Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SHOULD YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DIE?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana
SHOULD YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DIE?

We pride ourselves as Americans in our lifestyle choices. The right to freedom of choice, protecting our individual assertion of free will, and deciding just how we want to live our lives. And yes, we have the right to excess. You can live a gluttonous life by overindulging in many personal hazards.
You know smoking causes lung cancer, but making a personal decision to smoke is your right. Drinking in access leads to a number of health concerns, but that’s your choice. Obesity by overeating? Not good, but no law can legally restrain your decision to carry too much weight. You can live where your want, and do what you want with few limitations.

That is, up until you want to shut things down and end your life. In the vast majority of states, that’s when the government takes over. You have the right to decide how you live, but you do not have the same right to decide, at least legally, when you want to end your life. Should you have such a right?
Six states (Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont and Montana) say “yes,” and they’ve passed legislation where a patient can ask a doctor for medication to end life. Under these “physician assisted suicide” or “death with dignity laws,” as they are known, there are strict requirements as to the patient’s condition that must be met before these laws can be applied

In the rest of America, death is delayed with small concern for the costs in terms of pain and suffering, not to mention, as is often the case, of economic hardship to the family and the taxpayer. Families stand by watching over loved ones who are force fed through tubes, and often kept alive by a number of artificial means. Instead of death taking its natural course at its humane end stage, modern medicine seems to make death almost optional.

In the debate over life ending care, a notable event took place recently. In Phoenix, a husband was convicted of shooting his wife who suffered terribly with final stage multiple sclerosis, and who would have required extensive amputations because of gangrene in order to keep her alive. She had begged for months to end her life. Her 86-year-old husband finally honored her wishes and shot her to end her misery. “Your honor,” the husband addressed the judge, “I loved Ginger since she was fifteen years old and I loved her when she was 81 years old. She begged me to end her misery, and I just couldn’t watch her suffer like that.” A jury convicted him of manslaughter, but the judge, with almost unanimous family and community support, sentenced him to probation.

I would hope that at the end of my life, I would have the right to make my own choice. I am not afraid of facing finality. Death will come. But there will be quality of life issues that all of us will face. And there will be a quality of living that will deteriorate and be tempered by both the effort and the ability to deal with both the physical wear and tear and the emotional costs. You see, from my perspective, there is a real difference between life and living.

But the system fights to keep you alive regardless of the quality of life. If it takes feeding tubes, ventilators, not having any control over basic bodily functions and dealing with bedsores that will never heal because you will never leave the bed, so be it. But once this process begins, it rarely ends — until you come to an end.

When I was 70, I wrote that “If there is a yin and a yang, the before and the after, what has happened and what is yet to be, then maybe getting older is a special way post for me. Hey, I could be at the top and ready for the long and relaxing ride back down.”

I’m still on that great ride. But one day, it’s going to come to an end. I just hope I will be able to set my own timelines, and make my own life and, yes, death choices on my own with out dictates from the government. Yes, I want the freedom of choice. In both living and dying.

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, September 07, 2017

WHAT TO DO ABOUT RISING FLOOD INSURANCE RATES?


September 7th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 WHAT TO DO ABOUT RISING FLOOD INSURANCE RATES?

Hurricane Harvey has caused property owners along the Gulf and East Coasts to panic over projections of outrageous property flood insurance rates that, in some cases, could lead to increases of greater than 1000 per cent. Is there really a problem finding affordable flood insurance along America’s coasts? Yes, and a growing one.

The current national flood insurance program has been around since 1968.  Actually, it was created not so much because of hurricane damage, but due to widespread flooding along the Mississippi River in the early 1960s.  More and more levees were built up and down the river, which created major flooding in unprotected areas.  Private insurance companies could not handle the damage claims so the federal government stepped in. The program was extended to cover hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast, and if a homeowner didn’t get flood insurance, they were unable to get their home financed.

A year ago, Congress reauthorized the national flood insurance program through 2017.  But in the process, a number of changes were made to make the program more financially sound. The new program caused rates to skyrocket along the Gulf Coast.

