Sunday, January 31, 2010

Idaho Baptists Caught Smuggling Children Out of Haiti

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A group of ten very self-righteous Baptists from Idaho have been arrested for attempting to spirit thirty-three children out of Haiti. The group apparently claims to have been doing God's work in "rescuing" these "orphans" aged two months to twelve years. Unfortunately for the accused child traffickers, God did not provide any paperwork that would have permitted the activity. Haitian authorities have stopped all out-of-country adoptions out of fear that children with parents or relatives still alive on Haiti were being scooped up by nefarious felons eager to place these children with desperate adoptive parents - for a nice fee, of course.

Some Haitian authorities state that the Baptists were taking the children to a temporary orphanage in the Dominican Republic, from where they would later be sent to adoptive homes for a fee of $10,000 each. The jailed Baptists deny that charge.

One "orphan" girl, aged eight or nine, who was a part of the group rescued by the Haitian government, told officials that she was not an orphan. She thought that she was being taken to a boarding school or a summer camp.

Amanda Weisbaum, of the official group, Save the Children, said, "The Haitian government was quite right to halt these people at the border if they felt they didn't have the right paperwork." Actually, they had no paperwork.

Today there are Americans from coast-to-coast raising money and collecting supplies to send to Haiti. Aid and charity organizations are in Haiti doing unbelievably hard work to bring relief to the suffering. What a shame that child snatchers are using this catastrophe to meet their own religious, political, or economic agendas. If these people want to be helpful, they should be moving rubble, delivering aid, and burying the dead - not stealing Haiti's future!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

God Turns Her Back on Scott Roeder

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Scott Roeder is a savage who fancies himself to be a human being. He is also a religious terrorist.

Scott Roeder, spurred on by teabaggers, religious zealots, and people like Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, took it upon himself last May to put a pistol to the head of Dr. George Tiller and pull the trigger. He murdered Dr. Tiller on a Sunday morning in the foyer of the good doctor's church in Wichita, Kansas. It was a premeditated murder. Roeder had bought the pistol just the week prior for the express purpose of murdering Dr. Tiller. It was a political murder - an assassination. It was done in large measure to terrorize other medical providers into not performing abortions - regardless of the medical necessity or reasons for the procedures.

Scott Roeder said that he killed Dr. Tiller to prevent the doctor from "murdering" the unborn. Roeder's sanctimony knew no bounds. He understood the mind of God and was doing God's work. Apparently God was not competent enough to do her own work. What the Kansas miscreant was actually doing, however, was trying to make something of his pissy life. Now he will have a paragraph or two in some history books, for a year or two, and a certain element of society will hold him in high esteem - for a few more weeks. But when the glory passes, and it will pass quickly, Mr. Roeder will be nothing more than another caged animal in the Kansas penal system - turning gray and gradually fading from memory. He will become just another sad old man living behind bars.

The trial was interesting. Mr. Roeder himself was the only defense witness, and he argued that he was justified in taking the law into his own hands and murdering Dr. Tiller. The jury didn't buy it. In fact, it took that jury of twelve good Kansans just thirty-seven minutes to convict the self-righteous Mr. Roeder of first degree murder.

Thirty-seven minutes! That jury obviously had more important things to do than waste their time wading in the lunacy of Scott Roeder. Society has already wasted far too much time on that creep!

Friday, January 29, 2010

CBS Drops the Ball with the Super Bowl

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

CBS, the network of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, seems hellbent on rushing into insignificance. I have been skeptical of their ability or desire to report hard news fairly ever since Dan Rather was hung out to dry over reporting about George W. Bush's less than stellar military career, a story that made conservatives howl, but did not bring even the meekest of denials from Bush. The corporate Gods at CBS did not want to do anything that would upset their stockholders - many of whom were Bush supporters.

There have been two stories in the news this week that illustrate that CBS is still bent to the right. For the first time ever, the network said that it will accept advocacy ads for their Super Bowl coverage. Well, they will accept some advocacy ads.

In point of fact, it looks as though CBS will accept only one advocacy ad: an anti-abortion message featuring Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow, and his mother. Tim's mother had supposedly been advised by a physician to abort the fetus that eventually became the quarterback. Touching? Certainly. Applicable to everyone considering an abortion? Certainly not. But someone at CBS wanted this message to get out during the most watched television event of the year.

But then a gay dating organization called tried to get the network to run its ad. Sorry, boys. Gay dating is not a message that CBS wants to promote, regardless of how green your money is.

Okay. The first was an ad promoting a political agenda, and the second was an ad promoting a business - and a political agenda. Maybe its not apples to apples, but it still feels like CBS is being a corporate whore. The door is open, and there are lots of apples lying around just waiting to be picked up and tossed through. The problem is that the trolls inside of the room will throw out the ones that they find personally disagreeable.

CBS takes the money of other businesses, but they apparently pick and choose relative to their network values, values that ignore a big segment of America.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Crime Against Mary Landrieu

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The conservative noise machine is finally starting to acknowledge that four of their overly righteous youth were involved in a crime. Well, according to right wing newscasters, these were just "kids" and their crime was really nothing more than a dumb prank.

If it looks like horse shit, feels like horse shit, and smells like horse shit, chances are really good that it's horse shit!

First of all, as I noted yesterday, these men may be young - hell, most people are young when compared to me - but they aren't kids. All were in their mid-twenties - old enough to have been carrying rifles in Iraq and Afghanistan a half dozen years earlier - which none did. Thees guys are adults, all with college degrees, and all supposedly smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong, or the difference between legal and illegal. And although it is easy to argue that their crime was dumb - gaining access to the phone system of a United States Senator through lies and deception was most certainly illegal.

This crime story is going to get very interesting. Two things to watch out for are which lawyers step forward to handle their defense (and who pays for those lawyers), and the stories that start flying when they start to rat each other out.

Today it was revealed that the attorneys for James O'Keefe in the lawsuit brought by ACORN in Pennsylvania are being paid for by James Dobson's Focus on the Family. That's right, money browbeaten from the gullible by Reverend (sic) Dobson was used to defend O'Keefe's racist excuse for journalism. A respectable minister would be ashamed of this political use of God's money - if it really was God's money!

Some interesting points about O'Keefe's infamous ACORN film in which he and a lady reporter (sic) went into ACORN offices posing as a pimp and hooker in search of information on setting up a sex business. Several of the offices that they entered responded by calling the police and having them escorted off of the premises. Their "news" film failed to disclose that because it didn't fit the message that they wanted to craft. Also, when the film aired (primarily on Fox), O'Keefe was dressed as the world's most outrageous pimp. In reality, he went into the ACORN offices dressed rather conservatively, and later spliced in the scenes where he was dressed as a stereotypical pimp. The film was phony from the get-go, but the objective was met - to embarrass an organization that routinely registers thousands of poor people to vote, and gives them advice on how to survive in an economy that is fair only to the wealthy.

And this is the crap that James Dobson feels called on to defend. Yo, Jimbo, can you smell the sulphur?

Scroungy Bastard's Big Adventure

by Pa Rock
Cat Enabler

My kitty, Scroungy Bastard, outdid himself on Tuesday night. Sometime during the evening he disappeared. I didn't get too excited, because he is an adult and has the freedom to come and go as he pleases - through the doggy door. One of his alley cat friends shows up out in the rock patch that I call a yard most evenings, and they roam the trailer park trashing lady cats and looking for mischief to make.

But the next morning - yesterday - he was still gone. That had my attention because he is usually underfoot begging for breakfast as I hurry to get ready for work. But not yesterday. I came home at noon to take care of some business, and noticed that he still had not reappeared. Was his absence due to stupidity - or promiscuity? Who knows with cats?

By last night I was getting worried. At some point during the evening I remembered Scroungy's penchant for rushing into a closet any time the door was opened, regardless of how briefly. Indeed, on several occasions I had intentionally shut him into a closet for a few minutes to try to teach him a lesson. As I searched all of the closets in the three bedrooms, my kitty did not appear.

But I overlooked one closet. At about 9:00 p.m. I walked into the bathroom where I heard a very meek and mild "meow." When I opened the linen closet door, Scroungy Bastard calmly stepped out. He had been in there twenty-four hours! I stuck my head into the closet and took a good, long sniff. Amazingly, he had spent that entire time without relieving himself. My first thought was that he would hit the doggy door in breakneck speed, but, no, he wanted his supper! Then he went outside for a nature call.

I was telling that story at work today, when a young, female Airman one-upped me with a story about her cat, Honey. Her cat, too, likes to explore whenever a door is opened. The Airman went into her kitchen one evening because she could hear Honey giving a long, mournful cry. First, she opened all of the cabinets, some of Honey's favorite hiding places - but no cat came forward, and the sad cry continued. She finally located her kitty sitting frigidly in the refrigerator! The poor cat had been in there since the last time the Airman had opened her refrigerator: four-and-a-half hours earlier!

Who said cats are smart?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High Crimes and Miscreants

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The big crime story out of New Orleans just gets curiouser and curiouser. Four young men, described by various news sources as everything from pranksters to domestic terrorists, were arrested yesterday for trying to bug the telephone system of Senator Mary Landrieu in her New Orleans office. It isn't a big story when seen in the context of Haiti, the State of the Union address, wars in the Middle East, and such, but there was a time back in the early 1970's when Watergate was also a nondescript little piece of journalism.

