Displaying items by tag: Jim Brown Column

Saturday, 29 July 2017 21:57

What Happened to Long Vacations?

Does anyone take a real vacation anymore? In the good old days, school didn’t start until the Monday after Labor Day. Family destinations to the beach or the mountains were a regular and anticipated event. The last two weeks in August used to be a popular time for families to get away to the beach for a final summer fling. But not anymore. The American family vacation seems to be dying.

In days of old, I always joined in our family excursions that often lasted for two weeks. There was no electronic requiem involved. No cell phone rings, no iPhone buzzes, and no laptop beeps. It was Lake Michigan in my early years, Lake George, New York in my college days, and from my twenty’s on, it was annual summer vacations in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Back in the 60’s and 70s, there were no high-rise condos on the Gulf Coast, and no water parks. Just a few local seafood restaurants and a lot of single story beach houses with long porches facing the Gulf. There was no local phone service back then, and you had to bring your own drinking water. We brought our sheets and towels from home, because the well water was full of iron and made the wash gray and stiff. No TV and no air conditioning.

And you know what? The whole family thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we stayed. We talked to one another, went crabbing and fishing off the shoreline, read, took afternoon naps, and long evening walks looking for the new shells that washed up on the shore earlier that day. Maybe a trip into Pensacola once or twice for a movie. And when our two weeks were up, no one wanted to go home.

Expedia.com’s annual vacation survey found that only 14% of Americans get away for two weeks or more at one time. And now, school begins in the middle of August. Middle of August? Why? Aren’t air conditioning bills for schools much higher then? So what happened to the June 1st to August 1st summer schedule? No more school days were added. And kids have to cut their summer resort jobs short. Why the change?

Now today, if you can get away to the beach for a few days at all, you cram into one of the high rises that line the Gulf Coast beaches for miles on end. Since you stay in an air-conditioned condo, your body adapts, and it seems way too hot to go out to the beach. The kids head for the mall or the game room. Dad, and mom, if she works, carry their PEDs and cell phones wherever they go, and check into the office several times a day. Electronic devices and games surround the whole family.

But I have resolved to go back to the true vacation. As I start my trip, I look in the mirror and tell the face there that my name is Jim, and I’m a techno-addict. But on this journey, I’ve committed to unplug, and try to be more connected to myself rather than to my computer. No electronic communication tools this time. Just a few books (fiction — nothing heavy), some comfortable hiking boots, fresh fruit from highway stands along the way, a few bottles of wine from home, and my 20 year old banjo that I swear I’m going to learn to play well some day.

Getting away does not, in itself, guarantee relaxation. It takes several days just to unwind. But isn’t life too short not to appreciate every moment, and not to have the tune out time with family and friends? Maybe this longer special time has passed a lot of folks by. But I hope for my family and me, it never does.

******

“ Vacation: When you spend thousands of dollars to see what rain looks like in different parts of the world.”

                                                                  –Robert Orben

 

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.

 

Published in News & Information
Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:30

Who's the Real Jackass?

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved to read and study Louisiana History.  I’ve had the pleasure of teaching the history of the Bayou State at both Tulane University and LSU. And when it comes to examining the giant political figures that had a direct bearing on the stature and even the survival of Louisiana as an American state, two individuals stand head and shoulders above all others.

 

They each are former presidents. And without their vision and dramatic leadership, Louisiana might well not be an American state today. No one else could fill this role more than Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

 

Jefferson was the nation’s third president, and could well be the brightest intellect that ever graced our country's political scene. He was the author of America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, and he became the voice for the hopes and aspirations of a new America. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and he designed and built Monticello, one of the most stunning antebellum homes in the country.  And he was the driving force in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon in 1803.  Simply put, without Jefferson’s vision and tenacity in seeking the vast territory west of the Mississippi River, Louisiana would not be a state today.

