Cultural Baggage, June 11, 2008

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
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Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we're going to talk a little bit about the mothership of the Drug Truth Network and that is in fact KPFT, one of the five Pacifica affiliates right here in Houston. And today we're having one of the founders of this station on the air with us today. Mr. Ray Hill is in studio. He's the patriarch of this station. He has done his prison show, talking about prisoner rights and over the years he's talked about gay rights and human rights and civil rights and he's worked on our behalf, lo these many years. And with that introduction I want to welcome Mr. Ray Hill.

Ray Hill: Thank you, Dean. It's good to be here amongst the baggage. [laughter]

Dean Becker: [laughter] Indeed it is. Now, Ray was the one who heard me 'squeaking' when I showed up here at the station and he gave me my very first chance...

Ray Hill: You got mistreated when you got here. They wouldn't give you any air time and I said 'We'll take him.' Because it's our issue. You know, I've been struggling for human civil rights for a long time. I was Secretary of the NAACP when I was 18-years-old. My parents were labor organizers. So, getting people treated right and equally has been most of my life. And so when we got the radio station we were so much on that that the Ku Klux Klan bombed us off the air a couple of times.

Left us in ashes, now Old Sparky's up there in the stairwell where visitors to the station, we hope you do that, come by and take a peek. But it just seemed naturally since you were coming with this struggle against the drug war that you needed and deserved access to an audience of people to listen to alternative ideas because every other form of media, though they may once in a while wander off topic and get into some alternatives, its constant drumbeat of buying the whole banana of drug war, incarceration, incrimination, imprisonment--it's just goes on and on, there's virtually no end to it.

Dean Becker: There's always that search for the 'demon', there's always that search for the one that we can lock up and feel better about.

Ray Hill: Look down on.

Dean Becker: Look down on, you betcha. You betcha. And the reason, main reason, I wanted to bring you in here today is that I started thinking about it, I started seeing many parallels between this war on drugs and the war on gay people over the decades.

Ray Hill: Or black people or any discrimination issue.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Exactly right. And, you know, it's gotten better, still not where it needs to be but in 'the day' it was considered somewhat normal to go gay-bashing.

Ray Hill: Sure. I used to ride, I went to Galena Park High School so I lived way out in the suburbs so I used to ride into town with the gay bashers so I could see my gay friends. I mean, gasoline, gosh, it was almost 60 cents a gallon....[laughter]

Dean Becker: But, I mean, the parallels--I want to get back to those. I mean, in 'the day' and up until the Supreme Court ruling it was kind of considered normal to kick in the doors of gay people, to disparage them, to perhaps take away their professional credentials, to take their children. I mean the parallels are very strong.

Ray Hill: After forty years in that struggle--I came out actually at Galena Park High School in 1958 and went on to be a star football player in 1959 and then I managed to escape Galena Park High School, I went to Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches which is almost as bad, but the deal is that anytime there is an equality issue it's a civil rights issue.

People that are equal on top don't understand that. People that are equal on the bottom understand that there's a rights issue. Any liberty issue, 'I'm going to lock your butt up,' is a civil rights issue if it's your butt getting locked up. You may not see that as a civil rights issue if you don't have to worry about getting locked up and you got to realize that until 2003 homosexual conduct was a criminal offense in this state.

And the struggle to decriminalize private consensual adult sexuality is a 40 year struggle for me. When I was in prison--I went to prison for stealing and was sentenced to 160 years so I had plenty of time to meet people--and I met five old men locked up in a Texas prison under a life sentence for multiple convictions under the old sodomy law.

They were repealed in '73 while I was in prison and they let them out because it became a Class C misdemeanor but it was still a criminal act. So, the issue of the drug war, hopefully someday we'll get done with--aw, these are misdemeanors and are not to be worried about--no, as long as it's a misdemeanor law you who get caught are going to be treated differently and those of you who don't get caught are going to be treated differently because of the existence of the law, whether they enforce it or not.

