Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Real Meaning of Independence Day!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Independence Day to most Americans means a three day weekend with gatherings of family and friends, barbecues, parties, games, food, parades, baseball games and fireworks. Traditionally, most of us know that July 4th is the recognition and celebration of our country’s independence from an oppressive government. But this mid-summer special day is really only about one thing. Freedom.

Most Americans agree on the importance of safeguarding basic freedoms protected by the constitution. But here’s where it gets a little murky. Do we have to give up certain of these freedoms to be safe and secure? The current and past presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, think that there are trade-offs, and that individual freedoms have to be compromised for the sake of security. In order to combat crime and terrorism, they say, it is necessary for the government to take away certain freedoms and civil rights. In the realities of the 21st Century, is our constitution “out of date?” Both parties in Washington would have you believe so.

In the opinion of a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington, freedom has to make way for safety concerns. That disturbing view manifested itself in the recent passage of the so-called Patriot Act. In the name of fighting terrorism, members of congress drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights.

Here is what members of congress did in their Patriot Act vote. They authorized and empowered federal agents on their own, in violation of the Constitution, and without you knowing it, to obtain records about you from your accountant, bank, boat dealer, bodega, book store, car dealer, casino, computer server, credit union, dentist, HMO, hospital, hotel manager, insurance company, jewelry store, lawyer, library, pawn broker, pharmacist, physician, postman, real estate agent, supermarket, tax collectors, telephone company, travel agency, and trust company, and use the evidence thus obtained in any criminal prosecution against you.

Congress, both Republicans and Democrats alike, at the behest of President Obama, tightly embraced the less-freedom-equals-more-security false prophecy. So here’s the tragic irony. On this special 4th of July weekend, when we celebrate our independence and our right to be free, we are being told by our leaders in Washington that, yes, America fought a war with the British, and over the past 230 years continued to fight wars to protect our freedom from foreign governments. But nevertheless, now, we have no choice but to let our own government compromise these same freedoms that we have sacrificed so much to maintain and protect.

Constitutional scholar Judge Andrew Napolitano hit the nail on the head when he said on Fox News recently: “President Bush argued frequently and forcefully that his first job was to keep us safe. He was wrong. The Constitution tells us that his sole job is to enforce the Constitution: and that means keeping us free. Free from tyrants who sought and claimed power from thin air: free from prince-like federal agents who could behave without constitutional or legal restraint: free to live with a government that obeyed its own laws. Any president who keeps us safe but unfree is rejecting his oath to the American people.”

Lenin’s words concerning freedom would apparently find solace with a majority of members of Congress. “It is true that liberty is precious, so precious that it must be carefully rationed.” And that’s the rub. Or politicians want to control our basic liberties in the name of security. The more security the bureaucrats in Washington try to impose, the more freedoms are taken away. You see, freedom and security are not the same. The most secure citizens in American are in jail. That’s why it’s called “maximum security.”

. When we hear all this talk of our members of congress fighting to protect American freedoms, a paraphrase of George Carlin’s observations comes to mind. “Crime fighters fight crime, fire fighters fight fire, so what do our supposed government freedom fighters fight?”

When I was studying at the University of North Carolina back in the early 1960s, poet Robert Frost came to speak. He talked a good bit about individual freedoms and the challenges of speaking up to protect constitutional freedoms. “Don’t leave it to the politicians,” he said. “Freedom is just too important. He went on to say that protecting freedom from within is hard work. “You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.”

So is there some nefarious plot by congress and the president to undermine basic constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the American people? No. But as is often the case, we allow a fictitious notion to grow that the government is only looking out for our own good. C.S Lewis, in his essays on theology entitled God in the Dock, addresses the issue head on:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the food of its victims’ may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity many at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Your congressman will no doubt protest that he or she is seeking the worthy goal of keeping you safe. The reply of the true patriot is, “Yes, but at what cost?” Is the benefit of some perceived (but often unproven) measure of safety worth, in this constitutional tug of war, the sacrifice of the basic liberties that American citizens have enjoyed for the past two centuries? Thomas Jefferson would argue no. Principals matter. The Bill of Rights matter. The Constitution matters. The best way to keep us safe is to keep us free. That’s the message on this Independence Day. And for every other day of the year.


“Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty or security.” Benjamin Franklin

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, June 22, 2011

Republicans Let the Good Times Roll in New Orleans!

Thursday, June 23rd, 201
New Orleans, Louisiana


The circus comes to town quite often in New Orleans. It’s always Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, frolicking in the French Quarter, and weekly festivals where zany antics take place, few restrictions apply, and the good times continue to roll. So it was no surprise that republicans gathered in New Orleans last week to assess their chances in 2012. Sizing up the field of presidential wannabes that showed up, there were no real standouts. National polls indicate that half the republican voters nationally are still hoping a better candidate emerges. But don’t bet on it.

It was tea party tough talk as the eight announced candidates engaged in one-upsmanship in seeing who could be the bigger critic of the President, and who could offer the biggest slice of rhetorical red meat to the party’s base. Congressman Ron Paul told the crowd it was time to shut down any foreign military involvement unless the U.S. was directly threatened. When pizza king Herman Cain called for a continuing policy of support for Israel, the Paul crowd booed loudly. Cain also clarified an important issue in the coming campaign. He prefers deep dish pizza over thin crust.

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota charmed the crowd with a big smile and tough talk. With Bachmann dressed in white from head to toe, one observer dubbed the candidates Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I interviewed Bachmann for my weekly radio show prior to her speech, and it’s easy to see why her popularity is growing. She grasps your hand, and looks you straight in the eye, ala Bill Clinton. She reminds you that she not only has 5 children, but 23 foster children. Hey, even I’m impressed.

Bachmann warmed up the strong Louisiana crowd by telling them: “You survived Katrina! You survived President Obama’s oil moratorium! There is nothing you can’t survive!” She is the warmest and most accessible candidate of the lot, followed closely by former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. And Bachmann is no slouch on details of what she believes. No comparing her to another potential female candidate (You betcha!). Bachmann did get “glittered” by a gay activist, but she just kept smiling and waving to the adoring crowd.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich left most of those in attendance (and yours truly) cold when he went over the top saying that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are a "secular-socialist machine" that "represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union." He gave the GOP loyalists an off the wall neocon lecture that seemed out of touch with present day foreign policy realities. Newt has become a political dinosaur whose days in the presidential ring, by his own missteps, are numbered.

Then to the podium came bigger than life Texas Governor, Rick Perry. With the swagger, the twist of the head, and the puzzling smile, was it Dubya reincarnated? As Comedian Andy Borowitz, a regular guest on my talk show, suggested, Perry’s campaign slogan could be: “What Harm Could a Governor from Texas Do?” Perry once suggested that Texas ought to secede from the union. Andy suggests Perry should propose that “The United States should secede from Planet Earth and pray for rapture.” The national press, however, seems to be taking the Texas Governor much more seriously. With the South having become completely red, and with no present southern candidate having emerged so far, a number of commentators look to Perry to fill the vacant role of a strong, conservative, tea party- leaning candidate to oppose the present front runner, Mitt Romney.

The most substantive, sensible speech of the convention received a polite but lukewarm response. It came from former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, who has been working for months to get more media attention, with limited success. Roemer has been crisscrossing early primary states in his campaign bus selling his message that what’s wrong with America is that it’s been largely sold to powerful corporate interests. Roemer puts it this way:

“I know when we’re being taken advantage of, and I know our own corporate giants have never been more profitable than they are right now because they keep sending these high-priced American jobs overseas. I will run successfully for President, accepting $100 maximum contributions, like I always do. No PAC money, full disclosure. I will attempt to beat the tyranny of the big check. If we don't do this, the change that's necessary to rebuild America will never happen.” Roemer is the best orator in the bunch, but he can’t get his message across because he has limited his resources.