 

Andrew Jackson was our country's seventh president, and was the only president to have been a prisoner of war, having been captured by the British at 17 while serving in the Revolutionary War. He later was Nicknamed “Old Hickory” for his legendary toughness on the battlefield.  During his presidential campaign in 1828, his opponents called him a jackass. Jackson was amused and used the image to win the presidency. He founded the Democratic Party and used the jackass as its symbol.

 

But what Andrew Jackson did for Louisiana was incredible. In the war of 1812, New Orleans was under siege by the British. Major General Andrew Jackson rushed to New Orleans and gathered a rag tag army made up of a motley group of local citizens, frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and even pirates.  And he was eager to fight the British, telling his wife: “I owe to Britain a debt of retaliatory vengeance, and should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt.”

 

Louisiana should regularly thank its lucky stars for Jackson’s tenacity to get his revenge.  He soundly beat the British at the Battle for New Orleans, became an American hero, and saved Louisiana from becoming a permanent British protectorate.

 

If ever there were any two individuals who should be regularly honored and commemorated in Louisiana history, there should be doubt the two should be Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. And for many years, the Louisiana Democratic Party did honor both American heroes by hosting an annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner as a yearly fundraiser. Democrats held similar events across the country.

 

But no more in Louisiana. Party officials have decide it is no longer “politically correct” to honor these two American icons. You see, they were slave owners. It made no difference that the first seven American presidents also owned slaves, as did most of the nation’s founding fathers. The democratic leadership apparently wants to judge these past heroes based on present-day values, and continue a warped effort to re-write Louisiana and American history.

 

The new dinner name is the “True Blue Gala.”  I suppose we will see a resolution at the dinner calling for the re-naming of Jefferson and Jackson parishes, Thomas Jefferson High School in Gretna, the town of Jackson, La., Jefferson Island in Iberia Parish; the list goes on and on.

 

The Louisiana Democratic Party is becoming more and more irrelevant in the Bayou State. And Jackson’s symbol for the Democrat Party would seem to have a different connotation today. The real jackasses are those ingrates who try to rewrite history and belittle past leaders who served and saved our nation, and particularly Louisiana. The party of Jefferson and Jackson deserve a lot better.

 

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.

Published in News & Information
Thursday, 22 June 2017 18:09

A Louisiana Kid and the Berlin Wall

Thirty-one years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan traveled to West Berlin, and at the Brandenburg Gate admonished: “Mr.Gorbachev take down that wall.” The Berlin Wall had been erected by the puppet soviet state of East Germany. Unless you are over sixty five or are a history buff, you may not understand the tensions that existed then had many observers feeling that we could be on the brink of war with the Soviet Union.

The wall was initially a 25-mile long barbed wire fence. In the months that followed, the “wire wall” became concrete with guards aloft who shot anyone trying to climb the wall, and make their way into West Berlin.  For the next 26 years, German citizens were not allowed to cross the wall. Americans could enter into East Berlin at “Checkpoint Charlie,” only if they could establish some business purpose for crossing the border.

At the time, I was a politically naïve graduate student at Cambridge University in England. I had the privilege of being a member of the U.S. Track Team competing in track meets throughout Europe. A meet promoter approached me to compete at a major competition in East Berlin. Since I had never been to East Germany, I figured if the promoter was willing to cover the expenses of a struggling student runner, why not go for it.

I would have to cross the Berlin Wall and compete at the Olympic stadium in East Berlin. America did not recognize East Germany as a legitimate country at the time. It was considered a Russian puppet state, and the U.S. maintained no diplomatic relations with the East Germans. Once I crossed to the other side of the wall, I would be on my own.

On the afternoon of the meet, I entered East Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie. It was an evening event, and I was scheduled to compete in the high hurdles against an East German who was world ranked. The East Germans had built up the competition as a grudge match between our two countries, and had made it a point of honor for their national pride.

The 100-meter dash was about to begin when my agent brought over an American who wanted to talk to me. He said he was with the U.S. Embassy in West Germany, and told me in the strongest of terms that it would be completely unacceptable for me to run the high-hurdles race that was soon to start. As a member of the American team, he argued, I was a representative of my government. Since America did not recognize East Germany, I would be giving tacit acknowledgment to a country that the United States regarded as illegitimate. He implied that by competing I could start an international incident, and if I had any patriotism, I would get my gear and head back across the border to West Berlin immediately.

