Friday, January 20, 2006

Casual Corruption and You

Are you a crook? I’m not. Nor am I tolerant of crooks.

But, you’d never guess that after reading this USA Today article:

For a small state, Louisiana has a lot of crooks
The lead is not too bad.
Despite its ragged reputation, Louisiana isn't the worst state when it comes to public scandals.
The author then rags our reputation.
From 1995 to 2004, there were 871 federal public corruption convictions in California, according to the U.S. attorney general's office. Florida had 813 convictions. New York had 790. Ohio and Pennsylvania were even with 515 convictions each. Louisiana's toll: 310.

Still, Louisiana has nothing to crow about. California, the USA's most-populated state, has 36 million residents. Louisiana, No. 24 in population size, claims just 4 million residents.

The point: For a small state, Louisiana produces a lot of crooked politicians.
Oh, is that the point? Breaking down the numbers, I see that we have a little more than three times as many convictions per capita than California. That is *more* than California, but, is it *a lot* more? Twenty times, that’s a lot more. Ten times, sure. But three?

Do we have corrupt politicians in Louisiana? Yes, at least 310 in the last decade according to the article. But I don’t think we live in the complete culture of corruption cited by this expert:
Louisiana's historically cavalier attitude about corruption also sets it apart, says Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

In most jurisdictions, public scandals are considered highly embarrassing events, but in Louisiana, he says, they're practically a point of pride.

"Corruption exists in every culture," says Smith. "But in Louisiana it is accepted to a level that is unbelievable."
I think that quote is unbelievable. What is also unbelievable is that this expert is from Louisiana:
Smith, a native Louisianan, thinks it all comes down to the region's Big Easy style: It embraces debauchery and eschews anything that smacks of convention. Mardi Gras, a weeklong hedonistic celebration, is the ultimate symbol of the city's sensibility, he says.
Look, I might be completely wrong here, but this doesn’t sound like anyone in my circles. I don’t know anyone who is cavalier about corruption. As far as embracing debauchery and eschewing convention, I don’t see how that leads to corruption. And I am going to have to remember that Mardi Gras is a “weeklong hedonistic celebration” next time I am on St. Charles with my family enjoying a parade.

Except for a couple of interviews with an expert and an official, what real journalism was done here? Does a reader not from Louisiana actually learn anything from this article? Or, does the author simply reinforce negative stereotypes of the region?

Funny. I wonder how we got our “ragged reputation.”

3 comments:

Mark said...

Who the hell is the Competitive Enterpise Institute? See this http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Competitive_Enterprise_Institute.

This is what the GOP does. Drowning in their own corruption scandal, the look for opportunities to make sure people think everybody (read: Democrats) do it, to take some of the sting out.

This is one consistent modus operendi of the GOP I've noticed over my 25 politically active yers: the GOP yells loudest that which they most fear betting caught out on themselves, so that if they are it either he said/she said, or everybody does it.

ashley said...

God, I hate USA Today. Dumbing down the USA for about 2 decades!

Maybe they need a graph: stupid people on one side, and people who live in Louisiana on the other.

Or how bout this: a pie chart: one piece is those that support Cat 5 levees, and the other is those that support the terrorists.

Mr. Clio said...

This piece sounds like an amalgamation of GOP talking points faxes. Blame corruption in NOLA, and they can look the other way.

This is the party that gave us FEMA contractors making $225 an hour as supervisors and $40 an hour as laborers.