JIm Brown: Appointing Federal Judges a Bad Idea!

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Last week’s column discussed the election of judges and the undue influence of campaign funds. A number of responses suggested doing away with judicial elections, and following the federal path of presidential appointment. But is the appointive process really better than electing judges? Do citizens get better choices and more competent jurists? Not the way the system works at the federal level.

First of all, presidents do not really choose federal judges outside of the Supreme Court. At the district court and court of appeals levels, the president, as a general rule, defers to the choice of the state’s U.S. senators. If the president is a democrat, the democratic senator in the home state of the proposed appointee makes the recommendation. So to qualify in most states as a federal judge, it’s not what you know but whom you know.

There are no better examples of rank political persuasions over judicial choices than right here in my home state of Louisiana. As quoted in last week’s column, Huey Long said it best: “I’m all for appointin’ judges as long as I can do the appointin.” Cronyism has been the deciding factor in a number of federal appointees to the bench.

At the court of appeals level, incompetent judges have sparked a wave of concern and criticism. Because the U. S. Supreme Court is hearing fewer cases as each year goes by, the federal court of appeals is the last vestige of hope for any effort to overturn a lower court decision. Out of more than 10,000 appeals filed last year at the nation’s highest court, only 65 were even considered. The action is at the court of appeals level. And hands down, the worst such court in the nation sits right there in New Orleans.

Continue Reading………………..

Jim Brown: Is Louisiana a Judicial Hellhole?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


According to several watchdog organizations, Louisiana has one of the worst judicial climates in the country. The state has been given the dubious title of the nation’s judicial hellhole by several neutral watchdog groups. Campaign funds given to a judicial candidate are often cited as possibly influencing future judicial decisions. Some are advocating the appointment of judges in order to do away with the pressure on judicial candidates to raise campaign contributions. So is this the solution? Is appointing rather than electing judges the way to go in Louisiana?

But this raises the question — who will do the picking. To paraphrase Huey Long, “I’m all for appointin’ judges as long as I get to do the appointin’.” After all, most appointed judges receive their job through the good ole’ boy network. It’s not what you know, but who you know, and few get these plumb appointments for life without being well plugged in to the political system. So those who sanctimoniously talk about the politics involved in electing judges are turning a blind eye to the heavy-handed politics of an appointed system.

There has been virtually no monitoring or policing of appointed judges on either the federal or state level. If there are any abuses on the bench, the other judges just turn their heads and refuse to pass judgment on their peers. This is true even if judges on a higher court are involved. So it is obvious that it will take more public scrutiny to see that appointed judges who put themselves in conflicting situations are held more accountable.

And what about the influence of campaign contributions that are accepted by those seeking to step up to the bench and wear black robes? No doubt about it. Campaign contributions pose a great problem for those who want impartiality. Continue Reading……………..

Jim Brown: Jindal and India, A Missed Opportunity for Louisiana

Thursday, January 30th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Louisiana’s two-term governor and aspiring presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal, just returned from a 10-day junket to the Far East. Stops were made in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for the expressed purpose of seeking out foreign investment in the Bayou State. But if industrial development in the state by foreign companies was his goal, Jindal missed the mark by some 1300 miles.

Jindal is one of two Indian American governors in the U.S. But so far, he has passed on the opportunity to travel to India and move Louisiana onto the front burner of a special relationship with the world’s largest democracy. The other Indian American Governor, Nicki Haley of South Carolina, has made several trips to India. Her first visit was just a few months after taking office.

Jindal had a face to face meeting with the Prime Minister of India back in 2009, when he attended a dinner in the Prime Minister’s honor at the White house. And if Jindal is the smart Rhodes scholar he has been touted to be, one would have thought that he would have seized the chance to build a special relationship based on his ancestry. In recent years, India has been reaching out, worldwide, for both export and import opportunities. If Jindal had played his cards right, Louisiana would now be the bountiful beneficiary of a new and huge trading partner.

Jindal had more in common with the Prime Minister than just their mutual Indian heritage. The leader of the world’s largest democracy, like Jindal, took a degree from Oxford University, and worked as a policy wonk in several government appointed positions. The chemistry is there to build a strong relationship between these two leaders and their respective country and state. Continue Reading…………..

JIm Brown’s Weekly Column: Should the Feds Make Louisiana a Protectorate? Heck Yes!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Roseanne Roseannadanna summed it up pretty well in trying to make sense out of the trials and tribulations of Louisiana. “Well, it just goes to show you, it’s always something,” she said. We are hearing cries that Louisiana is unable to take care of its problems, and should be treated differently than other states. Some even say, OK, then — make it a protectorate of the federal government. And you know what? Maybe that ain’t too bad of an idea.

