Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why the Middle East Turmoil?

Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


One of the joys of my early life was to study English Literature at Cambridge in England back in the early 1960s. Nobel prize author and poet Rudyard Kipling was an early favorite. He did not bog the reader down with dense symbolism and complexity. He was easy to understand.  Born in India, Kipling was tagged as the “Poet of the British Empire. It just might be a good idea for Republicans and Democrats, who fall over themselves espousing America’s continuing role in the Middle East, to take a breather and read a little Kipling.

 “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat.”

Kipling expressed his concerns of imperialism in his book, The Man Who Would Be King,   which was made into one of my favorite movies. In it, Sean Connery loses his head attempting to bring his western values to a remote mountain vastness called Kafiristan. Michael Caine is left alive to crawl back to civiliation and bring the message to the West -- “quit trying to convert and save us” in the Middle East.

America has commanded a major presence thoroughout the Middle East for the past 60 years for one major reason. No, a singular reason. Oil. It was in our economic interest to remake the Muslim world by the B and B method. Bribing and Bombing. In the 1980s, U.S. interests were served by pouring  money and weapons into Afghanaistan in support of Islamic radicals who were trying to expel the Russians. Then our one time allies turned on us, and the initial seeds of al-Qaeda were sown, and America has been in a quagmire ever since
In the last decade, we plunged into Iraq, where there was initially only a minor al-Qaeda presence. But the quixotic U.S. invasion poured gasoline onto the anti U.S. fire, causing the death of some 6700 American soldiers, leaving a country in shambles, with not one barrel of oil confiscated in this wasted effort. Then it was on to Afganistan, and again, for no apparent reason.  (But al-Qaeda is lurking!)  Osama bin Laden is dead but his effort to bog down the U.S. in endless Middle East wars is right on target.

Now the U.S. faces a renewed crisis. Some California nut diseminates a cheesy movie about the dangers of the Muslim world, futher fanning the flames of hatred of the U.S.. It is perfect fodder for blame for the current Middle East uprising. This strictly low rent amateur film has caused outright chaos throughout the Middle East. The movie caused it, right?

Forget the fact that the attack and death of the American Ambassador in Lybia happened the  same day as the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on New York.  Forget the fact that these new Middle East democracies are protesting over the decades of U.S. support for the dictators who ruled them with a repressive fist. It was all about a movie!

Writing in the British newspaper The Guardian, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad concluded, “The maelstrom of anti-western violence in the Arab world has little to do with an anti-Islam propaganda film released on YouTube. It has more to do with decades of perceived western imperialism. Barack Obama's Arab honeymoon was squandered by drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen.”

Drone attacks he points out are used to get rid of the bad guys.  And yes, we need to get rid of the bad guys.  But as children’s book author Dr. Paul Craig Roberts points out in a recent Trends Journal article:

 “Washington's assaults on seven countries have blown up weddings, funerals, kids' soccer games, farm houses, hospitals, aid workers, schools, people walking along the streets, village elders, but the Muslims don't mind! They understand that the well-meaning Americans, who love them and are committed to their human rights, are bringing them democracy and women's rights. The million or more dead, maimed, and displaced Muslims are a low price to be paid for liberation by Washington.”

Do you catch his sarcasm? This is the way a delusional Washington works, thinks. It’s the hateful and wrong-minded film from California, not Washington's slaughter of innocent Muslims and control over their societies and political life that causes the rage against us.
The Middle East has been in turmoil for over 2000 years. And just about everyone has attempted to control this part of the world over the course of history. The Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans...the list goes on -- none with any degree of long-term success.

From all this turmoil, there are lessons to be learned, especially for the U.S.  First, make a massive effort to become independent of Middle Eastern oil. Second, read more Kipling. In his novel, The Naulahka, he writes:

"And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
"And the epitaph drear: 'A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'"
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation  and on websites worldwide.  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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Once and Future President?

Friday, September 14th, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward has a new book out this week, (The Price of Politics) where he focuses on the first term missteps of the current president. He concludes that to be successful, presidents need to “work their will -- or should work their will -- on the important matters of national business.” Woodward concludes that one of the best examples of a president who can “work his will” is the guy who overshadowed all the other speakers at both recent political conventions. Bill Clinton.

