Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I always do.  A New Year always brings with it promise and uncertainty, but the coming year brings with it a greater foreboding than we have experienced in the past.  I would rather be absorbed with the more mundane things in life.  But that’s not going to happen in these especially turbulent times.  However, I’m not about to give up hope.

One resolution I make each year is to maintain my curiosity.  It doesn’t matter how limited your perspective or how narrow the scope of your surroundings, there is (or should be) something to whet your interest and strike your fancy.  I discovered early on that there are two kinds of people — those who are curious about the world around them, and those whose shallow attentions are generally limited to those things that pertain to their own personal well-being.  I just hope all those I care about fall into the former category.

Another resolution I make each year is to continue to hope.  I hope for successful and fulfilling endeavors for my children, happiness and contentment for family and friends, and for the fortitude to handle both the highs and lows of daily living with dignity.

Each year, I ask my children to give me two gifts for Christmas.  First, I ask them to make a donation to a charity that will help needy families in their community.  And second, I ask them to re-read Night, the unforgettable holocaust novel by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate who survived the Nazi death camps.  I have a Wiesel quote framed on my office desk:

 “To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.”

Like many of you, our family welcomes in the New Year with “Auld Lang Syne.”  It’s an old Scotch tune, with words passed down orally, and recorded by my favorite historical poet, Robert Burns, back in the 1700s.  (I’m Scottish, so there’s a bond here.) “Auld Lang Syne,” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”  Did you know this song is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year?

I can look back over many years of memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations.  In recent years, my wife and I have joined a gathering of family and friends in New Orleans at a French Quarter restaurant.  After dinner, we make a stop at St. Louis Cathedral for a blessing of the New Year. Then it’s off to join the masses for the New Year’s countdown to midnight in Jackson Square.

When my daughters were quite young, we spent a number of New Year holidays at a family camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River some 30 miles below Vicksburg.  On several occasions, the only people there were my family and Bishop Charles P. Greco, who was the Catholic Bishop for central and north Louisiana.  Bishop Greco had baptized all three of my daughters, and had been a family friend for years. 

On many a cold and rainy morning, the handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a New Year’s Mass.  Now, I’m not a Catholic, but he treated me as one of his own.

New Year’s Day means lots of football, but I also put on my chef’s apron.  I’m well regarded in the kitchen around my household, if I say so myself, for cooking up black-eyed peas as well as cabbage and corn bread.   And don’t bet I won’t find the dime in the peas.  After all, I’m going to put it there.

I’ll be back next week with my customary views that are cantankerous, opinionated, inflammatory, slanted, and always full of vim and vigor.  Sometimes, to a few, even a bit fun to read.  In the meantime, Happy New Year to you, your friends and all of your family.   See you next year.


“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”

Joey Adams

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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Thursday, December 17, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


With a new governor about to take over the reins of state, LSU and other Louisiana colleges are making a full court press for more funding. They have a good argument to make.  But what do taxpayers get in return?  Have universities like LSU made their case for what they are presently doing with the money they have been receiving up until now? 

We live in a results oriented society.  But as is so often the case of government at all levels, once programs and agencies are created and funded at a certain level, they quickly become sacrosanct and absolved of accountability or show of performance.  If I were a newly elected legislator considering the budget for universities like LSU, here are some questions I would ask:

LSU has one of the lowest graduation rates of major colleges throughout the country, including schools in the Southeastern Conference. Only about 60% of students at LSU graduate in six years. In my generation, if a student did not graduate in four years, it was a blemish on their record. Why are we funding students to “hang around” year after year?  Granted, the feeder system from the state’s high schools is weak.  But six years or more?  What efforts are made to remediate in the first year, then weed out these students who are not capable of carrying the load?

Endowments are critical for a university to excel, particularly in bad economic times.  But in the past, LSU has made little effort to raise private funds.  As the column pointed out last week, The Times Picayune reported that “Louisiana’s flagship university is dead last among schools in the Southeastern Football Conference when it comes to the rate of alumni giving and the size of the school’s endowment.” What efforts are being made by the university to aggressively raise private funds?

