Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Clean House in Washington!

Thursday, October 31, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When I was a kid growing up, I was a dreamer. I would share with my father some off-the-wall idea that I was absolutely sure would become life changing.  Dad would offer advice, something he said he had had picked up from Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari: "Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference."

Ideas that supposedly “make a difference” are being floated by both political parties both in Washington as well as statehouses across the country.  But too often, government has become too complicated for politicians to administer these ideas.  What’s the old saying?  90% of life is execution and implementation.  However, in the nation’s capitol, we find too much design and not enough performance.  And both political parties shoulder the blame.

It’s become more and more obvious that we are faced with one party that does not know how to govern, and the other party that has no interest in governing.  There is a growing caricature of an incompetent Obama Administration, and a Republican congress that takes juvenile glee in seeing the wheels of government grind to a halt.

The meltdown of the Obamacare computer system is just one more sign of democratic dysfunction in talking all the talk, but not being functionally able to walk the walk. What we have witnessed is not merely an embarrassing computer glitch -- it is an unmitigated debacle. The Affordable Care Act was passed 3 ½ years ago.  With all this time to get it right, the system crashes and burns right out of the gate.

As Peggy Noonan put it in her recent Wall street Journal column:  “All this from the world’s greatest, most technologically sophisticated nation, the one that invented the computer and Internet. So you’d think it would sort of work. And it didn’t. Which is a disaster.” The Democrats and the President have bragged that Obamacare is their most significant domestic achievement.  But so far, it doesn’t work.

The person in charge of kicking off the Obamacare program is Kathleen Sebelius, who is Secretary of Health and Human Services.  I know the lady well, as she once served as the elected Kansas Insurance Commissioner when I held the same post in Louisiana.  She also was elected to two terms as Kansas Governor.  I personally like Kathleen and we worked on a number of insurance problems together.  But obviously, she is in over her head, and even key Democrats are speculating that she may have to resign. Too much talk and not enough implementation.

Republicans continue to minimize the importance of government, and have continued their role as obstructionists without offering any alternatives.  In the opinion of the GOP leadership in Washington, the plan seems to be to continually holler “no, no, a thousand
times no,” but present no reasonable options.  If Obamacare is not the answer, what is the answer for the 40 million uninsured?

Republican governors have given lip service to alternative ideas, but again, a lot of talk with little or no action.  Down here in Louisiana, current governor Bobby Jindal, who fancies himself as a future presidential contender, suggested other options to Obamacare that included pooling for small businesses, pay for performance, portability and refundable tax credits.  All make sense, but Jindal has made no effort in the Louisiana legislature to implement these proposals into state law.  He has missed a great opportunity to brag that, as governor, he put into place significant changes that should be adopted by congress.

So we have the Demo-don’ts and the Republi-cants.  Two dysfunctional political parties that stay locked in their dogmatic postures, can’t implement, and fall short in offering the American people any responsible vision for the future.  You have to wonder how this happened and who are the boneheads responsible for the drivel that flows relentlessly from both parties.

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel asked the same question on this week’s show when he jibed: “I want the names of the idiots who elected these people….Oh, wait. It was us? Never mind.”  Kimmel summed it up well.  But the cartoon character Pogo said it best.  “We have found the enemy, and the enemy is us!”

Ask yourself this question as the 2014 congressional elections draw near.  Is there a good reason to vote for any incumbent, Republican or Democrat?  Public service has turned into self-service with knee jerk loyalty to one political party. Whatever happened to honest and open give and take for the greater good?

Party loyalty?  To heck with it. You can put all the Washington incumbents in a sack, shake them up, and it wouldn’t make much difference whom you pulled out.  When it comes to looking out for what’s best for the country and acting in in a non-partisan manner for the public good, neither party offers responsible choices.

We can do better.  Much better.  Don’t just vote, but vote smart.  And if it takes a major housecleaning to clear out the dysfunction, and force a more responsive congress, then bring it on.


A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me.”

Elvis Presley

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, October 23, 2013

The Highs and Lows of LSUs Billy Cannon!

Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There are certain things you don’t forget.  Where you were on 9/11, or when President John Kennedy was shot.  Down here in the Bayou State, add to those special dates Halloween night 54 years ago when Billy Cannon made football history with his 87 yard run to beat Ole Miss and keep the Tigers undefeated. His story is the rise and fall, than the rise again by LSU’s all time sports hero. And guess what? I played a minor role in what became Billy’s personal nightmare and fall from grace.
Even those who are not Tiger fans have to admit it was one heck of a run. Cannon either sidestepped or pushed away tackler after tackler as he weaved his way towards the end zone. I wish I had a dollar for every time the magical run has been replayed on television. You can imagine the crowd’s reaction on most Saturday football nights in Tiger Stadium as one more time the fans in the stadium and the millions on national television once again see Ole’ Billy tear through the Rebel opposition. (You can watch the run on the web at
This feat by Cannon allowed the Tigers to beat Ole’ Miss 7 to 3, and made him a legend for life. Paul Revere had his famous ride and Billy Cannon had his remarkable run. And ever since, as Halloween draws near, the airwaves are filled with replay after replay of “the run.” Some folks in Louisiana would sooner lock up the kids and throw out the candy than miss seeing Billy strut his stuff on All Hollow’s Eve.
Cannon went on to play professional football with the Houston Oilers and the Oakland Raiders.  Then he went to dental school and built a successful dental practice in Baton Rouge. Because of his popularity, Cannon’s practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year, quite a sum in the 1960s.
OK, so how was yours truly involved? It was 1983, and I was in my first term as Louisiana Secretary of State. I was at my office one afternoon when my secretary said there were two Treasury agents to see me, and they demanded immediate attention. (I can speak from personal experience that one should never, ever talk to a federal agent.) They pulled out a hundred dollar bill saying it was a fake, and that it had shown up in the Secretary of State’s bank account.
I had my staff go over all the various billing and deposit records, and we were able to determine that a local attorney used the hundred-dollar bill to pay for a corporate filing. We later learned that in was the first Cannon made counterfeit bill to be discovered in the Baton Rouge area. Others quickly appeared, and a major money printing operation was broken open a few months later. The seventh-largest counterfeiting ring in American history was no more.
For years thereafter when I made speeches around the state, I relished in telling those in attendance how I knew the bill was counterfeit. “You know down at the bottom of the 100 dollar bill where it says ‘In God We Trust?’ Well on the Cannon 100 dollar bill, it said “Go to Hell Ole Miss.’ ” Being a Tulane graduate, I also humorously shared that “You go to Tulane to earn money. But if you want to make money, you go to LSU.”
Cannon quickly confessed and helped prosecutors crack the case wide-open. At the sentencing, Cannon told federal Judge Frank J. Polozola: “… what I did was wrong, terribly wrong. I have done everything within my power to correct my mistakes.”
The Judge, known by many lawyers who had appeared before him as, “the Ayatollah Polozola,” then gave Cannon a sentence, significantly more than the others in the ring that Cannon had testified against, of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Cannon sold his practice to another orthodontist and surrendered his dentistry license.
To thousands of LSU fans, Cannon’s confession pierced the very heart of their allegiance and adulation of LSU’s greatest sports hero. Like the little boy who pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox on the courthouse steps in the famous “Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919, all many LSU fans could think of was, “Say it ain’t so, Billy.”
Why Cannon turned counterfeiter is, in the words of Smiley Anders, local newspaper columnist and Cannon’s high school classmate, “One of the great unsolved mysteries in Louisiana.” It was probably because of major financial problems. Cannon had invested in real estate, a shopping center, an office building and other ventures He also gambled heavily on sports and bought racehorses. By 1983, Cannon was involved in nearly 40 financial lawsuits with lending institutions, real-estate agents, utilities and private citizens. Luck, Billy discovered, favors nobody – not even football heroes.
As part of Cannon’s redemption, he took on the job of dentist up at Angola State Penitentiary, an hour’s drive north of Baton Rouge. The guards and inmates, alike, love him up there. Do fans still hold a grudging disappointment with Cannon? Well, when he was introduced a few years ago at Tiger Stadium just after being admitted to the College Football Hall of Fame, the cheering went on and on. Repeated efforts by the stadium announcer to quiet the fans down fell on deaf ears. Neither the President nor the Pope would have gotten such an avid ovation. Billy was back, and all had been forgiven.
Billy Cannon, like few others, has experienced the dramatic highs and lows of being a major sports hero in Louisiana.  F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that in life, there are no second acts. And Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. Billy Cannon proved them both wrong.
“People associate me with football regardless of where I go…except when their tooth hurts. They don’t care whether I played football or not. They just want the toothache to stop.”
Billy Cannon