Dean Becker: Well, sure. The ramifications of this drug war over its decades, the escalation of the law enforcement potential to kick in the doors without a warrant, without any warning whatsoever, and, you know, people caught up in a fight with a cop and if they find drugs or think they saw drugs then somehow it's justified, their killing. It just continues to escalate as long as we remain silence.

Ray Hill: And if you get a drug offense you cannot get food stamps. If you get a drug offense you cannot get housing subsidies. If you get a drug offense you can't--there's just a whole bunch of things that other people in time of economic stress can depend on, that you can't depend on because of one joint.

Dean Becker: Right. And it just goes on and on. I was thinking about the situation back in the day, and again, I was kind of, I won't say an adherent, but I just went along to get along with the idea that queers were bad and we had to demonize them but over the decades I have come to realize that many of them are now my friends, many of them have been helpful in my situations and are not in anyway a threat and yet--I guess the parallel I'm trying to draw there is many people feel the same way about 'Well, he's a drug user, can't be trusted, needs to be locked up, needs treatment,' and we should stop going along to get along. There's nothing to get along with.

Ray Hill: Well, this may put a kink in that come along, Dean, but what made a difference is not what other people thought about gay people. What made a difference is what gay people thought about gay people.

Dean Becker: Well, this is true.

Ray Hill: Because this is the deal: if you're waiting on somebody to give you equality, justice, freedom, liberty--that ain't going to happen. That has never in history, somebody walked on the scene and said 'We're going to give you liberty. We're going to give you equality. We're going to give you equal justice.' That never happened.

You have to declare that you have that and then you defend your ownership. And it's up to some other sucker to come try to take it away from you. If you don't defend it aggressively then my statement is 'you wouldn't deserve it.'

So why the world thinks a whole lot better of gay people is because I spent forty years teaching gay people they were worth the effort to come out of those damn closets, to live honestly, to expose themselves to the public. And now there's virtually no excuse for people to be in the closet. We've reached the time at this point in history where perfectly straight high school kids are telling their parents they are gay just to upset their parents.

Ray Hill: [laughter] And then they have to wake up tomorrow and say 'Wait a minute, I have to do things differently from the way I've been planning on it.' [laughter] But the deal is, if the younger generation thinks this is a tool to separate the generations, they're over it. And the chances are they will never go back to the kind of prejudices that makes their parents upset when they told them that.

Dean Becker: It was just over six years ago when I met you and I began learning much of this truth you've just described. And I kicked down my closet, ain't even a door left on the thing insofar as my past and current drug use, currently marijuana. And we have to stand together. As you said, there's a group...

Ray Hill: Well, we have friends. There's Dennis Peron, a great hero of medical marijuana use and the struggle in California and Dennis and I are old gay buddies and chums from way back. We'd go to the Rainbow Gathering and camp out and watch the pretty people run naked and enjoy their company but the thing about it is--can I give you a suggestion, cause you're burning up time here.

Dean Becker: All right.

Ray Hill: Don't ever forget to go back. The whole premise of the drug war, the whole history of the evolution of the drug war is based on fraud, lies, deception and it's actually a study of the accumulation of power into fewer and fewer hands. You're the only person I ever hear talking about that history. I know it, you know it, I don't know that our audience understands that the whole premise is a fraud from the beginning and how that evolved. Dean, remind them of the history because history is ultimately roots.

Dean Becker: Yeah, well it was based in bigotry and founded in fear...

Ray Hill: You're absolutely right, it was all a fraud. And we are where we are today because vast numbers in the population, I hate to say majority because I don't know, but vast numbers in the population and certainly those with more power than others bought into that fraud.

Dean Becker: Yeah. I was going to make a comment. There's a group called Cannabis Consumers going public, kind of paralleling what you were talking about a minute ago and what we need to do is realize that the police get out there and they run into certain few who get into trouble, who are causing trouble because of their drug use or because of a lifestyle that revolves around it and they use those few as examples, as reasons why they should continue this drug war when, truth be told, 90 something percent of those users are working, they're paying their taxes, they're raising kids, and yet they're remaining silent.

