Jim Brown: Miss USA Trumped by Immigrant Debate!

Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Donald Trump sure has things stirred up right now down here in the Bayou State. International television attention was supposed to highlight Baton Rouge and the whole state of Louisiana. But coverage of the Miss USA pageant has turned more on “The Donald” and his incinerating remarks about illegal immigrants, as his rives up his presidential bid.

Trump will certainly be talking about his immigration proposals in the days he is spending in the capitol city. The joke going around the state capitol is that, despite all the controversy, Trump will at least spend more time here than Gov. Bobby Jindal, who continues to criss-cross the country in his quixotic effort to make a dent in national presidential polls.

Where Jindal’s focus has been aimed at Muslims around the world, Trump has made no bones about his feelings towards those who migrate across the U.S. southern border. Who hasn’t heard his declaration:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump’s competitors for the GOP nomination immediately pounced on his remarks. “He’s doing this to inflame, to incite and to draw attention,” said Jeb Bush. “Really offensive,” carped ex Texas Gov. Rick Perry. ”Offensive, inaccurate and divisive,” said Florida’s Sen. March Rubio. Who could have imagined? A Republican candidate taking about “divisive” politics.

A number of Republican Party leaders are expressing concern that Trump’s comments undermine outreach efforts and are hurting the GOP brand. Hurting the brand? What brand? Republicans need to clean house and plug in to the concerns of the average American, particularly when it comes to immigration reform. The GOP brand doesn’t just need an upgrade. What it needs is for Bobby Jindal to come perform an exorcism! Continue Reading……….

Jim Brown: Re-writing Louisiana’s History Flags, Monuments and All!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It looks like it’s time to get out the soap powder in Louisiana. Some elected officials and the state’s largest newspaper are jumping all over themselves to call for the banishment of whatever tattered remnants are left from the aftermath of the Civil War. Not just flags, but monuments, names, Dukes of Hazzard, Aunt Jemima syrup, Uncle Ben’s rice, Gone with the Wind, they all gotta go. The cultural cleansing in the Bayou state has begun.

The current focus of obliterating the past is on the Confederate flag flying about the South Carolina state capitol. Of course the flag should come down, and should have been lowered years ago. But the question is, just how far should government bodies go to pacify those who feel offended by tax dollars being used to maintain past symbols; reminders of a once divisive nation that are an affront to many black Americans.

Actually, despite newspaper accounts otherwise, the Confederate flag never flew above the state capitol in Baton Rouge, both during the time of the Civil War, and in the years afterword. Louisiana adopted its own flag of secession, comprised of a yellow star on a red background. What to see what it looked like? Check out the present flag of Vietnam.

So what happens now? Do reasonable voices want to open up a discussion to learn from history, or will there be an emotional reaction to determine and shape history? Do we purge symbols and inscriptions of the past that causes discomfort to some? Isn’t that what ISIS is doing in the Middle East right now; wiping out monuments that commemorate both the good and the bad of a region’s history? Continue Reading……….

Jim Brown: Louisiana to the Treasury Department – Leave Old Hickory Alone!

June 25rd, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There is a major push by the bureaucrats in Washington to put the first woman on the face of paper currency. There are a number of choices, and you will get no argument form me that there certainly is a place on one of our bills for a woman. But one of the options is to take Andrew Jackson off the twenty-dollar bill, and that ought to be fightin’ words down here in Louisiana.

For a number of years, social reformer Susan B. Anthony adorned the dollar coin, but she was replaced by congress in 1997 with Sacagawea, an Indian guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There certainly are a number of praiseworthy women who well deserve to grace paper money. The list of proposed female names is long including Susan Anthony redux, Eleanor Roosevelt who redefined the role of First Lady, Rosa Parks, the first lady of civil rights, Rachel Carson, who spurred the modern American environmental movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called the “founding genius” of the women’s rights movement, the Bayou State’s own first Lady Lindy Boggs, a nine term congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican; the list goes on and on.

Now I’m personally a big supporter of equal rights and equal pay for women. Heck, I introduced the first legislation to adopt the equal rights amendment to the constitution back in the early 1970s when I served as a Louisiana State Senator. So I’m all for a women on our paper money. But please don’t mess with Andrew Jackson. The seventh president of the United States was as important to Louisiana as any political leader in the state’s history.

Jackson was the son of Scottish colonists (like me), and was the only president to fight in two wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He was a Tennessee Senator and Judge, before becoming a national hero leading the American victory at the battle of New Orleans in the winter of 1814. The British waged an all out attack n the Crescent City in an effort to gain controlling sea access to the Mississippi River. Control of the river meant control of commerce, and ultimate victory, as the South found out during the Civil War. Continue Reading…….

Jim Brown: Medical Marijuana Opens Up a Can of Worms in Louisiana!

Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Medical Marijuana Opens Up a Can of Worms in Louisiana!

Who would have thought that the most notable legislation in the recently completed session of the Louisiana legislature was increasing taxes by over one billion dollars, and legalizing marijuana use for certain purposes. Some observers around the state capitol wondered sarcastically just where did all the conservative republicans go?

