Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on post-election priorities for Louisiana:
If politics is often seen as less about principle than about deception — what Benjamin Disraeli immortalized in the 19th century as lies, damned lies and statistics — the aftermath of any election requires a stern reality check.
Nowhere more so than in Louisiana. At no time more than in 2020.
One of those statistics: Over four weeks, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported in October, the moving average of continued unemployment claims was more than 158,000.
The good news is that statistic is down from more than 180,000 but it is still drastically above the same weeks in 2019. What it tells us is that there remains a tremendous level of economic and social pain from the main event of 2020, which was not at the ballot box but at hospitals.
In any post-election reality check, the need for action by the U.S. Congress on a pandemic relief bill has to be a top item on the list.
Still, reality for Louisiana is not limited to that current-events question, which will answer whether many people can afford to keep current on their bills as the holiday season approaches.
Our long-term needs are often recited in these pages. Our coastline is threatened by rising sea levels combined with subsidence in the soil. Our educational outcomes are not competitive with most states of the Union, much less foreign countries competing for good jobs. Our infrastructure woes are not unique, but we’re almost alone among the states in refusing to raise more revenues for basic repair of roads and bridges.
If there is good news in that list, it is that the people of Louisiana are aware and awake to the need for change. For us, though, the changes that will make a difference cannot be fully addressed by any act of Congress or decision of any president.
We have to grasp our own future beyond any single election cycle. But if that is as true, or more so, in 2020 than other years, we also face another reality that is, once again, not much different from that of many other communities: racial disparities.
In this year of protests, much of the attention has been focused on Black Lives Matter and disparities in treatment of minority citizens by law enforcement. That is too often a reality, here as elsewhere.
But in a larger sense, that discussion underlines another reality-check item on our list: unity instead of division. In Louisiana, as in other states, we need a renewed sense of national unity after such a divisive and contentious presidential contest. For the Bayou State specifically, we need to advance in many arenas — police protection just being one — to provide the circumstances for minorities to not only live safely but lead more prosperous lives.
In that advancement, which must be achieved across all the lines of division in our society, our economic and social future will be determined.
The Advocate on saving an endangered woodpecker species in Louisiana:
Hurricane Laura displaced thousands of Louisianans when it whipped its Category 4 winds across Lake Charles and nearby communities. The storm also displaced the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
The bird was gradually recovering as a species when 17,000 acres of longleaf pine trees were destroyed. There might be even more destruction, and we won’t know for sure until the spring, according to a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Industry experts say the Aug. 27 hurricane knocked down or destroyed at least 915 trees in which the woodpeckers use cavities to establish homes 20 to 30 feet up in hollowed-out burrows in which father and mother birds live with hatched offspring. Many of these trees were in southern Vernon Parish and on to the outskirts of Alexandria. More woodpecker homes were destroyed in the 85,500-acre Vernon Unit of Kisatchie National Forest, where most of the birds lived near the Fort Polk Army Base.
The damage was so heavy that biologists found it hard to find enough trees in which they could create cavities for new homes.
The 8-inch bird garnered a great deal of human support after a number of other hurricanes in our state and problems elsewhere in the nation. This latest problem came a short time before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed loosening conservation status under the Endangered Species Act. If that happens, the woodpecker’s status would change from endangered to threatened. Since there were about 1,500 to 3,500 of these woodpecker clusters when the birds were nearly extinct and listed as endangered, there are arguments that having 7,800 clusters today should be enough. Unfortunately, there might be even more of these birds without the frequent devastation of hurricanes.
Some landowners, forestry groups and military base officials are happy to see a sign that things are improving. Bird enthusiasts, preservation groups and environmentalists, however, argue that current efforts haven’t met goals established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before a species’ status is changed in the regulations.
The goal of conservation isn’t to continue to have endangered species. The intent is to save species from being endangered to thriving. In this case, that requires deliberate efforts to increase woodpecker numbers so they can be a beautiful, vibrant part of our nature community. How many clusters and birds are enough can be debated and discussed. The Fish and Wildlife Service will take public comment through Dec. 7. We urge interested citizens to weigh in.
American Press on Louisiana native and new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett:
Congratulations to native-born Louisianian Amy Coney Barrett on her elevation to the highest court in the nation, the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Barrett was nominated to the high court Sept. 26 by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate on Oct. 26. She was initially sworn in as the 103rd Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Justice Clarence Thomas that same evening, and given the judicial oath by Chief Justice John Roberts the following day.
She was confirmed on a 52-48 vote by the Senate, with both Louisiana senators, John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, enthusiastically voting for her confirmation.
Justice Barrett has deep roots in Louisiana. She was born Jan. 28, 1972, to Michael and Linda Barrett in New Orleans. Barrett is the oldest of seven children, with five sisters and one brother. Her father was an attorney for Shell Oil and her mother a French teacher and homemaker.
Of Irish and French ancestry, her Irish ancestors on her mother’s side came from Ballyconnell, County Cavan, Ireland. She also had great-great-grandparents who came to Louisiana from France.
Raised in a devoutly Catholic family, her father has been an ordained deacon since 1982. She was raised in Metairie and educated at St. Mary’s Dominican High School, an all-girls Roman Catholic high school where she was the vice president of the student body.
Justice Barret also attended Rhodes College and majored in English literature with a minor in French. Barrett graduated magna cum laude in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa. Among her honors was being named the outstanding English department graduate.
The future Supreme Court justice was then admitted to the Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., on a full-tuition scholarship. There, she became an executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review and graduated first in her class in 1997 with a Juris Doctorate degree summa cum laude.
Following her graduation, she served as a clerk for Judge Lawrence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C., Circuit, and then for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court from 1998 to 1999.
Justice Barrett went on to an outstanding career in the legal profession in private practice and then teaching at George Washington University Law School and then at her alma mater, Notre Dame Law School beginning in 2002. She was nominated by President Trump to the Seventh District, U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017, and confirmed by the Senate.
In her personal life, she married fellow Notre Dam Law School graduate Jesse M. Barrett. The couple lived in South Bend, Ind., and has seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti. She is reported to be the first mother with school age children to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Justice Barrett is a devout Catholic active in her church.
Congratulations again to this Louisiana native who is certainly one of the most qualified members of the Supreme Court.