Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Thursday, January 29th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Well, here we go again.  Big banks and major insurance companies are “high-fiving” each other after they won big in Washington last month. We thought lawmakers had learned an expensive lesson after the financial crash in 2008 that led to massive bailouts at taxpayer’s expense.  Back then, the financial industry was allowed to carry on high stakes gambling with your money.  And now, it’s déjà vu as congress has reopened the casino doors.

Following the 2008 financial meltdown, congress used a little common sense and passed legislation known as Dodd-Frank, that limited banks and insurance companies from engaging in risking investments backed up by the taxpayer.  “Go ahead and gamble on high-risk investments if you want, but don’t expect a bailout,” so the logical reasoning went.

High-risk derivatives were one of the major financial culprits that led to the financial reforms.  Insurance companies like A.I.G. were insuring risky Wall Street investments, knowing full well that if things went bad, old Uncle Sam would be there to pay for the damage done.  And since insurance companies like A.I.G. are regulated at the state level, regulators in Washington paid little attention.

 Here’s what happened that caused the financial crisis.  Insurance regulators had for years allowed A.I.G and other insurance companies to privatize the gains but socialize the losses.  The fat cats at A.I.G. got multi-million dollar bonuses year after year, but when the losses had to be paid, it was the taxpayer, you and me, that were called on to cover all the wild-eyed spending spree that regulators allowed to take place.

The tipping point of much of A.I.G.’s problems was an insurance product called a credit-default swap. A CDS, in its simplest form, is just a bet on an outcome.  It’s a way of insuring a variety of investments including mortgages. There is nothing wrong with selling such insurance as long as there are reserves in place to pay up in case major losses occur.  But that was the clinker.  A.I.G. kept virtually nothing back to pay the piper. And any way you cut it, CDSs were insurance that should have been closely regulated by insurance regulators.

A.I.G. sold over $500 billion worth of CDS insurance in only seven years, with more than $64 billion of that tied to the subprime mortgage market. Yet the company didn’t even have a fraction of that amount on hand to cover the losses that eventually took place.  They operated in a vacuum with no one looking over their shoulder. Then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took a shot at insurance regulators when he called A.I.G. “A huge, complex global insurance company attached to a very complicated hedge fund that was allowed to build up without any adult supervision.”

So after all was said and done, A.I.G. execs keep their lavish bonuses, continued to run up huge losses, kept squealing for bailouts of your tax money, and for all practical purposes, continued to operate with little or no regulation.

Dodd-frank was pass in 2010 to put an end to all these shenanigans.  But the campaign contributions from the financial industry rolled in during last fall’s congressional elections.  And low and hold, just last month, congress dramatically weakened Dodd-Frank to allow Wall Street to once again play their financial games with government-guaranteed funds.

Sad to say the Louisiana congressional delegation joined in the efforts to allow risky financial behavior.  Senate opponents Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy were in lock step in voting for huge financial loopholes that puts taxpayers on the hook for Wall Street gamblers.  The only responsible voice in the whole debate from the Bayou State was Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who actually led the charge in opposing any weakening of financial oversight, and who deserves kudos for his efforts.

So although America has had enough of Wall Street and insurance welfare, taxpayers are the losers again.  And it also looks like we could be hearing the 1930s song, “Brother can you spare a dime.”  But with different words this time.

“Once I worked on Wall Street, it was such fun-sold risky investments by the million.
Once I worked on Wall Street, now it’s done.  Brother, can you spare a billion?”


“I sincerely believe… that financial establishments are more dangerous
than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be
paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on
a large scale.” –Thomas Jefferson

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 21, 2015


Thursday, January 22nd, l2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Louisiana’s feisty absentee Governor Bobby Jindal sure knows now to ignite a political firestorm half way around the world.  He sent out advance warnings of his lighting rod litany when he admonished: “I will warn you in advance that I’m going to say some things that are not politically correct, so brace yourselves.”  So naturally, I held onto my desk, took a deep breath, assumed the worst, and braced myself.

 The Republican presidential wannabe was on the political warpath.  He didn’t mince words in firmly stating: “Let’s be honest here. Islam has a problem.”  He went on to elaborate that Muslims should reject terrorism and should strongly speak out saying  “acts of terror in the name of Islam is in fact not practicing Islam at all.  If they refuse to say this, they are condoning these acts of barbarism.”

So far, so good for Jindal.  But he then muddied his message by claiming that Europe was full of “no-go” zones where Muslim communities are enforcing sharia law on residents, ignoring the laws of the country in which they are living.  His speech was given in London, and the Times Picayune reported that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s reaction was swift and blunt:  “When I heard this, I frankly choked on my porridge and I thought it must be an April fools day.”  Cameron and numerous other commentators rebuffed Jindal’s assertions, saying that no such “no-go” zones existed anywhere in Britain or Europe.

