“To cruise or not to cruise? To safari or stay put? To fly — perchance to hang glide or kite surf into some un-Instagrammed country. So goes the great moral dilemma now lurking in the travel and tourism industry, perhaps the beating heart of global consumerist extravagance. Now that our year-plus fast is close to over, shall we commence gorging once more?
In 2019, according to an industry trade group, the world spent about $9 trillion — nearly a tenth of global G.D.P. — on tourism. It was the 10th consecutive year of growth in travel, and expansion looked endless.”
Drought may be the sneakiest of natural disasters. Although human history teems with people engulfed by abrupt aridity — the Akkadians of four millenniums ago, the Maya in the ninth and 10th centuries A.D., the Great Plains farmers of the 1930s — even today drought is a poorly appreciated phenomenon. Unlike mighty storms or thundering eruptions, droughts slink into our lives invisibly, unannounced. It can be hard to know you’re in a drought until it’s too late to do much about it; then, when the rains come back, it can be just as difficult to believe the water will ever run out again, so why worry about the next dry spell? Donald Wilhite, a pioneering scholar of drought, calls it the Rodney Dangerfield of natural disasters. Drought has felled entire civilizations, but still it gets no respect.
“I was reading about Jeff Bezos’ new boat last week when I began to understand one of my greatest failures as a pundit. This might seem an outsize reaction to a bit of maritime news, but as Bloomberg reported, Bezos’ is no ordinary boat. It is, instead, a “superyacht” — a 417-foot, three-mast sailing vessel that could be one of the largest such yachts ever built, if not in length then perhaps in moral recklessness. In a boom time for billionaires, Bloomberg says, the market for these most elephantine of yachts is roaring.
There was one detail that sent me reeling: At a cost of more than $500 million, you’d think the Amazon founder’s yacht would be outfitted with every luxury. Nope — it lacks a helipad, which couldn’t be accommodated because of the boat’s enormous sails. Bezos’ partner, Lauren Sanchez, is a helicopter pilot, so how would she get on and off the big boat? For the world’s richest man the answer is obvious — another boat. The Bezos superyacht will be accompanied by a smaller yacht — maybe call it Lil Yachty — whose primary function is as a place to land and park the helicopter.
Hence my heartburn: Two years ago, I was part of a boomlet in lefty opinion circles calling for American society to reconsider our fondness for billionaires. To me it seemed self-evidently immoral for anyone to possess a billion American dollars in wealth. We could argue where exactly the line was, but a billion was indefensibly beyond it — it’s far more money than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes, and far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however quickly he can ship you toilet paper.
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Well Farhad, it sounds like your learning. There are excellent pieces of advice for helping you focus in the top comments. I’ll add to that list my favorite, after bring all dark contributions to light, which is to make the tax on capital gains the same as the tax on earned income. That it is treated lighter is an enourmous loop-hole for the wealthy. You can leave the capital gains lighter rate for people with incomes below 2,3 or $400,000. I’m not sure I can say where to draw this line. Few people realize that the tax rate under Dwight David Eisenhower reached up to 93% for the richest Americans. I do not understand yet if that was the sum of Federal, State and Local taxes, but I suspect that is what is meant. My guess is that 93% was special to the wealthy who worked in New York City.
DL: After more research, I was right about the 93% was three tiers, and probalby only on money over $200,000, which back then was worth 2.4 million.
“In America, nobody loves the bus. Lots of people ride the bus — we took about 4.6 billion trips by bus in 2019, more than by any other mode of public transportation. But at least 4.5 billion of them must have begun with a deep, dejected sigh of resignation.
Buses are hard to love. Bus systems across the country are chronically underfunded, leading to slow, inconvenient and unreliable service. In New York, America’s most transit-friendly city with by far the nation’s most-used bus system, terrible service regularly causes people to lose jobs, miss medical appointments and squander many hours, sometimes in rain or snow, just waiting.
People have said for years that the bus could be the next big thing in transportation. Now we can make that a reality. With the proper investment, city buses might be transformed into the sort of next-generation transportation service that technology companies and car companies have spent billions over the last decade trying to build — a cheap, accessible, comfortable, sustainable, reliable way to get around town.”
“A century ago, the civic leaders of Berkeley, Calif., pioneered what would become one of America’s most enduring systems of racial inequity — a soft apartheid of zoning.
In 1916, the city that is now a byword for progressivism became one of the first in the country to set aside large tracts of its land for single-family homes. Berkeley’s purpose was openly racist; as a real estate magazine of the era explained, excluding apartments and other densely populated residences was part of an effort to protect the wealthy white residents of Berkeley from an “invasion of Negroes and Asiatics.”
In the decades that followed, Berkeley’s restrictive zoning would be adopted by cities across California and the nation. Combined with other forms of discrimination in real estate — including “redlining,” which restricted access to loans for homes in nonwhite areas, another practice that shaped Berkeley’s growth — zoning limits cemented racism into America’s urban landscape.
Last week, Berkeley finally took a step in a new direction. The City Council adopted a measure that acknowledges the racist history of single-family zoning and begins a process to eliminate the restriction by 2022. It is a very baby step: Berkeley’s measure is mainly symbolic, putting off for the future the tough business of actually rezoning the city.” . . .