May. 28th, 2017 07:39 am
sartorias: me in 1977 (me in 1977)
[personal profile] sartorias
So today I turned 66--official retirement age--official old age--and it doesn't seem real. (Except when I move!)

Though the spouse and I agreed a couple years ago no presents at holidays or b-days for each other until we get the debt load below five figures (if that ever happens), he did agree to my breaking it just this once: I got a hummingbird feeder, which hangs outside the kitchen window. Pix to come.

Anyway, as I do every year, I ask anyone who has a free couple minutes to link something beautiful, or funny, or tell me about a wonderful moment in your life, or if you happen to have read one of my books and liked it, a line about that. I come back to this page all through the year whenever my spirits are low. (And let me tell you, last year's got such a workout I was able to predict each treasure before it scrolled up. Much as I loved them, I need a fresh batch!)
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Posted by Susie Madrak

The grownups are out this morning, trying to calm the uproar over the news that Jared Kushner tried to establish his own back channel with Russia.

"Hey, what's the big deal?" was the attitude of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly when he appeared on This Week, and he really should (and probably does) know better. After all, back channels aren't typically set up to evade the U.S. government.

As explained by numerous others:

(no subject)

May. 28th, 2017 09:33 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] genarti and [personal profile] green_knight!

Occasionally, we read the comments...

May. 28th, 2017 07:31 am
lagilman: coffee or die (Castiel)
[personal profile] lagilman
Generally I abide by the "don't read the comments" rule of survival, but occasionally I dip in...and this morning was delighted to see commentary on a Daily Kos article break out into a discussion of Ayn Rand's literature and life, the evolution (sorry) of the term "social Darwinism" and a non-malicious breakdown of how incorporation is a government-supported security net an as such should be against the current GOP's stated principles...

And all of that without insults, straw men, or painful spelling errors!

(in fact, it took on the tone of a Sunday morning one-upmanship contest along the lines of "but wait!  I have another relevant fact on that!"  With emphasis on both relevant and fact.)
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Posted by Erik Loomis

This is the grave of Warren Harding.

Warren Harding was an obscurity who stumbled his way into the Oval Office. Born in 1865 in Blooming Grove, Ohio to a middle class family, Harding went to a couple of small Ohio colleges and then became a newspaperman in Marion, Ohio. He was a Republican hack from the time he entered the political world in the mid-1880s, putting party over ideas every time. He won office to be a state senator in 1899. He had a strong skill of no one hating him very much and slowly rose in prominence within state by being able to talk to both sides of the factional divide that split the party in the state. Harding ran for the Senate in 1914 and won a fairly easy election in a good Republican year. In Washington, he was a meaningless junior senator. He really wanted to be president though. Again, he managed to rise because no one hated him. He was young and fashionable. With the U.S. coming out of World War I and Progressivism suddenly in decline, a genial country club Republican seemed appealing. Republicans were sick of strong presidents. They wanted someone who reminded them more of Benjamin Harrison than Theodore Roosevelt so that Congress could rule the roost. Warren Harding was perfect. Given that Democrats ran an equally obscure James Cox against him, welcome to the Oval Office President Harding. On the campaign, his pointless, meaningless word salad speeches inspired H.L. Mencken to write,

..it reminds me of a string of wet sponges, it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a kind of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm … of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of tosh. It is rumble and bumble. It is balder and dash.

The Harding presidency was a complete disaster. He was stupid and disinterested. A few years ago, there was a sudden progressive reappraisal of Harding. This was based on a couple of things he said about civil rights, even though he didn’t really do anything about the issue. This also came on the back of the progressive Grant reassessment, taking him from shockingly underrated to absurdly overrated in the span of about 12 months. At least Grant actually did care, to some extent, about racial injustice, although he that is highly overrated, with him telling his Cabinet by the end of his second term that he wished the 15th Amendment had never happened and his refusal to send in the military to deal with continued white violence by his second term. Harding doesn’t have any of this.

