Friday, December 27, 2013

Past andPresent New Year's Eves!


December 27th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I always do.  A New Year always brings with it promise and uncertainty, but the coming year brings with it a greater foreboding than we have experienced in the past.  I would rather be absorbed with the more mundane things in life.  But that’s not going to happen in these especially turbulent times.  However, I’m not about to give up hope.

One resolution I make each year is to maintain my curiosity.  It doesn’t matter how limited your perspective or how narrow the scope of your surroundings, there is (or should be) something to whet your interest and strike your fancy.  I discovered early on that there are two kinds of people — those who are curious about the world around them, and those whose shallow attentions are generally limited to those things that pertain to their own personal well-being.  I just hope all those I care about fall into the former category.

Another resolution I make each year is to continue to hope.  I hope for successful and fulfilling endeavors for my children, happiness and contentment for family and friends, and for the fortitude to handle both the highs and lows of daily living with dignity.

Each year, I ask my children to give me two gifts for Christmas.  First, I ask them to make a donation to a charity that will help needy families in their community.  And second, I ask them to re-read Night, the unforgettable holocaust novel by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate who survived the Nazi death camps.  I have a Wiesel quote framed on my office desk:

 “To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.”

Like many of you, our family welcomes in the New Year with “Auld Lang Syne.”  It’s an old Scotch tune, with words passed down orally, and recorded by my favorite historical poet, Robert Burns, back in the 1700s.  (I’m Scottish, so there’s a bond here.) “Auld Lang Syne,” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”  Did you know this song is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year?

 Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

And here’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

I can look back over many years of memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations.  In recent years, my wife and I have joined a gathering of family and friends in New Orleans at Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Our private party normally clusters in the Rex Room for a complete dinner including an array of seafood appetizers (oysters, shrimp and crabmeat) and flaming Baked Alaska for dessert.  Yes, a number of champagne-filled toasts occasionally with a family member dancing on the table.
After dinner, we make a stop at St. Louis Cathedral for a blessing of the New Year.  Then it’s off to join the masses for the New Year’s countdown to midnight in Jackson Square.

When my daughters were quite young, we spent a number of New Year holidays at a family camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River some 30 miles below Vicksburg.  On several occasions, the only people there were my family and Bishop Charles P. Greco, who was the Catholic Bishop for central and north Louisiana.  Bishop Greco had baptized all three of my daughters, and had been a family friend for years.  And he did love to deer hunt.

On many a cold and rainy morning, the handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a New Year’s Mass.  After the service, most of the family went back to bed.  I would crank up my old jeep, and take the Bishop out in the worst weather with hopes of putting him on a stand where a large buck would pass.  No matter what the weather, he would stay all morning with his shotgun and thermos of coffee.  He rarely got a deer, but oh how he loved to be there in the woods.  Now, I’m not a Catholic, but he treated me as one of his own.

One of the most fulfilling and rewarding projects I undertook in my Louisiana state senate days was to help Bishop Greco fund and build the St. Mary’s Residential and Training School for retarded children in Alexandria.  He was, for me, a great mentor and friend who touched the lives of so many.  He died in 1987, and I will always think of him on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day means lots of football, but I also put on my chef’s apron.  I’m well regarded in the kitchen around my household, if I say so myself, for cooking up black-eyed peas as well as cabbage and corn bread.   And don’t bet I won’t find the dime in the peas.  After all, I’m going to put it there.

I’ll be back next week with my customary views that are cantankerous, opinionated, inflammatory, slanted, and always full of vim and vigor.   Sometimes, to a few, even a bit fun to read.  In the meantime, Happy New Year to you, your friends and all of your family.   See you next year.

  “May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions. 
Joey Adams

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, December 18, 2013


Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


You’re not really going to pay your Louisiana state taxes on time are you?  Why on earth would you do that?  Why not do what so many other Louisianans do.  Hang on to your money or invest it or spend it. Nothing is likely to happen.  And before you know it, the state will kick in with a really great amnesty program where you pay no penalties.  That’s right, no penalties. Zilch.  Nothing.

