I feel like I win when I lose

Ever heard of Edmund Muskie, Paul Tsongas, or Jeb Bush? Okay, that last one was a bit hard, but if you’re not sure who he is, he’s the scion of an American political dynasty who got his pants pulled down in the current campaign for the Republican nomination by a blowhard novelty candidate. The three names I’ve mentioned were all, at one stage or another, viewed as being among the frontrunners for their party’s nomination for president. Muskie sought the Democratic nomination in 1972, and was the party establishment favourite, but his campaign imploded in New Hampshire following a series of attacks. Most notorious of these was the “Canuck Letter”, which was later revealed to be a forgery that emanated from Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks unit. The defining image of Muskie’s campaign was an emotional speech during a snowstorm he gave outside the offices of the Manchester Union-Leader, during which it was claimed by the press that he had broken down and cried. Muskie himself claimed that the water drops on his face were melted snowflakes.Read More »

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Oscar’s Hollywood bubble

#OscarsSoWhite is the theme manifesting the crisis currently crippling the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, but in truth, any number of flash points could have plunged the Academy into its current phase of existential angst. To be fair, it is very likely not a racist institution, but it has systemic flaws that become painfully exposed with increasing regularity. The voting demographic obviously tends towards a narrow pool of the community (older, white, domiciled in and around Hollywood), but it should be remembered that this was conceived as an occasion for Hollywood to congratulate itself, so one can hardly be shocked if the Academy’s membership is drawn from insiders who generally live in the neighbourhood. That wouldn’t matter too much if the Oscars weren’t a big deal other than being a big night out for the stars, but it does become a problem if the bequeathing of its awards are solemnly held to represent rewarding the best in film.Read More »

Rushing for the Brexit?

One gathers David Cameron had been asked to tone down the triumphalism, but it didn’t entirely seem like that when he addressed a press conference following the announcement of the package he finished thrashing out in Brussels on Friday evening. It’s pretty clear to many that the renegotiation process for a new EU-UK relationship was motivated more by party political concerns than genuinely patriotic ones. But he could still win his referendum, which serves as a reminder that there is political virtue, if that’s the word, in being slippery and unprincipled. And of course he had to give it the full John Bull when he addressed the media, given how many people – including party colleagues – have viewed his negotiations with the EU with contempt.Read More »

Wogan – a new model citizen

As ever with my mini-obituaries, I have been slow to respond to the passing of the legendary broadcaster Terry Wogan. But it would be wrong to call this brief post an obituary. It is more a comment on one aspect of his life that has becoming increasingly relevant to the modern world we live in. For there was something very modern about Wogan in the way he crafted his career.Read More »

Give us our Roman numerals back

Watching a game of rugby in High Wycombe between Wasps and Northampton a few years back, my cousin leaned over to me at one point and said, “One day they’re going to ban this sport”. Rugby’s definitely getting a bit rougher, and maybe it’s foreseeable that one day it will be widely considered to be too attritional on the human body, especially the head. But there’s another sport that’s closer to that threshold; one that is, as I write, presenting its showpiece event to a global audience. American football has in recent years been subject to highly wrought essays, compensation payouts, and now the Hollywood treatment.Read More »

Primary horrors

One occasionally hears mention of an electoral demographic called the low-attention voter – people who don’t have the time or inclination to follow politics closely, and perhaps make voting decisions on the basis of a candidate’s personal appeal. They are frequently derided as dupes who are easily conned into voting against their own interests. Perhaps they are, but I have wilfully sought to make myself a low-attention voter where the U.S. 2016 presidential election is concerned over the course of the last year. The reason I have done so is because I took one cursory glance at the list of candidates on the Republican side and felt the sanest option was to take cover until taking closer interest was unavoidable. Though, to be honest, I found it impossible to create an effective firewall to keep out all the noise. And right now, I feel like I always do at this stage in the cycle; that, given the impact of the US presidency on world affairs, the world’s citizens should be given a vote. Read More »