Thursday, May 26, 2011

Presidential Primary Candidates Ignore Many States!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Last week, this column analyzed how only a handful of states will be both relevant and make any substantive difference in next year’s presidential election. Under the present system, it’s a “winner take all” contest, where the state’s electoral votes go to the top vote getter. In a red state, like Louisiana, a Republican voting majority is a dead cinch. So why should the candidate for president pay any attention to die hard red or blue states where campaigning is of little value? How about this? Maybe there is a way for my home state of Louisiana to become a major player.

There is no doubt about the Democratic nominee. The president is running for reelection, but has little chance for any gains in Louisiana and the Deep South. But the Republican nomination is wide open, with a number of candidates actively in the running. The primary season kicks off on January 16, with the Iowa caucuses. Here is what takes place before it is primary election day in Louisiana.

Monday, January 16, 2012: Iowa caucuses

Tuesday, January 24: New Hampshire

Saturday, January 28: Nevada caucuses, South Carolina

Tuesday, January 31: Florida

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday): Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana Republican caucuses, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah

Saturday, February 11: Louisiana primary

Not only will there be a number of elections before Louisiana’s primary, the cost factor has become a big legislative issue. The cost for a primary in the Bayou State is $6 million, no chump change in a year with a real state budget crisis. The Louisiana Legislature is searching for ways to fill a void of some $1 billion less than was available last year. Some legislators are suggesting calling off the primary all together and letting the political parties choose delegates to their respective national conventions as they each see fit.

Louisiana political commentator John Maginnis wrote recently about why there is little enthusiasm for a state primary. “If like four years ago, only a quarter of Republicans who are about 25% of registered voters, vote in the presidential primary, overall participation will be about 6%. The arithmetic frames this question for our Legislature: is the opinion of 6 percent of Louisiana voters worth almost $6 million, or about $30 a vote, to find out?”

So is there anything Louisiana can do to save $6 million, yet still have a significant impact on who will be the next president? Yes! And at no cost. Louisiana is the only state in the country that has a late 2011 election already scheduled. It’s the regular gubernatorial election where many races will be on the ballot with a significant statewide turnout. Therefore, instead of wasting $6 million in election costs, the Bayou State could be the first in the nation to have a vote on who will be the respective party nominees.

It need be only a non-binding beauty contest. Both Republicans and Democrats could hold caucuses in the spring of next year to pick their respective delegates. But as far as giving the nation an indication of how voters are thinking nationally, Louisiana could, at no cost, be the first state to hold a presidential primary.
It would be an understatement to say that the candidates from both parties would flock to the deepest of the deep southern states. It is the first chance, particularly for the current long list of Republican presidential wannabes, to build momentum and show strength. It would be unwise for any candidate, particularly within the republican ranks, to pass up making a significant campaign effort in Louisiana.

A Louisiana presidential election tied to the gubernatorial election this fall would also put some additional heat on the candidates to focus on Louisiana issues. Put them on the spot when it comes to drilling in the Gulf, revenue sharing, and coastal erosion. Here’s what the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives had to say in commenting on Florida moving its primary up to next January: “Moving up the primary would force presidential candidates to pay more attention to issues that are important locally, like soaring property insurance rates.” Hello! Sounds like what Louisiana officials should be saying.

Iowa has the process of sucking in presidential candidates down to a science. The have the first of the nation’s primary voting through their caucus system that will take place in January of 2012. But they take gambit one step further by having a second “mini-caucus” this coming August. As Mike Murphy in Time magazine wrote this week: “It’s an essentially phony contest that forces the candidates to start earlier, visit more often, book more hotel rooms and put more friendly Iowans on the payroll to organize the vast logistics of getting all those would-be voters…” out to vote. Hillary Clinton spent $29 million in 2008 Iowa caucus, with other candidates spending millions more.

If Iowa can get the various candidates to genuflect all over the Hawkeye state and garner huge media attention over 10,000 voters at a caucus, it would seem for Louisiana to be a no brainer to tie in a straw vote for president at the same time as this fall’s gubernatorial election. The Louisiana legislature is in session right now. A simple minor change in the election law will allow the presidential straw poll in November, and pull millions of dollars into the state, and cost the taxpayers nothing. No other state has such an opportunity.

The Scots have a saying that opportunities are never lost; someone will take the one you miss. There is a win-win opportunity available for Louisiana if its political leadership is wise enough to seize the moment.