Clinton went to Charlotte last week, and in 45 minutes made a better case for an Obama reelection than the President himself has been able to make in the past 45 months. He clearly and succinctly explained in simple terms the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats. Whether one agrees with Clinton’s views or not, few will deny his extraordinary ability to relate to his audience.

Bill Clinton’s secret? He connects. In Columnist Mark Shields, recent column discussing why the former president is so captivating he sums it up this way – “Bill Clinton has the ability, lacking in both Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, to "connect" with people in a personal way. Clinton possesses both the human touch and the rare gift of being able to convince almost anyone whom he meets that he, Bill Clinton, has been on this planet for 66 years just for these precious minutes he is spending with you.”
The first time I talked to Bill Clinton one-on-one was in 1991, the night I was elected Louisiana Insurance Commissioner. My staff had arranged a victory party at a Baton Rouge restaurant, and we wound up the celebration around midnight. My wife Gladys and I were on our way home with my six-year-old son James sound asleep on my shoulder. As we were leaving, Gus Piazza, the owner of the restaurant called out that I had a telephone call. I assumed that it was a reporter wanting a comment about my victory. But Gus said, “It’s the Governor of Arkansas, Jim. He wants to talk to you.” I took the phone and had my first conversation with Bill Clinton.

“I just heard the news of your victory, Jim. Congratulations,” said the Governor. I am sure I was only one of many successful Democratic candidates whom Bill Clinton called that evening. And later I was told that he called and congratulated elected officials and other potential supporters throughout the country, night after night. That focus, that tenacity, day after day, year after year, is certainly one of the reasons Bill Clinton has been so successful throughout his public life.

In 1996, Clinton was well on his way to a second term landslide victory over Republican Senator Bob Dole. The final weekend before the election, I received a call from the President’s re-election campaign staff asking me to come to New Orleans for a final  campaign rally and give a short talk along with several other state elected officials to “warm up the crowd” before the president was to speak.

Now a gathering over 2,000 people in the French Quarter on Saturday night doesn’t need much warming up. But with much gusto, I gave it my best with a typical stump speech to rally the troops. I’m not sure how much of my ten-minute talk in support of the president was heard, but there was lots of cheering. Clinton was at his best, obviously thriving on the enthusiasm he had generated in New Orleans. He knew he was going to win big, and he certainly was enjoying the moment.

After his speech, public officials and other campaign staff members congregated in a small tent set up as a holding area for the president before he headed for the airport. He continually worked the crowd, stopping twice to make small talk with me.

Frankly, I was anxious for him to leave so that I could get back home to Baton Rouge. Gladys and I were hosting a dinner party that had been in the planning stages for months; we had several out-of-town guests coming in, and I had assured her I would be home early enough for at least part of the meal. As the president drifted among the crowd, I kept looking at my watch. I wanted to leave, but protocol would not let me go before the president.

I was standing next to my long-time friend, former Louisiana Senator Tommy Hudson, who was a coordinator for the Clinton campaign in Louisiana. The president came by a third time and continued to make small talk. “Fellows, is there anything else you think I should do in the short time I have left?”

I couldn’t resist. “Mr. President, you would do me a great personal favor by getting in your motorcade and leaving. I’m in big trouble at home for being late to a dinner party. The best thing you can do for me is to get on out of here.”

The president laughed and headed for the door. I wonder if anyone else has ever looked Bill Clinton in the eye and told him to “get out of town.”

Bill Clinton is as effective on the stump today has he ever has been. If he were eligible to run for a third term, he would win in a landslide. So there’s little wonder that the Obama Team is cajoling the former president to make numerous appearances before Election Day. But it’s a two way street, says Maureen Dowd in last week’s New York Times.

