Land Use

Decline and fall: Emperor Jindal as the ancient Romans might have seen him

Is Roman history the key to Gov. Jindal's reign?

Ciella Williams

What might Tacitus make of the Jindal years?

ACT I, New Orleans, July 2013 — A local levee board stages a play in which the fate of a sunken city is at stake. A lawsuit is filed; an idea is set in motion: In the absence of state billions sufficient to the Herculean task, enforce the law and make those who destroyed our coast — some five-score oil, gas, and pipeline companies — pay to restore its rapidly shriveling cheniers and wetlands.

Where will ACT V leave us, underwater or above it?

History is a story we tell ourselves to trumpet our triumphs and gain perspective on our failures. If you go by Shakespeare’s version of events, time is nothing more — nor less — than a stage upon which we act out an eternal drama.

Carefully framed in the debate between empire and republic, Tacitus’ Annals begin with Rome’s golden chapter following Augustus’ military triumph over the republic and subsequent instantiation of a rapidly corrupted empire. Thus, was the triumph of a great civilization simultaneous with its betrayal and onrushing annihilation.

That the Roman Republic’s loudest advocates had perished in battle led to a moment in which Augustus was “wholly unopposed,”[1] allowing him to concentrate power within the Caesars alone, a bloodline that rapidly devolved into depravity and outright insanity associated with Augustus’ son Tiberius and his chosen heir, the murderous and insane Caligula.

It was an historical moment characterized — might this also be said of our own? — by unabashed self-interest disguised as representation of the public interest. Tacitus put it this way:

“So corrupted indeed and debased was that age by sycophancy that not only the foremost citizens who were forced to save their grandeur by servility, but every ex-consul, most of the ex-praetors, and a host of inferior senators would rise in eager rivalry to propose shameful and preposterous motions.” Tradition says that Tiberius as often as he left the Senate used to exclaim in Greek, “How ready these men are to be slaves.”[2]

Although no definitive accounts survived the Mad Emperor, inquisitive aficionados of ancient Rome can connect the dots. We understand from Suetonius that Caligula committed “habitual incest with all of his sisters”[3] and from Seneca the Younger, that he killed “merely to amuse himself.”[4]

But if certain aspects of Caligula’s reign can be called into doubt, his conviction that he was Zeus was well documented, leading to Robert Graves’ supposition that the death of Caligula’s pregnant sister resulted from the emperor’s decision to make a meal of their unborn child. Maybe so. In A.D. 41, the senators finally had the good sense to arrange his assassination, rendering the Empire emperor-less once again; a vacuum of vast power awaited direction.

After Caligula’s swift departure, Claudius was just about the last Caesar capable of assuming the imperial helm (stutter, club foot, and all). When his sincere efforts to rule benevolently deposited him in the vortex of politics as usual, he realized his efforts to improve the Empire from within were futile. Claudius instead decided to “let all the evils that lurk in the mud hatch out.”[5] He accomplished this by naming Nero his successor rather than someone, well, sane. His hope was that Nero’s antics would organically awaken Romans to the evils of absolute authority. He was kind of wrong (but it sure made for good TV).

So, what do Tiberius, Caligula, or any of the Romans have to do with Louisiana’s coastal crisis? (Crisis? What crisis, you ask.)

Just this November, Americans passed progressive ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage, yet voted in a Republican majority that is likely to abort these very initiatives. Reared on mass media doubletalk, we are not newcomers to such self-defeating absurdity. Having betrayed the democracy we inherited from our founding fathers,  our current government serves the interests of corporations over common people, much as the Caesars painstakingly concentrated power within their bloodline alone. We haven’t assassinated a president in several decades; instead senators proudly vow to do everything in their power to prevent the incumbent from accomplishing anything at all, even if that means shutting down government and defaulting on the national debt.

Separated by civilizations, customs, and nearly 2,000 years, the frantic effort to kill the historic lawsuit filed on behalf of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East against 97 oil, gas, and pipeline companies exactly embodies this tendency by our elected leaders to lick the boots of those they pretend to govern – so long as their pockets are deep.

Here in New Orleans — northernmost banana republic, western-most emirate, intermittent third-world country — crippling decay accompanies abundant beauty. The levee boards oversee another such paradox: flood protection. Of vital importance in a region both sustained by and submerged in water, the boards fight to preserve our beloved sunken city as well as our coastal neighbors. The coastal wetlands, neither land nor water, provide some of the region’s foremost protection against flooding, slowing storm surge before it hits habitable land.

