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Archive for April, 2005

Vitter to kill the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker once and for all

Posted by schroeder915 on April 29, 2005

By now, most people have caught the excitement over the story that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has been re-discovered in an Arkansas wildlife refuge after it was long believed to have been decimated to extinction. The story is today’s most-emailed article in the NY Times, demonstrating the very high value that people place on environmental issues, and on preserving ample habitat for diverse species to survive.

An interesting story on the search for the woodpecker can be heard in a 2002 NPR Radio Expeditions story.

Observe that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is pictured above in a cypress swamp. Also note that the Radio Expeditions story was done in a cypress swamp in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, just north of New Orleans – an area where the woodpecker was last thought to be heard tapping on a tree.


Pearl River Wildlife Management Area

Collectively, Louisiana’s wetlands provide over 30 percent of the nation’s total
commercial fisheries harvest and serve as the over-wintering habitat for 70 percent of the migratory waterfowl of the central and Mississippi flyway.

Unfortunately, there’s a tragic dimension to this story. At just the time when almost all Americans are giddy with excitement at this amazing discovery, Congress may be signing a death warrant on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

Cypress swamps are now among the most threatened habitats in the world. The resistance of cypress to rot makes the wood highly desireable for mulch.

Yes, mulch! Wood chips! Logging companies are reducing cypress forests into wood chips at an unprecedented rate.

Now, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) wants to make it even easier for loggers to get to the trees. He snuck a provision into a vital Louisiana coastal restoration bill to allow unregulated destruction of cypress forests – and there’s no doubt about it – Vitter wants the provision passed so that, specifically, more cypress can be harvested.

SEC. 2022. OBSTRUCTION OF NAVIGATION.
Section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403), is amended by adding at the end the following: “Nothing in this section regulates any activity that occurs, or structure that is located, on private property, unless the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating, determines that such an activity or structure poses a threat to the safe transit of maritime traffic.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has undertaken the responsibility for protecting cypress swampland under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. An email sent out by the Louisiana Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club explained the intent of Vitter’s amendment:

This amendment would effectively remove the Corps’ currently broad jurisdiction to regulate any activity – even on private property–if it is tidal or under the ordinary high water mark, that affects the condition and capacity of navigable waters under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. This language would impose a standard of “poses a threat to safe transit of maritime traffic” as determined by the Secretaries. This language is aimed at the authority that the Corps of Engineers has used in Louisiana to halt logging of cypress forests in the Maurepas Basin and to require a permit process. BUT it would also remove a broad jurisdiction under which the Corps looks at tidal marshes (Louisiana’s coastal marshes) as well.

The Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club had this to say on their website:

“In just a couple of sentences, this provision will let coastal cypress forests be clear-cut without any kind of permits required,” said Dean Wilson, chair of the Sierra Club Atchafalaya Committee. “In the same piece of legislation that we are asking Congress to authorize $1.9 billion dollars for restoring and protecting Louisiana’s coast, Senator Vitter’s amendment will protect the loggers as they destroy coastal forests. Most of those forests are not renewable and will never come back.”

The Vitter amendment was added into the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2005 in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which Senator Vitter is a member. By changing the scope of Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the provision would remove much Corps of Engineers oversight on activities on private lands that affect navigable waters, including clear-cutting of cypress forests.

“It’s clear that the timber industry wants to cut down our cypress swamps, just as they did when they logged out our ancient cypress forests in the early 1900’s. The Vitter amendment will help them do it without permits or oversight,” said Maurice Coman, Sierra Club Conservation Chair.

What a travesty! Can anyone imagine a picture of Louisiana without a cypress swamp?

And hey – this isn’t just about Louisiana. The Vitter provision will affect wetlands across the entire United States.

So tell Vitter where he can put his amendment.

Then tell your own senator to give Vitter’s amendment a thumbs down.

Finally, spread the news to everyone you know. This is the perfect time to act to kill Vitter’s amendment.

Update:

On more complete information provided to me by a reliable source, I should provide additional insight on the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction to protect cypress swamps.

Section 404:
Normally, if the Army Corps of Engineers finds that a cypress swamp falls within an area delineated as a wetland, the Corps has the jurisdiction under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to protect that area and the forest habitat. There is, however, a silviculture exemption to Section 404.

Section 10:
If a silviculture exemption is declared, the Corps has been resorting to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which requires permission from the Corps for a host of activities that might be undertaken in the course of cypress extraction.

