Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Jan. 11

The Advocate on Robert Ricks Jr., a National Weather Service retiree:

It’s 2021, so let’s put aside the debate about the growing power of federal bureaucrats and salute a civil servant for a job well done.

Most folks probably never heard of Robert Ricks Jr., who spent 30 years crafting forecasts for the National Weather Service. He retired last month.

His most memorable forecast, his masterpiece, was issued at 10:11 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina was making its assault on New Orleans.

“Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks … perhaps longer,” was his most stark prediction.

But he also said that industrial buildings would become “nonfunctional,” the power grid would be destroyed, and “water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.”

New Orleanians were already fleeing the city in advance of the storm, but the starkness of Ricks’ message was hardly lost on those who were straggling or wavering.

The message was so vivid that the agency’s Washington office was receiving calls from media wondering whether the warning was a hoax.

“They were getting calls from the national press saying, ‘We think this is a hoax. We’ve never seen a product come out like this, with this kind of wording. You sure this is real,’” Ricks recalled.

Katrina loomed offshore as a Category 5 storm, but by landfall, it had diminished to a Category 3. It was the storm surge and the levee failures in New Orleans that made Rick’s nightmare prediction come true.

Ricks, a New Orleans native, was involved in other dramatic weather forecasts as well.

In 1995, he predicted 12-15 inches of rain would fall on southeast Louisiana on May 8, and then that it would happen again on May 9.

He was right then too, and Abita Springs recorded 25 inches of rain in what came to be known as the May 8 floods.

He also worked during the BP oil spill in 2010, advising whether weather conditions would be favorable for operations to stifle the underwater flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon site.

And he predicted the August 2016 floods that attacked greater Baton Rouge.

New Orleans-born author Michael Lewis, in his 2018 book “The Fifth Risk” and recently in an address to the Bureau of Governmental Research, suggested that the stability of the American democracy owes in part to competent and committed civil servants.

In 2020, we turned to our civil servants again, and they joined forces with medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in record time.

It’s easy to attack civil servants as power-hungry bureaucrats, and there have been troubling abuses or government authority.

But a well-run government can save lives, which is what Robert Ricks Jr. did on Aug. 28, 2005.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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Jan. 8

The Advocate on Louisiana senators and congressmen who voted to contest the presidential election results:

In tragic circumstances, it is time for Americans to come together.

John N. Kennedy doesn’t get it.

He set the tone for the defiant by voting in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot to overturn the will of the nation in the last election.

A vote of 93-6, in which our senator was one of the shameful six, should be remembered by every responsible voter if Kennedy seeks reelection in 2022.

And it is a measure of how partisan our times have become that Kennedy was not alone. Many members of the Louisiana delegation joined in at least one vote to attempt to overturn the November election.

The House members who did so — Steve Scalise of Jefferson, Mike Johnson of Benton, Clay Higgins of Lafayette, Garret Graves of Baton Rouge — also should answer to their constituents in 2022.

A howling mob desecrating the sacred symbols of American democracy wasn’t enough for them to come together?

The bogus nature of the objections to the election results should be obvious and responsible Republicans across the nation — including our own U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge — should be praised for rejecting them, even before the assault on the Capitol.

The leaders of both chambers, Mitch McConnell in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House, should be praised for carrying on the people’s business despite the riot.

But the many votes on the election challenges against the freely expressed will of the people, whether in Arizona or Pennsylvania or elsewhere, demonstrated a sickness in the Party of Lincoln, as corrupted by President Donald Trump.

The party of order embraced flimsy arguments for political reasons. That incited rioters as surely as did the president.

Many of the senators and congressmen who before the riot had embraced the challenges dropped away after chaos engulfed the Capitol. That our Louisiana folks did not do so as well is a testament not to their commitment to principle but to their political fear of Trump’s large majority here in November.

America’s friends in the world were dismayed by Wednesday’s chaos. But the vast majority of our elected representatives overruled the pettifogging legalisms of Kennedy and the others. Our democratic republic still stands.

Louisiana was named for French monarchs. Our French heritage is special to us.

That is why we are grateful for our friends around the world sticking by us, not least President Emmanuel Macron. His speech, with the Stars and Stripes as backdrop, was an eloquent statement of faith in America’s greatness.

“We believe in the strength of our democracies,” Macron closed, in English. “We believe in the strength of American democracy.”

As we say in Louisiana, merci, M. le Président.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/