“Opportunity is often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be tuning in.” Jackson Browne

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 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

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Electorial College Undermines Democracy!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The jockeying for the 2012 republican presidential nomination is rapidly picking up speed with candidates coming and going almost daily. Arkansas’s former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, both the leaders in most recent polls, are out of the race. New Jersey Gov, Chris Christy is reconsidering his earlier demurrer. In Louisiana, we have former Gov. Buddy Roemer playing Don Quixote, while current Gov. Bobby Jindal, who protests that he is not in the running, secretly struggles with the role of Hamlet. Since some 45 percent of voters now say they’re dissatisfied with the GOP candidates who have declared, look for more new republican faces to appear in the weeks to come.

This is certainly one of the most important elections in modern history. But if you live in strong red states or blue states, your vote is looked upon as irrelevant to the process. Your say on who will win American Idol has more influence than who will be the next president of the United States.

The South as a whole has been written off as one big “red state,” which means, for all practical purposes, the vote of a citizen there does not count. The same can be said of the majority of states in the U.S. You might as well write in “none of the above” or leave a hanging chad. Why? Look no further than the Electoral College. We are about to elect our country’s and the world’s most powerful leader, but the system we have in place causes us to abdicate our right to have our vote count.

The next president will more than likely be decided in just a hand full of states. As the Wall Street Journal said recently: “Most states (in the coming presidential election) are not in play. Mr. Obama will not win Utah and Wyoming, and the republican nominee will not carry the District of Columbia or Rhode Island. But right now, 14 states (with 172 electoral votes) are up for grabs.”

Under the present system, the Electoral College rules require that all the state’s electoral votes go to the winner, no matter how close the election might have been. If, for example, Obama gets 45% of the votes in my home state of Louisiana, he still gets 0% of the Louisiana electoral votes. If the republican nominee ends up winning by one vote in Louisiana, he receives all of Louisiana’s electoral votes. In fact, it is mathematically possible for one of the candidates to get 49% of the popular vote and 100% of electoral votes. Go figure.

As next year’s election date nears, only these few battleground states will be receiving the focus and the money from the presidential candidates. In a state like Texas, where the republican nominee will easily win, or a state like New York, where President Obama is a cinch, why even vote for president? All of the electoral delegates get assigned to the winner, and we know who the winner is going to be, so for all practical purposes, your vote for president has been taken away.
When it comes to other statewide races on the ballot, like Governor or U.S. Senator, we use the popular vote, which is what you would expect in a democracy.

So why, in the presidential election do we have an electoral system that allows voters in the majority of the states to be disenfranchised? It’s an idiosyncratic system that on four occasions in our nation’s history created a quagmire, wherein the presidential candidate with the largest number of popular votes did not win the largest number of electoral votes, and therefore did not become president. Remember a guy named Al Gore?

The system in place was confected in the early days of the republic by our founders, where electors were supposed to be independent agents exercising their best judgment in choosing a presidential candidate from a list of several contenders. Why? Because the Framers of the Constitution, our Founding Fathers, the champions of democracy, did not trust the voters to make an intelligent choice. Check out these quotes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

“The extent of the country renders a popular vote impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates.” Delegate George Mason, July 17, 1787.

“A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men and throughout the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment.” Delegate Elbridge Gerry. July 25, 1787.

“The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men.” Delegate Samuel Johnson, July 19, 1787.

So what this all comes down to is that the Founding Fathers were trying their best to insulate the selection of the president from the “whims” of the public. They didn’t trust voters, then, and the system does not trust you now to make your choice. So because of conservative political persuasions, a large majority of states are left out of any serious attention from the presidential candidates.

Once they receive their respective nominations, it’s highly unlikely that either the Republican nominee or President Obama will set foot in a state like Louisiana. Neither candidate will feel any pressure to say a word about hurricane recovery, wetlands protection, or supporting a larger percentage of oil and gas revenues for the state off the Louisiana coast. From the perspective of both major party candidates, issues in red and blue states will be irrelevant in their coming campaigns. There is simply no political capital to gain by visiting these states, or speaking about their state and regional issues.

By being so out of the mix, just what else is Louisiana missing? No knocks on the door by college students from out of state with leaflets about how inept and divisive the Republican nominee is? No robo-calls in the middle of dinner telling us what a mess Obama has made of the economy? And no presidential TV ads. In politically irrelevant states like Louisiana, voters are left out of the national political bombardment that is taking place in the likes of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, where those voters are taught that the republican nominee is a Bush clone and that Obama will continue to socialize the country. Besides those political commercials paid for by state and local candidates, all we will get are ads about bladder control and erectile dysfunction.

