has come for me to exit stage right. Austin I‘m going to miss you.
Well to be perfectly honest Austin I miss the city you were when I was growing up in South Austin. Way back then South Congress & IH 35 was the edge of civilization to the south. Oak Hill was just a truck stop cafe and Hwy 183 was the far northern border of Austin.
So much has changed; you’re all grown up now. You’re a big city now growing in leaps and bounds, with tall buildings and a huge neighborhood spread. To me you’ve become a huge crowded, uncomfortable, unaffordable, out of controllable city with little concern for whom you run over or what you may destroy in the process. Austin sad to say you are losing many of those things that made you special aka “weird”.

I, on the other hand, well, I’m a little worse for wear, I’m still weird as ever, but I’m still standing.

I consider myself lucky. I was probably the last generation to grow-up living a “Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn”- like childhood. I can remember when Barton Creek, Onion Creek and Bull Creek always had clear flowing water and fish – even in the summer and not due to flash flooding! If one was so inclined you could float almost all the way down said creeks or you could camp & fishing in them.
I’m leaving Texas with a head – full of riches & wealth, golden memories of times gone by; those shiny, sparkly things that make me smile.
I can remember as a kid walking by and hearing the honky-tonk music coming out of Flossie’s Bar. I remember milk in glass bottles from the Old Bossy Dairy Store on South Congress, the soda fountain at Sanders Drug Store with Cherry Coke made to order. I remember earning 50ç an hour sweeping the floors of the feed store where Guero’s sits now and using 25ç of that to see a movie at The Austin Theater. I have a treasure chest of youthful memories spent drinking Shiner & Lone Star beer while listening to live music at The Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon, Liberty Lunch, The Continental Club, Antone’s, Rome Inn and the Austin Aqua-Fest.
I’ll remember and miss my friends & family. I’ll miss my cycling peeps and our sprints for the city limit signs. I’ll remember my running buddies – doing sprint work never hurt so good. Of course, my fellow soccer addicts – who never met a margarita they didn’t like. Who could forget my sometimes nutty motorcycle buds (you guys stay out of Waco) and last but not least my Music/Comedy/ Artist friends – you keep Austin real and are truly the soul of the city.

That’s the Austin I will always remember.

A strong desire to wander tells me the time has come for me to find more new shiny things to collect. I’m ready to explore new places, ride my bike down new roads & trails, run races in new places, listen to new bands & music, shoot new photos and see sunsets in new places, wherever they are, while I still have some time… like the rest of my life.

Adios Texas, I promise not to let the door hit me on the ass on my way out.

A World in Color

The recent protest over the police killing of unarmed black men has stirred debate as to why and how can this be happening? We are, after all, The United States of America, “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, with Liberty and Justice for All”, it’s the 21st century.

The other side of the debate made by the mostly racist/bigoted people is “Well, Blacks and Hispanics are responsible for most of the crime; of course, they will be more of them killed. If they don’t follow the law and listen to the police they should expect to get shot”.

Here’s a news flash! This is how it has always been for people of color. All of my 60+ years on this earth has been with the understanding that people of color have their place, and that place has its limits. As life went on, I got used to being called Wetback, Meskin, Beaner and Spic. I might not like it, but that’s how it is in Texas. It’s one of the reasons I left Texas for a time.

In the aftermath of 9/11, racist, hateful attitudes towards those perceived to be Muslim really took off and hostilities against Middle Eastern people became the norm. Flying today has become a nightmare, I have yet to fly and not be subjected to enhanced screening. Couple that with the election of a black president and racism in the USA is at a level I have not seen in since I was a child in the 1960’s. I, for one, am inclined to think it shows the true nature of many of the people in this country and what they really think about people of color or anyone different from themselves.

Allow me to elaborate:

I am a very dark-skin American of Mexican decent, and I confuse the hell out of people. I am often mistaken for a person from the Middle East/India/Philippines or a Native American/Hawaiian; it happens all the time. Even people from those places are not sure when they see me in public. I embrace my international appearance as I have found I can blend into many cultures, that is until I open my mouth and start to speak.

