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Jindal at the Alamo



photo from HuffingtonPost

photo from HuffingtonPost






Like your typical political junkie I’ve been fascinated by the avalanche of (mostly hostile) local and national responses to Governor Bobby Jindal’s sad performance on Tuesday evening, as he tried to rebut President Obama’s inspiring speech to Congress.  

By the time our young and ambitious leader (and my former boss) had combined his curious anecdote about the abysmal federal response to Hurricane Katrina with derisive comments about wasting money on volcano monitoring and high speed rail transit* I found myself wondering whether the alligators surrounding him would ultimately exceed the height of his armpits.  I also wondered which hapless staffer had written his speech.  

For someone who is connected both by heritage and marriage to the field of engineering, the governor sounded strangely anti-technology.  When one combines his remarks on Tuesday with his strong support for the anti-science so-called Louisiana Science Education Act he begins to sound almost Luddite.  

Most readers of LaCoastPost are aware that Louisiana’s coastal needs dwarf the (very ambitious) Everglades Project. Thus, the governor’s overt challenge to President Obama during the latter’s first month in office seems poorly timed, to say the least, especially from the standpoint of increasing our chances to attract serious administrative support.

In the unlikely chance that Governor Jindal happens to read this post I would very much like him to know that: (1) I proudly served on his staff for nine months; (2) I still take him at his word when he promises to keep Louisiana’s enormous coastal needs at the top of his priorities; and (3) those of us whose careers have long been linked to our coast wish him great success for the remainder of his term, especially with respect to (2).

Len Bahr

Disney World photo

Disney World photo

*I’m not the first to note the irony of the Jindal family visit to the Magic Kingdom just two days after he implied that making it easier and more energy efficient to travel there via high speed rail was not something that our government should support.  Conservative Republican President Dwight Eisenhower clearly didn’t hold that view about the role of government when he promoted the interstate system in the 1950’s.  On a related note, I had a single meeting with Mayor Ray Nagin, representing Governor Foster, just a few months before Katrina.  During that meeting (ironic in hindsight) I described the need for efficient passenger rail service between Houston and New Orleans, partly as an effective means for evacuating potential hurricane victims from either city!

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  1. Editilla-
    Ragging on the Corps of Engineers is like complaining about taxes; it’s a feel good exercise with very limited effect. I could (and have) wasted hours recounting examples of the corps’ incompetence, arrogance, ineptness and especially lack of accountability, using specific examples of which I have personal knowledge. Believe me, such conversations change nothing.

    The only way to change the corps is from the inside and from the top down. I supported the appointment of Gerry Galloway for a position from which I strongly believed this very smart man, with inside knowledge of the corps, could have helped the Obama administration steer the corps in a greener direction. I’m using the past tense because the word on the street is that unfortunately Dr. Galloway is no longer under consideration, perhaps for that very reason.

    That makes me sad.

  2. Ms. Scott,
    in the interests of due diligence, I just returned from the library where I went to see your visual biography of the Mississippi River. (I cannot afford to purchase it right now, but will at a more fiscally reasonable time) It is “a beautiful collection, a fine piece of hard work. But, despite your damn near affectionate bias, the Corps of Engineers no more represents any standard of competence in Civil Engineering than it does any self-perceived role as benevolent protector of that river system. They are malevolent to the corps. They would change the meaning of engineering from that of “building with certainty” to “Marketing Risk.”

    Here is a pretty good history of the Yazoo Backwater Project, aka: the Yazoo Pump.
    That pump is for Agri Business, not We the People.
    I have personal experience in this issue, having grown up in the Sunflower River delta of Mississippi and witnessed first hand the Corps set-up for this project over decades of bad water management practices (such as mentioned in my comment above regarding dredging and channelization). As well my father, a civil/electrical engineer/farmer, battled them on this very boondoggle for over a decade, before stopping them in the 90s. He knew then that their victory was temporary. His last take on the whole thing was: “The Corps will just wait out any opposition and come back later after we have all passed on.” Funny you would cite that particular project to bolster the Anti-Government argument, because That is Exactly what the Corps has done. They are the ones to bring this project back on line. How might the Corps “lobby” you ask? Big Engineering Project Earmarks.
    For example, two of the most powerful men to have ever occupied a seat, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, were always thought of in Mississippi as the “Corps Senators”. Politics is one thing and Environment another –and Corps has no illusions as to the difference.

    But this Pump (the largest Pump every built in history) is a perfect example of Corps Make-Works, as well as the longevity of their lobby. It is also an example of the effectiveness of Corps Public Relations in that most people, especially you, really have no idea as to the scale and age of the project and who in fact is behind it.

    The Corps is and has always been The Problem with failed flood control and coastal erosion in this country. Hasn’t anyone here read the book “Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein?

    I know you folks are sick of hearing from me, and I appreciate it.
    Thank you,
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  3. Len, great points as usual.

    I must address Quinta Scott’s Corps/Galloway PR Spin: You have not studied the role the Corps of Engineers has played in vanishing our coastlines. Through their incompetent Project Engineering they have consistently channeled, narrowed and sped-up the flow of water while containing the flow of life-giving sediments with every project on the upper Mississippi.
    In one sentence you open with the denial of that, and attempt to connect it with their engineering failures in New Orleans.

    [Whatever water project Congress authorizes, the Corps does.]
    That is simply not true.
    In truth, we are facing that menace right now, today, with the doubling of costs estimates for the Surge Barrier, the change-ups in designs for the Lake front surge protection and nearly 10 fold increased costs estimates last year for the Morganza to the Gulf.
    As long as people keep spouting that: “It is Congress not the Corps” then the Corps will continue to play 3 Card Monty with the money we (congress) have already mandated their way.

