Wednesday, June 24, 2015


June 25rd, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There is a major push by the bureaucrats in Washington to put the first woman on the face of paper currency.  There are a number of choices, and you will get no argument form me that there certainly is a place on one of our bills for a woman.  But one of the options is to take Andrew Jackson off the twenty-dollar bill, and that ought to be fightin’ words down here in Louisiana.

 For a number of years, social reformer Susan B. Anthony adorned the dollar coin, but she was replaced by congress in 1997 with Sacagawea, an Indian guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  There certainly are a number of praiseworthy women who well deserve to grace paper money.  The list of proposed female names is long including Susan Anthony redux, Eleanor Roosevelt who redefined the role of First Lady, Rosa Parks, the first lady of civil rights, Rachel Carson, who spurred the modern American environmental movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called the “founding genius” of the women's rights movement, the Bayou State’s own first Lady Lindy Boggs, a nine term congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican; the list goes on and on.

Now I’m personally a big supporter of equal rights and equal pay for women.  Heck, I introduced the first legislation to adopt the equal rights amendment to the constitution back in the early 1970s when I served as a Louisiana State Senator.  So I’m all for a women on our paper money.  But please don’t mess with Andrew Jackson.  The seventh president of the United States was as important to Louisiana as any political leader in the state’s history.

Jackson was the son of Scottish colonists (like me), and was the only president to fight in two wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  He was a Tennessee Senator and Judge, before becoming a national hero leading the American victory at the battle of New Orleans in the winter of 1814.  The British waged an all out attack n the Crescent City in an effort to gain controlling sea access to the Mississippi River.  Control of the river meant control of commerce, and ultimate victory, as the South found out during the Civil War.

Jackson knew his troops were greatly outnumbered by the British forces, but he masterminded a defense of New Orleans as well as an attack plan against the Brits.  He gathered local engineers to find out the best way to seal off the city, by clogging the various waterways throughout the swamps surrounding New Orleans.   Then he gathered a rag tag army of volunteer militia, free blacks, Indians, Creoles, and of course the famous inclusion of a band of pirates led by Jean Lafitte.

Although greatly outnumbered, Jackson’s forces won a huge victory that sealed his reputation as an American hero, and the savior of New Orleans.  Fourteen years later, he moved into the White House.  If you want to see Hollywood’s entertaining version of the Battle of New Orleans with great character reproductions of Jackson by Charlton Heston, and Jean Lafitte by Yul Brynner, check out the movie “The Buccaneer.”  There is also a new movie, called "Andrew Jackson and the Battle for New Orleans” that is being shot in New Orleans now for release next year.

Andrew Jackson loved Louisiana and was greatly disheartened that he was not appointed Governor of the state in 1805. President Thomas Jefferson passed over Jackson, and chose General James Wilkerson instead to be Louisiana’s chief executive. Wilkerson resigned in disgrace a few years later, and President Jefferson regretted not appointing the future president. Jackson was married on the banks of the Mississippi River right across form my old home in Concordia Parish. So his ties to Louisiana were quite strong.

One of the knocks on Jackson by current critics is that he was a slaveholder.  Well, so were Washington (one dollar bill), Jefferson (two dollar bill), Grant (Fifty Dollar bill), and Madison (five thousand dollar bill).

History validates that Andrew Jackson was a tough but fair commander and president.  It also confirms that the president known as “Old Hickory” was a major force in the development and protection of New Orleans and the entire Bayou State.  He well deserves to stay on the twenty-dollar bill.


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, June 17, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Who would have thought that the most notable legislation in the recently completed session of the Louisiana legislature was increasing taxes by over one billion dollars, and legalizing marijuana use for certain purposes.  Some observers around the state capitol wondered sarcastically just where did all the conservative republicans go? 

Cannabis, the technical name for the marijuana plant, is now legal for medical use under directives yet to be developed. But the devil is in the details.  Three different state boards have to develop rules and regulations for dispensation.  Who can receive marijuana for medical purposes?  Is simply a doctor’s prescription all that is needed?  Use is supposed to be limited to a few categories.  But who is going to regulate and monitor what prescriptions are written?

Then who is actually going to cultivate the marijuana?  The LSU School of Agriculture has the right of first refusal to grow the weed.  But if they opt out, who gets a license to raise and farm the plant? If you thought there was political influence in giving out riverboat licenses, imagine the wheeling and dealing that will take place over licenses to grow pot.

