Opinion | Human Weakness Is Responsible for This Poisonous Air – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

“Among the few remaining advantages that Americans can claim over other countries is the relative cleanliness of our air. Air pollution is a leading risk factor for early death; it is linked to an estimated four million premature fatalities around the world annually. But over the last 50 years, since Congress passed environmental legislation in 1970, air quality in the United States has steadily improved. Today, America’s air is significantly cleaner than in much of the rest of the world, including in many of our wealthy, industrialized peers.

Well, not literally today, considering I needed an N95 mask to walk to the mailbox this morning. Over the last few years, for weeks and sometimes months in late summer and fall, my home state, California, and other parts of the American West erupt in hellish blaze, and plumes of smoke turn the heavens visibly toxic.

In some of the country’s most populous cities in the last few weeks, the concentration of dangerous particulates in the air shot up to levels worse than the averages in the most polluted cities in China, India and Pakistan. Ash generated by some of the largest wildfires in California’s and Oregon’s history fell across the region like snow. The sky burned Martian orange — a hue so alien that smartphones struggled to faithfully photograph it.

I have been searching for some glint of optimism during an otherwise bleak time. While choking through a walk this past weekend (I had to leave the house), I came up with this: Maybe such disasters will finally force us to recognize the steep costs of incompetent, neglectful, uncaring government.”

Opinion | I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

“”As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens.)

You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.

Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.

As the roads became freer of cars, they grew full of possibility. Rollerblading and skateboarding have come back into fashion. Sales of bicycles and electric bikes have skyrocketed.

But there is a catch: Cities are beginning to cautiously open back up again, and people are wondering how they’re going to get in to work. Many are worried about the spread of the virus on public transit. Are cars our only option? How will we find space for all of them?

In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever?

Not if we choose another path.

Rather than stumble back into car dependency, cities can begin to undo their worst mistakegiving up so much of their land to the automobile.”

Opinion | I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens).

You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.

Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.

As the roads became freer of cars, they grew full of possibility. Rollerblading and skateboarding have come back into fashion. Sales of bicycles and electric bikes have skyrocketed.”

Opinion | The Leaders Who Passed the Coronavirus Test – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Pool photo by Rich Pedroncelli

“In February and early March, America’s political and business leaders began to face a crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions. Many failed the test.

As the coronavirus crisis emerged, the president dithered and downplayed, promising a magical end to a problem he did not appear to understand. The mayor of New York reveled in unscientific happy talk, assuring his citizens that life would remain normal. And many in the pundit class, including yours truly, got the earliest calls disastrously wrong.

This is the story we know — a story of institutional failure, of chaos and incoordination, a tragedy that has seemed to unmake the most powerful country in the world.

Yet failure is not the entire account of America’s response to the coronavirus. Because while politicians in Washington, D.C., fumbled the federal role, Washington State was closing restaurants and bars. While New York City slow-walked, the San Francisco Bay Area, and then the rest of California, was ordering its residents to “shelter in place.” And as the Republican president offered meaningless bromides, two Republican governors, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Larry Hogan of Maryland, were among those leading the nation’s first statewide school closures.

Opinion | It’s Time to Make Your Own Face Mask – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

“It shouldn’t have come to this, but here we are. The world is running out of face masks for health care workers, which is one reason American officials, including the surgeon general, have warned members of the public against buying their own masks for protection against the coronavirus.

But that doesn’t mean face masks for the public are a bad idea, if we had enough masks. Contrary to what American officials told us, many studies show that widespread mask-wearing might be a very effective complement to hand-washing, social-distancing and other measures to mitigate the pandemic. Health officials in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan suggest that people wear masks in certain situations — if they’re symptomatic, for instance, or if they’re in crowded, not-very-well-ventilated places, like airplanes. Studies have also shown that mask-wearing (in conjunction with hand-washing) reduces the spread of infection within households or other shared living spaces, like residence halls.

But how to get your hands on a mask, when there are no masks? The internet has a plan: Make your own.”

Opinion | How the World’s Richest Country Ran Out of a 75-Cent Face Mask – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist


Credit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times

“Why is the United States running out of face masks for medical workers? How does the world’s wealthiest country find itself in such a tragic and avoidable mess? And how long will it take to get enough protective gear, if that’s even possible now?

I’ve spent the last few days digging into these questions, because the shortages of protective gear, particularly face masks, has struck me as one of the more disturbing absurdities in America’s response to this pandemic.