Lest we forget, today’s Mississippi Delta was formed over 6,000 years as the mud-rich river seasonally spilled its banks. In just one human lifetime, however, manmade activity has reversed these processes to the extent that today Louisiana loses a gridiron-sized chunk of land every hour.[6]

Why such accelerated land loss? Ironically, the levees themselves — the vast infrastructure built by the Army Corps and tended by the local flood protection authorities — bear a heavy responsibility. They sluice the mud out into Gulf, precluding the annual floods that kept the marshes alive and growing for millennia. An equivalent villainy: the oil, gas, and pipeline companies that have carved over 10,000 miles of canals through the wetlands since the first permits were issued in the early 20th century.

In so doing, these companies have engendered, in the words of one scientist, a “mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction.” The dredged canals sluice saltwater into formerly freshwater environments, killing off the natural vegetation of which the wetlands are composed, while washing away the soil beneath. Viewed from above, the wetlands have eroded into a labyrinth of spookily straight lines traced on what looks like — and soon will be —  open water. Each year cartographers erase bayous, islands, and inlets from maps as they wash into the Gulf.

ACT II, enter the litigants — John Barry, author, historian, and ousted SLFPA-E vice-president, pioneered the lawsuit to seek restitution for the damage, arguing that coastal erosion had significantly increased the risk of catastrophic flooding and consequently the cost of protecting New Orleans from it. Much more is at stake in the disappearing wetlands than mere cost, however: “When this suit was first filed, I was asked why we were doing this, why we were suing,” Barry said. “The answer is simple: It’s because we love New Orleans and want it to survive. And we believe if we do not take action, it will not survive.”

According to Jindal’s office, the coastal restoration lawsuit is nothing more than an illegal money grab by a rogue levee board in cahoots with greedy trial lawyers attempting to milk the governor’s generous friends in the erl bidness. But Jindal lacks the courage of his convictions. Having declared the suit illegal, he moved in a panic to make sure that it never reached court, where, if the governor really knew the law, it would have been promptly thrown out — right?

ACT III, in which money reigns supreme — The levee board never presumed to slap oil and gas with the full cost of coastal restoration. The low estimate puts industry’s role in the ongoing catastrophe at 36 percent of total damage. No, what prompted the suit was the evidently vain hope that the courts – not politics – would be allowed to resolve the question of liability. Debunking the fictions circulated by Jindal’s office is as simple as following the money.

Prodigal are their masters in lavishing bribes — er, campaign donations — on our senators and other elected officials. Jindal has banked more than $1 million from Big Oil. State Sen. Robert Adley has received more than $600,000. Even Sen. Bret Allain has received close to $30,000, albeit a paltry sum compared to the $300 million it cost the Koch brothers to buy the recent mid-term elections.

The harbinger of the carbon lobby’s more recent triumph was the buzzing swarm of BP agents who invaded the state’s 2014 legislative session to secure passage of SB 469, henceforth known as Act 544, the bill that sought to kill the levee board’s lawsuit retroactively.

If we’ve learned anything from our ancient predecessors, it’s that incest breeds pestilence – and everyone appears to be in everyone else’s pockets. As Jindal eagerly plots his presidential bid in 2016, what Caligula lurks in the wings, ready to swallow us whole?

ACT IV, in which Evil smirks contentedly, December 2014 — A case to decide the lawsuit’s legality presently advances toward federal court, where it either will be resolved in favor of the people or sent ricocheting into a years-long appeals process. Having witnessed this ludicrous farce of corporate privilege play out in the Louisiana Legislature, we may ask ourselves how the petroligarchy so smoothly undermined the state’s interests and escaped its own contractual obligation to restore the landscapes it had sliced and diced with canals. As with many of the plot turns since Act I, the answer is unpleasantly simple: We let them.

A conspicuous lack of regulation and a cowardly reluctance to enforce what few rules apply is the Great State’s chief failing. In 1990, the EPA’s Inspector General concluded that “Louisiana’s highly productive coastal wetlands are being lost due to inadequate regulation of oil and gas activities” by the state Department of Natural Resources, in part due to “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry.”

This culture was cemented in the 1980s when it surfaced that unlined waste pits leached toxic, extremely saline solutions into the soil, contaminating groundwater and accelerating the death of vegetation. An oil industry memo from 1986 summarizes the successful lobbying effort to push back against the EPA: “Our environmental legislative and regulatory group, under Pat O’Toole, has been effective in tempering state bills and proposed regulations which would have increased clean-up and disposal costs. Identified savings exceed some $20 million.” But at what cost do these corporations delight at dredging on a dime?

ACT V, the Lost City of New Orleans? — Perennially discussed in the noncommittal language of far-off doomsdays, environmentalism has lingered on the periphery of human crises – until now. Although the Flood Protection Authority’s battle remains a regional issue, rising tides are an increasingly global worry.