So Jindal stumbled on the “no-go” zone issue.  But on the separate anxieties of rejecting terrorism among one’s cluster, the Louisiana Governor was right on.  Most all of us would agree.  Jindal’s problem is that he micro focuses on those who believe in Islam, and seems to conclude that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists seem to be Muslims.   Is he right?

If the Governor did a little research, he might be surprised to learn that a large majority of terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. are not committed by Muslims. The European Union’s police force, Europol, recently released a study showing that in the past five years, less than 2% of all terrorist attacks were by Muslims.  The vast majorities were committed by various separatist groups who are demanding their independence.  High on the list in other countries were Buddhist terrorists, who have killed hundreds of Muslims.  The list of non-Muslim terrorist attacks is extensive throughout the U.S. and throughout the world.

If you go to the FBI website, data is listed showing terrorist attacks in the U.S since 1980.  The figures show that all terrorists are Muslims; well, except for the 94% that are not.  The breakdown indicates that terrorism was undertaken in this order: Latino (42%), extreme left wing groups (24%), others (16%), Jewish extremists (7%), Islamic extremists (6%), Communists (5%).

One of the most recent studies of terrorism in the U.S. was released last year by my alma mater, the University of North Carolina.  It concludes that since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism caused the deaths of 37 Americans. In 2013, you were more likely to be killed in the U.S. by a toddler than by a terrorist. The Boston Marathon bombers killed three Americans.  Five toddlers accidently caused deaths by firing guns.

Now I’m not saying the Governor Jindal is some right wing Islamophobe who is inflaming us to live in mortal fear of radical Muslims.  Well, maybe not.  Unfortunately, he has a habit, in dealing with Louisiana issues, of trying to convince us the perception is reality.  I’m going to give the Governor the benefit of the doubt.  In coming weeks, I’ll look for him to tell us more things that, in his words, are “not politically correct.” Time for Jindal to start naming names and kicking butt.  Time for him to speak out against terrorists from all walks of life, including Hispanics, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus; the whole lot where extreme religious terrorism exists.

Better yet, with less than a year left in is term as governor, maybe its time for him to get back home and perform the job he was elected to do.  Rather than putting his focus on terrorists, he may want to consider traveling back to the Bayou State and tell us “things that are not politically correct” about keeping the rocky Louisiana ship of state a float.  But don’t “brace” yourself.

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 15, 2015


Thursday, January 15th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Poor Congressman Steve Scalise. He should be on cloud nine having reached the pinnacle of political success by being elected majority whip in the Republican controlled congress.  But out of the blue, he is blindsided by a 28-year-old democratic blogger and law student who ties him to David Duke.  Scalise’s sin?  Accepting a speaking invitation 12 years ago when he was a state representative to a group (located in the district from where he was elected) that has close ties to David Duke.

A feeding frenzy developed with Democrats calling for his head (or at least his resignation), and conservative Republicans expressing outrage.  Defense of this (last decade) racist action is disgusting and wrong,” bemoaned Sarah Palin.  Popular conservative syndicated talk show host Mark Levin lamented: “He's yet another example of what's wrong with the GOP and Washington. The American people are sick of it, and those who defend such awful establishment leadership are not doing either the GOP or the nation any favors. Scalise is another setback.”

David Duke, in a perverse way, must be smiling.  He’s back. In Duke’s world, it doesn’t matter what you say about him.  Just don’t ignore him.  He’s relevant again and part of the political discussion, good or bad.  To Duke, it doesn’t make any difference.

A number of Louisiana Republicans are walking on eggs in hopes of steering clear of this whole conversation.  Duke has made it clear that he’s ready to kick ass and name names.  He was blunt in warning that those jumping all over Scalise for his Duke ties may pay a price.  “If any of them, if they jump on this bandwagon, those who have asked for support from my camp–if they throw Scalise to the wolves in this thing as part of this lynch mob, you know, I promise I will go and absolutely out them because they are hypocrites.”

Duke first launched on the political scene in 1987 when he won a surprising victory for a Louisiana House of Representatives seat formally held by present U.S. Senator David Vitter, and later won by Scalise.  Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Duke found himself in a run off with former Governor Edwin Edwards, a philosophical opposite of Duke.  In fact, Edwards would quip on the campaign trail that the only thing he and Duke had in common was that they both were wizards under the sheets.

