Friday, 4 September 2015

For Mandatory Reselections

If you want to know what a good slice of political journalism in the 21st century looks like, Michael Crick's "scoop" is an exemplar. It has it all. The anonymous source. The wild claims. Guilt-by-association. Bandwagon chasing. According to Michael, the "far left are preparing to oust several Labour MPs". Sounds serious. He names the two MPs for Lewisham, Tristram Hunt, and Simon Danczuk as possible targets, at least according to some unnamed Unite organiser. However, as Unite and the Jeremy campaign make clear this had absolutely nothing to do with them, and that said activist is neither a lay official nor Labour member. In other words, our anonymous source has managed to nick some of the limelight by shooting his mouth off to a journo who long ago cut his teeth on a sensationalist expose of the far left.

Has Michael rendered much of a service to those stubbornly welded to anti-Jeremy scaremongering? I doubt it. Undoubtedly some representatives of the party are scared about what tens of thousands of new members could mean for their reselection hopes, but so what? Our mysterious Unite activist, and indeed quite a few members on Labour's left might dream about ousting certain MPs (there won't be any tears in this house for Danczuk, it has to be said), but that's what they are at the moment: fantasies.

That isn't to say it's going to be this way forever. As we know, what with Dave's boundary review coming up to "cut the cost of politics", as he puts it, a sizeable chunk of Labour MPs are going to have to be reselected anyway. Looking at my patch, and having seen the proposed boundaries from 2011-12, it's very likely that the North Staffs conurbation (Stoke-on-Trent + Newcastle-under-Lyme + Kidsgrove) will go from four seats to three. Depending on how they stack up, all could be scrapping for reselection. As well as interested others too. So the fear that some in the party have of mandatory reselections might not happen seeing as many MPs are facing them anyway. This in mind, assuming he wins Jeremy could avoid pushing the issue for party management reasons.

That said, we should have mandatory reselections. A lifetime's entitlement to a particular seat is utterly inconsistent with democratic principles. That, and it's bad politics too. Look at Scotland. Look at the rotten fiefdoms scarring many a safe Labour area. The absence of internal challenges led to sclerotic local parties, to lazy local parties in which membership dwindled and campaigning seldom happened. One of my comrades, who recently went for a selection in a "safe" Scottish seat, told me the constituency was divided into two urban areas. The outgoing MP had, for 20 years, only bothered with one-half of the seat. That was where the meetings were. Where most of the members were, and was therefore unconcerned with what happened to the party in the other half of the seat so long as matters remained tickety-boo in his.He had no incentive to bother talking to the members, so didn't.

Of course, compulsory reselections aren't a magic bullet. Sitting representatives have certain incumbency advantages, such as status (people new to the party might be shocked by the small number of members who treat the office of MP as a sacred thing), or resources to get a reselection through, but better this than the alternative that has helped cost this party dear.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Could Bombing Have Averted the Syrian Refugee Crisis?

Just a few of points by way of counterfactual theorising in response to James Bloodworth's piece in the International Business Times about Syria and the decision not to go to war.

James's chief contention is that had the Commons voted to bomb Assad and his regime this time two years ago, the appalling refugee crisis and the tidal wave of suffering it unleashed might well have been averted. It very might well have not, either. As it happens, I think opposing the war was the right thing and adds to Ed Miliband's credentials as one of the most effective opposition leaders never to have won an election. But that was no triumph. Not intervening against Assad didn't mean endorsing his crimes and utter disregard for the devastation the regime is prepared to wreak to prevent its toppling, but one cannot simply sweep wash one's hands of it. It was clear back then that 'doing nothing' had consequences, and those were likely to be many more tens of thousands of deaths. The heartrending scenes from the Mediterranean today were always foreseeable.

While some opposition to bombing Syria might have been motivated by callous disregard for the fates of others and/or little Englandism - which has always been UKIP's position, incidentally - the only really credible defence for those opposed was the supposition that the consequences of bombing and overthrowing the Assad regime would have been even worse. Yes, Assad has killed a great many more than his opponents. The prisons and torture chambers at his disposal remain busy as the civil war grinds on. However, had US and UK warplanes attacked his regime, crippled its military capability, and seen it swept aside by the ground forces of its enemies, in all likelihood the vacuum would have been filled by Islamic State. The chemical and biological arms Assad has would have become their chemical and biological weapons. With the Syrian regime gone, there's little doubt a new wave of terror would have swept the land. The other factions in the civil war - the other Islamists, what ever is left of the FSA, the Kurds in the North, IS will have had a freer hand to deal with them. Its invasion of Iraq could have reached further. Lebanon might well have been threatened. In a weird turn of fate, Hezbollah and Israel might have shared a common enemy. And thanks to the "prestige" of its victory and larger, more porous borders; even more foreign fighters may have made their way to IS territory via Jordan.

