Thursday, September 24, 2015


Thursday, September 24th, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana


The Pope is taking the country by storm having made visits to three American cities in the past week.  His schedulers made one oversight in planning Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S.  He should have come to Louisiana.  More than half the population in South Louisiana is Catholic. There are over 500,000 Catholics in the New Orleans area alone.  If the pope wanted to visit a state with a Catholic pulse, the Bayou State should have been a “must stop” for the pontiff. 

Catholic newspaper OSV Newsweekly puts New Orleans at the top of their list to visit a city that reflects Catholic “culture, history, physical landscape and spirituality.” The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest continuing functioning Cathedral in the country, built in 1789.  The first Catholic hospital was founded in the Crescent City, Hotel Dieu, operated by the Daughters of Charity.  It would be hard to find a region more quintessentially Catholic since its founding than a large part of Louisiana.

Now I’m about as Catholic as one can get without actually making the conversion. I was married in the church, and my three daughters were baptized by Bishop Charles Greco, the late and beloved Patriarch of the central and north Louisiana parishes.  When my children were quite young, our family spent a number of winter weekends with Bishop Greco at a family hunting and fishing camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River, some 30 miles below Vicksburg.

On many a cold and rainy morning, a handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a Sunday or holiday Mass. And even though I was not Catholic, he treated me as one of his own. The Bishop would patiently sit for hours and answer my barrage of questions about the history and the relevancy of the Catholic Church.

During the years I practiced law in Ferriday, Louisiana, Father August Thompson became a mentor and good friend. He urged me to actively become involved a number of social issues within the community, and his urgings eventually led me to run for public office and to being elected a Louisiana State Senator.

Father Chris Naulty, now pastoring in New Orleans, toured our family through the Vatican, even taking us down under St. Peter’s to the historic catacombs, and opened my eyes to the vast history of the Church and to the influence of Catholicism world wide.  In my hometown of Baton Rouge, Fathers Miles Walsh and Cleo Milano are my sparring partners when I raise questions about the future direction of the church. Father Cleo pastors at Lady of Mercy, which is close to my home.  The Church has a marvelous adoration chapel that is open 24 hours a day.  It’s my resting place for meditation and solitude several times a week.

So why haven’t I become Catholic?  I was named after the disciple James, the brother of Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament book of James, the disciple conveys a Christian doctrine of simplicity.  He offers two premises to be a convert. Believe in a higher being and do good works. That’s it. No involved ritual. No pomp and circumstance. Simply believing and helping others.

This new Pope seems to be in the direction of more simplification, and appears willing to face head on a number of controversies that have divided the Church.  Catholics worldwide seem to want more openness, more discussion and better communication. As Billy Joel sang about the church: “Virginia, they didn’t give you quite enough information.”

Pope Francis will have to confront the issue of a dwindling number of priests to minister to a flock of over one billion Catholics. What about priests being allowed to marry?  Women joining the priesthood, an increasing responsibility for nuns including the offering of the Sacraments facing up to the sex abuse scandals, allowing for more evangelical services that are not as strong on ritual — all are issues that have a growing constituency that will require attention and reasonable understanding by the new pope.

 Yet, in spite of all the pressures to change and adapt, the Catholic Church should have a moral consistency, and not just modify doctrine and core beliefs based on current popular whim. Shouldn’t the Ten Commandments and the truths of the Sermon of the Mount be perpetual?

Pope Francis, although popular worldwide, has his work cut out to unify a church enmeshed in controversy. Thousands of Louisiana Catholics, who by and large desire a church grounded in moral consistency, seem to be giving this Pope good will and the benefit of any doubt. As for this aging but quite interested possible convert, I’ll be watching on the sidelines.


“I'd rather live my whole life assuming there is a God, only to find out that there isn't, than to live my whole life assuming there isn't a God, only to find out there is.”
Peter Barry

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, September 17, 2015


September 17th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


According to national political pundits, there is a revolution going on all over America.  Voters are in a rebellion mode with little confidence in the political leadership at both the national and state levels.  Being an incumbent politician is no longer a badge of honor.  The career candidates running for president seem dead in the water, with newcomers garnering well over 50% of the national vote.

A poll released this week sponsored by the Washington Post and ABC news finds that “72% of Americans believe that politicians cannot be trusted and two thirds think the countries political system is dysfunctional. A not insignificant share of folks openly embraced radicalism: 21% of those polled would rather ‘tear down’ the political system and ‘start over’ than try to fix it.”  With these feelings running rampant with voters, it’s not surprising that outsiders who have never run for office like Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are surging ahead of incumbent elected officials.

