02/02/14 Ray Hill

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Following deaths of Pete Seeger and KPFT's Jimmy Carper, Ray Hill Pacifica patriarch and Prison Show founder visits with DTN's Dean Becker re activism and the need for drug reformers to reach beyond incremental changes

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Transcript

Transcript

Cultural Baggage / February 2, 2014

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And then we’ll see this song come true...

[music]

We shall overcome. We shall overcome.
We shall overcome someday.

Oh, deep in my heart lord, I do believe
We shall overcome someday.

[spoken] We’ll walk hand in hand.

[singing] We’ll walk hand in hand. We’ll walk hand in hand.
We’ll walk hand in hand someday.

Oh, deep in my heart lord, I do believe
We shall overcome someday.

[spoken] We’ll shall live in peace.

[singing] We’ll shall live in peace. We’ll shall live in peace.
We’ll shall live in peace someday.

Oh, deep in my heart lord, I do believe
We’ll shall live in peace.

[continues in background]

DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We’re in studio with Mr. Ray Hill, the patriarch, the guy who gave me my first chance on the airwaves. We’re going to talk about activism. We’re going to talk about the loss of Mr. Pete Seeger. We’re going to talk about the loss of KPFT's own Jimmy Carper and a little bit about what activism means.

How are you doing, Ray?

RAY HILL: I am well. Congratulations on meeting your pledge drive goals. I followed it closely and you were one of the few programmers that did it.

DEAN BECKER: It was touch and go but we did, indeed. I think part of it was the sales of my forthcoming book help push us over the top.

RAY HILL: Good.

DEAN BECKER: Ray, I mentioned...you’ve been doing activism most of your life, have you not?

RAY HILL: I come from a couple of labor goons so I was born and built to be an activist. I paid my dues. My parents lived in the era of Woody Guthrie and I lived in the era of Pete Seeger.

DEAN BECKER: I know you were in Washington at some of those demonstrations. Did you ever get a chance to talk to or see Pete?

RAY HILL: Pete and I met back stage a couple of times. He was just a regular “old shoe” guy. Pete was the least celebrity conscious guy I think I’ve ever met in my life.

DEAN BECKER: ...just a...

RAY HILL: Yeah...”You need a drink of water? I’ll go get you one.”

DEAN BECKER: He did seem like a heck of a nice guy. Just the power of the words, the lyrics, the thought that’s contained in his words would just rise the crowds off the ground.

RAY HILL: When Amy was playing a memorial to Pete they got into a discussion of Woody Guthrie. He said, “Woody was a great singer and he was so committed to the cause but he was a poor husband and father.”

Pete just told it like it was. He said, “We were going to do this there and all of the sudden Woody left his family wherever they was and came to be there. He was a good activist but a poor husband and father.”

DEAN BECKER: Well, you can’t get everything I guess.

For those who may not know Jimmy Carper was a long time programmer here on KPFT, the mother ship of the Drug Truth Network. Speaking of Ray giving me the first chance...I think that second chance was Jimmy Carper. He gave me a segment on his “After Hours” - the queer show.

For many months I’d come down here at midnight and do a segment.

RAY HILL: Any opportunity that you could find...

DEAN BECKER: ...any opportunity that I could find.

Ray, I think about activism. For me, in a way, I think it started in 1967. I was 4-A. I was draft exempt and, yet, for some damn reason I joined the Air Force. I thought I was going to make a difference I suppose but it’s that belief that you can make a difference. That one turned out to be a complete failure – trust me.

RAY HILL: No, no...never blame the soldiers because I never seen a soldier whether he drafted or joined that got to decide where the hell he was going and what the hell he was going to do. The policy is one thing but those that serve...all of you who are listening and not busy watching the Superbowl right now I don’t care if it was Viet Nam or whether it was Desert Storm or whatever war you have been in – Thank you, thank you for your service.

It is appreciated. If it wasn’t for somebody packing a weapon and doing their duty we wouldn’t have any freedom at all.

Frequently the policy is screwed up...

DEAN BECKER: Oh, yeah.

RAY HILL: They don’t give the soldier the chance to pick the policy.

