(Image: Unsplash/Matthew Henry)

BAD UNDERWEAR AND SIX CHIPS AT A TIME

Corporate “wellness” programs are a nice distillation of our rotten dystopia of surveillance, demonstrating the nanny state mentality — bought into by so many self-described progressives — that citizens have a duty to maximise their economic productivity, while handing corporations ever greater power over us.

This includes generating yet more personalised data to be used to sell us crap, while forming part of the ever-growing trend toward greater workplace surveillance. Oh, and they don’t work. Fortunately for those of us who rail against wowsers, we’ll always have fools like the professor who wants us to limit ourselves to six chips at a time

Plus, on the subject of the increasingly problematic economics of dressing women for the gaze of boring heterosexual men — who actually watches the Victoria’s Secret fashion show?

PROFESSOR AND THE INQUIRING MINDS

Are we, along with some of the great apes, the only animals with consciousness? It’s always been assumed so, but that makes working out how many animals interact with the world problematic.

With all the stars in the universe, why isn’t the night sky all white? Which leads to more complicated questions, like how much starlight has there ever been in the universe?

And, finally, your Zombie Apocalypse guide to the physics of panicked crowd movement (not covered: the physics of knocking over the person in front of you so the bad thing behind you gets them instead).

STAT OF THE WEEK

Don’t think the shift to service jobs is only a phenomenon of Western economies. This, via the World Bank, is the International Labour Organisation’s estimate of the proportion of males in service jobs. Evidently the level is very high in high-income economies, and the shift to service jobs been underway for much longer — but the shift in middle-income economies is rapid as well, and even occurring, off a low base, in low-income countries.

And the shift is more rapid for women in middle- and low-income economies, but off a lower base (more women continue to work in agriculture worldwide).

VEEP

George HW Bush was a competent president with the bad luck to come up against a recession, a right-wing splitter in Perot and a political genius in Bill Clinton — however, his handling of the fall of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany was superb. And never forget he also refused to apologise for the American slaughter of 290 people when a US warship — illegally in Iranian waters — shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988.

Another VP made good, Harry S Truman, who also had crucial decisions to make in Europe, is the subject of two new books exploring his career and the Marshall Plan, formulated in an era of bipartisanship that seems impossible to imagine now.

GENDER WARS

I suspect most people have forgotten about Roberta Perkins now, but if you grew up in Sydney in the 1970s and 1980s she was, for many of us, the first transgender activist we saw in the media. Perkins died in June this year; Cheyne Anderson remembers her in Overland. Nikki Gemmell discusses male hatred of women in Australia.

Roberta Perkins. (Image: Wikipedia)

And while the recent mid-terms have brought record numbers of Democratic women to Congress, in the GOP, white males continue to dominate and the proportion of women in its ranks is shrinking, along with female support. No wonder the Liberals are borrowing campaign tactics from them.

HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY

At ASPI, Mike Scrafton looks at the history of post-war defence planning and calls bullshit on the ballyhooed new naval base at Manus Island.

Why can’t the British government admit its role in the overthrow of Iran’s Mosaddegh government in 1953 and his replacement with the mass murderer Shah Pahlavi — a despicable act that continues to shape the Middle East to this day? 

And Rosie Williams explores Australia’s current anti-immigration sentiment through Australia’s longer-term history of migrant worker exploitation and the story of America’s declining longevity, via the vector of inequality.

GREAT HATCHET JOBS OF OUR TIME

Did you know that George HW Bush not merely killed JFK as a CIA agent but helped remove Nixon as part of a coup by Texas oilmen? And much else besides! At least according to once-respected journalist Russ Baker in his Family of Secrets. Tim Rutten at the LA Times did the honours in filleting Baker’s dross, which actually got published by Bloomsbury. Take it away, Tim.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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