There are a number of reforms being considered for future elections. A proportional electoral vote by congressional districts is as compromise solution that makes sense. In the meantime, don’t forget to go vote for a number of candidates and propositions on the ballot when the national election rolls around next year. Your vote might make the difference in many of these local and state races. But in this election, depending on where you live, your vote for president really could be irrelevant.
“We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – the American Electoral College system sucks.

The Daily Iowan
The Daily Iowan. Editorial/Opinion. “Long past time to fix Electoral College.”

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 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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ole' Man River a Tough Challange!

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


Randy Newman’s song, Louisiana 1927, hit home to many residents up and down the Mississippi river this week. He was singing about the 1927 flood, where more than 23,000 square miles were inundated, hundreds of people died, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. As of right now, predictions are that water levels up and down the river will exceed those reached in the 1927 disaster. And no one really knows how bad it will get.

It has been abnormally hot this spring throughout the south. A number of states have seen three times the normal amount of rain. But along with the downpours, there have been droughts and wildfires. Then came the tornadoes in all time record numbers that killed at least 309 people and caused massive destruction. Insurance losses are now projected to exceed $6 billon, with a similar amount for homes that were either under insured, or not insured at all.

The heavy spring rains have been incessant up and down the river, and there are projections for more Midwest thunderstorms later on this week. And all this water has, over the years, been channeled in tight levee systems that are right now under massive pressure. Author John Barry, who has been a guest on my radio show on several occasions, documented the dangers of flooding on the Mississippi in his award winning book, “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi river Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.” I asked him about his concerns today. “I know the power of this river, and quite frankly it makes me nervous to see this much water on the move,” he says

Barry also points out that “there will be a lot of backwater flooding going up rivers that are normally tributaries flowing into the Mississippi. They won’t be able to empty into the Mississippi, so the main line River will back up these streams causing a great deal of additional flooding.”

I know his scenario well from living through back water problems during the 1973 flood, where water levels reached their highest point to date. I was a newly elected state senator in Louisiana living right on the Mississippi in Ferriday, across the river from Natchez, Mississippi. I could go up on my roof and see across the main line levee as the waters continued to rise.

The water got so high that the Red and Black Rivers in that area that it began to back up, flooding many communities throughout my district. Some towns, like Jonesville, were surrounded by water and local residents had to get to and from their homes by boat. At the lower end of Catahoula Parish (other states have counties, but in Louisiana they are called parishes), some homes were buried under twenty-five feet of water.

When the river along the mainline levee came within four feet of overtopping, the local sheriff emptied the jails putting prisoners to work filling sandbags to build up the levees. For four days, I occasionally catnapped while working alongside neighbors and prisoners as we tried to raise the levee with sand. When the river finally crested, there was a little over a foot to spare that kept the Mighty Mississippi from pouring into our neighborhoods and destroying our homes.

Fast forward 38 years and the river levels look to be even higher and the flooding worse. Some three million acres will go under water in Louisiana alone, and almost half of the parishes here have been declared disaster areas. The River is approaching dangerous heights right now, yet the projected crest in Louisiana is not until May 23.

There are three major spillways along the river in Louisiana, and each has floodgates that can be opened to divert the raging waters. Opening these gates lessens the chance of flooding many inhabited areas, but the process is not a panacea. The millions of tons of sediment in the waters that are diverted will wipe out any crops in the water’s path along with many homes.

Roy Dokka, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, says Louisiana farmers are in for a long hoe. “Any existing crops are going to be toast when you look at the damage caused to corn, sugar cane and soybeans that will be covered with sediment,” he stated. “Plus, God knows what’s in the water and what gets deposited.”

And what if the levees collapse as they did during Katrina? “That’s the worst case scenario,” says Dokka. “If levees break, weeks could pass before engineers could reseal them. If wide-scale flooding occurs, the resulting economic damage will be felt for years, he said. “Any city that ever floods never really returns economically to where it once was because people don’t have confidence, people don’t want to put businesses there. New Orleans is the big example.”

So the south is taking on Mother Nature with a wing and a prayer. Living in this part of the country is a gamble that has consequences. Newman’s lyrics for a flood 84 years ago could just as well apply to what many residents who live along the Mississippi are facing right now, as each day passes.

