Opinion

The Recession Strikes Back

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Chris Harman wonders whatever happened to the US economy's 'new paradigm'.

Some people lose valued possessions. Some people lose their memories. But it is not often that people lose an economic crisis. Yet this is what happened to many mainstream economic commentators a few months ago. Now they have found it again, and some are absolutely terrified.

Travelling Lite

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Holidays promise imagined places but only give us the familiar.

The postcards have started arriving--and it's incredible how similar they look to the covers of holiday brochures. The single palm bending slightly over a coconut or two, the still lake with snow peaks standing out against a blue, almost cloudless sky. Or there are the views of cathedrals, monuments and museums--the Amsterdam Van Gogh, the Louvre, the Bilbao Guggenheim. The bizarre thing is how close these views are to what we see on the endless holiday programmes where bronzed TV newsreaders take a holiday in the Bahamas and try very hard to look as though it's hard work.

The Great Firewall of China

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The Guardian has been running a series investigating the extent to which our lives are recorded and analysed (see www.guardian.co.uk/bigbrother/privacy).

Of particular interest is the capabilities of governments and companies to view and read e-mails, and to log websites visited. Several e-mails have asked about the hushmail e-mail account I use for this column. Well, www.hushmail.com offers a free e-mail service with the ability to encrypt and protect your e-mails so that they can't be read.

Public Money, Private Grief

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Will the last privatisation fiasco please turn off the lights?

For how much longer, one wonders, can New Labour cling to its fixation with privatisation? In the last year alone we have had two really spectacular disasters--with Railtrack steaming off into oblivion and the part-privatisation of National Air Traffic Services taking a nosedive within weeks of taking off. But we have also watched incredulously a whole procession of PFI calamities, of which a Capita-inspired cock-up over the vetting of teachers and a complete balls-up over A-level results are but two examples in the past few weeks.

Blair's Paranoid Androids

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New Labour stooges appear to be incapable of winning a trade union election.

Something of a pattern appears to have been emerging in recent elections for the top positions in key unions. For an organisation which feigns indifference to anything which might be going on in such supposedly obsolescent realms, New Labour has developed a fixation with the outcome of these votes bordering on the paranoid. In the process, it has resorted to a degree of trickery worthy of old Uncle Joe.

Down and Out in Havana

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Is Cuba free from capitalism? Chris Harman looks at the novels of a writer who does not think so.

Sometimes a novel can engross and repel you at the same time. Certainly that's what happened to me with Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's 'Anclado en Tierra de Nada' ('Anchored to the Land of Nothing')--the first part of his 'Dirty Havana' trilogy.

It repelled me because it belongs to the genre of what might be called 'lower depths' fiction. This wallows in the dirt, squalor, drunkenness and mechanical, dehumanised sexuality of those who live on the margins of society, where the artistic petty bourgeois merges with the lumpenproletariat.

Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game

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Watching the world cup was a game of two halves.

As I watched the England-Denmark game, my daughter asked me why I was so 'anti-English'. Another friend looked at me in that 'you miserable killjoy' sort of way, and reminded me that it was just a game, and the whole thing was pretty harmless. And I have watched the games, and enjoyed them. But I don't think it's quite that simple.

A Race into the Gutter

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There's nothing respectable about appeasing the Nazis.

Many years ago I wrote in this column about a judge who had admonished a victim of rape for being provocatively dressed which, in his view, meant that she had contributed to her own downfall. Rape, I argued, seemed to stand alone as the crime where the victim was seen to share responsibility.

However, I was wrong--for it is increasingly clear that victims of racism, victims of tyrannical governments, those who take desperate flight from their homelands, are also being blamed for their own predicament.

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