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(sequel to this)

… %@f$*#k&*@g life…

When we last left your friendly Orange Juice bloggers Vern and Francisco at the recent Bill Hunt fundraiser at Costa Mesa’s Sutra restaurant, Hunt had just left the stage after presenting a bewilderingly contradictory laundry list of policy prescriptions (promising to lock up more Orange County residents for longer than ever while saving us all money,) endorsing Arizona’s draconian new immigration law, and glowingly introducing Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a dear mentor.

Although it was only 11am when Joe Arpaio tottered onstage, he was unmistakeably inebriated – hey, I should know – a dry drunk myself and I could smell him from where I was sitting (eight feet away from him, and next to Bill.)  Of course that’s his prerogative – he was perfectly comfortable letting it all hang out with seventy worshipful supporters, and we’ve seen Naui’s video of him apparently blotto the previous night. It is merely amusing to note.  He sure knew he did not need to be on top of his game to impress these people.

So, Joe Arpaio was there slurring, mumbling slowly, forgetting people’s names, and going off on wild tangents like how he was “shtill a little upshet” with LA Sheriff Lee Baca for not letting him “have Parish Hilton.” (I’ve heard him on TV, he doesn’t usually talk like that.)

The faithful crowd sat through all this patiently, expectantly awaiting the next sadistic zinger against Joe’s two favorite victims – helpless prisoners and Mexican immigrants.  And never disappointed for long, they would explode in laughter and applause each time.  Having told these stories so many times – the pink underwear, the cars full of hopeful brown-skinned workers, Joe began to embroider and exaggerate – figures were doubled; the 120-degree temperatures in his Sonora desert tent prisons became 150 degrees…and the crowd nearly died with hysterical laughter!

The rough humor was a little dampened for me when I thought of all the prisoners and suspects who have been killed or maimed in Arpaio’s custody, leading to tens of millions dollars’ worth of awards against the state of Arizona and Arpaio personally.  As they say about Anne Coulter, “she says what we all think but are afraid to say,” no doubt Sheriff Joe is popular because he DOES what they’d all like to do.  (e.g., beating prisoners, stuffing immigrant workers into sweltering tent cities.)  But hey, Andrew Dice Clay and Carrot-Top had their fans, so who am I to judge tastes in humor?

A brief aside on the germane topic of Prison Privatization

To call Joe Arpaio a “demagogue” is not so much an insult or even a dopey belaboring of the obvious, but more like a helpful and perfect illustration of that term for those who may not have looked it up recently.  He is both symptom of the baser impulses of the masses, of which they had heretofore been ashamed, and a calculating manipulator and nurturer of those impulses for political gain.  And probably all accomplished just instinctively with his pulsing lizard brain!

But a question suggests itself:  Historically, demagogues have not been able to stay in power as long as Joe has unless they’ve brought pleasure and satisfaction to powerful moneyed interests.  And it’s hard to think of a moneyed interest that benefits from draconian immigration enforcement (which is why the status quo continues as it does.)  But Orange Juice commenter “Sunny” provided us with an intriguing lead:

Both parties take money from… the for-profit immigration detention system that gets federal dollars for every person they detain. CCA is a big employer in Arizona. They rarely deport immigrants anymore–they detain them.

That’s what SB 1070 is – a payoff to the for-profit detention industry. Now they can detain anybody for any reason, US citizen or not. More profits for them. Police state for us.

Our government could end this problem by closing the border and fining employers who hire undocumented workers. Instead, they would rather let us slide into fascism so that corprations can keep their profits. That’s how fascism started in Europe – with paper checks.

And the government could cut off demagogues like Arpaio at the knees any time with comprehensive immigration reform, depriving them of the disingenuous “just enforcing the law” dodge.  Anyway I’m currently looking into the Arpaio-CCA connection which would deserve its own post.  Granted Arpaio is of limited relevance to Orange County, but his lock-em-all-up acolyte Bill Hunt is also known as an advocate of prison privatization.  Inevitably making the eventual locking up of you and me a profitable venture.

The Demagogue at Dusk

As I watched Sheriff Joe Arpaio affectionately mumbling by rote all his greatest hits, I realized that not only was he drunk, he’s also a doddering, borderline-senile old geezer, which was only emphasized when he bragged about enlisting “the day the Korean War broke out.”  Soon he’ll be EIGHTY, and he looked it.

Even though he was babbling that weekend about running for Governor, and getting lots of applause for it, I could tell then and there it was just a ploy for more press attention.  He’d probably admit as much now, good-humoredly referring to himself as a “publishity hound” as he did that morning.  He must have had mixed feelings about SB 1070, and Governor Brewer’s signing of it, stealing his thunder.  But seriously, an Arpaio governorship would have had to be some sort of caretaker/figurehead affair.

No longer dangerous in his own right, Arpaio lives on as an unhealthy symbol and rallying point, much like Osama Bin Laden.  His function in Orange County that weekend – besides crowd-drawing lounge act – was to pass the torch on to a new generation of charismatic young immigrant bashers, typified by Bill Hunt and Allan Mansoor.

Again, fight for immigration reform, to neutralize these demagogues!  And for now, Hispanic citizens, notoriously low-turnout voters who tend to work three jobs and move around a lot, had better start taking the June 8 and November 2 elections seriously, and register or re-register if they have to.  Otherwise we could end up with a Sheriff Hunt, an Assemblyman Mansoor, and even a Congressman Tan Nguyen.

Amigos, USTEDES are on the ballot in a big way this year whether you know it or not – the results will determine whether you and your hermanos are going to be treated with fairness and dignity or not.


[wake up]


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.