Friday, December 26, 2014


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Don’t let them tell you otherwise.  Words matter.  The old saying that “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me?”  Wrong!  Dead wrong!  Words can inflame, and the rhetoric can reach such a fever pitch, that violence erupts.  And people can die.  That’s what happened last week in New York City.  A disturbed career criminal got so caught up in the speeches of hate and virulence that he took what he thought was revenge.  And the blood on his hands is on many others all across this nation.

Ismaaiyl Brinsley was a 28-year-old street thug who never should have been on the streets in Brooklyn last week when he assassinated two New York City police officers.  He was a perpetual lawbreaker with at least 19 arrests-four in Ohio and 15 in Georgia.  He had been convicted of grand larceny, felony shoplifting, destroying property and possession of a stolen gun.  He should have been behind bars.

There was no doubt as to why he murdered the two officers.  Just two hours before his slaughter began, Brinsley wrote on his Instagram page:  “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours…Let’s take 2 of theirs.” It included the hashtags “#shootthepolice” as well as references to Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  He was getting even. It was, in his warped mind, payback time for the reams of inflammatory rhetoric that had flooded the news in the past month.

Brinsley was influenced by the whole inciting tone of the rhetoric by members of congress and NFL football players who hollered “Hands up-Don’t shoot,” even though the Ferguson grand jury concluded no such thing was said my Michael Brown.

The New York Times continued the sparks of irresponsible pomposity following a Cleveland killing with the headline: “New York police kill child with Toy,” even though there had been a 911 call that said the suspect was waiving a gun around the park and “scaring the hell out of them.”

Hundreds of marchers in New York City last week raised the rhetorical stakes with continuing chants of: “ What do we want? Dead Cops! When do we want it? Now!”

Others, in large numbers, hollered:  “New York P.D., KKK.  How many kids have you killed today?”

Cops under no reasonable circumstances should shoot unarmed young men who pose no major threat.  Hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers do their jobs every day without unarmed men being killed.  Yes, mistakes happen and there can be over reaction by the police.  But do such events become justification to block major roadways and bridges, and shut down shopping malls? 
Protesting unjust actions or decisions is as American as apple pie.  I’ve done my share of protesting what I considered to be flat out wrong verdicts by both law enforcement and the judicial system.  But threats of violent revenge can only lead to tragedy as we saw in the killings of the two officers last week.

The anti-police adulation reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, painting many police officers as brutal and subject to vicious overreacting in their jobs.  But the overreaction was a two way street.  Ismaaiyl Brinsley listened to the vitriol of misleading information day after day.  It was only words.  But words led to tragedy. He became a killer.

The son of one of the slain police officers went on Facebook to morn his father’s death. "This is the worst day of my life," Jaden Ramos, the 13-year-old son of officer Rafael Ramos, wrote.

"Today I had to say bye to my father," Jaden continued. "He was there for me everyday of my life, he was the best father I could ask for. It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad." 

Through this whole sorted heartbreaking disaster, words mattered.  Words had consequences.  And everyone involved were losers.

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, December 18, 2014


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


And we thought Jack Bauer on the Fox TV show “24” was heavy handed in his use of torture techniques.  Jack was a piker compared to CIA operatives who utilized about every method of pain infliction imaginable.  And then, Vice President Dick Chaney make it clear America had to move to “the dark side.”  The ends justified the means if we were to protect our freedoms.  But did we, and at what cost?

The controversy ignited last week when the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a damning report claiming that post 9/11, the CIA undertook an elaborate scheme to torture purported terrorists in violation of federal law.  The report also concluded that the program of “enhanced interrogations techniques” was incompetent and provided little useful information.  Democratic senators cheered, but Republicans, with a few exceptions shouted it was all about politics.  So what does a reasonable examination of the facts show?

First, torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law.  Specifically, 18 U.S. Code § 2340A, states: “Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”  No exceptions for any government official.  Cheney’s “dark side” argument doesn’t hold water under federal law.  If America wants to torture, then change the law.

Secondly, did CIA operatives actually torture?  I guess it’s how the “enhanced techniques” are defined.  The senate report describes detainees being water boarded, rectally force fed, repeatedly beaten, hanged and handcuffed to an overhead bar for 22-hour periods, left in total darkness and cold temperatures, hooded and shackled, forced to stay awake for up to 180 hours while “standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.”  Pretty damning evidence that these detainees were more than just “roughed up” a bit.

