Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Too Many Federal Laws

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



Louisiana State Senator Derrick Shepherd gets in a tussle with his girlfriend over the weekend and he's hauled off to federal court. Is there any violation of the law that is not considered a federal offense? If anyone actually takes the time to read the U.S. Constitution, there are only three crimes specifically enumerated. Treason, piracy and counterfeiting. So why has Congress undertaken an overzealous expansion of criminal laws?

A report from the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies recently determined that there are some 4500 federal crimes listed in the US Code. It used to be that Congress would create one particular crime by passing a new law. But in recent years, multiple crimes are listed within the same statute. One new law enacted right after 9/11 contained 60 new crimes. Were they really necessary?

Our representatives in Washington now want to delve into any number of local crimes, flaunting the intention of our country's founders. Drugs, robbery, car theft, the list goes on and on. What happened to the 14th amendment and states rights?

Many of the federal crimes seem to be punitive, arbitrary and bewildering. Harvard law professor William Stuntz puts it this way: "We are coming even closer to living in a country where laws on the books makes everybody a felon, and prosecutors get to decide what the law is and who has violated it."

Did you know that it is a federal crime to deal in the interstate transport of unlicensed dentures? For this you get one year in jail.

How about the fact that you can go to jail for six months if you pretend to be a member of the 4-H club? I'm not making this up.

You can also get six months for degrading the character of Woodsy Owl, or his associated slogan: "Give a hoot -- Don't pollute.”

And you'll love this one. It is a federal crime to disrupt a rodeo. Now in Louisiana, we yield to no one in our desire for orderly rodeos. But a federal crime? Give me a break!

You can see from these examples, it's not a liberal or conservative thing. Many of the laws listed make little sense. In this day and age, the average citizen can get hauled off to jail for trivial things that no sane person would regard as a crime at all. There is a new alliance in Washington. An unholy alliance between anti-big business liberals, and tough-on-crime conservatives. They all seem to be trying to show that they are serious prognosticators cracking down on the social problem of the month, whether it be corporate scandals or steroid use.

The Louisiana legislative delegation is not immune from federalitis, and has joined in the parade of parochialism within the federal system. Senator David Vitter has proposed legislation to make it a felony for the interstate sale of paraphernalia that straps on a rooster’s leg during a cock fight. And Senator Mary Landrieu wants to ban the transportation of horses across state lines to be shipped out of the country for consumption. Can we just imagine the future disruption of our American way of life if their efforts are unsuccessful?

Our members of Congress go to Washington today and seem to be immediately aphrodisized with the power they obtain. Something similar to Tolkien's ring. Often decent and intelligent people who get the ring of power and it changes them. They can't put it down; they can't let it go. The more laws you pass, the better you look back home. And when there's crime involved, you really come across as a tough guy, right?

Many members of Congress seem not to understand the difference between violation of a regulation and a crime. But there are a number of actions that are illegal but not criminal, and if criminal, then do not necessarily have to be federally criminal. Have we reached the point where people in Louisiana and throughout the country have come to accept that any federal agency with power is somehow a police power? Both conservatives and liberals ought to be worried about the expansion of federal criminal law if we value our liberty, which our Founders specifically understood to mean leaving general police powers at the local level.

In 400 B.C., the Greek orator Isocrates stated: "Where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed." Tasedus wrote in the 1st century A.D. of Rome: “Formerly we suffered from crimes. Now we suffer from laws."

A little common sense, often not attributed to Washington, would go a long way in allowing Congress to deal with problems of national concern. Leave the parochial to the states. And for goodness sake, let us get a little rowdy at our rodeos.


“Herein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor;

that he will pick people he think he should get,

rather than cases that need to be prosecuted.

With the law books filled with a great assortment

of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at

least a technical violation of some act on the part of

almost anyone.”

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at

Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from New Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is the La. Governor Web Tech Savvy?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana



By his own admission, Senator John McCain is not very computer and internet savvy. Some would argue that for this very reason, he needs to pick a young, hip and contemporary running mate who balances out the McCain image of being old and to some degree out of touch. A number of national pundits are arguing that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal fits that profile. But if you look at his communication skills and his web tech profile since being elected governor, Jindal and his staff are not even close to being on the cutting edge of new ways to communicate.

