Ray Hill is one of Houston's most colorful gadflies, always ready to man the barricades for an unpopular privacy-rights cause. If he were Tom Joad, he'd be saying, "Ma, wherever there's a cop hassling a man trying to masturbate in an adult video store, I'll be there."
He's also parlayed his prison-inmate past into a semi-lucrative cottage industry. Some of the biggest lawyers in town hire him as a consultant for the clients they can't get off; Hill gives them advice on how to survive as a guest of the Texas correctional system.
He won't say how much he makes, but he's not cheap. Unless you were in a Leisure Learning classroom December 13, where Hill offered a peek at what he tells the soon-to-be-incarcerated.
Much of it is practical -- don't have more than $150 in your prison account; having more will simply make you a target. And try to stay out of protective custody -- although you'll be getting away from whatever inmate is stalking you, the guards treat you as if you were in there for disciplinary reasons, and that's not a good thing.
"If some big guy comes up to you and says, 'I'm going to butt-fuck you whether you like it or not,' all you gotta do is kick him in the balls and get off one swing and then curl up into a ball until someone pulls him off you. You don't want to win any fights, because then you're in the fight game. And there's no way out until you're on the bottom or the top rung."
"Some people have the theory that 'I'm going to go and find this big gorgeous daddy and he'll protect me from all the rest.' The problem with that is the standard of beauty in Texas prisons is different from the standard of beauty outside. This great big burly tattooed motorcycle daddy may well be someone else's mama."
"The best thing that ever happened to the guards' parking lot is that they outlawed tobacco," he says. Guards buy cigarettes outside and sell them with huge markups to inmates. "Well, overnight, where there had been them trashed-out, old rusty pickups, those were replaced by shiny new SUVs."
You Never Write
The travails of Carol Porter and Kid-Care have been pretty strange, but they've gotten even odder.
The story so far: A nationally recognized charity that delivers food to poor kids became the subject of a series of reports by KTRK's star investigator Wayne Dolcefino; the state attorney general's office filed a civil suit based largely on his reporting of fiscal mismanagement. There were claims Porter used Kid-Care funds for personal use, but everything quietly settled out of court with no criminal charges or admission of any wrongdoing.
Porter is no longer involved with the organization, but she still is fighting to clear her name. Her current method is to file a police report accusing Dolcefino of forgery.
A lawyer for Kid-Care received a December 8 letter, ostensibly signed by Porter and her husband, asking for donations. "Without your [past] support," it read, "we would not have been able to allow our relatives to travel nor been properly styled and manicured. Again, it is fine people like you who made our lifestyle possible."
Porter is convinced Dolcefino wrote the letter. "This is not a conspiracy theory," she says. "I'm not suffering from paranoia. There is and has been from the beginning a plan to destroy us both personally and professionally."
We wanted to chase down Dolcefino in a strip club and throw a microphone in his face as he raced toward his car, but instead we just called him.
"As clearly and categorically as you like, I deny it," he says. "I haven't forged hers or anyone's name, ever. It's a figment of her imagination, but God bless her."
Make Love, Not War
As the battle for the soul of the Pacifica radio network raged on -- and there is no more thrilling spectacle than a war of words between leftists and far-leftists, assuming you get a thrill watching molehills become mountains -- outraged listeners banded together on the Web.
The Web site www.PacificaListenersUnion.org railed against the network's management, offering a place for critics to gather and plot. At least that's what it did a few years ago. Now it's offering porn.
Luckily, it's porn a diversity-minded Pacifica listener can get behind. "Interracial sex pics," the site blares. The table of contents shows a commitment to often-ignored minority groups, with Interracial Lesbian Sex and Mature Interracial Sex on the menu.
The domain name is now owned by someone named Oleg Federov, from the city of Pushkin in Russia. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful, so we don't know what makes someone think a Web site called Pacifica Listeners Union would be just the thing for launching an interracial sex empire.
Former members of the union also proved difficult to track down. We're not sure if they would find the porn a reprehensible symbol of female subjugation and exploitation or solemnly cite the First Amendment and blather on about freedom of speech.
But we're guessing there would be some kind of petition involved.
Catch a Fire
Vietnam vet Paul Matthews is a history buff who's fascinated by the Buffalo Soldiers. Depending on whether you are a history buff, you know the term refers to either: a) African-American soldiers who served on the Western frontier in the 19th century; or b) a classic Bob Marley song.
Three years ago Matthews created a museum in the Third Ward honoring the soldiers. Nice, right? Not to Michael Graham.
Graham is the founder of United Native America, and he has written Matthews demanding that his museum tell the truth about the Buffalo Soldiers, which is that they imprisoned and killed Native Americans.
"They cannot say they were oppressed in this country and then turn around and glorify their ancestors for oppressing ours," says Graham from his Honolulu home.
Geez. Can't these guys just get along and be unified against Whitey? Apparently not.
Matthews says Graham is "cherry-picking" history. The soldiers "served, fought, bled and died for America," he says.
Frank N. Schubert, a retired historian for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and author of books on the Buffalo Soldiers, says the whole matter is complicated and too often viewed from a revisionist, PC perspective. It's "counterproductive" to look at the past through the value system of the present, he says.
Unfortunately, Bob Marley could not be reached for comment.
Highway to Hell
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels has been re-elected to head the I-69 Alliance, a multistate group that is pushing for a new, NAFTA-fueled interstate highway through the Midwest and Texas.
It's an important position with many awesome responsibilities, perhaps chief among them the need to deal with this pressing question: Do you really want to name the thing I-69?
Debate on this issue flared up recently with news stories that Indiana congressman John Hostettler wanted the numeric designation changed. "Every time I have been out in public with an 'I-69' button on my lapel, teenagers point and snicker at it," he said.
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The story turned out to be a parody from Indiana's version of The Onion, but the point remains. A proposed name hasn't generated this much enthusiasm from the Committee of Middle School Comedians since scientists came up with Uranus.
So what's Eckels's position (so to speak) on 69? Gloria Roemer, his communications director, promised to get an answer ("I'm working on it!" she cheerfully e-mailed). But only an ominous silence reigned at deadline.
Gosh, it's a festive time at the governor's mansion in Austin, if Rick Perry's Christmas card is any indication. Sure, it's been a year where approval ratings have plummeted and lots of nasty and unproved rumors have spread about his marriage, but look at that mischievous grin on his face! This is one couple that obviously is enjoying the heck out of this season of togetherness! Or undergoing a painful medical procedure. It's difficult to tell from the looks on their faces.