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Opinion

Newsletter: The moon? That’s so 50 years ago

Apollo 11
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969.
(NASA)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is July 20, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

The moon? Been there, done that — precisely 50 years ago today, in fact.

Perhaps such a flippant expression as that perfectly sums up both the immensity of America’s seminal scientific achievement and just how inconsequential the whole Apollo era was. For more than a decade, this nation marshaled its unmatched technical prowess and work ethic to achieve the singular goal of landing Americans on the moon, and after three years of successful missions to Earth’s closest celestial body, we were done with it. In the race to claim a major victory for democracy over communism, American taxpayers poured billions into a Soviet-style space effort only to, in the end, do the quintessentially capitalist thing: cut our losses and move on.

That’s the cynical view, and in the era of President Trump, who can really blame me or anyone for taking it? For something more wistful (and arguably more appropriate), read the L.A. Times Editorial Board’s piece looking back at humanity’s first moon voyages, looking ahead at which nations may make the next trips, and reminding everyone to take a little pride in one important fact: It was us — our astronauts, our scientists, our government — who went to the moon.

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Celebrating Apollo 11 is a lot harder with Trump dividing us. If you think Trump poisons just about everything today, then these reader letters are for you: One compares President Kennedy’s challenge to us in the 1960s to make the daring lunar journey with President Trump’s appeals to racism today, and opens with, “What a difference half a century makes.” L.A. Times

Race baiting is all Trump’s got for 2020, because he sure doesn’t have many policy victories on which to run. He hopes to ride white anxiety to a second term, writes Rich Benjamin. Also on the topic of the president’s racist tweets against four women of color in Congress, the editorial board calls Trump “truly America’s Bigot-in-Chief” and says in a separate piece that passing a resolution condemning his comments is the least Congress can do. Jon Healey says Trump’s racist tweets feel “calculated, not caffeinated.” Calculated as Trump’s tweets may have been, the racist and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed in them has started to make its way into policy, warns Michael McGough.

The Democratic “squad” might just save the country. America is in a dark place right now — so dark, writes Virginia Heffernan, that the high-minded, technocratic governance of the Obama era looks more like complicity than collegiality. So why, then, when an impeachment resolution was introduced in the House, did the Democrats join the Republicans in swiftly voting it down on the grounds that it was too impolite to Trump? L.A. Times

A sad lesson on worker exploitation from California: Laws meant to provide farmworkers with basic protections don’t mean much if the state doesn’t enforce them. As New York state prepares to grant the right to unionize, earn overtime wages and take days off to farm laborers, it should heed the cautionary tale from California, where the board meant to oversee enforcement of the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 hasn’t held a public meeting since January. New York Times

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It was a freak accident, not part of a trend. Plastic straws may be an environmental menace, but at least they won’t kill you — or so much of the coverage over a terrible death involving a metal straw would have you believe, writes Mariel Garza: “People have died from accidents involving underwear, toilets, toothpicks, feminine hygiene products and, in one particularly gruesome incident, cold molasses. Even a disposable plastic straw can do serious damage. Just ask the biologists who extracted a straw that was lodged in the nostril of a sea turtle.” L.A. Times

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com


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