Cannabis, the technical name for the marijuana plant, is now legal for medical use under directives yet to be developed. But the devil is in the details. Three different state boards have to develop rules and regulations for dispensation. Who can receive marijuana for medical purposes? Is simply a doctor’s prescription all that is needed? Use is supposed to be limited to a few categories. But who is going to regulate and monitor what prescriptions are written?

Then who is actually going to cultivate the marijuana? The LSU School of Agriculture has the right of first refusal to grow the weed. But if they opt out, who gets a license to raise and farm the plant? If you thought there was political influence in giving out riverboat licenses, imagine the wheeling and dealing that will take place over licenses to grow pot.

All this regulatory bureaucracy is the easy stuff. What really will concern businesses are the legal ramifications. Can employees use medical marijuana in the workplace? What if such use impacts a worker’s ability to function in the job. Can the supervisor fire the employee? Can the employee be demoted for not be able to perform some of the required tasks? What business would want their worker to drive or operate machinery while smoking marijuana? Continue Reading………

Jim Brown: All Lives Should Matter

June 12th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The rallying cry by protesters that has gained momentum after Ferguson and Baltimore is that “Black Lives Matter.” Within the context of all society, that’s a truism. But like so many other older citizens, I volunteered to join the military (something few protesters or politicians do any more) because, liked most Americans, I felt that all lives matter.

But let’s call it like it is in real life. Some black lives do not matter. Pick up a large city daily newspaper, turn to page 9 or 10, and you read too often that a young black man was shot and killed by another young black man. The killing gets scant attention and becomes merely a statistic.

When major demonstrations take place as was seen in Ferguson, Long Island and South Carolina, protesters are too often selective about just who they are demonstrating against. Do black lives really matter to them that much, or is the protest more an effort to scores points against the police?

A case in point is what happened last week in Lafayette, Louisiana. Robert Minjarez had been arrested last year for“making a disturbance” outside a Texaco gas station. He was unarmed when the police came to investigate. Video surveillance cameras at the gas station and dash cam film from several police cars on the scene tell the story of just what happened.

Minjarez had no weapon and had his arms in the air when approached by police with canines in tow. Four officers wrestled him to the ground. ; His voice is heard on the video saying: “I didn’t do nothing to nobody, why are ya’ll doing this to me?” Minjarez continues to scream as the officers struggle with him. “You’re going to kill me, you’re going to kill me!” he exclaimed. “I can’t breathe.” “You’ve got 265 pounds on your back,” one of the officers tells him. “You’re not going anywhere.” Three more times, you can hear Minharez scream that he can’t breathe. Continue Reading……………

Jim Brown: Walker Percy’s Impact on Louisiana

June 4th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Many readers who love Louisiana literature will gather this weekend in St. Francisville to celebrate the live and works of novelist Walker Percy. He was, to me, a literary icon who spent most of his life in Louisiana. Many consider him to be America’s most significant Catholic writer. And he was passionate about Louisiana. So passionate that he took the time to give me some good advise about what he considered to be the insidious politics in the Bayou State.

I first heard about Dr. Percy (he was a psychiatrist by training) back in 1961 when I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina. I was writing a weekly column for the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. Percy was a Carolina graduate, and had also written regular columns for the Tar Heel back in the late 1930s. His first novel, The Moviegoer, had just won the National Book award, and there was a lot of buzz about him in Chapel Hill.

One of the amusing stories that circulated around the English Department at Carolina was about Percy taking his freshman English placement test. He had just read Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” and wrote his entire essay in one long paragraph without punctuation. He was promptly placed into a class for slow learners and was told that he needed a lot of help to pass English composition.

The Moviegoer was set in New Orleans, a place I had never visited. Percy’s descriptions of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, and the streets of the Crescent City were enchanting to me, and one of the reasons I decided to attend Tulane Law School. One of my courses in constitutional law was taught by Professor Billups Percy, Dr. Percy’s brother. His uncle, Will Percy, had written an important history titled “Lanterns on the Levee,” a memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood, where he describes life in the Mississippi Delta. The introduction was written by Walker Percy. Continue Reading……..

Jim Brown: Same old, same old in Louisiana Governor’s Race!

May 28th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Fifty years ago this month, rock band The Who released their megahit rock opera called “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The song ended with the lyrics: “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss.” From the early debates in the approaching Louisiana governor’s race, voters are hearing few fresh ideas as how to get the Bayou State out of its fiscal and quality of life disarray that has continued for years.

Those monitoring the previous debates, including members of the press, rarely ask specific, tough questions. All the candidates running are cookie cutter in their scripted responses. Pro, guns, pro life, let’s have a study on fiscal issues, everything is on the table, we will review, will work with the legislature. We’ve heard these same habitual retorts for decades. Isn’t it time to get specific?

How about a gubernatorial candidate who will step up and embrace an unambiguous Contract with Louisiana? An explicit and detailed set of guarantees, put in writing, that offers votes an agenda for Louisiana renewal? Not a list of worn out platitudes that pits one interest group against the other, but a management document that addresses head on why the state is laggard in so many policies and basic services. And back off the right vs. left gibberish. It’s time to talk about the future vs. the past.

