Wednesday, April 15, 2015

OFTEN, LITTLE CONCERN FOR JUSTICE IN LOUISIANA!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

OFTEN, LITTLE CONCERN FOR JUSTICE IN LOUISIANA!

 Remember the scene in the movie, The Fugitive, where Harrison Ford is about to jump off a cliff into a raging river?  He turns to his pursuer, a federal agent played by Tommy Lee Jones, and says: “I’m innocent!”  Jones shakes his head and says: “I don’t care.”  In recent months, a series of investigative reports from across the Bayou State have concluded that numerous federal and state prosecutors are primarily interested in winning — getting the indictment, the guilty plea, the conviction. But when it comes to seeking justice, one could argue that many prosecutors just don’t seem to care.

Legal observers across the nation have colluded that if you want to find the most egregious examples of wayward prosecutors who think nothing of hiding evidence that an accused is innocent, just go down to the deepest of the deep southern states.  Take a  look at a few of the national news stories about prosecutorial misconduct in Louisiana that have appeared nationally, just in the past few weeks.

“The U.S Attorney commenting scandal in New Orleans gave us a poster child for misconduct and appalling behavior.”
The New Orleans Advocate (April 7, 2015)

“New Orleans prosecutors-egregious instances of prosecutorial misconduct. These abuses did not simply stroke the line between lawful prosecutions and heavy handedness; in the words Justice John Paul Stevens, they were “blatant and repeated.”  The New York Times (April 13, 2015).

The Untouchables: America’s Misbehaving Prosecutors, and the System that protects them. Nowhere is this ethos of impunity more apparent then in Louisiana.”   The Huffington Post  (April 10, 2015.)

“Grotesque Department Of Justice Misconduct- In a shocking case of “grotesque” misconduct by federal prosecutors, a federal judge in Louisiana ha ordered a new trial…”  National Review (April 13, 2015)

“Whole System is Fatally Flawed-Justice is subverted so many times for the will-for the winning.  Everyone wants to win, so the ends justify the means.”  Former Prosecutor A.M. “Marty” Stroud.  Shreveport Times  (April 4th, 2015)

In Louisiana Prosecutor Offices, a toxic culture of death and invincibility. – The ongoing problem of prosecutor misconduct, using Louisiana as the poster child to explain why even egregious misconduct not only isn’t punished but also is often incentivized” The Washington Post-April 8, 2015.

Now these articles listed are just about Louisiana. Take a moment to Google “prosecutorial Misconduct,” and check out the reams of news reports on this alarming subject from across the nation.

Shakespeare proposed killing all the lawyers. But numerous lawyer prosecutors have made it a habit of killing any semblance of fair play.  Too often, there is a “win at all costs” mentality where the end justifies whatever means a prosecutor decides to use to obtain a conviction.  Efforts are often not made to seek justice, which is what the criminal justice system is supposed to be all about.  Justice is swept aside when a prosecutorial “no holds barred” effort is pursued to get a conviction at any cost.

One of the more recent misconduct soap operas involves the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s office where, at the time, the longest serving federal prosecutor in the country, Jim Letten, resigned amid a scandal involving a whole host of his staff.  A federal judge issued a scathing 50-page order alleging possible criminal misconduct by former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone and former first Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann.  The judge singled out Perricone for testifying  “falsely” in his courtroom, and called for the New Orleans U.S Attorney’s office to be investigated by the Justice Department. Perricone and Mann both resigned under a cloud of suspicion along with Mann’s husband, Jim Mann.

Do these prosecutors who break the law act in an evil way?  Or do they just not care?  This exemplifies, in most instances, the prototype of those who bend the law and hide exculpatory evidence to get a conviction.  They may not be evil, but they are indifferent.  The end justifies the means.  They just don’t care about the meaning of our Constitution.  If government crimes are not checked for the few, then we all are at risk.  Prosecutors who lie and cover up should be disbarred and prosecuted themselves.  Otherwise, there is no integrity in the system.

*******

“American prosecutors over the years have shown an ugly side that is antithetical to justice, and they even have a very dark saying: "Any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a GREAT prosecutor to convict an innocent man."
William Anderson

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, April 09, 2015

LOUISIANA PLAYS MAJOR ROLE IN THE CIVIL WAR FROM START TO FINISH!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

LOUISIANA PLAYS MAJOR ROLE IN THE CIVIL WAR
 FROM START TO FINISH!

The Civil War came to an end 150 years ago this week when an exhausted confederate army, led by General Robert E. Lee, formally surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at a farmhouse in Appomattox, Virginia.  From the beginning of the war to a bitter end on both sides, Louisiana played key roles in how this tragic war was fought.

