Thursday, August 17, 2017

THE KU KLUX KLAN IN LOUISIANA!


August 17th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

THE KU KLUX KLAN IN LOUISIANA!

Focus is back on the Ku Klux Klan following the tragic violence in Charlottesville last week. The Southern Poverty Law Center released data alleging that the Klan is still active in Louisiana, particularly in the central and northwest part of the state.

The Klan had once held a significant presence statewide throughout the first half of the 20th century. But following the enactment of 1964 Civil Rights Act, the FBI was given the authority to crack down on what used to be unevenly enforced state violations, and Klan activity in the Bayou State slowed to a trickle.

 Not so in my old hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana, as well as across the river in Natchez, Mississippi. As many as 20 local black citizens were reportedly killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the 60s, but few arrests were made, and a number of cases ended up on the back burner as years went by. But sparked by the dogged reporting of Stanley Nelson with the Concordia Sentinel, whose series of articles on the Klan won him a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, the FBI began taking a look at what happened just about the time I landed in Ferriday with a new law degree.

In December of 1964, the KKK burned down a local shoe shop in Ferriday with the owner, Frank Morris, in it at the time. Morris was severely burned and died a few days later. Why was he targeted? Apparently because he was black, ran a successful business, and had a number of white customers.

Another major fire attributed to the local Klan was the burning of Haney’s Big House, one the best known black music nightclubs in the Deep South. Every black jazz great in New Orleans, from Louis Armstrong to Fats Domino, played at Haney’s. And local cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart were known to sneak into Haney’s by the back door. When white fans started to come to Haney’s, it was quickly burned to the ground.

When I ran for Louisiana State Senator in 1971, Klan activities had moved north towards Franklin Parish. One of my opponents had strong support from the local Klan, and I received my share of threats that I, perhaps foolishly, did not take that seriously. But signs and billboards in support of my campaign rarely lasted the night.  Fortunately for me, the local white knights were fairly old guys by then and had little support in the local community.

The notorious Jim Leslie murder that took place in Baton Rouge in 1976 had ties to Concordia Parish and the Klan. Leslie ran a successful public relations agency, and had been a key player in the passage of Right-to-Work legislation at the state capitol in Baton Rouge. He was killed in a motel parking lot a few hours after the legislation was successfully adopted.

The purported triggerman, Rusty Griffith, was gunned down in a lower Concordia wildlife refuge a few months after the Leslie killing. The Dixie Mafia tied to Shreveport’s top law officer at the time, the Public Safety Commissioner named George D’Artois, supposedly hired Griffith. The assassination money, some $100,000, was allegedly funneled via the local Natchez-Concordia Parish Klan to Griffith and his accomplices. When Griffith got greedy and wanted more money, so the rumor goes, he too was gunned down.

When the gang that bumped off Griffith was arrested, yours truly was appointed by the court in Concordia Parish to represent Clay Kimble, one of the ringleaders involved in both the Leslie and Griffin murders. So I’m well aware of all the gory details, and where the skeletons are buried. Well, maybe not literally (or at least I’m not sayin’ nothin’).

Now, after 50 years, renewed pressure is being put on the FBI to aggressively pursue those Klansmen still living who may have been accomplices in these Louisiana murders. Old wounds have opened back up, and many older folks who were there at the time seem to be pleased that some justice may eventually come to some of the families who suffered the loss of loved ones.

A number of Klansmen, particularly in North Louisiana area, got away with murder. At least up until now. With so much renewed interest, here’s hoping this will change.
******
I ran into Ku Klux Klan and the threat of hurricanes, and those two things made me decide not to build on the Alabama coast, so we came back to Memphis.”
Shelby Foote (Southern writer and historian)
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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com. 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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.








Thursday, August 10, 2017

WHO’S AT FAULT FOR HIGH AUTO INSURANCE RATES?

August 10th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
WHO’S AT FAULT FOR HIGH AUTO INSURANCE RATES?
Year after year, Louisiana sits at the top of the list for the most expensive state in the nation for auto insurance.  Insure.com just released a new study showing the Bayou State in a neck and neck race with Michigan to maintain it’s honor for average costs that tops $2000 a year.

 When political courage wanes and politicians search for a quick fix to age-old problems, they often seek out a scapegoat to blame. “Passing the buck” on someone else is standard operating procedure in the halls of congress as well as the state legislature in Baton Rouge.

 The legal profession has always been an easy mark for the culpability. Many people agree with Shakespeare when he said, “the first thing you do is to kill all the lawyers.”  Now barristers in the Bayou State have become the whipping boys for insurance officials and a few legislators, in efforts to divert attention from their own ineptitude of failing to address the real causes for high insurance rates in Louisiana.