DEAN BECKER: They never ask our opinion.

RAY HILL: “Go there and do this.”

DEAN BECKER: I saw a chart the other day and I wish I could remember all the other categories but as far as the U.S. government in discretionary spending – 55% of it goes to the military. I was reading some stats that said we invest more in defense than the next 9 nations on earth.

RAY HILL: And it’s also the biggest waste. So much money is wasted in military spending. If we could get some efficiency over there but everybody is afraid to touch that budget because they’re afraid of a redneck revolution.

Let me tell you a couple of thoughts about Jimmy. I met Jimmy the first day he came to Houston. I met him across the street from Mary’s. He was too young to get into Mary’s and when he walked in the door they carded him so he couldn’t go in to Mary’s. He had come all the way from I believe North Carolina. It may have been New Jersey but he came all the way from the northeast to come down here to get away from his family and to be gay and they wouldn’t let him into Mary’s. Now what a bummer that is.

DEAN BECKER: For those who don’t know about Mary’s it was the gay hangout.

RAY HILL: The national bar of Texas. It was the sleaziest bar in the world and it was gay from the 70’s forward.

Right across the street from Mary’s when Jimmy got here – this was in the 60’s – was a Walgreens with a lunch counter. I was a non-drinker at the time so I was over getting cheap soup for lunch at Walgreens and Jimmy walked in - cutest little button you ever did see, just a kid...old enough to bed but not old enough to drink. The age of consent is lower than the drinking age. The drinking age was 21 and the age of consent is 17 in Texas.

I eye-balled him and it didn’t take us long to get over to my house. He was shocked. I was the first person he had met in his life who was not ashamed of being gay.

DEAN BECKER: You have helped to blaze a huge trail. For those who may not know or don’t remember our mayor is gay now – openly gay, elected gay. It just shows ...

RAY HILL: Actually Annise kind of rubs it in the face. If it comes up she answers it honestly and curtly. Guess who trained her to do that?

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mr. Ray Hill.

RAY HILL: Yeah. I met her when she was an undergraduate at Rice University.

DEAN BECKER: I think back before she got into politics so deeply. She used to come down here to the station quite a lot. She used to talk to me about the drug war. Now I can’t even get her on the phone.

RAY HILL: [laughs] Catch her in South Africa.

DEAN BECKER: For those who may not know I want to share this. There will be a service for Jimmy Carper on February 23rd. It is going to be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Bradshaw Funeral Home.

RAY HILL: Right over here on West Alabama.

DEAN BECKER: Yep, 1734 West Alabama.

RAY HILL: If you don’t know where that is go until you see an ATB store that covers like 3 or 4 miles and it’s across the street from that.

DEAN BECKER: What I wanted to do today is praise the work, the thoughts, the ambition of good folks like Pete Seeger and Jimmy Carper and others who have left us now but left us with still something to do - something that we need to wrap our hands around and do something about. It’s...we (and by that I mean the whole human race) have got to get off the couch. We have got to do something about these robber barons, these corporate thieves, the religious whores, the people that are fleecing us on a daily basis and telling us it’s for our own good. Am I right, Ray?

RAY HILL: What we have right now in American politics is bizarre. It’s the first time this has ever happened. There’s an amalgamation among those who have already got “theirs” and don’t want anybody else to get any at all. Those who are opposed to sharing the wealth but want it all and the religious fanatics.

Normally those two groups of people alone wouldn’t have a lot of strength. It was just pointed out that 85 individuals in the world have more wealth than the rest of the world...

DEAN BECKER: ...half the world...three and one-half billion...

RAY HILL: ...three and one-half billion and 85 people have that. Those 85 people work very hard to give the illusion that they are a large number. You mentioned it earlier. You were talking about the whores.

So what they do is they have convinced a large number of people to vote against their personal interest and in the interest of those who mean them no good will at all. A part of that process has been the leadership of a lot of the religious movement in this country which is a form of prostitution.

