Thursday, July 30, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


My home phone rang around 9:00 pm. It was my wife Gladys who was in New York with grandkids.  “Turn on CNN.  They are reporting a mass shooting at the Grand movie theater in Lafayette.  Apparently, several people were killed.” 

The Lafayette theater is part of a national chain that operates across the south.  My wife’s family has been in the movie business for many years, and I know some of the people involved.  So as a journalist and friend, I jumped in my car and headed to Lafayette.

The crime scene was worse than initially reported with three dead, including the shooter, and seven people injured.  The block surrounding the theater, located in the heart of Lafayette, was roped off in yellow tape with only law enforcement personal being allowed in and out. There were concerns, later alleviated, that several nap sacks left in the theater might contain explosives.

Governor Bobby Jindal was holding a press conference as I arrived, and handled the tragedy professionally.  He later received criticism for being “too visible” and not answering questions about gun control.  But I felt, in observing the scene, that the Governor was just doing his job.  Discussing gun control just hours after such a tragedy would have been improper.  The Governor made it a point to visit with me briefly about an educational forum and debate he will be attending in New Hampshire next week.  My daughter Campbell will be moderating.

The killer, John Houser had traveled to Louisiana from the small Georgia town of LaGrange.  He had a long history of violence and mental illness.  But the guy was no dummy, having received a degree in accounting as well as a law degree.  He had been ordered to a psychiatric hospital by a Georgia judge in 2008, which should have prevented him from even buying a gun. But last year, he went to an Alabama pawnshop and bought a 40-caliber, semiautomatic handgun. Georgia and Alabama are both saying the other state should have done more to stop Houser from purchasing the gun considering his checkered mental condition. 

You would have thought that both states would be sharing a database that would prevent someone who like Houser from buying a handgun. A federal database exists where individuals who are adjudicated with mental problems are listed. Supposedly, each state has to use such a database to determine if an applicant is qualified to buy a gun. But the Georgia judge’s order sending him to a psychiatric hospital was not considered to be a legal commitment, so Houser passed the background check made by the Alabama pawnshop in February of 2014, and bought the gun that he used in the Lafayette shootings legally.

The country will be making a big mistake to dismiss this mass killing as merely some single incident of a deranged drifter who needs psychiatric help. A guest on my syndicated radio program this weekend is Dr. John Tures, a political science professor at LaGrange University in Georgia, the hometown of Houser.  He told me that Houser was no ordinary drifter. “He's simply the latest in a string of lone wolf domestic terrorists like Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, with a strong political agenda. If Roof and Houser changed their names to Middle East sounding names, we'd have no trouble labeling them domestic terrorists. If they were undocumented immigrants, we would have immediate Congressional hearings on changing our border policy. But the threat these lone wolf individuals pose is no different from the one we get from ISIS and al-Qaeda every day.”

Professor Tures is right. If there are no specific requirements that mentally deranged individuals like Hauser are not reported by every state to a national database, then we can look for more mass shootings.  It’s way too easy for a potential killer to obtain a gun in one state, and then travel across the country to pick and choose his victims.  Congress should make such reporting mandatory with penalties for those state that fail to do so.

By now, the rest of the nation has moved on to the next violent news story.  But here in Louisiana, we will be marred by this terrible calamity for many years to come.  God bless all those families and friends who lost loved ones in another senseless tragedy.


“Death wins nothing here,
gnawing wings that amputate––
then spread, lift up, fly.”

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, July 23, 2015


There is no politically correct way to explain it. Donald Trump blew his chance in a big way.  He seemed to be on a roll, rising in the presidential preference polls and talking about issues other Republican candidates were ducking.  Here in Louisiana, he hit a responsive cord when few other presidential wanabes had the gumption to show any backbone, particularly on curtailing illegal immigration.  But then, his mouth got in the way.

Trump had the audacity to challenge Arizona Senator John McCain’s stature as an American war hero.  Here’s what he said.  “He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Now there are a number of things a voter might not like about the Senator.  But his military service and his actions as a prisoner of war are sacrosanct to most Americans.  McCain was a Navy aviator during the Vietnam War, flying his 23rd bombing mission, when his plane was shot down over Hanoi.  Both of his arms and a leg were fractured as he parachuted into a lake.  He was captured, and enemy soldiers took a rifle butt and crushed his shoulder, then bayoneted him.

He spent five years in a Hanoi prison where he was often tortured when he tried to help fellow prisoners.  When the North Vietnamese found out his father and grandfather were flag officers in the U.S. Navy, he was offered early release and freedom.  McCain refused unless his fellow prisoners would also be turned loose, and he spent the next two years in solitary confinement. I met the Senator on the campaign trail in 2008 when he came to Baton Rouge.  When I reached out to shake his hand, his bent elbow from his torture could hardly be extended.