Of course there is a great need to address the high cost of auto rates.  This week, insurance officials announced that, voila–they had found the quick fix that will cause the cost of insurance for Louisiana drivers to plummet.  Simply put, blame it on the lawyers. That’s right. Greedy lawyers are working in concert with cooperating judges to see that plaintiffs who are injured in auto accidents get big verdicts. 

 In Louisiana, any lawsuit with an award that can exceed $50,000 requires a jury trial, unless both sides agree otherwise. A few legislators and insurance officials, who more often than not dance to the tune of the insurance industry, want to allow jury trials in all litigated cases. The problem for those who are injured and decide to sue is that they face drastically higher costs, which have to be paid up front.  Insurance company attorneys can beat them down with piles of motions all related to picking a jury.

Anderson Cooper on CNN has done a series of reports (all available on line) about how the nation’s top auto instance companies purposely drag out jury trials in an effort to wear down — financially and physically — those damaged in auto accidents.  Many insurance departments turn the other way to this calculated effort by the insurance industry to lessen the amount they have to pay out.

In most states, insurance companies have to submit rate increases to the insurance department for prior approval.  Bloomberg Business week reported recently that in California, auto insurance rates went down.  Why? Consumer groups point to a voter proposition that required all rate increases to be approved by state regulators.  So when insurance companies are allowed to raise their own rates without pre-approval, like in Louisiana, rates go up.  When pre-approval is required, rates are much less than in the Bayou State.

In summary, legislators and insurance officials have turned a blind eye to a variety of problems in the auto insurance field that have caused Louisianans to pay the highest rates in the nation. Much easier to just blame the lawyers.

Worst drivers in the nation as reported by CarInsranceComparison.com? It’s the fault of the lawyers.
Rampant drunk driving where drivers have recently been cited for 7th and 8th DWIs?  Those darn lawyers.

Louisiana has one of the nation’s highest number of uninsured drivers, many who are illegal immigrants. Laws on the books require that cars of uninsured drivers be impounded, laws that are rarely enforced.  Heck, has to be the lawyers.

Forbes Magazine reports that Louisiana is a bottom level state for infrastructure — bad roads and poor safety.  Got to be the fault of the lawyers.

Catch my drift?  There are a barrel of reasons why Louisiana leads the nation in high auto insurance rates.  It’s going to take a concentrated effort by legislators, the governor and insurance officials to put a comprehensive program in place that will cause rates to go down.  Looking for quick fixes by blaming lawyers, judges or any one group is disingenuous and will do little to address what has become a financial crisis for many drivers in Louisiana.  Much more needs to be done.

 “Both terrorism and insurance sell fear — and business is business”
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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com. 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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.






Thursday, August 03, 2017

DEALING WITH LOUISIANA’S FISCAL MESS!


August 3rd, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

DEALING WITH LOUISIANA’S FISCAL MESS!

Louisiana’s chief executive has some big problems ahead.  Over one billion dollars in current taxes are set to expire at the end of the year.  That loss comes out of the current budget with no plans to take care of the long list of needs for road construction and maintenance, as well as a backlog of other projects that are on the lack burner for lack of funds. What’s an agonizing governor to do?

The guy in charge, for you out of stators, is an amiable fellow named John Bel Edwards.  His election was seen by many as a fluke, where he won as a Democrat in a deep red state. So when his only solution is more taxes, you can imagine the uphill fight he has in dealing with an anti-tax, overwhelming Republican legislature.  But even more than strong Republican opposition, Edwards is facing a “crisis of confidence” from a weary public who feel there is still a lot of waste coming out of the state capitol.

Most observers agree there is no way the Governor can cut some one billion dollars from the current budget.  But there are many millions that are ripe for the trimming.  He would do well to compile a list of programs for pruning, and spend the next month touring the state making his case for future needs, by ballyhooing his efforts to trim back current expenditures.  Here’s a list of where to begin:

Home healthcare-The state could save over $200 million by simply supplying long-term medical care to patents in their home, as most states are now doing.  The hang-up is the nursing home industry.  Millions of dollars are poured into campaign funds to leave the outdated and expensive system alone.

As the Advocate pointed out this week:  “Most of the nation is moving toward a model that steers more elderly and disabled people into long-term care in their own homes — an option that saves the state money, and happily, is preferred by most customers. The result, in most states, is an ever-increasing number of people served by home- and community-based Medicaid providers and a decreasing reliance on nursing homes.”

