Congress is going “new law” crazy. In the nation’s capitol, hundreds of proposed new laws are being introduced every month, creating numerous different regulations and crimes.  And Louisiana congressional members are joining right in this push for more federal intrusion into what was previously the purview of the states.

Anyone who actually takes the time to read the U.S. Constitution will see that there are only three crimes specifically enumerated as federal offenses:  treason, piracy and counterfeiting.  So why has Congress undertaken an overzealous expansion of criminal laws?

Today, there are more than 5,000 federal crimes listed in the U.S. Code.  It used to be that Congress would create one particular crime by passing a new law.  But in recent years, multiple crimes are listed within the same statute.  One new law enacted right after 9/11 contained 60 new crimes.  Was that really necessary?

Our representatives in Washington now want to delve into any number of local crimes, flaunting the intention of our country’s founders.  Drugs, robbery, car theft, the list goes on and on.  What happened to the 14th amendment and states’ rights?

Many of the federal crimes on this expanded list are bewildering and seem to be punitive and arbitrary.  Harvard law professor William Stuntz puts it this way: “We are coming even closer to living in a country where laws on the books makes everybody a felon, and prosecutors get to decide what the law is and who has violated it.”

Did you know that it is a federal crime to deal in the interstate transport of unlicensed dentures?  For this you get one year in jail.

Another law says you can go to jail for six months if you pretend to be a member of the 4-H club?

And you can get six months for degrading the character of Woodsy Owl, or his associated slogan: “Give a hoot — Don’t pollute.” I’m not making this up.

You will love this one. It’s a federal crime to disrupt a rodeo.  Now in Louisiana, we yield to no one in our desire for orderly rodeos. But getting taken into federal custody for excessive heckling?  Give me a break!

In this day and age, the average citizen can get hauled off to jail for trivial things that no sane person would regard as a crime — as many of these laws make little, if any, sense. As you can see from these examples, it’s not a liberal or conservative thing.  There’s a new collaboration in Washington — an unholy alliance between anti-big-business liberals, and tough-on-crime conservatives.  They all seem to be trying to show that they’re serious prognosticators cracking down on the social problem of the month, whether it be corporate scandals or steroid use.

Our members of Congress go to Washington today and seem to get intoxicated with the power that comes with the job.  It’s similar to the effect of Tolkien’s ring.  Decent and intelligent people get the ring of power and it changes them. They can’t put it down. They can’t let it go. The more laws you pass, the better you look back home.  And when there’s crime involved, you come across as a tough guy, right?

Congress today doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the violation of a regulation and a crime.  There are a number of actions that are illegal, but not criminal.  Further, a crime does not necessarily have to be a federal crime.  Have we reached the point where people in Louisiana and throughout the country have come to accept that any federal agency with power is somehow a police power?  Both conservatives and liberals ought to be worried about the expansion of federal criminal law if we value our liberty, which our Founders specifically understood to mean leaving general police powers at the local level.

In 400 B.C., the Greek orator Isocrates stated: “Where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed.”  Tacitus wrote in the 1st century A.D. of Rome:  “Formerly we suffered from crimes.  Now we suffer from laws.”

A little more common sense in Washington would go a long way in allowing Congress to deal better with problems of national concern.  Leave the parochial to the states.  And for goodness sake, let us get a little rowdy at our rodeos.

 

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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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network.

 

Published in News & Information

President Trump has just returned from a whirlwind trip to the Middle East. And he has vowed to keep a continuing and aggressive U.S. presence where American soldiers are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, and other states ringing America’s Middle Eastern battlefields. But is Trump, like his predecessors, becoming engulfed into conflicts that never end?

 

One of the joys in my college years was to study English literature at Cambridge University in the early 1960s. Nobel prize author and poet Rudyard Kipling was an early favorite. He did not bog down the reader with dense symbolism and complexity. He was easy to understand.  Born in India, Kipling was tagged as the “Poet of the British Empire.” It just might be a good idea for Republicans and Democrats, who fall over themselves espousing America’s continuing role in the Middle East, to take a breather and read a little Kipling.

 

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat.”

Kipling expressed his concerns of imperialism in his book, “The Man Who Would Be King,” which was made into one of my favorite movies. In it, Sean Connery loses his head attempting to bring his western values to a remote mountain vastness called Kafiristan. Michael Caine is left alive to crawl back to civilization and bring the message to the West — “Quit trying to convert and save us” in the Middle East.

America has commanded a major presence throughout the Middle East for the past 60 years for one major reason. No, a singular reason -- oil. It was in our economic interest to remake the Muslim world by the B and B method. Bribing and Bombing. In the 1980s, U.S. interests were served by pouring money and weapons into Afghanistan in support of Islamic radicals who were trying to expel the Russians. Then our one time allies turned on us, the initial seeds of al-Qaeda were sown, and America has been in a quagmire ever since.