The unfortunate side of my color is I get a double helping of racism thrown my way. I’ve been in a traffic stop and have the police come at me guns drawn. I’ve had police ask me if I was Arab and did I have explosives? When I answer no to both and identify myself as Hispanic, they then say, so you’re Mexican, you have drugs, where are they? It’s happened more than once. Sometimes I sort of feel like the “Willie Nelson of brown people” because the police always assume I have marijuana/drugs on me. This usually leads to me, my car and all my belongings being searched, even against my objections. I’ve been told when I object to the search I have no rights other than what rights the officer gives me and if I didn’t like it, go back to the country I came from…but I was born in Austin, Texas.

I grew up in one of Austin’s iconic neighborhoods, Travis Heights. Now one would think this was the greatest, coolest thing and it was special, but even here racism existed.

My first day in public school was my in-your-face introduction into how things would be. I was pulled out of line after a fire drill by some older kids/boys, held down; they spit in my face and told me I was not welcomed in their school. There were teachers who saw it, but nothing was done or said to the older kids. This would happen to me pretty regularly for a while; threats were made to me not to talk to the girls or try to make friends with anyone or I would get my butt kicked. It stopped when I got big enough to fight back and I did make some friends – some of whom I’m proud to say are still my friends today, but the pattern had been set. Walking the hallways of school while making as little eye contact as possible became the way I was programmed. There was another specific incident I remember, back when I was a child/student. Back then, there was a encyclopedia publisher who printed science facts in local newspapers. This publishing company had a policy that if a person found a mistake and brought it to their attention, a set of encyclopedias would be awarded. I found one of those mistakes and with the help of my teacher; I applied for the encyclopedia reward. Well, the review board for the prize came to my school to interview my teacher along with me. It was during the interview, I was asked if I spoke/read English, who my parents were-where did they work, did I believe in God, did I go to church; weird stuff for the occasion I thought. I was then asked to step out into the hall. I sat there and listened to my teacher argue and fight with this review board because they told her no way would they give encyclopedias to some little Wetback-Meskin kid. When my teacher walked out of the room she came up to me with tears in her eyes and visibly shaking. She looked me in the eye and told me, “Don’t you listen to them, you were right. Don’t you ever doubt your intelligence and ability”. With that, we turned, she took my hand and we walked back to our classroom.

As an adult, the encounters with racism became a work place issue at times because I worked in some non-traditional jobs and took part in assorted outdoor activities. I raced motorcycles/cars/bicycles and I was a runner; I was also a firefighter, a photographer, stage manager, etc. Often I was the only person of color present and often I would be told, “You know, it’s probably not a good idea for you to wander around alone.” That sort of warning came not only in the southern states, but also on the east coast and out west.

As an adult, my encounters with law enforcement have not always been pleasant. I always hope the officer will be cordial and not hostile, but you never know. There have been way more times the police have been biased and I have been targeted because of my skin color. Dark people get stopped more often, plain and simple. My lighter skinned Hispanic friends and family members do not seem to get the same sort of attention/treatment. Sure, they might get the occasional slur thrown their way, but not the heavy-handed harassment. I’ve been stopped for walking/jogging in an area, riding/walking my bicycle, riding my motorcycle through a neighborhood. I’ve been held, handcuffed, searched, had my car/motorcycle/bicycle impounded, my cash seized, I’ve been beaten. Even though I may be released with no charges, the cost of impoundment and a record of encounter/arrest are now there. I am pretty sure I am not the only person of color this happens to, but this type of bias contributes to the numbers of Blacks and Hispanics in the crime statistics to which the bigots like to point. Government agencies, like the Police and District Attorney, must go through a budget process to justify their existence. The more arrests they make, trials they win, the better they look and the more money they need to hold back the hoards of criminals. Add to the mix “For-Profit Prisons “, now there are quotas to be met as far as number/capacity of inmates. Minorities, often poor and less educated help fill the prisons to their requested 90% capacity.