How do we begin to solve the affordability problem?  First of all, we need to recognize how vast this exposure for national disasters has become. I live in hurricane alley, and we all understand that hurricanes are a major part of the puzzle to be solved.  Hurricane Sandy, which devastated coastlines of New York and New Jersey, show that this is not just a regional problem. All coastlines are at risk. Over half of all Americans live within 100 miles of the coast.

But hurricane protection is just one part of the problem.  Torrential rains in the Midwest have unleashed a wave of damage that is wiping out thousands of homes.  Without flood insurance, they are out of luck.  And what about wildfires out west?  Wildfires are a rampant and growing problem that needs a national insurance response. Then there’s the massive destruction caused by tornados in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and a host of other states.

Get my point?  Natural disasters happen all over America, and have increased way beyond the ability for state programs to be effective and affordable. So has any plan been proposed which is encompassing, and yet affordable for homeowners that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars?  Yes. Louisiana’s Insurance Department, during the time I served as Commissioner, took the lead back in 1995 by proposing a comprehensive plan that could assist property owners following disasters all across the country. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties.

In making this proposal, I commented at the time that “if a major hurricane strikes New Orleans, it could put 26 feet of water in the downtown area and cause insurance losses greater than $26 billion.”  That’s right on the money as to what happened during Hurricane Katrina ten years later. I concluded by saying: “We are going to have a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America if we don’t get a national disaster program in place.”

I testified a few months later before a Senate panel in Washington on Senate Bill 1350.  Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state fund.  The state fund would then be backed up by a national fund.  The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved.  Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk.  Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage. 

 The U.S. Senate adopted my proposal, but the legislation became hung up and died in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was the plan then. And the good news is that a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and now Harvey.
It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving.  It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.

*******
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!”
Donald Gardner
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.





Friday, September 01, 2017

HERE COMES THE CAJUN NAVY!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

HERE COMES THE CAJUN NAVY!

The Cajun Navy wasted no time.  Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas Coast on a Friday.  By Sunday, hundreds of boats were on their way to Texas.  I passed a supermarket parking lot two days after the storm hit, and a large contingent of boats and trailers were lined up to head for the Lone Star State.  As this column is being written, thousands of Louisianans are offering help.  That’s what many Texans did for us here in the Bayou State exactly twelve years ago.

Those of us living on the Gulf Coast remember the fear and concern that enveloped our world as a lady named Katrina changed many of our lives forever. In looking back, many Louisianans felt that maybe New Orleans really was a city that care forgot, and the whole Gulf Coast was thrown in for good measure. This human tragedy has haunted the Bayou State ever since.

Two days before Katrina attacked, I was hosting a local radio program in Baton Rouge and was interviewing a key official with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Katrina has turned in a much more northerly direction, with a beeline for New Orleans. We are saying a possible Hurricane 4, and you folks are going to have some big problems up there.”

I was stunned. “What? We’ve had no warning of this. You’re telling me it’s going to come right towards New Orleans?” 

The next morning, with Katrina only a day away, I called my sister, living at the southern tip of Louisiana in Port Sulfur.  I offered to come get her family, but she told me the single road north was completely congested and it was best for her to leave her home and evacuate immediately. New Orleans has only four roads that lead out of the city, and they too were ensnarled in massive traffic jams as the locals fled for safety.

But as thousands who had transportation escaped, there was virtually no evacuation plan in place and no mandatory exodus.  When asked repeatedly by the press, the Mayor of New Orleans issued a statement saying: “He’s having his legal staff look into whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city.” The storm was now only hours away, yet no public effort was undertaken at either the city or state level to supply public transportation for the thousands who had no way out.

Miraculously, the storm passed on a Sunday night, and did little damage to the Crescent City. By the next morning our New Orleans family and guests were packing up to head back home.  Then the chilling news came in a phone call from a friend who had ridden out the storm. The levees had broken and the city was flooding.

The real tragedies took place in the days that followed. Thousands were stranded on rooftops and in attics.  When private boat owners headed into New Orleans and surrounding areas to help, they were often told by state and federal law enforcement officers that it was illegal to bring their personal boats into the disaster area.  I was told that very thing when I tried to make it by boat to my in-laws house on Bayou St. John. Hundreds of boat owners, labeled the Cajun Navy, ignored the ludicrous orders and charged in to save thousands of stranded homeowners.