 But in Louisiana, campaign money talks.  The Governor himself received over $730,00 from nursing home related companies in the last campaign. Legislators could show some real courage by reducing this boondoggle, and come in line with other states who both save money and give better home healthcare services to the elderly.

Reform Tops- The current college tuition program is a sinkhole that just keeps on giving.  Students who barely make it out of high school are given free tuition with few requirements towards graduation. The program should reward diligent students who carry a full college load, and who stay on course towards receiving a degree.  If a student drops out of college, the grant should be converted to a student loan.  And give a break for those students who go into public service or the military.  There are a number of ways to help those in need get an education without allowing a good idea to financially flounder out of control.

Cut out a number of high priced state employees.  Louisiana overpays for many department heads and unclassified employees.  Many of their salaries approach $200,000.00  Most of the top assistants for statewide officials and department heads make more than the average salary for those working for the President.  For example, the Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Chief of Staff is paid $95,000 a year.  Few top Trump aides are paid more than $115,000. That’s chump change compared to numerous Louisiana state employees.  The total saved may not make a big dent in the looming deficit, but it will be a sign to voters that the Governor is serious about getting state spending under control.

Hey, I’m just getting warmed up here.  I held two statewide offices, and if the governor had called and asked me to cut my budget by 20%, I would have complained.  But you know what?  I could have done it and the public would have hardly noticed.

So Governor, show the taxpayers you mean business.  Before asking for any new taxes, set out a series of cuts that will instill confidence showing you are on the right tract. Otherwise, you will be stuck in a fiscal deficit hole that will only get deeper.

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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.















Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO LONG VACATIONS?


Thursday, June 29th, 2017
Gulf Shores, Alabama
WHAT HAPPENED TO LONG VACATIONS?

 Does anyone take a real vacation anymore? In the good old days, school didn’t start until the Monday after Labor Day.  Family destinations to the beach or the mountains were a regular and anticipated event. The last two weeks in August used to be a popular time for families to get away to the beach for a final summer fling. But not anymore. The American family vacation seems to be dying.

In days of old, I always joined in our family excursions that often lasted for two weeks. There was no electronic requiem involved. No cell phone rings, no iPhone buzzes, and no laptop beeps. It was Lake Michigan in my early years, Lake George, New York in my college days, and from my twenty’s on, it was annual summer vacations in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Back in the 60’s and 70s, there were no high-rise condos on the Gulf Coast, and no water parks. Just a few local seafood restaurants and a lot of single story beach houses with long porches facing the Gulf. There was no local phone service back then, and you had to bring your own drinking water. We brought our sheets and towels from home, because the well water was full of iron and made the wash gray and stiff. No TV and no air conditioning.

And you know what? The whole family thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we stayed. We talked to one another, went crabbing and fishing off the shoreline, read, took afternoon naps, and long evening walks looking for the new shells that washed up on the shore earlier that day. Maybe a trip into Pensacola once or twice for a movie. And when our two weeks were up, no one wanted to go home.

Expedia.com’s annual vacation survey found that only 14% of Americans get away for two weeks or more at one time. And now, school begins in the middle of August. Middle of August? Why? Aren’t air conditioning bills for schools much higher then? So what happened to the June 1st to August 1st summer schedule? No more school days were added. And kids have to cut their summer resort jobs short. Why the change?

Now today, if you can get away to the beach for a few days at all, you cram into one of the high rises that line the Gulf Coast beaches for miles on end. Since you stay in an air-conditioned condo, your body adapts, and it seems way too hot to go out to the beach. The kids head for the mall or the game room. Dad, and mom, if she works, carry their PEDs and cell phones wherever they go, and check into the office several times a day. Electronic devices and games surround the whole family.

But I have resolved to go back to the true vacation. As I start my trip, I look in the mirror and tell the face there that my name is Jim, and I’m a techno-addict. But on this journey, I’ve committed to unplug, and try to be more connected to myself rather than to my computer. No electronic communication tools this time. Just a few books (fiction — nothing heavy), some comfortable hiking boots, fresh fruit from highway stands along the way, a few bottles of wine from home, and my 20 year old banjo that I swear I’m going to learn to play well some day.

Getting away does not, in itself, guarantee relaxation. It takes several days just to unwind. But isn’t life too short not to appreciate every moment, and not to have the tune out time with family and friends? Maybe this longer special time has passed a lot of folks by. But I hope for my family and me, it never does.

******

 Vacation: When you spend thousands of dollars to see what rain looks like in different parts of the world.”
–Robert Orben
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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com. 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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.