“It’s a transaction. Obama needs his Democratic predecessor to reassure jittery voters that the future can look like the past, with a lower deficit, plenty of jobs and the two parties actually talking. In return, Bill will have the capital to try to ensure that the past can look like the future, with Hillary as Obama’s successor. What a wild twist. Instead of ushering in the post-Clinton era, as intended, Obama has ushered in the pre-Clinton era,” says Ms. Dowd.
Call it a political shotgun wedding, or the president joining the overwhelmingly popular ex president in an election two step.  Obama needs all the magic he can muster in the coming six weeks if he hopes to beat down and defeat the oncoming challenge of Mitt Romney. And right now, the key to making it happen could well be the magician in chief, Bill Clinton.
"I may not have been the greatest president, but I've had the most fun eight years."
—Bill Clinton
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  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

Monday, September 10, 2012

America Under Attack Eleven Years Ago!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
 “I have watched through a window the world that has fallen.”
W. H. Auden
This Tuesday’s date, 9/11, turned into the frantic dialing of 911 eleven years ago. . A surreal feeling of shock and helplessness enveloped all Americans as we watched that day’s events unfold. In hindsight, we should ask many questions.  Is America a safer place today? Maybe.  But we also have witnessed a fundamental shift in our culture, where liberty and freedom have been compromised so that we supposedly feel “more safe.”
Ten years ago on that horrific day, I was at home, when a family friend called, a little after 8:00 a.m. central time to tell me about the first plane’s crashing into the World Trade Center. Like millions of Americans, I turned on my television just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.
I was home alone, so I immediately felt the need to call the people closest to me. I was able to reach my mother, my brother Jack, and two of my daughters.  I told them all to turn on their TV sets. I reached my son on his cell phone as he was entering the LSU Lab School. But, what about my oldest daughter, Campbell? I knew she had flown back to Washington late the night before, from California, where she was doing a story on the retirement of the president’s plane, a former Air Force One. Perhaps she was still home. I called her apartment, but got no answer. Then the third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington. Thoughts raced through my head. Was there a fourth plane — or more? Wasn’t the White House a likely target? Was my oldest daughter sitting in her NBC office in the White House?
She didn’t answer her cell phone. I called the White House switchboard, which is noted for being efficient. There was a brief recording saying to hold on for an operator, then the line went dead. For a moment I feared the worst: a plane crashing into the White House, my daughter inside. Then I heard Matt Lauer on the “Today Show” say, “Now let’s go to Campbell Brown for an update across the street from the White House.” Campbell told a national audience that the White House had been evacuated and that she was broadcasting from a nearby hotel. She gave hourly reports throughout the day and late into the evening.
Like millions of Americans, I stayed glued to the TV all day.  That night, my wife and I kept a long-standing dinner date with friends at Chris’s steakhouse, close to our home in Baton Rouge.  Halfway through dinner, around 9:00 o’clock, my cell phone rang. It was my son James. “Dad, I’m still watching everything on television,” he said. “I just need to do something. Do we have an American flag here at home?” I told him we had one stored in our “flag box,” where we keep banners for the various seasons, as well as holiday flags for Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. When we drove into our driveway that night, a large American flag was hanging from the front porch, waving in the wind.
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
 It was still not possible to reach offices and homes in New York City by phone, but I was able to contact several friends on their cell phones. Many of them work in the Wall Street district, and we had often gathered at the top of the World Trade Center for lunch for insurance meetings. My friend, Attorney Kevin Salter was caught in the deluge just outside the World Trade Center, and had crawled for blocks without being able to see his hands in front of his face because of the smoke and soot.  He will be a guest on my Sunday radio show this week.
The news was not good concerning my friend Neil Levin, who until recently was New York’s insurance commissioner. Several months earlier, he took a new job as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is the landlord for the World Trade Center complex. His office was on the 53rd floor of the North Tower, the first tower to be hit.  Neil’s body was never found in the wreckage. A lengthy obituary, which paid tribute to his many accomplishments, appeared in the New York Times on September 22, 2001.
Eleven years later, we have a lot of questions to ask, and a lot of consoling to do. How is it possible that there is such intense hatred for our country? Who is our enemy, and how do we do battle with them? How was it possible that a handful of foreign nationals could outwit the entire national defense apparatus?
 Before 9/11, life was so normal and ordinary. Now we live under the so-called Patriot Act that has stripped all Americans of basic constitutional freedoms.  We live with body scanners, “enhanced” pat-downs and “fusion” centers. It’s been a different world since 9/11. For all of us, life will never be the same.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  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, September 05, 2012

Does Romney have a Workable Economic Plan?