So what was the highlight of the convention? My friend Andy would say it was when the Obama impersonator took the stage. Reggie Brown had the crowd standing and cheering raucously when he lit into the Democrats from disgraced ex-congressman Anthony Weiner to the President himself. Brown joked that Obama celebrates only half of African-American History Month. But then the crowd quieted down when Brown turned on Republican candidates. “Newt Gingrich’s supporters are dropping faster than Weiner’s pants.” He followed up by put downs on most of the other candidates, until convention organizers had had enough. Brown’s mike was cut off, and the music swelled.

The convention itself was organized and run in a first class manner. Kudos to the Louisiana Republican Party, and the convention CEO, Charlie Davis, who knows how to organize and put on a good show. And what better place to hold such a gathering than New Orleans? As Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told the republican faithful: “If you can’t come down here and have a good time, it’s your own darn fault.”
Three contenders who, at least for now, have a good shot at the nomination, were not in attendance. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who presently leads in the polls, chose to “stay above the fray,” and skip New Orleans. His strategy seems to be to raise money and not get caught up in the interparty squabbling. Red state south is not fertile ground for the more moderate Romney, where polls show his Mormon faith is troubling to a number of voters.

Minnesota’s former Governor Tim Pawlenty also was a no show, choosing to give a paid speech in California instead. He has been under fire for breaking Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment of not criticizing other candidates in his recent attack on Romney’s Healthcare proposals. In a New Hampshire debate earlier in the week, Pawlenty seemed to wilt like a bodega tulip. Huntsmen, who like Romney is also a former Utah Governor and a Mormon, surprisingly won the straw poll in New Orleans, but called in sick for the New Orleans gathering.

Despite all the anti-Obama rhetoric, Republicans realize that this coming election will be no cake walk, and that the President is going to be hard to defeat. As former Governor, and once candidate, Mike Huckabee points out, “It's not Obama's performance, so much as his money and a possible lack of Republican unity.” New Orleans was a warm up. These candidates still have a long and rough road to travel before any of them emerge as the one to beat.


“I'm not sure Lincoln would fare well if he were a presidential candidate today.”
David Herbert Donald

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, June 16, 2011

Politics or Opportunism on Healthcare?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Remember the old knock on presidential candidate John Kerry back in the 2004 election? “I was for it before I was against it.” Today, about the single worst charge that can be made against any conservative republican presidential candidate is that they support requiring Americans to buy health insurance. But for decades, the Republican leadership in Washington embraced and championed individual mandates…well, that was before they “saw the light,” and flip-flopped against such a requirement. As Ricky Ricardo used to say: “Lucy, you got some explainin’ to do.”

The push towards mandated health care began back in the mid 1980s under President Ronald Reagan when he signed legislation that mandated free health care for all who seek it. That law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), was the largest expansion of government mandated health care since Medicare. But from the start, this new law engendered controversy from conservative economists. Their concern was that the system was not encouraging individual responsibility. Their thinking was that many people would not purchase health insurance, so the taxpayer would get stuck with the medical bills.

From that point on, a whole host of Republican congressional leaders called for mandated health coverage. Here is House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2007 -- “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.” An “individual mandate” should be applied.

In 2008, Tommy Thompson, The Secretary of Health and Humans Services under President George W. Bush, said, “Just like people are required to have car insurance, they should be required to have health insurance.” Add to that list of supporters former Senate majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist of Tennessee, and all the Senators who co-sponsored legislation with an individual mandate -- Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Senator Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
Here’s what Senator Grassley said just two years ago on Fox News: “There isn’t anything wrong with an individual mandate, except some people look at it as an infringement on individual freedom. But when it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principal then ought to lie [be] the same for health insurance. Because everybody has some health insurance costs, and if you aren’t insured, there’s no free lunch. Somebody else has to pay for it….I believe there is bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.”
As these comments and many others by Republicans and numerous conservative think tanks have pointed out, there is a strong case for personal responsibility. Why should a certain portion of the population ignore their healthcare protection, then have an accident or get sick, and run to the emergency room for treatment, forcing you and me to pay their bill? If we have to pay the piper, then why doesn’t everyone?

