Friday, February 26, 2016


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When it comes to exceptional creative talent in America, Louisiana seems to always come out on top.  I thought of the state’s remarkable musical virtuosos this week on the third anniversary of the death of concert pianist Van Cliburn, arguably one of the world’s greatest musical talents. He was a Louisiana native from Shreveport. And he leads a long list of Bayou State musical talent that is unrivaled anywhere else in the nation.

Even Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged the genius of Louisiana musicians when Cliburn went to Moscow at the height of the Cold War to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.  Russian judges were leery of awarding the prize to a non-Soviet musician.  But Khrushchev said that he was the best.  “Give him the prize.”  Khrushchev always had a love of jazz and Louie Armstrong, another Louisiana native.

There are any number of stories that acknowledge the special talents of creative Louisianans.  In the music world, Fats Domino was recently honored as the founder of rock and roll.  Gov. Jimmy Davis’s megahit, “You Are My Sunshine,” has been called the single most recognized song worldwide.  Jerry Lee Lewis, one of my first legal clients in Ferriday, is still going strong at 80.  Harry Connick, Jr. and Tim McGraw are both out on national tours.  The list goes on and on.

Nationally recognized artists from Louisiana exhibit worldwide, led by recently deceased Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue.  Don Cincone is an African American artist from Monroe few here at home have heard of.  But his paintings sell in Paris on the Champs Élysées for $50,000. 

As a publisher myself, I am amazed at the number of current first rate writers all over Louisiana who follow the paths of Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams and a host of other authors who penned world famous books from the Bayou State.  Bookstores worldwide currently carry volumes by James Lee Burke, Anne Rice, Kate Chopin, and Ernest Gaines, to name just a few.

Sports?  Where to begin?  Louisiana, year in and year out produces more NFL football players than any other state. The Manning brothers each have won two Super Bowl rings. Major league baseball is loaded with Louisiana talent, as are numerous other sports franchises.

Did you read where a small research facility in Livingston Parish has discovered gravitational waves that confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity? Pretty heavy stuff for some Louisiana scientists. You get my drift. There is a lot of really outstanding talent doing extraordinary things down here in the deepest of the deep southern states.

But something is amiss when it comes to our politics.  We recently had a Rhodes scholar leading the state as Governor. Our congressional delegation is made up of a Rhodes scholar and numerous doctors.  There are highly educated leaders galore in the state legislature and running state agencies.  Yet the fragmented state budget has become a conduit for a mismanaged and bungled bureaucracy that inadequately performs even basic services.  And Louisiana government is broke.  Not just broke but dead broke.  More than a two billion dollar financial sinkhole that can only be filled by massive tax increases and drastic spending cuts.

There is no accountability. No one is held responsible for the financial malpractice. You would assume that there would be an enormous public outcry.  But malfeasance in office gets a “ho hum” response. Yes, those that are directly affected will protest. But I wonder? Has Louisiana lost its indignation?  Has the general populace become so exasperated and disappointed in those who serve that they just assume the worst?  Has any anger and outrage over continuing mismanagement been replaced with a sense of despair?  That nothing will really change?

Over half the current Louisiana legislature was re-elected without opposition.  So voters are either in concurrence with the present fiscal crisis and lack of legislative oversight, or they have concluded that nothing really will change.  It’s just the Louisiana way.

Anthropologist Jane Goodall writes that the greatest danger to our future is apathy.  Plato wrote, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  Have Louisiana voters had enough?  Apparently, not nearly enough.

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, February 17, 2016


Thursday, February 19th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


New Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has jumped head first into the abyss of state government’s seemingly endless financial problems, and his popularity is already taking hits.  A recent Southern Media and Opinion Research poll has his popularity rating at a low 42%.  A UNO poll has Edwards’ favorables even lower at 34.2%. There is no honeymoon for the guy who vowed, during his campaign for the state’s highest office, to clean up the mess created by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal.

What Edwards needs to quickly realize is that in politics, perception is reality.  He seems to be all over the map in throwing out a litany of solutions, without first building a consensus with both legislators and the public at large. New governors shouldn’t think out loud.  Edwards should be creating and setting the tone for any public debate, not just jumping into the public brawl.  Here are a few examples of “shooting from the hip.”

Before taking office, Edwards announced his choice for Speaker of the House to be New Orleans Representative Walt Leger.  Traditionally, Louisiana governors have a say in who the Speaker will be.  But they generally work behind the scenes building a consensus for their choice.  Edwards did not consult, he just announced. And did so without the votes needed to elect his pick.  Leger lost by 5 votes.  If a new governor, with all the patronage at his disposal, cannot come up with 5 votes, he is off to a rocky start.

