Friday, May 24, 2019


May 23rd, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


     Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise says he is still struggling over whether to forgive the man wo shot him two years ago.  “I’ve never, internally, formally forgiven the shooter from the baseball shooting,” he said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with as a Catholic.”

     It would be hard for many, including me, to forgive such a transgression. I’m still personally quite bitter over wrongs that happened to me some years back. So I understand the reluctance to forgive.

But what about turning the other cheek, and forgiving one’s enemies as we read in scripture throughout the New Testament?  Can we suffocate our bitterness and a feeling that some form of retribution is unnecessary?  Does continuing anger and hostility become tantamount to suffocating oneself emotionally? “The effects on one’s health from bottled up anger and resentment can range from anxiety and depression to blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks,” says professor of medicine Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic. “Forgiveness, by contrast, allows one to focus on more positive thoughts and relationships. It allows you to free up the real estate in your brain taken up by negative thinking.”

Forgive and forget, so goes much of the conventional wisdom. Move on with your life and just chalk it all up to tough lessons learned.  But isn’t it possible to continue with the positive aspects in one’s life, learn from past mistakes, and continue to grow, putting aside the bitter feeling that you suffered a terrible wrong?  Simply put, don’t maintain continuing anger, but don’t forget.

In the fall of 2015, Pope Francis sent the body of St. Maria Goretti on a limited U.S. tour.  The youngest canonized Saint has a compelling story of suffering and forgiveness.  St. Maria was born into poverty and raised in Corinaldo, a beautiful medieval village in central Italy. Maria, whose father died when she was nine, raised her five siblings when she was only eleven while her mother worked in the fields.  One day, a twenty-year-old neighbor accosted her and, as she fought him, he brutally stabbed her repeatedly.

Maria died the next day, but her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli (her attacker) and I want him with me in heaven forever.” Alessandro was so overcome that he lived the converted life of holiness in prison and eventually became a Franciscan lay brother.

One of the stops on St. Maria’s U.S. pilgrimage was Baton Rouge, where the coffin with her remains was to be displayed in veneration at Lady of Mercy Catholic Church for three days. Crowds of worshipers were expected to visit the Saint from a number of states. The pastor there, Father Cleo Milano, has been a good friend and I called him to see if there was a possibility of any quiet time with St. Maria.  He suggested I come by the church close to midnight after the doors were locked down for the night.

       As the sanctuary was about to be bolted and the lights were dimmed, I made my way down the center aisle of the church and sat beside the remains of St. Maria. I touched her coffin and prayed for my family. And then, I thought to myself, this beautiful child, now a Saint, was brave and open-hearted enough to forgive the cruel demon that took her life. Although I too was wronged in ways that I felt were so unjust, should I not be empathetic and compassionate enough to forgive those who so aggrieved me?

I thought about it for good while.  I guess I even prayed over the decision. After much contemplation, I quietly got up from my pew and walked out of the church. So what was my decision? Could I forgive those transgressions?

     Often, your adversaries, by their impertinence, bring themselves down and destroy their own reputations. In my case, nemeses that caused me harm have themselves been damaged and suffered humiliation.  So what to do? Forgive them? In my case, I decided just to wait them out.  They ended up destroying themselves. What’s the old saying:  If you stand by the river long enough, your enemies will come floating by.

      I’d urge the Congressman to take his time and be sure that forgiveness is something he really wants to give.  If not, just bide his time.  After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.  

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

Friday, May 17, 2019


May 16th, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The heavy spring rains have been incessant up and down the Mississippi River, and there are projections for more Midwest thunderstorms later on this week. And all this water has, over the years, been channeled in tight levee systems that are right now under massive pressure.

 Author John Barry, who has been a guest on my radio show on several occasions, documented the dangers of flooding on the Mississippi in his award-winning book, “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi river Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.” I asked him about his concerns today. “I know the power of this river, and quite frankly it makes me nervous to see this much water on the move,” he says

Barry also points out that “there will be a lot of backwater flooding going up rivers that are normally tributaries flowing into the Mississippi. They won’t be able to empty into the Mississippi, so the main line River will back up these streams causing a great deal of additional flooding.”

I know this scenario well from living through back water problems during the 1973 flood, where water levels reached their highest point to date. I was a newly elected state senator in Louisiana living right on the Mississippi in Ferriday, across the river from Natchez, Mississippi. I could go up on my roof and see across the main line levee as the waters continued to rise.

The water got so high that the Red and Black Rivers in that area  began to back up, flooding many communities throughout my district. Some towns, like Jonesville, were surrounded by water and local residents had to get to and from their homes by boat. At the lower end of Catahoula Parish, some homes were buried under twenty-five feet of water.

When the river along the mainline levee came within four feet of overtopping, the local sheriff emptied the jails putting prisoners to work filling sandbags to build up the levees. For four days, I occasionally catnapped while working alongside neighbors and prisoners as we tried to raise the levee with sand. When the river finally crested, there was a little over a foot to spare that kept the Mighty Mississippi from pouring into our neighborhoods and destroying our homes.

Fast forward 46 years and the river levels look to be even higher and the flooding worse. Several million acres could go under water in Louisiana alone, and a number of the parishes here have been declared disaster areas. The River is approaching dangerous heights right now, yet the projected crest in Louisiana is not until the end of May.

There are three major spillways along the river in Louisiana, and each has floodgates that have been opened to divert the raging waters. Opening these gates lessens the chance of flooding in many inhabited areas, but the process is not a panacea. The millions of tons of sediment in the waters that are diverted will wipe out any crops in the water’s path along with many homes.

Roy Dokka, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, says Louisiana farmers are in for a long hoe. “Any existing crops are going to be toast when you look at the damage caused to corn, sugar cane and soybeans that will be covered with sediment,” he stated. “Plus, God knows what’s in the water and what gets deposited.”

And what if the levees collapse as they did during Katrina? “That’s the worst-case scenario,” says Dokka. “If levees break, weeks could pass before engineers could reseal them. If wide-scale flooding occurs, the resulting economic damage will be felt for years, he said. “Any city that ever floods never really returns economically to where it once was because people don’t have confidence, people don’t want to put businesses there. New Orleans is the big example.”

So the south is taking on Mother Nature with a wing and a prayer. Living in this part of the country is a gamble that has consequences.  Randy Newman’s lyrics for a flood 84 years ago could just as well apply to what many residents who live along the Mississippi are facing right now, as each day passes.

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
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, May 09, 2019


Thursday, May 9th, 2019

 New Orleans, Louisiana


 It’s the kickoff for hurricane season and forecasters are predicting as many as 14 named storms with anywhere from 3 to 6 of these storms growing into major hurricanes. Here on the Gulf Coast, we certainly perk up when this time of year rolls around.  For years, a good story in south Louisiana went like this:

 “I’m a Catholic, so I certainly know a good bit about suffering,” she would say.

“Yeah, I’m a Louisiana homeowner, he answered.

“Oh, so you understand.”

Louisiana homeowners know a good bit about suffering, particularly when it comes to being stuck with the highest property insurance rates in the nation. The Clark Research Group determined that Louisiana has some of the highest insurance costs, coming in at an average of more than $6000.00.  No other state in the South comes close. If you live in industrialized New Jersey, the cost is $1,318.00, a drop of some $300.00 in the past 10 years. California, with wildfires and massive rain caused mudslides pays an average of $1,988.00.

But that’s not the whole story. Congress merely put its finger in the flood insurance dike with legislation that supposedly capped the skyrocketing rates of property owners in flood prone areas.  But what our minions in Washington didn’t tell us is that the rates will continue to climb dramatically in the years to come.  The legislation is just a quick fix to hoodwink voters in order to get through the next election cycle.

Because of the devastating hurricanes that seem to hit the gulf coast at least once a decade, the federal government has bailed out these southern states, literally and financially, time, and time again. Some cynical members of congress have even suggested that it’s time for many homeowners to relocate. But attitudes are beginning to change, because other oxen are being gored.  Mother Nature has given the Gulf South a pass in recent years, but she is causing havoc in other parts of the nation.

Oklahoma has suffered an unprecedented surge in both earthquakes and tornadoes and are clamoring for federal help.  New York and New Jersey have a long way to go to recover from last year’s Hurricane Sandy.  In Texas, hurricanes and wildfires have cost some $28 billion in recent years.    California witnessed rapid growth in both drought and wildfires, and earthquakes remain a constant threat.  A Wall Street Journal study published recently concluded that almost every state in the nation is subject to some major disaster.

So has a national plan that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars been proposed which is both comprehensive and affordable? Yes. Such a proposal was unveiled in New Orleans in May of 1995 at a catastrophe insurance conference sponsored by the American Insurance Services Group. I attended as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties. We all agreed back then that there would be a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America unless a national disaster program was put in place.  And that’s just what’s happening across the country now.

Here is how it would work.  Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state created fund.  The state fund would then be backed up by a nationally created fund.  The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved.  Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk.  Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.  That was the plan then. And the good news is that in reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tornados in Oklahoma and Missouri, a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now.

It’s taken almost 24 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving.  It’s just not a handout for the coastal states.  The whole country will benefit.  And at a price that’s affordable.  We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.

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

Friday, May 03, 2019


Thursday, May 2ed, 2019
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It’s been more than ten years since the Stanford Group was shut down, having bilked over 1000 Louisiana investors out of their life’s savings.  Lawsuits have been filed against the Securities and Exchange Commission for not providing proper regulatory oversight.  But a strong case can be made that there is major culpability on the part of a state agency, the Office of Financial Institutions.  And we are talking about Louisiana taxpayers being potentially hit with a bill that could approach $800 million.

Here is the question.  Did Louisiana regulators allow the Stanford Group to set up a dubious, one-of-a-kind trust to handle vast investments, but then never bothered to properly monitor just what was being done with the money and whether Stanford were playing by the rules? 

Everyone has heard of a “Bank and Trust”.  Well there are also provisions under Louisiana law to form just a “Trust,” with no bank involved.  And the law is quite specific as to what a Trust can and cannot do.  Here is the exact wording: “A trust company does not have the power to solicit, receive, or accept money or its equivalent on deposit, or lend money, 

except in transactions reasonably related to and derived from its service as fiduciary.”  Not one word there about selling questionable CDs from Latin American banks as Stanford did.
So does the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions have legal exposure?   Questions are being raised that it is not an issue of doing too little or making the wrong decision on the part of OFI. The knock is that they stood aside and did nothing to protect Stanford investors.

A number of brokers from competing investment firms in Baton Rouge bemoan the fact that they have been hearing about the “too good to be true” scenario at Stanford for a years.  As one broker told me: “We always felt there was something fishy going on over at Stanford.  Their investment returns were just too good.  Something just wasn’t kosher.  And where was OFI all this time?  The state had the authority to stop the selling of these bogus CDs but did nothing.”

Baton Rouge Attorney Phil Preis, who represents a number of Stanford investors, believes there is liability of the part of OFI.  “I think there definitely is an immunity problem for OFI.  The state (OFI) should have stepped in and firmly regulated just what Stanford was doing.   OFI could have made a bad decision and not be liable.  But they made no decision at all, and apparently OFI just left Stanford alone allowing them to carry on their fraud.  That’s where their exposure comes in.”

So how much exposure does OFI, the state, and Louisiana taxpayers have?  There is a statutory limit of $500,000 per claim.  News reports have placed the number of Stanford investors defrauded in Louisiana as high as 1700.  Just do the math.  The state could be on the hook for as much as $850 million.  And that’s just for Louisiana residents.  Stanford brokers solicited investors from surrounding states out of Louisiana offices.  So the figure could go much higher.

As the legal wrangling continues, there are a number of questions that need to be answered.  Did the Stanford Group receive unprecedented help from the state of Louisiana?  Was Stanford allowed to move vast amounts of money from Louisiana investors offshore – without reporting to OFI?  If OFI was conducting audits required by state law, why did they allow the continuing sale of the questionable CDs? 

Right now, creditors and investors in Louisiana are at the mercy of a federal liquidator.  But there is no exclusive federal jurisdiction when it comes to a Louisiana Trust.  The state has every right to assert claims on behalf of its own citizens.  It should be OFI’s and the state of Louisiana’s obligation to go to bat for these folks just as the Insurance Department does when an insurance company is shut down. 

The whole Stanford mess will take years to sort out, while many Louisiana families are at the financial mercy of those in charge of recovering what assets may still be available.  But an underlining question that needs to be posed by the Louisiana Attorney General is simply this:  Why was Alan Stanford and his cohorts allowed to flourish while life savings vanished and Louisiana state regulators slept?
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