Don’t you know it was a French Creole General from St. Bernard Parish who started the whole thing by firing the first shot at Fort Sumter back on April 12th, 1861?  Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was born on a sugar cane plantation, trained at the United States Military Academy as a civil engineer, served for a short time as superintendent at West Point, then resigned to became the first brigadier general of the Confederate States Army.  He didn’t do so badly after the South was defeated, returning to Louisiana to make a fortune promoting the Louisiana Lottery.

The first president of the confederacy was Jefferson Davis, who Mississippians claim as one of their own.  But Davis spent a number of his younger years in both St. Mary and West Feliciana Parishes.  When he was elected to lead the confederacy, his home was on Davis Island Surrounded by the Mississippi River across from Newellton, La. The cut off of the river technically should have made the Davis home in Tensas Parish rather than Warren County, Mississippi.  Louisiana Governor John McKeithen made a number of trips to walk the ruins of Davis Island.  Davis died in a New Orleans Garden district home, and was initially buried in Metairie Cemetery.  So his Louisiana bond, from youth to death, is extensive.

Union Army General William Sherman had strong Louisiana ties, but turned out to be one of the most vicious, vengeful, and polarizing military leaders of the entire war.  History will remember him as a no holds bared, take no prisoners commander who left a path of devastation, death and destruction during his notorious “march to the sea” to capture and burn Atlanta.  This was the beginning of the end for the South. Louisiana will remember him as the ungrateful first president (then called Superintendent) of LSU when he was appointed in 1859.

 Though he initially took pride in the job he began, Sherman had no qualms over trashing LSU.  After the war ended, he wrote to a former colleague teaching in Baton Rouge that: “The commonest of the common schools of Iowa outrank in public estimation your university.”  So much for Sherman’s appreciation of what today is the state’s flagship university.

Here in my home state of Louisiana, we are surrounded by remnants of the war’s bloody battles. When I began my law practice in Northeast Louisiana across the Mississippi River from Natchez, my home was the Lisburn Plantation, just north of Ferriday.  To make his final siege of Vicksburg in one of the last and decisive battles of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant commandeered my future home to headquarter for several days before crossing the Mississippi River and attacking Vicksburg from the South.  Vicksburg was called “the Gibraltar of the Confederacy,” being located on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  Many historians believed that the fall of Vicksburg was the death knell for any chance of the South’s survival.

As Grant undertook his offensive against Vicksburg, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ army moved against the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River just north of my current home of Baton Rouge. On May 27, after their frontal assaults were repulsed, the Federals settled into a siege, which lasted for 48 days.

On hearing of the fall of Vicksburg, the Confederate garrison of Port Hudson surrendered, opening the Mississippi River to Union navigation from its source to New Orleans.   There were 12,208 casualties at Port Hudson of which 7,208 were Union soldiers. Numerous similar battles took place throughout Louisiana with devastating results of death and destruction for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Over one million Americans were killed during the Civil War, the largest loss of life during wartime in U.S. history. It was a huge disaster for both the North and the South.  And at the beginning and the end, from the highs to the lows, Louisiana was right in the middle of a turning point in American history.

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.



















Wednesday, April 01, 2015

LOUISIANA IS HOLLYWOOD EAST BUT PAYING ONE HECK OF A PRICE!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


LOUISIANA IS HOLLYWOOD EAST
BUT PAYING ONE HECK OF A PRICE

How much is it worth for Louisiana taxpayers to have movies made throughout the state?  Apparently, quite a lot.  Recent studies have shown that for every new dollar created in jobs, equipment, catering and all the spin off income, Louisiana taxpayers are paying out four times that amount. Bring a dollar in and pay from the state treasury four dollars out.  What kind of deal is this?

In 2002, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a program that offered significant subsidies to motion picture producers who shoot their films in the state.  The program was designed to increase local film production, and producers from all the big Hollywood studios rushed to cash in.  Louisiana’s Office of Economic Development has bragged for years about all the new jobs the program created, and the domino effect of dollars being spent in the state.  But no one until recently has put a pencil to the bottom line.  Neither Louisiana’s taxpayers, nor few in state government, have had any idea how much this program is really costing.

Brad Pitt made a movie a few years ago titled “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” that was only partially filmed in Louisiana.  Yet the movie received a Louisiana tax subsidy of $27,117,737.  The entire budget was only $167 million, and the New York Times called the cost to Louisiana taxpayers “shocking.”  So the question is, whether this glamour business is bringing economic development to Louisiana, or is the state getting little more than momentary glitter?