This story is already showing signs of being more that just some sloppy attempt at journalism by a group of goofy kids. First of all, none of the four are kids - three are twenty-four, and the other is twenty-five. All are old enough, and all are bright enough, to know that what they were attempting to do was illegal and could result in serious consequences. Indeed, all four are college graduates, and two have backgrounds in journalism. My guess is that somewhere in their education these two, James O'Keefe and Joseph Basel, encountered a course on ethics in journalism.

Stan Dai, the fellow who was found outside of the Hale Boggs Federal Building monitoring listening equipment in a car, has a background in intelligence and fancies himself to be some sort of spook-in-training.

Robert Flanagan, the son of Louisiana U.S. Attorney (acting) William Flanagan, was a Congressional intern last year of Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK). Interestingly, Ms. Fallin was one of thirty-one members of Congress who voted in favor of a House Resolution honoring the ringleader of this crime, James O'Keefe, for his race-baiting film that tried to be an expose on the community action organization, ACORN. O'Keefe is currently being sued in Pennsylvania over that cheesy piece of journalism.

Also interesting, to me at least, is the fact that my own Congressman, Trent Franks and Beans (mostly beans), was himself one of the thirty-one Republicans who rushed to honor James O'Keefe with a House Resolution. Mr. Franks was way to busy to return or acknowledge my telephone call on health care, but give him an opportunity to support a racist bit of film tripe, and he's right there!

I think the story of this attempted bugging of a United States Senator's telephone inside of a Federal building has legs, and I think that it's soon going to crawl, and then walk, and then dance. When these young men get past their fifteen seconds of fame and begin to focus on ten years in prison, they will start singing like canaries on steroids!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Next Watergate

by Pa Rock
Political Commentator

If you rely on the evening news programs of the three major networks for your news, then you missed this story today - unless, like me, you get your news first off of the internets.

James O'Keefe is a bright young man, but certainly not as bright as he thinks he is. The twenty-five-year-old and three of his young buddies were arrested yesterday trying to bug the telephone system of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Well, two were trying to bug the phone system in her New Orleans office, one was in a car close by using listening equipment as a part of the nefarious project, and Mr. O'Keefe was standing in the Senator's office trying to surreptitiously film the crime on his cell phone.

That sounds like something out of an E. Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy playbook. Remember, those clowns and some of their buddies helped to break into the Democratic National Headquarters back in 1972 - at a place called the Watergate. Their mission: to tap the phones. The result: Dick Nixon had to resign in disgrace.

James O'Keefe was filming because he fancies himself a filmmaker. Last September he donned attire that would make a serious pimp blush, and set out to make a film showing ACORN as prostitution enablers. His project, unprofessional though it was, did succeed in embarrassing the community action agency through the actions of a few of its thousands of members and employees. It made some Republican members of Congress so giddy with partisan happiness that they tried to pass a resolution honoring O'Keefe.

Something tells me those self-righteous legislators are not so giddy tonight!

Other members of the criminal gang were Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel (who came to the office dressed as telephone repairmen), and Stan Dai who sat in the car monitoring the listening equipment. All are in their mid-twenties. Young Mr. Flanagan is the son of Bill Flanagan, the acting Federal Attorney in Shreveport, Louisiana. At this point the alleged felons face the possibility of $250,000 in fines and ten years in prison - each! Ouch!

Welcome to the adult world gentlemen. Watch yourselves in the showers!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cracker Ball

by Pa Rock
Sports Promoter

Calling all teabaggers, Klansmen, and other cow molesters! If you can dribble (a basketball) but have shied away from competitive sports for fear of being made to feel inferior by people of color, a new basketball league is being formed with you in mind! That's right! If you believe that racial purity is America's security, have we got a deal for you!

A new basketball league, the All-American Basketball Alliance, is now being formed in Augusta, Georgia, with the express aim of using only white players. You read that right! Don "Moose" Lewis, the commissioner of this so-called league, wants his teams to focus on fundamentals, and not be influenced by the "street ball" that he feels is practiced by non-whites. He is also fearful that black players would be apt to grab their crotches, attack fans in the stands, and flip-off fans. Seriously.

Lewis wants to sell franchises for $10,000 each for teams to be housed in twelve cities in the southeastern United States. So far there are no takers, and even the mayor of his own city is saying "no thanks." But the promoter persists in believing that he has a product that people will rush to support.

Sadly, he could be right, but let us hope that most city leaders will pass on the opportunity to associate their communities with this trash.

It's the 21st century, Goober. You've been asleep way too long!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pa Rock's Dead Pool: 2010

by Pa Rock
Dead Pool Master

Okay. There has been some interest in continuing the Dead Pool. And yes, I know that it is really late, but I was fairly well slammed over the holidays and am running behind on everything.

Here are the rules: (Basically the same as last year.)

1. Select 10 prominent individuals (persons who would be known to most of us) whom you think could die in 2010 - 1 February - 31 December. Your list might include politicians, royalty, sports figures, Hollywood types, famous criminals, etc. All selections must be human.

2. Entries accepted by email to or by responding to this blogpost.

3. Deadline is midnight, January 31st, 2010 - that gives you a week to get your entry in!

4. Only one entry per person, please.

5. Entrants need to be at least eighteen-years-old and have a valid email address.

6. Do not pick any low hanging fruit. If it is common knowledge that someone will likely expire during the next eleven months, play fair and don't choose them. (As an example, Dennis Hopper is near death, according to the tabloids, and should not be chosen.)

7. Winners will be determined on a point basis. The age of the deceased will be subtracted from 100 to determine the amount of points awarded. The death of a young person will gain more points that the death of someone in their eighties or nineties. (Someone last time selected Delores Hope. Delores survived the year, but she was 100, and even if she would have died, there would have been no points for that!) Be strategic when making your selections.

8. Prizes this year will be cash. $50 for first place, $25 for second place, and $10 for third place. In the event of a tie - last year four people tied for second - the prize will be awarded to each individual who tied. (If three people tie for first place, poor old Pa Rock will cough up $50 for each of them!)

9. Have fun - and start getting those lists in!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Paying Homage to Scottsdale

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

In a blog post on December 14, 2008 entitled Where Have All the Good Films Gone? Gone to Scottsdale Every One! I was bitching about the fact that all of the critically acclaimed movies of that time (Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, and Doubt) were noticeably absent from the West Valley where the common folk live. Seeing those movies, at that time, required a forty-five minute drive over to yuppie hell, Scottsdale!

While penning that piece I digressed (don't I always!) to tell the tale of a car that had sped around me a few weeks prior. This is what I had to say on that:

A couple of weekends ago I was driving through Goodyear or Avondale one evening when a young man (high school young) passed me in a small red car. Printed across his back window in six-inch tall Old English Script was this bit of personal vitriol: "Fuck Scottsdale." It wasn't overly eloquent, but Shakespeare probably wasn't either when he was this lad's age. I assumed the boy had probably lost his lady love to some yuppie spawn in the East Valley who was born with a silver spoon up his nose.

Today I realized that I didn't do my homework before writing about the kid who disrespected Scottsdale. I assumed he was just a maverick spreading his personal vengeance against that proud, old Arizona city. Wrong!

Today as I was marching to Pretoria on the evil treadmill at the gym, a young mother (aged thirty or less) and her twelve-year-old (give or take) son parked themselves on the treadmills in front of me. My gym (Lifetime Fitness) is fairly hip, but even so, I was surprised by the woman's attire - at least her shirt. It was a nice gym shirt, something like a "wife beater" that the young Marlon Brando favored, and it was black. Across the bottom back of the shirt, in three-inch Old English Script, was the same sentiment that the young man had been expressing all those many months ago: Fuck Scottsdale.

So tonight I did some basic research on the internets. It turns out that there is some resentment of the yuppies inhabiting Scottsdale, a feeling that the community is trying to be another Tempe (Allah forbid!), and anger that it has drawn in a bunch of rich non-Arizonans. There are apparently also speed cameras on every corner in Scottsdale, a fact that flies in the face of Arizona's teabagger spirit.

There are, it seems, many items manufactured right here in Arizona that bear the Fuck Scottsdale logo. This may be an idea whose time has come - I mean, surely everybody resents someplace. Crank up the presses and let's make some money! Entrepreneurs rock!


by Pa Rock
Tough Guy

I have a black eye, a shiner, what would be called in the parlance of my youth - a beaut! It is the result of an accident that I had in the dark on Tuesday morning, and it began to blacken immediately. And while my first thought was that this new affectation might garner some sympathy from my friends and co-workers, what it actually did was give me a measure of respect like I had never experienced before.

Some people ask what happened, buy many do not. They stare into my eyes while speaking, probably trying to come up with the most plausible scenario without actually being crass and asking. Wednesday afternoon I facilitated a Women's Anger Management Group. During the session I took off my glasses so the ladies could get a good view of my shiner - which was in its prime. Not one person said anything about it, and the session ran much smoother than usual!

Today I went telephone shopping. Normally when I am dealing with the young techie types, I get a lot of patronizing attitude. Not today. The young man talking to me about Droids and Net Books maintained eye contact the whole time and answered every question thoroughly and in plain English. He didn't know me from Adam, but something primal told him that it would be smart to be polite and show the old man a healthy measure of respect!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hard Holiday Season

by Pa Rock

Word came out of Amarillo yesterday that my nephew, Reed Smith, would be released from the hospital today, and he would be able to board a plane for Las Vegas tomorrow! And with Reed and Jamie and their moms getting on that plane and flying west tomorrow, may this hard holiday season finally be at an end.

