Columnists

New Berth for Prezza

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Silently and majestically, the good ship John Prescott slipped effortlessly into a new safe haven over the summer recess.

This amazing manoeuvre provides Prezza with a new berth at Amicus, the union which just a few weeks back became the largest in the country through a merger with the much smaller GPMU print union. Not only has Amicus now got about 1.3 million members, it also has by far the largest concentration of union-sponsored MPs in the House of Commons. Prescott's move makes him the 120th member of the Amicus parliamentary group, and having the deputy prime minister wedged in among that lot will do no harm at all come the TUC and Labour Party conference season this autumn.

No More Private Parts

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Hardly anyone noticed, but a month back the consultation stage for the government's paper on identity cards closed. This is the first step towards their introduction.

If you want to see what you missed, a pdf of the document is downloadable from the Home Office's website. In its introduction David Blunkett informs us that 'the threat of global terrorism, the ease with which large numbers of people now travel around the world and the proliferation of identity fraud make secure identification more vital than ever'.

He also reiterates the government's plans to make it compulsory for every citizen of the UK to carry such a card.

A Pat on the Back

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A fond farewell from one of your favourite columnists.

Not that I've been keeping count, but it is 16 and a half years since this column started. By my rough calculation that means that this is the 182nd column I have written. It is also the last.

All good things must come to an end, and when you've been doing a column as long as that there is always the danger of staleness, lack of new ideas, or sort of repeating successful formulas while on autopilot. I hope I have avoided that, but feel the time has come to stop, so I have decided to hang up the word processor.

Oedipus Bush

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Thought Ronald Reagan was dead and buried? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Ronald Reagan was notoriously shrewd at diverting public opinion whenever his administration was imperilled. A famous example was his invasion of the tiny island of Grenada just 48 hours after a truck bomb destroyed the US Marine barracks at Beirut airport in 1983. An unprecedented defeat for US intervention in the Middle East was cunningly transmogrified into a cheap victory for counter-revolution in the western hemisphere.

Save the World

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Greenpeace has launched a very well designed website to coincide with The Day After Tomorrow's release.

With a similar URL to the real movie website, they mimic the official film style, while attempting to get a serious message across - climate change has already started. It has to be said though that the official film website doesn't simply promote the film, but also highlights some of the issues - though the fake news stories of a frozen California and snow on the Acropolis in Athens undermine the serious point being made.

Roll Out the Barrel

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Torture in Iraq echoes the brutal British record in Northern Ireland.

The events of the last few weeks in Iraq have been shameful, appalling and tragic, but are a complete vindication of the arguments put forward by those of us who thought the war could only lead to untold misery.

Ever since the crowds welcoming the 'forces of liberation' by tearing down statues quickly melted away (and they were always much smaller then the 'sexed up' pictures on the telly presented), it was clear that the occupiers were not being seen as liberators.

The View from Hubbert's Peak

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Diminishing oil supplies have epochal implications for the world economy.

Angry truckers celebrated this May Day by blocking freeways in Los Angeles and container terminals in Oakland and Stockton. With diesel fuel prices in California soaring to record levels in recent weeks, the earnings of independent container-haulers have dropped below the poverty line.

Are You Being Served?

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There's more to the role of NGOs than meets the eye.

Left wing activists raised one issue repeatedly with me when I spoke at a number of meetings in Pakistan a few months back: 'What can we do about the NGOs? How can we stop them continually damaging struggles?' The vehemence of the questioning would surprise many activists in the west. The plethora of non-governmental organisations that have sprung up in the last two decades are usually thought of here as campaigners who expose the misdeeds of corporations and governments. In Naomi Klein's No Logo they were presented as part of the 'swarm' that was going to paralyse corporate power.

PPP = Poxy Private Pension

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How the World Bank and your boss are conspiring to wreck your retirement.

Slumbering great hulk that it is, the TUC can sustain an extraordinary level of inertia for very long periods. But when it eventually does get off its arse it can still be quite an impressive sight. The last time leaders of the TUC made any serious attempt to call a national demonstration was in 1992, when there was an upsurge of anger throughout the land over Tory plans for a second wave of pit closures. The turnout on the demo was massive and helped force Michael Heseltine to impose a (temporary) moratorium on further closures.

Waves on the Web

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For the left, the media has always been a battleground - on the one hand multinational media empires directing the editorial content of newspapers, television and the radio, and on the other ordinary people, trade unionists, campaigners or activists, trying to get their point of view across.

The advent of the internet led many to believe that this would change. Certainly the web has allowed many more people to put their point of view across, inform and educate. Unfortunately things aren't that simple - the major news and comment pages on the internet are still those of big business or the normal major media players. So while we shouldn't have illusions that alternative news sources are going to change this unequal relationship, we should advocate and encourage their use.

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