My first career was a teenage Adventist Baptist Evangelist but I gave that up for more honest work and became a burglar. At least as a burglar I could say I was stealing from the rich and giving to the worthy poor (myself, of course) but as long as I was saving souls I thought it was hemorrhoids without surgery. I made almost as much money but that money was coming from the poor most vulnerable people in the world and I couldn’t do that kind of dishonest work anymore.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s hope that more and more people are beginning to walk away. I saw some report the other day on PBS talking about all the Wal-Mart money going to Arkansas - those multi, multi-billionaires. I don’t see how...

RAY HILL: ...the richest family in the country...

DEAN BECKER: I don’t see how they could possibly need more but they seem to want it.

RAY HILL: Yeah and the fact of the matter is that we as general citizens finance a major part of Wal-Mart because people at Wal-Mart qualify for food stamps and public health and they get it. The reason they get it is because Wal-Mart encourages their employees to go down and register for food stamps so that they don’t have to pay them as much and don’t have to worry about their kids getting hungry or paying the rent.

DEAN BECKER: Let someone else foot the bill...

RAY HILL: That’s right. Actually we are subsidizing the Walton family by the amount of tens of millions of dollars of United States’ public money at all times.

That’s not anybody’s fiction. That’s just the way it is.

DEAN BECKER: This show is typically about the drug war. I want to talk about drug war activists because I feel that we (and by that I mean the 600 people I’ve interviewed and the other thousands who think along that same line) own the moral high ground. We own it lock, stock and barrel. The prohibitionists hide from us. They run from us. They will never give us a full on debate again I don’t think.

We ask...I can’t think of the kid’s name in Oliver but he says, “Can I have another bowl of gruel, sir.” That’s what we’re doing. We’re asking can we have medical marijuana? Can we have just marijuana? Can we have decrim? Can we have legalization? Please, sir.

But no real talk about the harms we inflict on us by believing that heroin is so deadly and so forth. We had the poor guy – Philip Seymour Hoffman – OD’d himself today. I would imagine that in a regulated marketplace he would have known what was in that bag. If he had died then it would have been suicide because he would have had an education and known what he was up to rather than taking his chances with a likely “hot shot” that killed him. Your thoughts, Ray?

RAY HILL: I think you’re absolutely right about Hoffman. The thing about it is there is no doubt in my mind that the world is rational enough to ultimately award those who are struggling for an end of the drug war. I think your farthest goal will ultimately be achieved.

Why? I’m a teetotaler. I’ve got 55 years of being completely drug and alcohol free so I have a very objective look at all this. I look at it from what it is doing to criminal justice, what it is doing to families, what it is doing to human life in general. The problem has never been the drugs. The problem has always been the “war” on the drugs that drives the price up.

If you are born in a ghetto in the United States and you wanted to get out of that one of the things you have to consider is to go into the drug business so that you can escape the poverty. You have now generations...mothers who pay the rent all of their life from a hand-to-hand marijuana business, have sons that are growing up and they’re starting to look at “how do I carry the family business to the next level.”

We’re educating people to go in the wrong direction. There was an interesting article that came across today about the drug war which says does prison cause people to be more criminal in their behavior. The obvious answer to that is yes.

What happens if somebody is sent to prison for a minor drug offense? They gather up with other druggies on the yard and they talk about what they have done and how they got busted and how to avoid to get busted. They are confusing freedom with access to the very same things that get them into problems.

Now they’re known. Every cop in the neighborhood knows who they are so they are going to get out. They are going to be very easy to set up. There is no such thing as a legitimate delivery case in the state of Texas. I don’t know about everywhere but in the state of Texas delivery is simple possession because somebody you don’t know picks you up and says, “I need to go score me some dope.” He carries you to a crack house or a dope dealer that is also a cop. You go in with money given to you by one cop and you buy dope from another cop and you walk out. That is a possession and a delivery charge.

I was talking with a state senator the other day. I said, “You can’t draw a line between possession and delivery because all delivery cases are sting operations.”

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, they are. Maybe one out of one thousand...

RAY HILL: And that happens because some traffic cop pulls somebody over on the street.

DEAN BECKER: I made a trip to Dallas a couple of weeks back in the middle of the night. I drove up there between 11 p.m. and about 3 a.m. and I saw three or four people sitting off the side of the road with trunk open maybe the seats out on the ground. These cops were looking for...