For a week the Governor and the President squabbled over who had the authority to oversee the Louisiana National Guard.  It was a ridiculous turf battle that delayed the rescue efforts by several more days.  It took an Army General from New Roads, Louisiana (Russell Honore’) to take charge and bring some order to the devastated area.
If it were not for hundreds of Cajuns and Rednecks alike, who took it upon themselves to lend a rescuing hand, many more lives would have been lost.

As Texas will learn in the months to come, it is dangerous to allow major developments that are drained by bayous and streams through metropolitan areas. Levees can only be built so high, and water pumps can only be built so big. Other storms will come. 

 Louisiana was drastically unprepared for the coming of Katrina. Over 1000 lives were lost. It’s early to second guess, but Houston and the surrounding areas could have done more in anticipation of such a storm.  But when a full review of all he damage is done in the months to come, one thing will stand out.  Thank goodness for the Cajun Navy.

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.






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Friday, August 25, 2017

LSU FOOTBALL AND RACE RELATIONS!


Thursday, August 24th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LSU FOOTBALL AND RACE RELATIONS!

Ah, the wisdom found in the New York Times.  America’s newspaper (at least according to them) seems to find a reason every week to denigrate the backwards homefolks that populate Louisiana.  Certainly some debasement is justified particularly when it comes to disparaging the state’s political establishment.  But there’s one area that is sacrosanct and off limits to even the least well informed news editor.  Whatever you do or write, don’t mess with LSU football.

Tiger fans were plummeted by the Times this week in an editorial page column, accusing fans of looking on football players as little more than mascots.  The author is particularly chagrinned over LSU aficionados merely wanting to be entertained without any concern for the player as a person. “Mascots may have occasion feelings of affection, but they aren’t part of the community they serve. No one is inviting Tigers into their home, no matter how much they like the idea of their ferocity on the football field,” so says the Times.

So if you don’t have some of the black players over for dinner, you must be racist, or so the article concludes.  I guess I must plead guilty, since I’ve never had a player over for a meal.  But I’ve never had an LSU or Southern professor, black or white, over either.  Or for that matter, I guess I’m remorseful in not inviting my preacher, my CPA, my legislator, my barber, or my doctor.  I would invite LaBron James or Chris Jackson, both NBA superstars, if I thought they would come. No white basketball players on my list, because, what’s the movie called: White guys Can’t Jump?

The Times article is chagrin over the fact that university football players are exploited.  “College players are uncompensated.”  But that’s not so.  Players at LSU receive full scholarships including room and board, medical care, plus on average an additional $4000 a year to cover incidentals. And then the top players get a shot at the big bucks of professional football.

The commentary goes on to reference a convoluted 12- year- old study that concludes judges who are LSU graduates are overcome with racial disparities when it comes to sentencing during football season.  When LSU is nationally ranked, so the article concludes, and loses a game it was favored to win, Louisiana judges often suffer “emotional trauma generated by the upset loss that seems to fall on black defendants.”  These sentence disparities are caused, now get this, because judges “are working through their own negative feelings” over the LSU loss. That’s what the article says, I kid you not.

These spurious conclusions from the Times article are by Erin C. Tarver an assistant professor of philosophy at Oxford College of Emory University, and titled:  College Football Is Here. But What Are We Really Cheering?  Ms. Tarver has determined that it is us vs. them, and that football players are merely gladiators put on the field to amuse the university’s alumni.

Sure, college football has its share of problems.  The financial costs have grown way out of proportion, and only the big time college football programs are profitable. All players, black and white, place a major physical toll on their bodies, with scars and injuries that can last a lifetime.  Academic standards are often compromised for college athletes.  The University of North Carolina, my alma mater, is currently being investigated over a major cheating scandal.  But these problems affect black and white athletes alike.

It’s disingenuous to blame the fans and judges for perceived problems that affect every player out on the field as well as the sport as a whole. We can only wish that changing the rules of football could be the only barrier to releasing racial tension. In the meantime, I’m inviting Coach O and the whole Tiger team, both black and white players, over for Sunday dinner.  Geaux Tigers.

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.