Sunday, November 02, 2014

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


For all the times I have argued with people (and, yes, I have done some of that) about … issues, I don’t recall a single time when somebody with an opposing viewpoint stopped and said “Yes. I see what you mean. Now that you’ve explained it, I agree.” This means either that I’m a total failure at making my point, or that people are simply too hard-headed to admit that they’re wrong. Maybe it’s a little of both.

And yet, I am compelled to persevere with this futile endeavor.

My extreme displeasure with the recent Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court may be the hardest point I’ve tried to make in a long time. Everybody’s arguing about it – but from where I sit, they’re all arguing over the wrong points. The “right” frames their argument by saying “Why should I have to pay for objectionable types of reproductive care for women I don’t even know?” Sure, I have answers for that; but, to me, that has very little to do with the implications of the Court’s decision, and I’m not going to let somebody opening with that line drag me off into what I consider is a completely different argument.

Similarly, the “left” says, “Well, I support women’s reproductive rights!” Cool. Good for you. Now you can go fight with that guy who doesn’t want to pay for what you support, if you want; but, again, your point is only germane to this ruling if you want to look at it in a vacuum.

Laws don’t stay in vacuums. And, given the opportunity, SCOTUS could have made the same ruling about pretty much anything being paid for within the Affordable Care Act that had nothing at all to do with reproduction, or sex, or any of those other nasty things that people get all riled up about. Like…say... X-rays. I don’t know whether or not X-rays are covered, so, please, don’t call me out on that. It’s just an example.

Let’s say, somewhere, there’s a religion that doesn’t believe in them, and your employer subscribes to that religion. Does he have to pay the employer share of your healthcare insurance premium that pays for X-rays? To go further, let’s say your employer is a Christian Scientist. Does he/she have to pay for any part of your insurance premium, which was mandated by law, prior to this Court decision?

To go further still, let’s just take ObamaCare out of the equation completely. Everybody on both sides of the issue knows that this was nothing more than a political slap in the face delivered to Obama by the right-leaning court. Good for them. They have more guys on their team, so it’s only right that they should win some of these fights. But it’s just politics. Let’s not get all tied up in the fa├žade put up by both political parties. It’s not about women’s rights, or healthcare, or even religion. It’s about winning one for the team. So, in essence, it’s not real. But the decision is real; and binding.

So what could go wrong?

Well, a law has been circumvented under the guise of religion. This is of no benefit to law or religion; and it’s going to open up a Pandora’s Box that we won’t likely see shut in our lifetimes. In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

It may come as a surprise to some that Christianity isn’t the only religion represented in the United States. There are many. It may come as even more of a surprise to some that anybody can claim to be of any religion they can dream up, and there is no litmus test to prove whether or not they actually believe what they say they believe; or even whether or not such a religion even exists. If a “believer” can opt out of all, or any part of, a law concerning healthcare regulations, why then can’t that same person opt out of any other law that is found objectionable by their religion? Speeding. Paying taxes. Sex with children.

Here may be the reason that I don’t win these disagreements with people. I have enough faith left in humanity to believe that this is all self-explanatory; and fully understanding it myself, I sometimes fail to dig down deep to make all the little points that make up the big picture. If you don’t understand by now, I don’t know what I can do or say to help bring you to the light. But, again, I keep trying.

If you are sitting back saying “Nobody would ever attempt to make such a ridiculous argument; and if they did, they would be laughed out of court,” then I have two questions for you:

Did you hear about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling?

Have you ever met a lawyer?

©2014 Rick Baber

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Destination - Batesville

We decided to go for a drive last Friday. Ended up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a one night layover at Tunica. We thought we might motor on down to Biloxi, but reality kept hinting that we’re not up those long drives like we used to be. Things on our bodies were hurting and making noises. So, after another losing casino night in Vicksburg, we decided to just head back up to Batesville (Arkansas – not that other one down there).

During the obligatory drive down Main Street, upon our arrival, we noticed the changes that have been mentioned on social media. Sort of an obstacle course. At first we weren’t too crazy about the thing, but then, thinking about it, and having the concept explained by Chief Gleghorn, it did all seem to make sense. Count me ‘n momma as supporters of the street changes (for whatever that’s worth), and anything else that can be done that might bring downtown Batesville back to life. I just hope it’s not too late.