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, October 09, 2013

Fighting and Lying in Politics!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The rancor and animosity of both political parties in Washington seem to be at an all-time high.  Both sides are calling their opponents “liars,” and there are reports of tension building to the point where fistfights have nearly broken out within same party caucuses.  Louisiana members of congress say they have never seen such bitterness and vicious personal attacks.
Even Governor Bobby Jindal joined the fray by accusing his own political party of being irresponsible. “We are not going to allow the Republican Party to be defined by the dysfunction in Washington.”  But the Governor and the Bayou State’s congressional delegation might take note that they represent a state that many believe is quite dysfunctional itself, with a long and colorful history of legislative brawls, viciously partisan debate and charges of lying.
I was in the middle of such a legislative altercation in my first few months as a Louisiana state senator back in 1972.  A controversial proposal to create a new trade school system was up for final passage in the waning minutes of the legislative session.  I sat next to Senator “Big Jim” Jumonville, who was as brash and tenacious in debate on the senate floor as they come.  He just never took no for an answer.  Jumonville was opposing last minute amendments that would take one of the trade schools out of his district and move it to Baton Rouge.
The legislation would die at the stroke of midnight, and the official clock high on the back wall of the senate chamber was ticking away.  With only seconds left, Jumonville pulled off his boot and heaved it at the clock in an effort to stave off the deadline.  He missed.  Off came the other boot as Big Jim hollered out to his colleague at the podium, “You are a liar.”  He then rose back to throw the remaining boot.  I put myself in grave danger by grabbing Jumonville’s arm in an effort to calm him down. He missed the clock a second time, and time ran out.  I don’t think Big Jim ever forgave me.
And who can forget the Governor Earl Long story of reneging on a promise to a group of south Louisiana constituents? The blow-by-blow account was given to me by my deceased old friend, Camille Gravel, who was on Long’s staff and a witness to the Governor’s comments.  Long was reluctant to live up to a campaign commitment, and Gravel inquired as to what he should tell the group.  Without batting an eye, Long told Gravel:  “Just tell them I lied.”
Dutch Morial was Louisiana’s first black legislator, and went on to serve as a judge and two-term Mayor of New Orleans.  With much humor and gusto, Dutch relished telling friends of his first day at the state capitol as a new legislator.  Representatives have seatmates, with their two desks sitting side by side.  As chance would have it, Dutch sat right next to Representative Jesse McLain, who represented an archconservative district in southeast Louisiana that had been a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity.  Now Dutch was from a Creole background and quite light skinned.  He had made numerous comments that it was time to bring some of the backward areas of the state into the 20th century and allow more opportunities for minorities.
As Dutch told me years later of that first day -- when he took his seat, Jesse leaned over and whispered: “Where’s that lyin’ N…..? (Yes the N word.)  Dutch said he just smiled, looked around the room for a minute, then leaned over to Jesse, got right up in his face, and said:  “You’re looking at him.”   Then he burst out laughing.  A flustered McClain excused himself from the legislature for the rest of the day.
Probably the most bizarre and tense situation I ever witnessed was during the 1967 Louisiana gubernatorial election.  I was just out of the Army and had begun a new law practice in Ferriday.  Conservative Congressman John Rarick was challenging the incumbent governor, John McKeithen, who was up for re-election.  McKeithen had been the focus of a Life Magazine article that raised questions about the Governor’s possible ties to the New Orleans mafia. Rarick ran against “Big John” on this issue.  I read in my local paper that the two candidates would speak at a rally in McKeithen’s hometown of Columbia in northeast Louisiana that evening, so I drove the 45-minute trip to see the incumbent and the challenger in action.
Rarick spoke first and immediately accused McKeithen of having mafia ties.  Now this was Big John’s home territory and the locals were not too happy to hear Rarick’s charges.  When he stepped off the stage, Sheriff Slim Hodges suggested that the congressman might want to “move on out of town” because of all the tension in the air. 
McKeithen then took the stage, threw off his coat, loosened his tie, and held back no punches.  “John Rarick’s a liar.  That’s right, a down and dirty liar.  The man lies.  You folks know I’m not in no mafia…right?”  The crowd in unison hollered, “Right, Governor!”  Then they cheered McKeithen and booed Rarick for the rest of the night. I was enthralled and decided then to run for public office at the first opportunity.  It came four years later when I was elected and began my political career as a new member of the Louisiana State Senate.
So as tensions continue to mount in the nation’s capitol, and fellow members of congress roll their eyes in disgust over the lack of civility, tell those congressmen from other states that they are playing softball in trying to reach compromise.  If they want to learn how to experience real hardball politics, we can certainly find a “learning experience” for them here in Louisiana.  We have plenty of political lyin,’fumin’ and fightin’” going on in the deepest of the deep southern states.  Maybe it’s in the roux or the Tabasco sauce.  But it’s always lively here when Louisiana politics is involved.  So just come on down.

