Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Leave it to a preacher to ask a serious and relevant question about ways to save money in a state that faces a huge financial crisis.  At a recent forum of candidates running for Lt. Governor in Louisiana, Pastor Lewis Richerson of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge asked an interesting question. 

“Some have said that Louisiana does not need a Lieutenant Governor’s Office. In light of the budget crisis that our state is facing, what apologetics could you make tonight to validate the Lieutenant Governor’s office in the state of Louisiana?”

The four candidates in attendance muttered the standard time-worn lines that the job is “a heartbeat away from the Governor,” and lamented that a number of state agencies would go to hell in a hand basket if the Lite Guv’s office were eliminated.  Ah, the melodrama of Louisiana political campaigns.  Let’s be realistic.  If the office of Lt. Governor were eliminated, nary a voter would see the slightest difference.

Under the present Louisiana constitution, the Lt. Governor has no assigned duties. The person holding the office is at the beck and call of the governor.  When I served as Secretary of State back in the 1980’s, I would often make fun of my friend, Lt. Governor Bobby Friedman.  If he were in attendance at a gathering, I would tell the crowd that I knew what the Lt. Governor did all day. “As best I can figure, the Lt. Governor gets up in the morning to see if per chance the governor died the night before.  If not, he’s free go fishing, play bouree, or do whatever he wants.” 

Friedman would always feign laughter, but the point was made. The job has no constitutional duties.  The legislature has put the Lt. Governor in charge of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, but do we really need to elect a bureaucrat to see that the trash is picked up in state parks and museum pictures are dusted off?

Seven states across the country do not even have a lieutenant governor, and Tennessee and West Virginia just give the title to the president of the State Senate.  In 21 states, the governor and the lt. governor run as a team on the same ticket, similar to how national elections for president and vice president are selected. In fact, only 17 states have entirely separate elections for governor and lt. governor.

Having the two offices run as a ticket actually makes pretty good sense.  The governor would then have a lt. governor of his or her selection, and would be able to assign duties to a colleague well trusted to work together as a team effort.

Quite frankly, several other statewide offices could also be appointed by the governor as is done in a number of states. I held two such offices that could well go on the chopping block.  The Secretary of State is an appointed position in 12 states and three more don’t even have the office that some refer to as a “high end or glorified clerk of court.”  The Louisiana constitution requires that the Secretary of State be the keeper of the “Great Seal of Louisiana.”  I looked for the Seal during my entire 8 years in office, but never found it.

And how about the office of Louisiana Insurance Commissioner?  Would you believe there are only 11 insurance commissioners elected in the entire country? Commissioners spend a good part of their time raising campaign dollars from the very people they are supposed to regulate.  Is this the best way to assure policyholders of reasonable insurance rates?

And then there is the Agriculture Commissioner.  Twelve states select, while 38 states appoint.  It must make Louisianans more at ease to know that some politician is checking up on the veggies and milk they consume.  There’s a move by a number of education groups to elect the Superintendent of Education.  Oh great!  Let’s put a politician in charge to screw up the education of our kids even more.  Why not just elect ‘em all right down to dogcatchers and trash haulers, right?

Pastor Richerson makes a good point.  In a time of major fiscal crisis caused by inept political oversight, does Louisiana need to elect more positions than any other state in the nation?  Some consolidation would seem to make good sense for a state on the verge of going broke.  But are any public officials listening?


Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith spent 20 years in the broadcast booth with Howard Cosell on Monday night football.  When the game became out of reach in the waning minutes for the team behind, Meredith was famous for singing: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”  Too bad Meredith is not around today to sing to Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal.  His quixotic presidential campaign is about out of gas, and the fat lady is close to sing his swan song.

Things have gotten so bad on the campaign trail that even Duck Dynasty’s Robinson family, once strong Jindal supporters, have jumped ship to Donald Trump. Jindal’s national poll numbers fail to even register 1%.  And with over 50% of Republican voters picking candidates who have never been elected to public office, any chance of growth for campaign Jindal seems slim to none.

Seven years ago, I wrote a column about the Louisiana Governor being the “fair haired boy” of the national Republican Party.  He was loudly praised by the GOP nationwide and touted as John McCain’s running mate by the likes of The Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh.  His star lost a little luster with he poor response to the State of the Union speech in 2010.  But Jindal has criss-crossed the nation, year after year, hoping to grab the golden ring for a 2016 run for the White House.

 So what happened to Bobby Jindal?  How could his campaign spiral into irrelevancy after so many years of campaigning?  A number of things transpired that seemed positive at the time, but ended up being an anchor around the Governor’s neck.

