Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten Years Ago Katrina Tried To Wash Us Away!

New Orleans, Louisiana

Ten Years Ago Katrina Tried To Wash Us Away!

Just as most Americans remember where they were on 9/11, those of us living on the Gulf Coast remember the fear and concern that enveloped our region ten years ago this week. A lady named Katrina changed many of our lives.  In looking back, many Louisianans felt that maybe New Orleans really was a city that care forgot, and the whole Gulf Coast was thrown in for good measure. This human tragedy has haunted the Bayou State over the past decade as even today the rebuilding effort continues.
Two days before Katrina attacked, I was hosting a local radio program in Baton Rouge and was interviewing a key official with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Katrina has turned in a much more northerly direction, with a beeline for New Orleans. We are saying a possible Hurricane 4, and you folks are going to have some big problems up there.”
I was stunned. “What? We’ve had no warning of this. You’re telling me it’s going to come right towards New Orleans?”  At dinner with friends that evening, no one was aware of the impending storm.  Now major storms often head our way, but veer east towards the Florida coast, or west to Mexico.  Our group was cautiously optimistic.
The next morning, with Katrina only a day away, I called my sister, living at the southern tip of Louisiana in Port Sulfur.  I offered to come get her family, but she told me the single road north was completely congested and it was best for her to spend the hours evacuating.  New Orleans has only four roads that lead out of the city, and they too were ensnarled in massive traffic jams as the locals fled for safety.
But as thousands who had transportation escaped, there was virtually no evacuation plan in place and no mandatory exodus.  When asked repeatedly by the press, the Mayor of New Orleans issued a statement saying: “He’s having his legal staff look into whether he can order a mandatory evacuation of the city.” The storm was now only hours away, yet no public effort was undertaken on either the city or state level to supply public transportation for the thousands who had no way out.
That evening, a steady stream of New Orleans’ area evacuees called or knocked on our door in Baton Rouge looking for a place to ride out the storm.  Twenty-five people slept on floor pallets and sleeping bags at my home that night.  The number would grow in days a head.
Miraculously, the storm passed on a Sunday night, and did little damage to the Crescent City. By the next morning our New Orleans family and guests were packing up to head back home.  Then the chilling news came in a phone call from a friend who had ridden out the storm. The levees had broken and the city was flooding.
The real tragedies took place in the days that followed. Thousands were stranded on rooftops and in attics.  When private boat owners headed into New Orleans and surrounding areas to help, they were often told by state and federal law enforcement officers that it was illegal to bring their personal boats into the disaster area.  I was told that very thing when I tried to make it by boat to my in-laws house on Bayou St. John. Hundreds of boat owners, labeled the Cajun Navy, ignored the ludicrous orders and charged in to save thousands of stranded homeowners.
For a week the Governor and the President squabbled over who had the authority to oversee the Louisiana National Guard.  It was a ridiculous turf battle that delayed the rescue efforts by several more days.  It took an Army general from New Roads, Louisiana (Russell Honore’) to take charge and bring some order to the devastated area.
There has been much second-guessing and lessons learned in a hard way.  Many books have been written about the Katrina experience. I’ll have a lengthy chapter about the devastating storm in a new book out next year.
The Gulf Coast has been rebuilt, with new development and upgraded construction. But levees can only be built so high, and water pumps can only be built so big. Other storms will come.  Louisiana was drastically unprepared for the coming of Katrina. Over 1000 lives were lost. This just cannot be allowed to happen again.
Louisiana, Louisiana, They’re tryin’ to wash us away.
Randy Newman
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

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There’s always been a disconnect between the accolades LSU gives itself for academic achievement and the bottom line results that come from national rankings.  Louisiana’s flagship rarely cracks the top 100 universities in the U.S., with a majority of SEC schools outperforming LSU year after year. In the 2015 rankings by US News and World Report, LSU comes in at 149.

But there’s always been one shining star in the LSU System -- The Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Pennington has been recognized as a world leader in obesity research and disease prevention. The center’s mission statement reflects the pride it takes in its work:

“Since 1988, the mission of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been to promote healthier lives through research and education in nutrition and preventive medicine. As the largest academic-based nutritional research center in the world, we have the unique distinction of housing the greatest concentration of obesity research scientists.”

