The Climate train, Saudi Arabia’s license to kill, and double Pitts

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Bill Sargent / Flickr world war trump eyes wide shut...
Bill Sargent / Flickr

You have issues. I’m not talking about the way you deal with your family or that thing about letting the peas touch your mashed potatoes. Issues. Like health care. Like tax policy. Those things.

We all have issues, but I have to tell you that if climate change isn’t one of your issues … you have the wrong issues. I wish that wasn’t true. I really wish that supporting efforts to halt climate change was something where reasonable people could hold completely disagree—like my enthusiasm for all things space-related. Or that it was just important, like say, protecting cultural artifacts from destruction. That’s important. Everyone should support it. But it doesn’t have to be your thing, the thing that’s Really Damn Important to your life.

But dealing with climate change isn’t optional, and it’s not a thing that you can let somebody, somewhere really care about. It should be super critical. Very, very important. Second to know the issue. For you. I realize that’s a hard sell. There are things in your life that are real problems every day. Things that affect how you live, how you work, how you deal with family and friends. Real threats. Real difficulties. Real challenges. There’s a reason why, in poll after poll, when it comes to the issues that people rate most highly, “the environment” is somewhere down there after the infield fly rule and why Brachs stopped making dark chocolate stars.

Except for moments like watching a hurricane plow through some city—some city where you, thank God, do not live—you never see “the environment.” And even when you do, there are plenty of certified experts ready to tell you that this particular disaster doesn’t have anything to do with climate change. Sure, it’s out there. But it’s way, way too hypothetical to rate with Your Issues.

But here’s the thing. You’re living your life on a train. All your issues … they’re on that train. So are your friends, your family, that kid who bullied you in middle school, your noisy neighbor, the nice guy at the donut stand, Donald Trump, and the guy who draws Sugar Bear on those cereal boxes. That train is headed for a very, very hard wall. Very, very fast.

Over the last few months, there have been a series of reports on climate change from a number of agencies, not least of them the UN. All of those reports have the same surface message: If we don’t take radical action, things are going to be bad. And they have the same underlying message: Gosh, we are really scared. Because the kind of bad we’re talking about is the kind where millions of people on the move, political instability, and economic disaster are the good outcome.

If we don’t start standing on the brakes hard, the train is going to hit that wall. And we can’t wait until everything else is dealt with to get to it because … wall. We can’t at all. Did I mention the wall? Yeah, unlike Donald Trump’s wall, this one is going to stop the train. Dead. And now I’m going to let Leonard Pitts talk to you about it because he’s really good. But remember, you are on that train. And that wall is out there.  If you’re not helping with the brakes … you’ve got issues. The other kind.

Okay, come on in. Yes, there are pundits.

Climate Change

Leonard Pitts on about just what I said he was going to talk about … and hey, what do you mean you stopped reading my screed halfway through?

What if the end of the world came and nobody noticed?

It’s not quite an idle question.

You see, something remarkable happened last week. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists working under the aegis of the United Nations, issued a report on our planet’s health. Turns out it’s worse than we thought. Barring prompt — and politically unlikely — measures to drastically cut carbon output within the next decade, they say we’ll begin to see worsening droughts, wildfires, coral reef decimation, coastal flooding, food shortages and poverty beginning as soon as 2040.

You can expect mass evacuations from the most heavily impacted areas. As one of the report’s authors, Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, told The New York Times, “In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant. You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and 1 million people, but not 10 million.”

Read. It.

David Lodge on the unbreakable link between climate change and inequality.

Research has already connected wealth inequality and the rising costs of natural disasters. We’ve seen how Houston’s Hurricane Harvey and New Orleans’s Hurricane Katrina struck the economically disadvantaged harder than anyone else. Now I’ve seen those effects up close.

The children and grandchildren of North Carolina’s newly homeless are more likely to struggle financially and have less hope of achieving the American dream than they had before the storm. Just ask all the people still living in temporary housing in Puerto Rico more than a year after Hurricane Maria.

