Thursday, January 31, 2013

Judges Ignoring the Constitution!

Thursday, February 1st, 2013
New York, New York


In the current Second Amendment gun debate, both gun control advocates and those citizens who demand the right to bear arms point to the U.S. Constitution as the source of the justification and support for their opposing beliefs.  An interesting difference in interpretation, you may say. But are there really any guaranteed constitutional protections these days?  Not according to Supreme Justice Anthony Scalia, perhaps the court’s most conservative member.

In a recent speech at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Scalia was asked if he believed that the Constitution was a “living document.”  His blunt response was, “It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.  And the sad thing is that Scalia is correct. He’s right on the money. For all practical purposes, The United States Constitution is “dead, dead, dead.”

Progressives will argue that in a changing world, there must be a more flexible interpretation of what the founders meant when they wrote the initial document. Is there flexibility in the original document, and shouldn’t it be open to change?

Barack Obama thinks so.  In his book, "The Audacity of Hope, the future president clearly says:  “I appreciate the temptation on the part of Justice Scalia and others to assume our democracy should be treated as fixed and unwavering; the fundamentalist faith that if the original understanding of the Constitution is followed without question or deviation, and if we remain true to the rules that the Founders set forth, as they intended, then we will be rewarded and all good will flow. Ultimately, though, I have to side with Justice Breyer's view of the Constitution -- that it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.”

Republican President George Bush seems to be in lockstep with Obama on this matter. Back in 2005, several press reports, including one from Capitol Hill Blue, cited a meeting in the Oval Office with congressional members to discuss renewing several questionable provisions of the Patriot Act.  Bush made no bones about his feelings for the Constitution.  GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President for his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a g..damn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a g..damned piece of paper!"

So much for relying on the views of our founding fathers.  Republicans and Democrats alike have cast away any reasonable reference to guaranteed basic protections that supposedly served as the basis for the Bill of Rights.  Few seem to be reading the words of Alexander Hamilton who put it this way. “If it be asked, what is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution.”

Here’s the bottom line.  You have no more firm, unwavering constitutional protections.  And you want to know who’s to blame? Just take a look in the mirror. Time after time over the last 20 years, American citizens have stood by and watched as presidents and members of Congress have eroded and undermined our basic constitutional liberties.  Here are few examples.

Begin with the 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. This dastardly unconstitutional law has driven a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments -- the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and the Eighth.  If our founding fathers were to witness what congress and the last two presidents have permitted and encouraged regarding our constitutional liberties, they would turn over in their graves.

Conservative columnist John Whitehead put it this way:  “In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information: monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause, and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.”

So to all you gun totin’ Second Amendment advocates and you so-called progressive “living and moving” constitutional proponents of government gun regulation, just where have you been?  Neither side can site or rely on the Constitution for support.  Oh, you might get lucky, and find a judge who will go along with your point of view.  Right or wrong, that’s how the system works today.  Remember the movie “Law-Abiding Citizen?”  The system lets a killer go free.  The prosecutor meets with the presiding judge, who calmly looks the prosecutor in the eye, and says: “That’s one of the benefits of being a judge, Mr. Rice. I can do whatever I want.”

And that’s how this whole controversy is going to end up.  We witnessed it in Bush v. Gore, and saw it happen in the Supreme Court decision over Obamacare.  These judges will make a discretionary decision setting their own parameters, and decide the Second Amendment case by doing “anything they want.”  Sadly, the constitution has become irrelevant.


"The Constitution, which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." George Washington

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, January 17, 2013

Challenging Future for GOP!

Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Where does the Republican Party go from here? Are major changes in both direction and philosophy necessary?  Not a problem say some party operatives.  Don’t overreact to the latest defeat.  The Democrats will screw things up and swing voters will be rushing back to the GOP column in the next election-right?

Senior Bush adviser Karl Rowe emulates this “just stay the course” line of thinking.  He was in my hometown of Baton Rouge last week speaking to a statewide business group. Rowe espoused the institutional party line that there really is no major problem.  The big challenge is mechanical.  Democrats just did a better job of getting out the vote according to his way of analyzing.  The candidate himself was a hard sell, and the campaign technology was weak.  Oh, and we forgot about the Latinos.  But all this, according to Rowe, can be fixed in the future.

If only it were that simple.  Rowe and his cohorts who thing along similar lines, are not looking at history.  You have to go back to 1988 to find a Republican candidate for president who was able to garner more than half the popular vote.  In five of the past six elections, Democrats have out polled Republicans.

