Goofball Shockumentary

To The Bird's great amusement, it found itself at a crowded hippie hangout in Tempe called 3 Roots Coffee the other day, watching one of the funniest comedies this proud pecker's seen in years.

Loose Change, an extremely independent film from three New York twentysomethings, wasn't meant to be a comedy; it tells the story of what, heh, really happened on 9/11. According to filmmakers Dylan Avery, Korey Rowe and Jason Bermas, this fiendish plot to take over the world involved a series of fake terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that would dupe the American people into believing that Muslims hate us.

And this plot was hatched by none other than (drum roll, please) President George W. Bush and his minions.

Yeah, you read that right. Muslims really don't hate us at all. And Dubya's smart enough to have planned 9/11.

The filmmakers' scenario is far too complex for The Bird to fully explore in this space, but a broad overview goes something like this: On the morning of September 11, a bunch of unsuspecting Americans get onto planes bound for the West Coast. But rather than reach their destination, the planes are landed somewhere else. The passengers are either killed or taken to a deserted island. And then those evil Republicans take a pair of military planes that have been painted to look just like commercial airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center towers.

Then, while everybody is freaking out, thinking, "Oh my God! We've been hit!" the government quietly sets off a bunch of bombs in the Trade Center's basements, thereby demolishing the buildings. Mission accomplished -- now America can invade Iraq!

Meanwhile, about Flight 93 that supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania? Didn't happen. According to the filmmakers, the government quietly de-boarded the passengers in Cleveland. The Shanksville scene was entirely faked.

The Pentagon, too, never got hit. That was just another government conspiracy. No way, these filmmakers claimed, was the hole in the Pentagon big enough to have been made by a commercial jet; it had to have been a bomb.

The looniness of these theories was topped only by the filmmakers' suggestion that the cell phone calls from the hijacked planes were faked. See, apparently the government has this technology where it can easily replicate someone's voice. All that Bush's nefarious peels had to do was a little research and they could easily fake a bunch of relatives into thinking they'd heard their loved ones' final goodbyes.

Now, if you think this all sounds way too stupid even for Hollywood, you'd be right. But it's not too stupid for our intrepid filmmakers, a trio of kids who genuinely believe this stuff. The Bird's not kidding: They call this little comedy a "documentary."

Of course, when one of the few skeptical people in attendance at 3 Roots pressed the kids about their claims, they rapidly spewed a bunch of nonsense before resorting to the age-old chestnut, "Hey, we're just asking questions. We're not saying it happened this way. We're asking questions."

And that leads The Bird to ask a question, too. Namely: How is it possible that someone stupid enough to fall for this shit is teaching at Scottsdale Community College?

Like the young documentarians, The Bird's got evidence to spare. The film was introduced by a woman named Carrie Jones, who the college's Web site confirms is a faculty member in SCC's motion picture/television department.

And Jones isn't exactly bashful about her views. "I had two weeks of depression after seeing this film," she told the crowd at 3 Roots. "And I've never been depressed in my life."

Not because the film was so bad, mind you. But because Carrie Jones believes it!

"I can say with 100 percent confidence," she continued, "that this was an inside job by our government."

Like we said before: How is someone this fucking stupid entrusted with the impressionable minds of Scottsdale youth? Now, don't blame this pissy parakeet for raising the issue. It's just asking questions.

Changing the Chenal

Say you're a lawyer, and you've gotten busted for doing the things that lawyers aren't supposed to do. The Arizona Supreme Court, not surprisingly, takes away your law license.

You can't practice law. So whaddaya do? If you were The Bird, you'd probably have to find another way to feather your nest. But if you're Carmen Chenal, life is a bit easier. All you have to do is work your connections and get a cushy job with the state.

Here's what happened: After receiving -- and investigating -- seven different complaints about Chenal, the Arizona Bar filed formal disciplinary charges against her. In August, the Supreme Court's disciplinary commission found that she'd screwed up: She'd bounced checks to the court itself, failed to file appeals for one unfortunate client, and even attempted to file some stuff in Illinois, despite not being licensed to do legal work there. Chenal also presented claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, according to the court's disposition summary, filed a lawsuit against someone but never bothered to make any allegations against them. Whoops!

So the Supreme Court told Chenal to pay $2,500 in restitution and cover the costs of the $1,018 investigation. It also suspended her license for 120 days and put her on probation for two years.

Most prospective employers would look at a record like that and run away screaming. But Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, wasn't that kind of prospective employer, the kind who cares about things like a good résumé and a history of doing the work someone's paid to do.

After all, Horne wouldn't be paying Chenal's salary -- that's what taxpayers are for!