In the last decade, we plunged into Iraq, where there was initially only a minor al-Qaeda presence. But the quixotic U.S. invasion poured gasoline onto the anti U.S. fire, causing the death of some 6700 American soldiers, leaving a country in shambles, with not one barrel of oil confiscated in this wasted effort. Then it was on to Afghanistan, and again, for no apparent reason.  (But al-Qaeda is lurking!)  Osama bin Laden is dead but his effort to bog down the U.S. in endless Middle East wars is right on target.

Drone attacks are used to get rid of the bad guys. And yes, we need to get rid of the bad guys. But as children’s book author Dr. Paul Craig Roberts points out in a recent Trends Journal article:

“Washington’s assaults on seven countries have blown up weddings, funerals, kids’ soccer games, farm houses, hospitals, aid workers, schools, people walking along the streets, village elders, but the Muslims don’t mind! They understand that the well-meaning Americans, who love them and are committed to their human rights, are bringing them democracy and women’s rights. The million or more dead, maimed, and displaced Muslims are a low price to be paid for liberation by Washington.”

Do you catch his sarcasm? The Middle East has been in turmoil for over 2000 years. And just about everyone has attempted to control this part of the world over the course of history. The Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans…the list goes on — none with any degree of long-term success.

From all this turmoil, there are lessons to be learned, especially for America and the new Trump Administration.  First, make a massive effort to become independent of Middle Eastern oil. Second, read more Kipling. In his novel, “The Naulahka”, Kipling writes:

“And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,

“And the epitaph drear: ‘A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'”

 

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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network.

Published in News & Information

I woke up earlier this week, followed my normal routine of walking the dogs, picking up the morning papers, pouring my large glass of orange juice half filled with water to dilute the sugar, checked my emails, walked out on the patio to glance over the news … and then it dawned on me – I’ve turned 77.

 

Seventy-seven?  How did that happen? Not too long ago, I would have said that 77 is really old.  And to many, I suppose it is. I don’t think I look 77. Oh, I do look in the mirror from time to time, and see reflections of my father. I remember him well in his 70s. He had suffered his first heart attack by then, and though he did not look real old, still, he had aged a good bit. I look away from the mirror, and he is a vision of a much younger man. But when I look back, there he is.

 

How do I feel?  My doctor, whose first name is “Bubba” (you check out closely a doctor named “Bubba”) says I look a heck of a lot better on the outside than I do on the inside. I have my share of aches and pains. A knee and a hip that was replaced, some recurring arthritis, too much hay fever and a sore back. But hey, I had all that 20 years ago. So I guess I’m doin’ OK.

 

I still listen to 50s music on the radio and remember well, dancing in high school to Jerry Lee Lewis — Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.  In the 60s, I was a Ferriday lawyer representing the likes of Jerry Lee and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart. Three daughters and country living dominated the 70s, and politics took over my life in the 80s and 90s. The Feds were an irritant in the early new century, but I survived and have branched out in a number of new directions. Our visit each week through this column and on the radio is one more reflection of living life to the fullest. And the icing on the cake? Six grandchildren in the past decade!

 

I’ve tried to flush out an occasional creative vibe. Painting with a granddaughter, who, at eleven years old, is much better than me. Refreshing my banjo skills. Would you believe that in my twenties, I helped pay my way through law school by strumin’ the banjo at Your Father’s Mustache on Bourbon Street in New Orleans? Even a stint as an actor in the Three Penny Opera and The Fantasticks at several local theatres in the French Quarter. It took a while, but I finally figured out that I shouldn’t worry about being all that skilled at many things. It was better to delight in the pursuit, and find clarity by enjoying the undertaking itself, regardless of my limited talent.

 

Yes, seventy-seven is a milestone. But I won’t consider myself old — just a bit older. Ninety is probably old, but I have many years of lively living before I have to consider that next line in the sand.  In the meantime, I will continue to be the happy go lucky, meddling, opinionated, bullheaded, talkaholic, health conscious, lovable (from my perspective) fellow that I have always been. I won’t hesitate to give plenty of advice to my children. They may be middle aged, but they are still my kids, and even though they think they don’t need my advice, I know they really do.

 

So why make a big deal of being 77? I mean, it’s just a number isn’t it?  Like a bunch of other numbers in your life. Dates, addresses, sums, amounts, and then, in the mix, is age.  But maybe it’s more than that. I can make a case that it could be an important milestone. My seventy-seven years, by any measures, have been full and hard living, with ups and downs too numerous to mention. If there is a yin and a yang, the before and the after, what has happened, and what is yet to be, then maybe seventy-seven is a special waypost for me. Hey, I could be at the top and ready for the long and relaxing ride back down.

 

As for the rest of all you youngsters below the age of seventy-seven, I have just this one thought. It’s nice

to be on this side of troubled waters.

 

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 http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, "Common Sense," each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.   

 

 

Published in News & Information
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