Not only New Orleans, but also Manhattan, London, Rotterdam, Venice, Shanghai, and low-lying cities worldwide must confront man’s relationship to water and the weather. Unlike Claudius, we do not have the luxury of waiting for the evils that lurk in the mud to hatch out; rather, an about-face that rejects our culture of insatiable consumption is mandatory if we want to avert the fate of Atlantis.

Oil and gas has an unprecedented opportunity to reinvest extraordinary wealth in sustainable measures for the future. Why not follow Amsterdam’s example and develop an industry posited on flood protection (and, more importantly, survival)? Investing in Louisiana’s Master Plan for Coastal Restoration at the $50-billion, 50-year level would create over 100,000 permanent jobs. Imagine what we could do at the more surely effective $100-billion level.

“If there be nothing new, but that which is/ Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,” Shakespeare opined in 1609. To give credit where it’s due, Ecclesiastes was writing about all of that long before the bard was born: “There is no new thing under the sun.”

Will Act V bring an ending akin to Hamlet, with a foreign prince reporting the death of the royal family? Or will it mark the beginning of a brave new world, grounded in honesty and accountability? Who’s the Emperor of Louisiana, anyway? Maybe it’s time the people rose up against him, as if our very lives depended on regaining the power we’ve forfeited.


1. Tacitus, The Annals of Tacitus, (I.2)

2. Tacitus, ibid. (III.65.i)

3. Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: incest (IV.24), brothel (IV.41).

4. Seneca the Younger: killing (“On Anger.” III.xviii)

5. See BBC episode 13, “Old King Log.”

6. This statistic, circulated by America’s Wetland Foundation – an organization established by Shell in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a part of an effort to rebrand Louisiana as America’s Wetland (and sidestep the controversy surrounding offshore drilling) – is deliberately couched in football references, leading to the binary of home team (i.e. those that support oil and gas) vs. opposing team (those that expect oil and gas to clean up their mess). See “The Slow Drowning of New Orleans” in The Washington Post, 9 October 2005.

Brooke Schueller is a writer who lives in New Orleans.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • Metaphora ad nauseam.

  • nickelndime

    I like it. 12/05/2014 10:18 PM

  • Chris McLindon


    While your essay is crafted as a play in five acts, it is also an emulsion of two components that are as immiscible as, pardon the metaphor, oil and water. On one hand you
    have written an impeccably well researched work of history, but on the other
    you have interwoven it with a rehashing of the most pedestrian blather in your
    treatment of science. In order to appreciate the analogies between the political circus that surrounds the SLFPA-E lawsuit and the demise of the Roman Empire we must integrate a component of science that at least aspires to match the historical component that you
    have provided.

    It is easy for us to look back at the Roman Empire today and recognize that principal among the short-fallings in the science of their time was a rather striking dichotomy. They
    believed that the earth was the center of the universe. They also believed that laws of physics were necessarily different on earth than they were elsewhere in the universe. This latter contention was specifically intended that humans were not worthy to be governed by the same physical laws that guided the heavenly bodies. It is as if the staggering egocentrism of the first belief was counterweighted by the element of self-loathing in the second.

    While we now know that the earth is certainly not the center of the universe, and that physical laws are continuous throughout the universe, future generations are likely to look back on us and recognize a similar dichotomy. Our interaction with the natural world is based on a fundamental belief that we have dominion over and control natural systems on earth. The most obvious example of such a natural system for us is the Mississippi River. In the 211 years since the formation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers we have built up the infrastructure of our modern civilization with the belief that we can maintain and direct the flow of the river and the distributary channels of its delta. Just as the Romans did, we counterweigh this staggeringly egocentric position with an element of self-loathing. To balance the belief that we can control the course of the Mississippi River we promote the contention that it is our human culture that is responsible for the majority of the changes that are occurring across the river’s delta wetlands, and we perceive these changes to be a degradation of the natural system. The elements of this dichotomy are as wrong as the Roman dichotomy.

