Friday, March 31, 2006

Bribery - What's in a name?

In the past I knew crazy headlines came from some remote village in the world but lately I haven't been so sure. When I saw, "Bribery acceptable, but refs shouldn't let cash influence decisions" I clicked on it to see the dateline. It was Lagos, Nigeria and the heartwarming story was about soccer referees being allowed to accept bribes from soccer clubs but that the graft shouldn't influence their decisions on the field. Sounds reasonable. Actually, the better way to run things under the circumstances would be to have each team bribe the refs the exact same amount of money so that at least the bribery would have the appearance of fairness. This reminds me of a law student I knew who, when asked why we allow twelve jurors rather than a single judge to decide the complex question of whether a criminal defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity he offered, "Because it's easier to bribe one judge rather than twelve jurors? I don't know where he is now but I'd start looking in the Attorney General's office or Supreme Court in Nigeria.

I also paused for a moment to wonder whether we are learning from Nigeria or are they learning from us? Bribery is legal in Congress as long at you call it something else and as long as it doesn't result in a quid pro quo - roughly something for something. In practice it's basically impossible to prove a campaign donation or gift directly led to some official favor and thus it's next to impossible to bring these official corruption cases against Members of Congress. Guess what? The Republicans, incompetent at running an economy, a war, a hurricane relief, a Medicare plan, a budget, in short incompetent at running a government can't even be corrupt competently. Republican ex-Rep. "Duke" Cunningham sits in prison for the next 8+ years and he'll soon be joined by other members of his party. Who's next? Rep. Tom Delay? Rep. Bob Ney? Rep. Richard Pombo? Rep. Jim Ryun? Rep. John Dolittle? Might make a nice prison poker game. Wonder if they'll try to cheat each other?

So there you have it. Nigeria believes bribery is acceptable for soccer refs and we believe (read the rules) that bribery is acceptable for Members of Congress. The only difference is Nigeria is up-front about it and we aren't and they ask that the bribes not let it influence decisions and we don't.


Blogger Cranky's Wife said...

You have to admit it works in our own home with Cranky Jr. - one treat a day keeps the night waking away -

11:11 AM  

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