Thursday, November 16, 2017


Thursday, November 16th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Twenty-six years ago this week, perhaps the most consequential and controversial election in the nation’s history took place here in the Bayou State.  Edwin Edwards and David Duke squared off in a run-off election for Governor.  Not only were voters across the nation fascinated by what was taking place down in the deepest of the deep Southern states.  There was worldwide interest in a showdown between a controversial former Governor and the former head of the Ku Klux Klan.

Incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer was squeezed out of the runoff, as Edwards outflanked him to the left and Duke overwhelmed Roemer among conservative voters.  Louisiana is the only state in America that has a convoluted election system where all candidates run against each other the same time, irrespective of political affiliation. It’s been called the  “jungle primary,” and was the downfall of Roemer.

He tried to run as centralist, and you just can’t do that under Louisiana’s current system. I know this from personal experience as a candidate for governor, as I was cut out in the same convoluted system four years earlier.  Roemer was left on the sidelines as the showdown pitted conservative white Louisianans against populist southern democratic voters, with moderates stuck in the middle trying to figure out just what was the least offensive vote to cast.

I had an up-close view of the race as I was running myself statewide for Insurance Commissioner.  My path would cross with both candidates several times a week as we each crisscrossed Louisiana in our efforts to garner votes.  It was retail politics at its best as all the statewide candidates “pressed the flesh” at fairs, parades, festivals and campaign rallies all over the state.  Today, candidates try to influence votes by raising money and going on TV.  It’s a sad commentary on the current political atmosphere that those who hope to get elected generally ignore the chance to get out and visit with voters.

A surreal moment took place for me a week before the election.  My wife and I took a break from our own campaigning, and drove over to a large crawfish restaurant in Breaux Bridge with some friends.  I felt comfortable that I would win handily in my own race for insurance commissioner, and we just wanted to get away from all the campaigning. Some of the locals recognized me, but our group mostly stayed to ourselves in one of the corners and focused on enjoying the crawfish.
Just as we got settled, Edwin Edwards walked in the door. He made a beeline for our table, took a seat, ordered a tray of crawfish, and, in typical Edwards fashion, began entertaining our group and surrounding tables with his Cajun humor. Not 10 minutes later, in comes David Duke. Spotting our group, he too joined us as the whole restaurant focused on our table.  The banter and joking went on for a good while between the two candidates.  Then they each went to their own separate tables.  In the next hour, patrons of the restaurant lined up at the tables of their chosen candidate, either Edwards or Duke, often leaving a cash donation.  Just another night on the campaign trail.

Edwards went on to soundly defeat Duke receiving 61% of the vote, served out his fourth term as governor, went to jail, ran for Congress, had a new son at the age of 86, and today, at 90 years of age, seems as lively and engaging as ever. His recent birthday party was a sell out at the ballroom of a local hotel, and a recent poll pegged him as the most popular living governor in Louisiana.

Duke also went to jail, ran for U.S. Senator in 2016, and continues to rant about white supremacy.  He was a factor in the most recent presidential election after Duke endorsed Donald Trump, and Trump refused to disassociate himself from the former Klan leader.

Gubernatorial elections in Louisiana are never bland and boring.  Remember current Governor John Bel Edwards’ verbal attack on opponent Senator David Vitter in the 2015 governor’s race debate?  “You are a liar, a cheater and a stealer, and I don’t tolerate that.” 
But it will be hard to top the Edwards-Duke knock-down-drag-out election of 1991 that will go down in history as “the race from hell.”
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, November 09, 2017


Thursday, November 9, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Remember the 1970 song by Chicago: “Does anybody know what time it is, does anybody really care?” Well it’s close to Election Day in Louisiana, and it would seem by early voting and general lack of interest that Louisianans are not holding their breath to cast their ballot. Why the lack of attention to an event that affects the future of the state? There are a number of reasons.

Louisiana has become a strong red state with major advantages for the Republican candidate. A number of Democratic leaning voters feel going to the polls is just not worth the effort. “Why bother if my vote really won’t make any difference,” is the feeling of many more moderate inclined voters.

It’s much harder for candidates to get to voters today. It used to be that a voter had the choice of three TV stations, a few radio stations and one local newspaper. The Internet has changed all this. From cable to web newspapers to information streaming, voters have so many new choices. And political media campaigns often get lost in the scuffle. It is simply much harder to get to the average voter without raising and spending more campaign dollars.