There are few states where voters are not rebelling against the status quo.  “Throw the bums out” is the battle cry.  “In the fall, fire ‘em all.”   But what’s happening way down in the deepest of the deep southern states?  Is there a political upheaval and open voter uprising taking place?  Have a wave of new candidates emerged to bring down incumbency and shake up the political establishment?  Hardly.

 The typical reaction in the Bayou State, with a gubernatorial election just weeks away, might be summed up with a “Yawn…who are the Saints and the Tigers playing this weekend?”  As of right now, it’s like the state is throwing an election party, with little interest and few who really care.

The qualifying period to run for office took place two weeks ago. Half of the legislative seats were filled with no challengers.  Sixty-nine state legislators were returned to office unopposed.  In fact 43% of all offices on the ballot were filled without opposition. So why all the apathy? Why aren’t more Louisiana citizens interested in running for public office at a time when support for those in office is so low? It’s a combination or reasons.

First, there is a pervasive feeling that nothing is really going to change. Remember the 60s song by the Who titled “Won’t Get Fooled again?”  The lyrics say: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”  To many voters, there is a pervasive feeling that it really doesn’t make any difference who gets elected.

A big factor for a challenger is raising campaign contributions. And as the old saying goes, money is the mother’s milk of politics.  Incumbents begin raising money for the next campaign right after they get elected.  New rules make it much easier for state and national PACs to pour campaign dollars into the coffers of legislators.  Challengers campaign against the cesspool politics at the state capitol. But once elected, the cesspool turns into a hot tub of campaign dollars.

Elections have become so expensive, driven by the cost of media, particularly TV commercials.  Until recently, even statewide candidates traveled the state to campaign, and never missed a fair or festival.  “Retail politics” made it possible to run a campaign on a reasonable budget.  No more.  Legislative campaigns can often run $500,000 or more, an obscene amount of money.  Many challengers have been priced out of the political market.

The governor’s race often sets the tone for issues for many legislative races.  But the four major gubernatorial candidates have offered platitudes of generalities with few specifics for major government reform and restructuring. They each have rebuffed any comparison to the present highly unpopular governor, but offer few alternatives. The state is in terrible fiscal shape, healthcare needs a massive infusion of funds, and the state’s infrastructure has been crippled for lack of maintenance.  Yet few details by any candidate have been set out in a master plan for reform.

Two other reasons have caused voters to “tune out” in this year’s election.  The failure of the state Democratic Party to recruit new candidates and the fact that Louisiana politics is not all that much fun any more.  We will explore these issues in a future column. As for now, don’t look for much excitement between now and Election Day in October.


"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."
 -- Emma Goldman

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, September 10, 2015


September 10th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


For as far back as I can remember, Saturday mornings were spent on a playing field, a basketball court, or at a swimming pool cheering on kids and now grandkids in their (and my) quest for them to participate and be a part of the team.  Of course I wanted them to hit the winning home run or to be the leading scorer.  But the important thing was that there showed up and gave it their best.  Maybe they sat on the bench and didn’t play all that much, but they were still part of the squad. And, at the end of the season, they received a team trophy. 

Now along comes Pittsburg Steeler linebacker James Harrison, who announces to the world that he has confiscated the trophies of his two sons, ages 6 and 8, apparently to teach them a lesson that you should not get a trophy for participating, but only if they “earned” it, whatever that means.  Now Harrison’s admonition to his boys comes from a football player who is noted for “head butting” when he tackles, and for beating up his girlfriend, smashing down a door, and braking her cell phone to prevent her from calling the cops.

If you missed Harrison’s rant to his 186,000 Instagram followers, here’s what he chided:
"I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best ... cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better ... not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut up and keep you happy."

Harrison immediately received a wave of support with over 13,000 “Likes,” whole hearted agreement from a number of sports columnists, and even a positive nod from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.  Their feeling is that everyone getting a trophy is so passé and that it’s time to “toughen up” our kids. A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that 57% of those polled think only winning players should get a trophy. My reaction?  Hogwash!

Look, if your kids show up and give it their best shot, they are doing more than a majority of youngsters in American are doing today.  They are not home playing video games, vegging out and watching TV. And if a child does not play in competition, he or she is at practice helping those who do become better players.  That ought to be worth something.

Several of my kids did not start on the team and did not play all that much.  But they regularly practiced and gave full support to their team members. Maybe they never scored or set a record. But they sure were proud of their trophies, knowing that week in and week out, they gave it their best.