    To get a true appreciation of the degree to which our perceived control of the Mississippi River is fleetingly short it is instructive to travel back to the time of the Roman Empire in Louisiana. At about the time that Claudius was naming Nero as his successor the Mississippi River was building a lush and vibrant delta ecosystem, called the St. Bernard Delta , that extended out well past what are today the Chandeleur Islands. Several research teams have studied and mapped this historical delta. A group at
    UNO used high resolution imaging technology to map out the likely courses of its
    distributary channels. Multiple cores and borings penetrated the layers of sediment deposited by this delta system, and one of those cores encountered an in situ cypress stump, which was determined by radiocarbon dating to have died about 2,100 years ago. Archeological sites in the area document that this delta was very likely to have been inhabited by humans. They are very likely to have hunted and fished within this vast cosystem, and to have given names to its many islands, bayous and inlets. If we are to draw lessons from the people that inhabited the Roman Empire during this time, we should also draw lessons from the people that inhabited the coastal wetlands of Louisiana at the same time. Naming a natural feature does not insure that it will exist in perpetuity. Had cartographers existed throughout the history of the delta plain, their job of erasing the names of natural features from maps would have never ended. The patterns of wetland loss that we can measure today are simply continuation of patterns that have been continuous throughout the 6,000 year history of the delta plain. The only reason that we
    quote the losses that have occurred within a “single human lifetime” is that we are limited by the technology of measuring the change. The first coverage of the delta plain with
    aerial photography did not occur until 1932. Prior to that there are no maps or images of the coast that are accurate enough to have made measurements of wetlands area. If the technology has existed two lifetimes ago, we would have measured a greater degree of change since then. If we had the technology to measure the cumulative change in the area of the wetlands throughout history of the delta plain, including the St. Bernard Delta, we could reasonably expect to have measured several tens of thousands of square miles of total land loss. The 1,880 square miles of change in area of the wetlands that we have measured since 1932 needs to be appreciated in this broader context.

    The Mississippi River system has had eight major changes in its course since the time of the St. Bernard Delta. The remnants of the cypress swamp that once covered the area of Chandeleur Sound 2,100 years ago were encountered in that core at a depth of 33 feet below sea level. These numbers combine to give us a very important metric. In order for a cypress stump to have descended from the surface of an active delta ecosystem to a depth of 33 feet below a column of water and sediment, it must have subsided at an average rate
    of 0.2 inches or 5 millimeters per year. We now have the technology to measure this same rate of subsidence at the surface today. Dr. Roy Dokka of the LSU Geology Department published the first useful map displaying the patterns of subsidence across the coastal plain in 2009. The pattern of subsidence mapped by Dokka is tied to some very fundamental geological underpinnings. The central axis maximum subsidence on this map is exactly coincident with a geological feature called the Terrebonne Trough. It is safe to say that the Terrebonne Trough is one of the most significant geological features in the Gulf of Mexico Basin. The Gulf of Mexico Basin is the largest sedimentary basin in the world, having accumulated an estimated 22 kilometers (13 miles) of sedimentary detritus shed by the North American Continent. It is the capacity for subsidence that has allowed for the accumulation of this mountain of sediment. It should come as no surprise that one of the
    most significant geologic features of the largest sedimentary basin in the world is the site of the highest ratesof subsidence measured in the world today. (see Bob Marshall’s May 7, 2014 article in The Lens)

    This brings us to the question of the causes of wetlands loss. There is no necessity to introduce an anthropogenic cause for wetland loss. Nature has handled it perfectly for thousands of years. The entire area of the St. Bernard Delta has been “lost” due to natural causes. We cling to the belief that humans have brought about such change in order to
    support the equally unfounded belief that we can somehow reverse the patterns of change. We cannot. Smaller orders of change, such as the accelerated patterns of land loss after the wetlands were cut off from a supply of sediment by the levee systems, give the appearance of short term significance, but they are simply a variation in the rate of change. The end result of the changes to the wetlands have always been inevitable. It is
    tempting to think that in a completely natural system the coastal wetlands of southeast Louisiana would have been sustained by the natural influx of sediment from the Mississippi River. In a completely natural system, however, the Mississippi River would have completed the next in its succession of changes in course in the 1970’s. It would be flowing down the course of the Atchafalaya and building a new vibrant delta at its mouth. The wetlands of southeast Louisiana would have been cut off from the sediment supply of the river by this natural change in course. The patterns of change that have occurred on what would otherwise be the abandoned delta of the Mississippi in southeast Louisiana over the past 40 years are exactly the same patterns of change that would have been occurring in a completely natural system. The patterns of change in the wetlands of southeast Louisiana over the last 40 years are almost entirely due to natural causes (with the glaring exception of the 40 square miles of loss that has occurred at the outflow of the Caenarvon Diversion over the past decade)

    The UNO research team showed that one lobe of the St. Bernard Delta, which is strikingly similar in size and shape to the modern birdfoot delta succumbed to subsidence over a period of about 300 years. The birdfoot delta is about 100 years past its peak areal extent. By analogy this would logically mean that it has about 200 more years before it
    too is subsumed by subsidence. The timing and patterns of the natural changes that are occurring across the coastal plain are not a catastrophe. They are overwhelmingly patterns of natural change that are due to a continuation of natural processes that have been ongoing since well before the time of the Roman Empire. The rates of change in the area of the coastal wetlands over the past decade appear to be entirely manageable, but we have to achieve it by managing ourselves. Nobody has ever summarized our relationship with the Mississippi River better than Mark Twain: we “cannot contain that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it “Go here”, or “Go there”, and make it obey, cannot soave a shore that it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with and obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over and laugh at.” Only when we begin to let go of the delusion of our self-importance, and begin to work within the confines of the natural systems within which we live, will we able live sustainable on these coastal wetlands. No amount of litigation is going to make it possible for us to reverse the natural patterns of change in our coastal wetlands. We are simply going to have to learn to live with the change.

  • nickelndime

    Excellent! Love it! Going to read it again within the next 24 hours. So, in your expert opinion, how long (an estimate would be good) would you say that New Orleans has before it becomes sedimentary detritus in the Gulf basin? And, do my friends in St. Bernard and Plaquemines have time to pack? All of this will be moot anyway (in courtrooms, over the back fence, etc.), and please tell me that no Civil District Court judges in the City of New Orleans will ever be allowed to write an Opinion (on anything). 12/06/2014 1:39 PM

  • Chris McLindon

    No expert opinions here. I am an amateur in the purest sense of the word.
    It would appear that the commonality of the St. Bernard Delta and the modern birdfoot delta is due primarily to the fact that they both jut out on to a marine clay substratum that adds an additional subsidence mechanism due to the ductile nature of the clays. The mudlumps at the mouth of the river are clay that has been squeezed out by the weight of the delta sediment. It the UNO group tells us that it took 300 years for the one lobe of the St. Bernard Delta to subside below the surface, then, by inference, lower Plaquemines should have another 200 years or so before it is below sea level.

    The tectonic subsidence rate in most of the New Orleans area is very low – less than 2 millimeters per year. Subsidence is locally accelerated by active faults crossing the New Orleans East Land Bridge, as mapped by Roy Dokka. Within most of the metropolitan area higher subsidence rates are mainly due to desiccation of the organic material in the soil by the canals. There is much more on the subject here:
    Subsidence in the central area between these two zones is concentrated in “hot spots” that are associated with active faults. For the most part these hot spot areas are converting from marsh to open water bays and lakes. Over the next few decades we will find that we have more lakes and bays than we did before, but large streches of marsh should look pretty much as they do today.

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    The US was not founded as a democracy. Such features as indirect election of senators and the electoral college were installed in the Constitution precisely to prevent the new nation from degenerating into a democracy. Hence Franklin’s answer when questioned going down the steps, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
    Democracy is NOT the opposite of tyranny. If it were, there would be no need for the Bill of Rights. It was largely designed to place fundamental rights beyond the reach of majority rule.
    I’ll defer to Chris McM on the science, but I will suggest your research into the basics of political science has not gone deep enough.

  • nickelndime

    Okay, you got me, Chris McLindon, for you see, I already thought that lower Plaquemines was below sea level and that submerged Christmas trees were holding it up. I cannot wait to get into “Living With Water.” Who has the screen rights, and I am supposing that soon someone will write, “Fear and Loathing in Plaquemines Parish.” Thanks for the extraordinary explanations! 12/06/2014 5:47 PM

  • nickelndime

    Thank you, Kelly M. Haggar. And, I can certainly see why Peter Fos wants to shut down the Political Science Department at UNO. Why, if any of the general public would get ahold of this kind of information (or become enlightened), there might be a real threat to the government in this country. Too many people would recognize how their fundamental rights are being trampled upon by majority rule! Somewhere along the way, we lost it. Franklin was correct – “…if you can keep it.” We couldn’t and we didn’t. 12/06/2014 6:02 PM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    I dunno. Edwards and Landrieu got convincingly thumped tonight. Hopeful signs from my POV.

  • nickelndime

    Hahaha! So, does “Republican” stand for Republic and “Democrat” stand for Democratic? Well, I think I understand now why this country is in the mess it is in. It’s having an identity crisis. Congratulations. The “Red” team appears to have won. 12/07/2014 12:48 AM

  • Kelly M. Haggar


    Back when I was a Poli Sci undergrad (LSU ’73), it was “USL” and “LSU-NO.” I didn’t finish my MPA until 1987 and didn’t get a JD/BCL until 2005. Had no idea about the Fos thing; stumbled across this story by accident:

    UNO president recommends closing 7 degree programs

    “If this exercise is perceived as taking away all of the humanities and liberal arts so that we can be a STEM university, that is the wrong conclusion,” Fos said. He reiterated that faculty members had made the initial recommendations without his input.

    At first I thought he said “geology” and went WTF? but then I looked again – “eliminating the Department of Geography.” (Perhaps UNO should merge the surface geos with the rock geos?)

    If the long march of Chris McM over this past year to get some 3D and a time scale into public discussion hasn’t gotten S. La. to smell the coffee then I give up. I’d like to believe reasonable people of good will can handle bad news if they get the facts and the opportunity to check things out. True story: a ULL geology prof was once asked to give a lunch talk to weekly business group. He went through the basic first year/first semester stuff. One thing he covered was faults. First question: “Any other professors agree with your theory?” That’s how profound the ignorance of basic Earth science was in a university town with a major oil presence.


