Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't be like Mike

Mike Huckabee? Really?

Seems like only a couple of years ago….in fact, it was only a couple of years ago, when some conservative Arkies at a local watering hole were complaining to me (that’s easy when me ‘n mama are the only libs in the room….or, the county, as far as I know) how the Huckster was more of a liberal than Bill Clinton ever pretended to be. Now, lookie here. He’s the darling of that loveable far right constituency of the Republican party. Numero Uno in some polls. As far down as number two in others.

Of course, “liberal” is only what the indigenous Neocons call anybody who doesn’t do everything exactly like they want it done. If a guy doesn’t drive an American-made pickup truck with a rebel flag front license plate; a “God, Guns & Glory” bumper sticker on the left rear; some anti-Hillary sticker on the other side; and a little plastic Jesus on the dashboard…well, that guy is a liberal. Even if he did start his career as Guv’ner in an American-made double-wide. I don’t know what Huck did to get tagged with such a nasty label, but he can take solace in the fact that the same guys slapped that moniker on the Duhbyuh himself. And look what a bang-up job he’s done for us.

See, what we have here, in our second-coming of “the man from Hope”, is a bona fide, honest-to-goodness Baptist preacher. And a funny one, at that. Not only funny with his little one liners, but kind of funny (given his calling, and all) with the way he takes liberties with the truth when addressing all these folks around the country who, through no fault of their own, think the same thing I used to think: that a preacher wouldn’t tell lies like your typical politician. Well, actually, the Huckster doesn’t lie like the typical politician. He takes the art to a whole ‘nuther level.

Take, for example, his denial that he was responsible for the parole of rapist-murderer, Wayne Dumond. That, according to the Huckinator, was the handywork of Jim Guy Tucker and, guess who, Bill Clinton. How are you going to get to be a serious GOP presidential contender if you don’t blame something on Bill Clinton? Huck says it was Jim Guy who commuted Dumond’s sentence. Well. That much is true. What he is smart enough to understand is that most of America is not smart enough to understand that commuting a sentence doesn’t mean letting a guy go free. See, Governor Bill Clinton refused to make Dumond eligible for parole. It was thought by the good ol’ boys that was because the 17 year old cheerleader the guy was convicted of raping was a distant cousin of Slick Willie. In some sense, in the minds of the hard-core Clinton haters, that meant what the pervert did was, you know, kinda OK. When Jim Guy became guv, he reviewed the case and did “commute” Dumond’s sentence. That means he changed the “life plus 20” sentence the guy originally got, and reduced it to 39 years, making him “eligible” for parole. That was in 1992. So, you see, Jim Guy didn’t let the animal out of the cage.

Then, along comes the new Governor Huckabee, who planned to release Dumond outright, for lack of sufficient DNA evidence – even though the victim of the crime positively identified him. That got a bunch of folks up in arms, so he backed off his overt plan to let the rapist go, and started putting pressure on the parole board to do it for him. That eventually worked, and Dumond was set free on parole in 1999.

The next year, according to the jury who convicted him in 2004, Huckabee’s pet project raped and killed a woman in Missouri.

So, is Huck telling the truth when he so cleverly says that the Governor in Arkansas doesn’t have the power to parole a convicted felon? Sure he is. Does that mean that he isn’t lying to the people who ask him about the Dumond situation? You decide.

Kind of brings to mind the commercial that shows the car submerged in hurricane waters and the seller re-writing the ad from “slight water damage” to “new interior”, doesn’t it?

But that’s all becoming pretty well known, now that Huck’s free ride is coming to an end. And, soon, all the details of his snatching stuff from the governor’s mansion and using campaign contributions for whatever he decided, and smashing computer hard drives when he didn’t want to leave behind any incriminating evidence will be out in the national light also. He’ll have something to say about those things. It will be carefully crafted to not be a lie, while at the same time completely concealing the truth.

But none of that stuff about the Huckster is what bugs me – because the media is beginning to catch on. It doesn’t even seem to weigh heavy on my opinion of the guy that he seems to honestly believe the earth is only 6,000 years old. What really gets my goat is how he keeps saying that he is the only republican who has “defeated the Clinton political machine in Arkansas four times”. That was confusing to me, what with my caveman digital artist mind and all. So I asked Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times (the ultimate authority on Mike Huckabee) what Huck meant when he referenced those four victories against Clinton. Turns out he was speaking of victories, in his run up to the governor’s office, after Clinton was already President, against Nate Coulter, Charlie Cole Chaffin, Bill Bristow, and Jimmie Lou Fisher. OK. They were democrats. But I even went so far as to re-arrange the letters of their names, and I couldn’t get “Bill Clinton” out of any of them. The closest I can get is if I use letters from ALL of their names, and even then, I can only come up with “Bill Clinto”.

Wait! I left off the “N” in “Nate”.

The Huckster wins again.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Monday, November 05, 2007


Last week, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a “command center” was set up on the south side of the square. Traffic was barricaded off to the square and College Avenue. An alert interrupted the un-interruptible light-heartedness of KKEG radio – warning the classic rock audience that the unthinkable might be occurring in the very heart of Razorback country. White powder found at the Federal Building!

Had this happened ten years ago, during the “War on Drugs”, everybody would surely have suspected this mysterious appearance to be a couple million dollars worth of cocaine some South American drug lord dumped there to hook all the kids. Development expense for future business. But, we’re in a “War on Terror” now. This stuff has got to be designed to kill.

Well, maybe. If you’re allergic to biscuits.

As it turned out, those way-too-healthy Fayettevillians were having another one of their “hash runs” (another term that would have caused problems in the drug war), and they marked the trail for the runners with flour. That path went right in front of the federal building. Some deputy saw it and our tax dollars went to work.

“In a similar incident in Connecticut in August, two people were charged with felony breach of the peace after a hash run trail forced the evacuation of a furniture store in New Haven.” – The Morning News.