Donald Trump took a different direction and ducked the draft. He received four student deferments, then claimed he had a bone spur in his foot and wrangled a medical deferral to avoid his military obligation.  Bone spurs?  As an old athlete, I know about bone spurs.  You give your foot some rest, ice it regularly, and pop a few Advils. Trump is just another in a long line of chicken hawks from the president on down, who refuse to serve their country in the military, then run for public office and suck the country into one war after the other.

While Trump was a draft dodger, I’ve come across many Louisianans who volunteered to go into the military during Vietnam and in numerous other conflicts.  I joined up in 1966, during the height of the Viet Nam war, though I was draft exempt, over the maximum draft age, married with a daughter on the way.  I expected no special accolades.  It was just what any patriotic American should and did do.

So according to Trump, if you are bravely fighting for America under heavy fire and are captured, you cannot be labeled a hero.  I wish my old Lake Charles friend, Senator Jesse Knowles, were still around to respond.  Jesse was captured by the Japanese army and held in a number of prison camps for 1,228 days. He survived the Bataan Death March where some 6000 Americans died in route.  Jesse was beaten for trying to help fellow soldiers walk with no boots, no food or water.  He too carried a deformed arm for the rest of his life. To me, Senator Jesse Knowles was an outstanding American hero. 

Or how about Webster Parish native D.C. Wimberly, who was a United States Army soldier, a prisoner of war in World War II and a past national commander of American Ex-Prisoners of War?  He is what he wrote after the war:  “On Thanksgiving night 1944 in Luxembourg, the members of the German Army counterattacked my battalion. Companies E and F were wiped out. I was the Third Platoon sergeant. . . . I lost forty-six men from my fifty-man platoon. Three others and myself were captured. That night and the next few months we were starving, freezing, walking over lots of Germans. I felt, and to this day feel, that I am living on borrowed time. I have assisted my fellow Americans as a school teacher, administrator, Mason, and Shriner, having dedicated my life to the Christian effort of 'helping those who cannot help themselves.’ This is also the motto of American Ex-Prisoners of War."

 I could write about numerous other Louisiana military heroes who were prisoners of war.  Donald Trump could not even walk in these soldiers’ boots, let alone be qualified to be President.  Trump, although right on challenging other candidates to take strong stands on a number of important issues, is a hypocrite, a loudmouth, and a destructive force in American politics.  The nation can find a much better leader than Donald Trump.

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, July 16, 2015


Thursday, July 16th, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana


If you come from Louisiana, it’s almost a congenital requirement that you are born with a love for music. Particularly string music, from country, zydeco, blues, rock and even an abundance of classical aficionados.  I’m certainly in that number.  Two of my first legal clients as a practicing lawyer in Ferriday were Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley.  I paid my way through law school by playing my banjo on Bourbon Street at a place called Your Father’s Mustache.  Yep, music is in our DNA down here in the Bayou State.

Therefore, it was no surprise that country legend Garth Brooks took over New Orleans last weekend.  What began as one sold out concert stretched into four nights, and fans would easily have filled the Smoothie Center for another week and maybe more.  After taking a hiatus for 10 years, he was back, with more energy that I’ve ever seen by any performer in all my years of attending hundreds of concerts.

The guy is a mega star when it comes to selling albums.  Fourteen have debuted as No. 1, and he’s sold over 135 million albums.  I attended his opening Friday night concert, where the entire crowd stood up the entire evening and sang along with the crooner.  Even younger kids in their late teens and early 20s seemed to know the words to every song. He ran and jumped across the stage, while singing, during the entire performance. I was exhausted just watching him perform.

The crowd went into a tizzy when he sang “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” a song Brooks told the crowd was his all time favorite. After he finished, the swarm of fans burst out chanting “L.S.U.-L.S.U.”  He had the whole stadium in the palm of his hands, and would have received a unanimous vote for Mayor, Governor, President, or any thing else.  He was the Man and certainly the king of country music.

It was different the first time I heard Garth Brooks sing.  Back in 1980, I had just been elected as Louisiana Secretary of State.  On a Saturday night, I had spoken to a civic club in Kentwood, right on the Louisiana-Mississippi line in the southeastern part of the state. To get back to the state capitol in Baton Rouge, I followed the back roads that took me through Greensburg on down highway 16 into the small community of Montpelier.  As was my custom when I would travel that route, I stopped off at the Bear Creek Restaurant and Saloon for a bite to eat and a cold beer.