The Corps hasn’t always been able to resort to Section 10, leading to a number of logging companies getting access rights to extract cypress. The difficulty of protecting cypress swampland underscores the need to establish a regulatory system that brings into consideration a definition of wetlands that more broadly encompasses an entire ecosystem. Moreover, there may be a need to better define what the Corps’ role should be in protecting wetlands, or even if the jurisdiction should pass to some other agency because of the sometimes conflicting missions the Corps has of both flood control and wetlands protection.

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More signs of stagflation

Posted by schroeder915 on April 29, 2005

After a discouraging report on economic growth and inflation, today the Commerce Department reported that incomes rose last month:

Americans’ incomes rose by 0.5 percent in March, the best showing in three months, and they used the extra money to boost consumer spending by 0.6 percent, the government reported Friday.

But before you go out and spend that paycheck, look again:

While incomes were up 0.5 percent…that increase was wiped out when inflation was taken into account to show no gain in inflation-adjusted disposable incomes in March following a small 0.1 percent increase in February.

But the Commerce Dept. report is a good sign for “the man”:

The 0.7 percent increase in the Employment Cost Index represented the smallest rise for wages and benefits in six years.

Watch for another downturn in the “W”-shaped roller coaster economy:

Economists don’t believe the surge in energy prices this year will be enough to push the country into a recession but they expect the country to have to endure a repeat of what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan termed last year a “soft patch.”

A sidebar story on yesterday’s Commerce Dept. report sharply defined the economic situation:

The economy braked sharply in the first three months of the year, the government reported yesterday, expanding at its slowest pace in two years as rising energy prices spurred a burst of increased inflation and dragged down spending by businesses and consumers.

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Bush in press conference: like a dog chasing his tail

Posted by schroeder915 on April 28, 2005

The most disappointing feature of monkey boy’s press conference was the press’ broad, unchallenging questions.

I thought it interesting that all of the broadcast networks, except for ABC, switched over to regular prime time programming before the press conference ended. Did they just see that there was no point in going any further, or is The Apprentice really more important than what the President of the United States has to say?

Bush said nothing new, finding no fault in himself as an uncompromising ideological divider, while contradicting himself on solutions to problems with Social Security and gasoline prices.

Almost his first response belied the very fact of him doing the press conference to try to stop the bloodletting in opinion polls on his handling of Social Security, the economy, Iraq, energy, etc, etc:

You know, if a president tries to govern based on polls, you’re kind of like a dog chasing your tail.

Treasury bonds are good enough if they’re in private retirement accounts:

I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

But not if they’re backing Social Security promises:

Our system is called pay as you go. You pay into the system through your payroll taxes and the government spends it. It spends the money on the current retirees and with the money left over, it funds other government programs.

And all that’s left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs.

Uh…if Bush is interested in making Social Security solvent, why isn’t he interested in a solution that would make Social Security solvent unless private accounts is part of the package? Once again, ideologically uncompromising:

QUESTION: Getting back to Social Security for a moment, sir, would you consider it a success if Congress were to pass a piece of legislation that dealt with the long-term solvency problem, but did not include personal accounts?

BUSH: I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security system.

People don’t pay their taxes, so the solution is tax reform? How about restoring the IRS budget for prosecution (one-third what it was under Clinton), and prosecute some of those welshing, unpatriotic bastards?

We’ve also got to make sure that we continue to reduce regulation. I think an important initiative — I know an important initiative that we’re going to be coming forth with here, probably in the fall, is tax reform.

You know, I was amazed by the report the other day that there’s some $330 billion a year that goes unpaid by American taxpayers. It’s a phenomenal amount of money.

To me, it screams for making the tax system easier to understand, more fair, so that we can — and to make sure people pay their taxes. More fair means pay what you owe.

How is a judge with a “judicial philosophy” any different from judges who “legislate from the bench”?

I think people are opposing my nominees because they don’t like the judicial philosophy of the people I’ve nominated. And some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That’s not my view of the proper role of a judge.

Wait a second, won’t dumping more oil on the market lower prices, and therefore affect the bottom line of Bush’s friends in the oil business? Can anyone really trust this guy?

I said in my opening statement that the best way to affect the current price of gasoline is to encourage producing nations to put more crude oil on the market.

That’s the most effective way, because the price of crude oil determines in large measure the price of gasoline. The feed stock for gasoline is crude oil, and when crude oil goes up, the price of gasoline goes up.