Republicans are bragging about holding on the control of the House of Representatives.  But although Democrats won fewer congressional districts, they received over a million more votes.

What should be particularly troubling to Republicans is lack of interest, even disdain, for the fastest growing electoral constituencies.  Three-quarters of Asians and Hispanics ignored the GOP message.  African-Americans overwhelming rejected the Republican ticket.  In central Philadelphia, among 59 districts that were heavily African-American, Romney did not get a vote.  Not one!  The totals were: Obama 19,604, Romney 0.

The story was similar with most other constituencies.  The Democrats won young voters by 67%, unmarried women by 67% and carried women overall by 55/44%.  The last ditch constituency for Republicans reflects their leadership in Washington-old white guys. Republicans were watching “Madmen,” while Democrats were tuned to “Modern Family.” 
To refute Karl Rowe, he and similiar voices in the party have failed to realize they have an identity problem, and to many observers, have lost their way.  And in doing so, Middle America has drifted away for a comfort level with the GOP.  The country has changed demographically.  But the party of Jefferson and Lincoln is still stuck in a rut.
Both national political parties have room for growth, and in the past, have espoused a "big tent" philosophy, where, within reason, there was room for divergent views.  But there is a growing perception that the GOP is gravitating towards more extreme positions on the right that have become a turnoff for millions of more centralist thinking Republicans.  The rhetoric has gotten stale.  Birtherism, Obama is a racist.  The shrill voices of survivalists who are hunkering down, building fences, issued a call to arms with rhetoric that is too extreme for many more moderate Republicans.  Party leaders seem to be listening to the loudest voices. And too often, these voices are on the fringe of the GOP.  To some observers, there has been confected a Thelma and Louise strategy of taking the party over the cliff.
You wonder what happened to the moderates in the Republican Party.  It’s simple.  The John McCains and the Lindsay Grahams got scared and moved to the right.  Pragmatism went out the window. Party leaders keep talking about the leadership of Ronald Reagan.  But the Gipper was pragmatic, raised taxes when necessary and came out strongly against assault weapons.
How was Obama able to do so well in traditionally Republican western states?  The President won in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and lost by close margins across the west where Republicans generally run up big majorities.  The simple fact is that the GOP has moved away from Western conservatism.  Out west, there is a libertarian streak that wants the government to stay out of an individual’s person life.  And that use to be the case with the Republican Party.  Too often, modern day conservatives seem too obsessed with what goes on inside someone’s home, and seem unbothered by what used to be constitutional protections.
The conservative “New American” magazine recently released their annual “Freedom Index,” that reviewed congressional votes on limited government, privacy protections, defending personal freedoms and fiscal responsibility. The Senate average of Republicans was a pathetic 47%.
If there is a new brand of leadership that hopes to emerge in the Republican Party, they need to tell voters what there are for.  We are bombarded with all the things Republicans are against.  Where is the vision; the promise for the future?  We live in a different age and real Americans have a changing set of realities.
One of the Republican Party’s “best and brightest” was Congressman Jack Kemp.  He made the point that: “You don’t beat a thesis with an antithesis. You beat it with a better thesis.” 
Sure there are a number of bold ideas out there that are consistent with conservative, libertarian values.  A good bit of courage is involved.  The angry grassroots may be initially not all that receptive. But isn’t that what leadership is all about?
Denial and anger is not going to put the GOP on the path to victory.  It’s more, much more than a shift in tactics.  There is a shift in culture required.  Maybe an attitude adjustment.  There is a way for Republicans to come out of the wasteland.  Finding that way will require the will, strong backbone, spunk, guts and tenacity.  Who’s there to pick up the mantel and meet the challenge?
“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”
Henry Ford
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, January 09, 2013

Taxpayers Take it on the Chin with Fiscal Cliff!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


After all that talk about falling off the fiscal cliff, you just knew that members of congress would do the right thing, and work out a compromise on the federal budget that would curtail any additional new spending, close generous tax loopholes, reign in entitlements, and take a dramatic whack out of current spending.  Isn’t that what congressional leadership is all about, particularly at times of major financial crisis?