I worked in the legal field for several years, I even thought about going to law school at one point – I thought could make a difference. I worked in a law office as a paralegal in training and later for a Texas State District Judge as a bailiff. It was there that I got to see how racism, the police and the law all combine to work as a well-oiled unit.

One of the many trials we held was a trial about a young man shot and killed by police. The official story was the kid pointed a gun at the officer from like 5-10 feet away; so the officer had no choice, but to shoot the kid – it was a very dramatic, a well-rehearsed testimony from the police officer. As the trial proceeded, the evidence was not matching up with what the officer testified as to what happened . . . sound familiar? The city/police officer’s own expert witness, the medical examiner, testified that the boy was shot in the back as he ran uphill and away from the officer. This kid had a record, they claimed he was a gang member; they painted him in the worst possible way. The jury found in favor of the officer. The kid’s family was understandably devastated. After the trial as folks were leaving the courtroom the jury foreman/person, an elderly grandmother-type Caucasian woman came up to me and said, “I guess we taught those Meskins something. They think they can come in here and mess with our police.” I was stunned that she would even say that to me, I just turned and walked away.

As time went on I began to see why it was very hard to hold law enforcement responsible for any misdeeds. It made me realize that in law, it’s not always about what’s right or wrong, but more often, it’s about who has the best/meanest lawyer and can they destroy the character of the other side. I learned the police rarely lost, juries are very fickle/unpredictable and dark-skin folks rarely win. I also learned the system is rigged to turn a profit and there are many wanting a piece of those profits. It was shortly after that I jumped at the chance to leave the legal profession.

Sadly we are seeing more things happen today like police brutality. We see it not because it’s new behavior, but because it’s because we have more cameras out there making it much harder for the police to hide their actions. Social media has now exposed a long-known fact among people of color. The number of folks of color being killed/injured/arrested/harassed by police is staggering,

So here we are today, so many folks around the world upset and outraged over the injustice in the good old US of A. I am alarmed, but I am not surprised. Let me welcome you to my world and that of many folks of color.

 

Now what do we do about it?

Corporal Punishment, it even sounds scary

Adrian Peterson got caught doing something wrong, plain and simple. He spanked/beat his 4 year-old son to the point of injury. The public out-cries for his head on a platter are loud and many. I’m sure there will be a price to be paid and it should be so. How this should be handled has generated as many opinions as there are #hashtags, including some very harsh ones from all the keyboard pundits.
I will go out on a limb here and say I agree with Charles Barkley’s comments about how this is something that is more widespread than most realize. But does this mean we must make them all criminals?
I will go out a little farther and say use of physical punishment is not unique to any one race/culture. I think it can be more closely tied to education, social/economic conditions and traditions passed down – “this-is-how-my-parents-did-it” sort of mentality.
I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was okay. Your parents, teachers, coaches and heck, even neighbors could spank you. You were capable of getting swatted with a switch, a belt, a paddle, a ruler or even a wooden spoon. The choices were often defined by what was handy at the time. Did the spanking make us a better person? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many variables. What we now know is that there are better ways to teach our children right from wrong; beating them is not the answer. This is especially true if you happen to be a big, pro athlete in top condition. You are someone who runs over 200-300 pound men. What chance does a child have?
In one of my Forrest Gump/“I’ve-worn-a-lot-of-shoes” moments, I was a bailiff in a Texas State District Court. I was lucky when I worked in the courts; I worked for some pretty intelligent judges. In one court setting in particular, all the child abuse cases were reviewed. That was a very challenging job and not as cut and dry as one may think. Yes, there were some brutal cases and those were dealt with as prescribed by law. However, many times there were gray areas. Sometimes bad things happened because someone didn’t know any better. As hard as that may be to understand and accept, it does happen. It was at such times that a positive change could be made; the cycle of abuse could be broken. It required learning proper parenting skills, perhaps some anger management and/or some basic reprogramming. All this often happened under close supervision and review by the court. It was a matter of learning good family dynamics and most often, it worked out to everyone’s advantage, with a more positive ending.
The judicial system can be harsh, and with a bang of the gavel and a signature, it can make someone a felon for life. In today’s judiciary, felons are rarely viewed as having paid for their crime; it’s more or less a life sentence. When that happens, life changes; it makes it hard to get a job, a home and provide the basic necessities of life. Life as they and their family knew it will never be the same.
Like I said there will be a price to be paid and that is proper. What I wonder, though, is it prudent to destroy someone’s career/life when they may have actually done some good in their life? Perhaps we should ask ourselves, would we be better off with one less prisoner, and instead, make this one more teaching moment? Perhaps Adrian Peterson and the NFL could be the face and voice of re-educating folks that it’s never okay to beat your kids?
Just a thought…