What a dilemma for a twenty-one-year-old who was simply enjoying the opportunity to travel, and who had no real understanding of the international consequences supposedly at stake. I wanted to compete, but I certainly wasn’t going to go against the wishes of my country.

As the announcement was being made that I would not race, I headed for the locker rooms, located at the other end of the stadium, diagonally across the infield. Thousands of people in the stadium stood up and whistled loudly, which was their way of booing. I learned later that the announcer had told the crowd the American was afraid to compete against the East German. I was angry and disappointed, but I had enough common sense to change my clothes and get back across the border.

Many years later I would look back on this controversy as my first political act. I guess the possibility of starting an international incident qualifies as a baptism in politics.

Thirty-four years have gone by since the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and we no longer fear one super power. Instead, there are brush fires worldwide that have overwhelmed America’s resources. Let’s hope in the future, we will continue to argue about tearing down walls and not about destroying countries.

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
Thursday, 08 June 2017 22:21

Are We All Federal Criminals In Louisiana?

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.

 

--

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
Thursday, 11 May 2017 16:17

MONUMENTS, THE PRESIDENT AND THE CIVIL WAR!

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."  -- Abraham Lincoln 

 

As the battle over taking down Civil War monuments in New Orleans rages, President Trump has jumped into the debate by questioning why the conflict was even necessary. In a recent interview, Trump asked: Why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have worked out?

 

Could Lincoln have done more to stop the fighting? Was there a middle ground to buy time for ongoing discussions?  It was not like the South’s eventual leaders, from Jefferson Davis to Robert E. Lee, were from a foreign land.  Davis was a U.S. Senator, and Lincoln asked Lee to take over command of the entire U.S. Military.  They were colleagues in government. Couldn’t Lincoln have been more persuasive?

 

Imagine the public reaction today if either George Bush or Barack Obama stood by and let some six million Americans kill one another in battle. That’s the number of deaths based on today’s comparative population. There would be open revolt and an immediate cry for new leadership.  Did Lincoln fail the test then?  Oh, he did take action.  Lincoln suspended parts of the constitution including habeas corpus, arrested numerous political opponents, and shut down several hundred newspapers.

 

Was Lincoln obsessed with freeing the slaves?  Here are his words in a letter written to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley on August 22, 1862: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

So was it a total commitment to keep the union intact?  Not if you believe Lincoln’s words a few years before the Civil War began. “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable—a most sacred right— a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit.”

 

Professor David Goldfield has written a recent book called “America Aflame, How the Civil War Created a Nation.”  He’s a past guest on my syndicated radio show. Goldfield computes the total monetary cost of the war to around $6.7 billion in 1860s currency.  He asserts that if “the government had purchased the freedom of four million slaves and granted a 40 acre farm to each slave family, the total cost would have been $3.1 billion, leaving $3.6 billion for reparations to make up for a century of lost wages.  And not a single life would have been lost.”

 

What about the morality of a President declaring unbridled warfare on his own citizens? One can well argue that saving human lives would have been far more important than keeping the Union together. How can a President responsible for so much bloodshed be thought of as the greatest President in US history? I understand that Lincoln wanted to avoid the Civil War. However, was preserving the Union worth the cost of spilling so much blood on both ends of the battlefield?

 

Lincoln went on to lead the country in reconstruction and offered exemplary leadership as the nation healed its all too deep wounds.  Maybe it was because he was brand new at the job as the war began.  But it seems clear that when real leadership was called for in an effort to save hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens, Abraham Lincoln blinked.

 

The country is, after these 150 years, still reeling from this national tragedy. President Trump was right on in asking why the war was necessary in the first place.

 

  --

 

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.

Published in News & Information
Thursday, 04 May 2017 18:52

The Challenges and Charms of Getting Older

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