McCain certainly needs some help in the computer literacy department. The Times Picayune editorial cartoon earlier this week had a member of his staff saying: "Okay Senator -- I'm here to teach you all about the computer. Let's try an Apple." McCain’s answer is: "No thanks. I just ate.” Others have joked that when the GOP nominee was handed a new iPhone, he thought it was a TV remote control. He is regularly profiled as functionally illiterate when it comes to the Web.

So how high does the Louisiana Governor rank in being tech savvy? If you take a look at both his campaign and governmental websites, his grade will be mediocre at best. The Jindal for Governor Campaign site is still up and running. But except for press releases out of the Governor's office, it has not been updated in months. Want to send the Governor a campaign contribution or be added to his mailing list? Don't try this website; you will reach a dead end. Nothing happens when you hit the applicable link.

The Governor’s office website offers little more than references to other agencies along with press releases. Quite vanilla as is the case with most Louisiana governmental sites. But with the Jindal administration, expectations were significantly higher. The new governor, only six months in office, has surrounded himself with a bevy of young staffers who are supposed to be web tech savvy. If any newly elected governor in America was going to modernize the state system of communicating, quickly adapt to a new technology and interactive syndication, it was certainly going to be Jindal and his gang. But the results have been mediocre at best.

One of the reasons Bobby Jindal is being considered as a vice presidential candidate is because he is perceived to be capable of bringing a new approach to governing and communicating with the public. Any neutral observer will admit that the Obama campaign has been quite successful by setting a new standard in the use of web technology. Jindal was supposed to have been able to match Obama’s efforts stride for stride. So far, the Jindal team is not even close.

From the beginning of his campaign, Obama overshadowed his Democratic opponents by making much better use of technology and incorporating the latest applications, services, software and widgets. The Obama organization has looked on the web as a way of politically networking, connecting supporters and sharing information in an interactive way. His supporters have been encouraged not to merely receive information from the campaign, but to actively participate in sharing this information like so many people have done on social networking sites like Face book in MySpace.

So far, Jindal has failed to take advantage of modern web related tools which would allow him to communicate with thousands of voters in a virtually unlimited array of ways that would support his gubernatorial agenda. He should have been the first governor in America to transform the whole idea of governance. How simple it would be for him to sit down at a computer with a web cam several times a week and have "online fireside chats" with the people of Louisiana. Television stations would certainly play highlights on the evening news, and the radio talk shows would have fodder to use throughout the day. What a missed opportunity.

Jindal got off to a better start with stronger public support than any governor I have observed in the past 50 years. But for months now, he has missed the chance to mobilize support for his legislative program with just a few keystrokes on the computer. We saw what happened in the pay raise crisis. The political culture in Baton Rouge was simply overwhelmed by the public rising up in arms. With the use of computer technology, Jindal could have and should have rallied his own army of online network based advocates.

The Governor just issued a large number of vetoes from the current legislative session. Here was an excellent chance to get full public input. Jindal could have posted a number of proposed new laws online for five days before he took action, so that Louisiana's citizens could comment and weigh in on their opinion of what action the Governor should take. A blog could have been set up to discuss the purpose of the legislation, and allow the public to participate in a little common sense “give-and-take" as to why the legislation was important to begin with. Then he could have allowed an interactive link so that citizens could give him advice as to how to proceed.

Here’s another practical idea. Besides the "website chats," he could and should set up a simple system where any citizen is able to ask a video question on the Web, and the Governor could respond likewise to a certain number of inquiries each week. Look, he will get in a state plane and fly to Farmerville to speak to 35 Rotarians that will consume five hours of his time. Why not regularly sit down at his desk and handle a range of questions that citizens are posting on the Web, giving him a much better political return for his effort with much less investment of his time.

The lesson in all this seems obvious enough. We have seen, through blogging websites and radio talk shows throughout the state, the results of technology that has concentrated a significant amount of political power in hubs outside of Baton Rouge. Jindal and the Baton Rouge governmental establishment have not harnessed this power from their end.

Bobby Jindal has a unique opportunity to capture the Web as a unifying force to lobby, cajole and communicate his vision for moving Louisiana forward. If he fails to seize the moment that is lying right in front of him, he will be no more effective than John McCain who, when asked about opening a Windows program, supposedly said: Close ‘em. It's too drafty in here."