There is little hue and cry over mandated automobile insurance. Everyone is required to be insured, so that if you are in an accident, and it’s not your fault, the other guy has to step up to the plate and pay you damages. What’s fair for one, is fair for all. Most of us don’t want to subsidize the uninsured driver, so why would we want to subsidize the irresponsible guy who just doesn’t care enough to buy health insurance? If someone can’t afford the cost, then perhaps there should be a subsidy. But everyone should pay something. That’s called being responsible. And that is why in the past, so many conservative republicans embraced the individual mandate.

What about property insurance? Just try to go to a financial institution to borrow money for a new home, or for refinancing. No property insurance? Forget it. And isn’t it ironic that the same politicians who are opposing government mandated health insurance are leading the cry for property bailouts. No help when you get sick, but members of congress demand that the government cavalry come charging in when a flood or hurricane hits. If you live in my part of the country and don’t responsibly buy flood insurance, then government bailouts are both expected and demanded.

Following Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Senator Trent Lott’s Mississippi beachfront home was destroyed, and he had not purchased flood insurance. So he introduced legislation to provide retroactive flood insurance to victims like himself. He was joined in support by his Senate colleague, Thad Cochran and Governor Haley Barbour. Make the government bail out those who didn’t look out for themselves. But they now strongly oppose any mandated health coverage.

And the flood insurance, itself, is highly subsidized by the federal government. Now catch the irony here. With health insurance, the insurance company will reject you if you have a pre-existing condition. No subsidy and no coverage. But for property insurance, it’s just the opposite. If you live in a part of the country that floods or is prone to hurricanes, your flood insurance is even cheaper because it is subsidized by the government. Go figure.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger summed up the dilemma well. “There is nothing else in our economy where an individual who has made no preparation can go in and get $1 million of goods and services passed on to them at taxpayer expense.” That means the system struggles with free riders --people who would have society pay for their care, rather than pay for it themselves.

Will the health mandate stand up to judicial review? Right now, each side has two victories in the lower courts. The challenge to the existing mandate is a dead cinch to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s also a certainly that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the swing vote. No good odds on which way the Justice will vote.

Of course party politics plays no role in the current debate. Can you envision the republican Senator looking across the aisle in the nation’s capitol and saying, “Actually, I’m voting against any mandate, before I vote for it, when a Republican is back in the White House?” And you can just hear his democratic colleague retort, “Well, I’m voting for it, after I voted against it, back when you voted for it, when a Republican was in the White House.” Is there any wonder why the country is so enmeshed in gridlock?


If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

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 The show is televised at

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


He was once the fair haired boy of the Democratic Party, and a major contender for the presidential nomination. In December of 2006, I was working in New Orleans hosting a daily radio program on Clear Channel’s WRNO, and stood in the crowd as he announced his candidacy for President. In 2004, he was the democratic candidate for vice president on the Kerry ticket. He formed and led the “One America Committee” that undertook a major effort to combat poverty in America. And now, John Edwards just hopes to stay out of a federal prison.

The former US Senator is certainly no paragon of virtue. During his presidential run, he fathered an illegitimate child by a campaign aid, lied about it and funneled some $900 thousand through friends to support and keep his paramour quiet. Now he’s being charged with violating federal campaign laws by accepting donations beyond the allowable limits. The question is this: Is it a violation of federal law to accept and direct money to the mother of his child? Did he do this to protect his candidacy, and therefore the money should be considered campaign funds?

A number of former prosecutors and legal scholars have sharply criticized the Justice Department saying that such an interpretation of the federal campaign finance law is a real stretch, and have accused the prosecutors in the Edwards case of proceeding under a convoluted interpretation of what the law actually means. Such charges have never been filed before, and for good reason. The money in question continued to be given to Edwards’ mistress long after he dropped out of the presidential race.

