Friday, September 02, 2005

Go hog wild, me oh my o...

...son of a gun, we'll have some fun on the bayou

With the current chaos in New Orleans, it's worth keeping in mind the..uh...colorful history of what A.J. Liebling once called 'the westernmost of the Arab states'. Governed by the likes of Huey and Earl Long, and Edwin Edwards. A good compilation is this review of Bad Bet on the Bayou.

From which:

Earl Long once offered this advice on Louisiana politics: "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."

Huey Long, in one of his more immortal remarks, once said in a speech at Louisiana State University: "People say I steal. Well, all politicians steal. I steal. But a lot of what I stole has spilled over in no-toll bridges, hospitals . . . and to build this university."

Louisiana is our most exotic state. It is religious and roguish, a place populated by Cajuns, Creoles, Christian Conservatives, rednecks, African Americans, and the white working-class New Orleanians known as "Yats." While northern Louisiana is mostly Protestant and conservative, southern Louisiana, settled by French Catholics, is noted for its love of good food, good music, and good times. Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler -- Let the Good Times Roll -- is the unofficial motto. Louisiana is rich in outrageous stories and colorful characters. It is notably poor in the realm of political ethics. As Richard Leche, governor during the late 1930s, put it, "When I took the oath of office, I didn't take a vow of poverty." Leche's approach to governance landed him in jail, convicted of bribery charges.

Over the past thirty years, Louisiana has seen a parade of elected officials convicted of crimes. The list includes a governor, an attorney general, an elections commissioner, an agriculture commissioner, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a State Senate president, six other state legislators, and a host of appointed officials, local sheriffs, city councilmen, and parish police jurors (who are the equivalent of county commissioners). Of the eight men and women elected to statewide office in 1991, three -- Governor Edwin Edwards, elections commissioner Jerry Fowler, and insurance commissioner Jim Brown -- were later convicted of crimes. The FBI said more people -- sixty-six -- were indicted on public-corruption charges in Louisiana in 1999 than in any other state. Public corruption was the Louisiana FBI's top priority, and would remain so for the foreseeable future.

...."We're just not genetically disposed to handle money," lamented political consultant James Carville, who was from Carville, Louisiana. "We ought to bring in the legislature from another state -- maybe Wisconsin or Minnesota -- to handle our money. In return, we'll handle the cooking and entertainment for them. They'll handle our fiscal oversight, and we'll handle their cultural matters."

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