My wife and I had the chance to carefully consider sea-level rise and other aspects of climate change while selecting our property. But many of our neighbors did not have that luxury. I’m more aware now than ever before that I am a “have.” And I can put faces on those who bore the brunt of the consequences of policy divorced from science.

Elizabeth Bruenig on facing that wall, and fighting back despair.

As Hurricane Michael leaves behind a wake of death, injury and destruction in the Southeast, the fact of climate change feels particularly tangible. Those who live near the coasts can see their futures in every splintered palm and blasted shoreline, and in the blue tarps fixed over torn roofs by the Army Corps of Engineers. But even those living safely inland and those who have the means to move to higher ground as floodwaters rise won’t be able to escape the political turmoil that will arise as space and resources become more and more scarce.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that the United States could play a major role in creating a sustainable future, many American politicians remain glibly indifferent to the threat of climate change. In a very pragmatic sense, therefore, and in a moral one, people seem to be the problem.

And eventually, Bruening gets to a gut-twisting question.

Why have children at all, when the future seems so dire? Even if one assumes that having a child won’t contribute to the problem — that our progeny will take seriously the creeping catastrophe their parents didn’t — it still seems likely that today’s youths will be faced with a world vastly and unpredictably altered.

It is not too late. This train has brakes. But the time when they can be effectively used is getting short.

Economy

Dana Milbank on how Trump lives by the Dow, dies by the Dow

After the Dow Jones industrials plunged 832 points on Wednesday, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, walked up the White House driveway and proclaimed that there was no cause for concern. Not about the stock market, or turmoil in China’s economy, or American casualties of Trump’s trade fights, or the president’s attempt to bully the Federal Reserve into an easy-money stance.

“Our economy and the people and the workers and entrepreneurs, they’re killing it. We’re the hottest in the world,” Kudlow proclaimed in front of the CNBC camera. “We’re crushing it right now, and I think that’s going to continue regardless of China.”

And then the Dow went down another 546 points. Because the stock market has fully digested the big fat meal of tax cut sugar Trump provided. Since those cuts went to a tiny fraction of the population they didn’t really generate any additional demand, and now all Trump is doing is tying up trade and tossing on tariffs in a system that’s been coasting down a money hill.

But Trump sure wants some credit for discovering gravity.

On Saturday, he told a crowd: “Your 401(k)s, you all look like a bunch of geniuses — thank you, Donald, very much.”

Jamal Khashoggi

Since the Saudi journalist was a columnist for the Washington Post, it’s not surprising that many of his colleagues were compelled to write about the missing Khashoggi.

David Ignatius on Khashoggi and how he came to be exile walking into a Saudi consulate.

Conversations with some of Khashoggi’s close friends, who shared texts they exchanged with him over the years, reveal a man whose greatest passion became journalism itself — which he expressed in a fearless, unblinking commitment to the cleansing power of the truth, regardless of the personal cost.

Khashoggi wondered often along this journey if he should back off, ease up and take fewer risks. But he kept speaking out, knowing the danger. His truth-telling got him fired from prominent editing jobs, rehired and then fired again. At the time of his disappearance, Arab journalism had become a cause he appeared willing to die for.

And unfortunately, with Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman being signaled that killing journalists is not something that the US finds objectionable. that danger was greatly increased.

Kathleen Parker on … someone else’s page, because after her support for Kavanaugh, she’s not on mine.

John Brennan on the man the US is now sadly supporting in Saudi Arabia, and the consequences.

Since the passing of King Abdullah in 2015 and the ascension of Mohammed’s father, King Salman, to the throne, the crown prince has been on a relentless march to consolidate political power. He has used his royal standing as the king’s favored son to outmaneuver, sideline and effectively neuter both royal and nonroyal obstacles in his path. Taking advantage of his father’s diminished mental acuity, Mohammed gained the king’s acquiescence to push his uncle, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, and his older and more senior cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, off the crown prince perch in short succession, grabbing for himself the role of day-to-day decision-maker in Riyadh.