Ray Hill: In my history as a gay activist there was one time when the city said 'You can't do this. You can't have a gay pride march' or whatever it was, we can't do it. And so I was meeting with the mayor and I said 'How many cops you got?' He said 'We have got 3,200 Houston police officers.' And so I said 'Oh, 4,000 people can do anything they want to.'

Dean Becker: [laughter]

Ray Hill: [laughter] So all I've got to do is get 4,000 people together. So, if you're going to have a smoke-in, count the cops and add a couple of hundred more than that and you can smoke anything you want to.

Dean Becker: [laughter] Well, we had a, what was it called? The Cannabis Odyssey, a major music event here a few years back when I was producing those things, and I handed out pre-rolled Bull Durham cigarettes as, everybody was smoking it and no one could tell who was smoking what...

Ray Hill: Absolutely. Good idea.

Dean Becker: ...at this event and....

Ray Hill: I remember the early days, the days we'd have fund raising and we'd have rolling contests. The only trouble is former programmer Jack Cheese beat everybody 'cause he'd rolled more stuff than anybody on the planet.

Dean Becker: [laughter] Yeah. Once again, friends, you're listening to the Cultural Baggage Show on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. We have in studio with us Mr. Ray Hill. He's the patriarch of the mothership station of KPFT, been on the air for about 28 years. His prison show allows prisoner family and friends to call in and the prisoners get a chance to hear it in the numerous prisons across this state of Texas.

Ray, you've observed it more closely over the years, but we have just built us a load of prisons across this country, across this state.

Ray Hill: Texas has 164,800 people locked up tonight in prisons. We have an equal number of people in county jails, state jails, and private institutions with prisons from out of state. There's actually more Hawaiian prisoners in Texas than there are in Hawaii because land's a lot more expensive in Hawaii. They're wasting a lot of it on prisons but we have plenty of it to waste in Texas. So we've got in excess of 320,000 people locked up in this state tonight. And all of that is getting paid by taxpayers from somewhere.

Dean Becker: Well, last week the Houston Chronicle had a story and I derived from it that we have about 400 people per 100,000 population in our jails right now. That's not to mention the tens of thousands that get to go to the state lockups.

Ray Hill: And the only state in the country that has a higher percentage of their population locked up is Louisiana. Louisiana has had life without parole and three strikes you're out since the 20s.

Dean Becker: And if I dare say, many of those that are locked up, three strikes, at least one of those is a drug charge, some minor amount, some miniscule amount of drugs.

Ray Hill: Yeah, and the fact of the matter is if you took the drug war, meaning drug convictions and related other convictions in the pursuit of drugs, because of the prices from the drug war, I mean, who benefits I heard you say it a thousand times, from the drug war are the dealers because they get, it's kind of like shut down the oil pump, you make more money off of oil, and so here comes the government, confiscates the controlled substances and the prices go up and that helps profit. If you take all of that out and you could reduce the population in Texas prisons by 60%.

Dean Becker: And save billions of dollars.

Ray Hill: It's $31,000 a year per inmate, that's the average current cost. Older inmates are more expensive. Inmates that are in solitary confinement are more expensive but the mean, the average, is about $31,000 per year.

Dean Becker: When I first started here Jimmy Carper put me on his show as well, the Queer Show, and we have worked together over the years. The parallels are just so stunning, really, when you look at it. The 2003 Supreme Court ruling, what was the title of that one?

Ray Hall: Lawrence v. Texas.

Dean Becker: And it said that it was not the responsibility of the state to investigate the private...

Ray Hill: It was strictly a privacy issue and it expanded the definition of privacy by one more step. And it was a 6 to 3 opinion so it's going to last for a while. And they woke me up in the middle of the night on that case. So I wet-nursed that case all the way through the Supreme Court of the United States. There is a Hill versus Houston Supreme Court case and that deals with calling an officer a name, respecting his relationship with his mother. I'm very proud of that.