Harrison might want to look at his own NFL sport.  If his team wins the Superbowl and he never gets in the game, he still gets a victor’s ring.  On a recent flight, I sat next to the New York Yankee team doctor, who proudly showed me his World Series diamond ring.  “Everybody that is connected to the team gets one,” he told me. “For participating and helping the team.”  So it’s OK to get a trophy or other prize as a major leaguer even if you never play a moment, but not OK if your kid helps his T-ball team by showing up at practice being regularly on the sidelines at game time cheering them on?  Give me a break.

Accomplishment comes in many ways.  If a child isn’t good enough to play, he should be challenged to get back up a try again.  And quit denying him the right to get a trophy.  After all, I have inherited a whole horde that my kids acquired in years past.  Isn’t that what parents and grandparent’s fireplace mantles are for?


John Irving

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, September 02, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The results are in for 2015, and it comes as no surprise that Louisiana continues to lead the nation in having the highest automobile insurance rates.  A new study, just released by the Bankrate Group “ranked all 50 States according to a number of factors that determined where it’s the worst state to drive a car.” The analysis concluded that Louisiana is the worst state for drivers due “in large part because of the nation’s highest car insurance costs and above average fatal crash rate.”

The results are even more startling when compared to surrounding southern states.  Louisiana comes in at an average insurance rate of $1,279.42.  Mississippi’s average rate is significantly lower at $898.48, with Arkansas weighing in at $820.00.  Highly industrialized Texas is still $260.00 lower at $1013.83.  As Vehicles Insurance Magazine observed: “There are a lot of reasons Louisiana is a great place to live, but cheap car insurance isn’t one of them.”

There are a number of factors regularly cited for Louisiana’s high auto insurance costs.  Poor roads, car thefts, repair expenses, litigation, a dysfunctional regulatory system, no consumer affairs office to speak up for policyholders; but a major factor is the drivers themselves.  How can we put this diplomatically?  Many Louisianans are right down lousy drivers.

Drunk driving continues to be rampant all over Louisiana.  I made a special effort to read area newspapers for reports of DWI arrests in the past two months, and the news was startling.  Third offense drunk driving arrests were often the norm. In Metairie just two weeks ago, a hit and run driver was booked for his 7th DWI.  An Abita Springs man was booked recently for his 8th DWI after a hit and run.  In Baton Rouge just this week, as local driver was busted for a 7th DWI.  And 6 hours after being released from jail, a Duson man got back in his car while drunk again and killed the driver of another car.

Here’s the question.  Why were drivers with so many DWIs allowed to be on the road in the first place? Actually, Louisiana has some of the toughest DWI laws in the country.  For a third offense DWI, there is no discretion for judges.  An offender with three convictions faces a mandatory sentence of two years in jail. And get this – the party convicted is supposed to have their car seized and sold out from under them. But the strong drunk driving laws on the books are often not being implemented.

 The problem is one of enforcement.  Many judges and prosecutors ignore the law.  Often the DWI charge is reduced to careless and reckless driving.  And compounding this problem is that computer information systems in one parish are unable to communicate with systems in another parish, so a prosecutor is not aware of previous convictions.

Besides drunk drivers, highway fatalities are directly related to speed.  If you want to see how it feels to drive at the Daytona 500, just head on down I-10 to New Orleans from Baton Rouge in the morning or late afternoons.  As a test, in my trips along that route, I often set my cruse control on 74 miles’ an hour. The speed limit is 70.  Then I count the number of cars that wiz past me, often traveling in excess of 80 mph.  I generally quite counting after 100 cars pass me within the first 30 miles of my trip.  The same can be said for drivers on I-12, and I-49.

There have been a number of recent complaints about speed traps along I-49 in the towns of Woodworth and Washington.  The speed limit is 75 miles an hour, but numerous grumblings, including some by legislators, charge that these towns are writing speeding tickets as a way of financing the town’s budget.  So I called my old friend David Butler, the Mayor of Woodworth.  He gave me some good advice.

“Jim, here’s the secret to avoiding any so called speed trap,” the Mayor confided. “Are you ready? The speed limit is 75 miles an hour.  Don’t go any faster.”  Can’t argue with that.

Speeding and drunk driving are key factors in why Louisiana has such high insurance rates.  It comes down to driver responsibility and enforcing the laws on the books.  The honor of having the nation’s worst drivers is an award the state can do without.

“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing.”
Donald Gardner

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