Wednesday, December 07, 2016

LOUISIANA HAS WORST DRIVERS IN AMERICA?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LOUISIANA HAS WORST DRIVERS IN AMERICA?

Say it isn’t so. The Bayou State, made up of docile souls who are law abiding, courteous and well-trained motorists, has just been tagged by several rating services as having the worst drivers in the nation. Look, the folks down here in the deepest of the deep Southern states do get a little rowdy now and then.  Maybe Mardi Gras and Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.  But day in and day out, we are a bunch of lousy drivers? It just can’t be!

Ah, mon cher, but the facts don’t lie.  Pick your category of worst driving habits and you will see Louisiana motorists at the bottom of the ranking barrel.  Some ratings agencies have even suggested that out of state drivers make a U-turn when they approach the Louisiana state line.  Here are a few of the reasons why.

CarInsuranceComparison.com’s listing this year rates Louisiana as the number one state for failure to obey, Number 5 in careless driving, 6th in drunk driving, 4th in average number of fatalities, and an overall rating of number 1 for worst drivers.  Bankrate.com reaches the same conclusion that the worst drivers in the country are in Louisiana.

Road rage is front and center in the Crescent City where irate drivers have gunned down two former NFL football players recently.  Former Saints linebacker Will Smith’s killer is on trial this week, while former NFL running back Joe McKnight was shot last week.  Any number of hit and runs are a regular occurrence all over the state.

Let me give you my personal observations.  I regularly travel each week from my home in Baton Rouge down to New Orleans on I-10, and once or twice a week to the Covington area on I-12.  The posted speed limit is 70 miles an hour, and I generally go the speed limit and maybe even fudge a mile or two. On both interstates, you would think I was competing in a Mascara race.  Not just a few, but hundreds of cars whiz by me zipping along at 80, 85 or 90 miles an hour without giving a second thought to how much over the speed limit they are traveling.

This past Monday, it rained in torrents all over the state. The law is clear that when your windshield gets wet, drivers are required to turn on their headlights. On a trip to New Orleans on I-10, it seemed that every 7th or 8th car, in a major downpour, ignored the law and traveled without the car’s lights turned on.

DWIs? The penalties are strict, but too often are not imposed.  A driver in Livingston Parish just last week appeared in court following multiple DWIs and a host of other drug related citations and arrests.  He walked away with a suspended jail sentence and a small fine.

For a third offense DWI, the Louisiana law is quite clear.  Jail time, loss of driving privileges for 5 years, and the driver’s car is impounded and sold.  Too tough for such a violation?  Heck no! Get these irresponsible drunks off the roads.  I know this law well because I wrote it and presented it to the legislature back in 1994 when I served as Insurance Commissioner.  Yet the tough law is almost never enforced.

The state police, who should have an acceptable level of troopers out on the interstates, are dramatically understaffed and are several hundred troopers short just for highway duty.  Under the Jindal administration, not one new trooper was hired and trained for the last five years.  The Louisiana legislature, in its wisdom, can find over one billion dollars for corporate giveaways, and millions for football and basketball teams, but no money to hire more of those who protect us.

Bad driving habits are based on personal responsibility and the right attitude. Laissez les bon temps roulez just doesn’t cut it when it comes to safety on the highways. There’s a brashness and arrogance by many drivers than endangers the rest of us.  More enforcement is necessary, but it’s going to take the Governor and the legislature to step up and fund a major crack down.  There is a lot at stake.

*******

Just because you're sober, don't think you're a good driver, Cookie.

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.com















Friday, December 02, 2016

IS NEW ORLEANS UNDER SIEGE?


Thursday, December 1st, 2016
New Orleans, Louisiana

IS NEW ORLEANS UNDER SIEGE?

The headlines resounded across the front page of both New Orleans’ daily newspapers. “AN UNCONSCIONABLE ACT” blared the New Orleans Advocate.  “IT WAS PANIC,” shouted The Times Picayune.  Bullets were flying all over Bourbon Street as a visiting Baton Rouge man was killed and 10 others were injured.  And the continuing tragic news is that 42 people were shot in the Crescent City in the previous 10 days alone.

The Queen City of the South is under siege.  No, not from hurricanes. This time, the siege is from within.  New Orleans is known as the city that care forgot.  But it’s been hard to let the good times roll in the Big Easy when the dice keep coming up snake eyes.

New Orleans is in a battle to stay afloat as it deals with major street crime, a lingering aftertaste of previous corrupt politicians, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system where even federal officials can no longer be trusted.  Author James Lee Burke writes about this corruption and dysfunction in his novel Last Car to Elysian Fields.  “One of the most beautiful cities in the Western hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by forces of nature.”