And hey, it gets better.  When the time eventually comes, you’ll only have to pay one half of any back interest.  What a deal. Heck, paying Louisiana taxes on time is only for fools.  So go ahead.  Game the system.  A lot of others do, and they reap big benefits. It’s the Louisiana Way.  Or so it would seem, judging from the message being sent by the state.

The Louisiana legislature, in its collective wisdom, authorized what is called the “Fresh Start” program, offering a chance to catch up on back taxes to all those folks worried about being caught and labeled tax cheats.  And of course, that’s exactly what they are.  The current program just ended and it was a bountiful success. Over $435 million was collected with a net loss of millions of dollars to honest Louisiana taxpayers.

So who are these slackers who are taking advantage of Louisiana’s laxness toward collecting legitimate taxes which Louisiana calls a “tax amnesty program?”  Well, they’re not individuals who have a conscience that is bothering them.  No.  Eighty percent of the money collected came primarily from business accounts that were being audited or litigated.  In other words, these delinquent taxpayers knew full well that the Louisiana Department of Revenue was on their case and would demand back taxes with full penalties and interest.  So knowing that the jig was up, and these delinquent companies were right on the verge of getting stuck with big penalties, they merely opted to grab the amnesty crutch, not pay what they lawfully owed the state, and laugh all the way to the bank with the money they cheated out of the rest of us.

And get this -- according to a press release sent out by the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the department will keep some 25% of the money generated through the tax amnesty program.  In other words, the Revenue Department will keep over $80 million dollars “to replace penalties and fees waived under the program.”  None of this money will go into the state treasury.  This revenue, instead, will go to the Louisiana Department of Revenue.  Does this make any sense?

The Revenue Department knew that they had these delinquent taxpayers by the neck, and that they would have collected the money the department was owed anyway. The amnesty program lets delinquent taxpayers off the hook, and the Revenue Department doesn’t loose a penny of their expected income.  The losers?  As is generally the case, the taxpayers.  Either they get less in services from the state, or more taxes are charged to make up for the lost revenue.

So you’re thinking: “What a deal.  Man, I wish I hadn’t paid my taxes. Yes, a scam compared to those who paid their taxes on time.  But look at the money I could have put in my pocket.”  Not to worry.  Even though the present amnesty program just ended, you’re in luck. You’ve got another chance to pay your taxes at a “discount.”  The program will be around for the next two years.  That’s right.  Don’t be a chump.  Don’t even consider paying your taxes for 2014 and 2015 on time.  If asked, just say you misplaced your records. Then stall until the open season for tax dodgers begins in the fall of next year. Or the year after that.  What a deal!

So how could it get any better?  Well it does.  If you hire a lawyer to help you save all these taxes you should have paid in the first place, you can deduct all your legal expenses -- from both the state and he federal government.  Just grab Form 1040, and under Schedule A, write off all your legal expenses.  And voilà!  All the more money taken away from the state treasury.

Look, the state should be up front and honest about this program.  This isn’t “newly found” money.  As the Public Policy Foundation report finds:  “States like to announce how much revenue comes in the door during the amnesty period but usually do not account for the fact that most of these taxes would’ve been collected in due course.  Many taxpayers who take advantage of amnesties have already been identified by tax administrators as either delinquent or underreporting.  In these cases, it’s likely the taxes and penalties would have been collected by the state anyway.”

Legislators love the amnesty program because it brings in one time money to fatten up the state treasury.  But the wrong message is being sent.  Louisiana is rewarding tax delinquents and has created a system that is inherently unfair to the vast majority of law-abiding taxpayers who follow the rules.

This amnesty plan should not be viewed as a revenue solution. It’s an income problem where Louisiana is spending more than it is taking in. A quick fix by giving tax dodgers a special bonus is not the solution. The legislature should go back to the drawing board and abolish this tax favoritism that benefits the few at the expense of those who have followed the law. Now, that would be good tax policy.


“Amnesty, when you stop to think about it, rewards those who evade the law at the expense of those who meet their obligations on schedule.”
Alan Ehrenhalt

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Happened to Exceptonalism in America!