    Of course it’s not that simple. In fact, there’s a good case that the major divide in the US of A is not even between Rs and Ds at all, nor is the Red Team even an R team. I can remember when “Reagan Democrats” decided presidential elections. (For that matter, Reagan started out as a Democrat.) It’s also a fair reading of last night that the Country Class (Red Team?) made a better showing than the Rs did.

    For the original definition of Country Class/Ruling Class, see:

    and for some follow-up see:

    So the divsions inside the Red Team are pretty deep, mainly because a lot of the base distrusts folks such as the Speaker.

    OTOH, the Blue Team is hardly a model of unity, either. Sen. Schumer’s second thoughts on Obamacare/ACA (pick one) on Nov 25th exposed a major fault line (pun intended) within the Ds/Blue Team. See:

  • nickelndime

    I dunno know either, Kelly M. Haggar, but despite the fact that Landrieu got thumped soundly, I did not wake up in an optimistic mood, especially when it comes to New Orleans and the state. Maybe I have been standing in a pothole too long, and crazy as it sounds, the damn pothole appears to be filling from the bottom up, which strangely enough, may push me to the top and save my life! Ha! Anyway – I certainly enjoyed your commentary and the reading suggestions. Just a couple of comments. UNO President Peter Fos says the committee produced these recommendations (to close departments and degree programs) independently. That’s hard to swallow. Now, it appears that the UNO faculty has voted “no confidence” in President Fos and the recommendations. That is believable. Grambling tried this (vote of no confidence, etc.) before, and it doesn’t work. Faculty, students, and community bite the bullet – again. Business and Education DBA usual in Louisiana.
    UNO was LSUNO. I believe USL refers to the University of Southeastern Louisiana (“Southeastern”). I applaud your majoring in Political Science. IMHO, Fos is a butcher, not a university president. The State Board is aphasic when it comes to the word “merge.” “Higher Education” in Louisiana does, however, like the words “close” and “cut.” Fos, it appears, did arrive in Louisiana and at UNO with “baggage.” A certain favored individual (not a partner or a spouse) moves with him when he goes to other positions. It seems that this is common in educational circles. For example, Anthony Amato (RIP), who became the OP Superintendent before Katrina, brought with him and promoted Matthew George. It’s like a “package” deal. And of yeah, Reagan started out as an actor first. The other stuff just fell in line almost naturally. Who was he married to first? Was it Jane Wyman (or someone similar)? Well, I can see how that wouldn’t have worked out politically for Ronald, but Nancy – now she was another story! I am curious why a geology professor was asked to give a lunchtime talk to a business group. Was it Shell employees in downtown New Orleans? Loved your pun. Shows you have maintained a sense of humor. By any chance, you wouldn’t happen to live outside of New Orleans, would you? Ha! 12/07/2014 2:42 PM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    “USL” became “ULL.” Was “University of Southwest Louisiana” in Lafayette. The school in Hammond I abbreviate as “SELU.” Southeastern. (Don’t ever call it “SLU;” that means “slow learner university.”)

    The insurance group in Lafayette just has a speaker every meeting. Can be on anything. I think somebody just knew the prof and asked him to come speak. The business lunch groups do the same thing. If you ever get a wild hair to give a talk, drop by wherever the Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions meets and volunteer. Those folks are always looking for talks. (I once gave a flight safety/aircraft accident investigation talk in Oklahoma City to a Kiwanis chapter.)

    I don’t know about Shell per se, but I understand the major oil companies often host “lunch-n-learn” for their employees. Those tend to be techie topics. For wider audiences, there are several geology-related monthly lunch meetings in many large cities. Baton Rouge has virtually no oil presence but it has a geological scociety. The different geology-related societies sometimes hold joint meetings. The Mrs has spoken to the New Orleans chapter of SIPES by itself and we have both spoken to the Baton Rouge Geological Society by itself. Last month she spoke to a joint SIPES/Lafayette Geological Society lunch and in Oct she gave two different talks at the annual meeting of the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies. So, if people want to know more about what’s down there that can happen without having to go back to school.

    I’ve never lived closer to you than Slidell, although the Mrs. was born and raised in New Orleans, getting her undergrad from UNO and her first master’s from Tulane. (Her second from SELU/Hammond.) We have family still in the city, with in-laws in Metairie.

    P.S. Yes, Jane Wyman. Some wit once said he liked her because she already had experience dumping Reagan.