The Fayetteville Police Department advised in this case that no criminal charges were likely because there was no malice or mischief involved. Not THIS time.

How nice.

But don’t read that to mean that any foolish person can recklessly spill flour on the sidewalk downtown and bypass a waterboard vacation to Gitmo. When are you people going to realize that we’re approaching our 7th year of a crisis situation? We can’t be doing crazy negligent things like this. Our very survival; the power base of the President of the United States; and the campaign of Rudy Giulani are at stake. It ain’t “business as usual”.
Once, years ago, a guy tried to walk onto a plane with a bomb in his shoe, ala Maxwell Smart. Would you believe it? Now, when you take a trip, you better wear the good socks with no holes in the toes. And leave that bottle of water at home. There’ll be plenty to drink on the plane – unless you’re imprisoned on the tarmac for ten hours due to some problem with take-off, eating little bags of salty peanuts and pretzels, and the airline runs out of consumable liquids. If and when that moment presents itself to you, thank your maker that the shoe bomb guy had it where it was and not surgically implanted in some body part you might have needed when you arrived at your destination. Say, it was a leg, and you were on your way to participate in some “hash run”.

A couple of weeks before the Great Fayetteville Shutdown, California caught fire and burned to the ground. Several days into the fire, TV news stations were reporting that those fires must have been deliberately set by people with a high degree of knowledge about such things – which was why firefighters were having such a hard time putting them out. This led to speculation that those terrorists we’re so afraid of could have been the perps. But, it just so happened that the biggest of those fires was actually set by a 10 year old kid playing with matches. Apparently nobody ever told him that would cause him to wet the bed.

The point is, terrorists could set fires like that. But they haven’t, so we don’t outlaw matches. They could easily scatter a 50 pound bag of roofing nails along the L.A. freeway system any day at about 4pm, and probably net almost as many deaths as they did on 9/11. So, why are roofing nails so available? Because they haven’t done that yet. They could sneak into the nation’s zoos and turn loose all the Godless killing machine bears, who could then find their ways to our elementary schools and devour our helpless children. And yet, those zoos are still in operation, because….correct – Stephen Colbert and I are the only ones who have thought of bear liberation as a means of terrorism. In other words, if the terrorists haven’t done it yet, it’s OK. If they have done it, we’re going to freak out about that until the cows come home because we simply have no foresight and no imagination. How then, do you win a “war” on terrorism with soldiers and guns in some part of the world where everybody shoots at everybody else? What should be the preferred weapon for combating an abstract? Imaginary bombs? If you could get them all to play by the rules (and why wouldn’t they?) you might even be able to eventually kill them off. But, how would you know when they were all dead? So, how would you know when to claim victory?

Face it. Going forward, we’re just going to have to get used to being a little scared of everything, because the world just isn’t as safe a place as it used to be, and it can never be again. But it’s not good to be terrified of anything, because if we are then “terrorism”, by its very definition, has won.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


After all these years, listening to Rush Limbaugh, hollering back at the radio for three painful hours every day, I’ve finally capitulated and now agree that the loveable little fuzzball was right all along. So there. I said it.

It was the diatribe today that did it. Maha Rushie was ranting on about Hillary making “health care” a big issue in the presidential election. Dude was right. Government doesn’t belong in the healthcare business. That should be a civilian enterprise, like everything else, that is “governed” by the free market – the concept that made America what it is today. As Rush said, there’s really no difference in hotel prices and hospital prices. If left alone, without government interference, hospital pricing would adjust to the demands of the market.

For example, if a hotel has very high prices, then only the rich people can afford to stay there. The hotel has to make the business decision whether or not it is willing and able to survive on only that share of the market. If they keep their prices high, somebody else will come along and offer lodging at a better price. Then, there’s a place for the middle class guy to stay. The poor guy? What does he need a hotel for anyway? He can sleep in the dumpster behind the Waldorf, where that fat cat is staying. You don’t see the gumment interfering in the hotel business.

Or restaurants. There are those hoity-toity places with real tablecloths that serve you a wee little bit of food at insane prices. You know – the kind of places where movie stars and Donald Trump and Congressmen eat. For most everyone else, there are already places that don’t charge so much for their food. Some have open buffets, where even little kids can sneeze right into the boiled chicken while they’re scooping out more sprinkles to put on their complimentary after-dinner ice cream cones. You don’t have to be rich to eat at those places. That’s because somebody filled that niche in the market. That guy eats at the high-priced place, because he was a good businessman, and now he can afford to. The poor guy literally gets food dumped right on top of him, his wife & two kids, as they sleep in the dumpster behind that hotel. That’s what President Bush was talking about when he mentioned “People trying to put food on their family”. It’s even conceivable that he could collect enough deposit bottles to feed the fam once a week or so off the dollar menu at the local fast food joint. They got ‘em everywhere. So, you see, there’s really no need for government intervention in the restaurant business. The market takes care of it.

Rich guys – the ones who aren’t chauffeured around in limousines, can drive those cars that all us middle-age-crisis guys only wish we had. They cost too much for most people. But there are car companies who stepped in there and created affordable vehicles for the rest of us….except for the dumpster family. But, really, even if they had a car, they couldn’t afford to buy gasoline, so they’d probably end up moving into the car and living in luxury out there beside the street where they would be quite the eyesore and a considerable traffic hazard. So, it would be to the detriment of the rest of society if Uncle Sam was to dictate the price of vehicles…or gasoline for that matter. The free market works again.

