Thursday, March 30, 2017


March 30th, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Millions of rabid college basketball fans have been glued to their TVs over the past month as March Madness reached its crescendo. And the big bucks have been rolling in.  With coaches getting bigger salaries and colleges splitting huge TV and admission revenue — there are lots of winners. But one group is being exploited and shortchanged — the players themselves.

There’s certainly no shortage of income. This year in the NCAA tourney, television income is estimated to approach $2 billion with an additional $200 million from ticket sales and sponsorships. A 30 second spot for Monday night’s championship game will cost nearly $2 million. And college football is awash with a fabulously increasing income, as well.

The average compensation for these NCAA tourney coaches is at least twice that of the typical university president.  Duke’s Coach Mike Krzyzewski will pocket some $7.5 million this year. In 40 states, the highest paid public employee is the football or basketball coach, which shows a perverted sense of priorities at these institutions of higher learning.

Fans pay through the nose to attend major college athletic events.  As an LSU football season ticket holder, I personally pay $1025 just for the right to buy one seat.  The seat ticket itself is $64 per game.  So there are big bucks coming into major college programs all over the country.

All this income comes from the hard-working, disciplined players on the fields and courts. Yet these college athletes are paid only the basics — room and board, tuition, books. No extras. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented athletes, with no sharing of the revenue with those responsible for generating it.  Such a system is ill defined at best, and hypocritical at worst.  The universities are reaping the value produced by their recruits, while the players are given only enough for subsistence.

When I attended the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship, a little more than 50 years ago, I was given a housing and food allowance, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship. What I received then was equivalent to $300 in pocket money if the same were allowed today.  But it’s not.  The NCAA tightened the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like myself received a half-century ago
Last year, the NCAA did loosen up a bit by allowing colleges the discretion to pay athletes for a few additional expenses like clothing, laundry, insurance, and a one-time computer expense. But the fact remains that the athletes receive a trifle, while the athletic department rolls in the bucks.

Supporters of the present system will argue that there’s the opportunity for these athletes to move on to the pros and make big financial returns.  But we all know that very few make it to that level.  Further, many of them may not even end up with the basic skills necessary to succeed in other occupations, since only a minority of student-athletes in major sports even graduate.

The system in place now exploits our college athletes, and this exploitation is administered by their adult mentors.  What a deal. Your hard work and self-discipline for the entertainment of others in exchange for a pittance that barely covers your basic expenses.  A little monthly expense money is not going to corrupt the system.  A few hundred dollars a month for athletes on a full athletic scholarship seems reasonable. 

March Madness, as always, is a financial bonanza.  But not for the kids that make it happen.  They deserve a better shake and a little larger piece of this huge financial pie.

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

The coaches own the athletes’ feet, the colleges own the athletes’ bodies, and the supervisors retain the large rewards. That reflects a neo-plantation mentality on the campuses that is not appropriate at this time of high dollars.”
Walter Byers, the former executive director of the NCAA.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


March 23rd, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The 34th President of the United States was born 100 hundred years ago.  John F. Kennedy captured the hearts of the American people like no other president, before or since.  And from the first stirrings of his efforts to become president, to events that took place after his death, my home state of Louisiana held a special place in the Kennedy legacy.

John Kennedy’s first foray in building Louisiana relationships began in 1956, during the then young senator’s efforts to become the vice presidential candidate on the Adlai Stevenson ticket.  Stevenson had promised the VP spot to Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver but didn’t want to offend the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph Kennedy.  So he threw the nomination open to the convention floor.
As luck would have it, the Louisiana delegation sat right beside the Massachusetts delegates.  John Kennedy and his campaign manager and brother Bobby became fast convention friends with two senior Louisiana delegates, Judge Edmund Reggie of Crowley and Camille Gravel from Alexandria.  But the Louisiana delegation was controlled by Governor Earl Long, and he was firmly committed to Kefauver for the vice presidential nomination.  Long left the convention early, but gave strict instructions to Reggie and Gravel to support Kefauver.

Despite orders from Ole’ Uncle Earl, Reggie and Gravel led the whole Louisiana delegation in support of John Kennedy.  Long was furious, especially since the rest of the southern states went with Kefauver, the southern candidate.  But the efforts by Reggie and Gravel built a special bond between Louisiana and the Kennedys.