  • nickelndime

    Kelly M. Haggar – you made me laugh twice – once about Southeastern in Hammond and the Jane Wyman quip. Thanks. I needed that. If I ever rise to the top of the pothole, or the street fault, as it is referred to in some parts of city (not mine, BTW), I may show up, impromptu, at some business or professional gathering and present my views on the New Orleans electorate, which in my opinion, is one of the (expletive squared deleted) bunch of registered (expletive deleted) in this (expletive cubed deleted) state of Louisiana. The title of my presentation will be “It’s Our ‘Fault,’ Damnit.” 12/08/2014 4:55 AM

  • T75

    You folks are a national treasure, really.

  • Kelly M. Haggar
  • Kelly M. Haggar


    Ran into a college prof at one of those conventions we attend. He had gone into Lakeview (he didn’t know it was also called “the Ivory Coast”) after Katrina because he’d heard about Lakeview and the Lower 9th Ward and so on. He was stunned at how badly the flood had torn up the city, even to ripping up the streets and making holes in them. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him they had been that way for years; decades.

    BTW, just in case anyone can’t get out of a broken record grove, yes, I’m fully aware the levees failed below design limit load.

  • nickelndime

    Now that’s just plain funny, Kelly M. Haggar. BTW, “SELU” was just awarded a $10,000 grant for “traffic” control on the campus. In Hammond, $10,000 still means something. Do you realize what happens to $10,000 every five seconds in the City of New Orleans!? Why, the universities in this city lose, misplace, or misappropriate millions of dollars, and nobody asks for an accounting of it, including the LLA (“may have spent…”). Ha! 12/10/2014 10:54 AM

  • nickelndime

    Yeah, we IS a treasure alright, BURIED TREASURE! “Submerged” potholes are referred to as….something else, as in, “We don’t know what happened to him. He was standing in 5′ of water, then all of a sudden he wasn’t there anymore.” “Fix our damn streets!” – “Tales from the darker side of The Ivory Coast” – Lakeview ain’t my Ward, BTW! Hahaha! 12/10/2014 11:06 AM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    A little more food for thought, seriously . . . . really.
    Lake Pontchartrain to Matsukawa-ura Bay
    Karl Muth – 14th March 2011

    . . . the Japanese have one of the most painstakingly catalogued histories of any civilization, surpassed in historical record continuity only by the Chinese. Unlike Western Europe and the United States, where tiny, supposedly-representative snapshots of history are taught, Japanese students learn history in nearly every year of their schooling.

  • nickelndime

    Thanks, Kelly M. Haggar. Very good article. American History is not being taught (getting enough attention) in American public elementary schools, and if the Feds win the CC war, it will probably not be taught again -until the US government or Bill Gate$ has it rewritten. We just wanna WIN! 12/11/2014 9:13 PM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    T75: Too good not to share. It seems someone else has stumbled into the notion that the fundamental design of the U.S. is undemocratic:
    The Senate’s 46 Democrats got 20 million more votes than its 54 Republicans

    Updated by Dylan Matthews on January 3, 2015, 10:00 a.m. ET @dylanmatt 

    This doesn’t mean that the Republican majority is illegitimate or anything like that. Indeed, after 2008 and 2012, the tables were turned: Democrats got more Senate seats than their vote share suggested they should. The problem isn’t that the deck is stacked in favor of Republicans. The problem is that the deck is stacked in favor of small states, which receive equal representation in the Senate despite dramatic variance in population. The Senate is a profoundly anti-democratic body and should be abolished.

  • nickelndime

    Correct, Kelly M. Haggar, but I was thinking, if we abolish the Senate, why not abolish the House of Representatives too? None of them are giving me either proper representation or my money’s worth. Party has nothing to do with it. They are a bunch of money grabbers and they are overpaid. They act like a bunch of aristocrats who forgot how they got “there.” 01/05/2015 12:16 AM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    Some wise guy once said something like the Senate is “the national saucer into which we pour passions to cool.” Having 6 year staggered terms also dampens popular sentiment. That’s true no matter who elects them; voters or state legislatures. Notice the word “dampen.” I did not say “eliminate.” The Senate does not prevent legislation. It may delay or modify but it cannot stop a truly desired change. If enough people want something badly enough long enough they will get it.
    I’ll bet if you translated our Constitution in French and gave a copy to the design team at Airbus those engineers would instantly recognize the political equivalents of yaw SAS, stab aug, a Q-spring, anti-skid, and so on. In fact, the only Airbus pilot I personally know much prefers Boeing designs as he thinks the Airbus is over designed and excessively limits crew discretion. (One of my ex-bosses feels the same way about the DC-10/MD-11.)

