- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Sept. 16

The Advertiser, Lafayette, Louisiana, on Gov. Bobby Jindal targeting GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump:

With his presidential campaign still a-sputter, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken a new tack in Iowa: Targeting Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Fair enough: Campaign front-runners should brace for barbs and, relegated to the “kid’s table” for Wednesday’s pre-debate Republican debate, Jindal needs to attract attention quickly.

Have Iowa voters noticed? Or have Jindal’s continuing criticisms of the New York developer merely evoked images of a poodle chasing a fire truck? Trump may not even see Jindal in his rearview mirror.



Jindal risks this unintended consequence: Our itinerant governor’s criticism of Trump may say more about the accuser than the accused. There are unflattering possibilities.

This week, Jindal’s campaign released video that showed, first, Donald Trump stumbling over some broad questions about the Bible and then Jindal mocking him for it. Interviewers asked Trump to name a favorite Bible verse - he could not or would not - and then asked him if he preferred the Old or New Testament. About equal, Trump responded. If knowledge of scripture is requisite for running the country - it is not - Trump might have been in dutch.

On his campaign video, Jindal explains: “It’s clear Donald Trump’s never read the Bible. The reason we know he’s never read the Bible: He’s not in the Bible.”

Now, Samson’s reference to the jawbone of an ass notwithstanding, focus instead on the affront of one mortal being accusing another about the depth of his spiritual intent. It’s not Jindal’s place to judge.

Does Trump read and embrace the Bible? That’s for Trump and God to know. Has Jindal read the Book - we don’t doubt he knows it, chapter and verse - yet missed a key point, which is that its author is omnipotent yet forgiving? Do voters need to know the answer to either question? No. The answers may be revealed by how the candidates live.

In truth, the U.S. has been led by fervent Christians and by indifferent ones with various degrees of success. As a young man, Abraham Lincoln attacked the Christian faith; as a mature man, he usually sent Mary Todd and the boys to Springfield’s First Presbyterian Church on Sundays and headed himself to his law office. As a president embroiled in a bitter civil war, he often turned to God and Scripture for guidance. So even the greatest leaders can take their own, circuitous paths of faith.

The 2016 presidential race should not rest on whether Trump reads the Bible or whether Jindal lives it. All people are flawed. The race should be decided by where candidates stand on many momentous issues of national and global importance. The governor should focus on those. An omnipotent, omniscient god does not need Jindal to whisper in his ear, or ours, about Trump’s faith.

Online:

https://www.theadvertiser.com

____

Sept. 11

The Courier (Houma) on spending money from the BP oil spill settlement on marsh projects:

Lafourche Parish is planning to use the $1.3 million it will get from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement to build a series of marsh-creation projects.

The parish has a multi-year plan (that) sets out how it will spend the oil spill money, and it has laid out a good guide for spending it on projects that will build marsh and thereby protect property and lives.

These projects will adopt several strategies, but the goal is the same: Build land along a coast that is in peril.

To that end, the parish is planning to move freshwater and sediment into area marshes, approaches that are endorsed by environmental experts as efficient ways to restore ground that has been lost to erosion.

The particular attraction of these projects is that they can be undertaken for relatively little money. The parish, for instance, is embarking on a handful of them with the BP money and hopes to build tens of thousands of acres of marsh.

That is a good return on the investment, and it allows individual areas to press ahead with restoration initiatives without waiting on the integrated, coast-wide approach that is truly needed.

The good these projects can do is not limited to the immediate areas where they are located.

The collective good of all these projects across the coast is a recovering coastline that eventually can begin to recover from the decades of neglect that have seen it suffer some of the most rapid land loss in the world.

Even better, each project that is built gives added protection from future storms and helps stem the tide of loss.

Mother Nature once provided us with natural protections from hurricanes, lesser storms and tidal actions.

Leveeing off our rivers, though, cut off our marshes and barrier islands from the freshwater and sediment the rivers once delivered in abundance every time they flooded.

Now, for us to recover some of the benefits of the freshwater and sediment, we have to do it with pipelines and diversions. The downside is that moving water and soil can be an arduous process that requires engineering and planning and substantial investment. The upside is that these projects are not nearly as expensive as larger restoration projects. That means they can be done as time and money allow.

The current projects are proof of that.

They aren’t huge projects, but they are the projects we can afford, and they will offer significant coastal restoration.

That, for now, is the best we can hope for from our public coastal projects.

Ideally, we would have the money available to allow the parish and the state to plan, design and build all the projects they have on the books. Short of that, we have to do what we can with what we have, and the parish is doing just that.

Online:

https://www.houmatoday.com

____

Sept. 14

The New Orleans Advocate on state district attorney office charging a “dismissal fee”:

We doubt that anyone is more aware of the problems with unreported crimes than district attorneys around the state.

Any barrier to reporting crime, particularly involving upfront payments, is problematic. But it’s also problematic to pay for the rising costs of the criminal justice system, as district attorneys also will tell you.

The two imperatives have collided in several parishes around the state, as district attorneys in St. John the Baptist, East Baton Rouge and Bossier have charged a “dismissal fee.” In St. John, for example, some women alleging domestic abuse subsequently want the charges dropped and pay a $100 fee for that service. Perhaps the abused wife wishes to make a new start with her husband or partner, as sometimes occurs.

What if, though, the cost of the fee becomes a discouragement for poor women to report abuse in the first place?

This is more than just a case of commercial businesses squeezing more money in the form of fees, like airlines charging for checked bags. This might well be counterproductive for the larger goal of deterring crime. Such a fee seems rare around the state but is still collected in at least the three parishes.

“It’s a really good way to drive up your homicide rate because somebody in immediate danger needs to call 911 and not think twice about it,” said Tulane University law professor Tania Tetlow, a former federal prosecutor who has led efforts to reform the way domestic violence complaints are handled in New Orleans.

Tetlow told The Advocate that victims of abuse often recant, not because their initial report was false but out of fear of further violence. If changing their story is what it takes to escape more violence, she said, they should be able to do so without penalty.

“We all pay a great deal of taxes for that privilege,” she said. “Particularly in domestic violence, it can be too dangerous to follow through on prosecution. Even if you risk your life by testifying against your abuser, usually at best, he’s going to get a misdemeanor conviction and come home seriously angry. So often, the best you can do is call for help to keep yourself safe and alive but back down before he comes home.”

The dismissal fees in East Baton Rouge Parish are long-standing, District Attorney Hillar Moore noted. He said fewer than half of the requests result in a dropped prosecution and then only after a lengthy review process that may include required counseling for the alleged perpetrator and a deeper background check.

Often the alleged perpetrator turns out to be the one paying the fee. The money goes to the DA’s general fund, Moore said, but it doesn’t pay for the time that his staff puts into the follow-up process.

For a conscientious district attorney, that follow-up in domestic abuse cases is an important way to avoid that victim turning up seriously injured or dead in the future.

There also has been a larger national debate about fines and court costs, rising to meet the costs of the criminal justice system over the years. But those fines and fees, however needed, can become a debt trap for poor defendants.

Louisiana officials have long been troubled by issues of financing criminal justice. A dismissal fee helps DAs’ office budgets but may well be contrary to the goals of the system it aids in funding.

Online:

https://www.theneworleansadvocate.com

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