It's very difficult to see how this scenario could not have come to pass. The injection of large numbers of US and UK troops might have brought about an Afghanistan/Iraq-style "solution" with all the anti-insurgency actions and casualties that would have entailed, but IS would have been locked out. However, as we know neither the public nor for that matter the political and military elites were taken with such a scenario. Perhaps timing could have made a difference. Had the bombs fallen on Damascus earlier today's crisis might have been avoided. Possibly, but as the last foray into Libya showed early intervention is no guarantee of success. If the bombs had landed in support of the 2011 uprisings, what has befallen Tripoli, Benghazi, etc. could be a window into the road not taken in Syria. That, however, was never on the table.

One cannot never know for certain, but thinking through counterfactuals has to weigh up possibilities. In this case, looking at the factors on the ground now, the balance of forces in play two years ago, and on the basis of past histories of Western intervention and its consequences, what we have now - as appalling as it is - is likely to be the lesser evil of all possible horrendous worlds. The thorny question is what can be done about it now and, apart from taking the refugees, the answer is not a lot.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Can UKIP Overcome the Doldrums?

Remember UKIP? You know, that garishly-branded so-called people's party that has form on the privatisation of the NHS, massive tax cuts for the mega wealthy, and thinks things like the minimum wage and maternity pay should be at an employer's discretion? Reminding us they're very real and very relevant, UKIP have made their first headlines since Farage's farrago over the party's leadership all the way back in May. They will, apparently, be launching their own 'no' campaign for EU withdrawal independent of the others competing for its official mantle. After a period of much welcome respite from Nigel Farage and their putrid politics, can this turn see them reclaim the headlines and the axis of political debate?

The biggest problem with UKIP is their populism. It's their main strength and greatest weakness. As a barely coherent us vs themism UKIP is, among other things, a direct outgrowth of decades of hateful, empty-headed rabble rousing by the press and a failure by mainstream politicians to challenge it. Au contraire, with some notable exceptions most have happily gone along with it. Despite this the (right wing) press rhetoric grants our MPs no slack. They are clueless but dishonest schemers who want to destroy Britain. The EU is the symbol of their elitism, and immigrants - whether EU citizens, workers from outside of it, or refugees fleeing war, terror, and dictatorship - a visible manifestation of the plot to bury our national character under waves of migrants. Of course, a cursory analysis of UKIP and its chief backers reveal nothing more than another rich man's scapegoating tool. Its rhetoric is populist, but its politics helps them in their ceaseless struggle against us.

The problem with UKIP's populism, which is undoubtedly deeply felt by the millions who vote for them, is its seasonal character. If the EU or immigration are dominating the headlines, their support swells. If not, well, take this summer for instance. Were it not for the Corbyn surge, the only news story would have been the appalling scenes from Calais and the Mediterranean. Immigration would have dominated the Labour leadership contest, candidates would be shadow boxing with UKIP, and the purples' poll ratings would have likely recovered. Instead, despite immigration registering as the number one concern and despite a couple of months of hostile headlines, the Labour left's insurgent populism appears to be killing them. That and/or an evaporation of media coverage of all things kippy thanks to the very same. The local council by-election results since June appear to bear this out. For three months on the trot not only have their vote shares and averages declined, for the first time in a long time they've persistently lagged behind the Liberal Democrats (despite standing in more seats) and in August were out-organised and out-polled by the Greens - another first.

Whatever one might think of Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour Party led by him and equipped with a left programme makes for a more convincing populist outfit than an awkward melange of city slickers, anti-politics types, and more-or-less open racists. So for UKIP to properly come back, they need to make the political weather again. Banging on about immigration, as Farage signaled this morning, has worked before. No doubt UKIP's bigwigs are hoping that there is ripe political territory here again. As far as they're concerned, if Jeremy wins Labour will be abandoning this debate entirely allowing the purples to move in and hoover up those disenchanted voters in the northern strongholds. Perhaps, it just depends how Jeremy's attempt to reframe the debate goes - especially with a policy suggestion of extra resources for areas where new populations tend to settle. It will be interesting to see - should it get the chance to be implemented - whether these positive proposals are able to meet the relentless "throw 'em out, close the borders" bigotry of UKIP.