Is LSU overrun with administrators?  What is the ratio of faculty members to nonacademic jobs?  I’ve been told it’s more than six to one, with way too many non-teaching jobs. Is LSU a teaching college, or has it become a multiversity festooned with extraneous functions?  And why is there such a large number of LSU administrators making more than $200,000 a year?

Does LSU make undergraduate teaching its first priority?  There are grumblings that graduate students are commanding too much of the professors’ time and attention. And who is teaching the freshman?  Ask any new student about the large lecture classes, with the discussion session often conducted by some fledgling graduate student. Why are full professors not carrying a greater teaching load?

Why sabbaticals?  99% of us don’t get a year off to refresh or write a book.  The mission should be to teach. A three-month summer vacation should be ample time to travel and write. And what about all this “publish or perish” malarkey?  I have a publishing company, and I am all for more books being published.  But why, at the expense of the student and taxpayer, should a professor be financially supported in the publication of a book, often on a lightweight theme, that few read, just to stay on tenure track?  Teaching should be the primary mission of a major university like LSU.  But is it?

What about tenure?  There is a major push to abolish it in the elementary education system.  Why is tenure so sacrosanct in our universities? Are we protecting professors who have lost the drive to teach and who hide behind the mantra of research?  Are universities like LSU spending too much money on research and not enough on the focus of the classroom?

There was a time when universities saw their mission as education.  The present debate should be about much more than money. The mission of universities like LSU needs to be specifically articulated.  Certainly academia should be well funded.  But universities should also be “smart funded,” with clear priorities and predictable results to show for the effort.  Right now, particularly in Louisiana, there are a number of unanswered questions that our new governor needs to ask and that taxpayers need to have answered.


“The secret in education is in respecting the student.”
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

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 also can hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Huey Long was the best friend and supporter LSU ever had.  He was called the father of the modern LSU by the Virginia Quarterly Review in commenting: “Huey stroked LSU as if he had been coddling a newborn pet elephant.  During fiscal stringency in all other American states, Huey force-fed LSU with increasing appropriations.“  The Kingfish made no bones about his long-term goals for the state’s flagship university.  “LSU’s going to be the Harvard of the South.” 

 LSU’s significant relevance as an educational pillar in the South continued into the 1950s.  Prominent writers like Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren made the Baton Rouge campus a gathering point for major literary figures. The Southern Historical Association began publishing its Journal of Southern History as well as the long respected Southern Review, all from LSU.  And the LSU Press became the publishing beacon for serious fiction and non-fiction rivaled only by the University of North Carolina Press. 

  Outstanding young academicians in a variety of fields were attracted to Baton Rouge, and the music department produced grand opera accompanied by its own symphony orchestra under directors of international acclaim.  The efflorescence of so much creative and academic talent drew accolades for Louisiana nationwide.

But that was then. Along came the 60s and other southern states did not have the huge reservoirs of oil and gas. Education became a key to their survival.  But in Louisiana, who cared about having a college degree when an oil field worker with a tenth grade education could make as much or more than many professionals with graduate degrees. 
A college degree became less relevant.  And that’s when politics came into the mix.

With the economy running on auto pilot in Louisiana and unemployment running way behind other southern states, the cry for “keeping the flagship university strong” fell on deaf legislative ears.  Rural legislators were more concerned about beefing local colleges up to LSU status, and even building unneeded new colleges and trade schools. And LSU became its own worst enemy by not aggressively making its case of why a flagship university was, and is today, critical to the economic well-being and future of the state.

What happened in recent years that caused Louisiana State University to be an also ran, not just nationally, but right here in the Deep South?  The leadership of LSU made a number of mistakes that allowed it to fall into the fiscal abyss the university finds itself in today. It did not aggressively defend and promote its status as the flagship. I was around the state capitol as an elected official in various capacities trough the 70s, 80s and 90s.  LSU was just one of the many education interests lobbying the legislature and the Governor.  The university leadership at the time did not consider themselves in any unique category, and so were not given any special deference as the flagship.

Another mistake was the failure to develop a solid endowment plan. LSU could well have the lowest endowment of any major college of its size in the.  Successful college endowments grow through investments, and are a significant income source for any major university in the country. Not so at LSU. The Times Picayune reported just this week that Louisiana's flagship university is dead last among schools in the Southeastern Football Conference when it comes to the rate of alumni giving and the size of the school's endowment.”

