FINNISHING OFF HOMELESSNESS
Australian policymakers seem to have accepted that homelessness is insoluble or, perhaps more accurately, one that no one cares enough about to solve. The last leader to commit to serious action was Kevin Rudd in 2008. Since then the focus has shifted to young people and low-income earners being locked out of the housing market rather than homelessness per se.
But the Finns have shown it is possible to make a serious dent on homelessness with a commitment of resources despite the major problems with trying to accurately measure the problem. Here, the “debate” seems to centre on demonising the homeless while our persistent underfunding of social housing (especially by the allegedly “progressive” Andrews government in Victoria) continues with little attention.
GREAT MOMENTS IN POLICYMAKING
This week’s Lando Award goes to the great state of Wisconsin: Side View linked to a podcast last year on how a small Wisconsin town was torn apart by a secret deal for a vast Foxconn factory that got less and less vast as more details emerged. Well, Foxconn just announced that, come to think of it, it was never building a “factory” as such…
How America’s National Football League shills for the military-industrial complex — and the staggering amount of money American taxpayers have forked out for it. No one wants to mention “retreat” in coastal communities facing inundation from rising sea levels. Worse, no one wants to pay for it either. In “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, Germany is drifting into protectionism with a shift to supporting “national champions”; the dirigiste ghost of De Gaulle must be delighted.
And anyway — Bretton Woods, the post-war liberal order, the foundations for 30 years of remarkable economic growth? Pffft — you’ve got it all wrong.
MEGA SHARK VERSUS SUPERNOVA
It’s well known that super-sized fauna like megasharks are a serious hazard, especially to civil aviation, but scientists may have discovered a new weapon in the fight against these monster-sized killer fish: exploding stars.
A new survey has used quasars to more accurately estimate the expansion of the universe and it appears dark energy — whatever that is — is growing more powerful (seems to me this brings the possibility of the Big Rip into play more). Computers are now learning chess like humans learn it rather than just out-calculating us (and why movies always stuff up chess matches).
A SERIES OF TUBES
Another triumph for social media and identity politics: how a particularly ignorant Twitter mob wrecked the career of a young female writer of colour. But at least you can not worry about letting your kids use devices: hard data shows no benefits to limiting screen use. What will mainstream media outlets do for clickbaity content for parents now!?
Conversely, there’s a link between social media use and perceptions of loneliness. And does anything really matter? Well, like how there are different forms of infinity, there are different forms of not mattering.
GREAT HATCHET JOBS OF OUR TIME
The author of the 2017 viral short story “Cat Person”, Kristen Roupenian, has a collection of new stories out — seven-figure advance, prestige TV adaptation, etc — but LRB‘s Lauren Oyler is underwhelmed. Very, very underwhelmed:
Designed for an audience easily distracted by shiny things, the front cover features the individual words in large, metallic lettering. The fatalism inside is similarly both obvious and refractive, sending the reader on a hunt for motivation or meaning only to have her end up right where she started: a story about selfish people messing with other people, for selfish reasons, or no reason at all.
Arch optimist Steven “things are getting better!” Pinker overplays the positivity in his new book, says an NYRB reviewer.
Rape jokes, the ideology of laughter and the architecture of mastery: an interview with Vanessa Place.
And amid many essays on whether disgraced artists can be separated from their art, this is one of the better ones.