While the media was obsessing over the Dick Cheney shooting incident, a
Republican congressional committee delivered a devastating 500-page report into
hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. The report is critical of every level of
government but is most critical of the federal government, from Bush down, for
its “appallingly inept response,” says Michael Gawenda in The Age. In light of the way Bush handled the Cheney
shooting, this conclusion in the report stands out: that Bush “seemed not to
have been briefed about what was happening as New Orleans
was drowned by flood waters.”

It seems that our unhealthy obsession with celebrity and our culture of
instantaneous Polaroid fame – a culture that stumbles over itself in a
rush to herald in the next big thing – is impinging on a sector of
the arts that should perhaps be insulated from this type of influence, says Alexandra Jackson on Spiked. The novel has not yet followed the pop song into reality TV cringe-arena but we are “starting to see a rise in
the celebrity author, with Zadie Smith gracing the pages of OK and Vogue,
and a press that is thrilled to announce an 18-year-old as a shining
new hope for British literature.” So is there any real problem with hyping up young authors into great
writers, before they have got through even the most basic of reading
lists themselves? Well, we run the risk of turning them into one-hit
wonders, for a start.

The
idea of the rich corporate villain gleefully dirtying Mother Earth is powerful
and appealing, writes Katherine Mangu-Ward in Reason. “Children of the 1980s encountered this supervillain in comics,
movies, public awareness videos, and science textbooks.” But
in the late 90s, something peculiar started happening. “The men in suits were
still middle-aged, round, and white. They were still just as concerned with
profit and golf. Very few of them sported tie-dyed attire, aside from the
occasional whimsical Jerry Garcia tie. But the men in suits started caring. Or
at least acting like they cared. Which, if you ask a spotted owl, is the same
thing.”


There is a sharp disconnect in China between the new
generation of ambitious, well-educated people and the “party’s
ham-fisted methods of maintaining control,” says The Wall Street Journal. And the Communist Party will find it increasingly harder
to control the many channels through which China’s middle class
interacts with free nations. Whether it’s through business, or access
to even limited international news via the internet, the Chinese people
are “starting to understand that they’re not enjoying all of the fruits
of their labor.”

You can sometimes see “a whole nation changing on a sporting
field,” says Tony Stephens in The Sydney Morning Herald. At the cricket, it
seems that multicultural Australia
has given way to “nationalistic Australia.”
Along with conjuring up the flag and the anthem much more in the last ten
years under Howard, spectators saw the nation change in the one-day finals against Sri
Lanka, when sections of the crowd repeatedly
shouted verbal abuse at Muttiah Muralitharan. No one blames the Prime Minister
but such behaviour wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. It “reveals a mean
streak in Australian society.”

To
many public officials, the “key to building a great city in the 21st
century lies in cultivating the arts and entertainment venues that
appeal to a so-called creative class,” says Joel Kotkin in The Australian.
Build the cool downtown lofts, the arts palaces and other such
“cultural ephemera” and the benefits will follow. But this approach
stops cities from focusing on the fundamentals – “basic
infrastructure, education, broad-based economic development, good parks
and efficient sanitation” – that are actually critical to their
long-term survival. Economic reality matters more than artistic
pretence. And the greatest asset of Australian cities lies in ” the
promise of the Australian dream of a single family house and a
backyard.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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