Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dealing with talk about corruption.

Doug Brinkley was on "The Colbert Report" last week. The way the show is supposed to work is this: Colbert makes insanely right-wing points, and the guests are supposed to counter with common sense. So if Colbert says "Corruption and crime are back in New Orleans. So everything is back to normal, right?" The guest is supposed to counter with "Stephen, why are you dealing in stereotypes instead of dealing with the fact that most of the city is still in a state of ruin. And corruption is no worse in New Orleans than in any other bigh city, and it's on a far smaller scale than the corruption of the independent contractors hired by the Federal government to supply the troops in Iraq, or provide busses for New Orleans." At least that's what someone who wanted to defend New Orleans would say. But that's not what Brinkley said. He essentially agreed with the Colbert right-wing persona.

So the facts are that yes crime is back to normal levels in NO -- at least the murder rate says so. But FBI statistics show that violent crime increased everywhere last year, and New Orleans is not alone in dealing with it.

As for the infamy of Louisiana/N.O. corruption, we have largely passed the era of flamboyant Edwin Edwards politics that so fueled our reputation as a state where anything goes, but only if the governor gets a "taste." Under our last two governors, for the past 11 or so years, we have not had a single major statewide scandal. New Orleans continues to turn up cases of "brother-in-law" politics, but I would bet that any great city in America has a similar record. This is not to excuse this petty corruption, but only to say that New Orleans dosn't deserve its special reputation. Real corruption would involve the paying of bribes to get building permits or licenses to do business, or kickbacks by state employees. As far as I know that isn't happening in New Orleans, and the biggest corruption stories are coming from FEMA -- with their multi-layered sub-sub-contracts given to politically favored firms from out of state, and their abolutely insane notion of giving out $2000 credit cards to people who probably never had had a checking account. Did they expect responsible spending?

There will be plenty of opportunities for thievery and corruption with the flood of money that is about to wash over the city and state. The contractor hired to spread all that money out fairly should face careful scrutiny. And if corruption shows up in that program, then law enforcement should come down hard. But the company will not even be a Louisiana company. It's headquartered in Virginia. Who do you suppose will get any money that illegally siphoned off from that program -- worth $4 billion dollars?

Anyway, my point is that for a very long time we've been sort of proud of our reputation for rogueishness. We tended to smile at EWE because he was so stylish and up-front about his crimes. But we ought to be able to see that in front of a national audience, aquiescing in calling New Orleans corrupt and crime ridden isbad for the city, bad for the state, and downright inaccurate. Lets deal with crime and corruuption on a case by case basis, and not indict everyone just because they're from Louisiana.

No comments: