Illinois, the political birthplace of President Barack Obama, is (to use St Augustine's vivid phrase) a "seizing cauldron of vice"; corruption there has been endemic since the Daley machine ruled the city of Chicago in the 60s.
It may be the most rotten state in the Union, but the locals who have decided to be proud of this distinction will be startled and outraged to learn that in the National Corruption Stakes, New Jersey has leapt into the lead.
Federal agents have charged 44 New Jersey residents of public corruption and money laundering. The roster of shame includes three mayors, one of whom was the mayor of Hoboken, birthplace of Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra reviled the burg, and after leaving never returned. He was, of course, a celebrated associate and pal of mobsters.
The historic, and cultural links between New Jersey and corruption will be cemented by the news that today's accused include many rabbis. A rabbi is a Jewish spiritual leader. The rabbis were charged with laundering money they knew to be obtained from criminal activity through their charitable organisations. They did this, the Feds allege, not in the hopes that the goons would come to Yahweh, but for the 10% the bad guys would give them.
One man stands accused of brokering the sale of a human kidney for $US160,000. It's an offence to sell body parts in the US.
As this story was breaking I was reading Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article on Goldman Sachs.
Taibbi, who is almost as vivid a writer as St Augustine, has produced the kind of wide ranging screed about rampant greed on Wall Street that liberals want to be true. Taibbi makes the preposterous claim that Goldman Sachs has been responsible for every financial bubble since the Great Depression. While it's a ripping tale, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. Click here for the debunking .
What McArdle and Taibbi might agree on is that while Americans seem to be more tolerant of corruption, there is a growing sense of frustration and hopelessness in the US about the ways in which the system is gamed, and the lengths to which some will go to get money. The charging of rabbis, supposed spiritual doyennes, only reinforces this sense.
Scholars of that baroque and impolite music otherwise known as early 70s rock (a depleted breed, surely) will, I hope, recognise my attempts in the headline above to echo the refrain from the Warren Zevon song, Lawyers, Guns and Money.
Yes, it's something of a stretch - difficult as well as unattractive to do simultaneously - but the song recounts the self-serving monologue of a man who, on finding himself in straitened circumstances, imagines his plight will be solved by the American version of avenging angels.
The lawyers, presumably, will provide the loopholes through which the abject singer may crawl; the guns will pacify any disagreeableness. Should these both fail, the succulent aroma of cash will avert nostrils, and more importantly, eyes.
"I went home with a waitress," sings Zevon, "The way I always do. How was I to know she was with the Russians too?"
This was written during the Cold War; were Zevon alive today, the verse might run, "How was I to know she was with the rabbis too?"
But the rest of it, the knowledge of how the world works, the clear-eyed humour, rings true. One wonders how long Americans, like the good people of Illinois, will continue to make such cynicism a badge of courage?