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
New Orleans, Louisiana
Ten years ago, NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw wrote a book about what he called “The Greatest Generation.” In contrast, there’s a new best seller out now calling America “the dumbest generation.” But with all the tools of modern technology of our digital culture supplying us with a 24/7 information overload, and the opportunities for intellectual development at an all time high, why aren’t we making a run at being “the greatest generation?” What conditions existed 70 years ago that set those who fought in World War II and those who volunteered at home apart?
These questions were the focus of discussion recently in New Orleans at the opening of some new spectacular attractions, all part of the National World War II Museum. Tom Brokaw was there for the grand opening and talked about his definition of the greatest generation. “They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America – men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today.”
There’s no doubt that these men and women of the1940s were resourceful, hardworking and deeply committed to giving extraordinary service to their country. But do we instill these same values now? Or does today’s generation value lifestyle over success?
In his book, The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein has little hope for today’s youth. Bauerlien views our young people as “Ignorant of politics and government, art and music, prose and poetry. The dumbest generation is content to turn up their iPods and tune out the realities of the adult world. It is brash, pampered, dumb -- and content to stay that way.”
Bauerlein’s viewpoint of today’s youth as being callow and worse is being echoed by other commentators and columnists. Young people are incorrigible and it’s their way or the highway. They aren’t that well educated, they don’t vote, and they show little respect for values honed by the hard work and sacrifice of previous generations. The rest of us are viewed as old, redundant, not to be trusted, and long past retirement age.
What has happened to the leadership that was charged with instilling these traditional values? Where is the call for sacrifice, volunteerism and “pitching in” for the greater good? The idea of sacrifice seems old-fashioned in our modern times. Self-sacrifice is so out-of-tune that we’ve turned upside down President Kennedy’s moral challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Today, many Americans consider self-sacrifice to be something only for suckers and losers. Even our “public servants” often leave office much richer than when they took office, or at least having used their government service as merely a stepping stone to a much higher paying job in the private sector. For many, Kennedy’s words have been rewritten: “Ask not what you can do for yourselves or your country, but what your country can do for you.” Who can forget President Bush’s advice after 9/11 that the best way to support our country was to “relax and go shopping.”
In states across America, one would think that a major volunteer effort would be both productive and necessary. Yet the state seems almost to go out if its way to build barriers for citizens who want to pitch in. A retired chemist from a Louisiana chemical plant who wants to volunteer to teach chemistry in public schools must spend a year getting a teaching certificate, at his or her own expense. I have taught history at both Tulane and LSU, and served for 8 years as Secretary of State, an office that oversees the state’s historical collections. Yet, I’m not qualified to teach eight-grade history in Louisiana public schools under Louisiana public school teacher requirements.
Public officials in nationwide, from the governor on down, are missing a great opportunity by not calling for more volunteer public service. Teaching in classrooms, giving time to help in hospitals and daycare centers, volunteering at the local food bank, a homeless shelter, the Red Cross, animal shelters, teaching adult literacy. There are so many heart- warming opportunities to help, to give back.
With due respect and admiration to my friend Tom Brokaw, I don’t believe any one-generation can take credit for being “the greatest.” Things happen. History is recorded. History gets interpreted. Subsequent generations reinterpret it.
Louisiana and the nation are looking for leaders who will lead in calling for a major volunteer effort from citizens of all ages. Government cannot do it alone. There are many who want to contribute and volunteer. They just need to be told how, where, and when. And that’s where real leadership comes in. Inspiring and instilling a sense of commitment to public service.
At the dedication ceremonies for the new attractions in New Orleans, Corporal Carl Grassman, a highly decorated veteran, was invited as a special guest. He lives with his wife in Detroit and he works as a Wal-Mart greeter. When told he would be honored at the museum and his travel expenses would be paid, he declined saying his fellow employees needed him too much and that he would feel terrible if he left them for this one day to be so commemorated. When the Wal-Mart brass heard this story, they flew Carl and his wife to New Orleans in the Wal-Mart private jet.