The second, coming back to the EU referendum, is their proposal for an independent, Farage-led, UKIP-branded campaign. This is a politically astute move for a couple of reasons. Whether Dave will let his cabinet members agitate for a no vote remains to be seen, but there was always the danger that the prominence afforded leading Tories and Tory backbenchers using kipper-type language and indulging the sorts of scaremongering they've cornered the political market in could actually leech away some of UKIP's support back to the Tories. Remember, a good chunk of their present membership were signed up thanks to Dave's piloting of equal marriage through the Commons. A sign that the Tories are going right, or at least are seen to be comfortable holding within it plenty of right wingers, might mean curtains. Then again, being independent of the official campaign is no guarantee this won't happen. It just means that Farage can hold forth on whatever he sees fit and, perhaps, set the political tone for the No campaign in general. UKIP has also drawn lessons from Labour's Scottish calamity. While anti-EU Tories might gain from a touch of populism of their own, UKIP could lose out if they're perceived to be too chummy with establishment figures. If he's as smart as he thinks he is, Farage would do well to avoid sharing platforms with Philip Hammond, IDS, and the rest of the eurosceptic bunch. What UKIP are hoping for is that continued immigration concerns and generalised antipathy to official politics will ensure the party profits the most from sticking up for Britain. They're hoping for their SNP moment, whether the referendum goes their way or not.

The question is can they pull it off? I'd like to say I trust the good sense of the British electorate, but I don't. That said they are in a weak position right now and the cards are stacked against them, but all it takes is for the seasons to change again for them to spring back - and the complacency of their opponents.

Five Most Popular Posts In August

Most popular last month were:

1. Jeremy Corbyn, Stalinism, and the Cold War Boilerplate
2. Who I Voted For Labour Leader
3. Gordon Brown and Power
4. Why I Am Voting For Jeremy Corbyn
5. Some Questions for Jeremy Corbyn

Yes, we've made it through August and it's still Jeremy-fest as far as the blog's concerned. Not that I'm complaining, it was the third best month ever page view-wise. Were it not for things happening in real life sapping my bloggerly energies, a few more posts could have seen it do even better.

There's very little chance of this changing in September. In less than a fortnight we'll have a new Labour leader and whether it's Jeremy or not, politics is going to get very interesting. There's that, the party conferences, and any number of events due to intrude upon public consciousness. And your humble scribe will be there to chronicle it all.

What's my second-chance pick of the month? More Corbyn, I'm afraid. Much has been made of Jeremy's lack of leadership credentials, and some are forecasting doom and gloom. However, in this piece, I suggest there are a number of factors that might dampen down any open revolts in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

4 Strings - Turn It Around

I was going to write about Tony Blair (again) tonight, but lassitude and an anime binge (Attack on Titan, if you must know) intervened. Here instead is a trip 11 years back to one of that summer's most brilliant compositions.

Local Council By-Elections August 2015

Party
Number of Candidates
Total Vote
%
+/- 
July
Average/
contest
+/- July
+/-
Seats
Conservative
 14
 5,287
  14.2%
 -11.9%
    378
   -55
  +2
Labour
 14
10,773
  28.9%
   -4.2%
    770
 +179
   -1
LibDem
 11
 1,504
    4.0%
 -10.6%
    138
 -206
  +1
UKIP
 12
 1,441
    3.9%
   -2.9%
    120
   -24
   -1
Green
 13
 2,059
    5.5%
  +2.0%
    158
  +61
   -1
SNP*
  7
14,128
  37.8%
+26.8%
  2,018
 +290
  +1
PC**
  1
    179
    0.5%
   -1.5%
    179
 -130
    0
TUSC
  2
    117
    0.3%
  +0.1%
      59
   -26
    0
Ind***
  5
    623
    1.7%
  +0.0%
    125
   -38
   -1
Other****
  8
 1,226
    3.3%
  +2.8%
    153
  +74
    0

* There were eight by-elections in Scotland
** There was one by-election in Wales
*** There were no Independent clashes
**** Other this month consisted of Scottish Libertarian (12), Pirate Party (13), Scottish Christian (77), SSP (117), Orkney Manifesto Group (593), North East party (214), Mebyon Kernow (85), Yorkshire First (115)

Overall, 37,337 votes were cast over 16 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. A total of six council seats changed hands. For comparison see July's results here.