So if the money was supposed to be to help with the campaign, why was it still being given after the campaign ended? Former federal elections Commission Chairman Scott Thomas looked at the case and said the payments “would not be considered to be either campaign contributions or campaign expenditures within the meaning of the campaign laws”

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington regularly criticizes the Justice Department for not holding public officials more accountable, but they too think such a prosecution is a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. Executive Director Melanie Sloan said it is highly unlikely that prosecutors can prove that the money given was to aid Edwards’ candidacy. “This is really a broad definition of a campaign contribution. It has never been that broadly interpreted and the judge could and should toss the case before it goes to trial. John Edwards is horrible, but it doesn’t mean they should be prosecuting him criminally,” she said, “and I’m usually all in favor of the prosecution. I think this is a silly case.”

Then there is the prosecutor, George Holding, a Bush appointee, who was not reappointed by President Obama, and is on his way out. There is no love lost here, as Holding used to work for former Senator Jesse Helms, and Edwards blocked several key judgeships important to Holding. Is it payback time? Holding is being assisted by the same public integrity section of the Justice Department that bungled its last high profile case against the late Senator Ted Stevens, when the prosecutors admitted they withheld key evidence from the Senator’s legal team. One of the prosecutors in the Stephens case then committed suicide.

“The Department of Justice as a whole, and the Public Integrity Section in particular, has a black eye,” says white collar defense attorney Bob Bittman. He knows of what he speaks for Bittman was once the chief prosecutor in charge of the Monica Lewinsky investigation involving President Bill Clinton. “They just are not seen as fair,” he concludes. So there is plenty of sleaze to go around on both sides.

Here’s what the Edwards defense team should argue. None of the money that was given to the mistress went through either Edwards or the campaign, so there is no requirement that it be disclosed and reported. The money given was used to hide the mistress from Edwards’ wife, not from the public. The Federal Elections Commission rules refer to the “irrespective test.” Does the expense exist even if no campaign were taking place? Most people would agree that paying money for the child of a candidate is an expense that exists “even in the absence of the candidacy.” Hey, lots of candidates pay alimony and child support.

In fact, Edwards’ lawyers could well argue that the prosecutors have it backwards. If Edwards had reported the private gifts, this in itself could be a violation of the campaign law for he was spending money for his personal use from his campaign fund. If he ends up getting convicted, will this mean that in the future, paying money to one’s mistress can be considered a legitimate campaign expense?

Professor Jonathon Turley, a regular legal commentator on CNN, says “the ambiguity of where to draw the line between personal and campaign expenditures is the biggest problem for the prosecution’s theory. Just because hiding the affair would be of benefit to Edwards as a candidate as well as a spouse does not necessarily mean the dual benefit converts to a cover-up or an affair into a campaign violation,” he told The Nation. “The uncertainty of where to draw the lines makes me uncomfortable with the criminal charge.”

John Edwards is a sleazy guy who has betrayed his family, his friends and his supporters. He has certainly fallen from grace and will carry this albatross for the rest of his life. But is he a criminal under federal law and should he go to jail?

Thomas Jefferson once said the criminal law has to be so clear that you can understand it if you read it while running. Clarity should not be in the eye of the beholder. In the Edwards case, prosecutors who seem to have questionable motives have way over reached. John Edwards, the judicial system, and the American public deserve better.


“It's just an awful, awful story. It was one of those cases that, in a perfect world, one would think the prosecutorial arm of our government might exercise better discretion on how to handle.”
~ John Palmer

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, June 01, 2011

Patriot Act Flat Out UnAmerican!

Wednesday, June 2nd 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Since the founding of our country more than 200 hundred years ago, Americans have enjoyed core rights and liberties that made our country not just unique, but exceptional in protecting our basic freedoms. But no more. Just last week, The Congress of the United States sent a strong message to the American people that infringement on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself is just all part of the price we pay for “Big Government” to protect us. Thomas Paine warned us at the birth of our nation that “it is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” He would be stunned today to watch our Congress march in lock step with the President in renewing the so called Patriot Act.

