jeudi, mai 25, 2006

When is $90,000 really a cigar?

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives have achieved an almost unprecedented level of bipartisanship in denouncing the F.B.I.'s search of a congressman's office. They talk angrily about the separation of powers and the implications of having an executive branch agency make a foray into a lawmaker's official space. Our first question is where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years NYT May 26 On the way home tonight, I had the radio tuned to NPR (as opposed to the "open your windows and blare" rock music I normally have on during these warm spring evenings). The show: Ed Gordon's talkie "News and Notes." I love hearing the roundtable moderated by the wise and warm Juan Williams. This time the topic of the day was the corruption allegations against Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana. I gotta be candid: the fact that he allegedly had $90.000 in his freezer seems a bit odd (our local paper asked snarkily whether it was in the deep freeze because the lettuce crisper was full). Even odder is the apparent videotape of him accepting a suitcase full of cash. Frankly, I think the evidence Justice presented is well worth taking seriously. Whether the FBI should have raided his office or not I'll leave to the wise men and women who run the US Congress. As usual, they have chosen to get ticked off over a matter that is arguable, while turning their backs on decisions that threaten our civil liberties and the integrity of our legal system . This Justice Dept has done some atrocious things...notably finding ways to stop an investigation of alleged NSA eavesdropping on Americans and denying the Guantanemo prisoners the right to be tried in American civilian courts. It was only when one of their own had his prerogatives threatened that those in the majority challenged Alberto Gonzales and his lower-downs. What really got my attention, however, was the reference by one (more liberal) commentator to the theory among black talk radio listeners and hosts that there was a Justice Department conspiracy to release the information around the time of the New Orleans election to harm candidate Ray Nagin. As it happened, Ray Nagin won the election. As a white woman, this never would have occurred to me. I don't think highly of the Justice Department, but neither Gonzales nor his pals, including George Bush, seemed to court the bigot vote with subtly racist rhetoric. Nor do I think that they are quite that inept. On the other hand, I'd like to know more about the experiences that shaped the thoughts of some African-Americans and led them to think that there was a national conspiracy going on to discredit black candidates. Could it be a long exposure to systemic American racial injustice that would that leads them to think that $90,000 packed in next to the ice cream and frozen vegetables was part of a conspiracy? Or it could be that American women and men of all races have a yen for conspiracy theories? It brings back echoes of the OJ Simpson trial and reminds us that we are still a country with racial wounds that ache and cry out for the salve of justice, empathy and trust.

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