So, what makes “healthcare” any different? If the medical profession prices themselves into a market share that only millionaires can afford, then that’s all the business they’ll get. How much money can one millionaire spend? After all, it ain’t like people have to go to the doctor. Some bright entrepreneur will come up with a chain of medical clinics – maybe supplemented by advertising on the thermometers and bed sheets – that the “average Joe” can afford. This will be to healthcare what the motel beside the freeway is to that high priced hotel in Manhattan. Maybe some old, outdated equipment… or better yet some brand new Chinese-made medical gadgets. Some un-approved pharmaceuticals imported from countries where children aren’t afraid to put in a good 18 hour day to see that us lazy Americans are kept healthy. Maybe the folks that made “D’s” in med school could work in these places. Think of all the jobs that could be created in the medical profession. Sure, there’s still hundreds of thousands of people who can’t afford to go, even here, but it is important to any economy that people die. What else is going to motivate that guy in the “Medical Express” lane to get over that gall bladder surgery and get back out there to work for the man whose wife is in the expensive hospital getting her lips blown up so she’ll look good in the Ferrari when the top’s down. It’s a beautiful thing – the free market system – that only gets uglied-up when the government gets involved.

Anybody with any sense knows the Federal Government should have only two functions: maintaining a military of adequate size and resources to invade and occupy any country our leaders see fit; and letting no-bid contracts to big construction companies to re-build those countries after we destroy them. Everything else can be handled by the free market system.

Thanks Rush. I needed that.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jena 6

“Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all.”

So goes the theme of a Don Henley song that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of right now. But it’s true, ain’t it?

All the drama going on in Jena, Louisiana brings back some memories of my younger years in Batesville (what doesn’t?) back in the late ‘60’s & early ‘70’s. For one, there’s that tree at the school.

We had us a tree, out in front of the office at the old BJHS – which, I understand, is now some kind of kindergarten or something – down on Water Street. It was a big wide Oak, as I recall. Wide enough to stand behind and not be spotted by Mr. Caraway as we smoked those Viceroy cigarettes stolen from our dads’ dressers the night before. There were, maybe, a dozen of us who hung out there every day during the lunch break. A dozen – out of all those kids who attended that school. I honestly don’t recall if any of the “regulars” were black kids or not, but I know nobody would have had any problems with any blacks being there.

I do recall one event when one of the white guys got into a fight with a black guy behind that tree. It wasn’t because the black guy had “invaded” our space. It was because they had gotten into it over something earlier in the day and, as mentioned, the big tree was the best shield from the eyes of the school officials, and therefore the best place to resolve their disagreement. It was resolved – one on one. No guns. No knives. No cops or lawyers or political groups seeking to promote their own agendas. Just a couple of kids who had to work things out.

A couple of years later, when I was a Jr. in the “new” high school, up on the hill, I was (as usual) returning late from lunch. When I pulled into the parking lot, expecting to find that everybody else had already gone back inside, there were about ten (white) guys sitting on their cars and standing around. The “tardy” bell sounded as I opened my door. I jumped out in a hurry, thinking maybe I’d beat Mrs. Newton to class, I noticed all these guys looked and behaved uncharacteristically serious.

“Hey! Come on! The bell rang!” I said, as I took off toward the building.

Nobody moved, so, late or not, I had to go back and find out what was happening. I kept asking what was going on, but everybody just ignored me, keeping their eyes fixed on the gate up there that blocked off the then-open hallways.

As it turned out, one of the guys in the parking lot had been in an altercation with another guy – who had been hitting on his girlfriend. The guy in the parking lot, as I said, was white. The guy hitting on his girlfriend happened to be black. I say “happened to be” because I don’t think it made any difference to the dude what color the other guy was – at first, anyway. But, before lunch was over, it had apparently turned into some kind of race war.

Fearing Mrs. Newton more than I loved excitement, I got off the fender of my Mustang and proceeded toward the building. But I stopped cold when I looked up at a sea of black students – male & female – coming out the gates. I didn’t want them to think I was charging them by running up to the building, so I went back and sat on my car. Braveheart, I wasn’t.

There were, it seemed, three times as many black kids walking our direction than there were white kids in the parking lot. Skinny little cat that I was, I was certain that it wouldn’t take my pro-rata share of them to whoop me, but I had literally no place to go.

As they approached there were some words between one or two of the guys on each side of the impending battle. It was obvious that the situation wasn’t going to improve by virtue of the dialogue. They’d stop and yell for a while, then walk toward us again. When they got about 30 yards away, one guy opened the door of his pickup and pulled a hunting rifle out from under his seat, and laid it, pointed at them, across the hood.


Of course, they stopped walking our direction. And I quickly pondered the option of going back to Tommy’s Kingburger and playing the pinball machines, since I was already late for Geometry (or Algebra, or one of those number things). But before I could come to a decision, Mr. Cross and Coach Johnson, and Mr. Hicks (I think), and some of those other male teachers and coaches came running through that sea of black kids carrying riot clubs, looking like they meant business. The black kids split up and returned to the building. The guy with the gun stuck it back under his seat. And suddenly, WWIII was over – without a shot ever being fired.

It’s interesting to think that a guy was considering actually shooting somebody, but didn’t want to get in trouble with the principal.

After that day, although it could have happened, I don’t remember any further “racial” issues at BHS. We didn’t get any TV coverage. There was no internet to stir the pot. In fact, I may be the only person that has any recollection of the event.

I don’t know what it means. But it seems pertinent.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Secret Handshakes

August 29, 2007

I think we all owe Idaho senator Larry Craig a debt of gratitude. What a swell guy! If not for him, many naïve hicks like myself might never have become aware of the double top secret mystery dance that is apparently required to make new friends in public restrooms. If I understand it properly, it goes something like this:

“You put you’re your right hand in. You pull your right hand out. You put your right foot in and you tap it all about. You look through the crack into his pretty blue eyes. And that’s what I call cruisin’ for guys.”