RAY HILL: The answer to the question, “May I search your car?” is “No.” in every case. They’ll say, “We’ll go get a warrant.”

“Well, do that.”

DEAN BECKER: “Please, please and make it official.”

Ray, we’re going to play a couple segments here. We’ll be right back with Mr. Ray Hill. I appreciate you tuning in to this edition of Cultural Baggage.

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DEAN BECKER: Well, things just may indeed change in Florida. They’re state representative Van Zant - long time, old time Republican – here’s what he had to say on the floor of the Florida house.

CHARLES VAN ZANT: Let me tell you how meaningful it is. I pastored an open country church in the middle of Kentucky. I was there for 10 years when I was studying at seminary. All the fields and creeks grow marijuana known as hemp there because it was cash crop during the war. I’m older than most everybody here and I remember that.

What happened is the hemp rope – the stalks and everything was used to make rope for our army ships and navy ships and the seeds were crushed and the oil from them made gun oil. That same oil saved the lives of many a veteran overseas fighting for our freedom and for our liberty.

That same oil today apparently will provide an isotope or some isolated portions or portion to also save the lives of other Americans this way. With that I yield, Mr. Chair, my normal opposition.

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[game show music]

It’s time to play, Name that Drug by its Side Effect.

Lightheadedness, shakiness, headache, nausea, tiredness, fluid retention, anemia, pregnancy for pre-menopausal women, bone fractures, dark urine, yellowed skin, angina, myocardial infarction, heart failure and death.

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up. The answer from Glaxo Smith Kline: Avandia for diabetes.

Please be advised that Avandia now has a black box warning label per the dictates of the FDA. It will no longer be available in Europe and is highly restricted in these United States.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright...

RAY HILL: I have rejected Avandia as a diabetic.

DEAN BECKER: It is amazing. We do those “Name that drug...” each week and it starts out bad and it goes from worse to horrible. The funny thing is for many...I’m not going to say all. Maybe not even half of these medical problems cannabis can provide some sort of relief with absolutely no further disease or death.

RAY HILL: I want to talk a little bit about incrementalism because we’ve been talking about that for the last few weeks. When you get to the point where the opposition to the War on Drugs is today your enemy is not the outside because the outside is headed your direction. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s not a conservative or liberal issue. It’s a good sense issue that we’re going to have to do something about mass incarceration and the quickest way to do something about that is to address ridiculous laws that were brought in as a war on drugs.

With that caveat said your worst enemy are people inside. There are people who think that some incremental goal is the goal. The incremental goal is never the goal. The incremental goal is supposed to be considered a stop along the path to get to the goal. Hold out for the full thing.

I’ve got friends in California that I think a great deal of that are willing to stop the fight against the War on Drugs right now because they’ve got medical marijuana and unfortunately they are making a lot of money off of medical marijuana. They’ve got the system down. It’s not all about economics. They think the goal has been accomplished because they’re lining their pockets and if you got rid of prohibition all together that would affect their bottom line.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, incrementalist can include traffic cops, prison guards, ...

RAY HILL: Yeah, the people ...watch out for the people who have a vested interest.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and I think about it. The situation...today we have the two teams from the major cities of the marijuana legalization states. A buddy of mine wrote something and I want to read part of it.

This is from the Seattle PI...

“It has been estimated that 50 million cases of beer will be sold to Americans intending to watch the Superbowl. Certainly, some of the people consuming those millions of cans and bottles of beer (and all the other forms of liquor that will be consumed by Superbowl revelers) will end up driving impaired. There will be accidents.

“While the vast majority of drinkers will behave responsibly today, in addition to impaired drivers, there will be fights & domestic violence as a result of all of that alcohol consumption. There will be people puking, people passed out, and probably some folks who end up doing things they will regret the next morning. There will most likely be, as a result of alcohol consumption, some sexual misconduct. Someone might even die from an alcohol overdose tonight with those kind of consumption numbers.

“It is safe to say that someone alive right now will lose their life on the road because of a driver who is consuming some of that alcohol.