State government is obviously in the middle of a major financial crisis.  Edwards immediately began talking about raising taxes.  And new revenue may be needed.  But that’s not the first thing that should have been recommended by the new administration. The average voter thinks, with some justification, that there is government waste and fat in the budget that can be cut.  Treasurer John Kennedy has been pounding on the need for budget cuts for some time.

But rather than asking Kennedy to work with the new administration, Edwards dismissed his suggestions as merely political pandering. The SMOR poll shows Kennedy as the state’s most popular politician, with a positive rating of 65, which is 43 points higher than the new governor. The public thinks Kennedy is on the right track.  So if perception is reality, Edwards is making a mistake by not bringing Kennedy into the discussion.   He should have begun the debate by talking about specific cuts before there is any discussion of new taxes.

The new administration missed an early opportunity that would have brought the general public into the financial mix.  Edwards could have called a special session his first week in office to endorse one constitutional amendment.  Ask the voters to remove all dedications from the constitution. Remember that when voters passed the new constitution back in 1973, there were no tax dollars protected.  The idea was to let the legislature set spending priorities each year.  I know this well since future governor Buddy Roemer and I served as joint chairmen of the revenue committee that wrote this constitutional section.

The state holds its presidential primary on March 5th, so voters could have decided to turn loose some $2.2 billion dollars in dedicated funds.  Another opportunity missed.

Finally, there is no better example of perception overtaking reality than the new Governor saying publically that state budget cuts could put LSU’s football season at risk.  As the old Cajun would say, “Cher, dat’s fightin’ words.”  Relating budget cuts and LSU football is about as incendiary as you can get.

What the new governor fails to recognize is that LSU football is not just an issue involving students and alumni from the university.  Watching the Tigers on the gridiron is a state pastime for even the least educated Louisianan.  James Carville summed it up pretty well when he said “half the people in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night can’t even spell LSU.”

So Governor, you might want to think these problems out a bit more before airing your opinions and potential solutions publically.  And remember:  No matter how rough the financial problems become, never mess with dem fightin’ Tigers.


“The truth will set you free.
But first, it will piss you off.”
Gloria Steinem

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, February 10, 2016


February 1lth, 2016
New Orleans, Louisiana


Political correctness continues to be on the march in the Bayou State from Shreveport to New Orleans.  Just about everywhere a Civil War commemoration or monument is located, there seems to be some local group calling for a re-writing of history by eliminating such testaments to the past. Poor ole’ Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis can barely draw a pigeon to give them the time of day.

And the war on past tributes is not just limited to southern states wanting to hold on to some remnant of antiquity.  Recently the faculty at Brown University, an Ivy League school located in Providence, Rhode Island, voted to eliminate any celebration of Columbus Day.  The Italian explorer has been commemorated with a federal holiday on the second Monday in October since 1934.

To the faculty at Brown, Christopher Columbus deserves no special honor in American history because of his enslavement of American Indians.  Instead, Columbus Day at Brown will be changed to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day so as to “recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community,” according to the faculty motion.

Fortunately for Brown, America was not named Columbusia, as the designated honor was bestowed on another American explorer Amerigo Vespucci, even though he landed on the continent seven years after Columbus. The faculty has no problem with Vespucci and the nation being called America. But wait! Wasn’t Vespucci also deeply mired in the slave trade?  Weren’t he and Columbus close friends and both involved in capturing and selling American Indians? Should not the Brown University faculty undertake an effort to wipe out any reference to the name America? You can see how absurd all this can become.

So what should Louisiana do about Robert E. Lee, the respected Confederate general, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis?  Take down their statutes in New Orleans and other locations throughout the state?  I have a better idea. We live in a new period in history with the ability to create virtual reality and 3-D memorials. So how about leaving the present guys alone, but add other famous individuals with Louisiana ties?

Along with Robert E. Lee, let’s add former Sheriff Harry Lee who would be visited by presidents when they came to New Orleans. Spike Lee’s most famous movie was about the Katrina disaster in the Crescent City.  Remember Gypsy Rose Lee who made several movies about New Orleans?  So did Bruce Lee before he died.  Rocker Jerry Lee Louis and famous Louisiana author James Lee Burke also carry on the Lee legacy.