The center’s mission is commendable considering that the most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.  The annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is approaching $200 billion. The public picks up on any new study from Pennington Center, because of its stellar national and international reputation.

Just last week, The LSU Center released a new study on why so many Americans are overweight.  Pennington’s executive director called the study “cutting-edge research.” Their conclusion?  The center’s press release cites “a lack of physical activity” as the main culprit. Nothing about Big Macs, fries, sugar coated almost everything. And, oh yes -- no mention at all of soft drinks like Coca Cola.

So who paid for the study?  What public interest organization funded this noble effort to get our kids healthier?  Why none other than, you guessed it, Coca Cola.  The world’s largest producer of sugar loaded beverages wants us to quit worrying about cutting calories. Just get more exercise. That apparently is the key to losing lots of weight. Yeah, right!

The Advocate’s James Gill succinctly asked:  “Why do academics bother was such a charade? Give ‘em a sack full of money and they’ll solemnly go through all the motions of a quest for the truth. All together now: ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke.’”

Back during my days in public life as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner, I proposed legislation that would eliminate sugar loaded soft drinks from dispensaries in public schools. The beverage alliance, including Coca Cola, strongly lobbied against such legislation, arguing that profits from these machines went to buy school athletic uniforms.  So you load up the kids with sugar before sending them out on the playing field in great looking uniforms.

The front organization for Coca Cola’s money, called The Global Energy Balance Network, has issued a press release that says, “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is that they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much -- blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that in fact is the cause.”

No compelling evidence?  What! There have been numerous non-biased scientific studies that repeatedly and conclusively prove fast food and sugary drinks cause obesity.  To say otherwise insults the intelligence of even the average observer.  Coca Cola does a great disservice by allowing their front organization to make such unfounded claims.

The Pennington Center press office told me that this study is ongoing and subject to refining as research progresses. They have their work cut out for them.  To leave their initial conclusions that exercise far outweighs poor dietary choices doesn’t pass the smell test.  Or for that matter, the taste test.

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, August 13, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


If there was one area of financial help that could have and should have been addressed by the Louisiana legislature in its recent session, it was insurance reform.  After all, a Dallas-based research firm completed a new study last month that concluded that Louisianans pay a greater percentage of their annual income for insurance than folks in any other state. How did the legislature respond to this dubious honor? They took quick action and raised every Louisiana policyholder’s insurance rates.

The Dallas report found that the average Louisianan pays 18.1 percent of their median annual earnings for insurance -- that includes auto, homeowner’s, health and life insurance.  That’s the highest rate in the nation -- well ahead of more prosperous states like New York, Florida, Rhode Island and New Jersey.  We’ll no doubt hear that hurricanes cause the Bayou State’s high property insurance rates, but note that all these states behind Louisiana suffered major losses by Hurricane Sandy.

Blaming high property rates on hurricanes is a cop out. Other Gulf Coast states have the same hurricane exposure, yet pay significantly less as shown in the Dallas study.  Our neighbors to the east and west pay a significantly lower portion of their average median income for insurance.  Texas averages 13.7%, while Mississippi policyholders pay 14.8%.

On average, Louisianans spend $3 billion more than other policy holders though out the South. That’s $3 billion of new spending that won’t go into the Louisiana economy.

So just what action did legislators take to help alleviate this financial burden?  First, a new law was passed that will tax auto policyholders some $22 million dollars to pay for a 270% increase in the cost of an insurance company obtaining a person’s driving record report from the state police.  Everyone agrees that insurance companies will pass on the additional cost to drivers throughout the state resulting in an increase in auto insurance premiums beginning with the next renewal.

The legislature continued its bilking of policyholders by taking away 28% (or $60 million) of a tax credit homeowners have received for a number of years because of the huge debt incurred by Citizens Property Insurance Company.  For those of you not familiar with this boondoggle, Citizens was a disaster waiting to happen from its very inception.

Created by the Louisiana Legislature at the behest of the Insurance Department, Citizens was one of the most poorly constructed business operations ever conceived by a state legislature. With no capital and no surplus available to get Citizens started on a sound footing, the company was broke from day one. It became obvious early on that no one at Citizens had any idea of how to run an insurance company.