“Many millions of dollars will be made by companies and corporations that produced and sold that alcohol to people. Those businesses will process their profits from selling all of those spirits through banks all over America and the world. No problem. Business as usual.

“None of the people profiting from all those alcohol sales have any fear of being prosecuted and going to jail or prison, other than some unlucky bartender who might give one too many drinks to someone who gets in their car and drives the wrong way on the freeway, or who plows through a red light, causing damage and possibly loss of life. The companies that will be directly responsible for polluting millions of livers, hearts, and brains, selling an agent known to have a connection to disease, including cancer, heart attack, brain damage, and cirrhosis, are free to make all of that liquor available to consumers. Some of those consumers are, or will become, addicted.

“Also, today, in America, there will be people arrested, and charged for selling someone a gram, or an eighth of an ounce, or more, of marijuana. Depending on what state they are in, those people caught selling marijuana could end up in jail or prison. If the persons prosecuted for selling pot are people of color, they will most likely receive a sentence in excess of those Caucasian persons charged with the same crime.

“I’m sorry. The hypocrisy, the absurdity of it all, is complete and total B.S. There really is no other word to adequately sum it all up. One businessman lives in a penthouse, while selling alcohol, and one lives in a prison. The person selling alcohol has no worry that his children will be taken from him, or that his home and bank account will be seized.

“Alcohol is responsible for deaths, tens of thousands of them annually. Yet it is the persons selling pot who will be prosecuted.

“I call that B.S., and it is high time for that to change.”

That is written by my good friend Vivian McPeak, director of the Seattle Hempfest. Your response there, Ray?

RAY HILL: I think it’s absolutely true. I’ve been to prison. I know who is there. There are people there for getting drunk, stupid and making some terrible mistakes but there are people there who didn’t get drunk or high or stupid who just got caught in an inconvenient place or got set up in a sting operation – more frequently the sting operation.

I have a saying that all cops lie from time to time. They get excited about getting convictions and they lie. Narcotics cops lie most of the time and vice cops lie in every case.

DEAN BECKER: [laughing] Well, they have to to keep the job. It always amazes me you hear these busts...you see them every week a couple/three big stories...you know...cops made a major bust, large pot bust or meth bust or whatever after 6 months or 12 month investigation. It makes you wonder what in the hell were they doing for 6 or 12 months if they knew what they knew.

It comes back to activism. I’m an activists because it feels good.

RAY HILL: The world needs to get fixed damn it, Dean. We can’t leave it like it is because it is messed up.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. The point I’m trying to say to you dear listeners is you (and I mean you listening) need to do something. You can’t sit there and just watch this disintegrate before your eyes as they gradually trim away our liberties and freedoms, turn all into ...

RAY HILL: Join NORML. Join the Texas Drug Policy Forum. Join LEAP.

DEAN BECKER: Join LEAP. Join KPFT. We’re working on your behalf.

RAY HILL: We’re here.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here. I guess the point I’m getting at folks is if you just sit and watch this like it’s a movie you’re going to have a very bad part. You need to step up and become a star.

RAY HILL: Thank you, Dean, for having me on as a guest.

DEAN BECKER: Ray, again, it’s always a privilege to speak with you and to learn a little bit more. Ray’s the one who taught me to not be afraid. When I first started doing these shows I’d go home after the show and I would wonder who was going to kick in the door – the cartels or the cops. It didn’t happen.

RAY HILL: [laughing] visibility is a good protector.

DEAN BECKER: I think it is.

We got just a couple seconds left. Ray, any closing thoughts or anything else you want to talk about?

RAY HILL: Thank you all for your support of KPFT and continue to listen to Dean, his advice and look after your own interests.

DEAN BECKER: We got just a little bit of time left...we got 20 or 30...

I want to urge you listeners to go to our website. We’ve got one thousand shows up there now. We’re going to have a book published by the end of this month which features about one hundred of those guests. I hope that you will get a copy, educate yourself, embolden yourself and then educate your elected officials.

It’s just time to end the stupidity of this drug war.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

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DEAN BECKER: 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… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org