A full house and a rowdy crowd on a Louisiana Saturday night, as I visited with the bartender, a guy named Jesse.  A young singer and guitar player was on the stage, and a net had been put up in front of the platform to inhibit beer bottles from being thrown by any disorderly patrons.  Few listened to the young fellow, but being a frustrated strummer myself, I paid attention to his forlorn country songs that he told the indifferent crowd he had written himself.

“Gotta nice sound,” I shared with Jesse.”  Who is he?”
“From Oklahoma.  Comes over every now and then to perform.  Let’s see.  His name is Brooks….Garth Brooks.”

As I got up to leave, I paid my tab and shared my opinion with Jesse.  “He’s got a pretty good sounding voice.  Who knows?  He might make it big one day.”  I headed off into the night towards the city whose name would become one of Garth Brooks all time hits.

When I wrote my first book about my time in Louisiana politics, I raised the question about whether all I went through in my 28 years as a public official was worth it. I answered by quoting from my favorite Garth Brooks song. “Our lives are better left to chance.  I could’ve missed the pain, but I’da had to miss the dance.”

From singing in a Louisiana country saloon to becoming a country music mega-star.  At 53, he can’t do much better.  Here’s hoping Garth Brooks will keep on performing and keep on coming back to Louisiana for many years to come.


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, July 09, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Donald Trump sure has things stirred up right now down here in the Bayou State. International television attention was supposed to highlight Baton Rouge and the whole state of Louisiana. But coverage of the Miss USA pageant has turned more on “The Donald” and his incinerating remarks about illegal immigrants, as his rives up his presidential bid. 

Trump will certainly be talking about his immigration proposals in the days he is spending in the capitol city. The joke going around the state capitol is that, despite all the controversy, Trump will at least spend more time here than Gov. Bobby Jindal, who continues to criss-cross the country in his quixotic effort to make a dent in national presidential polls.

Where Jindal’s focus has been aimed at Muslims around the world, Trump has made no bones about his feelings towards those who migrate across the U.S. southern border.  Who hasn’t heard his declaration:

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems to us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Trump’s competitors for the GOP nomination immediately pounced on his remarks.  “He’s doing this to inflame, to incite and to draw attention,” said Jeb Bush. “Really offensive,” carped ex Texas Gov. Rick Perry. ”Offensive, inaccurate and divisive,” said Florida’s Sen. March Rubio.  Who could have imagined?  A Republican candidate taking about “divisive” politics.

A number of Republican Party leaders are expressing concern that Trump’s comments undermine outreach efforts and are hurting the GOP brand.  Hurting the brand?  What brand?  Republicans need to clean house and plug in to the concerns of the average American, particularly when it comes to immigration reform.  The GOP brand doesn’t just need an upgrade. What it needs is for Bobby Jindal to come perform an exorcism!

So is Donald Trump being politically incorrect in what he is saying?  Of course he is.  Let’s just be blunt.  Republicans and Democrats alike are dodging the immigration issue and just hope it will go away.  But is Trump raising a valid issue that every candidate should be addressing?  Certainly he is a bomb thrower and craves the attention. As Texas Sen. Ted Cruz observed, Trump “has a colorful way of speaking.”  But forget his style; how about his substance?

Politically, Trump’s stock is soaring, as he ranks second in most national polls for the Republican nomination.  So there are a significant number of Americans who agree with his immigration concerns.  Whether you agree with him or not, Trump has raised the stakes and forcing all other presidential candidates to articulate their views on a massive national problem of how to stop the hundreds of thousands of illegals who continue to cross our southern border.

And yes, many of those who enter the U.S. illegally are criminals.  A significant number of crimes are being committed by those who have entered the U.S. wrongfully.  The top ten most wanted criminals in Los Angeles are illegal immigrants.  We read where just last week, a tourist in San Francisco was shot and killed by an illegal with multiple felony convictions and who had been deported to Mexico five different times.  Let me repeat.  Five different times! New York has more Mexican convicts than their are inmates in all of Western Europe. The present system is obviously not working, and Trump is right on to point this out.

Donald Trump will not be president, nor will he get the Republican nomination.  But he is elevating the debate over what to do about illegal immigrants.  The other candidates are not going to be able to bob and weave on the issue. For that, despite his lack of any diplomacy, he’s doing us a service in this important ongoing debate.

Now if he can just straighten out the Miss USA mess in Baton Rouge!


"I have a great relationship with the Mexican people. I have many people working for me - look at the job in Washington - I have many legal immigrants working with me. And many of them come from Mexico. They love me, I love them. And I'll tell you something, if I get the nomination, I'll win the Latino vote."

- - Donald Trump, who does not lack confidence.
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