Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Linville, North Carolina

With a major national election just a month away, the stakes continue to get higher. Will the republicans regain control of congress, and will the President have his hands tied on major policy decisions for the next two years? Every major spending issue, the cost of the war, the national debt and healthcare can trace a viable solution to educational reform. A well-educated workforce is the key to pulling the country out of the present economic doldrums. But in election contests nationwide, and particularly in my home state of Louisiana, improving public education is rarely, if ever, mentioned as a campaign issue.

Here in the Bayou State, the major race involves a Republican incumbent US Senator being challenged by a sitting Democratic congressman. The contest has become a major mud fight with no policy proposals. The idea of creative educational programs has not crossed the lips of either candidate, nor has it in any other federal race. In a special election in the deepest of the deep southern states to fill a vacancy for the office of Lt. Governor, a press forum was held this week where all major candidates attended. A little lip service was paid to increasing state funds to LSU, the flagship university -- but nary a word was spoken about reform at the elementary level, where the whole process begins.

Congress jumped into the economic fray and fixed the banks and Wall Street, but left creative ideas to upgrade public education on the sidelines. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently, “We need to understand that it is not only our financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Our educational failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness.”

In every conference held, and every study conducted that reviews how to make the country more productive and competitive, emphasis on math and science tops the list. In national surveys, Louisiana math and science scores rank at the bottom. The state has lost a number of startup companies to other cities like Dallas and Atlanta because of the lack of potential employees with math and science skills.

Yet, math and science achievements are far from being buzzwords of the state’s educational and political leaders. Recent state economic grants of several hundred million dollars went to a sweet potato processing plant and a poultry plant that hires chicken pluckers. Now if we could just give state economic incentives for Louisiana farmers to grow “poke salad,” a traveler could buy a complete meal at a stand on the side of the road.

Golfer Phil Mickelson understands the importance of math and science, and is doing something about the nation’s lack luster teaching effort. He has formed the Mickelson Exxon Mobil teachers Academy, a summer camp for third and fourth grade teachers to improve their teaching skills in math and science. And he points out that he uses math and science in his golfing career. “It helps me know what I need to focus on,” says Phil. “On putting, for example, at three feet, the success rate is about 99%. At four feet it drops off to 88%, and at five feet to 75%, and so on.” Probability of success saves him exponential stokes on his game. A simplified example, but Michelson takes the effort to heart. He is convinced that waiting until high school for heavy concentration in math and science is way too late.

A bright spot of logic in Louisiana comes from Shreveport cardiologist, Dr. Philip Rozeman. He has been a guest on my radio show, and he thinks, with good reason, that educators and politicians spend far too much time on adult issues, like who runs the school boards, teachers unions, and how charters schools are licensed. “Often, adult issues dominate the debate and children’s issues are pushed to the side.”

I’m spending the next week in rural Western North Carolina where certain schools have pushed “children’s issues” to the front burner. Close by to my residence is Shanequa High School in Gaston, N.C., where most of the students are black, and many are from low-income families. The school hours go from 7:30 am until 5:00 pm, with two hours of mandatory homework, along with Saturday morning classes every other Saturday, and three weeks of summer school. There are no teachers unions here and teachers are attracted with high pay, and the freedom to be creative in raising the level of student interest. The results? All 48 graduating seniors were accepted to at least two colleges and all will be attending one next year.

In my home state of Louisiana, far from expanding the school day, some districts have gone to a four-day school week. When the New Orleans saints opened their season on a Thursday night a few weeks ago, schools in the New Orleans area shut down at noon. Got to get ready for the game, right?

In a number of progressive school districts around the country, computers track each student’s performance. If a kid gets a D or F on a test, the school’s computer generates an email to the parent. High tech strategies include seeing that every elementary student has a computer. India is now offering a $35 touch screen tablet computer, and many businesses are helping to fund such programs in local schools’ systems when there are innovative school leaders who set up such a program.

My family adopted several local children’s homes here in the Baton Rouge beginning last year. In talking to the kids, they expressed their frustration when they left school and came back to the group home where computers were not available. One thirteen year old told me: “We can’t get help for our homework and projects over the Internet like the rest of the kids have at their home.” We supplied six computers along with Wi Fi accessibility. Immediately, the student interest in studying improved and grades went up.

