It almost comes as no surprise that a U.S. Representative from Louisiana, in this case Rep. William Jefferson, would find himself in hot water over bribes he accepted. According to the Washington Post, a Kentucky businessman pled guilty Wednesday to giving the Congressman $400,000 to promote his high-tech business ventures in Africa.

Louisiana has long been known for its political rascals. One of the more recent examples is former Gov. Edwin Edwards who, at 70 plus years of age, finds himself sitting in prison after being convicted of financial shenanigans. It was hardly his first brush with the law; it was just the first time he had been convicted.

Years ago Gov. Edwards was accused of subverting state hospital funds for his private use and the case went to trial. Jurors labored long and hard about their decision and, in the end, couldn’t agree, finding themselves “hung” with eight voting for acquittal, and four to send him to prison.

On the courthouse steps outside reporters stuck microphones in the governor’s face and one asked, “Governor, you weren’t completely exonerated. How does it feel to have had a hung jury?” Without missing so much as a beat, the governor shot back, “Hung jury? Are you kiddin’ me? I got 60 percent of the vote. I’ve never won an election by such a landslide in my life!”

At least pre-Katrina, a portion of Bayou State residents thought such things were, well, funny. The reason, it is said, is because given the same opportunity many of them would dip into the till also.

But after a devastating hurricane resulted in chaos, they have stopped laughing. It is one thing to wink and play loose with the rule of law when things are running fairly smoothly. But the humor is completely sucked out of a situation in which economic and social survival stops being a given.

The aftermath of the hurricane still finds endless bickering between competing groups there and much of it is due to the fact no one trusts anyone else. Such is inevitable in a culture in which the rule of law is given only lip service.

Louisiana residents should demand, in fact must demand, more from their governmental representatives. Their eventual survival may depend on it.

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