Paying (some) attention to the Presidential primaries

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Four years ago I wrote a long and detailed account of the Republican primaries – the laborious process the American Republican Party uses to choose its candidate for President.

Obama, a Democrat, was in the White House. He was seeking a second term, and his chances of getting one seemed to depend on who the Republicans chose to go up against him.

As it happened, the Republicans went for the most moderate, electable candidate of the pack, and Obama won anyway, so I arguably needn’t have bothered particularly since I nor anyone else I knew had a vote.

In 2016, I don’t have the time or the inclination to do the same again. The primaries go on for six months. In the beginning, there’s one every week or so. Come the end, there can be several in one day. And, most offputtingly of all, this year there’s twice as many of the things to try and follow as there were in 2012 – back then, it was just the Republicans traipsing from state to state, but this time the Democrats have to choose a candidate too. Continue reading

(my alternative) Best of Bowie

David Bowie’s music is probably more important to me than anyone else’s. But the tracks that mean the most aren’t the ones you’re likely to find on a Best of Bowie-type compilation – or the ones that have been used to score innumerable unoriginal TV career retrospectives in the month since he died.

That’s not me being hipster for the sake of it – dismissing songs simply because they’re popular. I’ve just never liked Changes, Heroes, Rebel Rebel, Jean Genie, Let’s Dance and the like as much as some of his lesser known – and, yes, more experimental – material.

So I sat and made my own Best of Bowie compilation. Then turned it into a Youtube playlist in (rough) chronological order. It’s heavy on ’69-’80 album tracks, and very light on poppy singles and anything from ’81 and onwards (until you get to Blackstar, which I’ve included in its entirety because I genuinely think, to employ a well-worn Bowie-fan cliché, it’s his best album since 1980’s Scary Monsters). It also contains two tracks from Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, which is as much a Bowie album as an Iggy one.

I doubt very much anyone who isn’t me will sit and listen to it from start to finish – most of the people that come here come for the politics after all. But it’s been a labour of love. I adore every song I’ve included here, and happen to think that, taken together, it’s a showcase of some of the most brilliant, iconoclastic, fearlessly creative rock music ever made.

Disagreeing with Corbyn about growth

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Corbyn & McDonnell at the Labour Conference, just after John’s (very growthist) Shadow Chancellor’s speech

I was always going to have to write this post eventually. It’s about an annoyingly difficult moral problem I’ve found myself faced with since September.

That month, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, two men I’d seriously consider sacrificing one of my lesser appendages to see put in power, became leader of the opposition and shadow chancellor. It was stupendously unexpected, and probably the best thing that’s happened this decade.

But it quickly raised a big, fat, inconvenient moral-strategic question: what do you do when the two people you’ve long considered the finest protectors of the public good in parliament end up leading the Labour Party – and, in addition to a vast array of stuff you completely agree with, end up doing, saying or standing for one thing you majorly don’t?

Do you start publically disagreeing them with them on the one and only issue that separates you? Or settle into the groove of loyally bigging them up in each and every way you can, and countering the fusillade of media hate and state-backed propaganda that’s being hurled at them? Unfortunately, when the contentious issue in question concerns the most important thing in human affairs, silence isn’t an option. Continue reading