Dean Becker: [laughter]

Ray Hill: But I won that too. And so the deal is, here's the deal: if you don't think well enough of yourself to think you deserve rights, if you do not think it is important enough for you to struggle for your rights, you don't have any. If you're afraid to go to jail then they already have you under control, they ain't worried about you.

Because that fear will control your behavior. It is whenever you decide, Wait a minute, I've been sentenced to up to 160 years in a Texas penitentiary, you think I'm afraid to go to jail overnight? To hell with that. Then you can get in their face. And the fact of the matter is life is going to be a struggle anyway. The question I pose to your audience: Do you want that struggle to have positive results and make you a better person and the world a better place or do you want that struggle to fail and not improve your condition and the world's condition?

Dean Becker: Well, Ray, it really boils down to who gets to define the-quote-morality of our society, I think. The ones that have that control can do with it as they have done, destroying generations of our children by calling them deviants, locking them up and I want to, kind of, delve further into that situation and talk about the need to stand up, the need to do their part, to not be afraid.

I want to talk about--we're going to take a little break- but when we come back I want to talk about the fact that many times people are caught up at an economic disadvantage as well. They have to do urine tests. They don't want to speak up before their boss or within their community. They want to just keep quiet because, well, they're getting that paycheck and they don't want to jeopardize that. But we're going to hear a couple of reports from the Drug Truth Network folks and we'll come back in just a minute.
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It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!

Horrible side effects including death.

Time's up: Abatacept, or Orencia from Bristol-Meyer-Squibb for Rheumatis...
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Doug McVay: The Scotland's Futures Forum is a thinktank created by the Scottish Parliament. According to Parliament's website, the SFF exists "to enable MSPs and others responsible for Scotland's future prosperity, cohesion and welfare to look beyond the normal four year electoral policy cycle at the challenges facing the nation and seeks ways of meeting those
challenges."

Earlier this week the SFF released its report: Alcohol and Drugs in Scotland, A Question of Architecture. The report endorses a harm reduction approach, de-emphasizing law enforcement, and ultimately bringing all controlled substances -- that is, alcohol as well as other drugs -- under one regulatory control.

Some of the specific harm reduction interventions which the report supports include sanitary consumption facilities, similar to the Insite program in Vancouver, British Columbia, and heroin maintenance, similar to the program in Switzerland for example as well as the trials now ongoing in England and in Canada.

In terms of regulation, the SFF sees the potential for marijuana to be taxed and and tightly regulated. What may prove even more controversial -- or at least more difficult to enact -- is a call for an end to irresponsible alcohol promotions.

A copy of the SFF report is available through the Common Sense for Drug Policy website at www.csdp.org.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org.
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Skull and Bones: Purveyors of fine opium products since 1832.
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Dean Becker: You know I can't tell you how many times people have asked me 'where's Terry Nelson?' You know, he's the Texan, the guy who's produced many of the reports over the years for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Well, he just returned from a one year stint in Iraq, serving our nation once again, so I can introduce him with this thought, that he's now served for 33 years as a border, customs, and air interdiction officer for the United States.

Terry Nelson: This is Terry Nelson speaking on behalf of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. In a recent poll conducted by the Mexican Newspaper, Reformer, 53% of Mexicans think that drug traffickers hold the upper hand against government forces which are trying to clamp down on the cartels that ship drugs to the United States. Reformer reports that close to 500 people were killed in the month of May, including several police chiefs.

The Mexican attorney general reported last month that 4,152 drug related killings have been registered in Calderone's 18 month administration, 450 of them police, military, or government officials. The attorney general also reported last month that his administration was winning this struggle with the drug cartels. Hmmmmm. Doesn't sound like winning to me.

DEA also reports that the supply of cocaine is down slightly and that the prices are going up slightly. What this information actually means is that there will be more killings now that drug distributors can make more money by selling fewer drugs, what with more money to be made the competition for clients will be greater. Some do not see the correlation between profit and violence. If you drive the price up by reducing supply then you make it more profitable for the dealers.