One Friday night, I dropped by the home to check on the kids who ranged in age from 11 to 14. One 13 year old was over in the corner reading. This was his fifth group home in six years with no family to support him. “What are you reading?” I asked. He held up the book for me to see. It was Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” I thought to myself, how many privileged kids with family support are home on a Friday night reading Shakespeare? If this kid doesn’t make it, we have only ourselves to blame for not giving him the tools and support he needs to be a productive citizen.

In a state like Louisiana, where abundant natural resources have been a disincentive to finding a good paying job, the basic qualifying education rate has been dismal for years. But with mineral production slowing down and under assault because of the recent Gulf oil spill, this should be a wakeup call. A well-educated work force will attract more advanced industries with high tech designs. The path to a future of prosperity in all states, but particularly in Louisiana, is knowledge. Someone needs to ring that bell.
“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” Lee Iacocca

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is 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 The show is televised at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will Republicans Need Witchcraft?

Thursday, September 22, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The new rising political star in the Republican Party “has dabbled in witchcraft.” So maybe tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell has cast a spell over her coverts. That’s about the only logical reason to explain the “off the wall” pinball effect of the GOP embracing a quagmire of diversionary issues that keep a responsible political agenda out of whack.

Now don’t think I’m jumping on the Wicca community here. Hey, I sit with my granddaughter and watch “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” several times a week. And who could not be a fan of the vampire/werewolf love story “True Blood,” or Stephanie Meyers in the “Twilight” series that dominates our movie theatres and book stores? Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not sure there are enough “issue appeal” on a platform affecting witches to put the Republicans back in control come November 2nd.]

If witch Christine is victorious, I guess she could start in the U.S. Senate by calling for a congressional apology for the Salem Witch trials, which would, of course, include reparations. Or like my friend Aaron Kheifets has suggested, Sen. O’Donnell could call “for public schools to begin teaching Wiccan alternatives to evolutionary theory, such as the possibility that the world was created from the dream of an omnipresent life-force that likes flute music.”

A bit facetious here? Not really. Simply put, Republicans are missing the boat on what’s ailing the majority of Americans. And Tea Partiers have picked up the mantle of too much federal spending. They are mad as hell and say they aren’t going to take it anymore. But outside of the spending issue, Tea Partiers are not quite sure just what “it” is. They just know they are not happy with the bills being rung up and the government borrowing that continues to take place.

Democrats have terrible poll numbers nationally with a favorability rating hovering around 30%. The good news for Democrats is that Republicans have an even worse favorability rating. But the bad news for Democrats is that they are in charge. A large number of Tea Partiers’ are not all that enamored with Republicans. They are just against the current power structure that presently is controlled by Democrats. Republicans would feel much of the backlash if they controlled both houses of congress.

Many tea party sympathizers and a cross section of other Americans feel that when it comes to out of control spending, you can put both parties in a sack, shake it up and it makes little difference which party comes out. There is a track record on both sides of the isle to spend, spend, and spend.

In 2000, the Republicans held control of both houses of congress as well as the presidency, similar to what the Democrats have right now. Federal spending when President Bush took office was $1.788 trillion. Eight years later, federal spending was $2.982 trillion; a 60% increase in federal spending under a Republican president.
Under present Democratic leadership, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to bail out Wall Street, big insurance and the auto industry. The war in Afghanistan is costing the country $2 billion a week with virtually no progress to show for the massive spending. Republicans in congress have either played along with the bailout and spend mentality, or have thrown up diversionary smokescreens.

Here’s what Republicans should be talking about. First, it should be time to seriously consider cutting back on our involvement abroad. Maybe the neocons want to push forward and continue to advocate a substantial presence in the Middle East, but conservatives ought to say enough is enough. We’ve spent a trillion dollars in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Six thousand soldiers killed and forty thousand soldiers wounded.

Even mainline conservative extremist Ann Coulter says it’s time to bring this sorry chapter to an end. More and more Americans are wondering why we are continuing to fight a war in Afghanistan when few can explain why we are there in the first place, with a price tag of $2 billion a week. Isn’t there a better use for $100 billion back here at home?