In the runoff, Duke was opposed by every political and civic persuasion around.  Republicans openly opposed his candidacy and espoused the popular bumper sticker, “Vote for the Crook (meaning Edwards), its important.”  The state’s largest newspaper, The Times Picayune, ran front-page editorials day after day bemoaning the disaster of a Duke victory.  In spite of this massive opposition, Duke carried 60% of the white vote.

So how could that be?  It came down to the message.  White voters were willing to forgive what Duke called “young man indiscretions” and embraced Duke’s platform.  And it’s the same platform Republicans in conservative districts across the country have embraced today.  Welfare reform, drug testing for food stamp recipients, the doing away with affirmative action program and quotas based on race, federal judges meddling in states rights, and major cutbacks in federal spending.

 When Scalise told reporters that he was ”David Duke without the baggage,” it was a terrible choice of words, but he apparently was saying he agreed with Duke’s approach towards government policies.  And like it or not, a significant majority of white voters in Scalise’s congressional district, both now and 12 years ago, agree with both Duke and their current Congressman.

The problem Republicans have today is that they can control both Houses of Congress, but they cannot elect a president without “widening the tent.”  The GOP needs more Hispanics, African Americans and Asian voters to be successful on the national level. 

Scalise will survive his current stumble in the political road.  David Duke will again fade off the national scene.  The problem for the Republican leadership is to find a way to maintain their conservative values, while still addressing the rampant poverty and class differences throughout American today. 

Can they describe a road to economic opportunity that appeals to a growing number of minority groups across the country?  The GOP has its work cut out if they want to avoid the nation electing another Democratic president in 2016.

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 08, 2015


Thursday, January 7th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It’s the end of the college football season, and the year has produced a financial bonanza for top tier schools all over the country.  ESPN will pay over 7 billion dollars for the rights to telecast just seven games a year over the next 12 years.  Television revenue has doubled for major college football programs over last year.  Stadiums are expanding and ticket sales are at an all time high.  So let’s ask the question-is it all about the money?

College football and other athletic programs were supposed to be extra curricular activities; a break from the rigors of taking classes and qualifying for a degree. No more.  Just absorb the words of Cardale Jones, the starting quarterback for national championship finalist Ohio State. His message on Twitter complained:  “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”

Maybe Cardale has a point.  For many colleges, it’s all about the dollars and winning football games.  My old friend and former University of Texas football coach Mack Brown summed it up this way:  “When you hear college presidents and athletic directors talk about character and academics and integrity, none of that really matters.  College football is growing closer and closer of being like the NFL.”

When it comes to priorities, my home state’s football powerhouse is a case in point.  Louisiana colleges are in a financial free-fall, with new budget cuts being imposed yearly.  LSU has seen its state-funding cut by over 40% in recent years. The endowment of the state’s flagship university is one of the lowest of any major colleges in the country.  In the most recent edition of U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings, LSU weighed in at a lowly 129th in the nation.

But when it comes to football financial rankings, the Fighting Tigers are high on the list. In the recent Forbes rankings of the most valuable football teams, LSU comes in at Number 4, with a current value of just under $100 million, and a football profit last year of $47 million.  Coach Les Miles is paid $4.3 million plus performance bonuses and endorsement fees. Several of his assistants are paid over $1 million.  To compare athletics and academics, the University’s top remunerated professor, world-renowned obesity expert and Executive Director of the LSU System’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield, is paid $416,000 annually.

Most Wall Street hedge funds would love to see blue chip stocks increase at the rate of college football revenue.  Schools like LSU are paid over $12 million by companies like Nike, just to wear the company’s logo.  But to make that kind of money, the football team has to be a winner. And to win, even the top academic schools often cut corners.

My alma mater, The University of North Carolina, consistently ranks as one of the top academic universities in the U.S.  But the alums want a football winner. In recent months, press reports documented that for the past 18 years, thousands of athletes, primarily football players, have taken fake “paper classes’ with no attendance and no work performed.

And just what do these athletes receive? Only enough to cover the basic college expenses — room, food, tuition and books. No pocket money to go to the movies, no gas money, no extras whatsoever. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented, disciplined, hardworking athletes, without sharing the revenue with those responsible for generating it.  Such a system is ill-defined at best and hypocritical at worst. 

Fifty-six years ago, I was lucky enough to attend the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship. I was given a housing and food allowance that exceeded my costs, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship outlays. What I received then was equivalent to some $300 in pocket money if the same were allowed today. But the NCAA tightened up the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like me received some years back.

The system in place brings in millions of dollars for those that run the football program, but allows our young college athletes to be exploited, and the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors.  What a deal-your body in exchange for a pittance of basic expenses. 

Something is definitely wrong with the way college football is run.  But with all the money coming in, don’t expect much to change.  After all, we only care about winning.


“Football: A sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.”

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