In response to this ridiculous reassessment of Harding, the historian Kevin Kruse launched a pretty epic tweetstorm letting everyone know just how awful Harding was. I’m going to steal a bunch from this, plus using some other stuff. Like a certain president today, Harding’s response to the election was to disappear for a golf vacation. When he returned, he named one of the most hackish, awful Cabinets in American history. Andrew Mellon, the capitalist’s capitalist, was named Secretary of the Treasury. Will Hays was not corrupt as Postmaster General, but he left to issue the Hays Code on the motion picture industry, purifying the movies for the good people of the United States. Given that this cheap morality was combined with Harding sleeping with any woman who crossed his path, it summed up the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Republican Party, then and now. Even worse was Senator Albert Fall at Interior, who used his position to engage in one of the biggest scandals of American history and Harry Daugherty at Attorney General. Daughtery’s qualifications consisted of him being friends with Harding. Which, to be fair, makes him more qualified than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. But Daugherty then proceeded to basically run a criminal operation from his office. For the head of the Federal Reserve, Harding named a friend of his from Marion who had run a small town bank for a few months. The head of the Veterans’ Bureau was literally a guy Harding had met on vacation. There’s no real evidence that Harding himself was personally corrupt. He just didn’t care about what was happening in his own administration and saw politics as a way to reward buddies.

In case you weren’t clear yet on the parallels between Harding and Trump, this campaign image should make them clear.

Harding was completely unprepared for the presidency. He had no real knowledge about policy, domestic or foreign. And he didn’t really care either. He was disinterested and preferred playing golf and going on bike rides than governing. When a reporter asked him about some issues in Europe, Harding responded “I don’t know anything about this European stuff.” His secretary handled those matters. When talking about economic matters, he said, “I listen to one side and they seem right, and then, God!, I talk to the other side and they seem just as right! I know somewhere there is a book that would give me the truth, but hell! I couldn’t read the book.” Warren Harding, my friends. Even in the one speech he gave that supposedly talked about civil rights, he promoted eugenics. He didn’t care about racial injustice anymore than he did any other issue. What good that did come out of his administration came from Charles Evans Hughes in the State Department and Herbert Hoover at Commerce, the two decent Cabinet members that commanded respect throughout the government.

There’s long been rumors that Harding’s wife killed him because of all the affairs, including in a closet in the White House. That almost certainly didn’t happen. A bad heart combined with pneumonia took him out on August 2, 1923, at the age of 57. His wife died a year later.

It’s not as if Harding’s death didn’t upset some people. This is from the Eatonville (WA) Dispatch. I ran across this once while researching. The terrible writing and misspellings are in the original.

The death of President Harding is a personal loss. He loved people. That is why he was loved. Even with the reams of ‘copy’ that have been written on him, one realizes the barrenness of adjectives to describe this man.

A person will follow the even tenor of his way until confronted by an emergency. It is then that the test comes. Warren G. Harding’s elevation to the highest office in the gift of man brought out the where all could see the true character he possessed.

There was a beauty about his life which won every heart. In temperament, he was mild, conciliatory, and candid; and yet remarkable for an uncompromising firmness. His life was an open sesame to the hearts of others. He followed in the footsteps of his Master by letting the sunshine of human sympathy and happiness into the dark places of life.

It is impossible to think of him in death’s cold shroud of sororw and despair, but rather smiling on us from the sunset halo that marks God’s farewell to the day–smiling with all the well remembered grace of his manhood, love and devotion, and saying to us:

“The sunset speaks but feebly of the glories of another day. All is well.”

Sure, why not.

Warren Harding is buried at the Harding Tomb, Marion, Ohio.


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Posted by Guest Reviewer


Taming the Highlander

by May McGoldrick
September 6, 2016 · Swerve
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Christine. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

This new historical romance from May McGoldrick pits one spirited lass against her biggest challenge yet: a Highland lord who has no desire to lose his heart.

Innes Munro has the ability to “read” a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides… and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both…or lose each other forever.

Here is Christine's review:

When I first read the synopsis for Taming The Highlander by May McGoldrick I was very excited because it had so much of the catnip I enjoy in a romance novel, including a learned heroine, mystical stones and a tortured hero. Seeing it was an award nominee only whetted my appetite all the more. Once I started reading however, it became harder and harder to push through it. So many more intriguing books came my way that I gave it up for quite a while then had to talk myself into going back, rereading what I had forgotten, and finally finishing it solely because I had committed to reviewing it. The treat had turned into a chore.