“Retail politicking,” particularly in statewide races, has become a thing of the past. Up until just a few years ago, candidates would never miss the chance to shake hands at numerous well-attended festivals and fairs across the state. When I was out looking for votes during my seven statewide elections, I would send over a convertible at the crack of dawn on parade day to get in the front of the line, often jousting with a number of other candidates. Today, few statewide candidates show up for such events.

Now candidates raise campaign dollars and hand it over to consultants, who then decide how the money is to be spent. And the majority of the spending is for 30-second attack ads in the final days of the campaign. Both sides attack each other, and voters are relegated to the choices of bad or worse. As one candidate put it: “I want voters to hold their nose and vote for me.”

The press does not cover political campaigns like they once did. This is a reflection of the financial cutbacks by newspapers, radio and TV stations across the state. Louisiana’s largest newspaper, The Times Picayune, now only prints three times a week. A reader has to go on line to read their news in a city where 40% of the voters do not have an Internet connection.

Radio stations are doing much less local programing. Thousand’s of voters used to listen to interviews about local and state politicians during morning and afternoon drive time. But much of the programing is now syndicated, with stations using talk show hosts who have little interest in local politics. TV stations in the state, with a few exceptions, no longer have the resources to do any in-depth comparisons of candidates. The result is that voters are less informed, and thus less interested.

And finally, I wonder if many voters in the state know how to vote anymore? I have run for office in ten different elections beginning in the early 70s. I cannot remember being pigeonholed by voters who made their choice of candidates based on a single issue. Today, more and more voters toe the party line, and look for either the R or D after a candidate’s name. Too often, we don’t consider which candidate has a broad vision for what is in the best interest of Louisiana.

Have we relegated ourselves into “kneejerk” voting based on single issues? Consultants talk about the Catholic vote, the abortion vote, and the Cajun vote, often all based on self-interest, and not founded on a range of issues that are critical to getting Louisiana out of its economic doldrums. If these “self-interest” issues are not on the line, doesn’t this dampen the interest in going to the polls?

Elections officials are predicting a 10% turnout, one of the lowest for statewide elections in the past 100 years. There are number of ways to reinvigorate the electorate and make voting easier and more interesting. That’s fodder for a post election column. In the meantime, every Louisiana voter will hopefully take the required few minutes to cast an important vote on Saturday, November 18th. Geaux vote Louisiana.

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.”  ~Jay Leno

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, November 02, 2017


Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
So have you purchased your gun insurance yet?  In case you shoot someone, there are insurance policies available to cover any liabilities you might face, pay for your bail if you are accused of a crime, cover your attorney fees, and even pay for any psychological therapy you might need.  So if you are going to fire away, nice to know that you are financially covered, right?
Legislation has been introduced in six states that would make gun insurance mandatory for all gun owners.  New York, Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts would require government-mandated firearms insurance, and several insurance companies are considering offering such a product.
In fact, the National Rifle Association offers scaled down coverage called Carry Guard right now in all 50 states.  The organization’s website states rather dramatically that:  “There is a whole team of lawyers attached to every bullet that leaves the barrel of your weapon. If the suspect goes down, even if you’re justified in shooting, we guarantee you the world is going to come crashing down on you.”
Should every gun owner be required to buy liability insurance?  After all, if you drive a car, you are required by every state in the U.S. to have liability insurance.  So, if drivers have to have auto insurance, why shouldn’t gun owners have to have gun owner’s insurance?
First of all, courts nationwide have determined that driving is a privilege. And not a (second amendment) right as defended by gun owners.  A driver is generally on a public highway, built with taxpayer funds, and the “rules of the road” require liability insurance.  It should be pointed out that a driver is not required to have either a driver’s license or insurance if the vehicle is driven on private property.  I taught my kids and assorted nieces and nephews to drive at our family camp in rural Louisiana, where they could practice on dirt roads.  No license or insurance necessary.