But I don't believe this short-supply scenario because the vice-president of Colombia recently reported that cocaine production had increased by 26% in his country during the last two years and, according to reports coming out of Afghanistan, I don't see a reduction in their supply either. In fact, I believe the U.S. policy sustains the illicit drug industry.

Many people are not aware that the illegal drug trade represents approximately eight percent of the world's trade yet it is untaxed and unregulated. It seems to me we should be taxing the drug trade to reduce our tax load.

There's some good news on the subject of marijuana legalization, though, as it's actually being discussed by the political parties this year. We'll just have to wait and see if they suddenly get the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing for America.

There is no way that they can justify the continuing war on drugs with their miserable results and the continuing unintended consequences. The drug war as we now know it is a miserable failed public policy and must be changed.

LEAP does not promote nor condone drug abuse. LEAP believes that drug trafficking causes so much crime and violence and unintended consequences that the approach must be to regulate and control them. Let's put the money into education, research and treatment instead of jails and prisons. We all want a better future for ourselves and our children.

This is Terry Nelson at www.LEAP.cc signing off.

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Dean Becker: All right. Once again, you're listening to the Cultural Baggage Show. My name is Dean Becker. I'm here in studio with Mr. Ray Hill, the patriarch of our mothership station. And, Ray, before the break we were talking about the fact that people are kind of boxed in, they're in a situation where they can't really speak up. Many are subjected to urine tests, et cetera, and therefore they just remain silent. And again, there was a, that parallel we discussed earlier, that the gay community finally stood up. Finally stood up, finally said 'We're here. We're queer.' And we need to do much the same thing insofar as this drug war. Your thoughts?

Ray Hill: If you do not defend your rights you do not have any. If you acquiesce then you have acquiesced that right, not just for yourself but for others. I've got a friend that's living in a veteran's housing project. He's an old Korean era veteran.

Old man. And he's never done any controlled substances in his life. And they said as a condition of your staying here you've got to give, be part of a periodic random selected urine test. And he thought about that for a few minutes and said 'all right' and he did it once. And then the next month it was random again and then the next month it was random again and it was his turn for four months in a row. And he said 'Wait a minute, this ain't so damned random.'

Dean Becker: [laughter]

Ray Hill: And so he said 'I'm not going to do it. I mean you've got four tests, four months in a row and they're all negative, I'm just not going to do that.' Well, they're struggling, they're fixing to kick him out. And I referred him to an ACLU lawyer to see if he had any rights in there.

I suspect the current state of the game is that he doesn't but he is not going to pay one more month's rent in those conditions. And he's going to have to face the consequences of doing that. So, when the officer comes up and says 'Can I search your trunk?' Even if you know there is nothing in there, refuse that request. Because if you give it up you ain't got it. And what if the officer conveniently brought something to find in that trunk?

Dean Becker: Sure.

Ray Hill: And that happens.

Dean Becker: It happens a lot.

Ray Hill: You know, there's a man sitting in the United States Congress today, Ted Poe, who as district judge got tired of being bothered with people calling him at suppertime, 'we've got a probable cause situation and we need a warrant.'

So he left a stack of already signed warrants to the special crimes division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office that vice officers and narcotics officers could come in and get an already signed warrant: go search and seize and arrest who they wanted to and they could fill in the blanks later and fill out the probable cause statement necessary to get a warrant at a later date. That man is sitting in congress today. I've heard him on your show.

Dean Becker: I spent 90 minutes with him in judge's chambers one time; gave him books, CDs, copies of this show, discussed it. He said 'Dean, there are many valid points to what you have to say' and since that point in time he's just been a, remained a drug warrior to the hilt.

Ray Hill: And so there's more dishonesty about Ted than you would believe. I want our side, your listeners, and me and you to be the most honest and courageous people. Only then is our freedom assured.

Dean Becker: You betcha. Well, we're just about out of time. Once again, I want to thank Mr. Ray Hill for being our guest and folks, you know the truth. If you don't do anything about it, well, you're just going to get more of the same. It's time to speak up, stand up, be a citizen, help to change these laws. And, as always, I remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, do you? So please, be careful.

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To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net