There are other factors, by the way, that cause the price of gasoline to go up, but the main factor is the price of crude oil. And if we can get nations that have got some excess capacity to put crude on the market, the increased supply, hopefully, will meet increased demand and therefore take the pressure off price.

So, what you’re saying is there’s no reason to give away ANWR to the oil companies, and no reason to give them a gift of $12 billion:

But, listen, the energy bill is certainly no quick fix. You can’t wave a magic wand. I wish I could.

Maybe you ought to be “jawboning” your friends in the oil business who have their hands on the tap:

Hopefully, additional crude oil on the market from countries with some spare capacity will help relieve the price for the American consumers.

So how is destroying Central American family farms by dumping our cheap wheat and corn the “friendly” thing to do?

We need to continue to open up markets for U.S. products. As you know, there’ll be a vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement here, hopefully soon.

I’m a strong believer that that’s in the interest of American job creators and workers that we open up those markets.

I know it’s important geopolitically to say to those Central American countries, You’ve got a friend in America.

Finally, the most interesting thing was Bush’s uncompromising ideological stance on private accounts, blaming divisiveness on Democrats in Congress, later contrasted by the surprising civility between Joe Biden (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Acknowledging the Democrats’ complaint that private accounts would take $1 trillion out of Social Security, worsening the crisis rather than fixing it, Lindsey Graham said that the only fair solution to the Social Security problem, if it included private accounts, was to put more money on the table.

When Biden was asked if he thought he could work with President Bush to come up with a solution, he said he could work with Lindsey Graham, and trusted Graham, but Bush wasn’t willing to put forward a workable compromise.

So who’s the uniter and who’s the divider?

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Just since the election, Bush cut your pay 3.9 percent

Posted by schroeder915 on April 28, 2005

NY Times:

…the Federal Reserve showed prices — excluding food and energy — rising at a rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2005. That was up considerably from a 1.7 percent rate in the fourth quarter and marked the highest reading since the final quarter of 2001

Note, that doesn’t even include the inflation caused directly by rising oil prices.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that the American economy slowed during the first quarter to its weakest pace in two years.

Could this be the start of stagflation?

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Bush AWOL on troop armor

Posted by schroeder915 on April 27, 2005

To the Editor:

Two years into the Iraq war, and the Humvee armor program is still incomplete. Two and a half years into World War II, and we were a few months away from D-Day.

I guess that tax cuts must be more important to the White House. Sad, sad.

Donald Lee Rome
West Hartford, April 25, 2005

What’s a concerned citizen to do, other than write letters to the editor?

Get your representatives to hound Bush for going AWOL on the armor issue:

Talk to your chump ass senator.
Talk to your chump ass representative.

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Bush: miserable failure

Posted by schroeder915 on April 26, 2005

DailyKos:

If you Google “Miserable Failure”, George W. Bush’s picture appears on top of the chart.

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Troops are dying while Bush sells out the fight against terrorism

Posted by schroeder915 on April 26, 2005

The biggest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, announced first quarter profits rose 27% to $369 million on sales of $8.5 billion, compared to a $291 million profit in the first quarter last year.

Lockheed Martin makes the F-16 fighter, C-130 transport plane, electronics systems, and has satellite investments.

The profit announcement was made just a week after President Bush announced he would be buying a fleet of new F-16’s for Pakistan, at a cost of $3 billion on the U.S. taxpayers’ tab. The NY Times reported that President Bush was giving Pakistan the F-16’s as a reward for that country’s aid in the war on terror.

Bullshit!

Abdul Qadeer Khan, who stole centrifuge blueprints from Norway, and later became the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, secretly sold nuclear material, designs, and possibly centrifuges to North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya. General Mushareff chafed at a request by intelligence analysts to hand over A.Q. Khan so they could determine more precisely the extent of damage, including the possibility that nuclear material and expertise may have been traded with Al Qaida terrorist cells. Bush crawled back to his corner, tail between his legs, let Khan off the hook, claimed the Khan network was dismantled, then rewarded Mushareff for his cooperation by donating two dozen F-16’s.

A former Pakistani army chief suggested that Khan couldn’t be prosecuted, because Mushareff would be implicated in the nuclear proliferation scheme: “If [Dr] Khan had appeared in a court of law many things would have come out. That is very dangerous for President Musharraf.”

After the announcement of F-16’s donated to Pakistan, Bush appeased India by saying that it too could buy F-16’s, opening up the possibility of Lockheed Martin selling another 126 fighter jets.