Four years later, when John Kennedy set his sights on the presidency, he knew his Catholicism would be a problem.  There had never been a Catholic president, and Kennedy wanted to build some initial political bridges in friendly territory. On October 16, 1959, he headed to Crowley, Louisiana, at the invitation of Judge Reggie and his wife, Doris, to be the Grand Marshall of the International Rice Festival.  One hundred and thirty thousand people packed the streets to show their support and affection.  There are some marvelous photos taken at the Rice Festival of the future president, who never wore anything on his head in public, sporting a hat made from rice.

Following the Rice Festival, it was on to Baton Rouge, and then to the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans where Kennedy received similar accolades from the city’s large Catholic population. There was no doubt that Louisiana was in Kennedy’s corner.  After he had become president, he reminisced that he felt his campaign had really taken off after his initial foray into the deepest of the deep southern states.

Under the Kennedy presidency, many Americans throughout the country felt a new wave of optimism, which was referred to as Camelot.  But then came Dallas. An unstable 24-year-old man with a $21 rifle changed the world.  Some historians have written that the Kennedy assassination caused America to lose its innocence.  And sadly, Louisiana ties to Kennedy’s death emerged.  The shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was born in New Orleans and was active for years in the Crescent City as a pro-Castro Marxist.

New Orleans district Attorney Jim Garrison alleged a conspiracy involving a number of Louisianans, and even the CIA.  Garrison exposed contradictions in the Warren Commission Report, but his witnesses turned out to be unsavory characters and he was too small a player to take on an alleged international conspiracy.  And by the way, a key member of the Warren Commission was New Orleans Congressman and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs.  The Louisiana connections abound.
So at the beginning of the Kennedy presidential quest, and at its end, Louisiana was in the mix of history.  Both the highs and the lows of the Kennedy mystique were partially framed by those who loved him and by those who hated him in the Bayou State.

President John F. Kennedy is remembered as one of America’s most inspiring and creative presidents. But his story would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the strong feelings of affection between this popular president and the people of the Bayou State. Louisianans by the thousands were there for him on his path to the White House from the very beginning.  And, tragically, at the end, as well.

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, March 16, 2017


Thursday, March16th, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana


The approval rate for members of Congress seems to be in free fall.  Few constituents approve of the dysfunction taking place in the nation’s capitol. Just 15 years ago, Congress had an approval rating of 65%.  But no more.  The most recent Harris and CBS polls show approval rates dropping to an all time low of 9%.  Like the guy sings in the Limbo Rock song, “How low can you go?”

Let me tell you just how bad it is.  More Americans approve of polygamy than they do of Congress in Washington.  At the height of the Gulf oil spill, BP had a shockingly low 16% approval rating. And would you believe that 11% of those surveyed are OK with America becoming Communist?  Just about every low-life trend or person you can think of does better than the folks you and I send up to Washington.

Apparently public cynicism is falling on deaf ears, as the Republic-can’ts and the Demo-don’ts both share the blame game.  There are tough decisions to be made regarding the new healthcare proposals, other entitlement programs and raising revenues that require urgent action, but the party bickering just doesn’t slow down. So it comes as no surprise to most of us that the favorable support of Congress continues to plummet.

How can Congress be more responsive to constituents back home? Is it necessary for members of Congress to spend most of their time in Washington?   In 2017, why can’t lawmakers use the new technology of telecommunications to create a “virtual Congress?”

During the time following the American Revolution, it was necessary for the original Congress to meet under one roof.  But why should a twenty-first century legislature be constrained by eighteenth-century technology? Why should Congressional members have to rush away from their constituencies back to Washington just to cast votes? They belong in close proximity with those who elected them, not at high-priced cocktail parties in Washington at the behest of rich special interest promoters.

If millions of Americans can telecommute, why can’t members of Congress attend committee meetings by video conference?  If I can regularly Skype or Facetime with my grandkids, why can’t my congressman add a big screen to his or her office, tune in meetings, the go back to handling problems of constituents right out of the home district?

As it is now, we might catch a glimpse of our members of Congress when they are interviewed on television.  How refreshing it would be to see your congressman at various school events or run into him or her at your local coffee shop.  Back in their districts most of the time, these congressmen will be surrounded by skeptical constituents, rather than fawning supplicants.  And they’ll continually have to justify any political decision they make that’s contrary to the will of the voters.