The story began in the wee hours of Christmas morning when my insistent cell phone pulled me from slumber. It was my sister, Gail, calling with the news that our father had passed away. Dad was eighty-five, and we knew that the end would come sometime, but neither of us was expecting his death to be as sudden as it was, and certainly not on Christmas. I was up the rest of the night, too unsettled to even attempt to get back to sleep. Later that day I would go into work and try to get my desk cleared so that I could go back to Missouri without feeling guilty about placing too much excess work on my co-workers. Hopefully, I would be back in Arizona in a week or so.

Dad's funeral brought our families together for a few days. Gail and I have seven kids between us - scattered from London England, to Salem, Oregon, and getting them all together becomes tougher with each passing year. Heidi and Jason happened to be visiting from England and had been with Dad just a few days before his death. They were still in the states and were able to be at the funeral. Reed and Jamie flew in from Las Vegas, giving much of the family their first opportunity to meet her. Molly and Scott came from Oregon, and Tim and his bride, Erin, were there from Kansas City. It Erin's first exposure to Gail's kids and their families. Nick and his son, Boone, came from West Plains. Justin and Lisa Smith came up from Arkansas, as did his sister, Tiffany, and her husband, Nathan Burke.

Four of the great-grandchildren were there. Boone, at age ten, was the old man of that group. Nathan and Tiffany's daughter, Brieanna Burke, and Molly and Scott's boys, Sebastian and Judah Files, were there. Little Judah had been born at the beginning of the month, and this was Pa Rock's first opportunity to meet his youngest grandson!

My ex-brother-in-law, Bob Smith, was also present much of the week. I had several conversations with him about work, and kids, and cars. One of the things that he told me was how happy he was that Gail would now be in a position where she did not have to work so much overtime. Bob also talked about the great time that he had when he joined Heidi and Jason on vacation in Portugal a couple of months earlier.

By the end of the week people were beginning to drift out of Noel. All of the kids had left town by New Year's Eve, and Gail and I were headquartered at Dad's house trying to untangle his business and finances. That evening we had dinner at Cotton Eyed Joe's, a really good barbecue restaurant, and discussed our families while we ate. She mentioned that Bob and his cousin, Bobby Jack Short, were on the road driving Reed and Jamie back to Las Vegas. One of the things that I remember Gail talking about was how she was glad that she and Bob had remained close after their divorce, and how Bob had always been there to support their kids - and even her when he knew that she was having difficulties.

That night we were going through Dad's safe and studying his receipts and bills. Heidi called a couple of times from her mother-in-law's home in Kansas City and chatted with her mother. Gail had headed upstairs and gone to bed before Heidi's last call. It was around 10:00 p.m. She began the conversation with "Rocky, I need to to take the telephone and move to another room away from Mom." My heart sank. I told her that he mother was upstairs, and she continued, "There has been an awful wreck in Texas. Dad is dead, and Reed has been flown to a hospital - and he is in critical condition." She went on to tell me that Bobby Jack was dead and Jamie was in a local hospital.

I slowly walked upstairs and woke my sister. It was going to be another sleepless night.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Babes and a Pair of Boobs

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I love Republicans! Say what you will about their small-mindedness, meanness, hypocrisy, greed, and stupidity - the people who pledge their allegiance to the Grand Old Party seem to have a talent for making the news. Usually, of course, it is for things that would embarrass anyone with a lick of sense, but sometimes (okay, rarely) members of the party are newsworthy for good things.

Today Cindy McCain and her flamboyant daughter, Meghan, were all over the internets for their support of the repeal of the anti-gay marriage amendment in California. The amendment passed by the voters last year that makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry was called Proposition 8. It was a big priority of the Catholic Church (If their gay priests couldn't marry, why the hell should their gay parishoners be allowed to marry either?) and the Mormon Church (Somehow Mormons expressing any opinion on who should be allowed to marry whom seems horribly hypocritical and damned funny!). The clever slogan for those wanting to repeal Prop 8 is "NO H8."

A few days ago Meghan McCain posed for a photo for the anti-Prop 8 campaign. It is a face-and-hands shot. She is holding an elephant and has her mouth duct-taped shut, with "NO H8" printed on her face. It is a beautiful photograph that completely ignores Meghan's own favorite feature - her "fat ass."

Mama McCain liked the photograph of her daughter so well, that she told the photographer, Adam Bouska, that she would like to pose for one of the ads herself. Bouska worked his magic with Cindy, creating a beautiful face shot that looks somewhat like a Breck Shampoo ad, again with her mouth duct-taped shut and "NO H8" printed on her cheek.

Both women are gorgeous, and both have given their images to combat a moral wrong. What a concept - here's hoping other Republicans follow their lead. John McCain, who apparently thinks he can still be elected to something other than an Arizona office, says that he remains opposed to gay marriage, regardless of what the out-of-control women in his family support.

(After viewing Cindy's voluptuous photograph, it's easy to see why John's drug of choice is viagra!)

But for every positive image of a Republican in the news, there are dozens of stories about the stupid ones. Take for example Senators James Mountain Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. These two clowns seem to be in some sort of weird competition to see who can be the stupidest on any given day. DeMint recently went on a tirade threatening to block President Obama's choice to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) because DeMint felt that the candidate might try to unionize TSA employees - and he sure didn't want the folks responsible for keeping us safe on airplanes to be burdened with decent wages or good benefits!

What an!

The other big Republican boob in the news today is an old favorite, James Inhofe. He said that he favors the concept of racial profiling in fighting terrorism, even though he knows that it is politically incorrect. Yeah, that stuff is fine, Goober, unless you are a member of the group being profiled - and then it's not such a great way to do things. Inhofe did show a bit of sense when he admitted that racial profiling would not have alerted anyone to Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, a teabagger type who would have looked right at home as Larry Craig's date at a Palin family reunion!

There are lots of stupid Republican office holders, and the party seems to be damned proud of most of them. The people that they ought to be taking pride in, however, are those few, like the McCain ladies, who dare to put party dogma aside and think for themselves. They are the way of the future.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Arizona Budgets on the Backs of the Poor

by Pa Rock
Arizona Taxpayer

Arizona's Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, and the Republican majority in our legislature have been struggling with a way to balance the state's budget, all the while ignoring the Democrats. That might work if Brewer could come up with a plan that would keep all of her GOP legislative cats in one herd, but this governor doesn't have that level of political skill. If she is ever going to get anything done, she will have to come off of her high horse and deal with the opposition.

By law, the state's budget must be balanced by June 30th each year. The governor and her apologists are whining loudly that they have cut away all of the fat, and there is nothing left to cut. And even with all of that brutal budget hacking (mostly on social programs, education, and services that would benefit the poor), the state is still somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars short of where it needs to be.

(Remember the famous quote of the late Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois? When talking about national expenditures, he said: "A billion here, a billion there. Before you know it we're talking real money!")

It looks as though it may only take one billion to bring Arizona to its sandy knees.

Governor Brewer's response to this awful financial situation is to propose a tax increase. Knowing that Republicans will be damned near impossible to convince to support a tax of any kind, she went straight to the tax option that would place the least burden on Republican constituents - the comfortably wealthy. Yes, our governor is proposing a "temporary" sales tax increase of one cent.

I'm philosophically opposed to sales taxes because they put the biggest burden on the poor. The working poor must spend all or almost all of their income on survival, whereas the comfortably wealthy can get by spending a much smaller percentage of their incomes on survival. Apparently the governor is so concerned about the nutty teabaggers who were spawned and encouraged by her party, that she is pressuring the Republican legislature to pass the tax increase without a public vote.

So, to recap, the governor wants to pass a "temporary" tax (What are the chances of any tax being temporary?), she wants to avoid the knuckle-dragging voters in her own party by getting the legislature to impose the tax on the public, and the legislators that she needs to pull off this banditry are Republicans - people who have been grandstanding against taxes and public services for generations!

Lots of luck with that goofy plan, Jan!

Today I was listening to the local National Public Radio station, KJZZ, during lunch. They have a mid-day public affairs program called Here and Now. Today's topic was the state's current budget mess. Panelists included Eileen Klein, Governor Brewer's Chief of Staff and her former Budget Director, Alan Maguire, a local economist, and Dana Naimark, the President and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance - a local advocacy group for children. All expressed support for the sales tax.

Panelists pointed out that Arizona has low homeowner property taxes and income taxes compared to other states. Not surprisingly, at least to me, our state is in the top ten nationally on it's sales tax burden. The budget is already sitting squarely on the backs of the poor.

But the biggest surprise came from a caller, not one of the panelists. A fellow named Dennis phoned in and mentioned that sales tax is regressive (yea, Dennis!), and he went on to point out that Arizona currently has sales tax exemptions for over one hundred items. The exemptions don't include things that would make sense, like medicine, but did take in many toys of the rich. According to Dennis, items exempted from sales tax in Arizona include spa treatments, golf carts, memberships in country clubs, and merchandise that is sold in country club gift shops.

No shit?

But not one panelist disputed what Dennis had to say.

Arizona needs to be forced to come to grips with its budget crisis through realistic measures. Selling state buildings and then leasing them back is not realistic - especially if there is no long term plan to generate money to pay the leases. (Will we see the day when the state legislature is home to a flea market?) Increasing the tax burden on the poor is also a dimwit plan. Eventually the poor will reach a breaking point and move on to some state that is not so Draconian - and then we can clean our own damned toilets!