Boston Marathon, Let’s Stop The Madness

Those who know me know I am a life-long runner. Although I don’t really compete any longer I still do a little jogging, even joining an occasional race.  Like so many the cowardly attack at the Boston Marathon has left me with a heavy heart. Many folks way more eloquent than me have made some great statements in support of all those touched by the tragedy of the bombing. All those who rushed into the face of danger to aid those injured in the explosion are true heroes and the very essence of what makes humanity great.

But there is an ugly under-belly coming out in response to bombing, the vilifying of immigrants and those of middle-eastern decent and in some cases those who just look like they might be “Non-American”. The extreme right–wing, conservative media types are fanning the flames.  We have all seen or heard about the bloggers and television media that supports them demanding deportation and some suggesting “just kill them all”. That sort of irresponsible journalism – if you can call it that is lighting the fuse for many to go on the hunt for foreigners.

I got a taste of such a group whom confronted me in the parking lot as I left Jason’s Deli. Claiming to be patriots they want to let me know “ you damn camel jockeys will get yours soon enough. We will kill as many of you as we can and send the survivors back to Iraq or Saudi Arabia”. I had to laugh when I told them I’m not middle-eastern you dumb-fucks and I left.

What really worries me is what will happen when the responsible party for the bombing is finally caught. If they are not Caucasian will it be open season on those of color?

Amanda Pearcy, Royal Street Review

Austin, Texas “The Live Music Capital of the World” is full of talented musicians/singers/songwriters. It is a tough place to stand out.  Many will never make it, but it is also the place where the best will rise to the top.

I don’t often get to review a new CD prior to its official release, but Royal Street by my friend Amanda Pearcy was one I had been anxiously waiting to hear.  I knew Amanda had been working diligently on this CD and I was not disappointed.  Amanda’s vocals and songwriting skills are nothing short of spectacular.  Produced by Tim Lorsch with some recording handiwork by Bradley Hartman and George Bradfute, the band and background vocals all come together in a masterful blend. Songs like Barking Dogs and Bring You Home reach into your heart and soul. They lift you along as the story unfolds through the songs. Amanda sings of moments in life: heartfelt lyrics that flow smoothly and invite you to come along…down Royal Street.

The official release will be February 19 with a performance at Strange Brew. To hear some of Royal Street visit www.amandapearcy.com

An Open Letter to the Texas 4000

The Texas 4000 Ride is a fund-raiser and promotional event for cancer research projects at the M.D. Anderson Research Centers promoted by the University of Texas. The ride goes from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska and pretty much takes all summer. I want to go on the next ride, but it is geared towards students, this is my letter to the ride organizers. 

To The Texas 4000

My name is David Laguna and I am an admirer of the Texas 4000 project. I would love the opportunity to take part in the next ride.  I am not a student of the University of Texas, but I do have connections to both the University of Texas and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I also have a very personal reason for wanting to help.