Simply put, the Patriot Act is one of the most egregious acts against basic rights and liberties that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. The President and many members of Congress will argue that they have a job to keep American safe. But that’s not the starting point. Their job is to see that the Constitution is enforced, and that means keeping us free. As Judge Andrew Napolitano said on his Fox News program this week, the job of these federal officials is to keep us “Free from tyrants who sought and claimed power from thin air; free from prince-like federal agents who could behave without constitutional or legal restraint; free to live with a government that obeys its own laws. Any president who keeps us safe but unfree is ignoring his oath to the American people.” And doesn’t keeping us safe include keeping us safe from the tyranny of our own government as well?

Not only does this unconscionable law rip at the very fiber of each and every American’s basic liberties, several courageous U.S. Senators are charging that federal agents are now twisting the law with interpretations that go way beyond the few limits infused in this unpatriotic act. Senator Mark Udall from Colorado, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned: “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.” His concerns were echoed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, who charged: “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

The President may have inadvertently given an opening to opponents of the act to void it when he “signed” the legislation by using an autopen to reproduce his signature in Washington while he was in France. The primary purpose of the autopen (a machine) is to replicate numerous signatures generated by one person signing with one pen. I used such a pen as Louisiana Secretary of State where my signature was required on virtually all official state documents. But the law is clear that I had to be in the state at the time of signing, and the autopen was merely a convenience so as not to have to sign and hundreds of documents, one after the other, in one sitting.

Now I know that the present mind set in Washington is to pay little attention to the Constitution. But if anyone in charge is remotely interested, Article 1, Section 7 of our founding document clearly states and requires that a proposed law “be presented to the President of The United States; if he approve he shall sign it.” Nothing here about giving the OK to reproduce his signature from 3000 miles away by telephone. It would be interesting how the “strict constructionists” on the Supreme Court would interpret this action.

A lighter anecdote on autopens concerning this extremely serious subject. During the time I was Secretary of State backing the mid 80s, I was in Atlantic City attending a convention, and bought tickets to see one of the last performances of two of my favorites -- Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The show was to be held that evening, and I received a call from the Louisiana Governor’s office around 4:00 in the afternoon. The Governor needed my official signature to call an emergency special session of the Louisiana Legislature, and the proclamation had to be signed by midnight.

No way to make it back, I said. I was 1500 miles away and I certainly didn’t want to miss the concert. Just use my autopen. But the Governor’s two lawyers insisted I had to personally sign and it was imperative and vital that I make it home by midnight. I reluctantly hailed a cab from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, caught a plane back to New Orleans, and landed at 11:50 pm. The lawyers had flown down from the state capitol in a police helicopter, and were waiting on the runway as the plane landed. I signed the required document with only minutes to spare. The President may want to take heed. At least follow the dictates of the Constitution.

The next time you have the chance to talk with your Senator or Congressman, you might want to pose a few questions for his consideration. The Patriot Act has, for all practical purposes, driven a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights. What I would like to ask my congressional representatives is just who will protect us from our government. Congressman, do you support the domestic surveillance of American citizens by authorizing (as you did by voting for the Patriot Act) far reaching authority for government agents to pry, without judicial authorization, into practically every aspect of a citizen’s personal life? Do you agree that government agents can now come to your place of employment and seize your personal and medical records, all without notifying you?

Congressman, do you have any problem with the FBI demanding customer records from a bank, the phone company, an internet provider, a doctor or your local library all without any notice or court approval? How about the monitoring of where one goes to church, clubs they belong to, or their lawful activities with any political organization? What about jailing American citizens indefinitely without allowing a trial? Is this the kind of country you want us to live in Congressman? Is this the kind of country we should ask our young men and women to fight and die for? Congressman, we would like to hear your answer!

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
Edward Abbey

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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