Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Does Gov. Jindal Due Now?

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent “speech to the nation" was panned by both Democrats and Republicans alike. It would not be fair to say that his national career has crashed and burned, but it certainly makes sense for him to put this agenda on the back burner. It may prove to be a wake-up call for Jindal to get back home and deal with a growing litany of financially related problems all over the state.

When signs of a recession first surfaced, some prognosticators were predicting that Louisiana would not suffer the financial downturn that has spread nationwide. But today, Louisiana’s downward spiral mirrors what is happening in many states all over the country. Louisiana presently has one of the highest rates of mortgages that are both overdue and in default in the US. And job losses, particularly in North Louisiana, continue to mount. As Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said last week, "Louisiana is heavily invested in industries that are shrinking."

So where does Gov. Jindal look to find ways for new job growth and more financial infusion into the Louisiana economy? It would be naïve to think that existing industries outside the state would seriously consider expanding to Louisiana, or for that matter any other state due to the present downturn in the economy. Jindal does have an ace up his sleeve. A chit if you will that is available to him alone, and to no other governor in the country.

Here’s a hint. President Obama’s new pick as Secretary of the Department of Commerce is former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke. He is the first Chinese-American governor and was overwhelmingly successful in attracting both Chinese investment dollars and business export opportunities for numerous Washington State companies. Washington is the only state in America that has a trade surplus with China. The Chinese do more trade with the state of Washington in any state in America.

Washington is a major agricultural state, and farm exports to China have grown dramatically. Gov. Locke headed up eight different trade missions to China. If you talk to Chamber of Commerce officials in the state, they will point out it was easy for this Chinese-American governor to gain special access to both Chinese officials and Chinese business executives. As the Los Angeles Times reported: "Gov. Locke has the star power and connections necessary to successfully do business in China." Locke actively pursued bringing international students to Washington universities. These students account for over $300 million alone into the Washington economy. In short, the former Governor's Chinese background created business opportunities not available to any other state.

China has in recent years become the world's fastest growing economy, and America's largest trading partner. But there is another Asian country that is directly challenging China as the leader of world economic growth. And it's a country that, in order to maintain this growth, will have to increase importing natural resources as well as goods and services from outside its borders.

Here is what this country needs to import. Various petroleum based products including synthetic rubber imports and a vast array of chemicals and chemical related goods including synthetic fertilizers. Louisiana of course has the largest concentration of chemical plants in the nation. Coal has become a major import for this country. Jim Welch, who heads up Louisiana's permit natural resources, confirms that the state has a vast supply of lignite coal in Northwest Louisiana that is ripe for mining.

This country has become a major fruit importer, and is particularly looking for citrus. Oranges from Plaquemines parish and strawberries in southeast Louisiana have strong export potential. And if increasing market opportunities became available, there could well be agriculture opportunities to produce apples, pears, figs, plums and a variety of other fruits. And don’t forget sugar. The India Daily newspaper reported recently that sugar prices in India have skyrocketed with forecasts of gloomy prospects for sugar production that Indian officials say could lead to a high import demand due to an output shortfall.

This country also is importing cotton, soybeans and animal hides for leather production. Do you see the correlation? One of the fastest growing economies in the world is actively seeking a litany of products that are available in mass quantities right here Louisiana. And all these imports would be a financial boon for Louisiana’s numerous ports. The traffic through Washington State’s ports under Gov. Locke increased dramatically.

The country of course is India. But how is it affected by the world economic downturn? Here's what the New York Times said about India just last week. "While most of the world grapples with the crippling financial crisis and a recession, optimism reigns in much of India as its economy continues to grow. India's trading dollar economy remains a relatively bright spot.” The paper went on to say in a separate article that "China and India are in the struggle for top rung on the ladder of world power. The speed with which India is creating world-class companies is a real shock to the Chinese.”

So we have a state (Louisiana) that is facing a major economic downturn, and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (India)that is searching for goods to import, many of which are produced right here in Louisiana. Sure other states are seeking inroads into this country with a population of almost 4 times the size of the United States. But just like the state of Washington, Louisiana has an edge.