A few years ago I lost my older brother to pancreatic cancer and now I have learned I have a longtime friend who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Cancer took my brother Abel very quickly. In the last days of my brother’s life he encouraged me to pursue a chance to move forward in my career and not pass up any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It was with a heavy heart that I left him to travel to an audition. Upon my arrival I learned my brother had passed. My brother Abel’s last words to me were simply “David be the bull, take charge of the chance to live your dream and know I will always be with you.”  I dedicated my efforts to him; with his inspiration I did well and was able to achieve my goal.

I am back in Texas now and now I am faced with cancer taking someone else who has been a part of my life, my friend Eddie. I met Eddie many years ago in Boy Scouts; we camped together, hiked together and played sports together all through school. We reconnected when I returned to Austin. I looked forward to sharing some time together with Eddie and now cancer has entered the picture. I’m not sure how long Eddie will be with us but I would like to do something in his honor and in honor of my brother Abel.

I understand the ride is meant for students, but as I stated I do have a connection. I have worked for UT starting in the 1980’s as an EMT at events. Today I work the home football games as security for the Touchdown Club and private suites on the 8th floor of the stadium. My other connection is with the UT/MD Anderson Cancer Center-Science Park in Smithville, Texas. My roommate is an Associate Professor and research scientist there and I have friends and acquaintances also working there. I would like to go as a representative of the wonderful and dedicated folks at Science Park.

I do have some skills and experience that I feel could prove helpful.  First I am a life-long cyclist, ex- bicycle shop owner and pro level bicycle mechanic Shimano Bicycle Components once rated in the top 10%.  In addition I am former Staff Cycling Coach for the Sally Edwards/Danskin Triathlon Camps.  I am confident I could help with any bicycle repair/rider issues that might arise.  I am also an ex-Firefighter/EMT, which could prove handy in an emergency. My other skills are as a professional photographer and writer and I hope to use those skills to chronicle the story of this ride.  Finally I am an experienced promotions and event manager with experience in radio/television promotions.  My first choice in participation would be to ride along with the riders, but I would also be open to traveling along in a support vehicle role if it better served the ride.

Please consider allowing me to be a part of the next Texas 4000.

Respectfully,

 

David Laguna

The Heart of the Austin Music Scene

The beauty of living in Austin, Texas – “The Live Music Capital of the World” – is the ability to see a wide variety of musicians live on any day of the week. Austin has no shortage of music venues that attracts musicians from all over the world. On any given day or night there is rock, blues, country, alternative, jazz, hip-hop, etc., you name it, Austin has it.  The downside to this wealth of musicians and clubs often falls on the artist who often has difficulties meeting basic living needs; say, for instance, housing and medical insurance due to low booking wages.

Over the years Austin’s musicians have come together to help each other out in times of need. They formed the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and Housing Opportunities for Musicians & Entertainers, to name a few. At other times, benefit concerts happened because of emergencies. Recently I had the pleasure of attending one such benefit for Craig Nietfeld. Craig has been part of the Austin music scene for many years and has played with many different folks.  One of those people, Ms. Pilar Arias came to Craig’s aid when cardiac problems put him in ICU this past July. As is often the case, a prolonged hospital stay can put a person in economic peril to go along with their medical problems.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Pilar and ask her how this all came about. It offered me great insight into the closeness of the music community and what this fundraiser meant. Pilar had a very personal reason for wanting to help Craig. For one, they are long-time friends who had shared a stage more than once, but there was more. There was a time when Pilar was ill – cancer raised its ugly head and Craig was there for her. There was also a time Pilar had reached a burnout level with performing; the constant strain of touring taking a toll on her. Pilar just could not get into her music as she had before. She was doing very little in the way of singing, just kind of hanging out with an occasional singing gig. Craig reached out to Pilar offering her a way to ease back into performing. Craig offered her support with a singing gig without the pressure of constant touring . . . just getting her back in the game a step at a time. It worked and the flame once again burned; performing became fun again. So Pilar knew without hesitation that helping Craig was the thing to do. Pilar knew the brotherhood of Austin musicians could and should come to Craig’s aid, but where to start? Although she is a lovely and talented singer, Pilar had never promoted or organized a concert. She admitted she had no clue as to where to start; so she started calling friends. One of the first to agree to play was guitar extraordinaire Van Wilks, this happened before a venue had even been secured. Craig was a friend and like many, Van had shared a stage with Craig. It was just a matter of telling him when and where, he would be there.