What is that? It’s like an episode of “Get Smart”. Being a conspiracy nut, I have long suspected there were all kinds of groups that used this sort of covert communication, thereby keeping all us outsiders in the dark. Cloak ‘n Dagger networks that carry on these clandestine conversations right in front of our eyes, without giving us a clue. Take rich people, for example. They all must have some network like that, and if you don’t know the code you’re going to keep working for the man. But somebody lets you in, and all of a sudden it’s the blue label stuff for you baby. I mean, what other explanation is there for so many rich people who also happen to be, well, stupid?

To get in to one of these secret societies, you probably have to be nominated by a member and voted on by the rank and file, then go through some torturous and humiliating initiation process. Then they tell you if you ever let their secret out of the bag they’ll do something really bad to you and your house pets – maybe turn Michael Vick loose on them. That’s how they maintain their exclusivity. Fear and intimidation.

I’m all for “outing” any creepy pervert lawmaker – especially Republicans – but I honestly can’t understand how that guy was actually arrested for the little bathroom stall dance he did. I mean it ain’t like he walked up to Undercover Annie at 9th & High and offered her twenty bucks for … well, you know what you offer Undercover Annie twenty bucks for. All this guy did was a hand & foot routine. Who’s to say that, with all the different down-low groups there are, some of those “signals” don’t mean one thing to, say, bathroom perverts, and something else to, say, this Little League 3rd base coach I was watching the other day?

The guy started off by clapping his hands. Then he touched his hat. Then he touched his ear. Then his elbow. Then his hat again. His belt. His elbow again. His hat again. Then he clapped his hands again and acted like he was brushing something off his arm. Then he tapped his foot. Right there! He tapped his foot! Nobody popped up and busted that guy.

Now, if we’re going to arrest perverts in airport bathrooms and let guys like this stand there, right out in the open in front of everybody at a Little League game, around all those children, then people, all I have to say is this is a really messed up world.

What if the good “family values” Republican (did I mention he was a Republican?) senator was just trying to tell the guy in the next stall that he should buy Wal-Mart stock, perhaps mistaking him for somebody in the Rich Club? What if he was delusional, and just trying to get him to bunt?

Even if Craig, by some wild stretch of the imagination (snort), was trying to make some “overture” to that undercover cop, how is that act illegal? What’s the difference in a gay guy walking right up to another guy in a bathroom and saying “You wanna go see Rocky Horror with me?” and a straight guy walking up to a girl in a bar and asking “Hey baby, what’s your sign?”, as long as neither of them is holding up some cash in exchange for an affirmative response? Is there some special law that applies to bathrooms? I agree that it’s just not right to talk to somebody in there any time except when you’re both washing your hands, and even then, only about football. But…illegal?

My son thinks some people will mistake my intent with this particular piece as being that of a Republican pervert sympathizer. (More concerned that I’m sympathizing with a Republican than with a pervert, per se.) Perhaps there are some low-brows out there who will. Fact is, I’m just trying to understand what laws were broken, and whether or not they only apply to bathrooms. I may need to make a citizen’s arrest someday, and I’d really rather not have to do it with my pants down.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Polysatire Boy does Medical Research

Sometimes in the summer, when the air is still and the traffic’s as thick as Mississippi mud, and the asphalt’s cracklin’ like bacon in a pan, ol’ Rick Baber just looks Mother Nature in the eye and grins and spits and says “’Is that all you got?”

Then the fire ants carry him away to a cool dark hole where he can rest.

Hi kids! Miss me? I apologize for my conspicuous absence, but me ‘n mama have been tied up for about six weeks developing enough art to fill up the new Pinnacle Bank in Rogers, Arkansas. If you get a chance, go check out our website and see what we’ve been working on: We’d be proud to see you there.

But I’m not here today to write about art. Not here to chat about the weather. Muy caliente – as we say in Chickendale. I’m not even going to tick off my ol’ buddy Randy Tovey or that guy up in Cushman by writing nasty things about the guv’ment. This piece is dedicated to doing some serious research on a subject that has been on my mind for about 30 years. And I’m hoping you can help. I’m not a doctor. Don’t even play one on TV. But, my brother’s a doctor, so that’s qualification enough. Same gene pool. So here goes.

In my half century on this lovely blue planet I have known many people who have died from inoperable brain tumors. The best I could tell, these people had only two things in common: they knew me; and they all had dark hair and dark eyes. Perhaps it’s some form of denial, but I just refuse to believe that knowing me had anything to do with the untimely demise of any of these people. That leaves only the “dark hair & dark eyes” thing.

This subject has haunted and fascinated me, as I said, for about three decades. About 8 years ago, I offered up on one of my websites the theory that there was some correlation between the features described and this terrible malady. I received correspondence from maybe a couple dozen readers, and none of them had ever known of anybody to die from such a brain tumor who didn’t have dark hair and dark eyes. Of course, initially, there were those who thought they could present exceptions.

“My Aunt Sally died of a brain tumor, and she had gray hair.” Her natural hair color, as it turned out, was black.

“A friend in college died from a brain tumor and she had green eyes.” That person later wrote back to inform me that she had discovered that her friend wore contacts and actually had brown eyes.

Not one verifiable exception from that limited sampling group was given.

Now, I admit that was no scientific survey, but it piqued my interest even more. I decided that, when I had access to a larger audience, I would continue the study.

So, you’re it. Can you help a brudder out?

If you have ever known of anyone who died from an inoperable brain tumor, could you contact me with some details? Anything you could provide would be appreciated, but particularly the eye color and natural hair color of the deceased.

I don’t know if anything will come of it, other than satisfying the curiosity of this anal retentive writer, but I do know I’d appreciate any information you can offer.

Please respond to my website:; or by e-mail to

© 2007 Rick Baber

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The sign said “Long haired freaky people…..”. No. Wait. That’s not right. It said “BE PREPARED TO STOP”. A big diamond shaped orange sign beside the highway, somewhere between Huntsville and Harrison.