For years, the Crescent City has had the highest per capita murder rate in the nation, where multiple killings often happen on a daily basis, a town that is rated as one of the five most dangerous cities in the world.  But even with such a reputation, it was hard to fathom the recent shootings of 10 tourists on Bourbon Street.

Any murder is tragic, but one can weave through the crime lore of the Crescent City to see some deaths that just can’t be explained.  The locals often seem to shrug and accept the blood flowing as a price you pay for living in what always ranks as America’s “most interesting city.”  Violence seems to be an integral part of the gumbo that blends a different genre of street smells, music, spices, poverty, and minions of eccentric characters.  But the killings continue to grow.

A number of suggestions to stop the shootings are being discussed.  Put up metal detectors around the French Quarter’s raucous entertainment district, make the area a “no gun carry zone,” invoke “stop and frisk,” ask the Governor for more state police assistance, and install numerous publically operated video cameras.  Isn’t it a shame that the city has to resort to such extreme security measures so that tourists and the locals can have a little fun.

New Orleans has been part of my DNA for more than 50 years.  I lived on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter as a law student at Tulane.  After graduating, I practiced law in the Big Easy, was stationed in the military there, and hosted a daily radio program on WRNO for three years after Katrina hit.

In more recent times, my family and I have rented an apartment in the heart of the French Quarter on Jackson Square. It’s been wonderful during daylight hours to soak in the ambiance of my surroundings, attend mass at St. Louis Cathedral or just sit out on our balcony and listen to the street musicians.  But a different world transpires when the sun goes down.  It’s just not a safe place to be anymore.  So with sadness, we have decided to move out.

New Orleans is at a crossroads.  It can be either a unique place to live and work, or it can slowly drift into the cosmos due to a justified fear of crime. There’s a fight to keep the bright, dynamic young leadership in the city and be an integral force in molding the future of New Orleans.  But it all begins with feeling safe, doesn’t it?  And right now, folks living the Crescent City just don’t feel all that secure.

Novelist Walker Percy once told me that New Orleans “could be much more than a slightly sleazy playground for tourists and conventioneers.”  He is right.  But until city and state leaders find ways to reduce the high number of rampant shootings, not much will change. Feeling safe trumps all other aspects of living in the city that care forgot.

******

“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and
nothing worth killing for.” Tom Robbins

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.












Saturday, November 26, 2016

MORE PRIDE NEEDED IN LOUISIANA?


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

MORE PRIDE NEEDED IN LOUISIANA?

One of the biggest tests facing Louisiana’s recently elected Governor John Bel Edwards is the challenge of re-instilling pride in the attitudes of many Louisianans. Government can only do so much. But a governor can be a catalyst in raising the public’s expectations.

The whole focus of public accountability and local pride came to mind recently on a visit to Charlotte, North Carolina. Now I do admit a bit of favorable prejudice toward the Tar Heel State, having graduated from Chapel Hill back in the 60s. And 60 years ago, many observers linked North Carolina and Louisiana as the two southern states with the greatest potential for economic growth and a higher quality of life in the South.

Both states had a strong agricultural base, with tobacco being king in Carolina and both cotton and sugar cane offering farmers a good living in Louisiana. It was textiles in Carolina and oil Louisiana. The two great university presses in the South were located at Chapel Hill and Baton Rouge with major American literary figures concentrated around the two great state universities.

But an economic downturn hit both states in the late 1970s. North Carolina quickly diversified and centered its future economic development on an innovative research triangle that attracted startup businesses all over the state. High oil prices enticed Louisiana to keep the status quo. And things haven’t changed much.

Several Louisiana cities have recently sent groups of business leaders and public officials around the country to observe what seems to be working in other cities. They would do well to make a pilgrimage to Charlotte. Here is what they would find.

One of the first things you notice is the cleanliness, not just in Charlotte, but throughout much of the state. There are exceptions. But by and large, you just don’t see the litter that seems to cover Louisiana.

A few months ago, a former Louisiana State Senator was a guest on my syndicated radio show. He told the story of his efforts to bring a Japanese automobile plant to Northeast Louisiana. The Senator had picked up the Japanese officials in Shreveport and drove them to the plant site some 20 miles east of Monroe. He and his group made what they thought was a first-rate presentation, but the Japanese decided to go elsewhere. When he followed up the visit to find out why Louisiana was turned down, he was given two reasons. First was the lack of a trained workforce. But just as important, was the liter along the highways. He was told: “Your people do not seem to take much pride in keeping their state clean.”