Cut out all the conspiracy theories. This is a year when Republicans ought to be making the coming congressional election a referendum on the President’s spending and economic policies. But instead, there seems to be a daily misdirected revelation that is often off the wall and irrelevant to the concerns of the average voter. Obama is not a vampire and he was not the second guy on the grassy knoll. But he has been at the helm of a country that has structural economic problems. In the minds of millions of Americans, the country, economically, is heading for a recession and they, physically, are going through depression.

The average citizen out there will readily admit that the country’s financial problems are beyond their understanding. They have genuine doubts that life is going to be better for their kids than it has been for them. They are looking for someone to set out a clear agenda of how we get out of the financial mess that’s been created that is affecting their future.

A good campaigner in this election should argue that the President made a choice a year ago, and it was healthcare, not jobs. We now have to find a way to expand the economy and “grow the pie.” Politics is theatre, and a smart leader would ask every American to re-read the economic history of 1942-1944. The America was at war, but the country got up off its back, and millions of people went to work. We are in a huge economic war today. That’s the message that’s being left off the table by both parties. A large number of voters are looking for a way out, and want to know what party is going to lead by offering convincing and sensible economic alternatives.

Witches got burned at the stake a few centuries ago. There is going to be some roasting come November 2nd. Both parties ought to be worried. Too many candidates seem to be under a spell and don’t seem to have any idea of witch way to go. Christine O’Donnell may be on to something. “A hex on both your houses” might be a pretty good wakeup call from the tea partiers and the average Joes alike. Can it get much worse?

“She says she’s a common-sense conservative who is part of the real America. She promises to make government smaller, not raise taxes and bring values back to Washington. That would require magic. If she says she can deliver on that promise, then — witch!” Alexandra Petri

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is 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 The show is televised at

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's All About the Economy!

September 9th, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Don’t be stupid!

When Bill Clinton was on the defensive, back in his first presidential run in 1992, the Democratic message was all over the map. At a time when the country was stuck with staggering economic woes, Louisiana’s own national political commentator James Carville stated the obvious: “It’s the Economy stupid!”

The Carville admonition has been lost in the maze of bobbling diversions that have gotten both Democrats and Republicans off the stage of what the single focus should be. The Ragin’ Cajun got the nation on point then, and the Democrats and Republicans need to stop bobbing and weaving and get on point now. The overwhelming issue, hands down, is the economy.

Issues like mosques, oil spills, birthers, and Martha’s Vineyard vacations stir up controversy over a short span of time. But in the coming two months before the midterm election, it’s all going to come down to who can manage the economy better. And up until now, neither party has much to crow about.

As those of you who listen to my nationally syndicated radio show know, I have little regard for either party on the national scene. When it comes to responsible debate on how to get the economy out of the doldrums, both parties get a failing grade. It’s the battle of the democrat-don’ts vs. the republican-can’ts. The Democrats don’t dare and the Republicans don’t care. In the movie “Justice for All,” Al Pacino summed up our nationals dilemma well. When the judge tells Pacino, who plays a lawyer, that he is out of order, he responds: “We’re all out of order. The whole system is out of order.”

When it comes to spending beyond the country’s means, both parties share the blame. In the past two years, the Democrats have increased the national debt by almost $ 3 trillion dollars. And what do taxpayers have to show for this huge increase in debt? Cash for clunkers? A bigger TV? Maybe. But certainly not economic growth.
The new stimulus package, costing the taxpayers $785 billion is focused on infrastructure needs. These needs are indisputably huge as any observer can see by driving our dilapidated roads and crossing our poorly maintained bridges. Most of the nation’s airports look like they were built when the Beatles first arrived in the U.S., fifty years ago. So the decaying infrastructure is a real issue.

But with unemployment figures approaching 15 %, there has to be much more on the table than just brick and mortar. The average middle class American is just scraping by and pleading for a better game plan. More and more Americans are asking: “Is that all there is?”

Republicans don’t score too well on credibility, either. This week’s NBC-Wall Street Journal poll shows Democrats receiving an abysmal 33 % approval rating, while Republicans have plunged to just 24%. And when it comes to spending, a Republican congress has had no problem with doling out the money, either. In 2000, the Republicans held control of both houses of congress as well as the presidency. Similar to what the Democrats have right now. Federal spending when President Bush took office was $1.788 trillion. Eight years later, federal spending was $2.982, a 60% increase in federal spending under a Republican president. A fair question is whether Republicans will behave any differently if they gain control in November?
The bottom line is that spending is out of control and both parties share a large part of the blame. When it comes to being fiscally responsible, you can put members of both parties in a sack, shake them up, and it would make little difference which one you pulled out. Despite the talk, the political mantra Washington over the last 10 years has been “Spend Baby Spend.”