So is torture effective?  Not according to many in the military.  Republican Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.  He was repeatedly beaten, his ribs shattered, his arm rebroken, and he was kept in terrible conditions in solitary confinement for two years.  His opinion? You don’t get reliable information from torture.  Prisoners will say anything they think interrogators want to hear.  McCain said on the Senate floor last week that: “torture actually damages our security interests as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.”

McCain joins a long list of military generals and admirals, including former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who agree that torture is ineffective an essentially impairs efforts to gain reliable information. It’s strange that the most vocal proponents in favor of torture are those that never served a day in the military.  So called “chicken hawks” like Chaney, who received five draft deferments, and when asked why he did not join the service, responded that he had “other priorities.”  You can add just about every potential presidential candidate in 2016 who want to send your son or daughter off to war without volunteering to do so themselves.

CIA field officer and interrogator Glen Carle was a guest on my syndicated radio program last weekend, and he was forthright in saying it is implausible that torture gains any reliable information.  His book, The Interrogator, concludes that torture is ineffective and illegal. Carle writes: “The 'ticking time bomb' scenario rests on the flawed assumption that, somehow, torture would provide desperately needed information not otherwise obtainable in enough time to stop the threat. But when people are tortured, they will say anything to try to stop the pain."

After 9/11, a number of well-meaning government officials made decisions that they felt were necessary to protect the nation.  It’s easy to second guess.  Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and jailed those who opposed his views on the civil war.  During World War II, Roosevelt interred thousands of Japanese Americans out of fear.  But when the initial fears settle down, it’s critical that America retain a moral clarity.

If only it were as simple as Jack Bauer tried to make it in “24.”  But the world is not so black and white.  John McCain said it eloquently last week.  “The question isn’t about our enemies.  It’s about us.  It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”

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 10, 2014


Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Former U.S. House speaker Tip O’Neill said it time and time again.  All politics is local. I interviewed Tip on a New Orleans television show I hosted back in the 1990s.  He went on for sometime that you have to be intimately involved in your home state, if you want to survive.  It’s a lesson that Senator Mary Landrieu forgot.

Some political pundits are saying that Landrieu’s defeat was based on national issues like Obamacare.  Not completely true.  Every issue discussed in Washington has a local slant.  If Landrieu was not able to localize the debate, she only has her own self to blame.  And it’s not second-guessing her campaign tactics now that the election is over.  There were obvious and common sense steps she could have, and should have taken years ago to make a re-election victory more plausible.

First all, knowing full well that she was to be engaged in the fight of her political life, Landrieu should have moved her family back to Baton Rouge several years ago.  The lady just wasn’t around.  Republicans kept pounding away at her multi-million dollar Washington mansion, and her only residence in Louisiana was her parents home.  For many voters, that just didn’t wash.  Her opponent, and eventual winner Dr. Bill Cassidy, has his primary residence in Baton Rouge where his family lives full time, and where he continued his work at a local hospital when he wasn’t in Washington.

Few voters ever saw Landrieu outside of a handful of major cities.  Landrieu handily beat Cassidy in Louisiana’s three largest municipalities:  New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.  But she was decimated in less populated areas where locals know each other well, and also are well aware of personalities who come to visit.  I made a number of calls in parishes throughout Northeast Louisiana where I used to serve as a state senator, and where Landrieu was solidly defeated.  In call after call, I heard the same thing.  “We haven’t seen or heard from Mary Landrieu in years.”  At fairs, festivals, rotary clubs, and council meetings, neither she nor her staff ever showed up.  She became a Washington insider and lost contact with the folks that put her in office.

How about the charge that she supported the president 97% of the time?  The White House took a position on less than 25% of all votes taken by senators, and more than half of its positions involved presidential nominees and federal judges.  A number of Republican senators often voted with the President’s position, and Landrieu did so less than the vast majority of Democrats. Would Cassidy have opposed Landrieu’s votes to confirm the numerous Louisiana judges that Republican Senator David Vitter supported?  Landrieu should have aggressively stated that this is a phony issue, and that Cassidy needed to specifically say what presidential nominees he would have opposed.  But she just stood by and let the Cassidy attacks continue.