Based on my experience as a former Louisiana insurance commissioner, I can also tell readers that the cost of such proposed gun liability insurance would not come cheap. New York is presently considering in their legislature a proposal to require every gun owner to have a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage. 
I have not sat down with insurance actuaries to figure out specifically what the premium would be, but I would estimate that a gun owner is looking at a minimum of $2,000 a year to pay for such insurance.  The insurance premium could be significantly more for someone living in the inner city.  Such a cost would price the ownership of a gun outside the reach of the average citizen.
Unless the activity to be insured is considered a privilege, there is no requirement or a “right” to insure any object or undertaking.  I do not have to insure my house, but it just makes good financial sense to do so.  There is no requirement that an individual have life insurance. One makes such a choice to protect their loved ones when they die.  Many people have general liability insurance coverage on any activity that might subject them to a lawsuit.  That would include protection against a lawsuit involving a gun accident. But purchasing such insurance is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
With so much interest in gun safety, numerous ideas will be floated in an effort to regulate gun ownership. Certainly there are some people who should not be in the possession of a gun. To many gun owners, the issue is about restrictions on hunting. But to others living in crime-infested areas, and in the face of violent criminal threats, your weapon and your wits may be all you have to protect yourself.
There are no easy answers here.  But it’s unrealistic to think that gun fatalities will decline simply by making gun insurance mandatory.
 “Democracy is two wolfs and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.  Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”          Benjamin Franklin, 1759
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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Look out sports fans!  Maybe, just maybe, baseball is making a big comeback.  Now I know we are in the middle of football season.  Down my way in the Bayou State, both the Saints and the LSU Tigers are on a roll.  And a hyped-up basketball season is just beginning.  But baseball is drawing record crowds with the World Series ringing up the largest TV audiences in years.

The luster is off pro football.  The “take-a-knee” controversy has turned off thousands of viewers.  Just check out all the empty seats at any Sunday NFL game. Quite frankly, many of the pro games are, well, just boring. Then there is the “thug factor” and the statistic that some 50 NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence. To many former sports fans, politics has become their favorite entertaining diversion.

Just what is America’s favorite pastime? Is it politics or baseball? Politics has always been a major spectator sport, particularly here in my home state of Louisiana. But don’t sell baseball short. Not only has baseball been around longer than any of America’s professional team sports, the game’s highs and lows have been injected in national politics almost from the sport’s inception.

Now I’m a diehard baseball fan. I grew up in St. Louis and was in the stadium the Sunday afternoon back on May 2, 1954, when Stan the Man Musial hit five home runs on the same day in a doubleheader. I’m a regular at spring training down in Tampa, where I follow my perennial favorite, the New York Yankees
Baseball has been well ahead of the NFL in confronting issues of race. The problems of major league baseball have often served as a mirror image of the problems facing America. Its history is both a reflection of this country’s fears and ignorance, and its hopes and promises. Like almost any other cultural phenomenon of such prominence, baseball has served as solace and as a poke to our conscience.

In 1948, the major leagues faced the problem of segregation earlier than the politicians in Washington, DC, did.  Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and won the rookie of the year award in his first season. It took court cases and sit-ins to get the attention of our political representatives to follow suit.

A few years back, the Tampa Bay Rays were the Cinderella team that went from “worst to first,” winning the American League pennant. Maybe it has something to do with their name. They used to be called the “Devil Rays” and their record was terrible. As soon as they dropped the word “Devil,” they became victorious overnight. Is it baseball pure and simple, or is the Religious Right involved?

Maybe it’s impossible to get away from campaigns and politics by focusing on the current World Series, but I’m going to give it a shot.  The Fox network carried many major league games this season. In the National League, everyone, even the pitchers, get an equal chance to bat. Will Fox News say that the National Leaguers are socialists?  Will their commentators argue they should call some home runs out if they are too far to the left?  And I guess you can’t blame the Democrats from bemoaning that every time someone steals a base, they get reminded of the 2000 presidential election.

There is also a lesson to be learned from Babe Ruth as Congress is considering limiting executive pay and bonuses of corporations who received bailout money. When the Babe was asked how he could justify making more money than the President, he shrugged off the question by answering, “I had a better year.”

I suppose one of the biggest differences between these two spectator sports is the sense of optimism that baseball brings every spring. The crack of the bat, a pop fly against a blue sky, and the green grass seem to offer a sense of renewal. It harkens back to the essence of youth and heroes of the past, and you feel that almost anything is possible in the coming season.  But in today’s political climate, there is little thought of great statesmen and principled political figures.  Political courage today is too often defined by poll watching and sticking a wet finger to the wind.

So when the TV remote offers a choice of the NFL, politics or baseball in the coming week, I’ll choose the great American pastime.  It’s baseball hands down.  Like a fellow once said:  The difference between politics and baseball is that in baseball, when you are caught stealing, you’re out.”

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