“Telling lies is a fault in a boy, an art in a lover, an accomplishment in a bachelor, and second nature in a politician.” 
                                                        Helen Rowland

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, October 02, 2013

Congress Drops the Ball on Flood Insurance!

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


I picked up my daily newspaper on the first day of October, and three stories dominated the news.  “The Government Shuts Down,” blared one headline.  We have been hearing about this possibility for months as Republicans and Democrats, alike, have dug in their heels, with little effort to avert the closure of numerous government facilities.

 Obamacare kicked off on the first day of the month facing a continuing barrage of criticism and unanswered questions.  Again, this is a story that has been examined in massive detail since the day the healthcare law passed over two and a half year ago.

Then there was Biggert-Waters.  Huh?  Never head of it, you say?  Well, it was federal legislation, passed without a discouraging word of protest, with the support of virtually every member of the Louisiana and Gulf Coast and East Coast legislative delegations.  What will this new legislation do?  Stick property owner in flood prone areas with rate increases that some news reports peg as high as 3000 percent.

“But we didn’t know,” protest many members of congress.  Here’s what one of the main authors of the legislation had to say after these new unaffordable rate increases were authorized:  "As one of the primary authors of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and a longtime advocate for the people of southern Louisiana, I can state that it was never the intent of Congress to impose the types of punitive and unaffordable flood insurance premiums that residents of southern Louisiana are currently facing," Maxine Waters said. This is the lady who wrote the law, yet she candidly admits she had no idea of the detrimental effect she produced.

Unfortunately, the statement that “we didn’t know,” is true – and this should be of grave concern to every citizen.  How does a law this damaging, or any law for that matter, just slip through the cracks? Don’t congressman and senators have staffs trained to monitor proposed legislation that directly affects their districts?  Where’s the oversight; the checks and balances?  It would seem that in way too many instances, members of congress just don’t know what they’re voting on, or what effect a new law will have on their constituents.

That’s hard to believe, considering the number of representative factions that supposedly keep a close eye on the daily activities of congress,.  The average congressman has a staff of 15 employees and the average U.S. Senator hires 35 assistants.  In addition, these same members of congress have access to various committee staffs.  And that’s just the beginning.  There are over 300 caucuses with staffers who supposedly keep an eye out for important legislation affecting their particular interests.

Then there are the lobbying interests.  Highly paid lobbyists are retained by special interest groups galore, and numerous public bodies hire such lobbyists to look out for their country, parish, or city interests.  In my home state of Louisiana, a number of former congressman and senators are well paid to keep an eye out for what can help or affect the local public bodies.

State officials have national organizations with Washington offices that have a paid staff to look out for legislations that can be detrimental on the local level.  When the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was first introduced, one could assume that it was immediately monitored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  Did this staff let Insurance Commissioners know that flood insurance rates could dramatically rise?  Did members of the NAIC take defensive action?  Apparently not.  The same goes for staffs of the National Governors Association. Why didn’t coastal governors speak out in opposition to the drastic rate increases that are in the process of taking place?

With all these eyes watching out and reviewing this federal legislation, it would seem impossible for a proposed law to “slip through the cracks.”  We would assume that one congressman, one senator, one staff member, one committee member, one lobbyist, one member of one association representing all these coastal states, would say:  “Hey, this is really important.  This could have huge ramifications on property owners. We’re talking about massive rate increases. Maybe we should look this over much more closely.”

Congressional members from coastal states are hollering for delays in rate increase implementation, something they should have been doing before the legislation was passed into law to begin with. The only proactive state so far is Mississippi, where state insurance commissioner Mike Chaney is suing the federal government, demanding a delay based on “new flood elevation maps that are riddled with errors,” requiring that consumers,  “pay for new elevation certificates to prove they are not in a flood zone."  He may have a decent case here.

Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy, who for years has been critical of the poor property insurance regulatory climate, is proposing the creation of a state run flood insurance company to help stabilize escalating property insurance rates.  It’s a good idea, but Louisiana has for years been less than creative in trying to solve its massive insurance problems, which has led to Louisiana having the highest property and auto insurance rates in the nation.

The short-term answer is for congress to delay the implementation of flood insurance increases for the coming year.  This gives coastal congressmen and senators, particularly those who dropped the ball along the Gulf Coast, to heavily lobby their cohorts for a workable solution.  But the first step in the process for those who represent us in Washington is simply this:  start paying attention.


“The problem is that most members of Congress don't pay attention to what's going on.”   Senator John McCain
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