Forget about Bobby Jindal. He’s a has-been who ran state government on a day-to-day basis, with no concern about future consequences. Sure, he is leaving the state in financial disarray. But it time for a gubernatorial wannabe to spell out benchmarks to be met on a yearly basis. So what are these targets? Continue Reading………

Jim Brown: Can an Independent Shake up Louisiana Governor’s Race?

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


This fall’s Louisiana governor’s race has settled down into a four-man contest. U.S. Senator David Vitter is far out front, and conventional wisdom points to a republican-democratic runoff between Vitter and Rep. John Bell Edwards from Amite. But is the current field of candidates set in stone? Is there still room for another major candidate-an Independent?

Senator Vitter’s lead is hefty and he has racked a large war chest of campaign cash. But as BayouBuzz publisher Steve Sabludowsky wrote last week, Louisiana voters have “a long history of punishing frontrunners and promoting also-rans.” So is there another candidate out there; a third party candidate who can swoop in at this late date and make a formidable run for the Governor’s Mansion? I’m talking about that John Wayne Dude.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the Crescent City was in chaos and on the verge of anarchy with little sense of law and order. I was there daily and saw it first hand. The calming force that entered the city leading the Army’s 82nd Airborne division and the 1st Cavalry was a native Louisianan, General Russell Honore.’ He was widely credited as being the “Rudy Giuliani of the Gulf Coast” and bringing restraint and stability to the bedlam that had been taking place.

Since retiring from the Army, the General headed up a national consulting firm for disaster response, and has written several books, including nationally acclaimed “Leadership is the New Normal.” He moved back to his home in Point Coupee Parish, and has become a leading environmental voice in the state.

Gen. Honere’ is telling friends and associates that he is seriously considering a race for governor, and is confident, with his national connections, he can raise the necessary funding. And he won’t be caught without an answer in political debates. During the Katrina recovery, his comments included; “This is a Disaster. This isn’t something somebody can control. We ain’t stuck on stupid.” And my favorite: “I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a reporter.” Continue Reading……

Jim Brown: What Should Louisiana’s Next Governor Do First!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana


Louisiana’s next governor will take office in less than eight months, and will jump into the abyss of a state with massive fiscal problems, an educational system that is dysfunctional, a healthcare system that needs a major overhauling, a highway system that has been neglected for years…get the picture?

So where to begin? Maybe he (there is no she running, at least for now) ought to take a deep breath, clear his head, and curl up with several books. What you say? The Bayou State is going to hell in a hand basket, and the best you can come up with is to begin a reading list? OK. Just calm down a bit and read on.

A responsible new governor (has this been a past oxymoron?) needs to first address the biggest single failure by the state’s leadership at many levels, and that’s the fiasco of not having a well thought-out master plan. The brushfires will continue to burn, so a short period of “getting a handle” on what to do in the long run will be critical for actually finding some workable solutions, rather than just plunging financial holes year after year.

First on the reading list is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. A New York Times best seller for years, Gladwell talks about how one can “catch up” when they are far behind in any given area. If a state lags in educational attainment and needs to make a huge leap, as does Louisiana, it’s not just important to adopt what other progressive states are doing. Louisiana is at the back of the pack in many areas, so there has to be a quantum leap forward. The Bayou State is to far behind the curve to merely try to catch up. Continue Reading…………

Jim Brown: Has LSU Dug Its Own Hole?

April 30th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Chicken Little has got nothing on King Alexander. The LSU president is shouting from the rooftops that the state financial commitment is crumbling to the ground, the LSU fiscal sky is falling, and he is about to declare “academic bankruptcy.” Academic bankruptcy? I’ve been around and a part of Louisiana state government for some 44 years, and I’ve never heard of the phrase. You can’t even Google it and find any other example.

The LSU boss stirred up a real hornet’s nest of opposition with a number of voices, including many legislators, responding that Alexander was shooting from the hip and way overreacting. LSU quickly backtracked and put out a statement saying they were merely preparing for possible “financial exigency.” I haven’t heard of this one either, but the Prez is hoppin’ mad and want’s more money from the legislature for the state’s flagship campus.

Now in fairness to Alexander, he does have reason to gripe. The Louisiana legislature has marched in lockstep with Governor Bobby Jindal’s efforts to strip higher education to the bones year after year. The question is, just were has the educational establishment been al this time as funds were continually reduced? The answer is simply that those who live off the higher education spout didn’t want to rock the boat and draw attention to the number of enormous salaries that are being paid, many for non-academic work. Over two hundred higher education employees take in more than $200 thousand a year.

Presidents of even smaller Louisiana colleges average $350,000 a year. LSU lists 13 Directors of Academic Affairs, each making over $200,000. It can be lucrative if you can make it into the academic bureaucracy, so unless your job is at risk, there is little upside to “taking one” for the Higher Ed team. Continue Reading…..