Obamacare?  Democrats right and left are running away from it.  Liberal New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) said just this week it was a mistake.  Yet Landrieu keep hanging on.  Her position should have been: “Look, Obamacare is not working out, insurance companies are making a killing, and the program needs a major fix. What passed is quite similar to what Congressman Cassidy proposed when he was in the Louisiana legislature.  So we both made mistakes.  I’m ready to go back to the drawing board and change the law.”

And where was her opposition research?  In the final days of the campaign, Landrieu attacked Cassidy for billing hours at a Louisiana public hospital when he was actually in Washington.  A good issue, but why didn’t it surface months ago?  Landrieu let her opponent off the hook, rarely attacked him on his own voting record, and spent most of her time defending herself.  Any incumbent in a close race should be attacking and playing offense.  The lady spent most of her campaign on defense.  And that was a losing strategy.

Would this more aggressive localized approach made any difference?  Maybe not.  But in the end, Landrieu focused on raising out of state money, and ran a Washington based halfhearted campaign.  No, she did not lose her senate race in the final weeks.  She lost it years ago.  Old Tip is somewhere, shaking his head in disappointment.


"I just know, before this is over, I'm gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitching."  (Democratic?) Donkey (from Shrek, 2001)

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, December 04, 2014


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Do you know anyone who does not have an opinion of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri?  The problem is that in trying to make some sense out of what has become a tragedy for everyone involved, misinformation has been spewed out from all sides.  Former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan summed up the incongruities well in saying that:  “You are entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

For too many critics of what happened in Ferguson, personal opinions, at least in their own minds, have become the irrefutable facts of the calamity that unfolded.  So whatever it’s worth, here’s a list of what I consider to be factually based conclusions of what can be drawn from this disastrous confrontation.

First of all, it’s not reasonable to compare the Trayvon Martin case and Michael Brown.  Martin was not doing anything wrong and was being followed by a thug named George Zimmerman.  Brown is not nearly as sympathetic. He is shown on videotape committing a felony by attacking a convenience store clerk and robbing the store. He was a ruffian who, according to grand jury testimony, shouted profanities at and assaulted a police officer, refused to stop when the officer confronted him, then charged and grabbed for the officer’s gun.  It’s unclear what happened next, but it’s quite clear that Brown put himself in an extremely dangerous situation.

The county prosecutor is being blistered in the national press for not aggressively pushing for an indictment, and for giving the grand jury all available information.  Yeah, right! What generally happens is that the prosecutor gives the grand jury only what he wants them to see and hear, so as to make criminal charges a sure thing. Remember the old saying that a prosecutor, if he so desires, can indict a ham sandwich?  Have we come to a stage in the judicial process where a prosecutor, particularly when he may be uncertain himself that a crime has been committed, has to hide evidence in favor of the accused and refuses to allow all the evidence, both pro and con, to be made available to the grand jury?

Does whatever happened that night justify the orgy of anarchy that took place, no not in Iraq, but in Ferghanistan?  The destroying of businesses, many owned by African Americans who worked their whole lives to build up?  And who can forget Michael Brown’s uncle, who spiked the Ferguson mob fervor by shouting out to “burn this bi**h down,” followed by rioting, looting, burning down of businesses, and setting numerous police vehicles ablaze.

Finally, many are asking how come a city that is almost 70% black has a police department that is 94% white?  Of the six city council members, five are white.  The mayor is a white republican. The school board has seven members with one black in a school district that is 75% black.  So how can a city with an overwhelming majority of black citizens allow themselves to be governed by an overwhelming number of white public officials?

Remember the old saying that elections have consequences?  Well that’s what happened in Ferguson.  Black voter turnout was some three times lower than that of white voters.  In the last municipal election, just six percent of black voters showed up at the polls.  That means that 94% of local blacks opted not to participate and elect those who make the laws that govern Ferguson.

Under Missouri state law, voters in municipalities like Ferguson have the legal right to recall all of its elected officials.  But it takes a vote of the people, and the vast majority of Ferguson’s black community has shown an unwillingness to engage in the process of electing and governing.  What’s the other old saying, “you’ve got to pay to play”, and playing in this instance is simply showing up to vote on Election Day.

Yes, we have significant problems of race in America today. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was right on this week when he said that “a young black man is treated much worse than a young white man on the street, in the courtroom, in jail.  There are two Americas when it comes to criminal justice.”  But a change in the civic fabric of America that pertains to race relations should not be defined by Michael Brown’s actions.  Leadership across the racial spectrum can find a better focal point than what happened in Ferguson.

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