Nobody likes taxes, but they are a necessity if we value things like schools, roads, hospitals, libraries, and even prisons. We all benefit from taxes, and we all need to contribute our fair share to make society run. Property and income taxes are much more equitable than sales taxes, and sooner or later the Arizona legislature is going to have to come to grips with that reality.

BTW Jan, if the sales tax increase, temporary or otherwise, goes to a vote of the public, you can count on me to vote against it. I will also vote against any politician who supports raising revenue on the backs of the poor. That's just the kind of guy I am - a patriotic Arizonan!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AT&T, Know this!

by Pa Rock
Irate Consumer

Today as I struggled to make sense of my dad's bills and get them paid, I came across one that I knew would be a problem. Cutting off his telephone service was easy. He received his basic telephone service through a local company. Unfortunately, customers of that company have to acquire their long distance through other providers. My dad had a worthless plan through AT&T that charged him a base rate of $10.48 per month plus exorbitant charges for any actual long distance calls that he made. We talked every day, but I called him on my flat rate plan - through a much better provider.

When I cancelled his phone today, the nice lady at the local company told me that his long distance service was through AT&T, and that I would have to call them separately because they would go on charging the per month fee even though it was not connected to a working telephone. (That's the AT&T that I remember from the sixties!) No, she informed me, she could not provide a number for AT&T.

I got on the Internet and found a number. The first time I worked my way through four AT&T workers - after listening to nearly an hour of their ads telling me how great they are. Eventually I was cut off - I think that was done by Clement, the young man who was standing on a street corner in Mumbai telling me that he was working out of Illinois. The second time around I got up to a cackling witch named Janie who would not connect me with her supervisor because I did not have an actual account so there was nothing that anyone could do for me. I carefully explained that I had their bill in my hand and read the account number to her. She eventually hung up on me. (Could it have been something that I said?)

The third time was a charm. A fellow named Trevor didn't really like the fact that I demanded the corporate number for AT&T before I disclosed my issue and gave him an opportunity to pass me off to one of his buddies on some other continent - or hang up on me. After listening carefully, he finally told me to pay the bill that I had and write "deceased" on it. Why couldn't Clement or Janie have come up with that jewel?

Poor Trevor will be toast when the Gods at AT&T learn that he actually provided a customer with service. That could be a very dangerous precedent from a corporate perspective. What if all giant corporations had to abandon their circular answering machines and start giving personal responses and service to the public? The mind boggles!

I want an iPhone. Oh, Lord, I want an iPhone! But today's circus has taught me that leopards do not change their spots. AT&T didn't give a shit in the sixties, and I'm here to tell you that they still don't. If AT&T keeps the exclusive contract on iPhones, I will be getting a Motorola Droid - and damned soon! My service provider will be Verizon! Verizon answers their phones and provides service. What a concept!

Apple, AT&T has limited coverage and crappy service. Dump the bastards!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Undocumented Workers and Health Care

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A reader posited a belief that undocumented workers (he or she used the right-wing term "illegal aliens") are a drain on the health care system. That's probably right. Lots of groups currently pose a drain on the health care system, including most Wal-Mart workers and the rest of America's economic underclass.

Any member of the working poor who does not have health insurance or the means to see a doctor for preventive services and medical attention has two options: ignore the problem until it worsens and becomes truly expensive, or go to the emergency room and then spend the rest of his life fighting collection agencies.

Undocumented workers are demonized by politicians to the point that they become everybody's whipping boy for everything. Listen to conservative noise radio and you will quickly come to the conclusion that these "illegals" are responsible for high taxes, high crime, failing schools, poor medical care, most abortions, the worst pornography, and the biggest potholes in the roads. They have become the classic Greek goats, the villains that we heap all of our troubles upon before driving them from our shores.

There are some fallacies at work with this picture that deserve to be addressed. I am fortunate to know many Hispanics in Missouri and Arizona. Most, if not all, of the ones whom I know are documented and are very productive members of their communities. Having brown skin and the ability to converse in Spanish does not mean that someone is illegal. Many of these people are from families who have been in the United States for generations.

Yes, but they are here taking away jobs from whites.

Possibly, but more often than not they are employed because of their work ethic - they show up for work on time, every day, and do the task without complaint. Are they underpaid? You betcha. And so are most American workers. Strong unions would do far more to bring about decent wages and safe working conditions than all of the threats, noise, and swagger being spewed daily by the teabaggers and racist vigilantes.

"Illegals" aren't the problem - they are a symptom of an economy in crisis - our economy. And "illegals" didn't bring our economy to its knees - and neither did the Obama administration. Our economy was ruined by two phenomenally expensive wars, neither of which did anything to diminish the threat of terrorism, and one of which had nothing to do with the issue of terrorism at all. Our economy was wrecked by the Bush administration systematically deregulating banking and Wall Street and letting the white collar thieves run around unchecked filling their pockets with as much cash as they could carry. Our economy was ruined by greed - too many people trying to get theirs and having no concern for those around them who were less fortunate.

Is it right to run a national health care system based on greed - where only those with means get treated?

Yes, undocumented workers undoubtedly do put a strain on our health care system, but that system has been hobbling along ignoring a big portion of the population, regardless of nationality or legal status, for years. The problem isn't the people, the problem is the health care system. America's doctors in the American Medical Association want the government to address this problem and fix it now. Small businesses want a way to cover their workers with health care, and the bill currently before Congress will do that. Hell, even Wal-Mart wants this bill to pass!

America does not have the world's best health care system or the best health care outcomes. In fact we are far down on most of the lists that chronicle such statistics. It is time for that sad truth to begin to change.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pa Rock's Dead Pool 2009: And the Winners Are....

by Pa Rock
Dead Pool Manager

My apologies to everyone who has been waiting so long to see the results of our 2009 Dead Pool. As regular readers of this blog know, our family was swamped with tragedy and trauma over the holidays, and some things didn't get done in a timely manner.

There were fourteen entries in last year's contest. Seven of those entries, including my own, did not accurately predict the demise of anyone. Of the other seven...

Camille called it right on Ed McMahon. The death of the eighty-six year old McMahon earned her 14 points. A good showing, but not enough to finish in the money. Eva also hit one by predicting the death of former sex bomb Farrah Fawcett. Her total was 38 points, also out of the money.

Four people tied for second place, earning each a savings bond in the amount of fifty dollars each. Those four picked Michael Jackson as likely to pass away during the year 2009, and each got fifty points for their prescience. The second place winners were Bobby, Iva, Mary, and Molly.

And, the grand prize winner of the one hundred dollar savings bond is...drum roll, please...Pat Tyler of St. Louis! Pat earned seventy-three points by successfully predicting the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy.

I will try to contact all of the winners by email, but in the event that I miss a connection, please send me the address where your prize needs to be sent. Also, if anyone would prefer cash instead of the savings bond please let me know that. (The purchase price of a fifty dollar savings bond is twenty-five dollars, and a one hundred dollar savings bond actually sells for fifty - so keep that in mind.)

Congratulations to you all!

Is there any interest out there in doing this again for 2010? We are already a couple of weeks into the new year, but it's not too late to get one going. Let me hear.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reed Smith and the Need for Quality Affordable Healthcare for All Americans

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last night I posted a "tweet" suggesting that last minute support for Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, could help save the effort to pass health care reform. One of Reed's friends from Arkansas read that tweet and posted a calm and reasoned reply. It follows:

I agree with your assessment of the Haiti situation, however, having just read your "tweet" about health care reform, I must say that I disagree. While I won't argue that our health care system is seriously flawed, I can't stand behind a bill that's being pushed through Congress just so our President can claim that he followed through on his promises for "change." I would be for it, but two years in the future when we really know how it will work and what it will really do. This isn't something we should rush. Not only does it need to be researched further, but it will put us even further in debt. This is all while our economy is in shambles. Despite my opposing opinions on this issue, I appreciate your views and would love to hear your response. Give Reed our best from AR.

I love Reed's friends, and if there is a better group of people walking this earth, I would be very surprised. The writer requested a response, and I wanted to answer in a calm and respectful manner, something that is not always my forte! My first reply to the post was as follows:

Thanks. My response on health care is that the bill making its way through Congress is too weak. I support a strong public option and feel that the President let the Democratic conservatives water down the effort. Everyone living in the world's most powerful country ought to have access to good medical care. It's not them or us - it's all us.

But, that said, something is better than nothing. I think that stalling the bill for a year or two would just kill it. The country has been struggling with this issue since the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt - 100 years ago! It's time - it's actually well past time.

It occurred to me after I posted that response that I neglected to tie it to the one thing that myself and the other writer definitely have in common - our love and concern for Reed Smith.

Reed is twenty-three years old. He is a bright young man, well-educated, with a good job and a wonderful girlfriend. He has a lot of positives going for him - including the cadre of good friends from Arkansas. I don't know how much money he makes, but I suspect that he does very well for someone just a couple of years out of college. I do know that he loves his work, and his boss and co-workers have been very supportive during his hospitalization.

Reed's hospital bill is going to be astronomical. He was flown from the scene of the accident by helicopter to Northwest Hospital in Amarillo. He underwent two emergency surgeries that night, surgeries that resulted in the removal of his spleen and one kidney, surgeries that saved his life. He underwent a couple of lesser surgical procedures in the week that followed. Reed was in Intensive Care for two weeks following his arrival at the hospital, and now he is in a private room - a room that he is likely to occupy for a couple of more weeks. All of that is likely to be followed by rehabilitation care and treatment.