There are a number of other proposals out there to make Congress more responsive to those who elected them. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, during his short run for president, suggested a part-time Congress. Term limits is an idea that continues to have high favorable support. Others are saying that congressional districts have grown too large, and more members of Congress should be added. All these ideas have merit.

But there’s nothing more important than reestablishing a closer relationship between the congressman and the people he or she represents.  In the old days, it was called “retail politics.”  A handshake and face-to-face interaction.  Let a voter blow off steam or bring up what could be a good idea.

There certainly is no patent for good “common sense” emanating from Washington these days.  So come back home, Congressman, and listen and learn from those who elected you. And maybe, just maybe, your popularity will rise above being a polygamist.


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

Friday, March 10, 2017


Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards is approaching 90 years old and hasn’t seemed to slow down a bit.  He remains active, still speaking throughout the state, often accompanied with his young wife and 4-year-old son.  Last year, a Baton Rouge Advocate poll listed him as Louisiana’s most popular governor.

According to his biographer Leo Honeycutt, Edwards is an enigma…a puzzling political personality shaped by his background and a lifetime effort to climb to the top of the heap.  Did he cross the imaginary line of political propriety in his public dealings? Honeycutt astutely argues that the line often moves with the times and can be bent and shaped by unscrupulous federal prosecutors.

Three reasons emerge as to why there continues to be so much interest in the enduring saga of the state’s longest serving governor.  First of all, he is a likeable rogue.  Even his ardent distracters over the years found him to be funny and highly entertaining.  Few came close to mesmerizing a crowd like the Cajun from Crowley.  He could have handled a late night talk show with much more pizzazz and humor than Conan O’Brien on any night of the week.

Secondly, some naysayers disregard the Edwards years as all negative with no progressive public accomplishments by his administration.  There is no doubt Edwards became bogged down in his later terms as his legal problems with the federal government mounted. But a number of more neutral observers will stack up Edwards’ first two terms as the most productive and positive for Louisiana in the twentieth century.

I posed the question of Edwards’ accomplishments to a group of journalists who had covered the state capitol for many years, going back to the administration of Gov. Jimmy Davis in the 1960s. When asked to name the state’s shining period of progress, they all pointed to the 1970s during Edwards’ first two terms. A new constitution, tax reform, a new ethics code, the creation of an architects and engineers selection board taking these decisions away from politics that became the prototype throughout the country, the passage of the strongest public records and open meetings laws of any state, all done under an Edwards administration.

I was hosting a radio show a few years back discussing the Edwards years and opened up the phone lines for listener observations. Former Public Affairs Research Council Director and President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Ed Steimel called in to comment.  He said during the 1970s, Edwards both embraced and worked for passage of every one of PAR’s good government recommendations. Steimel also agreed the 70s were a “special, productive time” under Edwards’ leadership. 

The third reason Edwards continues to command so much interest is the feeling by many observers that he did not get a fair shake in the federal trial that sent him to prison.  Former Governor Dave Treen, recently deceased, summed up this prevailing view in the last public letter he wrote as an introduction to the Honeycutt book.  “I believe the federal government….doubled his sentence from the prescribed five years purely out of vindictiveness.  They didn’t like him.  That’s not a good reason to double someone’s sentence and is, I believe, a misuse of power.”  Even many of Edwards’ ardent distracters agree.

Yes, Edwin Edwards is an enigma.  A complex mix of a Louisiana figure that, like Icarus, flew so high with abundant success, then fell for many reasons, including some of his own making.

Greek tragedy?  Maybe.  But the final verse of Edwin Edwards’ life is far from written. Honeycutt’s original version of Edwards’s life covered 1600 pages.  Edwards insisted much be left out, at least for the time being. 
Another book in the making?  Look for Edwards himself to have a lot more to say in the years to come. In the meantime, the current Edwards’ biography fills the gap and paints a vivid portrait of the man who many feel is the most dominant Louisiana political figure in the past century. 


“People say I’ve had brushes with the law. That’s not true. I’ve had brushes with overzealous prosecutors.”
Edwin Edwards
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