If this has been the silliest of silly seasons ever where long-held political certainties were trampled beneath the stampede of tens of thousands of new Labour Party members, it's apt that August's by-elections reflect the weirdness.

First off, the SNP vote across just seven by-elections has made it the popular vote winner UK-wide for the first time. It is unprecedented that Labour and the Tories have been forced to concede their duopoly. Will the SNP wave ever show signs of ebbing? That Tory result as well is the worst ever since I've been recording local election results. Though the blues shouldn't feel too blue. It's unlikely to be evidence of a Corbyn surge swamping their redoubts: with eight Scottish by-elections and only three in favourable Tory territory. That said, despite awful polling, Labour's holding its own.

Also of interest is the scrap between the minor parties. This is the third month on the trot the LibDems have beaten UKIP. The yellows I think have grounds to be cautiously optimistic, even though their results here weren't great. And UKIP, well, without the the muck of the media to fertilise them they're not doing terribly well. Long may it continue. More interestingly, the Greens have beaten both for the first time. Remember the Green Surge? The huge pile of extra members they picked up since the Scottish referendum are starting to bear fruit with more seats contested and, presumably, a better ground operation. If Jeremy wins, will this progress get thrown into reverse?

In all, an astonishing month. Will September revert to business as usual or hold yet more surprises?

Friday, 28 August 2015

Who I Voted for Labour Leader

Like my friend Lawrence, I haven't been terribly inspired by the Labour leadership campaign. Even Corbynmania has failed to stir me, except to the extent of writing many posts trying to understand what it means and how it will effect our party and our movement. So when it came to deciding who to vote for, I found it very difficult.

Now, I have a confession to make. Last month our constituency party met to decide who to nominate. Liz, Yvette, and Jeremy had their speakers - Tristram gave a good account for Liz. Andy, a new comrade, spoke for Jeremy. And I spoke for Yvette. Why? In a frankly terrible speech (so much for applying the 'be prepared' maxim I berate others for failing to employ), I laid down the reasons why I liked Jeremy's policies, but also that a strategy dependent on mobilising non-voters is most unlikely to win. Of Yvette, Andy, and Liz, it was Yvette who had the best chance of winning over those Tory voters we need to capture. Much to my amazement, these incoherent mutterings did the business and the Stoke Central nomination narrowly went to the shadow home secretary. This was before the Welfare Reform debacle saw the party descend into disarray and put a Saturn 5 under Jeremy's campaign. Has my mind changed much since?

I have found choosing incredibly difficult, so let's talk about the easy parts first. There was no way Liz Kendall was getting any of my preferences. I think she comes across as someone who's terribly insincere, and has shown an appalling lack of judgement in the running of her campaign. Berating members for not getting it, and allowing herself to be painted as a continuity Blair figure raises serious questions about whether she could win an election. Matters are not helped by stubbornly defending free schools and invasive private sector penetration of the NHS. If that wasn't enough, like many of her PLP friends and comrades, she doesn't understand the nature of our party. Had things turned out differently and she was a proper contender, I would be seriously worried about the future of the party.

And Andy Burnham. What can you say? Ask me a year ago who I'd be supporting for Labour leader, and I would have said him. Now? Not on your Nelly. The time for examining what has gone so badly wrong for his campaign isn't now - especially when it's a subject this blog will be turning to in the future. But honestly, to have tacked right with his leadership declaration and then opportunistically zigged-zagged here, there, and every-bloody-where as the contest has worn on ... Andy is a nice bloke, can speak with genuine conviction, and does have some good policies to sell. Yet he's like a driver with a faulty SatNav on a cliff's edge - you never know whether he'll follow a dodgy prompt and dash the car on the rocks below, or ignore it convinced that the thin air in front of him is the right road to take. While not as dangerous to the party as a Liz leadership would be, it's well within his range to take Labour in a disastrous direction if he thinks the head winds are favourable.

That leaves Jeremy and Yvette. Yes, I do think Jeremy is less divisive and problematic than Andy and Liz, and that any "chaos" resulting from his winning is overstated. His campaign has not only proven slick and well-run, it has set the political tone for the entire contest. It's telling that the two candidates with roots in the wider party - Andy and Yvette - have moved leftwards to compensate while Camp Liz floats away in a Blairist bubble of their own making. For the first time in a long time, the left have made an appreciable - and I for one hope lasting - impact on mainstream politics.

