While settling my breakfast on the couch, I went through the channels and was pleasantly surprised to find that old master of the broadcast con, televangelist Jim Bakker, alive and well and still peddling. There was a book by the ubiquitous Mike Huckabee on Bakker’s well-filled rack, which tells you all you need to know about Bakker right there.

Watching those guys hustle is part of one’s education. When it comes to separating people from their money, they are consummate professionals. They are in a class by themselves. I’ve watched televangelist Rod Parsley with interest, but he actually whines for money, is transparently slick and would never be as rich as he is today had he not stood on the shoulders of old masters like Bakker. Although as greedy as Parsley, Bakker is never tiresome and is truly entertaining.

While rambling over his book collection, Bakker said something about how he couldn’t have written that book if he hadn’t been in prison.

Johnny Cash is the only other person you can think of whose incarceration served as a springboard to even greater fame and glory. Cash’s only crime was being born poor on a floodplain where the water was often 5 feet high and rising, and becoming addicted to prescription pills and alcohol. His entire career was one of giving to society, not preying on it.

Jim Bakker’s first wife was Tammy Faye Bakker, who died young (65). Some wag once said that when they scraped off Tammy Faye’s makeup, they found Jimmy Hoffa. That was an unkind thing to say. I remember seeing Tammy Faye on some reality TV show, and she came across as a very kind, caring and thoughtful person – the kind of person you’d like to have for a next-door neighbor.

When one thinks of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the air-conditioned doghouse for their puppy comes quickly to mind. When their goods were auctioned off to reimburse folks who had been cheated, the doghouse alone went for $4,500. You remember hearing about that doghouse. It isn’t the actual doghouse that sticks in your mind but your questions about the many good people who sent Bakker their grocery money to pay for it.

Can it be almost 30 years ago that Bakker was indicted for conspiracy (whatever that might entail), eight counts of mail fraud and 15 counts of something else? To many of us, his month-long trial seems like yesterday. Few of us thought he’d live out his 45-year sentence in federal prison. But here he is again, this time without Tammy but still peddling books from a screen in my living room.

He didn’t rob me, so I’d say that having to spend any prison time in the same cell with another old master of the con, Lyndon LaRouche, would be punishment enough.

We have been told over and over that it’s not wise to put young first-time offenders into a prison population with experienced criminals because prison is only a finishing school for crooks who would polish their skills. This might no longer be true, as it is children who created the science to unlock your car and steal your credit card.

But can you imagine what anyone with an inclination for fleecing the old and susceptible – or just plain everyday suckers – could have learned after a year in the same room with Jim Bakker or Lyndon LaRouche? Are you amazed that, after all that, Jim Bakker is only a click away from the living rooms of sweet old ladies who continue to line up at the post office to send him their Social Security checks?

If there were a Cabinet seat for religion, guess who has the credentials to be sitting in it long enough to go to jail again?

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html