Commercialism

Dealing with Donald Trump - 30 years before he was president

Sunday Times Magazine, December 1 1987

In New York at the moment, Donald Trump is hot: he's rich; he's sexy; he's everywhere. He is the weirdest, wildest story in town. He's putting up the world's tallest building; he's making a killing on Wall Street; he's calling Ed Koch a moron. They say he'll be the next mayor of the city, the next governor of the state. The Republicans want him in the White House; the Democrats want him there too....

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Smoke and mirrors in the tobacco industry

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, February 22 1988

Anyone who knows anything about conspiracies, knows that for the best results the conspirators should meet in a smoke-filled room. This is particularly apt if you consider the case of the tobacco kings.

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Shooting fat cats

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, March 28 1988

At first sight, John A Mulheren Jnr is ripe for the Rogue's
...

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Worship in the cathedral of wealth

Scotland on Sunday diary column, April 18 1988

From a distance, it is just another traffic jam, walled in by the usual grimy tower blocks. Only when you get closer and you see yourself reflected in the smoked glass windows with the gilt trimmings, and find yourself bumping into pedestrians who are coated in fur from top to tail, catching the scent of Havana cigars and Chanel No 5, only then do you know without doubt that you have finally...

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Breaking through the smoke screen

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, June 14 1988

Rose Cipollone was already on her death bed when she started to fight. With her hair moulting from chemotherapy, she gave a deposition to a lawyer which, five years later, was to land a historic blow on the tobacco companies she blamed for her lung cancer.

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Greed v Greed in Hollywood

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, July 11 1988

According to the Hollywood rumour mill, the nine thousand film and television script writers who have been on strike for the last 18 weeks, are about to return to work. They may. They may not. Who cares?

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The kidnapper's revenge

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, August 29 1988

The whole state of Mississippi is agog at the goings-on in Jackson, the state capital, which lies in the pine woods and prairie a couple of hundred miles north of New Orleans, a town which has remained an outpost of the old southern way of life, where wealthy families live in genteel comfort while the less fortunate are not encouraged to complain.

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Capitalism crosses the final frontier

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, September 19 1988

It was extraordinarily prescient of the producers of Star Trek to send Captain Kirk off to the final frontier in a star ship called Enterprise, for it now transpires that when the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, took his small step for mankind in July 1969 he was also making a giant leap for private enterprise.

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The ethics of artificial animals

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, November 21 1988

The mighty Du Pont corporation, purveyors of chemicals to the world, last week formally announced the launch of their newest product. It is a mouse. But not the sort of mouse that sells for a dollar or two in pet shops. This is the world's first one-hundred-dollar mouse.

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The great American diet - junk food and junk culture

The Scotsman and The New Zealand Dominion, November 28 1988

This may not matter, but last week Walt Disney's empire splashed its latest cartoon film across American cinema screens. It is the apparently innocuous story of an orphaned cat who takes up with a pack of dogs in New York City and is eventually rescued by a little girl called Jenny. The point here is that the cat is called Oliver, his best pal is a terrier called Dodger and the whole film claims...

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The Westminster Abbey Game

The Guardian, August 28 1989

The Westminster Abbey Game is a contest for two teams. On one side are the Wrist Slappers, who may be male or female, are invariably elderly and grey-haired and usually wear conservative clothes from the 1940s. Then there are the Foreigners, lots of them, and preferably draped in plenty of photographic hardware.

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Death by fire - and privatisation

The Guardian, December 21 1992

Disconnection is a thing of the past. Ask any electricity company, and they'll tell you that in the new world of privatised electricity, no-one has to live in the dark and cold any more. If someone has trouble with a bill, they can have a pre-payment meter. Then they just pop down to the showroom, buy a token, push it into the meter and there it is - fuel without fear of debt. Just look at the...

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The dark side of the Bay City Rollers

The Guardian, February 13 1993

It's hard to be sure exactly when Les McKeown's bubble burst. Maybe it was right back on his first night in the Bay City Rollers when the lead guitarist ordered him to dump his girl friend and Les ended up trying to batter him on the back seat of the car. Maybe it was when the promoter in America pulled a gun on him, or when his manager was busted for gross indecency, or when he got so fed up in...

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The new pursuit of profit rots the old bonds of trust

The Guardian, September 18 1993

Until a few years ago, there used to be a gigantic old elm tree in the middle of Ramsbury. It was so big that it held an umbrella of branches over the whole village square and, according to Wiltshire legend, the hollow cleft in its centre had once been the home of a witch called Maud Toogood who warned that if the old elm ever fell, the village would fall with it.

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The death of a material boy

The Guardian, February 6 1994

Several months before he disappeared, Andrew Elphick sat down with his friend, Sasha Westcourt, in the house they shared on the edge of a neat little village in Surrey, and the two of them wrote out their ambitions in life. Westcourt jotted down a few lines about health and happiness and a steady income, but Elphick filled a whole page with his plans, which he spelled out step by step in capital...

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The selling of Postman Pat

The Guardian, March 12 1994

When John Cunliffe sat down in the back bedroom of his home in the Lake District 15 years ago and started to write a story about a postman called Pat, something very strange began to happen. Cunliffe was not aware of it at the time. He was writing, as he always did, for the fun of it, for the change it gave him from teaching at the local primary school, and it was only years later that he could...

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Killing to be cool - the case of Elsey and Petrolini

The Observer magazine, December 4 1994

Jamie Petrolini sits alone in his prison cell. Last year, he was a schoolboy cramming for his A levels at a sixth form college in Oxford, striding around in baggy purple jeans and a big white tee-shirt with No Fear scrawled across the front. Now, he is a notorious killer, aged 19, serving life for murder in a young offenders institution outside Doncaster.

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The Australian Thatcher

The Guardian, March 9 1996

Imagine for a moment that a newly-elected right-wing government announced that in order to attract lucrative business to London, they had decided to stage an international Grand Prix motor race in the capital and that without consultation they had chosen as its site the previously peaceful, almost rural surroundings of Hampstead Heath.

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Cracking on: the politics of pavements

The Big Issue, July 21 1997

It's not easy to take a walk with a man like Ben Plowden. He's gone no more than three steps along the Wandsworth Road when he halts, turns and points at the ground. Cracks in the pavement. Two more paces and he's pointing again. More cracks. And rubbish. And holes. And obstructions.

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