You know there's a but coming, don't you? I do have some major reservations about Jeremy's candidacy - for all the good it has done - and I don't think these can be ignored as "ephemeral" or "inessential". We've visited the issue of dodgy associations before. Of course, it is absurd to suggest Jeremy in any way shares the politics of some of the unsavoury individuals he's rubbed shoulders with in the past, and so much of the muck-raking by the likes of Louise Mensch is just that. But time and again, it happens. More recently, for instance, Jeremy happily gave an interview to the Australian branch of the LaRouche cult. If you've never heard of them, look Lyndon LaRouche up - anti-semitism is but one of their appalling characteristics. This sort of carelessness is a problem for some on the left, and it worries me that Jeremy and/or his staff are seemingly incapable of Googling background information, or don't deem it to be relevant. If Jeremy wins, this one will come back and come back some more.

The second big issue I have is electoral strategy, namely the seeming indifference much of Jeremy's support has to winning over Tory voters and the emphasis he wishes to place on mobilising non-voters. This approach has been gamed on Ravi's blog under the present boundaries. His best estimate puts us behind the Tories - assuming present Labour and Tory support stays where it is - and he also notes that the 2020 election will be fought on boundaries less favourable to our party. The next election is going to be a tough slog, and I'm sorry, I have very little time for anyone agnostic about us winning. Over the next five years the Tories are going to shaft our funding base and throw obstacles in the way of trade unions. And do we have to talk about what they have in store for our people as well? Can you imagine what could happen again if they win in 2020? I've got a good job and have no reason to believe my health will deteriorate over the next 10 years, but that could easily change. There are, of course, many millions not as fortunate as I and will suffer unless we get back into power at the first available opportunity.

And there is the development and strength of the left itself. Few, if anyone expected a left insurgency of this magnitude. But one should not cheer lead uncritically, like much of the far left outside Labour are doing, but to try and understand it in order to shape it. As far as I'm concerned the new member/supporter wave is not a 'social movement' as such, as per Scotland, but more like a mass affiliation of many ones and twos. It is a tendency attracted by Jeremy's unorthodoxy and amplified by social media. Some of it are former Labour people, but the overwhelming bulk are new to politics - that's if the membership surge we've had in our neck of the woods is anything to go by. If you like it is unrooted, a variegated and individuated group of people in search of a social movement. As such, noting its rootlessness, it would be a huge mistake to take this as evidence of a much wider constituency waiting to gift us local election after European election after general election. The second related point here comes from an opportunity/risk analysis. A Jeremy leadership is likely to attract another wave of new recruits and strengthen the gravity of left politics generally. The problem is I cannot see how, in the absence of a catastrophe, that this will be enough to win an election. Even worse, an electoral defeat will be taken as a defeat for socialist ideas, just at the moment their revival is getting underway. There is, of course, never a right time for the left to make a play, and the opportunity Jeremy's candidacy represents is one that does not come along too often. Nevertheless, that is what I think - an early peak could see us stumble into an equally early trough.

Who was my alternative then? In the end, it came back to Yvette Cooper. It's only these last couple of weeks her campaign has cranked up. Just like Labour until a year before the general election, she's gone from having no policies to them appearing in abundance. Yes, her platform is pretty dull by the mould-breaking standards of Jeremy's, but interestingly she has moved from austerity lite to anti-austerity lite. There are a couple of things to get excited about, such as universal childcare, and boosting investment in and wages of those in the care industry and those who care for loved ones - Yvette is absolutely right to see this as an infrastructural issue. Yvette has found her voice attacking the government about the refugee crisis in the Med, on FE cuts, on their stupid assault on green industries. Yet I have to say my support doesn't come with much enthusiasm, hence why I'm merely stating my views rather than proselytising. But as the compromise candidate, Yvette has the best chance of keeping the party together and winning a general election in 2020.

Of course, if Jeremy wins politics becomes much more interesting. In that event I will carry on building the party and using this platform to dispense analysis, unsolicited advice, and support. It was a very difficult decision but, unfortunately, I just don't fancy our chances if we go to the country with him at the helm.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Rad Racer for the Nintendo Entertainment System

I cannot tell a lie, I do like my racing games. However, while nearly every platform since the days of the humble Spectrum have been spoilt for automobile-related gaming treats, there is one notable omission: the mighty NES. Considering it was the best selling home system ever for a time, this is as baffling as it is disappointing. Off the top of my head and as far as UK/European releases go, there's RC Pro-Am, Turbo Racing, Galaxy 5000, Micro Machines, and that's - apart from the subject of this post - about it. A mystery to be sure, but technical limitations can't be the culprit, as Rad Racer demonstrates.