Yes, Jindal was touted as the bright new GOP star, but the national Republican Party pushed him into the spotlight way to soon.  Jindal had only a minor grasp of national issues, and no background in world affairs.  He came across as simplistic, and was parodied as TV’s Mr. Rogers after his disastrous State of the Union retort.  He was just too green and it was exceedingly early for Jindal to make waves on the national seen.

Once his presidential ambitions consumed Jindal, he turned his back on his home state.  He failed to establish a record governing Louisiana that he could tout across the country.  Once the national press began looking into his home state accomplishments, cynicism creped into news stories about his abilities to run the country.

Try as he may, Jindal could not shake his image as just another politician.  There are several other current governors running for the Republican nomination, and many voters view them as politicians out of touch and have discarded all of them, including Jindal.

This will sound a bit tongue in cheek, but Bobby Jindal is too short.  When was the last time we had a little guy who was the leader of the free world?  (I used the same line when I ran for Louisiana governor back in 1987.  Congressmen Buddy Roemer and Billy Tauzin were both little guys well under six feet.  And they both soundly trounced me.  So much for short guy theories.)

But the main reason his current campaign hasn’t gained any traction is that Jindal has become the angry young man.  Voters are not going to support a candidate who is fuming and furious all the time.  Sure there are plenty of issues to get mad about.  But voters have been worn out by Jindal’s constant tirades.  He just seems to never have fun.  Donald trump is amusing, entertaining and always seems to enjoy being on the campaign trail.  Jindal rarely lightens up.

 In a phrase, Jindal seeks to impose rather than propose.  He demands that you agree with him, rather than pointing to a better road to take, and a superior method to solve the nation’s ills.  Voter’s want inspiration, not a lecture.  They want America to be exceptional again.  Jindal offers worn out buzz words, rather than substance. His failure to recognize the need for the country to embrace a leader who offers a positive call to arms has been his downfall. Bobby Jindal chose a different path, and now he will have to live with the consequences.

Back home in the Bayou State, the state budget is in free fall over Jindal’s lack of attention. The Louisiana Governor might want to turn on his radio. The band Matchbook 20 has a big hit still being played. There’s a line that should fit well in his future plans.
“If you're gone, maybe it's time to come home.”


“I’m going to apply all my knowledge and training from my Ivy League and Oxford educations,… and as Chief Executive Officer of the state Louisiana. Here it is– here’s my sophisticated analysis: we have one hell of a mess.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Thursday, September 24th, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana


The Pope is taking the country by storm having made visits to three American cities in the past week.  His schedulers made one oversight in planning Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S.  He should have come to Louisiana.  More than half the population in South Louisiana is Catholic. There are over 500,000 Catholics in the New Orleans area alone.  If the pope wanted to visit a state with a Catholic pulse, the Bayou State should have been a “must stop” for the pontiff. 

Catholic newspaper OSV Newsweekly puts New Orleans at the top of their list to visit a city that reflects Catholic “culture, history, physical landscape and spirituality.” The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest continuing functioning Cathedral in the country, built in 1789.  The first Catholic hospital was founded in the Crescent City, Hotel Dieu, operated by the Daughters of Charity.  It would be hard to find a region more quintessentially Catholic since its founding than a large part of Louisiana.

Now I’m about as Catholic as one can get without actually making the conversion. I was married in the church, and my three daughters were baptized by Bishop Charles Greco, the late and beloved Patriarch of the central and north Louisiana parishes.  When my children were quite young, our family spent a number of winter weekends with Bishop Greco at a family hunting and fishing camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River, some 30 miles below Vicksburg.

On many a cold and rainy morning, a handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a Sunday or holiday Mass. And even though I was not Catholic, he treated me as one of his own. The Bishop would patiently sit for hours and answer my barrage of questions about the history and the relevancy of the Catholic Church.

During the years I practiced law in Ferriday, Louisiana, Father August Thompson became a mentor and good friend. He urged me to actively become involved a number of social issues within the community, and his urgings eventually led me to run for public office and to being elected a Louisiana State Senator.

Father Chris Naulty, now pastoring in New Orleans, toured our family through the Vatican, even taking us down under St. Peter’s to the historic catacombs, and opened my eyes to the vast history of the Church and to the influence of Catholicism world wide.  In my hometown of Baton Rouge, Fathers Miles Walsh and Cleo Milano are my sparring partners when I raise questions about the future direction of the church. Father Cleo pastors at Lady of Mercy, which is close to my home.  The Church has a marvelous adoration chapel that is open 24 hours a day.  It’s my resting place for meditation and solitude several times a week.

So why haven’t I become Catholic?  I was named after the disciple James, the brother of Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament book of James, the disciple conveys a Christian doctrine of simplicity.  He offers two premises to be a convert. Believe in a higher being and do good works. That’s it. No involved ritual. No pomp and circumstance. Simply believing and helping others.