So, that got me to thinking (it’s a rare event). Am I? You know, prepared to stop?

All depends on what it is they want me to stop, I guess. What could it be? Smoking? Drinking? Gambling? Consorting with unsavory people? Maybe the sign maker is some battered Republican and wants me to stop writing this column. Fat chance.

Whatever it was, I wondered if I had the willpower. I wondered if I was truly prepared to stop, or if I even wanted to. And I wondered how they knew I was going to be here on this particular day to read that sign. Is somebody watching me?

Somebody must be. Just last night, as I started to watch a pay-per-view movie, an announcement appeared on the TV informing me that the movie had been formatted to fit my screen. If they’re not keeping an eye on me, how do they know what size screen I have. Hmmmm?

Yesterday, in an office building in Fayetteville, there was a sign as I entered the door that said “Thank you for not smoking”. Was it just mere coincidence that I was not smoking at the time?

The questions were running through my head so fast it was making me dizzy. Then, as if by plan to distract me from that line of thought, a red SUV whizzed past me. On the back window, written in white shoe polish, it said something to the effect of “State Finals Bound…..Comets…. To God goes the glory!”

Maybe it should have said “To God goes 70% of the glory!”

It occurred to me that, if God was supposed to get ALL the glory, maybe these people shouldn’t have written all that stuff on their car. I’ll bet they get a little glory out of it themselves by doing that. I had to wonder (Again. I wonder a lot.) if God was driving down some street, paved in gold, up yonder, in a white (surely it would be white) Chevy Tahoe with writing on the back glass that said “Comets to State Finals! To ME goes the glory!”

I don’t know. Maybe it was trivial, but it took my mind off that “stopping” thing for just a few seconds. Then, suddenly, the SUV started to skid in front of me. There were a bunch of guys with hardhats in the road up ahead. They should have let somebody know.

The SUV, I’m sure with some Divine Assistance, managed to get stopped before smacking the road crew. After all, they’ve got a tournament to get to.

Obviously, I wasn’t prepared to stop, so I veered off the road. Next time, I’m going to pop a few extra bucks and get a car that has brakes. I can see now how they might come in handy.

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Ethel Martin – rest in peace.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ol' Eli

It’s hard to bring a tear to the eye of a hardened old rock quarry guy. But the obit in the Batesville Guard did it to me today.

When I was a kid, my dad wanted me to get a respectable job, like sacking groceries, and work my way up to management, maybe end up with my own store someday. It might have worked out better for me than the choices I made, but it was not to be. I, along with my buddies Chris and Randy, took a job shoveling debris out of railroad cars at Midwest Lime Company. We got paid something like $2 a car – but we got it whether the thing was completely full of metal shavings or clean and empty – so it sort of worked out. We went on from there to do other jobs like operating the scales, driving dump trucks, and running the hammermills, and we got to meet a lot of interesting people.

Among those interesting people was a rough-n-tumble Grizzly bear of a welder named James Kelley – who, along with his brothers Doug and Blake, took care of all the various welding needs there at Midwest.

Like any 16 year old rookie in a rock quarry, I suppose, I was scared to death of the man when I first met him. I mean, he just looked like the kind of guy who would rip off somebody’s head and use it for a football if he wanted to. Not a fate I was seeking for myself. But, being the semi-adventurous types we were, Chris and I decided that if we were going to work there (by this time running the scale house on the night shift) we were going to have to show these men that we were “OK”; and try to bluff them into thinking we weren’t afraid of them.

Looking back, it seems now like a strange way to accomplish such a task, but it felt like the appropriate thing to do at the time. Sometimes, James’ wife would come out to Midwest and leave his lunch. On one such night we came up with a plan to “get” him. I won’t tell you what, but suffice it to say that we ate his sandwiches and replaced them with the most vile and disgusting thing you might be able to imagine. To add a touch more humor to that, we added salt and pepper.

We waited for Ol’ Eli (that’s what he liked to call himself) to come down the hill to eat, but he was running later than usual. Chris had something to do, so before he left he rode his motorcycle up the hill and tossed the brown paper bag to James, just saying “Here’s your lunch Kelley”. Then he rode off to the relative safety of anyplace that wasn’t Midwest Lime on that particular night, leaving me there alone to run the scales.

Much later, as I sat leaned back in the office chair, half asleep, with my feet up on the desk (you know, working), talking to my girlfriend on the phone, that bear came walking into the office.

I had already told Becky what we’d done, and when he walked in she wanted to hang up, but I made her stay on the phone so there might at least be a witness to my untimely demise. Kelly took the chair behind me, and he just sat there, with a cold stare directed squarely at me, as if he was impatiently waiting for me to get off the phone so he could wad me up into a ball and stuff my broken remains into the desk drawer. And he sat. And he waited.

Eventually, Becky went to sleep with the phone on her pillow, and I continued to act like I was talking to her. But after a while, running out of things to pretend to be talking about, I said goodbye and hung up the phone. With nervous faux-laughter, I spoke what might well have been my last words.

“Whatsa matter Kelley? Didn’t like your lunch?”

He didn’t say anything. He just continued to sit there and stare at me for what seemed like an eternity. Long enough for me to watch my short life pass before my eyes. Two or three times. Then, without cracking a smile, he spoke.

“To much #*&%ing pepper!”

Blew my mind. Only the first of many times to come.

I have many more James Kelley stories, and pretty much anybody who has known me for any length of time has heard at least one. I’m sure everybody that knew him has similar stories. We could fill a book with them. Shame there’s only so much space here.

The Pearly Gates probably need fixin’. By now, I figure James Kelley has St. Peter temporarily trembling in some corner somewhere, just letting him sweat a little longer before he lets him off the hook and informs him that Ol’ Eli can weld a sweet potato to a cast iron stove. And he could. If you don’t believe me, just ask me.