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
Boon Rouge, Louisiana


The focus for Mitt Romney last week at the Republican National Convention was supposed be his plan to create jobs and strengthen the economy. It was supposed to be all about the candidate, with the party faithful rallying around both him and his vision to put Americans back to work.  Romney and his wife did their job and carried the main political load. But overall, just how well did Romney and his supporting cast rate with voters throughout the country in “closing the deal?”

First out of the box was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He had been pegged by the Romney camp to be the keynote speaker at the opening night’s convention. His speech quickly went from the keynote to the “me note,” as the Governor spent the bulk of his time touting the “Jersey Comeback” and his own personal credentials. Romney was scarcely mentioned.  New Jersey, by the way, needs a lot of touting. Under Christie’s leadership, New Jersey’s unemployment is one of the highest in the nation at 9.8%.

Then came Florida Senator Marco Rubio who was chosen to introduce Romney to the convention and the national television audience. Rubio was picked because of his Hispanic background, as party operatives recognized that without a sizable Hispanic vote, Romney cannot win in November. Maybe his comments were calculated for this purpose, but the speech was also an “all about me” commentary. And again, Romney was barely mentioned. 

The top of the RNC staff thought it would be a good idea to enlist Clint Eastwood who proceeded to speak to an invisible Obama in an empty chair. “I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president,” Clint told the crowd, referring to President Obama, who has a Harvard Law Degree.  But guess what, Mitt Romney also has a law degree from Harvard and was admitted to the Michigan Bar. Ouch!  Clint should have stuck with talking to the chair. Even so, Clint spent a lot more time communicating with the chair than he did on espousing the merits of Mitt.

Romney finally made it to the stage and gave about as good a speech as anyone might have expected. He’s no orator, but he did a solid job of telling his story of reaching success in the private sector and showed himself to be a lot more likable than many had imagined.  The Republicans in Tampa loved his comments and finally seemed to accept Romney into the conservative fold. But what about job creation?

“And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs,” Romney told his crowd.  Sounds great, but consider this -- in April, Macroeconomic Advisors predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs, and in an August forecast, Moody’s Analytics predicted that 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president.  So is Romney’s jobs prediction really all that bold?  

Here’s what Republican consultant and former Bush adviser David Frum predicts:  “A President Romney would take office in January 2013, at a time when even on a best-case scenario more than 10 million Americans will still be unemployed or under-employed, more than half of them for a very long time. What to do for them? On this urgent topic, the Romney plan falls dismayingly quiet. Even if Romney’s policies do raise the long-term growth rate of the United States beginning sometime about 2014, unemployment won’t return to normal levels until a Romney second term. That portends almost a decade of very high unemployment.”

The bigger question is then: can a president, any president, really create jobs within the confines of a balanced economy? States try to attract and lure jobs all the time with questionable tax breaks and outright subsidies. My home state of Louisiana has poured billions into private coffers in a vain attempt to attract more out-of-state jobs. But all that has happened is the shifting of jobs from one state or one region to another. No real new jobs are have been created, yet the public dole continues to be tapped for more and more publically subsidized dollars.

On the federal level, the GM bailout is touted by the Obama Team as a roaring success. But was it, really? The cost to taxpayers was $25 billion, and GM bondholders received nothing. And as Harvard economics professor Robert Barro wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “If GM had disappeared, its former workers and other inputs would not have sat around doing nothing. Another company -- be it Toyota, Honda or Ford -- would likely have taken over its operations, expanding production in the U.S.”

Most creditable economists predict that any new federal stimulus program would need some $2 Trillion to make any major difference in economic growth. That’s five times the Obama stimulus, and this amount is not politically feasible, no matter who is elected president. Like it or not, the country may just have to follow the Keynesian approach of riding out the storm. But don’t expect either candidate to tell the voters: “If you elect me, I will tell you just to wait things out.”

Romney is walking a thin line here, trying to make his case that he is the better steward for economic growth, by trying to offer creditable alternatives to the president’s plan of more stimulus spending.  He did not meet this test at the Republican Convention. There is a good number of moderate undecided voters who want specifics. Romney has a lot of convincing to do in the coming two months. His election is riding on it.


See, when the GOVERNMENT spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of TAXPAYERS, God only knows what they do with it.”
Dave Berry

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  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