All this regulatory bureaucracy is the easy stuff.  What really will concern businesses are the legal ramifications.  Can employees use medical marijuana in the workplace?  What if such use impacts a worker’s ability to function in the job.  Can the supervisor fire the employee?  Can the employee be demoted for not be able to perform some of the required tasks?  What business would want their worker to drive or operate machinery while smoking marijuana?

How about a company that has contracts with the federal government?  Although the federal laws prohibiting marijuana use are not enforced, actual consumption is still illegal under federal statutes.  Would such an employee using the drug still be eligible for worker’s compensation because of such federal prohibitions?

What about the legal exposure to the doctor who prescribes the drug or the dispensaries that provide if the user gets into an accident or injures someone else?  Are such suppliers liable for damages?  Many states hold bars and restaurants liable for drunk drivers who cause damage or injury.  How about pot providers?  Will they be at risk to be sued?

Then of course there is always the bugaboo of dealing with insurance.  Liability insurance is a necessary evil for anyone related to the dispensing of marijuana.  How broad and how expensive will insurances policies be?  What does a business insure for?  How about theft by an employee?  To say that there are numerous unanswered questions would be an understatement.

Just this week, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an employee can be fired by a business for using medical marijuana even when the employee is away from work and off-duty.  The court’s logic was based on the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, continues to be listed as a Schedule 1 highly dangerous drug, and is included on the list of heroin and LSD.

In the Colorado case, the fired employee was a quadriplegic who has used a wheelchair for many years.  In random drug testing of employees, he tested positive for THC, which is the active mind-altering component in marijuana.  The company’s drug policy allowed him to be fired even though the drug in his system was not consumed at work.

Now remember it is legal to obtain marijuana in Colorado for recreational purposed.  Yet the Supreme Court there took a strong stance in favor of allowing a business to set up its own rules.  In the court’s words, employers are not required ”to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place.”

So although the use of marijuana for medical purposes is now legal in Louisiana, there will be long delays in setting up policies and procedures, and many unanswered questions that will make this whole new law a field day for the lawyers.  Get ready for lots of litigation.


“When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and never tried it again.” – Bill Clinton 

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The rallying cry by protesters that has gained momentum after Ferguson and Baltimore is that “Black Lives Matter.”  Within the context of all society, that’s a truism.  But like so many other older citizens, I volunteered to join the military (something few protesters or politicians do any more) because, liked most Americans, I felt that all lives matter.

But let’s call it like it is in real life.  Some black lives do not matter.  Pick up a large city daily newspaper, turn to page 9 or 10, and you read too often that a young black man was shot and killed by another young black man.  The killing gets scant attention and becomes merely a statistic.

When major demonstrations take place as was seen in Ferguson, Long Island and South Carolina, protesters are too often selective about just who they are demonstrating against.  Do black lives really matter to them that much, or is the protest more an effort to scores points against the police?

A case in point is what happened last week in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Robert Minjarez had been arrested last year for “making a disturbance” outside a Texaco gas station.  He was unarmed when the police came to investigate.  Video surveillance cameras at the gas station and dash cam film from several police cars on the scene tell the story of just what happened. 

Minjarez had no weapon and had his arms in the air when approached by police with canines in tow.  Four officers wrestled him to the ground. ; His voice is heard on the video saying: "I didn't do nothing to nobody, why are ya'll doing this to me?"  Minjarez continues to scream as the officers struggle with him.  "You're going to kill me, you're going to kill me!" he exclaimed. "I can't breathe."  "You've got 265 pounds on your back," one of the officers tells him. "You're not going anywhere."  Three more times, you can hear Minharez scream that he can’t breathe.

He died five days later, and the coroner’s report stated that the main cause of Minjarez's death as “compressional asphyxia due to face-down physical restraint by law enforcement officers.”  In spite of the video and this report, a grand jury last week refused to indict the officers involved.

Based on past similar confrontations in Cleveland, Ferguson, Long Island, and South Carolina, it would be safe to assume that protesters would come out in droves to demonstrate.  But Rev. Al Sharpton did not find his way to Lafayette.  Rev. Jesse Jackson was not on the scene.  No looting took place.  No organized protests. There were no fires burning in the streets of Lafayette.

So although the hostilities were quite similar, the local community reacted quite differently. There was one major difference. Robert Minjarez was white.

