TONY BLAIR returned from his jet-setting this week to face a domestic political crisis. He and his government face a groundswell of opposition over a range of issues - the crumbling NHS, mounting job losses and, above all, the transport crisis. A top aide to transport secretary Stephen Byers infamously wrote on the day of the destruction of the World Trade Centre, "Today is a good day to bury bad news."
ARGENTINA IS the sharp end of the global economic crisis. The social and political explosion there should not be dismissed as the kind of turbulence typical of obscure parts of the Third World.
"THE TROUBLE with you Socialist Worker types is that you haven't moved on. You talk about capitalism as if we're still in the 1830s - child labour, workers burning themselves out in terrible conditions, press-gangs rounding people up to be killed in foreign wars. And you talk of company directors as if they were old-style bosses getting rich from the toil and blood of the masses."
THE NEW year has opened with two different sides of the world on show. The first is the horror and the barbarism seen in the US's continuing bombing of Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban. US president George Bush declared there is more slaughter in store. "2002 will be a war year as well," Bush said last week.
THE US establishment and its toadies have been engaging in an orgy of self congratulation since the military collapse of the Taliban. It's hardly a surprise that the richest country in the world can conquer one of the poorest. But has the US brought greater peace in its wake?
SO SOLID Crew have been hailed in the media as "the new Sex Pistols". Their glorification of gang violence has set cash registers ringing. In the last six months the band have had a number one single and album. Violence and controversy have stalked them from the outset.
This year has seen the ugly reality of global capitalism. It has ended with the third war in ten years involving the US and Britain. The US bombing has already killed over 3,767 Afghan civilians, according to thorough research by a US professor (see page 7).
Charles Clarke, chairman (unelected) of the Labour Party, last week declared his love for the US under George W Bush. In his youth, he admitted, "I was a strong opponent of the foreign policy of the US," and campaigned over issues such as US support for fascist states in Greece, Spain and Portugal, US support for dictatorships in Latin America, and the use of US troops in Cambodia and Vietnam.
"George Bush's war is the opportunity of a generation to cut jobs without the risk of strikes." This is what top managers at British Airways (BA) have written in a secret document, obtained by the Observer, as they prepare to axe 10,000 jobs. This is on top of the 7,000 redundancies they have already announced. It is one sign of how rotten the system is that Bush and Tony Blair have gone to war to defend.
"Top of the world, Ma!" shouts James Cagney at the end of the movie White Heat, just before he blows himself to smithereens. George Bush could cry the same now, having seen the Taliban crumble beneath US air power.
The Taliban surrender of the last city they controlled last week was, according to Tony Blair, a "total vindication" of the two-month US-led war in Afghanistan. But it is not any justification for George Bush and Tony Blair's claims to be leading the world to greater liberty and prosperity.
Tony Blair and his government have backed US president George Bush's war in Afghanistan to the hilt. But even some sections of New Labour are worried about his plans to spread his war to Iraq, Somalia or any other country the US decides is a "rogue state".
They're feeling pretty bullish in the White House and the Pentagon. A few weeks ago Tony Blair was riding high as George W Bush's favourite adviser. But last Sunday's Observer, reporting American plans to extend the war to Iraq, quoted a "European military source" just back from US Central Command HQ in Florida:
As Christmas approaches you may be wondering how you're going to see your parents, grandparents, their friends and cope with all the guesting and hosting. If the thought of it all is getting you down, then spare a thought for George W Bush and his ambassador in London, William S Farish III.
"Afghanistan is just the start." Those were the words of George W Bush last week as he made a sickeningly violent speech to 15,000 troops, including the 101st Airborne Division-the aptly named "Screaming Eagles". Bush whipped them into a frenzy by chanting "Airborne assault!" as they pumped their fists in the air.
I missed the great anti-war demonstration in London the Sunday before last. But I don't feel too bad about this because, along with 500 other people, I was participating in a conference on globalisation and resistance in New York.
"This is not about millionaire footballers wanting more money. It's about supporting a union that funds lads who don't make the grade and need to retrain, and 60 year old ex-pros who need a heart operation but can't afford it."
Harold Macmillan, the Tory prime minister of the late 1950s and early 1960s, put me off Anthony Trollope. He said that reading the Victorian novelist was his favourite pastime, and that was enough to create a reading block.
The war against Afghanistan has been going badly for the US and its allies. Every day last week brought news of another setback for Bush and Blair. Tony Blair's tour of the Middle East to shore up support for the "coalition against terrorism" was a complete fiasco.
Gordon Brown's speech to the Confederation of British Industry last Sunday attracted media attention because it hinted that Brown was more hostile to Britain joining the euro than Tony Blair. This latest move in a tediously long-running saga that obsesses the chattering classes diverted attention from a much more interesting question-what happened to "no more boom and bust"?