Donald Trump COVID-19


Immigration: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. America is ageing rapidly but some states are literally running out of aged care workers, forcing harsh choices on offspring (probably doesn’t help when the wage for carers is a pittance though?).

It’s well known that large corporations love immigration, because it enables them to force down wages. The US meat and agri-food industries have long made an art form of this, and rely heavily on workers they can exploit — usually Hispanic workers, many of them illegal immigrants (our horticultural companies do similar).

Do “bobos” and “sedentism” explain the gilets jaunes? A celebrated analysis of how the globalised elites of metropolitan France left the white working class behind fails to convince.

Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protest
Gilets Jaunes protest (Image: Flickr/Olivier Ortelpa)


China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is a collection of poor projects and brand names masquerading as something coherent. But for a somewhat different perspective: One Belt, One Road is destroying the world.

WeWork, an office accommodation company masquerading as a tech company, is a financial disaster that has continued the current trend of vast loss-making start-ups attracting strong investor support. In fact, it takes to the extreme some common characteristics of overpriced start-ups (hmmm, Tech Wreck, anyone?).

And Amazon decided to counter bad publicity about conditions in its fulfilment centres with some Twitter ambassadors. It was… awkward, as Bellingcat uncovered. Meanwhile — no, self-driving trucks will not cause massive lay-offs.


In “People Actually Buy This Garbage?” news, the idiot-dolls-for-alleged-adults market is worth $700 million (gratuitous side comment: sure, mid-life dating can be difficult, but if your date has a roomful of dolls, get out).

It’s marvellous what they can do these days: a new smart oven turns itself on without being asked in the middle of the night (let’s hope you don’t have an internet-connected smoke detector).

What Could Go Wrong part 922,459: Mercedes is tracking the exact whereabouts of all its vehicles and handing the information to debt collectors and repo men. A former internet troll reflects on how he and others created a culture that facilitates mass murder. Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide (or… was it?????!!!) will make it harder to wean Americans off conspiracy theories.


A detailed new report shows how bleak life is for many Australians with a disability. While the Morrison government is taking us into yet another misbegotten Middle East venture, American sanctions are killing Iranians (and: a user’s guide to how the Western media applies the most extraordinary double standards to Iran). Speaking of the US, even former ICE prosecutors are now struggling to navigate the “black box” of asylum policy under Trump. Plus, how the trade war is hurting US farmers.

Elsewhere, Colin Marshall tries to make sense of the trade squabble between Japan and South Korea… and how much Koreans hate Japan. And China’s determination to lead the renewable energy and clean tech revolution means it is moving much faster than expected to cap its greenhouse emissions — and taking advantage of US denialism.

Finally, the winner of this week’s Clumsy Metaphor award: new species of leech discovered near Washington DC.


We should stop assessing historical plagues through the lens of modern disaster movies, historians say (boy, Past & Present has really livened up since I haunted the Fisher Library stack).

Mel Campbell reflects on her childhood writing (I dunno about being so positive about it — as a child I was permanently enraged by my ability to write anything other than crass, derivative garbage [“so what’s changed?!” readers chorus as one]).

Godfather, please accept this gift of a history of the colour and fruit orange. And two new books, on Richard Potter and Sarah Bernhardt, explore “the drama of celebrity” and its evolution prior to the 20th century.

Richard Potter


People who stick “-cene” on the end of things to distinguish their comment piece by encompassing geological-style ages. In particular, those who ostentatiously abandon the neologism “anthropocene” as not hot takey enough in favour of a -cene of their own devising. Leave the scene immediately, EO Wilson via Robert D. Newman (“eremocene” — catchy, no?) and James Lovelock (“novacene”).


Mandy Ord on pill taking.