Some key Obama advisers are now saying they “get it” and the President will focus on jobs. But last week, the President addressed the nation on Iraq, waded into the mosque controversy, marked the fifth anniversary of Katrina, and talked to NBC’s Brian Williams about his religious faith and Glen Beck’s rally in Washington. “Oh, and by the way, we need to do more on the economy.” Whoever is in charge of his public message needs wake up, smell the coffee, and go vback to square one.
Whatever the political rhetoric, two things are going on across the country today. Economically, there is a growing perception by the average American that the country is moving into a severe recession. And psychologically, there is widespread depression. Many doubt that life is going to be better for their children. That was always the American dream, wasn’t it? But now there is a growing realization that the country faces fundamental economic structural problems with few options in sight. The President made a choice a year and a half ago. The emphasis was healthcare, not jobs.

Tom Friedman with The New York Times writes that the Obama challenge is to “grow the pie.” We spend enormous sums making things up (derivatives, CDO’s and numerous other exotic financial instruments that are not based on physical reality) rather than making things. In my home state of Louisiana, we spend millions on keeping jobs for chicken pluckers and sweet potato farms, while high tech companies leave the state for lack of well-trained employees.

Afghanistan continues to be an albatross that is draining $2 billion of our tax dollars every week. That’s one hundred billion dollars a year we’re pouring down the rat hole of a corrupt, debt ridden, collapsing economy – and nobody seem to be able to explain how we got into this quagmire in the first place. A good beginning for economic recovery would be to end this no win, no purpose, very costly – in dollars AND in lives -- military exercise in futility.

Throw into the mix a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts that the President’s former budget director called for this week, and you have a real beginning for a turnaround. There would be significantly more dollars available for both debt reduction and job related tax saving incentives.

We are in a war all right – an economic war that could well get worse before it gets better. But it will take a creative and well-designed game plan and a much more substantial commitment to win this war. It would be a wise exercise for all of us to re read the economic history of World War II from 1942 until 1944. America got off its back with millions of people being put to work. The same “call for commitment” is certainly needed now.

The question is whether partisan politics can be put aside to implement a major response to our current economic war. Our country needs such a plan. The public is demanding it. It is overwhelming in the public interest. But don’t count on it, at least before the election. After all, both parties have their priorities. Remember, shake em’ up in a sack! Unfortunately, it makes little difference which party you pull out.


“"When we talk about settling the country’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. It’s a mess. It’s always been a mess. We are not going to change it.”
Joseph Campbell

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is 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 The show is televised at

Money and College Athletics!

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Reggie Bush gave up his Heisman trophy this week. If you don’t know anything about him, Bush is the star running back for the NFL’s Superbowl Champion New Orleans Saints. His press release, obviously written by the PR folks with the Saints, made Bush sound almost like he was accepting the award for the first time. He praised the Heisman, his coach, his team, the fans, and everyone else, including an endorsement of the American way. But someone needs to tell Reggie he is doing us no favors. He repeatedly broke the rules. And he is a terrible example for kids all over the country who aspire to play college sports.

Bush, in his college days, was an All American at the University of Southern California, and he and his family are accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from sports agents in direct violation of NCAA rules. One particular agent, Mike Ornstein, funneled money to Bush’s family for a number of trips, all which were illegal. So what’s he doing now? He is still gainfully employed as the agent for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who is Bush’s current coach. At least they keep it all in the family.

Certainly, winning the Heisman is a big honor. Just ask any LSU fan, particularly here in my hometown of Baton Rouge. LSU All American Billy Cannon won the Heisman back in 1958, and despite a federal conviction for counterfeiting, Cannon has kept his trophy that stays on display at local restaurant where die hard LSU fans go to genuflect and eat ribs.