There are millions like Corporal Grossman who do their jobs each day and want to do even more to help their communities, their states and their country. They’re just waiting for leaders to give them direction and set out a game plan so that they too can lay claim to being one of the “greatest generations.”
The Greatest Generation got to save old tires, dig a Victory Garden and forgo sugar. The Richest Generation is being asked to shop.
Margaret Carlson
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 Communications Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Out of Touch?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Baton rouge, Louisiana
The Governor of Louisiana called me last night. I was just about to doze off when the phone rang. And can you believe it? He wanted my advice on how to deal with his plummeting poll numbers and his growing list of governing and political problems. The conversation went something like this.
“Jim, Bobby Jindal here. You’ve been pretty rough on me in your weekly columns and on your syndicated radio show. You know I’m a regular reader and I listen to you all the time, at least when I’m in the state. You’ve really been on my case lately. So I’m calling and asking you, man to man, what advice you would give me? What should I do? It seems like every week, some new list is released showing Louisiana at the bottom.  And my poll numbers are in the tank.  Man, I could really use some guidance.”
I was, of course, flattered that the Governor wanted my advice.  So I thought for a moment -- where to begin? He certainly has major problems to address. On virtually every list released in the past year, Louisiana is ranked either at, or close to the bottom for having a poor business climate, educational levels that lag far behind national averages, highest insurance rates, low rankings by the Center for Public Integrity, obstructing public access to information, and at the bottom of the barrel for overall health.
And here’s another slap in the face. Jindal just completed a term as Chairman of the National Governor’s Association. And how did Louisiana fare in the governors’ non-partisan sub group’s ranking for overall quality of life called the “Camelot Index?” Dead last!
So what would I recommend that the governor do right now -- something tangible, something that would yield immediate results? Something that would show the average guy that something is being done.  After giving it some thought, I had one simple solution. “Governor, take the afternoon off and rent a video.”
“What?  Voters are saying my state is under siege, and you tell me I should watch a movie? Come on, Jim!”
“That’s right, Bobby. Not just any movie. I want you to rent ‘City Hall,’ starring Al Pacino.”
“Never heard of it.”  I wasn’t surprised.
“Trust me on this, Bobby. Pacino plays the part of the Mayor of New York, and the city faces a whole litany of problems, including a major crime wave. Al says enough is enough. He becomes a PVLF -- a positive, visible, local force. And he’s everywhere. No, he’s not criss-crossing the country speaking to political groups, Bobby. But he’s back home in his state. When a murder takes place, he’s on the crime scene. When innocent victims are involved, he is preaching at their funerals. He’s walking the streets, in coffee houses, in restaurants, being verbal and visual one on one, and visiting with small groups. Simply letting the people of his city know that he’s in charge, that he cares, that he empathizes with their concerns, and he’s trying to do everything in his power to solve one insurmountable problem after the other.”
“Of course, it’s not quite that simple. But it’s a beginning, Bobby. And get this.  That’s exactly how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is, by the way, the leading Republican candidate for president in 2016, operates.  He’s everywhere in New Jersey.  Here’s what Christie says about governing: “You gotta show up -- regularly, consistently.  And you gotta listen.  You can’t always talk at people, you have to listen.”
If you are there and the folks you represent believe you are giving it your best effort, they are going to be much more willing to do their part. And these people you represent can be of tremendous help if you motivate them. You can build grass roots support for your legislative agenda, and you can encourage Louisianans to volunteer, and become involved in numerous community service programs. They’re volunteers for the state, but you can also turn them into volunteers for your own future.  You will quickly find out that good government is also good politics.
“Bottom line, Bobby -- stay at home where you were elected. Your challenge is to rally the masses, let them know you are on the job continually and that you are giving your all to improve the state’s quality of life. You can do it, Bobby. You just have to make the commitment.”
“Boy, I really appreciate your advice, Jim. You’ve got me thinking, fired up, and ready to change direction. You’re right, Jim. I can make a difference. I’m their leader. You are going to be amazed at the new approach I’m going to take. Thanks, Jim. And I’ll be listening to on the weekends.”
I hung up the phone, and was satisfied that Bobby Jindal would take up my challenge. I really believe in the PVLF theory. Maybe, just maybe, I had gotten through to him.  For a minute, I lay there with a smile of contentment on my face.
And then I woke up from my dream.
There go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.
Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin.
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