Reed undoubtedly has health insurance through his employer that will help with the bills. There will be help also from the insurer of the automobile in which he suffered his injuries, and, in addition, his father, who was the driver of the vehicle that crashed, may also have had some insurance that will assist with the costs of Reed's hospitalization. But even if there were all of these sources of insurance willing to meet their obligations, know this: it won't be enough. It won't be nearly enough.

I used to think that doctors were the problem. Physicians were greedy and unwilling to do anything to assist the poor - and several years ago there was some truth to that analysis. The advent of HMO's and other large insurance pools, shifted the power to the insurance companies. They were suddenly in the driver's seat, with huge client pools that made it possible for them to dictate terms, and prices, to the hospitals and doctors.

Today much of the villainy and greed that makes health care an impossibility for many Americans rests with the insurance industry. Where does the money go that insurance companies take in through premiums? Is it all (or mostly) plowed back into the system in payment of hospital bills and health care costs? If you think that the insurance companies are focused on helping their customers, think again. Their focus is on providing huge salaries to their executives, and the little guy (the one laying in the hospital) be damned. Last August I posted a list of salaries of top insurance company executives. Here it is again:

H. Edward Hanway, Cigna Corp. $30,160,000 ($82,360 daily)
Ronald A. Williams, Aetna, Inc. $23,045,834 ($63,139)
David B. Snow, Jr., Medco Health $21,760.000 ($59,616)
Dale B. Wolf, Coventry Health Care, $20,860,000 ($57,150)
Michael B. McAllister, Humana, Inc $20,060,000 ($54,959)
Jay M. Gellert, Health Net $16,650,000 ($45,616)
Stephen J. Hemsley, United-Health Group $13,164,529 ($36,067)
Raymond McCaskey, Health Care Service Corp (BC/BS) $10,300,000 ($28,219)
Angela F. Braley, Wellpoint $9,094,771 ($24,917)
Michael F. Neidorff, Centene Corp $8,750,751 ($23,975)

Does any human need to make over eighty thousand dollars a day? Most of us who are employed full-time work hard for our money, and I venture to guess that many reading this blogpost work just as hard, or harder, than H. Edward Hanway or any of the other goobers who live large off of our insurance premiums.

The other villains in the health care story are the drug companies. Canada has a national health care plan, and it works well despite what the morons on Fox News would have you believe. The Canadian government tells the large American drug companies what it will pay for their medicines, and the drug companies, not wanting to lose that large market, comply. The Canadians wind up buying the same drugs from the same drug companies as we do, but they get them cheaper. And when Americans start driving into Canada to buy those cheaper drugs, who raises hell? The good old greedy American drug companies, that's who!

The health care bill currently before Congress has been carefully crafted by Congressional staffers who are highly conversant in the costs and intricacies of health care. The Congressional Budget Office, a fairly conservative source, says that the current bill being considered will not increase the deficit, and, in fact, should lead to deficit reductions over the coming years. I don't like this bill because it has been gutted of the public option, and then Congress was bullied into dropping the plan to lower the age for Medicare, but it does have some merit - and it is a start. After one hundred years of kicking this can down the road, it is well past time to stop playing around and get serious on the subject of providing affordable health care to all Americans.

Reed Smith is likely to walk out of the hospital in Amarillo with a monster of debt sitting squarely on his shoulders. One moment he was riding in the backseat of a car watching a movie with his girlfriend, and then fate interrupted. What happened to Reed was not his fault - and it could happen to any of us.

Why should anyone have to mortgage their future over medical bills? Comprehensive health care is a human right in much of the world, yet in America it remains a privilege - often accessible only to the privileged. Too many Americans sit back and let this disgrace continue because they have insurance through their work, the Veterans Administration (government health care), or Medicare (government health care). They are complacent because the suffering and inhumanity is somebody else's problem, not theirs.

But the health care mess is actually everyone's problem - whether they have health insurance or not. People feel a responsibility for their adult children and grandchildren (I know that I do) who may or may not have good health coverage. And when health care bills force someone into bankruptcy - the most common reason for bankruptcy - the actual costs are eventually born by the rest of society. Quality affordable health care is not the other guy's problem - it is our problem. It needs to be addressed now while Congress has the political will and the votes to take action.

Reed needs for this bill to pass, and so do we all!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dexter Crosses a Line!

by Pa Rock
Entertainment Reporter

The television show Dexter is a favorite of mine. It is a fictional tale of a man who, as a very small child, saw his mother being butchered, and was locked in a cargo container with her bloodied corpse for several days. He was eventually adopted by the policeman who rescued him, but the psychic damage had been done. Dexter grew up to become a blood splatter specialist for the Miami Police Department by day - and a serial killer by night.

The thing that makes Dexter such an engaging character is his affability and boyish charm. He's a hard guy not to like. Dexter doesn't just kill willy-nilly, he targets really bad guys who have gotten away with heinous crimes. He has kind of a Robin Hood thing going for him - when Dexter kills, good Americans (like me) get a warm, fuzzy feeling!

Dexter is a really good show with an important message: if society can't control its miscreants, then it is up to individuals like Dexter to step up and do the job himself. What's not to love about a show with that kind of message?

However, nothing that good can last forever - as I learned this week. While surfing the internets I came across a mention that the show's star and title character, Michael C. Hall, has recently married his television sister, Jennifer Carpenter. I don't have a problem with Dexter strapping some child rapist down to a surgical table, covering the room in plastic sheeting, and then chatting with his victim as he slices and dices with a souped-up Dremel tool - but this foray into incest is just way too weird for my tastes! What the hell were they thinking?

Fortunately there are other viewing choices - because I have satellite! Last night I saw the first two episodes of Archer on FX. It is an adult cartoon serial about a spy/ladies' man (a la James Bond) who works for a top secret agency that is run by his mother. In one scene a disgruntled employee (who is also an agency mole) is holding a gun to Archer's mother's head threatening to kill her. Part of Archer's response to the deadly situation is to get an erection! You have to admit that is pretty damned hilarious!

Where would we be without television?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rush Limbaugh is a Pig, Metaphorically Speaking, and so is Pat Robertson

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The earthquake devastation in Haiti is truly horrific. It is a panorama of maiming, death, and destruction that could not possibly be demeaned or marginalized by anyone with a heart - or a soul. But the heartless and soulless have weighed in on this tragedy, even as the world musters its resources in an effort to bring the catastrophe under control. Hate-mongers Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson both gave a hearty "fuck you" to the mostly poor and black residents of that very old Caribbean nation.

Limbaugh went on the attack yesterday just hours after the country of Haiti was wracked by the earthquake. He is livid that President Obama may be seen as "compassionate and humanitarian" as he musters a strong U.S. response to the disaster. He feels this crisis will help to boost Obama's credibility within the Black community.

News flash, Rusho: Some of us in the White community are also impressed with the President's bold and decisive leadership in this international crisis. It is certainly a far cry from the indecisiveness that marked Poppy Bush's response to Hurricane Andrew or Bozo Bush's ineptitude in dealing with Hurricane Katrina!

Limbaugh also huffed and puffed about US. foreign aid going to Haiti. His whine: "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called U.S. income tax."

Where is your Christian charity, Rushbag?

And speaking of Christian's and charity, uber-Christian Pat Robertson, a television huckster and professional beggar, blamed the natural disaster in Haiti on the wrath of God. Robertson, God's right hand - the one trying to get in your pocket, blamed the earthquake on a pact with the devil that the people of Haiti allegedly made over two hundred years ago in order to free themselves from French domination. Most of today's Haitians haven't heard Pat's swill because communications are down in much of the country, but apparently the French have been chortling over his ignorant remarks all day long.

President Obama is the face of America. Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson are little more than pockmarks on our country's two-hundred-plus-year-old butt. I'm proud of our President and of the efforts that our citizens are making to alleviate the suffering of one of our poorest neighbors. If the situation were reversed, one would hope that the citizens of the world would come to our aid - and now maybe they might! America is on the verge of becoming great again!

Hey Pat - here's a thought for the day: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Those are truly words to live by.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hauling Ass

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Monday as I was driving my Dad's pick-up from Amarillo to Gallup, I discovered that for some unexplained reason, Dad had not put an insurance card in the glove box. I knew that he undoubtedly had insurance (he was always particular and careful about things like that), but I was still extra-cautious because if I was stopped for any reason, I could be cited for not carrying proof-of-insurance.

When I arrived in Gallup and got a room at the Ramada, I asked the desk clerk for the hotel's fax number. Then I set about calling insurance agents in McDonald County until I found the one who had sold Dad a policy for the truck. The agent was very nice and said she would fax the proof out immediately

After a quick supper at The Cracker Barrel which was located next to the Ramada, I went back to the hotel and asked the young lady at the desk if a fax had arrived. "Yes," she said, and produced the three-page document. "It says that you have insurance." I told her that I had been driving very carefully all day because of not having an insurance card - to which she replied, "Well, now you can haul ass!"

The Arizona Circus

by Pa Rock
Mortified Resident

I started catching up on the Arizona news from National Public Radio about the time that I drove across the Arizona state line yesterday morning. Things were getting crazy when I left, and now they are at a point that is so pitiful so as to almost be laughable.

Arizona, like most states, is having budget difficulties. Well, Arizona's budget problems are actually much worse than those of most other states. In fact, the state appears to be on a collision course with bankruptcy unless our leaders grow some cajones and begin to serve the public needs instead of their own political self-interests.