This new Pope seems to be in the direction of more simplification, and appears willing to face head on a number of controversies that have divided the Church.  Catholics worldwide seem to want more openness, more discussion and better communication. As Billy Joel sang about the church: “Virginia, they didn’t give you quite enough information.”

Pope Francis will have to confront the issue of a dwindling number of priests to minister to a flock of over one billion Catholics. What about priests being allowed to marry?  Women joining the priesthood, an increasing responsibility for nuns including the offering of the Sacraments facing up to the sex abuse scandals, allowing for more evangelical services that are not as strong on ritual — all are issues that have a growing constituency that will require attention and reasonable understanding by the new pope.

 Yet, in spite of all the pressures to change and adapt, the Catholic Church should have a moral consistency, and not just modify doctrine and core beliefs based on current popular whim. Shouldn’t the Ten Commandments and the truths of the Sermon of the Mount be perpetual?

Pope Francis, although popular worldwide, has his work cut out to unify a church enmeshed in controversy. Thousands of Louisiana Catholics, who by and large desire a church grounded in moral consistency, seem to be giving this Pope good will and the benefit of any doubt. As for this aging but quite interested possible convert, I’ll be watching on the sidelines.


“I'd rather live my whole life assuming there is a God, only to find out that there isn't, than to live my whole life assuming there isn't a God, only to find out there is.”
Peter Barry

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, September 17, 2015


September 17th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


According to national political pundits, there is a revolution going on all over America.  Voters are in a rebellion mode with little confidence in the political leadership at both the national and state levels.  Being an incumbent politician is no longer a badge of honor.  The career candidates running for president seem dead in the water, with newcomers garnering well over 50% of the national vote.

A poll released this week sponsored by the Washington Post and ABC news finds that “72% of Americans believe that politicians cannot be trusted and two thirds think the countries political system is dysfunctional. A not insignificant share of folks openly embraced radicalism: 21% of those polled would rather ‘tear down’ the political system and ‘start over’ than try to fix it.”  With these feelings running rampant with voters, it’s not surprising that outsiders who have never run for office like Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are surging ahead of incumbent elected officials.

There are few states where voters are not rebelling against the status quo.  “Throw the bums out” is the battle cry.  “In the fall, fire ‘em all.”   But what’s happening way down in the deepest of the deep southern states?  Is there a political upheaval and open voter uprising taking place?  Have a wave of new candidates emerged to bring down incumbency and shake up the political establishment?  Hardly.

 The typical reaction in the Bayou State, with a gubernatorial election just weeks away, might be summed up with a “Yawn…who are the Saints and the Tigers playing this weekend?”  As of right now, it’s like the state is throwing an election party, with little interest and few who really care.

The qualifying period to run for office took place two weeks ago. Half of the legislative seats were filled with no challengers.  Sixty-nine state legislators were returned to office unopposed.  In fact 43% of all offices on the ballot were filled without opposition. So why all the apathy? Why aren’t more Louisiana citizens interested in running for public office at a time when support for those in office is so low? It’s a combination or reasons.

First, there is a pervasive feeling that nothing is really going to change. Remember the 60s song by the Who titled “Won’t Get Fooled again?”  The lyrics say: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”  To many voters, there is a pervasive feeling that it really doesn’t make any difference who gets elected.

A big factor for a challenger is raising campaign contributions. And as the old saying goes, money is the mother’s milk of politics.  Incumbents begin raising money for the next campaign right after they get elected.  New rules make it much easier for state and national PACs to pour campaign dollars into the coffers of legislators.  Challengers campaign against the cesspool politics at the state capitol. But once elected, the cesspool turns into a hot tub of campaign dollars.

Elections have become so expensive, driven by the cost of media, particularly TV commercials.  Until recently, even statewide candidates traveled the state to campaign, and never missed a fair or festival.  “Retail politics” made it possible to run a campaign on a reasonable budget.  No more.  Legislative campaigns can often run $500,000 or more, an obscene amount of money.  Many challengers have been priced out of the political market.

The governor’s race often sets the tone for issues for many legislative races.  But the four major gubernatorial candidates have offered platitudes of generalities with few specifics for major government reform and restructuring. They each have rebuffed any comparison to the present highly unpopular governor, but offer few alternatives. The state is in terrible fiscal shape, healthcare needs a massive infusion of funds, and the state’s infrastructure has been crippled for lack of maintenance.  Yet few details by any candidate have been set out in a master plan for reform.

Two other reasons have caused voters to “tune out” in this year’s election.  The failure of the state Democratic Party to recruit new candidates and the fact that Louisiana politics is not all that much fun any more.  We will explore these issues in a future column. As for now, don’t look for much excitement between now and Election Day in October.


"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."
 -- Emma Goldman

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at