But did the congressional leadership (perhaps an oxymoron that could join the ranks of “virtual reality” and “call me, maybe”) of both parties really put the national interest ahead of their party loyalties?  The public doesn’t think so.  A national poll, taken right after the ”fiscal cliff” vote in Washington, found that the approval rating of Congress had fallen to an all time low of 9 percent.  To put this number in perspective, a recent Gallup poll found that polygamy was morally acceptable to 11 percent of the population, with a similar 11 percent approving of the U.S. becoming a communist country.  The BP oil spill was OK with 16 percent of the population.  Having our life immersed in oil sludge is now more acceptable than the current conduct of congress.

One of the non-negotiable issues with the Republican leadership in congress had been to curtail expenditures.  We kept hearing that “there is a spending problem.”  The GOP mantra repeated over and over was the George H. W. Bush proclamation of, “Read my lips -- no new taxes.”  As negotiations wound down to the final drop dead date of December 31, there immerged support from both parties to stick a tax increase to the rich -- those making more than $450,000 a year.

So what finally happened?  The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, reported that “77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013.”  The average tax increase for a worker making $50,000 will approach $1000.  That’s because both parties agreed to up the payroll tax on Social Security by 2 percentage points.  The payroll tax had been reduced from 6.2% to 4.2 percent in 2011.  But congress let this reduction expire.  So when you read that only the rich will be getting a tax increase, this applies to only to income taxes, and doesn’t include the increase in the payroll tax that will hit the Average Joe.

The payroll tax increase amounts to much more than chump change.  We’re talking some $120 billion dollars in just this year alone.  What congress has done is to cause a multi-billion dollar hit to state economies nationwide.  In my home state of Louisiana, the efforts by congress last week to allow the Social Security payroll tax to expire will cost Louisiana families over $2 billion dollars.  That’s over $2 billion that’s being ripped right out of the state’s economy because of this massive New Year’s tax hangover.
The director for the Institute of Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida, Sean Snaith, put it this way: “It's going to provide a headwind in terms of our recovery that's less money spent on childcare, groceries or clothing. The net effect is it’s going to be a drag on growth.”

Not only were there no closings of tax loopholes, but the flood gates were actually opened much wider.  Motorsports entertainment complexes (say NASCAR) received tax breaks that will amount to over $70 million.  Now, I sure would like to have “the King,” racecar immortal Richard Petty make a comeback for a few more victory laps.  But at the expense of some one thousand dollars out of your and my pocket?  I don’t think so.

And how about congress giving the green light for more tax exempt goodies to Hollywood filmmakers to the tune of $430 million and the $222 million to rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to subsidize local production.  And let’s not forget the $15 million windfall to U.S. asparagus growers.  The list goes on and on.

The rich guys were no fools in observing the congressional antics.  Remember the investment firm, Goldman Sachs?  American taxpayers poured over $12 billon into Goldman’s coffers during the “Too Big to Fail” Wall Street bailout to keep the company afloat. The firm normally pays out its big annual bonuses in January.  But because of the fiscal cliff deal, Goldman moved up its bonus timetable, paying their top 10 senior executives some $65 million in December, instead of when they would have normally paid them in January, thereby avoiding the new higher tax rates.  Slick Goldman.  So much for bailout appreciation.

So where will all the new tax income go?  Will it appreciably reduce the huge debt that has accrued?  Fat chance.  As Tom Friedman reported this week in The New York Times: “ At one point last week, the Senate approved a $60.4 billion aid package to help New York and New Jersey recover from hurricane Sandy.  That would mean we spent on one storm all the new tax revenue for next year that the House and the Senate just agreed to in the fiscal-cliff negotiations.”  So much for reducing the national debt!

All this $4 trillion in new spending along with the tax increases and tax breaks could have been stopped if the House of Representatives would have exercised their legal authority spelled out in the constitution.  All revenue bills, tax increases and spending has to originate in the House. (Art. I, §7, cl. 1.)  But congressmen in both parties punted, and the democratically controlled Senate, along with the White House, called all the shots.

The country was and still is on the brink of economic disaster.  We cannot continue to keep “kicking the can down the road.”  If there ever was a time for leadership and political courage, now is that time.  Nothing less than the future of the country is at stake.


A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money.”
-Everett Dirksen

“Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.”
-Ogden Nash

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, January 03, 2013

Way Too Much Prosecutorial Misconduct!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Remember the scene in the movie, The Fugitive, where Harrison Ford is about to jump off a cliff into a raging river?  He turns to his pursuer, a federal agent played by Tommy Lee Jones, and says: “I’m innocent!”  Jones shakes his head and says: “I don’t care.”  In recent months, a series of investigative reports from all across the country have concluded that numerous federal and state prosecutors are primarily interested winning -- getting the indictment, the guilty plea, the conviction. But when it comes to seeking justice, they just don’t seem to care.