Hey, what do these countries need with F-16’s? They’d just hurtle them at each other, in which case, India would win because it has ten times as many jets as Pakistan. So what’s the point? Why throw away the taxpayers’ $3 billion on a guy who won’t open up his border with Afghanistan so U.S. troops can find Osama bin Laden, and who scoffs at U.S. attempts to clean up the nuclear mess created by A.Q. Khan.

Better yet, why not put that $3 billion into some freakin’ armor for troops in Iraq:

In returning home, the leaders and Marine infantrymen have chosen to break an institutional code of silence and tell their story, one they say was punctuated not only by a lack of armor, but also by a shortage of men and planning that further hampered their efforts in battle, destroyed morale and ruined the careers of some of their fiercest warriors.

The Army’s procurement system, which also supplies the Marines, has come under fierce criticism for underperforming in the war, and to this day it has only one small contractor in Ohio armoring new Humvees.

Marine Corps officials disclosed last month in Congressional hearings that they were now going their own way and had undertaken a crash program to equip all of their more than 2,800 Humvees in Iraq with stronger armor. The effort went into production in November and is to be completed at the end of this year.

Why is Bush still f***ing up on this critical issue while troops are getting slaughtered?

Is vacation on the ranch in Crawford more important? Or “town hall” propaganda meetings to privatize Social Security? Or selling F-16’s to Pakistan and India?

Meanwhile, business is good for the world’s biggest weapons manufacturer, and monkey boy remains the worst president ever!

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Bush petting session with Saudi prince

Posted by schroeder915 on April 25, 2005

In 2000, Bush claimed he knew how to handle OPEC. He said Clinton had to “jawbone” OPEC members:

“What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots. One reason why the price is so high is because the price of crude oil has been driven up. OPEC has gotten its supply act together, and it’s driving the price, like it did in the past. And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the prices, he said.

Does this constitute “jawboning”? Sounds more like a petting session:

This is an important relationship,” Mr. Bush said. “I’ve got a good personal relationship with the crown prince. I look forward to talking with him about a variety of subjects.”

…a Saudi official emerged from the meeting between the leaders saying Saudi Arabia had not been asked to ship more oil to the United States…

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deflected a question about whether Mr. Bush had pressed the Saudis, and by extension other OPEC members, to lower prices.

Administration officials described the talks between Mr. Bush and the crown prince as wide-ranging, friendly and positive…

Could it be that Bush is talking to the wrong guy? Oil companies are reporting record profits:

1/27/05, ConocoPhillips Doubles Profit In 4th Quarter
“ConocoPhillips reported net income of $2.43 billion…for the period that ended in December, up from $1.02 billion…in the year-earlier.”

2/1/05: Exxon Mobil Earnings Jumped 27% in Quarter
“…fourth-quarter profit rose…to record $8.42 billion…net income climbed…from $6.65 billion, year earlier.”

2/4/05: Shell Makes Another Cut In Reserves; Profit Jumps
“Royal Dutch/Shell Group reduces its proven oil and gas reserves by additional 10 percent, [but] company reports net income of $4.48 billion in fourth quarter, more than double $1.9 billion it earned in quarter year earlier.”

2/9/05: Occidental Revises Quarterly Profit Upward
“…fourth-quarter profit was 12 percent higher than previously reported…$742 million, rather than the $665 million…reported on Jan. 24….Profit almost doubled from $382 million a year earlier.”

2/9/05: BP Says Earnings Jumped in Quarter and for Year
“BP reports better-than-expected profit for fourth quarter and full year, and says it might return $23 billion to shareholders in dividends and buybacks in next two years; net income rose 26 percent in quarter, to $3.6 billion; full-year net income also rose 26 percent, to $16.2 billion; BP says production volumes will increase in 2005 to 4.1 million to 4.2 million barrels per day, up from just under 4 million barrels per day in 2004.”

4/5/05, ChevronTexaco Offers $16.8 Billion for Unocal
“…expands its global reach and could ignite wave of takeovers of midtier producers; transaction is industry’s largest in three years.”

Meanwhile, is anyone asking why refineries are shutting down at a time when demand is high? Didn’t we see these production problems when Enron was sticking it to “Grandma Millie”?

A gasoline-making unit at a Lake Charles, Louisiana, refinery owned by ConocoPhillips, the largest U.S. refiner, yesterday failed to start after maintenance, Reuters reported, without naming its source. Conoco spokeswoman Laura Hopkins declined to comment.

