Residents of remote Rancho Carrillo are a-fussin’ and a-fumin’ over a plan that would build a 100-foot emergency communications tower in their town. See, they’s small-town folk—sitchiated on the western edge of Riverside County, a fer-piece deep in the Cleveland National Forest—and they done give up such o’ yer modern conveniences as fer example reggler mail service and hifalutin’ stores so’s they kin live quiet and natural-like. Or so they make it sound—and so I believed until I saw a photo of a typical Rancho Carillo house in today’s Press-Enterprise. It’s a sprawling, two-story brick castle behind an ornate iron gate. In fact, most of the homes in Rancho Carillo are worth at least $1 million. Nothing wrong with that, but these aren’t exactly your pappy’s Beverly Hillbillies. They struck gold in the messy modern world and they’ve used it to build mansions in the backwoods so they can use them as their back yards. “It’s kind of the old American dream where everyone gets to have their own piece of land, have animals, raise their kids,” says Brent Chase, an Orange County architect who has raised twin teenage girls there in Rancho Carillo. Now they want to get all NIMBY on us? No way. You’ll take your 100-foot communications tower, and you’ll like it. That’s part of the American dream, too. It’s called the shaft.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
President Bush’s response to the current financial crisis—bailing out Fannie and Freddie, telling Lehman Bros to go fuck themselves, finally dumping the $700-billion-dollar scam on taxpayers who are already wondering how long they’ll have their homes—is traced back to last April. That’s when he appeared on Deal Or No Deal. Bush apparently loved the do-or-die irony of his role in the show, in which he cheered on a US veteran—who was miraculously still alive to play the stupid game after Bush had put him in mortal danger during three tours of combat duty in Iraq. “I’m thrilled to be on Deal or No Deal with you tonight,” Bush chuckled and snorted during his brief but pivotal cameo. “Come to think of it, I’m thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days.” If Bush didn’t sound worried—even in the presence of a presidential scholar like Howie Mandell—it’s not only because of the thickness of the callous on his soul. It’s because his approval ratings are as high as ever among those who count—the people of Halliburton, Blackwater and Kellogg, Brown and Root—the people whose investment in Bush’s presidency has paid off better than they could have dreamed, right down to this mega-bazillion-dollar parting gift. As for that spot on Deal or No Deal, the influence of cheap TV comedy on the leader of the free world is not unprecedented, although you have to go back to 1968—when President Richard M. Nixon invited the nation to “sock it to me” on Laugh-In during his campaign—to find a more conceptually unpredictable presidency.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
Here’s the plot of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the feature film premiered tonight at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood: the diminutive protagonist canine, named Papi, goes looking for his lady love, Chloe, after she gets lost in Mexico. Now here’s the story of Rusco, the little Chihuahua that portrays Papi in the movie: While wandering a Moreno Valley elementary school, he was picked up by animal control. But the owner didn’t want to pay the $200 impound fee, and left the dog to be euthanized. A Hollywood animal trainer spotted Rusco’s photo on a website, showed it to studio execs and high-tailed it to Moreno Valley to save—and drastically change—the little dog’s life. Which story would you rather see on the big screen?
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
Can’t find my driver’s license.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
News of the fiery plane crash that leaves Fontana’s Travis Barker—of Blink-182 (among other things) fame—and DJ-AM in a hospital burn ward reminds me of the time I witnessed several burn surgeries while researching a story. The tools and procedures were graphic, but more memorable was what one of the surgeons told me: “It is not good to be burned,” he said softly. “The pain is exquisite.”
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Find my driver’s license.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Two of the shameless architects of the Inland Empire’s misery index will demonstrate that shamelessness by raising money in hopes of wreaking some more. Former Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas—forced out of office for improprieties related to his friendship with just-sentenced lobbyist Jack Abramoff—will speak Oct. 4 at the Riverside County Republican Party’s Liberty Dinner at the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa. Yes, Abramoff’s crimes did involve ripping off Indian casinos. A few days later, Karl Rove—whose shenanigans landed him a sweet gig on Fox News rather than in a prison cell—will speak at a Republican fundraiser on Oct. 10 at Etiwanda Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Sad, sad times.