Enter John Viehweg and Georgiana Thompson…

John Viehweg, another musician and friend, offered his assistance in any way possible.  He was able to speak to with other musicians and stage technicians who all generously offered their help. The question of a venue still needed to be answered and none of the major clubs seemed interested in stepping up.  It was at this point Georgiana Thompson suggested her employer Kevin Munhandro, the owner of 1st Down & Stassney Sports Bar, might be open to the idea. In the past, Kevin’s bar had hosted another fundraiser for Buddha Mills, another one of Austin’s musicians who had suffered medical issues.

A phone call later, it was set; the venue and date was agreed upon. Now, how to put all the pieces together? Phone calls were made and calls started coming in to Pilar as word got out about Craig’s hardship. People/musicians all wanted to help and were willing to play a set for the cause.  In a mere 90 days the benefit concert became a veritable who’s who of Austin’s music royalty.  With Van Wilks as the headliner the show also boasted Lance Keltner, the Uranium Savages, Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88’s, Natalie Zoe, Malford Milligan, Bevis Griffin, Wall Street and the Yes Men.  One by one, each took the stage and many shared a story about Craig or invited him up to sit in with them. There was never any attitude from anyone; with open hearts, everyone just pitched in as needed. Many gave up paying gigs that night to be there for Craig. To say they rocked the house is an understatement. With a full house that night, many hit the dance floor and enjoyed the music to the utmost, all having fun for a good cause.

So I asked Pilar if she felt the concert was a success? To which she replied that at the end of the night, to see the smile on Craig’s face as the funds were presented to him, yes it was.  And once again the Brotherhood and Heart of Austin Music were there for one of their own.

 

Soldiers On The Water

You know the old saying “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work”?  Saturday I had a great day of fishing, which made for an even greater day of work (well not really work in my eyes).

Normally getting up at 5:30 AM is not high on my list of things to do, but this time I was looking forward to it because I was meeting up with Soldiers on the Water to shoot photos. Soldiers on the Water is a program started in 2010 by Bob Jett and Kandie Candelaria of the Canyon Bass Club of San Marcos as of way of saying thank you to those who have done and sacrificed so much for our country.

As we cruised around the lake the smiles on the faces of the soldiers was a wonderful sight.  Fishing was so good in part because of the volunteer Captains/Guides from the Bass Club who took the soldiers out and help them find the best fishing spots.  For some of the soldiers it was the first time they had ever been fishing and the smiles on their faces as they landed their first fish was as big as the Texas sky, very cool indeed!

The day included lunch from Johnny Carino’s, served up by a San Marcos Boy Scout troop. This was followed with awards for the various fish caught along with a drawing for prizes.  I manage to score a prize or two myself. There is one I consider an honor; I will cherish and wear with great pride, a Soldier’s Angel pin. Thank you guys and gals you made my day.

A voting First

Today I had several folks tell me “I don’t know who to vote for, I don’t trust either one”. A fair assessment I think all things considered.

But for me a first …in my 40 years or so of voting I will make a stand I have never made before or I ever thought I would.

I have been fiercely independent in my voting over the years; always voting for whom I thought would be best regardless of party affiliation. I have worked for both Democrats and GOP elected officials. I always felt if your government asked you for help, well you should step up. I get accused of being a lefty radical, but I feel I am more of a progressive independent with my values leaning towards people and what is best and fair for the average person on the street, you know the majority of us.