His political consolidation campaign did not stop there. The well-publicized detention and shakedown of more than 100 princes, senior technocrats and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh that began in November 2017, under the guise of an anti-corruption crusade, was akin to a single pot calling dozens of kettles black. The move was intended to root out and intimidate potential opposition as well as to fill Mohammed’s royal purse with more than $100 billion in funds needed to pursue his domestic ambitions and regional adventures, including his disastrous military foray into Yemen.

Just before that “anti-corruption” campaign is when Jared Kushner supposedly supplied bin Salman with classified information, naming those he needed to round up for “cleaning.”

Fred Hiatt makes the question of supporting bin Salman a little more personal.

“Why do you work for a murderer?”

Increasingly, it seems that is a question many Americans should be preparing themselves to answer.

Each year, Saudi Arabia employs, through consultants or otherwise, a host of retired American generals, diplomats, intelligence experts and others. Until now, they could assure themselves this was a win-win: lucrative for them, to be sure, but also enhancing mutual understanding with an important U.S. ally.

Now, as more and more evidence implicates Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the reported murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Saudi diplomatic property in Istanbul, the equation has changed.

So how might, say, a retired Air Force colonel explain his work when his daughter asks, “Daddy, why do you work for a murderer?”

The most amazing thing that came out of the investigation into Paul Manafort, was the list of things that didn’t spur an investigation into Paul Manafort — like working repeatedly for murderous dictators and helping them suppress democracy. It’s not just that Manafort got away with it, it’s that no one seemed to think there was anything wrong with it. Just as they wave off any implication that working for bin Salman means supporting his murder of anyone who opposes him. Though it absolutely does.

Colbert King on Donald Trump’s pucker factor when dealing with the Saudis.

The most surprising aspect to the reaction to the possible abduction and killing of Saudi critic and Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey is the notion among some U.S. foreign policy elites that Saudi Arabia, prizing its longtime alliance with Washington, would never involve itself in such an atrocity. Not through my eyes.

The House of Saud, rulers of that desert kingdom, is not a government. It’s a gang that survives by bullying its neighbors and jerking around its so-called Western allies by weaponizing the vast oil reserves upon which it perches.

The family offers a face of religious piety. But Saudi Arabia is among the most bigoted, misogynistic human rights violators on the face of the Earth. Silencing critics is a Saudi art form.

What you can expect from a Democratically-controlled House

Adam Schiff provides a vision of a happier, more just, future.

Our democracy is broken, and President Trump is only one reason. Congress is the other. It has failed to serve as an equal branch of government, failed to play its essential role as a check and balance and, most glaringly, completely abdicated its oversight responsibilities.

It’s clear that we need a new majority that’s willing to hold this administration accountable.

In 1788, as the states considered ratification of the Constitution, James Madison acknowledged in Federalist 51 that those drawn to public service were not all angels, creating an inherent difficulty in establishing a government administered by imperfect beings: “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

For nearly 2½ centuries, that is the way it has worked, with Congress serving as a restraint upon the executive and vice versa, and the courts serving to constrain both. It is certainly true that Congresses sharing the same party as the president have seldom been as diligent as those that do not. But devotion to country and the rule of law — if not the legislature’s own prerogative — has always been enough to stiffen the spine of Congress.

Go ahead and read the rest of Schiff’s piece. Come back when you’re charged up and ready to go. Checks and balances. Checks and balances.

Space Stuff

Isaac Klausner on the need to dream big.

Most of the team behind the film “First Man” was born after the moon landing. We were born into a world where these were, and always had been, irrefutable facts. We were born with the luxury of taking the moon landing for granted.

What did it take to achieve something of this magnitude? This is what our director, Damien Chazelle, and the rest of us wanted to explore. We wanted to take audiences back to a time when success wasn’t a forgone conclusion and examine how Americans embraced the idea of strapping some of our boldest and brightest into tiny capsules on the top of missiles and launching them into the unknown. What did it feel like for the astronauts risking their lives, and for their families waiting at home? What did it cost them as individuals and us as a nation?