Before leaving, Tuesday, we did have the pleasure of having lunch at “Big’s,” on Main Street. Great food, reasonable prices, and what may be the most friendly and conscientious staff of anyplace I have eaten in a long time. Even the cook came out to ask us if everything was to our satisfaction – and, of course, it was. This, I thought, is exactly the kind of place that could help bring downtown Batesville back from the abyss. When added to the likes of the Landers Theater renovation, Elizabeth’s, and the Simply Southern Playhouse (based on reports from friends, as I still haven’t had the opportunity to get there during our all-too-short visits) it’s a very good start. But the lack of growth problem with a town like Batesville can’t be solved by simply making it a cool place for the people who live there. Growth depends on money coming in from outside the community, itself. Commerce. Tourism. Either one can attract the other.

Batesville is certainly one of the most beautiful towns in Arkansas. I fell in love with the place the first time my dad drug us, kicking and screaming, there with him for work, around 1965. I think we stayed there two weeks, in the Powell Motel, and I didn’t want to leave when he was done. Even being a young kid, with friends in school, I was thrilled when he told us a couple of years later we were moving there. But even scenic beauty, it seems, isn’t enough to keep a city alive in this tough economy. Batesville isn’t on the way to anywhere. It’s not like people are going to stop off for a day or two during their vacations and spend money in hotels and restaurants and shops. It has to become a destination.

The new sports complex could surely help – hosting tournaments, etc. – but, again, not enough. Main Street needs to be totally renovated, and I do believe that has begun. But, allow me to offer up some suggestions regarding what I think could be major “selling points” that most other cities don’t have to start with.

Number One is, of course, the White River. The park there is great, and getting better. Josie’s was one of the best things to come along in decades. Why can’t other businesses build along the river? Think Little Rock’s “River Walk.” San Antonio. People dig water. If you build it, they will come.

Speaking of water, you may think Number Two (especially if you’re a resident) is a little crazy – but what about the bayou? There it sits, right behind Main Street, surrounded by thick woods and decaying buildings, breeding mosquitos. Bear with me.
WHAT IF the bayou was cleaned up? By that, I mean taking out all that brush and making a nice park all along both sides behind lower Main Street. Line each side with blocks, making it look more like a canal. Put some fountains out there in the water, ala Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Then, those old buildings across the tracks could add back patios and decks overlooking this beautiful park, and suddenly, they are desirable real estate again. Further, this could spark a rebirth in West Side – where a rebirth is desperately needed.

Third – and I’ll shut up after this one – this “dry county” thing has got to come to an end. I know many, including some of my own family, will disagree. The tax from alcohol sales, they’ll say, won’t be enough to make any difference. That is probably true, but it misses the point. You could tax the population of Batesville at 100 percent and never obtain the money needed to bring the city back to the status it deserves. It’s the money and taxes that could come in from other places that matters; the jobs created by new people, with new money, putting new businesses in this tourist attraction. Sure, it would probably hinder the meth business around town, but somebody has to suffer for the greater good.

Forget the Newport comparison. That’s just lame. Newport has nowhere near the scenic beauty of Batesville. It’s just a bad argument. Apples and turnips. Think about the places you take your families on vacations and getaways: Branson, Eureka Springs, Orlando, Florida. Bars, clubs, liquor stores everywhere. If you don’t drink, you don’t go in those places. But it is those places that help make possible the places you do go. There may be some, but I can’t think of a single tourist destination that is “dry.”

Once the tourist industry is healthy, other business will follow: services businesses to keep the hotels and restaurants running, and so on. More people. More jobs. A larger tax base.

Now, you’re going to ask “Where does the city get the money to do all this?”

I dunno. I’m just an idea man. A foundation, perhaps? Ask the Waltons?

But, thinking back on it, I’d say reverse the order of the three things I listed. Start with getting rid of the alcohol prohibition; then clean up the bayou and see what blooms.

©2014 Rick Baber