Our legislature is Republican, and those good ole boys are agin raising any taxes to meet the state's needs. They have gutted public school funding through budget cuts and wacky programs like letting people have tax deductions for giving money to private schools - even to the point that they can name the individual students at private schools that they want their money to benefit. And if that blatant raid on the treasury wasn't enough, they have pared all social spending to the bone. The only time these goobers address the issue of taxes is to figure out ways to cut business taxes.

Several months ago some Republican lawmakers proposed an idea about selling the various state buildings - such as the capitol - and then renting them back. We all thought it was a joke - at least I did. Yesterday I heard that they are indeed going to sell many state buildings including the Capitol, and interested parties will be able to buy bonds for the purchase in the amount of $5,000 each. The newscaster telling that tale said that the logic is that the bonds will be good because the state would never default on its buildings.

Wanna bet?

Now our governor, a dim bulb named Jan Brewer who inherited the job when Janet Napolitano headed off to the Department of Homeland Security, wants to raise revenue with a sales tax. A sales tax would make perfect sense in Arizona because it is regressive and would impact the poor more negatively than any other group. Arizona is also big on casinos which are basically a tax on the poor.

To call Arizona's budget "voodoo economics" would be an insult to voodoo!

Our esteemed Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, was also all over the news when I returned - and this time it wasn't just him blowing his own horn. Sheriff Joe, who has the irritating habit of opening investigations on anyone who ever questions his authority, and has been accused on numerous occasions of using his police powers to intimidate political enemies, is now the subject of a federal investigation. The feds have heard rumors that Joe might be abusing his power. Well, duh!

Unbelievably, no one has asked me what to do about the political and economic mess in Arizona - so I will just have to volunteer my plan. I propose that Arizona formalize this circus into a money making event - something like the world's largest PTA Carnival. Sheriff Joe could park his wrinkly butt on a dunk tank, and his sidekick and partner in nuisance lawsuits, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, could handle the balls - maybe three throws for a dollar. But, on second thought, that would place an unfair tax burden on Hispanics, liberals, and anyone capable of independent thought.

And how about Jan Brewer in a kissing booth? One big, sloppy, wet smoochie from the Governor for a dollar. It could be called "Luv that Guv!" Oh, wait. That would be an unfair tax burden on the mentally ill and the seriously drunk!

Another possibility for the Arizona Circus would be to place State Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne (a career politician) into a cage and let the public pelt him with spit wads or chalkboard erasers - sort of acquaint him with a more realistic view of education than just budget cuts and test scores. Darn, that would create a tax burden on the thousands of school teachers who suffer under his antiquated and worn-out ideas on how schools should be run! They would be lined up from here to Tucson waiting to contribute their dollar bills to fixing the state's budget shortfall!

Well if those ideas won't work, here's one that will. Tax the hell out of ammunition, hymnals, and white bedsheets. This is Arizona, after all!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back in Sand Land

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

The big red pick-up with Missouri plates pulled into Lot 77 at the Wheezin' Geezer Trailer Park around noon today. Scroungy Bastard was so happy to see me that he has not left my side all day. Somehow, all of my new citrus trees and rose bushes managed to survive my absence - I suspect some good Samaritan neighbor may have slipped them a drink or two during my absence.

Reports on Reed continue to be good. I understand that Heidi left today to return to England where she and Jason have to get Lauren enrolled in kindergarten. I suspect that she will be Skyping and calling the hospital on a regular basis. It is a very good sign that Heidi feels comfortable enough with Reed's progress to return to her home. Heidi certainly made all of us feel better and more knowledgeable regarding Reed's injuries and his prognosis. We were so fortunate to have her at his bedside!

Jason Pfetcher: I am reading your copy of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It is very interesting and informative, but definitely no Hank the Cowdog!

Tomorrow morning I return to work. Will I even remember where that is? I also need to get over to the Parking Spot by the airport where my car has been since December 26th. By now the charges will be higher than the value of the vehicle!

Arizona is still crazy...more on that tomorrow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Big Texan and Hank the Cowdog

by Pa Rock
Literate Carnivore

Reports on Reed today have been good. I visited with him in his room this morning before I hit the road back toward Phoenix. I told him that we had eaten at a really good restaurant the night before - the one that will give the 72 ounce steak to anyone who can eat it in one hour. Reed knew immediately what I was talking about, and he said, "You ate at The Big Texan!"

Yes, we did. Reed majored in meat science in college and now works for a company that provides beef to the best restaurants in Las Vegas. He knows his beef and steak houses!

The Big Texan is big, brawny, and very Texas! It is replete with a gift shop, stuffed animal heads and one enormous stuffed grizzly bear, and strolling country musicians. I was with Gail, Heidi, and Justin. We all had steak - but not the 72 ounce one! The place boasts that 48,000 people have accepted the challenge over the years, and only 8,000 managed to clean their plate in an hour. Justin said that part of a John Candy movie was filmed in that steak house.

The highlight of the evening for me was when the trio of musicians stopped at the table behind us to sing happy birthday to one of the diners. They were standing in a way that had us blocked in. After they finished "Happy Birthday," the trio did "Goodnight Irene" and "Jambalaya." Yours truly knew the words to both songs and sang along, much to the mortification of some at my table!

One more restaurant story: Last week we ate at The Barn, another steak house with an abundance of country ambiance. There were four or five display cases in the reception area that all contained hundreds of copies of Hank the Cowdog. I remember that my kids had that book many years ago, but what I didn't know was that it is a series that currently contains 63 volumes. As we were leaving I asked about the book. A sales clerk said that it was written by a friend of their manager who lives in that part of the state. (It turns out that the author (John R. Erickson) and illustrator (Gerald L. Holmes) both live in Perryton, TX, where the Smith/Short New Year's Eve wreck occurred.) I told the clerk that I wanted to buy one, and then I slyly asked her to recommend one and to give me a justification for the recommendation. She said, "Well, if you haven't read Hank, you definitely need to start with volume one."

The next day I sat around the hospital reading my new book. I told Gail how funny it was, and that it was definitely written for adults, not kids. I was put in my place later when a lady in the lounge asked me how I liked it. She said that she teaches third grade and her students love Hank!

Hank is a cowdog who doubles as the ranch's head of security. In the first volume he is consumed with solving the death of one of the chickens. When a second hen is killed, he winds up salivating over the warm corpse and eating it. (Nowhere in Shakespeare, Dashiell Hammett, or Raymond Chandler have I ever come across a case where the investigating officer eats the murder victim!)

One reason Hank is such a good detective is that he speaks several animal languages. It was from Hank that I learned that chickens only have a vocabulary of six words, and three of those mean "help!"

I'm not sure if I will ever get back to Amarillo, but I will spend more time with Hank the Cowdog! And if I do make it back to Amarillo, I will definitely revisit The Big Texan and sing with my supper!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hola, Amarillo!

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Justin and I made the long drive from the Ozarks to Amarillo today, leaving before daylight and arriving here at about 1:30 p.m. We had planned on heading out last night, but fatigue caught up with me and I decided that a good night's sleep was in order. Sadly, this overgrown cow town is beginning to feel like home!

We went directly to the hospital and found Reed asleep with Jamie faithfully by his side. Justin stayed there, and I drove back up the street to the motel that we stayed in last week - and claimed a room. Tomorrow morning I will head out toward Phoenix - at long last! (Knock wood!)

It's Texas. The winds are blowing, the geese are flying in several directions and honking so loudly that outdoor conversation can be difficult, and the hospital parking lot boasts the sweet fragrance of Eau de Cow Shit!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Adios, Neuva Noel - Again!

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

The truck is packed - thank you Juan, Alma, and Clarissa Garza - you are the best neighbors ever! I am heading out in a couple of hours, and will pick up nephew Justin Smith is Siloam Springs, Arkansas. We will drive through the night and should be in Amarillo in the morning. (Didn't George Strait have a song with a title like that?) I plan to spend tomorrow night there and then hit the road for Phoenix on Monday. Luke comrades, if you are reading this, with a little luck and a good tail wind I should be at my desk on Wednesday morning.

There is still so much to do at Dad's house. I managed to get his safe sorted out. Dad was by business records like he was by everything else - he never threw a thing away! I don't even know why he owned trash cans!

I am hopeful that Reed will be able to converse while I am in Amarillo. Heidi's updates indicate that he is getting better by the hour!

It's time to get the computer packed up and start edging toward the door. Look for a Reed update on The Ramble tomorrow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Funeral of Bob Smith

by Pa Rock

Bob Smith was laid to rest this afternoon at the Southwest City Cemetery next to his parents.

Bob's funeral was in the new First Baptist Church at Southwest City. The weather was cold and icy, but many people showed up to pay their final respects to their old friend and neighbor.

The most emotional part of the service was when Bob's oldest son, Justin, told the gathering of a sign that he had from his father while in Amarillo earlier this week attending to the needs of his injured brother, Reed. Justin said that his father often wore boots, a cowboy hat, and a heavy brown coat while walking his French Bulldog, Boom, who was never on a leash. He said that while waiting outside of his mother's hotel room one morning early in the week, he saw a man walking a French Bulldog, not using a leash, and the man had on a cowboy hat, boots, and a heavy brown coat. Justin said that when he saw the man, who was facing away from him, he knew that was a sign that his dad was in Amarillo watching over Reed. His recounting of that incident was more powerful than anything the minister had to say, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Jason Pfetcher, Heidi's husband, read some thoughts that Heidi had penned about her father and the type of person he was. Heidi wanted people to understand that she couldn't be at the funeral because her most immediate duty was to her little brother, Reed. She said that she knew that her dad would agree with that priority - and he definitely would.