They don’t make guys like that anymore.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Now when I die, I don’t want no coffin
I thought about it all too often
Just strap me in behind the wheel
And bury me with my automobile

-James Taylor, from “Traffic Jam”

We love our cars, don’t we? In America, that four-wheeled pony represents freedom. Freedom to hit the open road and go wherever we want, whenever we want.

I remember sitting in a beachside restaurant in Malibu, not so long ago, thinking “Man, I’m a long way from home.” But then I thought about the fact that the parking lot I could see from my chair connected to the PCH, and from there, I could get all the way back to my front door in Arkansas without ever getting off the pavement. At that moment, the 1600 mile distance to my couch didn’t seem like much.

Today, it seems far away again. Considering that my car gets about 20 miles to a gallon, and the last gas station sign I saw displayed, proudly, the price of a gallon of unleaded at $3.45, I did some ciphering. That’s about 17.3 cents a mile. So, I’m thinking. If I was out there right now, and needed to get home, could I?

I checked my wallet. $67. The 1600 mile trip would cost me $276.80 in gas alone – meaning if I didn’t eat or drink anything for 27 hours, I was only short about $210. So, how far would that get me? I mean, I might as well take off and get as close as I can before I set out walking.

388 miles. Where’s that put me? Sitting beside I-40, in the desert, about 30 miles east of Kingman, Arizona. I’m not happy about this. I’m hungry, thirsty, out of gas, and it’s 1200 miles home. If I walk, without food or water, I still never have to leave the pavement (or the shoulder, anyway). I might be able to make 60 miles in a 12 hour day. So in 3 weeks, I’ll be sitting beside my green, frog-filled pool, with an IV in my arm to replenish my fluids, eating a high carb diet, pondering why I keep hearing from Republicans on TV and radio talking about how well the “economy” is doing.

I s’pose, if you’re rich, your economy is doing swell. But considering that Wal-Mart just had its lowest profits in the company’s history, I’m going to just take a wild guess and say that folks who aren’t rich must be either spending their disposable income on gasoline, to get to their low-paying jobs so they can work their butts off to pay for the increased cost of food and clothing that will follow gas prices; or sticking a few dollars back so they don’t get stuck in the desert outside Kingman, Arizona and have to walk home. Either way, the simple truth is that when gasoline prices go up, the cost of practically everything else goes up as well, because those flip-flops and toasters don’t grow on the shelves at Wal-Mart. They have to be transported in there from someplace else. And somebody’s gotta burn some fuel to get them there.

About this time next year, fuel prices will go down, because there’s an election next fall. The jugheads who are raping this country while lining their pockets, and those of their friends in “Big Oil”, will want you to forget sitting beside the highway in the dark desert, with the moon illuminating that sign ahead that warns you not to pick up hitchhikers because they may be escaped convicts. They’ll want you to forget that the oil companies, while the government looked the other way, were taking in record profits and telling you that “supply & demand” dictated the prices at the pump. They’ll want you to forget that one reason supply was down was because the oil companies, at the peak of the driving season, decided to shut some of their refineries down for “maintenance”. They’ll try real hard to make you forget that there was a Republican administration in charge (for 7 years) while all this was going on. If history is any lesson, they’ll probably succeed. People’s memories are as short as the government’s foresight.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take the highest gasoline receipt I get this season, and stick it up on my refrigerator. That’ll do two things for me. It’ll remind me why there’s no food inside; and it will be there next November when I go to the polls – to remind me to do my part to vote as many of them as I can out of office. I’ll vote against the wimpy pandering Democrats in the primary, and I’ll sneak out the Monday night before the general election and siphon all the gas from the cars of my rich (or wannabe rich) Republican friends so they can’t get to the polls.

Just doing my part for America.

I used to think that I was cool
Runnin’ around on fossil fuel
Until I saw what I was doin’
Was driving down the road to ruin.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Saturday, May 12, 2007


May 12, 2007

Ancient Writings

Quran (9:11)

For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah; and there was peace.

Chilling, no? It came to me by Internet. So you know it’s got to be true.

Even more compelling than that deal where you fold up a $20 bill and see the World Trade Center burning. Even more than the story of the off-duty Marine who shot the Muslim at the gas pump on 9/11, before the authorities discovered that the trunk of the Muslim’s car was filled with explosives.

Right there, by their own “good book”, written 1375 years ago, you can tell that we’re doing those people over there a favor – finally bringing them peace after thousands of years of conflict. So, the fact that we invaded the wrong country, for concocted reasons, suddenly seems insignificant in light of the grand plan; the scheme of things; the big picture. In other words, “Shut up with your griping about this war. We (the eagle) have a destiny to fulfill.”

OK. One small problem. That isn’t what verse 9:11 of the Quran says. Not even close. Here’s the commonly accepted translation.

Quran (9:11)

But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and we make communications clear for a people who know.

You can’t blame some clever guy for trying. The truth is that there were many writings left out of our (Christian’s) own Holy Book, when The Council of Nicaea put it together in 325 AD. Think about it. They didn’t have photocopiers or computers back then. The whole thing had to be written and copied by hand. These guys selected, from all of the available writings of the day, those “books” that they deemed acceptable and appropriate for inclusion. The rest were simply left out. Matter of fact, even more ancient writings are being discovered still today, even in what is now called The United States.

One of the more recently discovered writings, found buried in a clay pot in a cave during some excavation for the first nuclear power plant near Richland, Washington in 1954 has been named “Seifer fun Fokus”. Although the cloth had deteriorated to the point that only about 1/10 of the script was legible. Here’s the part they have been able to translate to date:

In the land of the south wind in the valley of the white water a scribe named for the Tiger labored to bring truth and light unto the people even as many doubted his wisdom and intent. And it came to pass that those who were believers outnumbered those who were non-believers and rose up and banished the non-believers from the city. On the 7th day of the 7th full moon of the 21st century the believers gathered all their worldly goods and sold them to the sinners in the port city by the white water to the east. And they sought out the scribe by the high view on the new space and each set aside 1/7 of his bounty and sent it by courier to the scribe in the west. And the scribe was made joyous and able to purchase feed for the horses that powered his chariot. And there was peace & harmony in the valley by the white water and all the inhabitants prospered ten-fold, and power finally came from the waterfall and lighted their houses and every person had fish to eat.