Why did we, despite stunning success and benefits that could be measured at the patent office, become so bored? Apollo shows that Trump may be right about one thing … Americans can get tired of winning. Even when they’re winning big.

The willingness to embrace risk and sacrifice on behalf of a national dream is one of the biggest ways our nation seems to have changed since the Apollo missions. Outside of the military, we rarely see this at all. There is no doubt that the moon missions were costly, both in terms of money and lives. But what we achieved fundamentally changed history.

David von Drehle on a message from space received on Earth.

Apollo 8 is having a moment. Fifty years after NASA launched the most audacious gamble in its history, this overshadowed milestone of human exploration is the subject of books by Jeffrey Kluger and Robert Kurson and an award-winning short documentary by filmmaker and musician Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.

Its timing could not be more perfect.

The story takes us back to 1968, a bitter and demoralizing nadir of the Vietnam War, an ordeal of assassinations, riots, discredited leaders and broken politics. Inside America’s space program, engineers were worried that President John F. Kennedy’s stirring promise to go to the moon before 1970 would be unredeemed — or worse, that it would be fulfilled by the Soviet Union. The colossal Saturn V rocket remained unproven, while a lunar landing craft faced an array of technological obstacles.

The broadcast from Apollo 8 gave me chills as a kid, and it still works today. I can still recall not just the words that the three astronauts read, but every pause and hitch and the inflection of their voices, as if they had just come through the speaker a moment ago.

But Von Drehle is jumping the gun. It’s another two months until the anniversary of Apollo 8. This week was the anniversary of Apollo 7, a critical mission that is all too often overlooked.  Check it out.

Nikki Haley

Richard Wolffe on how Haley missed her opportunity to be honest.

Nikki Haley wants you to know that she’s not quitting her awesome, once-in-a-lifetime job to spend more time with her family.

This is a rare thing among those permanently rising stars in the Republican party who just happen to announce their departures ahead of the expected train wreck of the midterm elections next month.

Paul Ryan, the outgoing House speaker, is leaving his awesome job because he honestly, truly wants to hang out with his own teenagers.

But Haley is different. “My family is very supportive,” the departing US ambassador to the UN said in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “So no, there’s no personal reasons. I think that it’s just very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside. And I have given everything I’ve got these last eight years. And I do think that sometimes it’s good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.”

The crop rotation theory of government is a fascinating one, but it’s usually cited by the person doing the firing rather than the person doing the quitting. On the Kavanaugh scale of unbelievably cheap lies, Haley’s selfless self-sacrifice is right down there with his claim that he vomited because of the spicy food.

Progressives vs. Regressives

Leonard Pitts on getting it through American heads that the majority is progressive.

Some bonus Leonard Pitts. There is no such thing as too much.

Here’s what gets me about progressives.

They never seem to realize that they are the majority. Yet on issue after issue, the polling consistently shows that they are.

Abortion? Sixty-four percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade.

Guns? Sixty-seven percent want stricter laws.

Taxes? Sixty-one percent say the rich need to pay more.

Healthcare? Fifty-six percent want government to ensure coverage to all Americans.

But it’s not just opinion polls. It’s also presidential polls. Republicans have won the popular vote only once since 1992.

So liberals could have the world they say they want — with sensible gun laws, immigration reform, universal healthcare, reproductive rights, healing of the planet — if they only had the wit, the will and the courage of their convictions.

Instead, we have a world of weekly mass shootings, children in cages, the Affordable Care Act barely escaping repeal, Roe v. Wade endangered and a dire new United Nations report forecasting planetary catastrophe. Also: Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court.

What to do about that? Well, the first thing you do is … read the rest of Leonard Pitts.

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Lone Wolf
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Lone Wolf

(Trump: Robert E. Lee comment was ‘actually a shoutout’ to Grant)

The liar is lying again to cover another of his lies, and to cover his inherent stupidity!