Rad Racer is an early title for the NES. Published by Square (of Final Fantasy fame) in 1987, it was the first racing game to be released for the system in Western markets and was for a while the only one. And as a first outing, it pretty much nailed it. You race against the clock over eight tracks based on geographical features and locations. Greece, for example, has multiple iterations of The Parthenon decorating the horizon. It's a simple into-the-screen affair of dodging incoming traffic and making it to the checkpoint before the time robs you of acceleration. If you make it you're whisked off to the next level to do much the same. Sounds dull? It's not. Some of the races are very challenging and other cars have the annoying tendency of bending your fender as they position themselves between you and the open road. On later levels they crop up in groups of two or three, and many times a contest has been thwarted as they effectively block the highway. Ramming into the back of them can cause you to crash and flip the motor, but more often than not they knock your speed down. Not so if you come into contact with the roadside furniture. Each crash might set you right back on your wheels (this is Nintendo Land, after all), but it comes with a potentially race-destroying time penalty.

As with games of this character, which became ten-a-penny in late 80s arcades and home systems, there isn't much in the way of variety or depth. So the typical ruses of the time were implemented, such as making the game very tough and supplying no continues. Fine if you're a kid in the 1980s who can only afford a handful of games a year, not if you're an occasional retro gamer with an overweening blogging habit. It also offers a couple of unique ephemeral gaming experiences. The first is the choice between two different cars. One is a Ferrari 328 Twin Turbo bearing a bit of a resemblance to the car in certain other famous game, and the other is a nondescript Formula One motor. The difference between the two is the latter is a touch faster and cars on the road are other kamikaze F1 beasties. There's no other difference, even the end sequence - depicting the Twin Turbo - remains the same. The other is a 3D mode enabled via select. It's probably not a good idea to play this without the glasses because the rapid flashing and blurring is like a bad trip. And, to be honest, the effect isn't that great anyway.

There are a couple of nice cosmetic touches too. One is the inclusion of an in-game radio. Tapping down on the d-pad allows you to cycle through three tunes and the bleepy whirring of the engine. Alas, the music is standard NES fare that doesn't stick in the memory. Another are different day/night or weather cycles in each race. None had no direct impact on gameplay but attempted to convey a sense that you were racing over a lengthy period of time, and not the three minutes(ish) each track took.

Overall, Rad Racer is a slick, well-programmed racer that showed the NES could manage rudimentary three-dimensional games. In fact, what it did manage better than its ilk on other 8-bit systems was a proper sense of speed - there are no lines sitting across the road and landscape simulating kph. And it also managed hills better, giving an approximate sense of undulating terrain - a trick that remained tricky well into the 16-bit era.

Received wisdom has it that Square published Rad Racer as a means of showing off their superlative 3D programming skills, and therefore grabbing some of the home market enraptured by Sega's clutch of mid-late 80s coin-ops (Super Hang-On, OutRun, Space Harrier, Afterburner, Galaxy Force, Power Drift). Others of a more cynical mind noted its similarity - that's one way of putting it - to OutRun. I mean, both feature Ferrari motors and the basic gameplay mechanic is identical. Though done differently, both games can choose between soundtracks, which, again, remained very rare up until the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation hit the shelves. Yes, there's truth here, but it was also a manifestation of a publishing culture that flourished when system exclusives were much more common than today. That is me-too-ism. As the Nintendo vs Sega battle got underway, none of the latter's cool coin-ops were going to get released for the NES and its successors (apart from a few sub-licensed to Atari's Tengen label), nor - thanks to the restrictive and long-since illegal licensing practices - would many third party Nintendo games grace Sega's machines. Hence if a game became popular, either Sega or Nintendo or one of their licensees would attempt to provide some kind of competitive response in the form of a cash-in duplicate. RC Pro-Am vs RC Gran Prix, Afterburner vs Top Gun, etc. Sometimes, companies would market nearly-identical games for the same platform.

This is exactly what Rad Racer is. It is pretty much the same game as OutRun for the Master System (though, in an interesting twist, Sega released a specially reprogrammed OutRun 3D for its glasses peripheral in 1988 - the copy becomes the cop-ee). And while it does not sell a lifestyle in the way Sega's premiere racer did, it does probably edge it as the better game. Well worth picking up.