The Houston Chronicle has written of widespread abuses on the part of state and federal prosecutors throughout Texas, reporting “story after story of egregious prosecutorial misconduct.  Prosecutors have repeatedly robbed innocent men of their liberty.”  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated misconduct by prosecutors in a recent ten part series and concluded that:  “Hundreds of times in the past 10 years, federal prosecutors have pursued justice by breaking the law.  They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury, and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions.”

The Wall Street Journal was just as blunt in a recent editorial that read:  “Something is very rotten at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Americans hand prosecutors an awesome power – the power to destroy fortunes and futures, and in this case to reallocate national political power. We are seeing a pattern of abuse of this power, in order to win big cases.”  And from The New York Times:  “It is the height of hypocrisy when prosecutors, who call others to account for breaking rules, break rules themselves.”

Shakespeare proposed killing all the lawyers. But way too often, lawyer prosecutors have made it a habit of killing any semblance of fair play.  Too often there is a “win at all costs” mentality where the end justifies whatever means a prosecutor decides to use to obtain a conviction.  Efforts are often not made to seek justice, which is what the criminal justice system is supposed to be all about.  Justice is swept aside when a prosecutorial “no holds barred” effort is pursued to get a conviction at any cost.

There are few locations throughout the country where breaking the law by prosecutors at both the state and federal level does not take place.  But the unanimous winner for the greatest number of egregious cases for prosecutorial misconduct, at both the state and federal level, is New Orleans.  In the Crescent City, rarely a month goes by without a prosecutor willfully violating the law in order to obtain a conviction.

In a recent study by the Innocence Project, a number of innocent men, convicted in New Orleans for murder and sentenced to death, took their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court where their convictions were overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct.  One of the most chilling and outrageous convictions was that of Dan Bright, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. He spent fifteen years on death row, and was dangerously close to being executed.  An informant finally blew the whistle that the FBI had in its possession the name of the actual killer all along.  Let that sink in --  Our protectors knew all along that Dan Bright was innocent, and yet they did nothing to stop this completely innocent man from almost being put to death.

The latest soap opera involves the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s office where the longest serving federal prosecutor in the country, Jim Letten, resigned amid a scandal involving a whole host of his staff.  A federal judge issued a scathing 50-page order alleging possible criminal misconduct by former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone and former first Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann.  The judge singled out Perricone for testifying  “falsely” in his courtroom, and called for the New Orleans U.S Attorney’s office to be investigated by the Justice Department. Perricone and Mann both resigned under a cloud of suspicion along with Mann’s husband, Jim Mann.

So can it get any worse down in the Bayou State?  Well, it appears that it can.  The Louisiana Board of Ethics, charged with the ethical oversight of all public officials is now having many of their cases dismissed for, would you believe, “withholding information that would infringe upon the accused’s ‘due process’ rights.” So we have these watchers who are supposed to be watching the public watchers who are themselves hiding information that is required, under the law, to be produced.  Yet another case of blatant prosecutorial misconduct.  Kafka and Orwell would feel right at home in Louisiana.

New Orleans is an aberration when it comes to prosecutorial misconduct, but not by a lot when you review the rising incidences throughout the rest of the country.  There certainly are a number of jurisdictions where prosecutors insist on fail play and try to seek out a just result. But the problem of out of control prosecutors who willfully violate the law is growing.  Every citizen needs to ask themselves if this is the kind of justice system that should be tolerated. Can we do better?  Or do we really care?

Do these prosecutors who break the law act in an evil way?  Or do they just not care?  A recent best selling book of Viet Nam, Matterhorn, raises a similar question.  “No, the jungle wasn’t evil.  It was indifferent.  So, too, was the world. Evil, then, must be the negation of something man had added to the world.  Ultimately, it was caring about something that made the world liable to evil. Caring.  And then the caring gets torn asunder.  But not everybody cares.”

This exemplifies, in most instances, the prototype of those who bend the law and hide exculpatory evidence to get a conviction.  They may not  be evil, but they are indifferent.  The end justifies the means.  They just don’t care about the meaning of our Constitution.  If government crimes are not checked for the few, then we all are at risk.  We can do better.


Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King
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