In addition, a mother’s mantra of any successful insurance company is that there must be adequate reinsurance. There must be a safety net in case a storm like Katrina comes along. The legislature and the insurance department failed to require that Citizens have sufficient reinsurance. And that single negligent decision stuck Louisiana policy holders with a bill that will exceed $1 billion. By virtually every standard that a private insurance company must measure up to, Citizens has failed miserably.

With this new assessment now being saddled on the backs of Louisiana property owners, the Citizens debacle continues to get even worse. The best solution would be to shut the company down completely. At a minimum, Citizens needs major restructuring with more requirements for both legislative and auditor oversight.

Unfortunately for those stuck with the bill, there seems to be little concern at the state capitol to straighten out a broken system that has caused financial grief for so many Louisiana policyholders. Will the coming election make any difference?

“It’s not hurricanes that are causing high insurance rates, but bad government policy,”
Policy analyst Michelle Minton

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, August 05, 2015


Thursday, August 6th, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana


Can the City of New Orleans pick and choose what federal laws it will acknowledge and enforce?  Most of us understand that if you violate a federal law, then there are consequences. You most likely will be prosecuted and punished. And the federal laws on the books are supposed to apply to everyone. Well, unless you are an illegal immigrant living in New Orleans. 

Didn’t we fight a Civil War over the nullification of federal laws?  A century and a half later, New Orleans has joined a host of other American cities in declaring that federal immigration laws are just right down bothersome. It is irrelevant to the Mayor and the City Council in the Crescent City that their actions in supporting widespread illegal immigration is a factor in causing crime rates to rise, and the cost of auto insurance for every Louisiana driver to go up.

No one seems to know how many illegal immigrants have gravitated to Louisiana.  Guestimates have varied from 40,000 to more than 100,000.  But when an illegal is arrested for a crime committed in the state, federal law requires that local law enforcement authorities notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs office. New Orleans is not enforcing this requirement. As a New Orleans police department spokesman was quoted as saying:  “In general, we’re not cooperating with the ICE.”

So immigrants who are in New Orleans illegally often create a false identity, use a fraudulent Social Security number, falsify federal forms, and, if arrested, are free to go once released by the New Orleans Police Department. We witnessed just two weeks ago the tragic killing of a young woman in San Francisco, murdered by an illegal immigrant, who was a repeat felon and who had been deported five times. 

Crime rates are on the upswing in New Orleans. No one knows how many illegal immigrants are committing crimes, because the city refuses to both monitor and release this information. The U.S. House of Representatives was justified last week in passing legislation that reduces federal funding to cities like New Orleans that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. 

And just watch auto insurance rates, already the highest in the nation, go up even more as this policy from the New Orleans Police Department’s immigration manual is implemented. “Officers shall not enforce La. 14.100.13, which states that no alien students or non—resident alien shall operate a motor vehicle in the state without documentation that the person is lawfully present in the United States.” So ignore this state law, right New Orleans?  You should just pick and choose what laws you like and the laws you don’t like.  Is that what Louisiana has come to?

Traffic accident records show that illegal immigrants are a high risk of not carrying auto insurance.  So a driver not at fault has to use their own insurance to pay the damage costs, and insurance rates continue to go up.

What happened that caused the deterioration of the laws on the books concerning illegal immigration?  When you break into my home, you are committing a crime.  But when you break into my country, it has become, to our leaders in Washington and New Orleans, merely an embarrassing inconvenience. Republicans are now throwing in the towel, and giving up on seeing that current law is enforced.  Has it become OK to set aside the law and ignore its violation for political purposes? 

And what’s all this stuff about “undocumented workers?”  The lead Republican in this effort to legalize those who have illegally entered the United States is Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio.  He conveniently refers to these illegals as “individuals who are living in the United States without proper immigration documents.” That’s like saying that your local drug dealer is in possession of large amounts of cocaine, but just forgot to get a doctor’s prescription.

There should be major risks and consequences when laws are broken.  But with a presidential election year not too far away, both parties are pandering to Hispanic voters who often are sympathetic to lax immigration enforcement.  Will Donald Trump goad other presidential candidates to take on Sanctuary cities like New Orleans, and lead a charge for strong enforcement of immigration laws? Let’s hope so.


“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”
Pat Paulson

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