All lives ought to matter.  But the high rate of killings has continued.  In the small town of Ferguson, Mo., fourteen teenagers alone have been killed since Michael Brown’s death.  Half were white and have were black.  In Baltimore, 35 people have been killed in the month of May, the highest number in one month since 1999.  Cleveland murders could break a record and well top 100 this year. New Orleans, a perennial leader in wrongful deaths, has witnessed 70 killings in the first five months of the year.

The inner city crime problems are so vast that charges of who’s white and who’s black should be irrelevant.  But they are not.  In some communities, there certainly has been police overreach.  Officers will argue there is a growing disrespect for the law.  But until both races face head on the degeneration of the family unit, unwed births, drugs, lack of parental involvement, failing schools, and a lack of community concern, then the killings will continue.

It should not be acceptable for nameless young black men, who are obeying the law, to be shot at.  Their lives matter.  But it also should not be a black and white thing.  All lives can be at risk.  And all lives matter.


“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

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, June 03, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Many readers who love Louisiana literature will gather this weekend in St. Francisville to celebrate the live and works of novelist Walker Percy.  He was, to me, a literary icon who spent most of his life in Louisiana.  Many consider him to be America’s most significant Catholic writer.  And he was passionate about Louisiana.  So passionate that he took the time to give me some good advise about what he considered to be the insidious politics in the Bayou State.

I first heard about Dr. Percy (he was a psychiatrist by training) back in 1961 when I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina. I was writing a weekly column for the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.  Percy was a Carolina graduate, and had also written regular columns for the Tar Heel back in the late 1930s. His first novel, The Moviegoer, had just won the National Book award, and there was a lot of buzz about him in Chapel Hill.

One of the amusing stories that circulated around the English Department at Carolina was about Percy taking his freshman English placement test.  He had just read Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” and wrote his entire essay in one long paragraph without punctuation.  He was promptly placed into a class for slow learners and was told that he needed a lot of help to pass English composition.

The Moviegoer was set in New Orleans, a place I had never visited.  Percy’s descriptions of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, and the streets of the Crescent City were enchanting to me, and one of the reasons I decided to attend Tulane Law School. One of my courses in constitutional law was taught by Professor Billups Percy, Dr. Percy’s brother.  His uncle, Will Percy, had written an important history titled “Lanterns on the Levee,” a memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood, where he describes life in the Mississippi Delta.  The introduction was written by Walker Percy.

I went on to read all of Percy’ novels.  His main characters are “seekers” who struggle with an existential crisis in their lives.  They habitually search for God with varying success, and often look for some form of redemption.  He writes how he personally found redemption in the Catholic Church.

I had never met Dr. Percy until receiving a phone call in 1987.  At the time, I was serving as Secretary of State, and was running for governor.  I had written an 80-page plan I called The Brown Papers; my vision of how Louisiana could prosper in future years. Few people read it.  One spring day, my secretary buzzed that I had a phone call from someone named Walker Percy.  I assumed it was someone with the same name.

When I returned the call, Dr. Percy told me he was some obscure writer from Covington, and he was impressed with my plan.  Would I have time, if I were in the area, to come by for coffee and a chat?  Would I have time?  I drive over to his home the next afternoon.  We talked late into the evening sharing ideas about what Louisiana could be with all its natural resources and creative talent.

He told me what he had repeatedly written in a number of publications.  “What happened?  Louisiana is a state richer in mineral resources, the top gas producer in the country, possessed of the largest port, endowed with a natural wealth, which in its use might have been expected to yield manifold benefits for its people.  But its marshes have been plundered and polluted, one of the highest cancer rates in the county and the loss of fifty square miles of wetlands yearly.”  He went on to lament that Louisiana should be much more than what he decried as “a slightly sleazy playground for tourists and conventioneers.”

He said he was still optimistic about the state’s future, that he was in my corner politically, and to call on him at any time. We visited on one other occasion in Covington, and exchanged a number of phone calls up until his death in 1990.

In one conversation before his death, he told me he didn’t consider himself to be a southern novelist, and did not want to be compared to William Faulkner. He felt that Faulkner had this tragic sense of history, and that Percy wrote about the new South. And he was deeply concerned about the state’s future. He was right on the money in so many things he wrote and said. Walker Percy would have been a pretty darn good Louisiana governor.

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