I don’t pretend to know what it means, but it captured my attention because my last name, in India, literally means “The Tiger”, and “Arkansas” means “south wind”. As for the rest of it…… got me. But if you suddenly have some overwhelming urge to send me…something…I’d be glad to provide my mailing address.

Meantime, I have to go buy some of that $3.20 gasoline and go to my sister’s house for dinner.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Koran & 9:11

In case you have received that bullshit e-mail about the Koran's reference to 9:11, here's a rough translation of what verse 9:11 actually says:

Koran (9:11) - "But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith and We make the communications clear for a people who know."

But somehow, that one doesn't fit into the REpublican philosophy.

Also, question anything you get, reportedly, penned by George Carlin. His own website disputes most of what is going around.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I just heard on CNN that Congress is on “Spring Break”. Spring Break. Is that true? Does that include the Senate too, or is it just the House? And, since when did grown-ups take Spring Break? Back in the 20’s, when I was a reluctant member of the BHS class of 1973 (correct me if I’m wrong, but) I don’t think we even got a spring break. Maybe we got off on Good Friday and the Monday after Easter, but there was none of this traveling to exotic locations for an entire week, spending big boxes full of our parents’ hard-earned money, doing all the things that our mommas took so much joy in telling the ladies down at the church that we didn’t do. No way. We were forced to do that stuff behind the Rec Hall in College Field, and, if we wanted sand and surf, down at the sandbar. It was lots cheaper, and nobody had video cameras and phones that would lead to us being exposed (literally) on a variety of internet websites the following week.

Now, I can’t help but wonder if there’s some private beach somewhere in the Caribbean, at this moment, where Maxine Waters, Blanche Lincoln, and Barbara Boxer are having one of those teddy-clad pillow fights in their bungalow while the real Teddy, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham host a keg stand out on the beach. Vic Snyder, Barney Frank and Trent Lott are locked in a hot game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and Vic’s got a side bet on Teddy K with Elizabeth Dole – who’s standing behind him in a grass skirt and a scarf, sipping a Mojito, rubbing his shoulders like Hotlips Houlihan. Everybody’s having one for themselves and one for their homey, Nancy Pelosi, who couldn’t make it this year because she’s off in Syria trying to make some new friends. Mark Pryor? He and Joe Lieberman had to skip the fun tonight to attend their identity awareness classes.

A scene like this couldn’t happen if the good ol’ US of A wasn’t in such great shape. Everything’s just peachy. Poor GWB is about as popular as a porcupine in a condom factory, and just on the verge of packing up Dick Cheney, a facemask, and a couple of shotguns and going over to Iraq to finally accomplish the mission himself – if Congress will ever come back to work and pop for his plane fare. Coach, I would guess. If he can keep Cheney focused on the target, he might be able to pull it off too, because the war has got to be just about over. I say this, after viewing some of the latest top headlines on the news websites:

1. “Fifth-graders arrested after alleged sex in class”
2. “Landlocked Mexico City opens beach” (maybe THAT’s where Congress is)
3. “Grinning woman, 24, wanted badly as bin Laden”
4. “Woman dropped on head alleges negligent dancing”
5. “Doggie yoga leaves pets twisted but relaxed”

I’m not kidding. Those are the “top” headlines. I guess the story about the cop pushing the skateboarder into a hedge couldn’t muster up all the public outrage CNN wanted, and Paula Zahn couldn’t turn it into some kind of racism issue, so they dropped it. Let’s face it, we all secretly want to push a skateboarder into a hedge.

The only other news today was that Hillary (you know, the next President of the United States of America?) raised a hundred gazillion dollars for her campaign – so if she ain’t elected, she can just buy the country; and somewhere – France, I think – there was a passenger train that went 357 mph.

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived right beside the railroad tracks in Van Buren. My cousins and I used to get in all kinds of trouble with our parents for hanging out on the trestle and putting pennies on the tracks and letting the train wheels smash them into little copper foil medallions. They told us we could derail the train by doing that. Have ya’ll ever seen a train wreck? At, what? Fifty miles an hour? Imagine what kind of a mess a handful of French cousins could make with a half dozen Euros on that track.

I hear they’re building one of those trestles from some private Congressional beach island in the Caribbean to connect to the AmTrak line in Miami, then on to Union Station in DC. They’re going to put one of those 357mph trains on it, so Congress can wait until the last minute, after the Freshman Panty Raid, to leave from Spring Break and go back to work. I also hear that, in that part of Florida, you can get five pennies for a nickel.

I’m considering a new business venture: selling little copper foil medallions in the Orlando area.

Get well soon Larry.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Friday, March 02, 2007


People say I’m crazy because I’d rather drive to California than fly there. I mean, people say I’m crazy for a lot of reasons, but that is one of them. Sure, you can get there faster by air, but if I need to be in San Francisco that soon, I’ll leave three days earlier. Capice?

It’s not so much a fear of flying. Not even a fear of crashing, really. It’s more the fact that I can’t stand being out of control. To understand how out of control one is as a passenger on an airliner, all one has to do is peruse the recent situation in New York where passengers were held captive on one, sitting still on a frozen runway, for ten hours. No, not held captive by terrorists – in the classic sense. Held captive by the Airline. Did I mention it was ten hours?