To show you the feelings towards Cannon down in LSU country, he was introduced two years ago at a game in Tiger Stadium on the 50th anniversary of his team’s national championship. The second half kickoff had to be delayed as the crowd continued to give Cannon a standing ovation.
(May I digress for a good story? Ole’ Miss has always been a major rival for LSU. Cannon was convicted of making fake hundred dollar bills back in the mid eighties during the time that I served as Louisiana’s Secretary of State. Federal treasury officials showed up at my office one day to question me about the receipt of a fake bill in payment for a business filing at my office. It was the first counterfeit bill that was found in circulation. For years thereafter, I told the anecdote in numerous speeches that I became suspicious when I saw the bill. Down in the corner where normally is printed “In God We Trust,” appeared the words; “Go to Hell Ole’ Miss.”)

So Reggie Bush gives the Heisman trophy back, but who really suffers? Reggie? Why, he makes $12.1 million per year, with incentives that could give him $ 1.5 million more, and he is the pride of New Orleans. The Southern California coach? His name is Pete Carroll, and he was accused by the NCAA of allowing “systematic violations in the USC athletic department, including lack of institutional control.” He received no sanctions from the school, and has now moved on receiving a multimillion dollar contract to coach the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL.

The school itself does suffer some. USC is banned from post-season play for the next two years and forfeits 30 scholarships over three years. So if you figure that an athletic scholarship is worth $50,000, that’s $1.5 million. That’s chicken feed compared to the multimillion dollar payouts USC has been receiving for playing in major bowl games year after year. There is a lot of temptation for a coach to look the other way when grades are changed and illicit contracts with an agent are allowed to take place.

Simply put, the penalties are often nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and worth taking chances by some schools because of the huge payouts.
One of the reasons that many young college athletes are tempted to take illegal payments and gifts from agents in the first place is the greed by major college athletic departments. Big time college programs like USC and LSU bank income approaching $100 million a year. The athletes who generate this income are given tuition, fees, room, and board. That’s it. And with training commitments that are now year-round and the academic schedules required to stay eligible, it’s a rare college athlete that has the time to work part-time.

Actually, the rules are much more restrictive today than in years past. I had a full college athletic scholarship back in the early 1960s at the University of North Carolina. Along with the basic room and board, all athletes on scholarship were given a laundry and book allowance. It amounted to around $100 a month. I had no problem washing my own clothes and buying used books. The difference allowed me to keep gas in my car, take a date to a movie, and enjoy a few basic amenities of college life. Four hundred dollars a month today would go a long way in helping young athletes live a bit more comfortably and not be tempted by agents who lurk around college campuses.

The young athletes who aspire to be college stars are not the problem. There is a culture of corruption that has been allowed to build up, where the message is conveyed that there are big bucks to be made if you can just side step the rules. Many college athletic departments follow the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. It’s a slippery slope with a failure to follow the ethical course by those who should be setting the example. The problem lies with coaches, athletic directors, agents, college presidents, and even parents, who in many cases don’t set the example.

If Reggie Bush had not given back his Heisman trophy, the Heisman trophy Trust would have taken it away from him. You can’t blame them for being a bit irked at all the perks he illegally received. When Bush was given his award back in 2005 in New York, sports agents illegally paid for the limousine that chauffeured him to the awards presentation.

So the Saints grind out a limp “mea culpa” where Reggie still says he did nothing wrong, but gave the trophy back to stop “the persistent media attention” which has become “distracting.” There’s an empty shelf on Reggie’s bookcase at home where the Heisman sets no more. But for $13.6 million a year, he will certainly find some easy way to fill the void.


"I think, in all honesty, one of the most exploited groups of people in this country is college athletes. We basically have a job that generates millions and millions of dollars and at the end of the day we don't see any of it."
-Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is 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 The show is televised at

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lessons Learned from Katrina!

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
New Orleans, Louisiana


With the five year anniversary of Katrina being commemorated this week, and a major hurricane moving up the east coast, the focus of the national news media has been how government at all levels fails to respond. Levees collapsing, inadequate evacuation efforts and political bickering have been reviewed on the news nightly, and highlighted by the new Spike Lee film "If God Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise." If you live in my part of the country, particularly in Deep South Louisiana or the Mississippi gulf coast, everyone has his or her own personal Katrina story. These poignant personal odysseys of survival are a vital part of the Katrina legacy for those who endured this life changing experience directly, and hopefully, for those who did not.

