By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Who can you trust in this world gone nutty? Trust me, if only because I'm a lousy liar.
Consider this one: my wife and I got a dog at the animal shelter the other weekend. She's an Australian Cattle Dog mix, with the mix part apparently being a couple of sticks of butter and an apple pie because she's a little sweetheart. How could she have sat in that lonely cage for months without someone taking her home? we wondered. This was before the epic flatulence kicked in. I mean, peal after peal of dog farts that smelled like she'd subsisted on a diet of burning tires. It went on all night long, and I don't mean the Lionel Ritchie I'm-outta-here-in-my-limo-in-five-minutes kind of all night long.
"Well, we'll only have her 12 to 15 years," I consoled myself, before we discovered that the direct cause was the turkey-jerky dog treats we'd been giving her. If you ever want to play a little joke on your dog-cohabiting friends, I recommend turkey-jerky dog treats.
That problem sorted out, the only remaining glitch was that we rent our home. My wife and I are in the Guinness Book as the oldest renters in the world. The way prices are now, the nearest neighborhood where we could possibly hope to buy is in Chernobyl.
I've rented the same place for nearly three decades, and the last time the question of pets came up, two decades ago, the answer was "no." So now that we've got this dog for life, I was a reticent about how and when to raise the subject with my landlady.
Here's where the lie comes in. My landlady never calls, but she did, just a few days after we brought the dog home. Our dog barks maybe three times a day, but she opted to fill her quota right then. Bark, bark and furthermore, bark.
"Jim, do you have a dog there?"
"No," I lied. "That's my wife."
My landlady has yet to meet my wife, but this probably wasn't the ruse I'd have come up with if given a week or two to think of one. She didn't fall for it, and under further rigorous questioning—"Come on, that's a dog!"—I caved in. "Yes, it is."
And it turned out, that was okay with her, saving me needless worry about how to dress the dog like a woman should she stop by. Lipstick on dogs just seems inherently wrong to me, and pantyhose aren't much better. Being able to acknowledge ownership also means I can probably write off dog food, vet visits, etc. as a business expense because everyone knows a writer's greatest fallback is writing about his dog.
That's not what I'm doing today, though, because there are other things to speak of, including other reasons to trust me, and the other lefty journalists so many of you love to hate. Trust us because, left or not, we're right.
For instance, the news was all over the place this past week that Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) are lying, deceitful pieces of yak dung. Everyone agrees now that they fed a willing Bush administration lies that led us into war, while Chalabi's INC underlings are under investigation for fraud, kidnapping and other acts in Iraq, and it is suspected that Chalabi was working as an agent for Iran, all while having been paid nearly $40 million of our tax dollars.
Who'da thunk it? That this statesman, this Iraqi George Washington who sat with Laura Bush at her husband's State of the Union Address in January, would be playing us for a fool?
Well, there was this in the Nov. 14, 2003, Lost in OC: "The world's most powerful nation is being played like a piss-pants bumfight wino by these foreign spooks. . . . Speaking of us getting played, the INC exile group fed 'intelligence' to the Bush administration, used to justify our going to war, despite red flags our intelligence community raised about its truth (which our own WMD search in-country is showing to be a load of hooey). Once our troops cleared the way for him, we installed INC leader Ahmad Chalabi as head of the Iraqi Governing Council, where he's awarding lucrative contracts—with your tax dollars—to his cronies and political allies."
Okay, I missed the part about him being an Iranian agent. Bush's crusading neo-cons being duped by Iran's ayatollahs into getting rid of their annoying neighbor Saddam—at the cost of more than 800 American lives so far—is a plot twist you won't find in any Tom Clancy novel. Maybe you will in a future one, though, since even conservative Clancy is now critical of the neo-cons' conduct of the war in the new nonfiction book Battle Ready he's co-written with retired four-star general Anthony Zinni, who is one pissed-off soldier.
In the book, Zinni says, "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption." He goes on to fault the civilian zealots now running the Pentagon for waging an unnecessary, ill-timed war, with no support from other nations, a flawed strategy, insufficient troop strength and seemingly no plan for the war's aftermath.
Zinni's voice is just one in a chorus of respected military leaders and conservatives who are outraged by the Bush administration's handling of the War on Terror. Can you hear them yet, you readers who used to dismiss such views as crazy liberal conspiracy theories?
In recent months, you've also seen generals and admirals speaking out against the unproven boondoggle of a missile-defense shield Bush has foisted on us. On Capitol Hill, Arizona Senator John McCain has been critical of the Bush tax cuts that benefit the rich while poor Americans sacrifice their lives in the war. And you've got fellow conservative war vet and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who recently told U.S. News & World Report that Bush "may be more isolated than any president in recent memory," listening only to the world view of his neo-cons, and that, "I think you've got a president who is not schooled, educated, experienced in foreign policy in any way vs. his father."
Reality: it's not just for leftists anymore.
On a brighter note, didja know that New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas is going to be singing at the Orange County Fair this year? Goddamn but she is good, sounding like Gladys Knight might if you steeped her in gumbo for a couple of decades. Irma did the original recording of "Time Is On My Side" and other Crescent City classics, but she's singing Motown at the fair, backed by the Funk Brothers. They're the surviving members of the classic Motown studio band—as featured in the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown—and they were superfine in last year's show at the fair. This time, they're doing a four-night stand—July 27 through 30—in the Grandstand Arena, playfully renamed the Citizens Business Bank Arena. That's the free stage, included in the fair price of admission, and it's the coolest fair show this year. The Funk Brothers and Thomas will be joined by other singers' singers: the Mavericks' Orbison-throated Raul Malo, OC's incredible soul virtuoso Derek Bordeaux and Joan Osborne, who might just find herself a little bit challenged in this company.
The next-best show isn't free, but it's cheap: $19 (which includes fair admission) to see LA's multicultural cluster bomb Ozomatli—who tore up the free stage last year—on July 16. Those of us from the generation known as the Greatest Generation's Freeloading Kids might also enjoy Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin on July 27 ($32 to $52.50), the embittered but rockin' John Fogerty on July 28 ($33 to $55.50) or ZZ Top on Aug. 1 ($33 to $67).
If you happened to see the exhibit I helped do at last year's fair, the Orange Groove history of OC rock, it's getting a second shot later this year at the Fullerton Museum Center: bigger, better and even climate-controlled. It opens in December, but I'm mentioning it now because I could sure use help digging up cool artifacts from the OC scene. If you've got photos, set lists, instruments, underpants, info or whatever from the pre-surf days up through punk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Along with being credited, the most-helpful of you will win a box of turkey-jerky dog treats.