James Carville dismissed many of the state’s problems by saying that Louisiana is not just a way of life; “It’s a culture all its own.”  But every state has its own special ambiance, or way of life that is unique. Maybe they don’t throw Mardi Gras beads and use Tabasco sauce. Saying Louisiana is “special in its own way” is a cop out if the state’s educational and political leaders have not made the commitment to accentuate its best and brightest.

Louisiana is at a crossroads.  If the new governor and state legislature do not work to protect and promote a high degree of excellent achievement at LSU, the best and the brightest students will leave the state or settle for a less challenging education offering them few opportunities in the future. The whole state will suffer from such a loss.


Half the crowd in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night can’t even spell LSU.”
                                                         James Carville
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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Thursday, December 3, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


With a new governor soon to take office in a state that is facing a massive government financial crisis, a litany of problems continues to mount.  Higher education is on the ropes both financially and academically. Healthcare costs continue to spiral, undercut by a current governor who ignored the opportunity of filling the gap with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The new governor will certainly have his plate full from day one.

A new nationwide study, just released by consulting firm 24/7 Wall Street, shows just how far the Bayou State needs to climb.  Louisiana ranks 48th in a list of best states to live. It has the third highest poverty rate, 11th lowest rate of population growth, fourth lowest rate of life expectancy, and the highest rate of violent crime. These figures are consistent with numerous other similar studies in recent years.

You would expect that these results would headline newspapers across the state.  Not quite.  You see, there is even a bigger story that has dominated the front pages of major newspapers and headlined the nightly TV news.  The story has been the continual fodder for talk radio: What to do about LSU football coach Les Miles?

For those of you who do not live or die LSU football, here are a few statistics. Coach Miles has the highest percentage of wins in LSU history.  He has a better record in the past five years than did former Coach Nick Sabin in the five years he coached in Baton Rouge.  His recruiting class for next season is ranked number one in the nation, and there are more LSU players currently in the NFL coming from Miles’ teams than any other college in the country. He’s won a national championship, two SEC championships, and runs one of the most financially successful football programs in the country.

So what’s all the controversy you ask?  They can’t decide on how big a raise to give him?  How long to extend his contract? Build a bronze statute of him next to Mike the Tiger’s cage? Hardly. Some wealthy football boosters apparently had the ear of LSU President King Alexander as well as athletic director Joe Alleva, and they wanted Coach Miles fired.  Now it would only cost $17 million to buy out the coach and his assistants.  Plus a similar cost to hire a new coach and staff. I guess that’s considered chickenfeed when your university has its back against the financial wall and is threatening to shut down numerous academic programs.

The LSU athletic department will protest that it generates all its own financing and that there are no state tax dollars involved. That’s not quite the case.  Yes, there is a profit over expenses that covers a good bit of the athletic program’s costs.  But it’s a far cry from all that “giving back” it claims. The initial Tiger Stadium construction and the majority of improvements over the years have been paid for by legislative appropriations.  So has all the infrastructure of roads surrounding the athletic complex as well as the cost of security for all the athletic facilities. Employees of the football office and other sports receive state subsidies for retirement and healthcare.

And what about all this profit from LSU football we keep hearing about?  Forbes Magazine just last week reported net revenue of $60,564,780, a 21.3 percent increase from last year.  And it’s no secret as to why.  A football ticket in Tiger stadium is one of the most expensive in the country averaging $147.47.  Ticket prices at a majority of SEC schools are much lower. So the profit LSU ballyhoos is paid for on the backs of an average family that often cannot afford such a cost. Is it fair for a father with an ordinary income to tell his kid: “Son, I pay taxes to support that university, but I just can’t afford the cost they charge to take you to a game”?

The Coach has been given a reprieve for the time being.  Sure Les Miles needs to modernize his game plan and make some staff changes. He is too locked in to an antiquated running game and needs to recruit a five star quarterback.  But that’s all insider stuff.  To the average taxpaying sports fan, paying off Les Miles and bringing in a new coach at an even greater cost should make no good business sense.

LSU made a deal.  And for better or for worse, they need to live by it.


“College athletics is a big business that ought to be more businesslike.
Too many administrators outspend their revenues.”
Tim Sullivan

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 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at