Several of Reed's friends from Prairie Grove were at the funeral, and A.J., Bobby, and Mason served as pallbearers. Mallory Mounce was there and I also met her mother, and I got a nice hug from Abbie Rose. Abbie's grandmother, Grandma Crane, emailed me yesterday to say that she has some of her world famous brownies in the mail to Reed! I told Gail that over the phone today, and she replied that Grandma Crane's brownies are wonderful!

We love everybody in Prairie Grove - and their young people are the best anywhere!

Our cousin, Bill Dobbs, and his wife, Karen, sat next to me during the service. It was nice seeing them and hearing about the things that their children are doing. Molly's classmates, Gwenith Stetina Gordon and Kelly Coffee Elwood were also there, and it was really nice getting to catch up with them. Gwen's mother, Debbie, is a saint who has worked at McDonald County Family Services way too many years, and Kelly's parents were two of the best friends that I ever had. Gwen is a stay-at-home mother of three boys, and Kelly is a second grade teacher with a four-year-old daughter, Megan, and she and Jeff are expecting another child in April. It was so great getting to talk to those grown-up young ladies!

I am not a fan of funerals, but Bob's was a nice experience that hit all of the right chords. Justin and Tiffany, did a wonderful job of getting it organized. Heidi's husband, Jason, who stayed behind in Missouri while the rest of us were in Amarillo, was also pivotal in getting some of the things done for the service. Life has been very hard for all of the Smith kids this week, but they have met the challenges with strength and resolve. Bob would have been very proud of the way these young people assumed the mantle of responsibility on his behalf and in looking after their brother. I am certainly very proud of all of them!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bob Smith's Obituary

by Pa Rock

The following is the obituary for Bob Smith that ran in area newspapers. Bob and I knew each other for forty years, and he was married to my sister, Gail, for most of that time. Bob was a good friend, and I feel fortunate that I was able to have several conversations with him in the days preceding his sudden death. Bob's greatest achievement, by far, was fathering and helping my sister to raise four wonderful children: Heidi, Tiffany, Justin, and Reed.

1945 - 2009

Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:04 PM CST

Mr. Robert Edward "Bob" Smith, 64 years of age of Southwest City, Missouri departed this life suddenly on Thursday, December 31, 2009 in Perryton, Texas from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Bob entered this life on June 17, 1945 in Springfield, Missouri born to the union of Theodore and Lucy (Clark) Smith. He moved with his family to Southwest City, Missouri as a child. He was a 1963 graduate of the Southwest City High School. He was employed at the Grove Paint Center in Grove, Oklahoma for several years working in sales. He enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren and his beloved French Bulldog, Boom. Bob was of the Baptist Faith and a veteran of the United States Navy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reed Update

by Uncle Pa Rock

Reed's surgery this morning was just forty-five minutes, and the doctors managed to get his abdominal opening sewn up. Heidi believes that they will start the process to awaken him tomorrow evening. That will be very traumatic because it is unlikely that he will have any memory of the wreck or know that his father was killed in the accident. Send a card - Reed will need a lot of distraction.

David and Ashley Taylor, two of Reed's wonderful friends from Prairie Grove, Arkansas, have set up a special bank account for donations to help with expenses. I have no idea what the medical bills will be, or how much insurance will help, but the cost of four or five weeks in ICU with multiple surgeries will be astronomical! The following is what Ashley put on Caring Bridge:

Many of you have been asking about sending Reed flowers, gifts, etc. With the nature of his injuries he cannot receive these items. An Arvest checking account has been set up to off set some of the financial costs that have and will be accrued during Reed’s recovery. If you would like to make a donation to this account you can contact Arvest Bank at 479-846-2115. The account number is 23170865. We are still working on getting Reed as many cards as possible, this will help encourage Reed through his recovery. Feel free to include your favorite picture, he can have these in his room.

David and Ashley have been in Amarillo all week helping to tend to Reed's needs. They have truly been a blessing to Reed and his family! Thanks, guys. We love you!

Adios, Amarillo!

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

I am sitting at the Rick Husband Airport in Amarillo waiting to catch a flight to Dallas and then head on to Northwest Arkansas from there. Lots of reports of expected bad weather there, so I am hoping that I can get back to Noel before the ice and snow hit.

Reed had a good night and should be ready for what will hopefully be his final surgery this morning. As soon as the surgical staff can get all of the sewing complete, they will be ready to begin the process of waking him up. I will continue to follow his progress and hope to be back in Amarillo on Saturday night en route to Phoenix, but for the time being, the absolute best place to get the latest hospital news on Reed will be at Caring Bridge where Dr. Heidi and Jamie will both be blogging.

I have to get back to Noel to finish some of the estate business of my father (and Reed's grandfather), and I plan on being at the funeral services for Reed's dad on Friday. I understand that the funeral for Bobby Jack Short, the other fatality in wreck, will be today in Cookson, Oklahoma.

For those of you who have been following this blog for updates on Reed, you are more than welcome to stick around as I slowly drift back into my old writing habits. I blog everyday about many things. Be forewarned however, I am a un-reconstructed hippie from the 1960's who views everything with a decidedly leftist bent. I say exactly what is on my mind - exactly how I want to say it! Reed has always enjoyed my stuff, but it does tend to piss people off - and that is intentional on my part!

Send Reed some cards. Jamie and his mom are going to have their hands full trying to keep him in the hospital bed after he wakes up!

Out West, I saw the flowers that were sent to my sister, and I heard that Jamie got some, too. You guys rock! No wonder Reed loves working with you all so much!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More Cards for Reed

by Uncle Pa Rock

Okay, here's the plan: Reed will have way too much time on his hands as he lies in the hospital recuperating. In an effort to keep him occupied with something other than planning an escape, we are encouraging everyone to send him a card - to flood Northwest Hospital with cards for Reed!

Again, the address is:

Northwest Texas Hospital
c/o Reed Smith
Room 213
1501 S. Coulter
Amarillo, TX 79106

Those of you on Face Book or other social networking sites, please help out by spreading the word!

Reed will be going back into surgery at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, and hopefully the surgical opening in his abdomen will be closed at that time. He has been doing well today.

Our best to you all!

Cards for Reed

by Uncle Pa Rock

My nephew, Reed Smith, continues to show improvement. We have been told that it looks as though his abdomen can be closed on Wednesday - tomorrow - and he may be starting to wake up by this weekend. With that good prognosis in mind, it would be wonderful if he had a big stack of get well cards and notes to sort through as he spends the next couple of weeks lying in a hospital bed. Those who know Reed realize that he will not enjoy being confined to a hospital room!

Reed's address is:

Northwest Texas Hospital
c/o Reed Smith
Room 213
1501 S. Coulter
Amarillo, TX 79106

Local pastor Lennie McCay of the Washington Avenue Christian Church here in Amarillo heard about Reed through some connection with Reed's work. He just stopped by with an offer of a house for my sister and Reed's supporters to headquarter in while they are in Amarillo. Thank you Reverend McCay. Amarillo is a very friendly community!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reed on Caring Bridge

by Uncle Pa Rock

Justin's wife, Lisa Smith, has created a tribute page to Reed on Caring Bridge. It is located at:

Personal comments may be left on the guestbook at that site. Thank you, Lisa! I know that Reed will enjoy reading comments from all of his friends.

Any comments left on Pa Rock's Ramble will also be printed and given to Reed as he recovers. Reed has been one of my most faithful readers and has left comments of his own several times. We both share a weird sense of humor!

Reed's older sister, Dr. Heidi Pfetcher, had the following description of Reed's injuries posted on the Caring Bridge site. It is stolen and reprinted here without permission or an ounce of shame!

Reed was initially conscious immediately after the accident, but badly injured. His obvious injuries were a large cut to his face and across the right side/back of his head which later required somewhere around 18 staples to close. During his flight to the hospital, he quickly got worse and had to be intubated. When he arrived in Amarillo, he was unconscious, in deep shock with a very weak pulse and blood pressure. Studies revealed his lungs were collapsed on both sides with severe lung bruising, several broken ribs, two broken vertebrae, and extensive abdominal injuries with internal bleeding. He sustained two large lacerations (cuts) to his liver, a ruptured spleen and damage to both of his kidneys, with the right kidney being much more severe. He was immediately taken to surgery. They removed his spleen and put packs around his liver to try and control the bleeding, attempting to save his right kidney. However, his kidney proved to be too badly damaged, so he had to return to the operating room a few hours later to have it removed. I truly believe the surgeons here in Amarillo saved his life twice that night.

More will follow as the situation clarifies.

Successful Surgery

by Uncle Pa Rock

Reed's surgery is over, and it was successful. The bleeding has stopped and the sponges were removed. There is still swelling around his abdomen, which is normal, and the doctors were not able to get his abdomen completely stitched up. They will try to finish it on Wednesday, and if that doesn't work, Friday will be the target date. They won't begin taking him off of the ventilator or waking him after the abdominal opening is closed.

A.J. and Mason have just left for Prairie Grove with promises to return in a few days. Roger Clifton, a kind gentleman who knows Reed through his work in Las Vegas, came by for a visit. Mr. Clifton said that he has a meat-packing plant near Perryton, TX, where the wreck occurred. He was a very up-lifting visitor and had many nice things to say about Reed and his work ethic.

Thank you to my good friends at Luke Air Force Base who are being so supportive and allowing me this time to be with family. You guys are great!

Reed Shows Improvement, More Surgery Today

by Pa Rock

Reed's numbers elevated some last night, raising some concerns, but this morning they were better. We have been told to expect an occasional step backward as he continues to head toward healing.

Our buddy, Reed, just went back into surgery minutes ago. He is having the packing sponges removed. If there is still any internal bleeding, new sponges will be put in place. Heidi has told us that she is not overly concerned about this operation. In addition to losing a kidney and his spleen, Reed had a couple of significant lacerations on his liver. However, everything continues to show improvement.

I took Justin and Tiffany to the airport an hour ago. They are heading home to finalize arrangements for their father's funeral and burial. Funeral services for Bob Smith will be at the First Baptist Church in Southwest City this Friday at noon. Family will be available in the church for visitation one hour before the funeral. Bob will be buried next to his parents, Ted and Lucy Smith, at the Southwest City Cemetery.

Darrell Spillers, the former President of the Cornerstone Bank in Southwest City, has been very helpful to Bob's kids in getting his affairs lined out. His kindness is much appreciated.

Justin and I have been roommates the past few nights, and I have an increased admiration for my oldest nephew. The other night he told me a couple of things that he has learned from this awful experience. First, he said that his priorities have changed, and he now knows how important it is to enjoy life and be happy while you are here. Second, he said that after dealing with all of this, he now knows that he is capable of handling anything - and he is! Tiffany, Heidi, and Justin have all be amazing during this tragedy. They are very strong and resilient.

Two of Reed's friends from college, Chris Hilton and Josh Davis, arrived in Amarillo today and are camped with us in the hospital waiting room. The young people from Prairie Grove and Jamie are all sharing funny Reed stories with the new arrivals. I am learning way too much about my nephew!

We are patiently waiting for the surgery to be over.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Amarillo Update

by Pa Rock

All of the medical news on my nephew, Reed Smith, has been positive today. He is still not out of the woods, but his numbers and appearance continue to show steady improvement - and for that we are all very, very grateful!

I learned yesterday that Reed was being life-flighted from the scene of the wreck in Perryton, Texas, to Lubbock, but his condition worsened during the flight and they had to get him into surgery quickly. The helicopter set down in Amarillo. Dr. Franklin, a surgeon on staff at Northwest Texas Hospital, was the on-call physician who performed the first emergency surgery. Everyone on staff has told us that Dr. Franklin is the best surgeon in this part of Texas. He is getting ready to retire, and the staff is very reluctant to let him go. One nurse told us that he seldom works on-call, but just happened to be signed up for that night - so the stars were all aligned in Reed's favor!

Dr. Franklin told us that Reed very nearly died that night.

Reed has been a fighter his entire life, and it is not the least bit surprising that his body is struggling mightily to overcome this current situation. He suffered from some unexplained seizures when he was a toddler, and had to made numerous trips to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. It was those trips to the hospital with her little brother that supposedly influenced his teenage sister, Heidi, to develop an interest in medicine. Today Dr. Heidi Pfetcher is here in Amarillo with her family meeting with all of the physicians and medical providers. She is monitoring Reed's condition and giving complete reports to family members and friends, reports that have been stripped of confusing medical jargon. Every family should be blessed with a medical advocate as knowledgeable and formidable as Dr. Heidi!

Reed developed testicular cancer at the age of fifteen, a condition that was obviously environmentally induced because several youngsters in the Prairie Grove (AR) area came down with various types of cancers - a number that was statistically significant. He fought that battle and won.

Reed is winning this battle, too. His age (23) is in his favor, as well as his physical condition. He is an athlete and weight lifter who works out regularly at the gym. He is literally a big brick wall with a big, kind heart!

Another important factor in Reed's recovery is the strong support of family and friends. Gail and I and his siblings have been here since day one. Jamie Carrey's family is also at the hospital and have been very supportive and helpful.

Yesterday, Reed's high school buddies rolled into town. Three cars of young people made the eight-hour drive from Prairie Grove to Amarillo to offer support and comfort to their friend. The gang from Prairie Grove includes A.J. Jefferson, Mason Pinkley, Clint Luond, Robert Staggs, Christine Staggs, David Taylor, Ashley Taylor, and Mallory Mounce. These are great young folks, and I have learned quite a bit about my nephew by sitting out of the way and just listening to them talking.

One of the stories I heard involved Reed's tattoos - he has three. I listened to them being discussed and then thought rather smugly that I now knew something that his mother did not. Wrong! It turns out that not only did Mom and his buddies accompany him to the tattoo parlor when Reed got his first tattoo, his mother got one as well! Gail and Bob always had a strong involvement in the lives of their children.

I had met A.J. Jefferson while I was working at Ft. Campbell. A.J., an Army Specialist (E-4) was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and serving in Iraq when he was seriously injured by an IED. Nephew Reed called me and asked that I get to the base hospital and check on his buddy. While there, I met A.J. and his parents - and gave him Reed's cell phone number. The first words out of A.J.'s mouth when I told him who I was, were these: "Reed Smith is a brother to me." He called Reed that night.

Tiffany and Justin are going back to Arkansas tomorrow to begin making arrangements for their father's funeral. These young people have had so much thrust upon them, but they are a tight-knit family and will get it all done. The service will be in Southwest City late this week - possibly on Friday.

Keep the love and support coming!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reed Smith: One Tough Hombre!

by Pa Rock
Determined Uncle

My nephew, Reed Smith, is holding steady at Northwestern Hospital in Amarillo, Texas. Reed is in the second day of a medically induced coma and on a ventilator. He should begin the process of awakening in a couple of days.

Reed was critically injured in a bad car wreck outside of Perryton, Texas, on New Year's Eve. His father, Robert Edward (Bob) Smith, the driver of the car, was killed instantly in that wreck, as was Bob's cousin, Bobby Jack Short. Reed's girlfriend, Jamie Carey, was also a passenger in the car. Jamie managed to survive the accident with only minor injuries. She has been at Reed's bedside since being released from the hospital at Perryton yesterday.

Reed and Jamie live in Las Vegas, Nevada. They had been in Noel several days for the funeral of my father and Reed's grandfather, Garland Macy. Bob and Bobby Jack were driving them back to Las Vegas at the time of the accident.

Gail and I raised our families at approximately the same time, and we neither one had much in the way of spare time to focus on each other's kids. We also never lived very near to one another. By the time I reached a point where I did have some time to spare, Reed was the only one left at home - and he became my little buddy. We went to movies together, and he spent some time working on my farm. I remember one day when he was in high school and we were doing cement work down the hillside by the pond. The process involved moving some eighty-pound sacks of cement down the hill. I strained and grunted to lift one up onto my shoulder and headed off. When I got to the pond, I turned around to check on Reed, and he was right behind me with a sack of cement on each shoulder! He only did it once, though!

When Reed graduated from high school in Prairie Grove, my dad was unable to attend - it was an evening ceremony and he seldom went any place after dark - and he may have been ill. I took his graduation card to Reed, a card that also contained a check for $500. When I handed it to Reed, I told him, "Your Granddad said to spend all of that on beer." He took a look at the check, grinned, and said, "That could be done!"

Gail and I met in Las Vegas last February to visit Reed. It was while we were there that we met Jamie Carey, who was his new girlfriend at the time. We were impressed then, and the longer that we have known her the more impressed we are. Jamie's parents and their spouses and her brother and sister are all at the hospital with us. They are a great bunch of folks!

Reed is a life-long athlete and very physically fit. He also has a strong competitive spirit. Jamie told me that his flag football team in Las Vegas was undefeated this year and won their championship. She added, "There wasn't much 'flag' about it!" That sounds like Reed!

Bob Smith and my sister Gail were the parents of four of the best young people that anyone could ever hope to meet or emulate. They are, in order of birth, Heidi Pfetcher, Tiffany Burke, Justin Smith, and Reed. All are here in Amarillo supporting each other and their mother as we wait and worry over Reed.

Bob and Gail divorced several years ago after three decades of marriage. They remained friends - in fact, one of their kids told me that they were probably better friends after the divorce than they had been before. Gail and I had dinner together on New Year's Eve - before the accident - and talked about her relationship with Bob and his dedication to their children. She said that any time one of the children needed money, Bob was there, and that he had even given her money after the divorce when he knew that she was in need.

I always considered Bob Smith to be a good friend. He sat with the family at my dad's funeral, and was at our house in Noel much of that week. He was constantly accompanied by his French bulldog, Boom, a faithful companion who never left Bob's side. Sadly, Boom was also killed in the wreck. Bob and I had a nice visit Wednesday evening after Dad's funeral and burial. He knew that Gail and I had inherited some money from our father, and he told me, quite sincerely, that he was so glad that Gail would finally be able to quit working so much overtime.

Bob's mother, Lucy Smith, passed away last summer after a long illness. He stayed with his mother and took care of her while she was ailing. Lucy was an institution of legendary proportions in Southwest City, Missouri, having worked at the Cornerstone Bank for over half a century. The Smith's were a founding family of that small community.

Bobby Jack Short, Bob's cousin who also died in the wreck, was a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was the younger brother of Dan Short, the President of the State Bank of Noel who was murdered by the Agofsky brothers after they robbed the bank nearly twenty years ago.

Reed does not yet know that his father died in the wreck.

We mourn the passing of Bob Smith and Bobby Jack Short, but our grief over their passing is being held in check right now as we continue to hover around Reed with hope and prayer for his complete recovery. Reed is a tough, really tough guy, and he will make it! Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.