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The Market for Mendacity

The Journal of Prevarication
By Jim Cook
Official State Liar of Arizona

Before I begin this tirade, let me wish you all a happy Thanksgiving from the Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity.  The world may be going to hell in a Hummer, but we still have countless reasons to be thankful–looks, talent, humility, and many tolerant friends.

When president-elect Obama asked me last week  if I’d like to be Secretary of Prevarication in his new cabinet, I had to politely decline.

I did not actually talk to Barack Obama, of course.  He has people who talk to people like me. I explained that the kind of lying I do is not like the managed misinformation employed by politicians and governments. 

My first priority is to stabilize the recreational lying industry, which suffered badly during the long, numbing presidential campaign.  People took things so seriously.  Several times, I was accused of truth.

The  W.I.F.D. may establish a rescue program for abused and abandoned liars, if we can get a federal bailout–maybe as much as $1,400.

Health care was much debated before the economy went over the cliff.  Here’s how we address that around here:

Dick Wick Hall founded the town of Salome,  on the desert 60 miles west of Wickenburg, “surrounded on all sides by Arizona.”  Hall published the occasional Salome Sun to promote his Laughing Gas Station and cafe and store.  The Sun made him a nationally-known creator of tall tales during the 1920s.

In one copy of his paper, Hall bragged about how healthful Salome was:  “Old Larry Ryan cut his 3rd set of Teeth and got his eye sight and hearing back before he went to Prescott and died.”  

Now, there’s a lie worth telling. Long-time friend Don Dedera,  a veteran Arizona yarn spinner and a student of the art form, sent me  an original copy of Hall’s Salome Sun, “Made with a Laugh on a Mimeograph.”  It’s a special gift, since Hall, like Dedera, was one of my role models.

Dedera complimented the Institute: “Your elevation of prevarication to institutional honor is in tune with the times, to wit: We’ve always worshipped liars in U.S. politics, but now we’ve refined dissimulation as a requirement of presidential candidacy.  Not only does one have to be a born American, but a born liar.”

Don didn’t say whether he liked the outcome of the election; I did. But I can’t count high enough to calculcate the gigantic numbers of dollars Obama and McCain were bandying about to solve our problems.  I can’t even grasp the amount of money the stock market lost last Thursday. One of the things I’ll be thankful for thisThursday is that no one  “privatized” Social Security.

Some politicians lie us into wars. Some lie about sex. Some might as well lie about sex, because they are the bought-and-paid-for sweethearts of the swashbucklers in the financial services industry  who took us to the cleaners.  This is not what we meant by “clean government.”   

If those recent campaign promises were not lies, they surely expanded truth beyond its rated capacity.  “Spin” drilled a hole clear through reason, and out the other side.  Alaskan glaciers retreated before the hot air.

This kind of mendacity was not invented in 2008.  In 487 B.C., Pleurisy wrote, “What’s good for General Chariots is good for the country.”

We know now that George Washington’s father didn’t even own a cherry tree.  

We were taught that homely Abraham Lincoln was called “Honest Abe.” Not by his enemies.  Lincoln once asked,  in his own defense, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

Our country’s problems have been accumulating for many years, unattended the last eight years, and cascading for the last eight weeks.  Millions of people are hurting–unemployed, uninsured, foreclosed, living on the interest on their debts.

And I can’t do anything about any of it, except try to find something to smile about. That usually means a good lie. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Truth is beautiful, without doubt, but so is a lie.” 

Dick Wick Hall said he had a pet frog who was six years old and never had learned to swim. The frog carried a canteen.

I believe him. You see, when I was a kid, I had a pet tumbleweed. We couldn’t afford to feed a dog. 

A friendly tumbleweed followed me home one day, and Mom said I could keep him, if he slept outside: “He sheds too much to be in the house.”

I named him  Sarge, and he was someone to talk with.  But tumbleweeds are born to be free.  One morning I let him loose on a southwesterly breeze.  I sure missed him.

When a tumbleweed crosses the highway in front of us, I try not to hit it, and I tell Miss Ellie how much I miss old Sarge. 

Now this is the sweetest thing.  Miss Ellie went to a tumbleweed rescue shelter in Salome and got me another pet tumbleweed. I named him Sarge, of course.  Him, I can afford to feed, even if we go into another Great Depression.

There is much to be thankful for.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

2 comments to The Market for Mendacity

  • don dedera

    Jim, in checking out the new search engine BING, my Nancy found this, and I was most pleased. Now 80 and crawled down an old mine shaft at Payson nobody can or wants to reach me, and I do not complain. I reckon you pitifully inept young stretchers of truth have a new hero, Joe Wilson, member of Congress from South Carolina. The other night he disappointed me hugely by forgoing usage of his Southern idiom in a primal outburst in the House. He could have better blurted, “YOU LIE, YOU-ALL!” But no, the Carolinian limited his indictment to the man with the mike and teleprompter. To me the most interesting outcome has been the deployment of the racial card. Sure. And Walt Disney was a hater of Italians in portraying Pinnochio with a tree branch growing from the middle of his face. For the best part of a year now we have witnessed under the heading of hope/change/transparency a charismatic television star in a real life performance of the ultimate in personal and public dissimmulation: “He once caught himself telling the truth, but managed to lie his way out of it.” Anyway, I’m glad you got the DWHall item and that it found a home next to Sarge. Sarge is a spiritual kindsman to Ol Drag, my first dog. Drag was born without legs, and Mom liked that, when I brought him home from the pound…he couldn’t walk muddy tracks into her kitchen. I carried him everywhere in a wheelbarrow. One day he jumped a rabbit and damn near ran my legs off.
    Did you hear about the old fellow at the Mall? He sidled up to A DROP DEAD gorgeous young lady and asked her to talk to him. “Uh, okay, I guess,” said she, “but why?” He said, “As usual I am trying to find my wife. And invariably if I am seem talking to a girl as lovely as you, my wife immediately appears.”
    Jim, you write well. Always have. And that’s the truth. Your friend Sweet Don D

  • I used to read Don Dedera’s columns in the AZ Republic. Always thought he was one of the best writers going. It’s been 44 years since I left Phoenix and I’m glad that Dedera keeps on ticking. Arizona has a tremendous advantage in that the State Official Liar – Jim Cook appears to be an old cowboy. California’s Official Liar is in the Governor’s office.

    Bless you both.