Set in the Scottish Highlands of 1544, the heroine, Innes Munro has inherited from her mother a fragment of stone that enables her to not only “read” the emotions and experience of any person she touches but feel the physical sensations, including pain, that a person went through. Innes has used her talents for most of her twenty seven years serving as the chief advisor to her father, Baron Folais, clan chief of the Munros, helping to further the clan’s interests. For the past three years she has also been “reading” the suitors for her younger sister Ailein’s hand and reporting back to her all their flaws, mistakes and lies, causing Ailein to reject them, one after another. Having recently decided this was depriving Ailein of a chance to not only judge for herself, but marry, Innes refused to “read” laird Bryce Sinclair when he came to court her sister. Instead she relied on her sister’s “weak-kneed reaction” to the young, handsome and recently widowed Scot. Now Innes has traveled with her family to the castle of clan Sinclair for Ailien’s wedding. Knowing her “gift” will deprive her of having a husband and family of her own, and tired of her stepmother’s jealous criticisms, Innes is determined to carve out new life for herself as soon as she sees her sister married and settled. Seeing Bryce’s older brother’s portrait, then meeting the reclusive earl himself, stirs something in Innes, who immediately strikes sparks off of Conall.

The hero, Conall Sinclair the earl of Caithness, is a veteran of the Scottish wars with the English, to whom he lost his right hand and freedom until his younger brother Bryce emptied the coffers of their clan to free him from their dungeon. Long thought dead, Conall returned to find his younger brother made laird in his stead and his former betrothed had wedded his brother, become pregnant and died in suspicious circumstances all while he languished as a prisoner. Feeling Bryce deserves the title of laird, and stewing in guilt for the clan bearing the cost of his ransom, Conall chose to become a virtual recluse in their castle. Now that the wedding day has arrived and Bryce is to marry his beautiful and wealthy Ailien, Conall cannot help but but be drawn from afar to the bride’s older sister. With her serious demeanor, habitual black dress, ubiquitous gloves and streak of white in her dark hair, Innes is no beauty by conventional standards. Conall tries to resist the lure of her attractions but after Innes tumbles into his arms on the stairs he can think of little else. Standing between them is Innes fear that no man can accept her “gifts (as her father rejected her mother) and Conall’s belief he is repellant and unloveable due to his physical and mental scars.

Writing all of this out makes it sound much more interesting than it was to read. Both Innes and Conall are good initial concepts for characters, but McGoldrick never fleshes them out or does anything original with them. We are told that Conall lost his hand, is scarred and suffered terribly in his imprisonment, but he never struggles to adjust to being a one-handed warrior. He rides, catches Innes in his arms when she tumbles on the steep stairs and fends off other fighting men without any problems. Unlike other books, such as The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly, where the military man has lost a hand, we never see Conall struggle with his loss or his dexterity. For a warrior whose entire identity centered around his fighting skills, It’s as if Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones just shrugged and carried on without missing a beat. Conall is solitary and has some nightmares but he never progresses from a cliche of a the boiler plate “dark and tormented” hero. Oh, and he has a tame wolf named Thunder, because of course he does.

Innes bored me a bit on my first reading and then started to grate on me by my second time around. She wears only black because she is “mourning the loss of innocence in the world” which sounds like the kind of pretentious statement one expects from an emo teen not an almost 30 year old woman. When her sister comes to her crying on her wedding night because Bryce, who had wooed and charmed her up to this point, suddenly did a 180 degree turn and declared they would have separate chambers and their marriage was just for procreating. Innes mostly takes Bryce’s side implying Aliein is being childish, that it is clan business and she better suck it up and thank Bryce for “covering” for her not wanting to have sex with him. In the meantime Innes plans her future where she will travel about where she wants, then eventually pick some convent to settle in. She has no intent to use her powers again or help her country or her fellow Scots in any way. Clearly she is unfamiliar with the concept of “With great power comes great responsibility.”

While Ailien is learning her new duties as wife of the laird, settling into her marriage, working hard and trying to find out the circumstances of Bryce’s first wife’s death, Innes goes for walks, refuses to attend meals in the hall with the others, sketches and tells Conall (who correctly points out wandering off unarmed and on her own is dangerous) that she does and will do exactly what she pleases. Must be nice. She also steadfastly refuses to use her powers to help Ailien find out why and how wife #1 “fell out a window.” Bryce is not under suspicion because he was “away” at the time, but if my sister was the most desirable and well dowered young lady in the Highlands (and even if she weren’t) I’d take a secret peek at her impoverished husband myself, just to make sure Ailien wasn’t married off to a budding Bluebeard. Or maybe I just like my sister a lot more than Innes likes hers.

When we finally see Innes use her well hyped powers, it’s a bit of a let down. Sure she feels Conall’s suffering when she brushes against him, but the guy just came back from a couple years in a dungeon after his hand was cut off in battle. You don’t have to be Sookie Stackhouse to pick up on his pain. I can’t predict what I will have for lunch tomorrow, but even I could suss out that much. Innes also astounds some young ruffians (and the Sinclair brother’s aunt Wynda) by telling the ruffians what village they came from and their mother’s name, but it seems like the kind of cold reading Sherlock or Patrick Jane from The Mentalist could just pull out of their memory palace, no magic stone required.

Innes and Conall eventually do become involved after a series of chess matches and meetings and every member of their respective families has either been scheming to bring them together or is completely thrilled with the idea. Everyone is also either oblivious to or completely fine with them having a lot of premarital sex. Ailien’s virtue was CLAN BUSINESS that had to be advertised at all cost on her wedding night, but Innes and Conall are above all these petty rules and customs that their siblings were subject to. When Conall finds out Innes’s secret there is a bit of angst (he doesn’t want to cause her pain) but it gets worked out pretty quickly.

Eventually the Big Bad shows up in the form of an Englishman who is marauding his way through Scotland, searching for all the pieces and holders of the original stone tablet from whence Innes’s fragment came.

Show Spoiler
By the time he shows up in the area, he has already picked up the terrifying skill of bringing people back from the dead by killing the previous possessor of this talent and taking their stone. As the power of the stone is not passed on unless the holder is dead AND their stone is taken by another, you would think Innes would do something sensible like: 1.) secretly bury the stone in the cellar of the heavily guarded castle she is staying in or 2.) entrust it to Ailien (who is next in line for the power) so that if Innes is killed Ailien will automatically succeed her 3.) put it any place other than on her person, so if she is caught there is no point in killing her and/or the power will not pass to whatever maniac is killing people for it 4.) have some secret pocket or specially designed place in her clothes to conceal the stone if she insists on foolishly walking around with it everywhere she goes.

Of course Innes takes none of these, or any other, sensible precautions, (despite being described throughout the book as uncommonly clever) so when she is betrayed by the secret castle villain, the toady of the Evil Englishman can just tear the pouch from her waist and triumphantly carry it to his master, leaving her to be murdered.

Of course Innes isn’t killed, the stone is taken by the E.E. to set up the next book in the series, Conall and Thunder save her and the couple from the previous book (whom I know nothing about and in whom I have no emotional investment in) show up in the nick of time to lend a hand and spread the prequel bait for their story. Innes and Conall get their happy wedding, anyone left with the stamina for it can follow the quest for the stones in the next book, and I have finally reached the end of my endurance test and assuaged my Catholic guilt over not finishing the novel previously.

I do however, still feel a bit guilty about my review because this is not a horrible book. It’s not an F or even a D grade. It’s just very, very mediocre. It’s actually the hardest kind of review to write because there is nothing to either gush or rave about. There is nothing new to be found here – which isn’t a crime in itself as I really enjoy tropes or even very simple romances if they are particularly well written, touching, charming or just fun. This book isn’t. This is the kind of book where nothing stands out. It’s not poorly written or outrageous. It’s….OK. It’s the kind of book that is damned with faint praise and in the golden days of yore would make its way to the used paperback store to get traded in for something better. It does make me wonder, as I often do this time of year, about how this C- book made it onto the list of finalists. Do people really think this is amongst the handful of best books in its genre published in 2016? Because sadly, I don’t.

(no subject)

May. 28th, 2017 01:45 pm
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
I did something this week I'd been meaning to do since I was in college: Went to one of Andy Statman's regular residence gigs at the Charles Street shul in the Village. He's been in residence there since, like, the late 90s, and I spent four years in the mid '00s just a half mile east, and I knew he was playing shows, and I knew I loved Andy Statman's music like burning, but I never managed to do it. Because his weekly gig was on Thursday nights and Thursday nights were usually frisbee team practice in Union Square, I think.

Statman is a klezmer clarinetist and bluegrass mandolinist and sometimes a jewgrass mandolinist/clarinetist. He plays both instruments with prodigious speed and fluency, and more importantly, with tremendous soul and spirit. He was a student of the great klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras and became one of the great proponents of the '70s klezmer revival.

I came across one of his albums in the library last week and said "Hey, I wonder if he's still playing at Charles Street" and I checked and he was, so I went in to the City to see the show.

The concerts are in the tiny and cramped basement of the shul, with Hebrew school posters of the Alef Bes on the walls. There was a bottle of vodka and some pareve cookies on a table, apparently for anybody who wanted to take. They didn't take admission, but at intermission the shul president asked everyone who could afford it for a fifteen dollar donation. When a woman tried to give him a twenty, he forced her to take change. It was, in short, one of the most heimishe concerts I've ever been at.

And the music was splendid, an opening set of klezmer with Statman blowing beautiful strings of notes on his clarinet along with his trio of bassist Jim Whitney and drummer Larry Eagle (Highlighted by 'the Lobster song', supposed a song played by Romanian Jewish lobstermen in early 20th century Maine while they gathered their treif bounty), followed by an instrumental bluegrass set. They were later joined by visiting guitarist and bluegrass singer Gene Yellin for a handful of songs. They made up the setlist as they want along, sometimes just strumming a chord or a simple melody to get the rest of the band on the same page. Yellin wanted to play a couple of songs that Whitney and Eagle didn't know- Whitney told Yellin and Statman- "You two get started, we'll either figure it out and catch up or we won't." Spoiler alert: They figured it out.

The whole experience was a blast, getting to hear such great music in such a low key setting. I need to go back again when I get a chance.


May. 28th, 2017 08:02 am
marthawells: (SGA Team)
[personal profile] marthawells
Good things that happened:

* My husband made short bread from scratch, and it was so delicious. Store bought shortbread is going to taste like cereal from now on.

* I cleaned out the guestroom closet and a friend took the debris away for her school's garage sale. Now you can walk into the closet and see all the stuff like sheets, coats, blankets, dining room table leaves, Xmas boxes, etc that needs to be in there. (One of the reasons we bought this old, comfortable, shitshow of a house is that it has closets in almost every room and they're huge. The downside of that is stuff gets put in them and you forget it's there and just put stuff in on top of it.)

* I also cleaned out and did some rearrangement of my office, mainly getting rid of the desk which wasn't being used since I don't have a desktop computer anymore. A lot of old publishing letters and paperwork went to my archive at Cushing Library, freeing up filing cabinet drawers for things to go into and I gave away some more stuff to the school garage sale. We're going to put a chair in there so people can actually go in, sit down, and read. (The process started with the realization that we didn't actually have to keep the door closed to keep the cats out since Jack and Tasha don't eat paper, plastic, and string like Harry did.)

* I love the new mattress. I'm actually having longer more detailed dreams, or at least remembering longer more detailed dreams, because I'm not constantly waking up trying to find a position that's not painful.

* I lucked into a half-price frame sale and got some prints we bought at Comicpalooza framed and hung up in the hallway.

* I've been gradually trying to get the choking vines out of the front flower bed, and it's sort of almost starting to look better.

* Doctor Who has been awesome. God, I love Bill as much as Donna. I want Donna to get her memory back and she and Bill have to find the Tardis and go off to rescue the Doctor.

Stuff I need to do today:

* Finish off the Raksura Patreon story (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2458567) and get it posted. I'm almost done with it, I just need the concentration to finish a tricky conversation.

* Pull more vines out of flower bed.

Stuff I need to do this week:

* Re-paint the trim in the stairwell.

* Make some serious progress on Murderbot 4.

* more vines

Things I have coming up:

* I'm doing a signing with Rachel Caine at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX, on Saturday July 15, at 4:30

If you can't come in person, you can order signed copies of The Harbors of the Sun and The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red and Rachel's Ash and Quill, the latest in her Great Library series, and Stillhouse Lake. Plus whichever of our other books the store can order.

Squirrel Cuteness

May. 28th, 2017 09:19 am
common_nature: common nature grass (Default)
[personal profile] fadedwings posting in [community profile] common_nature
Squirrel from my New England backyard...

Mike's Blog Round Up

May. 28th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Tengrain

Mike's Blog Round Up

Thanks so much for letting me be part of your week, Crooks and Liars! This is a wrap for this week, but I hope to be with you again soon!

Mike the Mad Biologist says that the Democrats need to increase turnout. He's right.

Welcome Back To Pottersville noticed that the Russian Usurper was leading from the rear.

David E's Fablog says that when Trump says "Jump" his minions say "How High?"

Bonus Track: Edge of Sports interviews Ibtihaj Muhammad—the only Muslim-American woman to ever medal at the Olympics—about being a political athlete.

Round-up by Tengrain who blogs at Mock, Paper, Scissors. You can follow Tengrain on the Twitters, too. Send tips, requests, and suggestions to mbru@crooksandliars.com (with For MBRU in the subject line).