    The idea that the Corps follows congressional mandate to the letter is not only ludicrous but dangerously naive at best –and out right reframing of the story at its propagandized worst. Really.

    [In many ways Congress treats the Corps of Engineers as its private engineering firm. Gerald Galloway has called it “water policy by earmarks.]
    Sorry, but Gerry owes his very career to those “earmarks”. Gerry has been spinning this yarn for years. It is simply not the true story of how the Corps manipulates Congressional districts against each other for funding from these “earmarks”.
    The rhetoric behind that statement frighteningly resembles Jindal’s anti-government spiel cited here in today’s post.

    Lacoastpost of course has every right to endorse whatever ASCE/CORPS Corporate Titan they want to head the Corps of Engineers project funding allocations. But, I take issue with this sideways public relations for the very “Engineers” who have contributed the greatest destruction to our coast.

    Congress is not the problem. We can change congress, as is written in the Constitution. But we cannot seem to effect even the slightest change in the Corps of Engineers. Why is that, Quinta? Len? Why can’t we do anything with the Corps?

    Thank you,
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  4. Len,

    I think you’re basically right in your questions. Jindal doesn’t have to stop being a member of the opposition party, but he does have to effectively represent Louisiana, even at the expense of his national political ambitions (which are clearly the priority.)

    To take an example you cited – he ridiculed funding for volcano monitoring. I suppose a case could be made that this isn’t actually stimulus/job-creation, but it’s also a tiny, tiny part of the whole bill. More importantly, how does it look to the country for the Governor of a state devastated by hurricanes to mock funding for states threatened by volcanoes? If Louisiana lacked the hurricane monitoring capacity that it has, and a small measure was slipped in the stimulus bill to fund that, would our reaction be the same?

    Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington all have dormant volcanoes that could become active with horrendous consequences. Jindal’s performance doesn’t help build support from those states for coastal restoration. It conveys the impression that Louisiana careens between destitution and overweening arrogance, holding out our hand for federal funding and biting it at the same time. This can’t be an intelligent strategy.

  5. After studying how we have changed the Mississippi River, the wetlands it formed, including the Louisiana Coast, and how we are trying to restore them, I have concluded that the problem today is not the Corps of Engineers, through there were huge problems with the design of the levees that failed during Katrina.

    Congress is the problem.

    In many ways Congress treats the Corps of Engineers as its private engineering firm. Gerald Galloway has called it “water policy by earmarks.”

    Example: On September 22, 2005 Senators Landrieu and Vitter introduced the Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act in the Senate. Its price tag, a demand of $250 billion from the Federal treasury for every project conceivable in Louisiana and some that were not, was over and above the $63 billion Congress had already appropriated for emergency relief in Louisiana. It was, in the cliché politicians apply to unrealistic bills, “dead on arrival.”

    Whatever water project Congress authorizes, the Corps does. If it’s not authorized, it’s not going to happen. And, once Congress authorizes, it will live forever until Congress de-authorizes it.

    Example: Senators Lott and Cochran raised the Yazoo Pump in Mississippi, which had been languishing on Corps drafting boards for fifty years, from the dead. Fortunately, the EPA killed it off last September. Maybe.

    Example: Several times Congress has deauthorized the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project in Arkansas, only to have the current Arkansas senator get it reauthorized.

    As for Bobby Jindal, I haven’t sorted out which way he is going on ecosystem restoration in Louisiana. But, then I live in the land of Blago.

  6. LEt me say this. I think Vitter nad Jindal are playing their proper roles as the opposition party

    For instance Senator Mary Landrieu really opposed Bush in a vocal way. I don’t think the fact we we did not get a sudden infuse of funding for these projects was because of that.

    I guess I am dperessed because it seems that in the end it is raw numbers and and power and Louisiana is on the short end of it

    Lets looks at the District most affected. Tauzin was a Democrat and got nothing. He became a Republican and got nothing. Now there is a Democrat down there and he is whistling in the wind on this issue. One would think from a poltical standpoint if Melachon was to run against Vitter that the Dems would like to give him a major Coastal Erosion victory. Doesn’t happen. It does not happen with any of elected dofficals regardless of party.

    I guess that is why I am becoming increasing frustrated. It is not party. It is the United States Congress that has not realized the problem and a from a poltical standpoint I have no idea how to correct it.

  7. JH-
    First, I respect and value your comments;
    Second, I try very hard not to let my personal political opinions color my professional interest in the (bipartisan) struggle to save at least some of our coast;
    Third, I managed to work successfully for three Republican and two Democatic governors before retiring, during which time I stayed focused on science and the big goal.

    My recent criticism of Gov. Jindal and Sen. Vitter relates to the political fact that we’re a small poor red state with huge financial needs in a country that just underwent a major political change. Nevertheless, since the inauguration both of these public servants have gone out of their way to show their disdain for our new president, which marginalizes our state and reduces our likelihood of getting the federal support that we so desperately need.

    As you say, we absolutely need to work together and I hope that you continue to stay involved in coastal issues and expressing your opinions. That’s exactly why I founded this blog!

  8. First let me say your blog is a blessing because we all need to work together to work out this problem

    Must I totally disagree with the tenor of your last two posts. I have posted a full response here at

    Do Jindal and Vitter Need To Shut Up So Too Save Louisiana Coast?


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