Indian officials are certainly aware of Bobby Jindal’s high national profile and are just as aware of his heritage. Republican national chairman Michael Steele on ABC radio last week jokingly linked Jindal to the Academy award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, even offering the Governor "slum love out to my buddy. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin’ awesome job in his state."

Here is what we can conclude. Louisiana through its new governor has a special and unique opportunity to get business, exports and investment dollars from what is quickly becoming the world’s fastest growing economy. The need is there, the products that are needed are here, and the former Washington State Governor has proven that heritage and ancestry means something. It simply can make the difference as to what state gets the export business and the inflow of dollars. So Governor, put aside visions of trekking across the Buckeye state where the first presidential primary will be held in 2012. You got the first letter right. But it’s India Governor, not Iowa.

“India, with a population of 1.1 billion, and a middle class that is larger than the entire population of the US, is one of the world’s largest untapped markets.”

State Senator Satveer Chauddary-Minnesota
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 also has a new book out on his views of Louisiana. You can read about it and order it by going to .
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, March 04, 2009

Baseball and Politics

Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tampa, Florida


Just what is America's favorite pastime? Is it baseball or politics? This past few weeks offers interesting contrasts. On the one hand, we went from a full-blown presidential campaign right into a major political controversy of how to "stimulate" the economy. Certainly in the past year, politics has become a major spectator sport both in Louisiana and throughout the rest of the country. 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 lived next door to the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, the great former Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion. I was in his box the Sunday afternoon back on May 2,1954, when Stan the Man Musial hit five home runs on the same day in a doubleheader. All this week, I'm in Tampa, Florida for spring training and will watch five major league ballgames, including a trip to the home stadium of my perennial favorite, the New York Yankees.
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 did the politicians in Washington DC. 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. Today, steroids are on the front burner that undermines the image of baseball players as wholesome examples for American youth. And the use of performance-enhancing drugs has become a major focus of the investigation and possible legislation in the nation's capital.

Baseball played a role in the recent presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain accused Barack Obama of baseball rooting malfeasance by bringing up baseball analogies at the start of the World Series as he traveled the country. The Republican nominee charged repeatedly: "When he (Obama) is campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays. It's kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts, then votes for tax increases after he is elected." Obama shrugged off the criticism by saying that McCain did not have the courage to take a stance: "I guess these are kinds of attacks you make when you're campaign has conceded that if you talk about the economy, you will lose."

At recent press conferences, the new President continues to get questions about steroid use in baseball, and whether or not the federal government should get involved in closer monitoring. Even though the country is facing an economic recession, multiple wars abroad, and a large elephant in the room, a major energy crisis, he couldn’t get away from baseball. By the way, the President answers the steroid question by saying he is certainly disappointed and talks about the negative impact on children.

And don't forget our last President came from a baseball background. In 1989, George Bush headed up an ownership group that bought the Texas Rangers, but the former President didn't get a lot done in this job either. The Rangers had zero World Series appearances, and hired a cast of characters right in the middle of the steroid mess including José Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, and Ivan Rodriguez. It's obvious the former President had a number of swings and misses as a baseball man that should have given some indication of the kind of president he was going to be.

And you can find a number of political analogies just by studying the baseball teams themselves. Just last year, the Tampa Bay Rays were the Cinderella team that went from "worst to first," finishing in last place two years ago, but winning the American League pennant this last year. 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 spring training in baseball, but I'm going to give it a shot. Many major league games this season will be carried by the Fox network. You know. As in "Fox News." In the National League, everyone, even the pitchers, gets an equal chance to bat. Will Fox 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 considers limiting executive pay and bonuses of corporations who receive 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 almost harkens back to the essence of youth and heroes of the past, and you feel that almost anything is possible in the coming baseball season. But in today’s political climate, there is little thought of great statesmen and principled political figures of the past. Political courage today is too often defined by poll watching and sticking a wet finger to the wind.

So when the TV clicker stops with a choice of politics or baseball, I’ve chosen the great American pastime. It’s baseball hands down.
See you next week back in Louisiana.

“The difference between politics and baseball is that in baseball, when you are caught stealing, you’re out.”
Ron Dentinger

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 also has a new book out on his views of Louisiana. You can read about it and order it by going to .
Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from New Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.