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

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 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

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Will Bin Laden Continue to Affect our Lives?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The most wanted war criminal in the world is now dead. And it is for good reason that Americans are enthralled over his death. So do we now go back to our life before 9/11? Or will we find that in death as in his life, bin Laden will continue to haunt us? And how many members of congress will have the wits to ask just how much damage did he really do, and why it took so long to find him?

It took a decade for the most sophisticated intelligence network in the world to locate bin Laden. For 10 years, he hoodwinked the CIA, the FBI, and 16 US intelligence agencies, along with the intelligence operations of NATO, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At bin Laden’s direction, a few Saudi Arabians with box cutters started this whole nightmare by following his plan to compromise the country’s entire national security system and commit the murder of thousands of innocent Americans.

Why did it take ten years to find the world’s top assassin? As we have just found out, he was not living in an isolated Afghanistan cave, but in a million dollar hideout just a stones throw from the Pakistani Military Academy. He was protected by eighteen foot high walls and a ream of security guards. Numerous military personal lived in the neighborhood. Didn’t anyone wonder who was living behind these high walls? Or did they know?

The state department is requesting $3 billion this year for Pakistan. The U.S. has already spent 10 years and billions of dollars chasing Osama bin Laden around the world, only to find him hiding in plain sight, right next door to a country it has invaded. And for most of this time, bin Laden has been hanging out less than 40 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capitol city in an affluent suburban neighborhood with manicured lawns. What does this say about our capability to keep our own citizens safe?

A strong case can be made that no other single human being, either directly or indirectly, has inflicted the huge fiscal damage that was caused by Osama bin Laden. The attack of 9/11 all but shut down the American economy for days, and then caused a sluggishness that went on for months. Many Americans stopped flying, causing congress to enact a $15 billion federal bailout. And how about the new security requirements that were instituted? Annual costs have been pegged at more than $8 billion.

Because of bin Laden’s provocation, America launched wars initially in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan.

The estimated amount in United States dollars spent by the US on its military operations in Iraq to date is $787 billion. The estimated amount, in United States dollars, spent by the US on its military operations in Afghanistan to date is $400 billion. And we continue to spend $2 billion dollars a week in Afghanistan alone.

Who knows the final cost? It will certainly end up being in the trillions. Throw in escalating oil prices, which sky rocketed after we invaded Iraq, the rebuilding at the Twin Towers site, and the repair of The Pentagon, the price of damages and health care for the thousands of 9/11 victims... the costs just go on and on.

And wasn’t that the whole reason for the 9/11 attacks? To drain the U.S. dry financially? Bin Laden pulled the same stunt fighting the Russians in Afghanistan when he was a leader in the resistance. He knew full well the lesson that superpowers fail because of economic collapse, not because of military defeat. As Russia’s economy went stagnant, bin Laden boasted: “We bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt. We broke them as they tied to conquer a mass of rocks and sand.” He said the same thing about America in 2004, asserting that he was “continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

It’s puzzling how much damage bin Laden was able to do with so few resources. In 1996, after being exiled from both Saudi Arabia and Sudan, this calculating Arab declares war on America. At the time, he was broke with no significant followers, no political party and no movement. But he painted a scenario of a “cosmic struggle” by Muslims against the infidels in the West. Plain and simple – it was them against us, portrayed in religious tones, that this was the will of Allah.

The human suffering inflicted by this one murderous thug has been enormous. Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been killed, or maimed and psychologically scarred for life. All told, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives including the lives of thousands of innocent Muslims have been lost directly or indirectly because of Osama bin Laden.

Even though he is dead, Osama bin Laden will be a continuing presence in our daily lives. He will be there when you take off your shoes and submit to invasive searches at airports. His affect will be felt when you stand in long lines at public events while security guards search bags and purses. And he can be credited with dramatically curtailing your basic freedoms as an American citizen.

As Brian Doherty writes in the American Conservative: Thanks to the “massive security apparatus erected after 9/11, the government now wiretaps telephone calls without warrants, creates profiles of citizens even if they’re not suspected of specific crimes, and seizes information without judicial oversight.” Yes, he has but a chill on the basic American freedoms that we so dearly covet.

Some semblance of justice may have been served for the many who died in the terrible wave of violence that began on 9/11. Unfortunately, the injustice for the living will continue at home and abroad for many years to come.


“We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.”
Osama bin Laden

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 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

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