The proposal took legs recently when Froma Harrop, a nationally syndicated columnist and editor for the Providence Journal, broached the idea in print. “Louisiana has had more than its share of tragedies in recent years, and some, such as hurricane Katrina, could be deemed an act of nature. But whatever the cause, every calamity that befalls Louisiana is made worse by a corrupt civic nature. A protectorate could provide the structure of government people need.”

CNN travel editor Chuck Thompson drove the dagger in deeper in his recently released book, Better Off without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Succession.” He summed up his, and purportedly other Yankee feelings, by calling the leadership down here in the deep South “a coalition of bought-and-paid for political swamp scum from the most uneducated, morbidly obese, racist, morally indigent, xenophobic, socially stunted, and generally ass-backwards part of the country.”

So if that is a growing northern attitude towards us poor lost souls in the Bayou state, maybe we should consider seceding and let the U.S. make us a protectorate like Harrop and others above the Mason-Dixon Line suggest. Anyone who does a bit of research will find that, right now, Louisiana is contributing much more to the national economy than the federal dollars the state is getting back. As a general rule, so-called protectorates receive much more in financial aid from their respective overseers than the country or state being protected contributes. Not so in Louisiana. Yes, you will read about all the federal dollars that have been flowing into the Bayou State, particularly post Katrina. But whatever federal sums have been allocated is a drop in the bucket when you add up the massive mineral resources that have been drained from Louisiana. Continue reading………

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Should State Government Subsidize Pro Sports?

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Should State Government Subsidize Pro Sports?

Throughout the current NFL season, I have remained a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan. But I have also admired the Green Bay Packers.The Packers are one of the best examples of how a sports franchise should operate. They don’t go to the state capitol hat in hand, looking for a handout. The team is owned by citizen stockholders from all over Wisconsin, and the Packers’ management doesn’t regularly try to blackmail public officials into giving them more handouts under threat of picking up and moving the franchise.

Recently, when it came time for Green Bay to revamp and refurnish legendary Lambeau Field, the state of Wisconsin didn’t put up one penny. All proceeds to pay for the renovations came from the private sector. Season ticket holders were charged a one-time user fee of $1400, which fans can pay over several years. In addition, the Packers did a stock offering, just like many corporations do for capital improvements. And finally, the Packers took out a team loan to be repaid out of yearly revenues. No sweetheart deals from the state, no special considerations, no coming to the public trough for taxpayer money.

What happens in some states, including my home state of Louisiana, is that team owners cry wolf saying that they will have no choice but to move their franchise elsewhere if the tax incentives and outright dollars are not bountifully offered. But a review of the NFL team financial arrangements will show that team income is structured in such a manner that it is theoretically possible to run a profitable franchise even in a small location like my old hometown of Ferriday.  Continue Reading…………

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Duck Dynasty Controversy – Did We All Get Suckered In?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Did the Duck Dynasty and the A&E folks see us coming or what? For weeks, America has been consumed with the saga of head Duck Phil Robertson and the pros and cons of his right to rants and raves about homophobia and his experiences with neighboring African Americans, who, according to Phil, were happy as a lark in Red Neck country when he was growing up.

Now don’t take this as a knock on being a red neck. I point to mine with pride. I’m from Ferriday, Louisiana, home of Jerry Lee Lewis, country music star Mickey Gilley and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, among other notables. Ferriday is stone’s throw, metaphorically speaking, from West Monroe in Northeast Louisiana where Phil and all the Dynasty family hang out.

I bought my first duck call, a Duck Commander, from Phil, back in 1975 when I really took to duck hunting. I had a good-sized slough in the front forty of an old plantation site I had restored on Lake Concordia just across the Mississippi River from Natchez, Mississippi. In winter, ducks coming down the Mississippi River flyway flocked to that slough, and they were there for the taking. That is, if you knew how to bring them in with a duck call.

Ole’ Phil had opened up his shop in a dilapidated shed, where he spent 25 years making duck calls from Louisiana cedar trees. And make no mistake — his duck calls were the best. If you knew how to twill your tongue as you blew into the cigar shaped wood instrument, all the while saying “hut”, “quit” or “ut,” you could make a variety of ducks glide right towards your decoys. Phil’s duck calls were a significant factor in making me a pretty darn good duck hunter.