How about Jefferson Davis?  Well, we could surround him by former Governor Jimmy Davis along with civil rights leader A.L. Davis. Bette Davis made a number of memorable movies in Louisiana.  Remember “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte?”  LSU and NBA basketball star Glenn Davis.  Emmy award winner Viola Davis has filmed and spent a lot of time in Louisiana.  Sammy Davis, Jr. loved performing at the Superdome.

It’s a tough sell to find any other famous Beauregards.  General P.G.T. Beauregard is the only native Louisianan commemorated with a major New Orleans monument at the entrance of City Park. He led the Confederate forces when the first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter.  But with no other famous Beauregard’s to join his cause, his supporters will have a real fight on their hands to save this famous warrior’s observance.

Perhaps I’m being a bit flippant here and a little tongue in cheek.  Of course there are monuments involving white supremacy that ought to come down. There is no place for Confederate flags to be flying above state capitols. Parts of American history are unsavory in both the north and the south.  Louisiana and the nation are better served by remembering and learning from history.  Not trying to rewrite or obliterate it.


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, February 04, 2016


February 4th, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The biggest loser in the recent Iowa presidential caucuses was not Donald Trump or any of the other candidates who did not meet expectations in garnering voters.  No, the title for the real loser was, hands down, the state of Louisiana.  Because of both selfishness and a lack of any creative thinking, state officials in the Bayou State passed on the chance of receiving worldwide publicity and having hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the state’s economy.  Simply put, Louisiana blew the chance of being the first presidential primary state and reaping all the benefits.

Iowa scored the presidential Super Bowl by being the first state out of the box. The Washington Post reported that “Iowa matters.  It is the first test, coming after almost a full year of campaigning, polling, punditry and the like.”  And with all the campaigning, Iowa was the center of political attention for the past six months.  Who’s leading in Iowa?  What do Iowans think about the country’s direction?  What’s the make up of Iowa?  There was media coverage ad infinitum about a small Midwestern state best known to most of us for growing corn.

Right now, Louisiana’s presidential primary is set for March 8th, a week after Super Tuesday when the nominees could well be decided.  But what an opportunity missed. Louisiana could have held the nation’s first presidential primary at the same time as the recent gubernatorial election. No other state holds an election so close to the presidential primary season. So the Bayou State could have garnered all this same national attention and financial benefits, and for no additional cost since state elections were already taking place.

Just imagine the national media coverage and the excitement of Donald Trump dropping in a Hammond’s Hi-Ho barbeque restaurant to meet with the locals.  Or how about Hillary Clinton venturing up to Rapides Parish for a ham sandwich at Lea’s Lunchroom in LaCount? (She probably ought to pass on the famous coconut or chocolate pies.)  Senator Ted Cruz is from Texas, and would no doubt be partial to Cou-yon’s Barbecue in Port Allen.  A stop in Crowley for Marco Rubio would require a visit with B.I. Moody as he holds court each Saturday morning with the regulars at the Rice Palace Café.

And if any of the other candidates feel the necessity to actually go to Iowa, well no big deal.  They will be heartily welcomed in Iowa, Louisiana, by Mayor Carol Ponthieux.  (Pronounced “poncho” for all you Yankees and Rednecks.)   The Mayor, who puts her home phone number on the town website, will treat any of the presidential candidates to coffee and beignets at Lil Red’s.

Just how much did Louisiana lose by failing to hold the first in the nation presidential primary?  The candidates campaigning in the state of Iowa spend over $100 million.  Media outlets, consultants and campaign volunteers ran up a similar amount over the past year. Economists often quote the “economic turnover effect” of dollars spent in a local or state economy as anywhere from six to seven times.  So $200 million dropped into the Louisiana economy that turns over a number of times is certainly no small change.

So why wasn’t there an effort made to hold a presidential primary at the same time as the gubernatorial election in Louisiana this past November?  Governor Bobby Jindal quickly scuttled any initial interest in such a novel idea because of his delusional campaign for president.  His own campaign was sinking fast, and he did not want to be embarrassed by a certain poor showing in his home state.  And legislators at the time didn’t have the gumption to take on the good fight for a cause that would have brought bountiful publicity and huge financial rewards.

Louisiana will be merely a footnote when the campaign comes to an end.  Once again, a lack of vision and commitment will cause the Bayou State to be irrelevant in deciding who will lead the country.  But, at least, you can go to Iowa.  That is, Iowa, Louisiana.  It’s one of the last stops traveling I-10 on your way to Texas. But don’t expect to see anyone there campaigning for president.


So it’s perhaps a sign of how dire the situation is in Louisiana that Jindal’s budget was missing $3.5 million for presidential primaries, and nobody raised a fuss.
Washington Post

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