So in January, Horne hired Chenal for a mid-level job as an "education program specialist." The department doesn't release salary info, but it did tell this squealing squawker that she's making something more than $38,818 and less than $67,000. (Yes, The Bird agrees that salary info should be public record. But whaddaya want an imaginary fowl to do, sue the DOE?)

Horne, surprisingly, was willing to take The Bird's call. Not only that, he even volunteered that Chenal's a former law partner and that, despite knowing all about her problems with her legal career, Horne personally recommended her hire.

"I've been in court with her, and she's a first-rate lawyer," Horne confided. "Family problems distracted her, and she neglected some things that shouldn't have been neglected. But I think we're lucky to get her."

Horne did have some stuff wrong, however. First he said he thought she'd only been suspended 10 days. (It was 120 days.) Then he said he was sure she'd been reinstated.

But that's not what Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the Arizona Supreme Court, said. At The Bird's request, Gerchick searched high and low for any record that Chenal had even turned in an application for reinstatement. There wasn't any. Nor, Gerchick reported, was there any record that Chenal had paid up that restitution.

Later, Horne said he'd discovered that Chenal hadn't been reinstated. But it was because she'd suffered a host of problems, including an aneurysm and a sick mother, and didn't have the $560 it would take to reapply. As for the money she owes her screwed clients, Chenal's worked out a payment plan, Horne averred.

And, Horne said, at his direction, she now intends to pay up the $560 and get her law license again. Not that it's necessary, of course.

"The position we hired her for doesn't require her to be admitted to the Bar," Horne tweeted. "The fact that she was available for this job is a lucky thing for us."

You said that already.

In fact, using Horne's logic, next time a state agency needs a new employee, just chuck that whole "Help Wanted" thing. The list of people who've been recently suspended from the Bar is a much better place to start.

Raising Manross' Hair

Is Larry Flynt in the restaurant biz now? That's what this feathered fiend wondered when it learned that a new Mexican grub emporium named Pink Taco would open for biz sometime in June at Scottsdale's chichi Waterfront, the highfalutin condo/shopping complex.

For those unfamiliar with the parlance, "pink taco" is a euphemism for a lady's naughty bits. And in the restaurant's hometown of Las Vegas, where the original franchise operates out of the popular Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, that fact raises nary a hair.

In Sin City, the joint looks sort of like the House of Blues on the inside, with some cheesy south-of-the-border stuff on the walls, and a menu featuring carne asada, chile relleno, taquitos, and -- perhaps needless to say -- fish tacos. (For the record, the joint's signature "pink taco" is in fact filled with grilled chicken.)

Who thought up this sassy name, this inquiring quail wanted to know? None other than the scion and grand-scion of the upscale, stodgy Morton's steak-house chain: Peter Morton, Hard Rock founder and CEO, and his twentysomething son Harry. The first PT opened in 1999, and has become so popular that dad's letting sonny-boy take the act on the road, with the Scottsdale locale to be the flagship of an empire of locations planned for Los Angeles and beyond.

But Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross doesn't want to see Prince Harry's Pink Taco, much less eat it.

She was so pissed off when she learned that Pink Taco was coming to town that she took a break from her crusade against Jenna Jameson's strip club to give poppy Peter a call to complain about the handle of his son's local cafe.

"I would call it directly offensive to over half the population," Herroner told this stupefied stork. "So I said, 'Peter, I'm happy you and your son want to locate in our community. [But] I'm asking you to change the name of your business, make it a little more in keeping with the Waterfront development, and also so it won't be offensive to women and a lot of men I know.'"

The Bird heard that Peter told the misguided Mayoress to go eat a chimichanga (or something much worse) and that nothing would stand in the way of his offspring's business plans -- not even good taste.

Which irked Manross to no end, though she claimed she intends no public campaign against the labia-inspired enterprise.

"The municipality has no authority to force them to change their name," she told The Bird with a sigh. "They have the right to build. They signed a lease. It was a totally private transaction. I just felt that I had to express what I thought."

Yet because of the mayor's complaints, apparently Morton and son are afraid that their gynecological moniker might engender a backlash before Pink Taco's May 15 hearing before the Scottsdale City Council, where PT's liquor license awaits approval. According to Morton's local flack Melanie Kalusner of Phoenix's Margo Media, the Taco team's attempting a pre-emptive strike: It's announcing it will stop referring to tank tops sold at the eateries as "wife-beaters."

PT's corporate goons turned canary yellow when this mockingbird rang them up to find out what else might not be in the offing, refusing to comment until after the hearing. Hey, this not-so-bald eagle's all for freedom of speech. But you gotta wonder about suits who'd name their restaurant after cooze, and then not have the balls to defend it in public. Even though The Bird seldom agrees with Manross, it's got to give herroner credit for at least having a pair.

This extended middle finger's saying, it looks like the Mortons are bigger pussies than their restaurant's handle would imply.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela