Archive for the ‘Earl Long, Huey Long’ Category

When State Fire Marshal Butch Browning isn’t busy defending his wearing of unauthorized military decorations and ribbons or trying to shift blame for a carnival ride that malfunctioned only seven hours after his office inspected it, injuring two children in the process, he apparently can play the political game as well as any state appointed official.

Remember the New Living Word School in Ruston? That’s the facility that had only 122 students in 2012, yet was approved for more than 300 vouchers by the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) even though the school lacked teachers, classrooms, desks or other supporting facilities to handle the increased numbers.

In fact, construction was started on New Living Word’s school without anyone bothering to obtain the requisite building permits or to hire a licensed contractor. In fact, no zoning variance was even obtained to operate the school on property that was zoned for a church.

Moreover, the building itself had so many deficiencies that Ruston building inspector Bill Sanderson refused to approve the structure. Those shortcomings included partitions made of flammable materials and multiple electrical cords lying on the floor between wall outlets and computer equipment.

New Living Word, looking to lose tuition of $6,300 per student (an amount later determined by auditors to be excessive and all the vouchers for the school were pulled), could not afford to wait until all the requirements had been met.

Enter State Sen. Rick Gallot.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Gallot is a member of New Living Word Church and sits on the school’s governing board.

Suddenly, all those deficiencies and procedural violations went away after State Fire Marshal Butch Browning became involved.

Browning subsequently issued an amended approval letter, giving the school the green light to proceed with constructing classrooms in the upper floor of the church gymnasium. He said the school had not requested approval to build the classrooms but that “after further review and as a point of clarification, the upper floor…is included in the scope of the review and is acceptable.”


The late John Hays, then-publisher of the Ruston weekly newspaper the Morning Paper, wrote on Aug. 27, 2012:

“Lobbying never fails, especially when Louisiana’s controversial school voucher program is the issue. After the state fire marshal fell I line, so, to, did the City of Ruston, approving a jury-rigged private school after a quickie inspection.

“Inspections were scheduled for Monday morning. But with 167 state vouchers (the number by then had been reduced from more than 300—before those, too, were yanked) at $6,300 each, New Living Word wasn’t willing to wait—just as it was not willing to apply for a zoning permit or a building permit or to hire a licensed contractor.”

Hays, holding both Browning and Sanderson responsible for bending the rules, went on to say that Neither Sanderson nor Browning had bothered to explain “why they didn’t pull the plug after New Living Word started construction without the required building permit and without a licensed contractor. Under Ruston 21 master plan, New Living Word was also required to obtain a zoning variance to operate a school on property presently zoned for a church,” Hays wrote.

“What Sanderson cannot change to anyone’s satisfaction is the fact that (church minister Jerry) Baldwin renovated two buildings without the benefit of a land use variance or a building permit, with a complete set of plans by a licensed architect or engineer, and without the use of a licensed general contractor and a licensed trade contractors,” the acerbic Hays said.

“Contrast this treatment of a politically-connected entity to that of a business that dared to ask that it be allowed to put up a sign slightly larger than the rules allowed,” said Ruston’s Walter Abbott on his Lincoln Parish Online blog.

Abbott, also writing about the New Living Word building permit controversy, then attached a link to an earlier story about a local realtor named Brandon Crume who wished to install a 32-square-foot sign in a location where such signs are limited to 16 square feet.

Bound by the rules, since there were no state politicians or appointees to intervene, the Ruston Planning and Zoning Commission denied Crume’s request outright, prompting Abbott to observe that a new business recently announced for Ruston “is showered with incentives, grants and glowing press coverage” and the press conference announcing its coming was attended “by numerous political dignitaries” while an “established Ruston business is encumbered with endless red tape just to remodel a building and put up a sign.”

“Maybe Brandon Crume needed a state senator on his payroll instead of facts and logic in his argument,” Abbott concluded.

The immediate question is why did Browning become involved when the local building inspector had already moved to halt work on the building? The obvious answer is that his intervention was on behalf of Baldwin and the school and not to support the local building inspector. It is equally evident that political pressure was brought to bear upon Sanderson to get him to ease up on the school which at the time, was held in high favor by DOE and by extension, Gov. Bobby Jindal.

And just what did Gallot promise Jindal in return for support from Baton Rouge via Browning’s involvement?

Shortcuts with safety regulations and procedures often can come back to bite you.

We can only hope there will not be a New Living Word incident reminiscent of the horrific school tragedy from the Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, the thinly-disguised Pulitzer-Prize winning novel about Huey Long which became the basis of two movies of the same name.

Or of the very real 2011 accident with the carnival ride in Greensburg that injured two siblings only hours after a State Fire Marshal’s inspection failed to shut the ride down because of the removal of an emergency brake on the ride.

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Anyone who still wonders why Gov. Bobby Jindal trots around the country uttering his venom-laced attacks on Washington in general and the Obama administration in particular should understand something. It’s all about politics; he is simply pandering to what he perceives as his base which is, at best, an illusion.

His foaming at the mouth courtship with his invisible support group is something like playing with an imaginary friend. In Jindal’s case, we have it on pretty good authority that he had two imaginary friends as a child but they would go to the other end of the playground and never let him join them. You will notice he never shows up in any of the lists of potential major GOP presidential candidates. That’s because the Republican Party just doesn’t want to play with him.

We have to give Jindal credit for one thing, however; he backs his rhetoric with action.

In his steadfast resistance to anything Washington, we have seen him:

  • Reject $300 million in federal funding for a Baton Rouge to New Orleans high speed passenger rail connection because he doesn’t want federal control;
  • Pretend to reject $98 million in federal stimulus funds for recovery from the 2008 recession while quietly taking the funds and handing out checks to municipalities during his highly-publicized visits to Protestant churches in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $80 million in federal funding to expand broadband internet service into rural areas of the state, primarily in north Louisiana;
  • Reject $15.7 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds because he incorrectly claimed it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over 10 years. He provided no figures to back that claim but did defiantly say Obama “won’t bully Louisiana.” Meanwhile, more than 200,000 low-income Louisiana residents are still without medical insurance.
  • Reject the Common Core State Standards Initiative after previously voicing his wholehearted support for the standards, again saying, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards.”
  • Prevail upon the legislature to reject an increase in the minimum wage, to reject tightening regulation of payday loan companies, to ban discrimination against gays, and to reject support of equal pay for women—most probably because all such proposals have the ugly thumbprints of Washington all over them.

So, taking into account his polarizing negativity against Washington, it’s pretty easy to see that things might have been different if we’d never had this little demagogue as governor.

But then we got to wondering how Louisiana might have fared down through the years if we had always been saddled with a Jindal on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. We would probably have beaten South Carolina in being the first state to secede from the Union.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. That’s pretty fair because U.S. Sen. Huey Long (whom Jindal often seems to be trying to emulate) was about as anti-New Deal then as Jindal is anti-everything federal is today. Moreover, the nation was reeling from the Great Depression, thanks to Wall Street’s greed, just as America was suffering from the Recession of 2008, thanks in large part to Wall Street again gone amok.

Works Progress Administration projects:

  • Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans where many Louisiana physicians received their training for decades (including Congressmen Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany, Jr.);
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which brought electric power to Louisiana’s most rural farm communities (and without which, to paraphrase the late comic Brother Dave Gardner, they’d all be watching TV by candlelight);
  • State Capitol Annex across Third Street from the State Capitol;
  • More courthouses were constructed under the program from 1936 to 1940 than in any other period in state history. They include courthouses in the parishes of St. Bernard, Natchitoches, Iberia Parish, Caldwell, Cameron, East Carroll, Jackson, Madison, Rapides, St. Landry and Terrebonne.
  • Mumford Stadium, Bradford Hall and Grandison Hall at Southern University;
  • Himes Hall, the faculty club, and the geology building at LSU;
  • Two buildings at what is now the University of Louisiana Monroe, three on the McNeese campus, seven each at Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana Tech, a water tower at Grambling State University, eight additions at Northwestern State University and 12 at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, all of which significantly extended the reach of higher education in the state.
  • Scores of new elementary and high schools (including this writer’s Alma Mater, Ruston High School), as well as high school science labs, gymnasium-auditoriums, home economics cottages, athletic fields, music rooms and vocational education shops;
  • New buildings for the Hansen’s Disease Center at Carville;
  • The Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans;
  • Extensive improvements and updates to the French Market in New Orleans;
  • Expansion of the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans;
  • Paving of 40 miles of roadway on Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City as well as the clearing of 15 miles of bayous and drainage canals and the rehabilitation of 43 wooden bridges on the base;
  • Improvements to the 1,300-acre City Park in New Orleans;
  • The Louisiana State Museum in Shreveport;
  • Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans;
  • The old City Hall in Denham Springs;
  • Construction of the Louisiana State School for the Deaf (now housing an administration building for the Baton Rouge Police Department);
  • Post offices in Hammond, Plaquemine, Arabi; Arcadia, Bunkie, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Haynesville, Jeanerette, Leesville, Oakdale, Rayville, and Monroe;
  • Conversion of a Baton Rouge swamp into the University Lakes around which many LSU professors, former U.S. Congressman Henson Moore and current Congressman Bill Cassidy now reside;
  • Eradication program to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes near the New Orleans lakefront.

Huey Long did everything in his power to throw up roadblocks to FDR. His reasons? He planned to run for President in 1936 and he needed to incite opposition to Roosevelt and Washington in order to build a national political base. In fact, before his death in September of 1935, Long was quite effective as fewer than three dozen PWA projects were fully authorized for the state.

Sound familiar?

Following Long’s death and with his obstructionist policy abandoned by his successors, FDR funneled $80 million into Louisiana for roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, parks, playgrounds, public housing, library and bookmobile programs and literacy drives. That’s $80 million in 1930s dollars. About what it would take to fund that proposed broadband internet expansion for rural north Louisiana today.

So, let’s ask Jindal to hop into our time machine and travel back to September 1935 where he will run and be elected governor just in time to revive the Kingfish’s anti-Roosevelt rhetoric.

Big Charity Hospital? Who needs it? But wait. Jindal wouldn’t have that facility today to give away in his privatization plan yet to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And without Big Charity, there probably never would have been similar state hospitals in Houma, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreveport or Monroe to close or privatize.

All those courthouses? Shoot, just drop them in the Capital Outlay bill and sell some more state bonds. We can always raise the state’s debt ceiling.

As for all those buildings on the university campuses across the state, hasn’t anyone been paying attention? We’re cutting funding for all that. Who needs public colleges anyway? Let the students get a student loan and go to ITI Technical College.

And Ruston High School? We’ll just turn that into a charter and issue vouchers to the white kids—the smart rich ones.

All those New Deal programs created jobs for Louisianians? Well, so what? There probably wouldn’t have been an unemployment problem in the first place if the workers weren’t so greedy back then and would’ve agreed to work for 15 cents an hour. That’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage.

Fast Forward 30 years

And lest we forget, we probably need to include a couple of programs President Lyndon B. Johnson rammed through Congress.

The Civil Rights Bill opened the door of opportunity for African Americans as nothing since the Emancipation Proclamation had done. And of course there was bitter opposition right down to passage—and beyond. There are those, some in elective office, who would repeal the act today, given the opportunity. The irony is that LBJ had opposed every Civil Rights measure in Congress when he was a senator but when he ascended to the presidency upon JFK’s assassination, he told one supporter, “I’m everybody’s president now.”

And, of course, there is the precursor to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Of course, that would be that radical Social Security Amendment of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

There was rabid opposition to Medicare by Republicans and the American Medical Association which insisted there was no need for the federal government to intervene in the relationship between patient and physician. Today, if any politician ever tried to terminate Medicare services, he would have a blue-haired riot on his hands and rightly so.

Medicare now provides medical insurance to 50 million elderly Americans and Medicaid does the same for another 51 million low-income or disabled Americans.

Perhaps someone should ask Republican Congressmen Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge (6th District and a candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mary Landrieu) and John Fleming of Minden (4th District), and Charles Boustany, Jr. (3rd District) each of whom is a physician and each of whom opposes Obamacare, what percentage of their income as practicing physicians walked in the door as Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Then check with Jindal to see how that squares with his opposition to the welfare state and such socialistic practices.

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Oxymoron: A combination of contradictory or incongruous words that is made up of contradictory of incongruous elements (Merriam-Webster).

Greek in origin, the term comes from the words oxy (sharp) and moros (dull).

There are several terms that come to mine which would qualify as oxymoronic:

Jumbo shrimp, conspicuous absence, crash landing, deafening silence, found missing, only choice, peaceful conquest, pretty ugly, silent scream, unbiased opinion…well, you get the idea (and there’s no way I’m dropping happily married into the mix).

As in, “A certain jumbo shrimp governor, after a conspicuous absence, was found missing in (insert state) where he presented and unbiased opinion of himself as the only choice for a peaceful conquest of the White House in a pretty ugly speech that was met with deafening silence and a few silent screams…”

Okay, that was just too easy. But, back to the subject of oxymora.

As of Saturday (mark the date: June 21, 2014), you can add to that list anarchist Bobby Jindal.

Bobby Jindal, an anarchist?

If you hear or read what he said in Washington in a speech to the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, yes.


In his address to more than a thousand evangelical leaders attending the three-day conference led by Christian activist Ralph Reed, Jindal accused President Barrack Obama in particular and the Democratic Party in general of waging a war against religious liberty and education and said a rebellion is in the making and America is ready for a “hostile takeover” of the nation’s capital.

You read that correctly. Jindal, growing bolder in his ever more frequent appearances everywhere but in Louisiana, called for a revolution in the streets, an action some might call treasonous were those words uttered by the likes of David Koresh, Randy Weaver or the late fire-breathing right wing evangelist Gerald L.K. Smith.



“I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.”

Shades of the late Tulsa, Oklahoma, evangelist Billy James Hargis of the Christian Crusade radio broadcasts of the ‘60s.



Or of everyone’s favorite contemporary elitist hate monger, Rush Limbaugh.

Jindal said there was a “silent war” (again with the oxymoron) on religious liberty being fought in the U.S.

“I am tired of the left. They say they’re for tolerance, they say they respect diversity. The reality is this: they respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them. The left is trying to silence us and I’m tired of it. I won’t take it anymore.”

Let’s break that down, shall we?

“They say they’re for tolerance.” This from perhaps the most intolerant, most narrow-minded Louisiana governor since Huey Long.

“They say they respect diversity.” This from a governor who stacks state boards, commissions and cabinet positions with older, rich, Republican white men—with the occasional African-American or female for appearances sake.

“They respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them.”

Wow. We could write for days on this one but instead, we will simply refer you to the growing list of those who “happen(ed) to disagree” with Jindal:

  • Tommy and Melody Teague;
  • William Anker;
  • Cynthia Bridges;
  • Mary Manuel;
  • Raymond Lamonica;
  • John Lombardi;
  • Dr. Fred Cerise;
  • Dr. Roxanne Townsend;
  • Scott Kipper;
  • Murphy Painter;
  • Tammy McDaniel;
  • Jim Champagne;
  • Ann Williamson;
  • Entire State Ethics Board;
  • State Rep. Jim Morris;
  • State Rep. Harold Richie;
  • State Rep. Joe Harrison;
  • State Rep. Cameron Henry

And that’s just a partial list.

“I won’t take it anymore.”

So now Jindal is the reincarnation of the Peter Finch character Howard Beale from the 1975 classic movie Network.

To that bravado, we can only add the words of the late Gov. Earl Long, responding to Plaquemines Parish boss Leander Perez’s dogged fight against desegregation: “Whatcha gonna do now? The feds have the A-bomb.”

The conference also featured most of the other potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016 who had to endure yet another tirade by Louisiana’s symbol of tolerance, understanding and benevolence.

Jindal also asked the (supposedly rhetorical) question: “Are we witnessing right now the most radically, extremely liberal, ideological president of our entire lifetime right here in the United States of America, or are we witnessing the most incompetent president of the United States of America in the history of our lifetimes? You know, it is a difficult question,” he said. “I’ve thought long and hard about it. Here’s the only answer I’ve come up with, and I’m going to quote Secretary Clinton: ‘What difference does it make?'”

To that we can only add (once again):

Never have the words to the song One Tin Soldier been more appropriate than for Jindal and his minions:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,

Go ahead and cheat a friend;

Do it in the name of heaven,

You can justify it in the end.

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In June of 2012, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law Acts 754 and 779, both of which were designed to curtail the so-called legacy lawsuits and thereby curbing landowners’ rights to hold oil companies responsible for damages to private property where they had drilled.

Everyone it seemed, especially the oil companies and the Louisiana politicians who were beholden to them, rejoiced. Handshakes and back slapping abounded. Those mean old trial lawyers had finally got their comeuppance. More important, the new legislation would ensure the uninterrupted flow of oil money into the campaign coffers of friendly legislators—and governors.

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter weighed in on the discussion to sputter that the new laws “will ensure that Louisiana remains a leader in responsibly producing great American energy—AND great American energy jobs.”

But before we cue the brass band and break out the flags and apple pie, consider another very telling part of Vitter’s official statement of Nov. 14, 2012:

“To correct the situation (of legacy lawsuits), the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), and other business groups proposed reforms that were introduced as bills at the start of this past state legislative session.”

That’s right. LOGA and LABI proposed the reforms. Apparently, the input of landowners whose property had been ravaged by drilling operations and left cluttered with abandoned equipment was not needed—or wanted. Vitter, never one to back away from an issue important to his Republican constituency, continued:

“The message began to resonate. As a result, the House voted overwhelmingly—82 to 19 — in support of the strong legislation that LOGA and others helped draft. And momentum grew.

“Within a few short weeks, this led to a so-called compromise on the issue, which was passed and signed into law. But, it’s not just a compromise; it’s a solution, because it included all of the major elements of the strong proposed legislation.”

But as my favorite poet, Bobby Burns of downtown Shongaloo once wrote: “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go kaput.”

Just when legislators, LABI, LOGA and Jindal thought it was safe to go back into the courtroom, along comes the Mother of All Legacy Lawsuits.

A lot has transpired in the four months since the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) raised Jindal’s hackles when it filed that massive lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies for damages to the disappearing Louisiana coastline, not all of it good for the guv.

His courtroom setbacks are stacking up like dead armadillos on a busy Louisiana highway in the hot summertime but he nevertheless sticks with attorney Jimmy Faircloth, the recipient of more than a million dollars in fees while winning…what was it? Oh, yes, zero cases. Jindal could probably paper the walls of the governor’s mansion with the adverse legal decisions handed down thus far. His national political stock has gone into a free-fall that has him grabbing onto any issue that will give him face time on Faux News or CNN.

Distracted by his ongoing feud with President Obama over health care and the federal lawsuit that has thwarted his school voucher program, his pressing duties as Chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association and his yeoman’s work on behalf of failed Republican candidates (see Virginia governor’s race and Louisiana congressional election), Jindal has had precious little leisure time to tend to pesky little issues facing the state (see health care, budget deficits, federal investigations into multi-million contracts, crumbling infrastructure, flood insurance and that ever-expanding sink hole in Assumption Parish).

The one matter that he did tackle head-on, however, was that ridiculous lawsuit by the greedy SLFPA-E against those poor defenseless oil companies for the destruction of that useless Louisiana coastline that’s good for nothing but as a wildlife refuge…and oh yes, hurricane surge protection.

Jindal believes that the litigation is a crime against nature and just to prove his point, he resorted to his favorite tactic—firing those who dare disagree. But before he could fire three members of the authority who pushed for the lawsuit, he took the added measure of removing a $500,000 annual subsidy the authority has received in years past. Of course Jindal said the funding cutback was unrelated to the litigation. Yeah, right.

And of course Jindal only wants what’s fair for those civic-minded oil companies that dredged and then abandoned some 10,000 miles of canals along the Louisiana coast, decimating the hurricane wind and surge protection the coastal lands and marshes provided before their disappearance.

Oh, did we mention that of those 97 companies named in the lawsuit, 16 combined to contribute a minimum of $171,750 to one or more of Jindal’s three gubernatorial campaigns? And one of those, Marathon Oil, in addition to the $15,000 ponied up for Jindal’s campaigns, chipped in an additional $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. Marathon subsidiaries then received a cool $5.2 million in state funds.

For a governor who raked in more than $20 million in his three campaigns, $421,750 seems an awfully cheap price for which to sell out the state’s chance to withstand the onslaught of coastal erosion—to turn the tide, if you’ll forgive the bad pun.

The antithesis to the pomposity of Vitter would be the dogmatic candor of Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, the last of the Louisiana populist politicians. Campbell, who ran unsuccessfully against Jindal in 2007, has thrown his unconditional support behind of the authority’s lawsuit and sharply criticized Jindal in the process.

“Jindal’s actions undermine the people and institutions trying to protect Louisiana from coastal erosion and flooding,” Campbell said. “He is shielding from blame the companies partly responsible for the damage.”

It is not the first time Campbell has taken shots at the establishment. He has accused virtually every Louisiana politician, with the exception of former Gov. Dave Treen, of selling out to the big oil interests. “The board (SLFPA-E) has done what virtually no politician in Louisiana has dared to do—confront Big Oil about its destructive coastal practices,” he said. “Mr. Jindal’s response was to replace the board president and vice president with people who will undo the lawsuit.”

Jindal, in arguing against the wisdom of the lawsuit, said it “jeopardizes and undermines our ability to implement the Master Plan.”

Jindal was referencing the 50-year coastal protection and restoration Master Plan which outlines how the state and local governments will restore wetlands and improve on flood protection, particularly for the New Orleans area.

There’re only two problems with that $50 billion Master Plan:

It’s unfunded.

And if something is not done soon, there may not be a New Orleans to worry about in 50 years.

Jindal also called on SLFPA-E to fire its attorneys, claiming they were hired in violation of state law that requires their hiring be approved by the governor.

But then-SLFPA-E Chairman John Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America, said Jindal was dead wrong (nothing new about that) in his contention that the authority needed his permission to file suit. He said Jindal was relying on the wrong state law that applies to state boards and commissions, not the specific legislation creating the authority. (We can’t help but wonder where Jindal got his legal advice.)

So Jindal took the only action he knows: he fired Barry, Ricardo Pineda and David Barnes and replaced them with New Orleans attorney Lambert Hassinger, Jr., Jefferson Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, and Kelly McHugh of Madisonville, president of the Kelly McHugh and Associates civil engineering and land surveying firm.

And, oh yes, he yanked the authority’s $500,000 annual state subsidy.

But then a strange thing happened. The parishes of Jefferson and Plaquemines filed their own lawsuits against a spate of oil companies. Jefferson filed seven lawsuits and Plaquemines 21, claiming a variety of environmental law infractions, including dredging canals without proper permits and without employing erosion prevention techniques to prevent the encroachment of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico.

And Jindal is powerless to fire the parish leaders or to require that they seek his permission to file suit or that they fire their attorneys.

It brings to mind the 1958 battle between the U.S. Justice Department over desegregation. Then-Gov. Earl Long saw the inevitability of things to come as well as the futility of continued resistance against the federal government. Leander Perez, boss of Plaquemines Parish, that last bastion of segregation, however, did not and vowed to continue the fight. This prompted Long to chide Perez, saying, “Whatcha gonna do now, Leander? The feds got the A-Bomb!”

That quote could be paraphrased today with, “Whatcha gonna do now, Bobby? Those parishes got their own attorneys!”

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Earl Long is generally credited with the following quote:

“Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.”

And so it came to pass that one day just before the Christmas season in the year of our Lord 2010, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and his Chief of Staff Little Timmy Teepell were sitting across from one another at a table heavily laden with seasonal food winking at each other.

It was the governor who, breaking political protocol, interrupted the silence first.

BJ: I’m bored.

Little TT: Bored?

BJ: Yes, bored. I’ve been stuck here in the state for three whole days now.

Little TT: What do you suggest, Governor?

BJ: A road trip.

Little TT: But governor, all the elections are over. There’s no one to campaign for. And we’ve done the book tour thing.

BJ: Well, I’m bored. What can we do?

Little TT: Well, Governor, the natives are pretty restless. They think you should remain in the state a couple of weeks and work on the budget deficit.

BJ: TWO WEEKS!!!!?? Bor-ring!

Little TT: Seriously, Governor, we need to discuss ways to raise revenue for the state to offset an anticipated $1.6 billion budget deficit next year.

BJ: Isn’t there a hurricane or an oil spill or some other disaster that can give me face time on the TV cameras so I can act governorential?

Little TT: Governorential?

BJ: Yes. You know, where I go on TV and blame the federal government for everything.

Little TT: No there isn’t anything like that right now. Let’s talk about the budget.

BJ: I know! I can take the state helicopter to a little Baptist Church up in Shongaloo and give ‘em a stimulus check.

Little TT: We can do that on Sunday. Today’s Tuesday. Let’s talk about the budget until then.

BJ: All right. But it’s boring. There’re no TV cameras.

Little TT: That’s okay. You’ll get all the TV coverage you want if you solve the budget crisis.

BJ: Really? Oh, boy! What do we have to do?

Little TT: We need to take measures to raise cash to erase next year’s budget deficit.

BJ: That should be easy. I’m a Rhodes Scholar and (laughing) you’re a Roads Scholar. Isn’t that what you said in your interviews, you’re a Roads Scholar?

Little TT: That’s right, Governor, but remember, we were both absent on pothole day.


BJ: That’s funny. A Roads Scholar. Pothole day. I get it. What does that mean?

Little TT: Don’t worry about it. It was just a joke. Now to generate some revenue, we need to sell off some state assets.

BJ: Like what?

Little TT: Well, we can sell all those new state buildings that Governor Foster built and then lease the space back. That should gives us about a hundred million or so up front.

BJ: But didn’t I read somewhere once that selling any fixed asset on a sale-leaseback basis is an act of desperation triggered by cash flow problems?

Little TT: But that’s precisely where we are: We’re desperate because we have cash flow problems.

BJ: But it would place us, the seller, in the position as a long-term lessee. Isn’t that the same as a debtor or bond obligor? That seems like a quick fix to a long-term problem. It’s just deferring a permanent resolution to a problem and not fixing the underlying problem.

Little TT: Governor, you’ve been reading your old campaign literature again, haven’t you? You need to eighty-six that. Drop the rhetoric; you won the election.

BJ: Oops, I forgot.

Little TT: We can also sell a couple of state prisons—those in Winn and Allen parishes. That should bring in about $64 million or so.

BJ: Won’t the buyer just work the mortgage payments back into what he charges the state to house state prisoners?

Little TT: Governor, have you been talking to legislators and not telling me?

BJ: Sorry.

Little TT: Governor, you’ve got to stop that. Legislators aren’t your friends. Now focus. We can also draw against future lottery revenue to get another infusion of cash.

BJ: But what if somebody living in a trailer park wins the lottery? I don’t want him knocking on the front door of the governor’s mansion asking for his money.

Little TT: Don’t worry about that. Listen to me. These are all short-term solutions. It will give us one-time money to cover recurring expenditures but it doesn’t matter. By the time those people in north Louisiana who elected you figure it out, you’ll be well on your way to running for president.

BJ: And you’ll be my little Karl Rove. TT, I see where you’re going with this and I like it. Hell….I mean heck, we can sell the state police cars and put them on bicycles. That should work. When I was in Oxford doing my Rhodes Scholar bit, they had Bobbies on foot. We can call ‘em Bobbies on bicycles. Voters will love that.

Little TT: That would be pretty drastic. The state police would probably need cars….

BJ: How ’bout if I just sold my soul?

Little TT: You already did that to get elected.

BJ: How about selling some of the state golf courses?

Little TT: That’d probably look pretty bad. We just bought the Tournament Players Club in New Orleans and took over the Poverty Point club up in Delhi and we’re in the process of building a couple of others. How could we explain the sudden change? Those golf courses are viable investments. Even as we speak, we’re in the process of taking bids on the construction of a miniature golf course at City Park in New Orleans. What I’m saying, Governor, is we’re committed on these expenditures.

BJ: How about selling the Pentagon Barracks?

Little TT: Can’t do that, either. We have legislators living in them and the new owners might raise their rent from the $300 they’re paying now to a level comparable to other apartments. The legislature is already mad enough. We can’t risk that.

BJ: How about cutting higher education and health care benefits then?

Little TT: Now you’re thinking like the governor I know and respect. Let’s sing some nice Christmas carols:

Jindal Bells, Jindal Bells,
Jindal all the way;
Oh how sad
Is his wishy-washy way—HEY!

Jindal Bells, Jindal Bells,
On another flight
Oh how nice we all do feel
When he is out of si–ight.

Away at a fund raiser
No one does he dread;
Not running for president,
At least that’s what he said.

But from afar
We know what they say,
Move over Obama,
Jindal’s on his way.

Oh, little state of Louzian
How sorry is your plight;
With Bobby selling all our jails,
Citizens now feel pure fright.

While in our dark streets linger
A refracted gleam of light;
From guns and knives will lives
Be lost in thee tonight.

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With a conservative Republican occupying the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, it’s not likely that any official commemoration will be given the dates of September 5 and September 10 this year. Other than a symposium at the Old State Capitol, sponsored by Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, no other official functions show up on the radar. For a state so steeped in colorful politics as Louisiana, perhaps the general indifference with which those dates are likely to be met might truly indicate that an era has passed, that the old guard has once and for all been replaced.

In another time, those dates would have borne an undeniably special significance with voters at either end of the political spectrum. September 5 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earl Long’s death and five days later, September 10 will be the 75th anniversary of the death of his older brother Huey. Perhaps ominously, there was a lunar eclipse on the nights before the deaths of both Huey and Earl. Dardenne’s event, it should be noted, commemorates only the death of Huey while ignoring the 50th anniversary of his younger brother’s death.

Both men, natives of Winn Parish, left indelible marks in both the state and national political arenas. Huey was in his fourth year as a U.S. Senator when he was gunned down on September 8, 1935, in the corridors of the State Capitol Building he built while governor and died two days later. Earl, a three-term governor, much like the Phoenix, rose from the ashes to defeat incumbent Rep. Harold McSween to represent the state’s 8th Congressional District just a day after his 65th birthday but suffered a heart attack on election night and died nine days later on September 5, 1960.

Huey, championing his “share our wealth” program, was poised to mount a challenge to President Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election bid in 1936 when he was assassinated, but not before he initiated a number of ambitious programs for the state. Among other things, he completed 9,000 miles of new roads, doubling the size of the state’s road system; increased the miles of paved roads from 331 to 2,301; built 111 new bridges, including the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish, the first bridge over the lower Mississippi River; built the Louisiana State Capitol, at the time the tallest building in the South; founded the LSU School of Medicine and a new Charity Hospital building in New Orleans.

His free textbook, school-building, and school busing programs improved and expanded public education and his night schools allowed 100,000 adults to learn to read. He also increased funding for LSU, lowered tuition, and expanded its enrollment from 1,600 to 4,000.

Earl, on the other hand, was far ahead of his time by the simple fact that he refused to get caught up in the race-baiting politics so common in Louisiana and other southern states during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and 60s. In fact, Earl, going against the popular tide, increased the number of registered black voters from fewer than 23,000 to more than 107,000. He also brought black teacher pay up to the level of that of white teachers and insisted that classes at LSU-New Orleans (now the University of New Orleans) be open to blacks and whites alike when it opened its doors in September of 1958.

Earl also oversaw the construction of more than 1,000 new elementary and secondary schools; established several new college campuses and expanded others; built dozens of vocational-technical schools, and initiated the hot lunch program for school children.

But in retrospect, Earl’s greatest legacy would have to be his foresight during the racial strife of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. While others, namely Leander Perez of Plaquemines Parish and State Sen. Willie Rainach of Claiborne Parish, attempted to purge voter rolls of Blacks and to block school desegregation, it was Earl who recognized the inevitability of the changing times, refusing to bend to the White Citizens Council and the KKK. At the height of the hysterics, Earl once chastised Perez, asking the rhetorical question: “Whatcha gonna do now, Leander? The feds got the A-bomb.”

Both men believed in absolute power and both consolidated their power through patronage, firing political opponents and placing supporters in cherished state jobs. Huey had his famous de-duct box, a campaign war chest into which went 10 percent of every state employee’s paycheck. Earl, who abolished civil service in order to perpetuate similar political patronage, also opened the state to prostitution and gambling, taking rake-offs from organized crime, according to Earl biographers Michael Kurtz and the late Morgan Peoples.

Kurtz is a retired history professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond and Peoples, who died in 1998, was a history professor at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. The two collaborated on the book Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics, published in 1990, which was the first to reveal FBI records that tied Earl to Carlos Marcello, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky.

Huey first ran for governor in 1924, narrowly missing a runoff, but that election set him up for a successful second run in 1928. In that 1928 election, he won with less than a majority of the vote. Huey got 43.9 percent of the vote and his opponents, Riley J. Wilson of Ruston and Oramel Simpson of New Orleans, split the remainder with 28.3 percent and 27.8 percent, respectively. When Simpson threw his support to Long, Wilson withdrew, giving Huey his victory.

He immediately set about firing opponents and replacing them with political supporters. When he got his free textbook program passed, Caddo Parish filed suit to prevent distribution of the books. But Long, flexing his political muscle, simply refused to authorize the location of an Army Air Corps base (now Barksdale AFB) in adjacent Bossier Parish until Caddo capitulated.

With Earl’s untiring help, he survived an excruciating impeachment in 1929, emerging more powerful than ever. He quickly went about firing opponents’ relatives and founded his own statewide newspaper, the Louisiana Progress. He not only trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments in the publication, but forced state employees to subscribe and pressured state contractors to purchase expensive advertisements.

In 1931, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating incumbent Joseph E. Ransdell of Alexandria, 57.3 percent to 42.7 percent. Planning what many consider to have been a serious effort to unseat FDR, Huey never got the chance. Dr. Carl Austin Weiss, whose father-in-law had been gerrymandered out of a judgeship by Huey, approached Long in the Capitol foyer. What happened next is unclear but what is known is that Long was shot by either a .38 or .45 caliber pistol, both of which were consistent with the weapons carried by Huey’s bodyguards. Weiss owned a .32 caliber pistol but it was never found. Whether Huey was slain by his own bodyguards reacting to some action of Weiss has never been determined but whatever the case, Weiss was cut down in a hail of gunfire from the bodyguards.

Huey’s hand-picked successor, Gov. O.K. Allen, died in office in January of 1936 after himself being elected to the U.S. Senate but before he could take office. He was succeeded for the remainder of his term by Monroe radio and television executive James A. Noe with whom Long had founded the infamous Win or Lose Oil Company from which Huey’s heirs were said to have reaped millions of dollars from leases of state-owned land that were subsequently sub-leased to major oil companies.

Another Long political heir, Richard Leche, was elected governor in 1936 along with his running mate for lieutenant governor, Earl Long. When Leche resigned for “health reasons” in 1939—prior to his being convicted of mail fraud and public corruption—Earl became governor but failed to win his own bid for the governorship in 1940 and again lost in 1944, when he ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by Lewis L. Morgan of Covington, who in turn lost the governorship to Jimmie Davis.

Earl was finally elected governor in his own right in 1948 and immediately abolished the state’s civil service system (first established by Gov. Sam Jones) so that he could award jobs to political supporters. It was on Earl’s watch, according to Peoples and Kurtz, that the state saw an explosion in the spread of gambling, prostitution, and narcotics trafficking, eventually prompting hearings in New Orleans and Washington by Estes Kefauver, the Tennessee senator who chaired the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce. The committee reported that under Long, organized crime operated openly and with the full cooperation of state and local officials.

Earl’s biggest blunder during his first administration, however, was in listening to Perez who prevailed upon the governor to reject the Truman administration’s generous offer in the settlement of the tidelands mineral royalty dispute. Perez was fearful of losing his vise-like grip on the royalties of mineral-rich Plaquemines Parish and lobbied Earl against accepting the offer put forward by House Speaker Sam Rayburn, saying the state would prevail in the pending federal litigation. The state of course, just as California had earlier, lost, costing Louisiana billions of dollars in lost revenue.

When Bob Kennon was elected in 1952, he instructed State Police Superintendent Francis X. Grevemberg to set about destroying slot machines from the Bossier Strip to Jefferson and Orleans parishes and to wipe out illegal gambling in general.

But Earl was back in ’56, winning in the first primary with 51.5 percent of the vote. He was aided no doubt by Costello and Marcello, each of whom contributed $250,000 to his campaign, according to FBI records cited in Kurtz’s and Peoples’s book. He also received substantial contributions from Louis Roussel of New Orleans who was interested in opening a racetrack in Jefferson Parish, and organized labor.

But trouble was on the horizon and Earl, already having suffered one heart attack in 1951, began a bizarre pattern of behavior that saw him first committed to mental institutions in Mandeville, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas, embark on an odyssey across the southwest U.S. and Mexico, and become involved in a sordid affair with stripper Blaze Starr, all of which were dutifully chronicled by national and international media. As the pressure of racial tensions mounted—fueled by Perez and Rainach—Long grew ever more eccentric. He addressed the legislature in a rambling, incoherent tirade that ended with his being escorted from the floor of the House by Baton Rouge Advocate Editor Maggie Dixon and subsequently hospitalized.

Barred constitutionally from serving two consecutive terms, he ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by Noe. Other gubernatorial candidates included New Orleans Mayor deLesseps (Chep) Morrison, Jimmie Davis, and Rainach. The plan was for Noe to get elected, resign, and allow Long to assume the governorship.

Noe ran fourth, however, failing even to win his own precinct. Long, outpolled his running mate but nevertheless finished third. Morrison led the first primary followed by Davis and Rainach. Davis won the runoff against Morrison, creating a sense of political Déjà vu: Davis had also won in 1944 when Earl ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

Long was suddenly an old man at 64. Having survived a heart attack, a mental breakdown and a grueling, unsuccessful political campaign, most gave him up as politically dead. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Despite pleadings from friends and family and advice from his physicians that another campaign would surely kill him, Long steeled himself for one last hurrah. Hollow-eyed, gaunt, and pale, and sometimes lacking the energy to mount a platform from which to address crowds, he nevertheless plunged ahead, announcing that he would run against incumbent Harold McSween for the 8th District congressional seat. Few gave him any chance, especially McSween.

The incumbent stayed in the larger cities and towns of the district—Alexandria, Pineville, Marksville, and Natchitoches while Earl hit every village and hamlet in the district, incessantly driving himself in the stifling heat and humidity of Louisiana’s oppressive summer months of July and August.

Earl won by 4,458 votes, but the victory came with a price. He suffered another heart attack on election day, one day after his 65th birthday, but refused to check into a hospital until all the votes were in. In the movie Blaze, a sadly inaccurate account of Earl’s career by every measure, he is depicted as dying on election night but before doing so, pleading with Blaze Starr (who in fact was never with him during the campaign) to check the returns in Monroe. Monroe was not in the 8th District; it was in the 5th, represented at the time by Otto Passman.

In reality, Earl lived for nine days after the election and even held a press conference from his hospital room on Sept. 3, two days before his death.

The Long style of politics did not die a sudden and complete death; it took a while. The method of campaigning became more urbane with the advent of television, ad agencies, and political consultants, but the populism didn’t go quietly. John McKeithen won two terms with his plaintive “Won’t you he’p me?” campaigns in 1963 and 1967 (after a constitutional amendment allowed him to become the first governor to serve two consecutive terms). Edwin Edwards was elected on four different occasions (1971, 1975, 1983, and 1991).

Both McKeithen and Edwards, much as Earl had done, drew on a political base comprised largely of labor unions, blacks, and rural voters and both rewarded their constituents accordingly.

As political campaigns become slicker and more sophisticated and campaign costs continue to soar into the stratosphere, it becomes increasingly difficult for a true grassroots campaign to gather any real traction as witnessed by efforts of Buddy Leach and Foster Campbell in recent campaigns, capturing 13.8 and 17 percent, respectively, in the last two gubernatorial elections.

So, if there is to be any formal observance this month, perhaps it should be in fond memory of when political campaigns were more fun and the candidates far more colorful than today. In many ways, some would say we are better off now with our reform and Ivy League candidates but are we really? Is there something missing from the modern political landscape? Names like the Kingfish, Uncle Earl, Big John, and Fast Eddie have given way to Bobby, Dave, Buddy, and Kathleen.

Don’t we miss the old warriors and their charismatic politicking and stumping just a bit? When was the last time we heard a candidate address the real issues of the day by calling his opponent “Catfish Mouth” or a “yellow bellied sapsucker?”