  • Kelly M. Haggar
  • nickelndime

    Thanks for adding the site, Kelly M. Haggar. It was well worth the reading. Article 5 of the Constitution prohibits re litigating, and change even by amendment, so I guess WE THE PEOPLE are stuck with the US Senate. Too bad. But that’s not the only thing I walked away with. Also, outstandingly poor and outstandingly good candidates skew results. What do outstandingly good candidates look like? I am afraid that I will not be able to recognize one should that individual come our way. Your commentaries are outstandingly good (I recognize that). This part bothers me. You said, “If enough people want something badly enough long enough they will get it.” I support that idealism, but what I see happening in this country is this: A FEW EXTRAORDINARILY WEALTHY PEOPLE WHO WANT SOMETHING WILL GET WHAT THEY WANT WITHOUT WAITING VERY LONG. US Senators and Representatives are facilitating this kind of thinking, and it’s bad for most of us (outside of that 1% of the wealthiest individuals) who live, eat, work, play, and worship in this country. 01/05/2015 9:19 PM

  • nickelndime

    Hear ye! Hear ye! (town bell tolls) Kelly M. Haggar. Check this out. Is it true that WE acquired Cuba in the Spanish American War and then WE gave it (Cuba) back? Je Sus H. Holy Judas Priest! ! ! Big mistake! LMAspO! (that’s my pet snake ASP). 01/06/2015 12:09 AM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    As to wealth, can you think of a time/place in the 5,500-odd years of written history where money per se has LESS odds of getting what it wants than right now and right here? Assuming it were either possible or honorable to silence people just because they have oohgobs of money, has anyone done a better job of balancing the voices than today’s US? That Styer guy just spent $74 mil . . . losing every single candidate he backed. The next biggest spender was “Nurse” Bloomberg and he also lost every time. In fact, those two spent more than the next 8 combined, plus that Sheldon casino guy was the only R in the top 10. The other 9 were all Ds. So lighten up on the thick wallet fears.

    BTW, maybe you & I should start our own blog? No one else cares enough to respond.

  • nickelndime

    Yeah, you are right, Kelly M. Haggar. Think on this – what should WE call the blog? I keep thinking about Havana. “WE had it all…” 01/06/2015 3:29 PM

  • nickelndime

    “This week marks the start of the 114th Congress…the Republicans…majority in Senate and House of Representatives…” and so goes the email from David Vitter. As Johnny Cash sings, “Oh God, if I could just pack up and go…” 01/08/2015 1:05 AM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    Last Fri I attended a CLE (continuing legal education) on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) at LSU. One of the really interesting issues was the pending arguments and decision on the legislature of Arizona suing what amounts to the voters of Arizona for enacting a redistricting scheme. The legislature seems to think only THEY should be allowed to gerrymander. How dare the people try that by initiative and a ballot box?
    Here’s the part which may earn me a oak leak cluster on my “national treasure” award: one of the panelists (they were all out-of-state law profs) was concerned that, if the legislature loses and the voters win, we might be moving too far towards direct democracy.
    Imagine that. Here’s a law prof who thinks Shelby County was wrongly decided in 2013, the VRA needs not only restoration but strengthening, yet the Constitution was set up to limit and impede direct democracy.
    Hmmmm. Maybe this history and poli sci stuff is a little more . . . what’s that buzz word Ds like so much? . . . oh, yes . . . . “nuanced.”

  • nickelndime

    Hear! Hear! Tell me, Kelly M, Haggar, once we exit a “professionsl learning field,” where do we ca$h in/out our CLEs, CLUs…??? I am a$$uming they (the CLs) accumulate (hence the word, “continuing”) in places other than our own minds. Excellent, BTW! How is the “blog” coming along? 01/19/2015 10:59 PM

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    Sorry for the confusion. To remain in good standing, with a few exceptions for non-practicing folks, a La attorney must get 12.5 hours a year, including 1 of ethics and 1 of professionalism. And, no, “Lying 101” is NOT a required course in law school, nor is it taught in CLE.
    Haven’t given the blog much thought. To be more honest than I should be, I’m arguing with myself over the utility of trying to inject history, geology, or poli sci into the public square. I’ve been in a few rather spirited discussions over coffee or beer on that very question. I once thought about sponsoring a “geology night” through The Lens but the overhead was too high.

  • Kelly M. Haggar

    “A Dream Realized or a Dream Deferred: 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act of 1964” – – worth a trip up river for you N.O. folks?

    February 4, 2015

    The Honorable Carl E. Stewart, Chief Judge of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, will present the Judge Alvin B. and Janice G. Rubin Visiting Professor of Law Lecture on February 4, at the LSU Law Center.

    The lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the McKernan Auditorium.

  • nickelndime

    That’s funny, Kelly M. Haggar, I see that the LAW field has not stripped you of your sense of humor. Why is it that people say “practicing,” (e.g., LAW, MEDICINE)? Don’t you all ever get proficient? Hahaha! Thanks for the posts. They are most enjoyable, and your sharing attitude with the public shows a generous nature. 01/21/2015 5:38 PM