And don’t be mislead. Phil ain’t no dummy. He turned down a chance to play professional football for the Washington Redskins, and holds a Masters Degree in Education. Continue Reading……………..

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: New Year Thoughts from the Bayou State

December 27th, 2013
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: Continue Reading………….

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Louisiana Taxpayers – Have we got a deal for you

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


You’re not really going to pay your Louisiana state taxes on time are you? Why on earth would you do that? Why not do what so many other Louisianans do. Hang on to your money or invest it or spend it. Nothing is likely to happen. And before you know it, the state will kick in with a really great amnesty program where you pay no penalties. That’s right, no penalties. Zilch. Nothing.

And hey, it gets better. When the time eventually comes, you’ll only have to pay one half of any back interest. What a deal. Heck, paying Louisiana taxes on time is only for fools. So go ahead. Game the system. A lot of others do, and they reap big benefits. It’s the Louisiana Way. Or so it would seem, judging from the message being sent by the state.

The Louisiana legislature, in its collective wisdom, authorized what is called the “Fresh Start” program, offering a chance to catch up on back taxes to all those folks worried about being caught and labeled tax cheats. And of course, that’s exactly what they are. The current program just ended and it was a bountiful success. Over $435 million was collected with a net loss of millions of dollars to honest Louisiana tax payers.

So who are these slackers who are taking advantage of Louisiana’s laxness toward collecting legitimate taxes which Louisiana calls a “tax amnesty program?” Well, they’re not individuals who have a conscience that is bothering them. No. Eighty percent of the money collected came primarily from business accounts that were being audited or litigated. In other words, these delinquent taxpayers knew full well that the Louisiana Department of Revenue was on their case and would demand back taxes with full penalties and interest. So knowing that the jig was up, and these delinquent companies were right on the verge of getting stuck with big penalties, they merely opted to grab the amnesty crutch, not pay what they lawfully owed the state, and laugh all the way to the bank with the money they cheated out of the rest of us. Continue Reading…………

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Why aren’t we the greatest generation?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
New Orleans, Louisiana


Ten years ago, NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw wrote a book about what he called “The Greatest Generation.” In contrast, there’s a new best seller out now calling America “the dumbest generation.” And since Louisiana is at the bottom of the barrel on most national lists, you can imagine how folks in the Bayou State are viewed. But with all the tools of modern technology of our digital culture supplying us with a 24/7 information overload, and the opportunities for intellectual development at an all time high, why aren’t we making a run at being “the greatest generation?” What conditions existed 70 years ago that set those who fought in World War II and those who volunteered at home apart?

These questions were the focus of discussion recently in New Orleans at the opening of some new spectacular attractions, all part of the National World War II Museum. Tom Brokaw was there for the grand opening and talked about his definition of the greatest generation. “They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America – men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today.”

There’s no doubt that these men and women of the1940s were resourceful, hardworking and deeply committed to giving extraordinary service to their country. But do we instill these same values now? Or does today’s generation value lifestyle over success?

In his book, The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein has little hope for today’s youth. Bauerlien views our young people as “Ignorant of politics and government, art and music, prose and poetry. The dumbest generation is content to turn up their iPods and tune out the realities of the adult world. It is brash, pampered, dumb — and content to stay that way.” Continue reading……………..

Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: So I get this call from Bobby Jindal

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The Governor of Louisiana called me last night. I was just about to doze off when the phone rang. And can you believe it? He wanted my advice on how to deal with his plummeting poll numbers and his growing list of governing and political problems. The conversation went something like this.

“Jim, Bobby Jindal here. You’ve been pretty rough on me in your weekly columns and on your syndicated radio show. You know I’m a regular reader and I listen to you all the time, at least when I’m in the state. You’ve really been on my case lately. So I’m calling and asking you, man to man, what advice you would give me? What should I do? It seems like every week, some new list is released showing Louisiana at the bottom. And my poll numbers are in the tank. Man, I could really use some guidance.”

I was, of course, flattered that the Governor wanted my advice. So I thought for a moment — where to begin? He certainly has major problems to address. On virtually every list released in the past year, Louisiana is ranked either at, or close to the bottom for having a poor business climate, educational levels that lag far behind national averages, highest insurance rates, low rankings by the Center for Public Integrity, obstructing public access to information, and at the bottom of the barrel for overall health.

And here’s another slap in the face. Jindal just completed a term as Chairman of the National Governor’s Association. And how did Louisiana fare in the governors’ non-partisan sub group’s ranking for overall quality of life called the “Camelot Index?” Dead last! Continue Reading…………..