A brand-new monorail system has just opened in Charlotte, traveling throughout the downtown area and linking all the major hotels to the convention center. Congestion throughout the inner city has been greatly reduced, and I found it to be a quick and easy way to travel.

Charlotte, as well as a number of other North Carolina cities, is in the process of becoming “wired.” Even midsize cities like Winston Salem are installing wireless broadband networks. As one city official told me: “We are trying to differentiate our North Carolina cities from other locations as we are competing for those knowledge-based companies. If your city is not wired up, you’re just not going to be competitive.” As has been written here in several recent columns, Internet access, particularly for students statewide, could be the single biggest asset toward moving Louisiana’s lackluster educational system literally giant steps forward.

The bottom line, Governor Edwards, is that in setting out your new agenda, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are a number of progressive ideas emanating from cities and states all over the country. Many of these ideas will require a major financial investment. But others, like keeping our roadways clean, are simply a matter of instilling a sense of personal responsibility. That’s where pride begins.

*******
If you love Louisiana, she’ll love you back.”
Al Hirt

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.











Thursday, November 17, 2016

TRUMP CAMPAIGN LIKE READING A NOVEL!


Thursday, November 17th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

TRUMP CAMPAIGN LIKE READING A NOVEL!

Let me tell you just how Donald Trump became the nation’s president-elect.  It’s really quite simple. He had a compelling story to tell that resonated with millions of Americans who have been browbeaten by the continuing and tiring clichés that have been coming out of the mouths of both political parties for decades.

The Trump victory could have come right out of a best selling novel.  I have a small publishing company and am asked for editing help and content suggestions on a weekly basis. It’s part of my job to recognize a captivating story. And if ever there was the right occasion to spin a good yarn that many readers could identify with, Trump’s timing was perfect.

Remember that President Obama swept into office in 2008, with the wind at his back as he promised hope and change.  But as Maureen Dowd wrote this week in The New York Times, “Obama lost touch with his revolutionary side and settled comfortably into being an Ivy League East Coast cerebral elitist who hung out with celebrities, lectured Congress and scorned the art of political persuasion.”

Hillary Clinton continued to stir the fires of resentment by giving over 75 speeches to Wall Street powerbrokers at more than $200,000 each. Besides a message of “continuing the legacy,” middle class Americans saw little change and the curdling of any real hope.  Thus the foundation for “Trump-The Novel.”

I tell any aspiring novelist that a compelling suspense narrative needs to include several elements.  There needs to be a threat, a villain, a victim, an opportunity, a solution and a hero.  Trump recognized these essentials from the get-go, and built his initial campaign rhetoric on a direct appeal to blue collar America, many of whom had gone from the hope of 2008 to the hopelessness of 2016.  He set out his story by addressing each of these elements.

The Threat - Immigration, globalization as jobs moved overseas, new technology that allowed computers to replace workers, racial and cultural anxieties, and a feeling that the Washington elites were completely out of touch.

The Victims - Blue collar Americans, many who were either out of work, or who were facing a changing and lowering of their previous standard of life.  The guaranteed healthcare and retirement benefits had become a thing of the past for many workers, with many losing their jobs all together and others hanging on by a thread.

The Opportunity - Trump saw an opening in this widespread frustration and made a simple and forceful call to arms.  Make America Great Again. The nation hadn’t won a war since World War II, and the country was enmeshed in military brushfires all over the Middle East.  The haves were making big bucks in the stock market while the average wage earner was just trying to keep his head above the economic fray. To many, America was falling behind, and it was time for someone to call for a rebirth of past greatness.  In stepped Donald Trump.

The Villain - You’ve got to have a bad guy in any novel.  Trump focused his attacks on immigrants, foreign trade deals and the establishment centered on Wall Street and Washington elites.

The Solution - Build a wall, cut taxes, drain the swamp in Washington where lobbyists control the agenda, make other countries have more skin in the game of terrorist protection.  It was a message the resonated throughout white collar America.

The Hero - Of course, none other than Donald Trump.

So the novel resonated with millions of Trump supporters who saw a larger than life billionaire as the whiplash to the hope and change promised in 2008. Trump’s story of how he won has been written.

So will lit be a best seller?  And will there be a sequel?  We will find out in four years.  But whatever happens in the future, I’m ready to be his publisher.  Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has a compelling story to tell.

*******

“I've had a beautiful, I've had a flawless campaign. You'll be writing books about this campaign.” – Donald Trump, July 29, 2016


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.