Orson Welles

Touch of Evil (Part 2 of 2)

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking at a campaign rally with Governor Mike Pence at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, 2 August 2016. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Joe Arpaio was detested in Arizona for the very same reasons for which he was idolized. This explains both his electoral victories (Arpaio was re-elected five times) and the vehemence with which opposing segments of the public—especially minorities—viewed his tenure as sheriff.

He delighted in punishing and humiliating inmates in his infamous “Tent City” jail, where temperatures could rise over 100 degrees in the summer: “I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant.” Prisoners’ meals were cut down: “it costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates.” Successful lawsuits against the sheriff’s office for mistreatment of prisoners and wrongful deaths of inmates have been awarded dozens of millions of dollars. (more…)

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Touch of Evil (Part 1 of 2)

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a rally for Donald Trump at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona, 18 June 2016. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

There is no more representative picture of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio than the portrait of border sheriff Hank Quinlan created by Orson Welles in his prophetic Touch of Evil (1958). At the end of Welles’ film noir masterpiece, in which “Justice, for once, is represented by a Mexican” (even though the protagonist, Miguel Vargas, is played by Charlton Heston in dark make-up), Quinlan is “defeated by technology, by the truth, by justice…. The powerful end up as victims of their abuse of power.”[1] (more…)

Citizen Trump

Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH, July 16, 2015. (Credit:  Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons)

Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH, July 16, 2015. (Credit: Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons)

A favorite columnist, E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic (read his column here), has persuaded me that Donald J. Trump has more than a reasonable chance to become President of the United States. Montini’s point is that Trump is not a mystifying phenomenon. We elect (and re-elect) mini-Trumps all the time to state office in Arizona. And we do so not in spite of their most outrageous political statements or social behavior, but because of them.

Trump says “illegal” Mexican immigrants are drug traffickers and rapists? We can do one better: a federal judge has ruled that the office of Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio (elected to office six times) routinely engaged in racial profiling in the past.

Trump raises questions about Senator John McCain’s war record? We can top that too: the Republican President of the Arizona Senate once delivered a speech in a forum in which McCain was called a “traitor” who should be “executed.”

(more…)