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            The fiscal news from Baton Rouge continues to be bad. Besides a projected $319 million deficit for the current fiscal year that ends in seven weeks, there have been moves to privatize state services, a sell-off of state assets, layoffs, and now a massive oil spill that threatens the state’s seafood industry.

            There are those who insist it didn’t have to be that way but 60 years ago, on June 5, 1950, everything changed. That’s the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all of the submerged land from the shores of coastal states belonged not to the states, but to the federal government.

            It was a devastating decision that affected coastal states from Texas to Florida. An earlier decision, in 1947, had a similar affect on California. The ultimate cost to the states estimated as high as $300 billion, according to the late Mike Mansfield, former senator from Montana. Mansfield, writing in the May 4, 1953 Congressional Record, was critical of the decision by the Eisenhower administration to returned title of the submerged land back to the states.

            Eisenhower’s action, which was approved by the House on April and by the Senate on May 5, reversed a proclamation by President Truman in 1945.

Truman, in his Continental Shelf Proclamation, said that federal government had jurisdiction over all the mineral resources in the lands beneath the oceans out to the end of the U.S. Continental Shelf. Immediately after he issued the proclamation, the federal government initiated litigation against the states, claiming sovereignty over all offshore resources. Truman reasserted that position on Jan. 16, 1953, just before leaving office when he issued an executive order that set aside the submerged lands of the Continental Shelf as a naval petroleum reserve.

The issue of tidelands mineral rights didn’t appear of major importance to either Louisiana or the federal governments other than shrimpers and oystermen, until technology progressed sufficiently to drill in offshore waters. In November of 1947, the first such well was completed in 16 feet of water in the Ship Shoal area in the Gulf of Mexico, about 12 miles south of Terrebonne Parish. After that, all bets were off.

            Just as with California, litigation soon followed as the federal government filed suit against both Texas and Louisiana over control of more than four million acres of submerged land. Then, in the early fall of 1948 came one of the biggest negotiating blunders in the history of Louisiana politics that ultimately led to the landmark Supreme Court decision that will in all probability go unnoticed by most on its 60th anniversary on June 5.

            The players included President Truman, Speaker of the U.S. House Sam Rayburn, Gov. Earl K. Long, Lt. Gov. Bill Dodd, and Plaquemines Parish boss Leander Perez. Lurking in the shadows was the man who would emerge central to the decision by Long to refuse a generous offer from Truman that would cost Louisiana upwards of $100 billion, according to Dodd. That man was 29-year-old Russell Long, Earl’s nephew and the son of Huey P. Long.

            Dodd, in his book Peapatch Politics, laid out the details of a deal gone bad as a result of Russell Long’s political ambitions and Perez’s determination to protect his questionable control of mineral-rich Plaquemines Parish with Earl Long and Dodd caught in the tug-of-war between the federal government and Louisiana.

            In 1948, Russell Long was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Perez, who was also head of the Democratic State Central Committee, ran his own less sophisticated but equally prosperous version of Huey’s old Win or Lose Oil Company in Plaquemines and, according to Dodd, was not above a little blackmail and extortion to protect his fiefdom. Rayburn was Truman’s emissary who was instructed by the president to make what in hindsight was a more than generous offer to Louisiana to settle the federal lawsuit against the state.

            In that fateful autumn of 1948, Rayburn called Dodd and Louisiana Attorney General Bolivar Kemp to a Washington meeting. Also in attendance in Rayburn’s office were Perez, Texas Attorney General Price Daniel, several representatives of the Department of Interior, as well as others.

            Rayburn, without fanfare or ceremony, offered to settle the Tidelands dispute with Louisiana by offering the state two-thirds of all revenues accruing from mineral bonuses, leases, and royalties in the two-thirds of a three-mile band extended from the Louisiana coastline outward into the Gulf of Mexico. Rayburn also offered the state 37.5 percent of all revenues in the Tidelands outside the three-mile band. In addition, Rayburn said the federal government would drop its lawsuit against the state. It was a much better offer than the state had anticipated and everyone present except Perez was ready to jump at the offer.

            Perez told Rayburn that he would recommend to Gov. Long that the offer be rejected, prompting Rayburn to explode. “This ain’t no compromise,” he said. “It’s a gift, and you better take it while the president is in the mood to give it to you.”

            Perez, who as attorney for Plaquemines Parish’s various levee boards, was in a position to dictate how and to whom the levee boards leased their lands. Many of those leases went to corporations he and his family controlled, reaping him millions in much the same manner in which Huey Long had structured his Win or Lose Oil Co. With no intention of losing any of his power, he got to Earl Long first and convinced the governor that the state was being sold a bill of goods by Truman and Rayburn. He insisted, moreover, that the state would prevail in the federal litigation against the state even though California three years earlier had lost an identical lawsuit.

            Perez, who was backing States’ Rights presidential candidate Strom Thurmond for president, controlled the state Democratic ticket and threatened to take Russell off the States’ Rights ticket, which would, in effect, hand the U.S. Senate seat to Shreveport Republican Clem Clarke. Earl wanted his nephew to win the election and eventually capitulated to Perez’s demands to reject Truman’s offer, prompting Baton Rouge Morning Advocate Editor Maggie Dixon, a close friend of the governor, to remark, “Earl is gonna trade our chances to be a tax-free state in order to elect that little tongue-tied nephew of his to the U.S. Senate.”

            Dodd, in his book, speculated that the immediate loss to the state was $66.5 billion, not including billions more paid in bonuses and leases, plus the severance taxes that would have amounted to about a fourth of the total value of production. Dodd said the cost as of 1986, when he wrote his book, was “$100 billion plus,” with future losses as much as $10 billion a year.

            Still, given the track record of the legislature to fritter away past “embarrassments of riches,” one would have to wonder how such an influx of revenue might have taken legislators from embarrassment to humiliation in emptying the state coffers.

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