“After growing wildly for years, the field of computing appears to be reaching its infancy. “ ~John Pierce

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at

Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from New Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Are La. Gov's VP hopes still alive?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Just two weeks ago, the legislative pay raise issue in Louisiana had all but consumed Governor Bobby Jindal. As he continued to tell voters he would not veto the increase that had rallied major statewide opposition, his poll numbers continued to drop. And when he did finally veto the proposal, his delay in doing so seemed to upend any realistic chance of a vice presidential slot on the McCain ticket. But like Lazarus being raised from the dead, low and behold, Jindal is still very much in the VP mix.

There were signs all over the media in the past few days indicating the Jindal is still in the hunt. A profile in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine had "America's anchorman" Rush Limbaugh reaffirming his support of Jindal getting the number two spot. Limbaugh has had Jindal at the top of his list from day one, and apparently the pay raise flap has not caused him to waver.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote a lengthy profile this week in Human Events magazine calling Jindal "the most transformational governor in America today," and strongly re -affirmed his support for Jindal on the McCain ticket. Gingrich could not have been more effusive. "In just six months, Bobby Jindal has accomplished more than most elected officials accomplish in a lifetime." Pretty strong stuff from one of the GOP's most respected spokesman. Gingrich did mention the pay raise flap in passing, but dismissively concluded that "Jindal’s correction has cemented his reputation as a principled conservative reformer."

CNS News concluded this week that Jindal could be a significant help on a McCain ticket in key swing states. A column posted on July 8 states: "Senator John McCain could win in swing state Ohio under almost every scenario if he chooses Louisiana Governor Bobby gentle as his vice presidential candidate." In the past three presidential elections, Ohio has been the make- or - break state. According to the national CNS poll, Obama currently leads McCain 48% to 46%. But the poll shows McCain would have the upper hand with Jindal as his running mate. By adding the Louisiana governor to his ticket, McCain beats Obama 44% to 39%. Even if Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is added as the running mate to the Obama ticket, a McCain Jindal team still wins by a two-point margin.

CNN televised a panel of political operatives just a few days ago and each was asked to place their bet on McCain stick for vice president. Three of the four panelists picked Jindal. And again remember, all these effusive endorsements came after the pay raise flap.

Even liberal publications like The Nation are throwing accolades at Louisiana's new governor. In the magazine’s current edition, the pay raise controversy was mentioned and dismissed all in the same sentence. The column concluded: "Never heard of Bobby Jindal? Then pay attention. There's a good chance he'll be John McCain's vice presidential pick.”

So why the sustained drumbeat about Jindal, even though he took such a beating, in Louisiana at least, on the pay raise issue? Key McCain advisers are banking on the fact that the controversy is short term, and really has no legs outside of Louisiana. And they are looking for, and quite frankly needs, a number of the attributes that Jindal brings to the table.

McCain desperately needs something to breathe life into his campaign; something that can excite and energize his party. Bobby Jindal, according to key McCain advisers, brings youth and energy to a GOP campaign that, so far, lacks such vitality. For good or bad, he remains as one of the youngest and brightest stars in the republican camp.

McCain is behind in a number of key states and his campaign is looking for a jump start. He needs someone to do more than just balance the ticket. He needs an infusion fresh political air. And Bobby Jindal, despite his recent stumbling and criticism in the past few weeks, could still end up as McCain’s choice for the number two spot.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby that there are no second acts in American lives. But in politics, too many have proven the quote wrong including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to name a few. Even John Kennedy was defeated at the 1956 Democratic convention in his first run for vice president.

Fitzgerald did write something else. “After all, life hasn't much to offer except youth, and I suppose for older people, the love of youth in others.” When you have a 72 year old candidate at the top of the ticket, a 36 year old who continues to be the darling of the conservative pundits may just find himself on the team. Now what was that about some minor pay raise controversy?


I care about our young people, and I wish them great success, because they are our Hope for the Future, and some day, when my generation retires, they will have to pay us trillions of dollars in social security

Dave Barry

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at

Jim’s radio program on WRNO (995 fm) from New Orleans starts up again this week, with a Sunday show from 11:00 am till 1:00pm. Other changes will be announced in the weeks to come.