Yes, it would have been nice to have had early, widespread testing for the coronavirus, the strategy South Korea used to contain its outbreak. It would be amazing if we can avoid running out of ventilators and hospital space, the catastrophe that has befallen parts of Italy. But neither matters much — in fact, no significant intervention is possible — if health care workers cannot even come into contact with coronavirus patients without getting sick themselves.

That’s where cheap, disposable face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns come in. That we failed to procure enough safety gear for medical workers — not to mention for sick people and for the public, as some health experts might have recommended if masks were not in such low supply — seems astoundingly negligent.”

Opinion | It’s the End of California as We Know It – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Jose Carlos Fajardo/San Jose Mercury News, via Associated Press

“I have lived nearly all my life in California, and my love for this place and its people runs deep and true. There have been many times in the past few years when I’ve called myself a California nationalist: Sure, America seemed to be going crazy, but at least I lived in the Golden State, where things were still pretty chill.

But lately my affinity for my home state has soured. Maybe it’s the smoke and the blackouts, but a very un-Californian nihilism has been creeping into my thinking. I’m starting to suspect we’re over. It’s the end of California as we know it. I don’t feel fine.

It isn’t just the fires — although, my God, the fires. Is this what life in America’s most populous, most prosperous state is going to be like from now on? Every year, hundreds of thousands evacuating, millions losing power, hundreds losing property and lives? Last year, the air near where I live in Northern California — within driving distance of some of the largest and most powerful and advanced corporations in the history of the world — was more hazardous than the air in Beijing and New Delhi. There’s a good chance that will happen again this month, and that it will keep happening every year from now on. Is this really the best America can do?”

Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.”

David Lindsay:  Great writing Farhad Manjoo. Where was Joe Biden, on Obama’s biggest mistake while in office?

Opinion | Netflix Is Shrinking the World – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

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Image
Credit   Max Guther

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 22, 2019,  56 c

For months after the 2016 election, I wanted nothing more than to escape America. I don’t mean literally — in the cliché liberal way of absconding to Canada — but intellectually, socially, psychically. Donald Trump was all anybody talked about, and I needed sanctuary. I wanted to find places where the American president-elect and his American opponents and their American controversies simply did not exist.

I found such a place in a British reality baking contest. By which I mean I found it on Netflix, which has become the internet’s most invaluable and intoxicating portal to the parts of planet Earth that aren’t America.

On Sunday, Netflix will compete for its first Best Picture Oscar for “Roma,” the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s exploration of his childhood in Mexico City. A win by “Roma” would be a fitting testament to Netflix’s ambitions. Virtually alone among tech and media companies, Netflix intends to ride a new kind of open-border digital cosmopolitanism to the bank.

For me, it was nice British people politely baking against one another that offered one of the first hints of Netflix’s unusual strategy. “The Great British Baking Show,” for those not in the cult, is an amateur baking contest, and it is one of the least American things you will ever see on TV. It depicts a utopia: a multicultural land of friendly blokes and mums with old-timey jobs — Imelda is a “countryside recreation officer” — blessed with enough welfare-state-enabled free time to attain expertise in British confectionary. To an American, the show suggests a time and place where our own worries have no meaning. And that, more than baking, is what “The Great British Baking Show” is really about.

The show was first produced and aired on British broadcast television (as “The Great British Bake-Off”) and imported to the United States by PBS, which then licensed it to Netflix. But Netflix, which has 139 million paying members around the world, has lately become something more than a licenser of other countries’ escapist television.

In 2016, the company expanded to 190 countries, and last year, for the first time, a majority of its subscribers and most of its revenue came from outside the United States. To serve this audience, Netflix now commissions and licenses hundreds of shows meant to echo life in every one of its markets and, in some cases, to blend languages and sensibilities across its markets (see Marie Kondo’s half-in-Japanese tidying-up blockbuster).

via Opinion | Netflix Is Shrinking the World – The New York Times

Opinion | Abolish Billionaires – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 6, 2019, 558
People protesting against the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
Credit
Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last fall, Tom Scocca, editor of the essential blog Hmm Daily, wrote a tiny, searing post that has been rattling around my head ever since.

“Some ideas about how to make the world better require careful, nuanced thinking about how best to balance competing interests,” he began. “Others don’t: Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires. All of them.”

Mr. Scocca — a longtime writer at Gawker until that site was muffled by a billionaire — offered a straightforward argument for kneecapping the wealthiest among us. A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.

At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power, it silences dissent, it serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good. For Mr. Scocca, that level is self-evidently somewhere around one billion dollars; beyond that, you’re irredeemable.”