I truly have been like Forest Gump and worn a lot of shoes in my life.  I have been a firefighter, a union officer, worked in a program helping Native Americans, worked in government during Presidents Reagan and “W” as well as Clinton. I even worked in the entertainment industry and toured nationwide. I have been a small business owner with a bicycle shop and sunglasses company. I’ve been lucky to travel extensively in my work, so I feel pretty lucky to have experience all that I have.

I left politics for a while, almost 10 years, but I got yanked back by several things that had a pronounced effect on me.

I was once involved with a national study on firefighters who were dying very young. We made some startling discoveries and suggested some changes in the way things were handled. Later this led to my helping write some legislation concerning the health of firefighters. I was met with strong resistance from GOP House members who just decided and I quote “If firefighters aren’t healthy enough to do the job we just need to get rid of them.”  This led to a change in the civil service rules for government employees signed by “W” that allowed states to deny benefits to injured civil servants if they could not come back to 100% duty in six months after injury or illness. They just cut them off cold.  Most recently I supported the health coverage for the first responders who were stricken with illness from 9/11 and the Twin Towers collapse. I was appalled that GOP Senators including those from Texas tried to filibuster the bill to help those firefighters/police/paramedics. It took a tremendous amount of public pressure to force them to let the vote go through.

While I was traveling, working in the entertainment industry, my mother had a heart attack and then a stroke.  She survived but requires 24-hour care and is in a wheelchair now. Before the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare her insurance provider told us she had reached her maximum in coverage.  Combined with cuts in benefits, again signed by “W”, our family was in a bind to get her the care she needed. Without the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare my mother’s care is at risk.  Yet the GOP wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they claim it is stifling small business but I have read it, not so. There is no requirement for business with less than 30 employees, and there are waivers for startups and the smallest business. The real reason the insurance lobby wants bigger profits.

In my travels as I toured the nation prior to 2008, I started to notice the decline in the nation. Slowly one by one I saw entire towns and communities just die, become ghost towns. Clubs and events we were booked at for years started to suffer, many went under. People were losing jobs as many manufacturing jobs went over seas; others just had to take cuts in pay and a loss of benefits. It was not a pretty picture. In Texas we were isolated from the extreme losses, but still many folks I know suffered. The fleecing of the nation by the GOP was going strong under the guise of fighting wars for patriotism and against “evil doers.”

I don’t think the Democrats are without some blame. There are bad politicians on both sides. Truth be told I have much more in common with the Green Party, but I am not naïve. I know a vote for the Green Party is a vote for the GOP. You see the Green Party attracts those who might otherwise vote for Democrats. That is one reason the GOP gives money to the Green Party, it means less votes against them by diluting the Democratic vote, sad but true.

So what’s my point? In all my years I have never seen such mean-spirited anti-America behavior from a political group.  In my opinion the GOP has earned the name American Taliban. They have tried to systematically disenfranchise minority voters – I was one of those questioned if I was a legal voter. The GOP has worked to deny women the right to decided their own health issues, cut education funding, cut funding to Planned Parenthood saying they don’t want taxpayer money used for abortions – never mind it has long been against the law to do so and they deny healthcare to low income women. The GOP has worked to repeal minimum wage and worker rights, promote racial profiling – again I have been caught up in that one several times. All this was done in the name of decreasing the nation’s deficit and increasing national security. Top that with the Birther Movement, the Tea Party, denying global warming, filibustering and holding job bills and tax relief bills hostage and lie after lie about Obama. It is no wonder we are in such dire straits. I hold them responsible for 90% of the mess we are in now.  I watched in dismay how time and time again the GOP did everything in their power to stymie Obama after he took office – I watch a lot of C-Span. I keep track of what happens and who is doing what and I don’t like what I have seen the GOP become and what they are doing to our nation is a crime

So for first the first time ever in my life I am voting a straight Democratic ticket. I encourage you to do the same, let’s stop the hate, the lies and the bleeding of our country.