Katrina hit in the early hours on a Monday morning, August 29, 2005. As early as the Friday afternoon before, the national weather service was predicting a direct hit on New Orleans with a minimum of Hurricane Four intensity. In other words, it was time to get out of Dodge. But no call to evacuate came at any governmental level until Sunday morning, only 12 hours before the raging winds hit the Gulf coast. With only four routes out of New Orleans, traffic was at a crawl.

I was working in New Orleans at the time but I was back at my home in Baton Rouge for the weekend. Heavy Sunday afternoon winds knocked out the neighborhood electricity, but some how, our house kept the power. With temperatures in the high 90s, our home became the hangout for both neighbors who wanted to cool off, and a continuous flow of New Orleans arrivals, both family and friends, looking for somewhere to ride out the storm. A freezer full of gumbo, crawfish etouffee and spaghetti sauce was thawed to feed the growing crowd of evacuees.

The late nighters stayed awake to watch the unfolding chain of events on television, and listen to the howling winds and falling limbs throughout the early morning until a little past dawn. Then it was over. New Orleans had apparently seen the worst with surprising little damage. Or so we thought.

A brother-in-law staying with us called home to have a caretaker tell him there was only minor roof damage, and to come on home. “Oh, by the way,” he said. “A water line must have burst. I see some water in the street. No big problem.” Thirty minutes later, the fellow called back. “Big problems here now. The levee has broken. There’s water everywhere and rising fast.” The same scenario was being played out all over the metropolitan area. The water was rising rapidly with no way to get out.

Old timers may remember that back in the 1930s, when a WPA loan was closed, the loan recipient was often given a two-bladed ax, to hack his way out of the house in case of emergency -- a quaint old custom that was abandoned a few years later. What a shame.

As the water continued to rise, home dwellers went up to the second floor or to the attic. The water kept coming, but there was no way out.
A police dispatcher told me of numerous calls begging for help. One woman screamed she was holding her baby on her shoulders, and the water was up to her chest. A few minutes later, the phone went dead.

Makeshift bedding was in every corner of my home as flood victims continued to arrive into the evening following the storm. On the third night, I went by boat to check on a family home in New Orleans. When I made it back to Baton Rouge around 2:00 am, I opened my clothes closet door and found two little girls asleep on the floor. They had made a pallet with several of my suits. I grabbed several more to cover them up for the night.

A few weeks before Katrina hit, I attended a local boxing match and happened to sit next to a young New Orleans police officer, who worked in public relations for the department. He was newly married and excited about making law enforcement his career. The night of the storm, he was on duty and worked taking calls throughout the night. He asked for permission to take a break and go home to check on his new wife, since the phone lines were down. He was needed at work, he was told, and had to stay at headquarters. He made several more similar requests. A day later, he was given permission to check on his new bride. When he got home, he discovered that she had drowned in the attic. Completely devastated, he made his way to the levee, took his service revolver, and committed suicide.

On day five, my brother in law, who is the high sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, called. His deputies had not had a change of clothes the whole week, and they had all lost all their belongings from the flooding. Could I help?
The Baton Rouge Wal-Mart had been re stocked. Socks, tennis shoes, underwear, shorts, T Shirts -- whatever I could find. I just cleaned off the racks and loaded up the shopping carts. The Sheriff had some twenty-five female deputies. I had a local female clerk help me “size up” bras, panties, shorts, and any other items I could find for the ladies.

“A load for the Sheriff! Let me pass!” It took me seven hours to make the normally two-hour trip from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, working my way through the destruction all along the roadway and the roadblocks. When I arrived at the Plaquemines sheriff’s office in Belle Chase, the Canadian Mounted Police had arrived. So get this. The Canadian Mounted Police got to this disaster area before any federal officials arrived. No FEMA, no National Guard, no Red Cross. Just some help from a foreign country.

There are thousands of similar remembrances from five years ago. And even after these many years have passed, the aftereffects of the cataclysmic storm still are troubling to so many who suffered in so many ways. Have lessons been learned? And are public agencies -- federal, state, and local, better prepared for another “big hit” that we know one day will come?

Protecting our home and loved ones was up to individual and family initiatives then, and no doubt will be again. Someone once wrote that the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. But Government rarely learns. It seems to make the same mistakes over and over again. There will be other Katrinas. Will you be ready?


Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is 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 The show is televised at