 Louisiana also has a reputation in Hollywood of playing fast and loose with the rules in place.  The higher the budget, the more the program costs taxpayers.  And get this.  Until recently, a production company filming in Louisiana could get tax credits for work done outside the state.  So we are talking here about inflated budgets and work done outside Louisiana, all underwritten by Louisiana taxpayers.  Is that a good deal or what?

A new legislative mandated study was released last week showing that gross tax revenues from all movie production sources, including jobs, rentals, catering, and all other spinoffs brought in a total to the state of approximately $50 million.  But only half of this sum went to the state treasury, where the other half went to the coffers of local government.  The tax credits for all this work, money taken away from the state treasury, totaled $222 million.  So the state brings in 25 million, and pays out 222 million.  That’s more than an eight to one ratio negative to the bottom line. What are we missing here?

The Executive Director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Policy Center issued a report recently that stated: “There is no evidence yet that this is an efficient or effective way to create jobs.”  The study went on to point out the tax credits in most states are four or five times higher than that offered to those who build in designated economic opportunity areas, and often more than eight times greater than the standard investment tax credit.”

So far, Louisiana legislators have shown little interest in reviewing the economic impact on the state’s treasury.  One voice raising questions is that of Greg Albrecht, who is the chief economist for Louisiana’s legislative fiscal office.  “There’s no way you can say this makes money for the public treasury,” he said recently.  “It’s an expensive way to create jobs.”

Forty states now offer various subsidies and brag about their low – cost production sites.  With so much competition, Louisiana should look at whether giving such abundant tax breaks makes economic sense.  And right now, the financial benefits look questionable.

************

“The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”
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, March 26, 2015

LOUISIANA COULD HAVE THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY!

Louisiana is scheduled to have its presidential primary on March 5th of next year, but there is one little problem.  The state is broke and the Jindal administration has allocated no money for the legally required election.  So what happens next? Does Governor Jindal really want a primary? And is there a way to hold an election for free and get huge national coverage in the process?

Some cynics around the state capitol think Jindal purposely gutted funding for a primary so he would not have to be on the ballot in his home state.  The governor’s popularity has plummeted to an all time low at 27%, with few signs that it will improve before the spring election date.  Calling off the election would be a way for Jindal not to be humiliated by Louisiana voters.

Actually, there is no national requirement that a state has to hold a presidential primary.  A few states, including Colorado, Iowa and Nevada, hold caucuses where each party conducts regional meetings to discuss and vote on delegates who are pledged to a specific candidate. A similar system was in place in Louisiana for a number of years.

So how can Louisiana still have a presidential primary without spending any money? Just look at the election cycles.  The first selection of presidential delegates is set for January 5th with the holding of the Iowa caucuses.  In fact, the national election season kicks off even earlier on August 8th of this year when Iowa holds a non binding straw poll.  So why should Louisiana wait until March 5th of next year?

Louisiana is the only state in the nation to have a statewide election close to the presidential primary elections.  The gubernatorial runoff date in Louisiana is set for November 31st. Why not kick off the presidential election campaign right here in the Bayou State on this election date?  Along with the various state and local races, Louisiana should consider including on the ballot the nation’s first presidential primary.

Since the state is holding its regular election anyway, there will be no additional cost involved to the taxpayers. In fact, there would be the savings of $3.5 million. Pretty good chump change for a state that is facing major financial challenges.  All major candidates for president would certainly be expected to flock to Louisiana, spending a good deal of money trying to garner national attention at the state’s first presidential primary. And Louisiana voters would have a chance to highlight Louisiana issues. It would seem to be a win, win for the State.
Can you imagine the massive some of money that would be spent in Louisiana, as candidates run major media campaigns with the hopes of building momentum for the early spring round of elections? It would be the nation’s first indication of what voters were thinking, what issues were important, and what candidates were emerging as favorites. Finish sixth in Louisiana, and it undercuts any candidate’s effectiveness in raising campaign dollars and building major support as the next election primaries approach.
To prevent legal challenges by both national parties, the election would have to be non—binding. Party caucuses could take place later in the spring, at no cost to the state, to select delegates who will attend the national convention next summer. And even though the results would be non—binding, Louisiana would jump from the irrelevancy it is now, to the leader of the pack in selecting the next president.

The legislature, that begins meeting in a few weeks, could alleviate the cost of the required primary and put Louisiana front and center of the national presidential campaign by merely allow candidates for president to appear on this coming November’s election ballot.  That’s all it would take.

We’ve stood by for years and watch our Governor travel the nation in his quixotic quest for national office. Now’s the time to bring Jindal and the nation’s focus back home to the deepest of the deep southern states, where it should have been all along.

********

“Presidential primary debates are an important part of our political process. But the media has wrested complete control from the parties and candidates over everything, including the number, the format, the qualifications, and the moderators. And they've become a circus.”

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.