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Editor can't fix problem unless acknowledging it

Last week, in a futile gesture, the New Orleans Times-Picayune (or, or whatever Advance Digital calls the outlet now) suffered a defensive wound regarding the publication’s ideological leanings.

Its editor Mark Lorando had written a column inviting reader comment about the newspaper’s performance. He followed it up with one addressing the comment, by far, most commonly made: that the paper has a liberal bias. Predictably, the headline read “Yes, we have an agenda. But it's not a liberal one.

It’s always humorous to see newspapers try to deny the elephant in the room for most of them. A few actually have some balance, and a few others such as the New York Times admit they come off, if not actually, having a liberal bias to them. But the vast majority like Lorando insist over and over that they don’t – even when it’s painfully obvious that they do.


Bradberry letter adds to troubling report questions

If belatedly, the biggest scalded dog of them all, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Johnny Bradberry, wrote a letter to the editor regarding my Jan. 29 column in the Baton Rouge Advocate that noted apparently politicized decision-making in constructing scenarios for the agency’s draft 2017 Coastal Master Plan. Rather than refute the column, it only raises more troubling questions about the quality of the decision-making process.

Bradberry’s letter largely stayed away from the inadequate argumentation, as already noted, made by previous letter writers defending the change in scenarios regarding sea level rise (SLR). In 2012, the team responsible for calculating SLR came up with essentially the 2017 range (31 to 198 cm), yet the CPRA postulated scenarios (100, 150, and 200 cm) where the highest SLR level of 2012 (100 cm) became the lowest of 2017 and the highest of 2017 doubled the highest of 2012. The science (as unreliable as SLR calculations are historically) had not changed, yet the CPRA chose dramatically higher SLR assumptions, which would indicate politics interceded to explain the change.

Instead, Bradberry’s effort started off with a straw man, incorrectly claiming the column said that “increased sea-level rise predictions for Louisiana’s coast are somehow motivated by election of Gov. John Bel Edwards and not by science.” He either needs to work on his reading comprehension or take off his partisan blinders: the column only stated that the Edwards Administration brought an ethos more supportive of big government that would lend itself to a more alarmist view on significant anthropogenic climate change and that Edwards had appointed the majority of members to the CPRA (among them Bradberry). It never stated that SLR forecasts used did not have a basis in science, as unreliable as those have been.


LA religious leaders opine unwisely on order

Religious leaders face a central challenge in converting articles of faith to everyday practice in politics. Unfortunately, some of these individuals in Louisiana recently flunked that test in evaluating travel restrictions ordered by Pres. Donald Trump.

The executive order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year; imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – “countries of concern” identified by the former Pres. Barack Obama Administration as threats to attempt to export terrorism to the U.S.; and puts an indefinite hold on admitting Syrian refugees to the United States until the Trump Administration confirms that refugee admission procedures do not threaten U.S. security. It applies no religious test and allows significant exceptions for individuals from religious sects undergoing persecution and for individuals who entry would serve the national interest.

In substance, even as in details some significant differences exist, policy promulgated by the order differs little from Obama Administration policy until two years ago. Before 2015, almost no Syrian refugees came into the U.S. annually, large numbers of refugees did not attempt to come to the U.S. after spending extended periods in countries with jihadist conflict zones, and the number of refugees admitted per year was around the 50,000 level. In 2016, enhanced vetting began regarding the seven countries.


Critics fail to exonerate report from politicization

Stuck pigs squeal, scalded dogs yelp, or insert another folksy phrase to describe the reaction to my Jan. 29 column in the Baton Rouge Advocate, with arguments made from the unconvincing to the incomprehensible.

The column took issue with the validity and reliability of the science behind some estimates used of sea level rise (SLR), which actually served as ancillary to the larger point – despite very similar forecasts in the 2012 and 2017 versions of its Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority accepted drastically higher levels of SLR in the report’s formulation. The piece briefly noted problems in some of the studies used to assume those levels that would occur by 2100. Notably, it pointed out that the panel’s composition has changed dramatically in the interim, with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards appointing a majority of its members.

This piqued the interest of the lead author, outgoing head of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Donald Boesch, of one of the studies used. In a letter to the editor, he agreed that the 198 cm SLR maximum in the report was “unlikely, at least during this century, based on my appraisal of the latest science,” although opining that lower estimates on which the report based conclusions seemed serious enough.