What could you do in ten hours? You could watch 1200 annoying TV commercials. Twenty episodes of “That 70’s Show”. You could drive from Batesville to Little Rock, and back, three times, then watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Unless you’re John Weaver or Larry Price, in which case you could do the Little Rock trip four times. You could play one of those marathon Monopoly games like you did when you were a kid. You could bounce about 36,000 times on a pogo stick. Get your oil changed 60 times. Have 20 pizzas delivered, one at a time. You could fight 1/14th of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. You could walk to Newport. What you’d do when you got there, who knows? But you could walk there. Or, I suppose, if you didn’t lose your way, you could walk back from there. As I recall, that might be a better idea.

One thing I’m pretty sure you couldn’t do, without the aid of the Chicago Bears’ defensive line, and/or an automatic weapon or two, is keep me on that plane for 10 hours. I can practically guarantee you that, between the 2nd & 3rd hours, ol’ Unkel Rick would have been escorted from that grounded flying machine to a nice roomy airport holding cell somewhere.

What I can’t understand is what force kept those passengers – among the screaming kids; not even allowed to watch the “in-flight” movies without paying for them; only pretzels to eat (while they lasted), and completely out of anything to drink – from rising up and slaying those who imprisoned them? Are people so regimented to goose-stepping that they don’t even recognize there is a time and place for getting out of line and saying “No thanks. I think I’ll go this way.”? Are we sheep? Naaaaaaaa!

Try locking your doors and telling the Jehovah’s Witness lady she’s not going to be able to leave until you decide it’s time for her to go. You know what they call that? False imprisonment! You think any court would convict her for knocking you in the head with a big stack of “Watchtowers” and bolting? Not on your life buddy! Next thing you knew, you’d be getting TV-trashed by Nancy Grace, and Larry King & the Jehovah’s Witness lady would be taking calls from Trenton, New Jersey about whether or not her book will be available on audio CD. You’d be joining the ranks of Scott Peterson and the Diapered Astronaut Lady and those cops who beat up Rodney King.

You just can’t do that. You can’t hold somebody against their will. Even High School kids in detention, if they wanted to pay the consequences, could just get up and walk out.

So, do you think that’s it? Do you think those folks could have walked out of that plane, but just figured it was safer to sit there than take their chances walking all the way back to the terminal in a blizzard?

OK then. I can buy that. But, if it was me, they might still be out there in the snow, digging for the man who taught the children some new words before being asked to step out of the plane for some fresh air.

© 2007 Rick Baber

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


That Horatio is such a cocky little red headed bastard, I sometimes find myself cheering for the bad guys.
Is that wrong?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Into Focus 2/11/07


Believe it or not, there are some things that bug me – other than the existence of Republicans and radical Islamic terrorists. You may not want to know this. If that is the case, just put down the paper and go back to the Golden Girls rerun you were watching before you flipped over here. No harm done.

Up first, it bugs me that the “Preparation H” people didn’t think up the “Head On” advertising concept before they did. That would have been so much more interesting.

Second, there’s the guy in the “Quizno’s” commercial that says “Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm!”, when there are clearly only four “m’s” there on the screen. You’d think somebody would’ve caught that. Why do I have to do everything?

Having been a raging, wild-eyed liberal all my life, it bugs me to have to tell you that Nancy Pelosi’s eyes look like they’re propped open with invisible toothpicks.

Somebody should have explained to that crazy astronaut lady that, if she hurried, she could pee while she was gassing up her vehicle. There’s no way she could drive 900 miles without having to stop for gas. That whole diaper thing … you know what?… bugs me. If she would’ve been thinking like a real American entrepreneur, she would have used her loony vendetta as a publicity stunt, by teaming up with some hybrid car manufacturer that could actually go that far on a tank of gas. Then she might have had the extra money to pay her legal fees and psychotherapy bills. Everybody respects somebody – even somebody who’s nuts – that knows how to make money.

Unless I understand English, how in the wide wide world of sports am I going to understand some telephone recording that tells me “For English, press one”? If I do understand English, why would I have to select some other language? To me, this is as dumb as the sign at the drive-thru window that says “We have menus in Braille”; or the “Handicapped Parking” spot at Sonic; or the sign inside the elevator that says “In case of fire use the stairs”. If that sounds “racist” to you, go ahead and turn me in to Paula Zahn. She’s pretty much turning over every rock she can find anyway to find anything she can turn into a race issue. That kinda bugs me too.

Cars with “vanity plates”. Well, not really the cars as much as the people that have them displayed. We already know it’s a Jag. And if we don’t, there’s nothing you can put on that plate that’s going to impress us anyway. What if you were out to commit some kind of crime, or you just didn’t want somebody to know who you were? You think it’s harder for a witness to remember “BOBZVET” than some regular plate? If I was going to get some custom license plate, I’d make it as difficult as possible for somebody to remember. 3GZ3PDC. Let ‘em repeat that over and over in their heads ‘til the cops get there. You never know when you might not want somebody to testify that they saw you gassing up your vehicle while wearing a diaper.

Kissing your dog on the lips, or letting him/her lick your lips, is a really disgusting thing to do. If you’ll just pay attention – following that animal around for a little while – you might notice some other things that Phideaux licks with that same tongue, that would help you understand my position on this. Don’t do that. It bugs me. And, if you do that, I don’t care how long it has been since I last saw you, a simple handshake will suffice.

Sending me those “chain” e-mails that say stupid things like “If you love Jesus you’ll send this to 10 friends”, or “If you delete this instead of sending it to 20 people you’ll have bad luck for a year”…that does more than bug me. That really makes me mad. I’ve read most of the instruction book, and can’t find any place where Jesus even referenced the Internet. I doubt if the connection speeds in those days were even sufficient to use e-mail. So shut up. I’m deleting the thing. You do not control my luck. The Cherokee Nation Casino does.

© 2007 Rick Baber