San Antonio-based Valero, the third-largest U.S. refiner, on April 18 said a coker at its St. Charles, Louisiana, plant will be shut until at least April 26, halting 336,000 gallons of daily gasoline output and 1.05 million gallons of daily distillate production. Distillates include diesel and heating oil.

A Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery owned by Koch Industries Inc.’s Flint Hills unit slowed operations April 19 after a flange leaked, the company said in a report filed with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. The plant can process 300,000 barrels of crude a day.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, South America’s largest oil producer, last week stopped gasoline and diesel production at its Puerto La Cruz refinery after one of the plant’s units was shut, El Nacional reported today, citing unidentified industry officials.

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Bill Frist, televangelist – where to begin?

Posted by schroeder915 on April 25, 2005

Indeed, where to end? Diving in…

After it hosted Bill Frist’s political telecast denouncing Democrats as being against “people of faith,” shouldn’t the tax-exempt status of the Louisville Highview Baptist Church now be questioned?

Frank Rich:

Tonight’s megachurch setting and pseudoreligious accouterments notwithstanding, the actual organizer of “Justice Sunday” isn’t a clergyman at all but a former state legislator and candidate for insurance commissioner in Louisiana, Tony Perkins…he told a gathering in Washington this month that the judiciary poses “a greater threat to representative government” than “terrorist groups.” And we all know the punishment for terrorists. Accordingly, Newsweek reports that both Justices Kennedy and Clarence Thomas have “asked Congress for money to add 11 police officers” to the Supreme Court, “including one new officer just to assess threats against the justices.” The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal judiciary, has requested $12 million for home-security systems for another 800 judges.

Meanwhile, leaders throughout history have cautioned against mixing religion and politics.

Thomas Jefferson:

…the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time.

Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, 1779

In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.

Letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

Thomas Paine:

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.

The Rights of Man, 1791-1792

Samuel West:

For the civil authority to pretend to establish particular modes of faith and forms of worship, and to punish all that deviate from the standards which our superiors have set up, is attended with the most pernicious consequences to society. It cramps all free and rational inquiry, fills the world with hypocrites and superstitious bigots–nay, with infidels and skeptics; it exposes men of religion and conscience to the rage and malice of fiery, blind zealots, and dissolves every tender tie of human nature.

Dartmouth, MA, Election Sermon, 1776

John Buchanan, baptist minister:

Preachers like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell should not forget that, in the colony of Virginia, Baptist ministers were beaten and imprisoned and run out of town for preaching their dissenting faith, while Anglican ministers were paid with tax funds from the state treasury.

April 10, 1986

Abraham Lincoln:

When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: “All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer immigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

Letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855

Richard M. Johnson, Vice President (1837-1841):

It is not the legitimate province of the legislature to determine what religion is true, or what is false.

Second Report on the Transportation of the Mail on Sundays, 1830

Barry Goldwater (hey Tom Delay and Bill Frist, listen up!):

Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.

Speech delivered in 1981

Robert G. Ingersoll:

In all ages, hypocrites, called priests, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called kings.

Prose Poems and Selections, 1884

William E. H. Lecky, historian:

Almost all Europe, for many centuries, was inundated with blood, which was shed at the direct instigation or with the full approval of the ecclesiastical authorities.

History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, 1866

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, Russian nuclear scientist:

Intellectual freedom is essential to human society. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships.

And if that’s not enough to confirm or convince readers that there is absolutely no place in politics for Bill Frist’s grandstanding antics, there are more quotes here.

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Huey P. Long was not assassinated

Posted by schroeder915 on April 24, 2005

Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long was not assassinated by Dr. Carl Weiss. He was accidentally killed by his bodyguards who later planted a gun in Weiss’ hand.

This was the testimony of Col. Francis Grevemberg on WDSU’s “Closeup”, the former Louisiana State Police Superintendent (1952-56). He credited eyewitness state troopers on the scene of Huey Long’s death with the information.

Grevemberg’s story is told in a new book, My Wars.

Grevemberg was made famous for smashing thousands of illegal slot machines and cracking down on prostitution despite mob threats against him and his family.

There’s more on Huey Long’s death at the Calcasieu Louisiana History site.

Huey “Kingfish” Long, the populist governor who campaigned on the slogan “Every man a king,” was the most active governor in Louisiana’s history, implementing a broad array of public works projects. Many historians suggest that he had presidential aspirations, and that he might have challenged FDR for the White House. His strongarm tactics and unprecedented consolidation of power in Louisiana has led others to question what his legacy might have been given events in Europe at the time.

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