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Posted by contributors

Simon Mabon | (The Conversation) | – –

The bombing of Manchester Arena on May 22 struck the very heart of British society. It was a horrific, direct assault on the innocent and the vulnerable. Many of the victims were children and young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, who had gone to listen to the music of Ariana Grande, an event that many had spent months looking forward to. Such gigs are a daily occurrence across the UK and the West and music plays an important role in everyday lives. The Conversation

But what of those young people whose lives do not include access to music, or education? What of those directly affected by war or political turmoil? In Syria, 11m people have been displaced from their homes and a whole generation have had their lives destroyed by the conflict.

Similar stories can be found in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon, in Egypt, Turkey, Yemen and Bahrain. Under these conditions, it is increasingly difficult for people to live lives shaped by the structures those in the West recognise. Ensuring that basic human rights are met is nigh on impossible. The right to education, for instance, is one of the first casualties of war and with the destruction of state infrastructure, schools are lost, too – along with the opportunities and hope they offer.

The 14th-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldoun said this:

Politics is concerned with the administration of home or city in accordance with ethical and philosophical requirements, for the purpose of directing the mass toward a behaviour that will result in the preservation and permanence of the (human) species.

His words still ring true today. Writing before such luminaries as Thomas Hobbes, Khaldun’s vision of politics and political organisation retains contemporary relevance – and it is easy to see why. To suggest that politics is driven by existential concerns about the preservation and permanence of the species appears intuitive. Yet what are the ramifications if politics fails?

Failed states

States, by their very nature, are projects of exclusion. They define who is a citizen and, conversely, who is not. Such divisions are constructed then performed on a regular basis, in a range of different ways, from voting to singing national anthems. Of course, other identities exist which can be equally exclusionary, be they based around ethnicity, religion, gender, class, location or a number of other factors. When such identities are subject to change there are undeniably serious repercussions.

A lack of confidence in state structures is certainly one such source of frustration. Across the Middle East, states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have traditionally sought to address unemployment by creating jobs within the public sector. Yet with huge demographic growth across the Middle East where populations have increased by 53% between 1991 and 2010 – and challenging economic situations – their ability to bring people into the public sector was reduced.

Additionally, drought and other environmental factors have resulted in widespread migration from rural communities to urban centres, itself posing further challenges. Across the region, a relatively young population – 15- to 29-year-olds make up 28% of the Middle East’s population and in Arab countries, 60% of people are under 25 – is facing a challenging and deeply uncertain future.

Rapid demographic change in the region means that by 2020 it is estimated that more than 350m people will be living in countries deemed “vulnerable to conflict”. By 2050, it is estimated that this number will reach 700m. If so, the ability to regulate and protect life will be increasingly challenged. Moreover, changing demographics put additional pressure on state structures to meet basic needs, to provide education and health care across a number of different states.

An Arab Human Development Report from 2016 correctly stressed that “the events of 2011 and their ramifications are the outcome of public policies over many decades that gradually led to the exclusion of large sectors of the population from economic, political and social life”.

Many have bemoaned the failure of academics and policy makers to predict the Arab Uprisings, but the data was there. The warning signs were clear. Demographics were changing, people were increasingly angry, and a catalyst – the self immolation of Mohammad Bouazizzi – was the trigger that caused many to take to the streets in protest.

The rise of anger

Anger is not the sole reason for individuals to resort to violence. Nor is it the sole factor in causing radicalisation. But it is an important factor. Anger is an understandable consequence of states’ failure to meet basic needs. In the Middle East, tens of millions of youths have been left without opportunities and are facing grim futures. This disillusioned demographic is fertile ground for radicals.

But anger can also be triggered by the interference in the region by external states and we should not ignore the role of our own foreign policy in this, whether it is in Afghanistan, Syria or Libya. The legacy of colonialism in the Middle East is not restricted to academic or historical debates. People continue to feel aggrieved by it.

Of course, we can still see the terrible effects of the 2003 Iraq war, but the escalation of events in Libya, Syria and Yemen, resulting in humanitarian crises not seen since World War II has, in part, been brought about by Western (in)action. The absence of any sound plan following the toppling of the Ghaddafi regime created space for militias to gain power and commit violence across Libya.

Meanwhile, Western flip-flopping in Syria empowered the Assad regime, which facilitated the deaths, displacement and torture of millions. Anger created by these factors is not the sole cause of the Manchester attack, but it can help to explain why Islamic State narratives find traction.

The French political theorist Michel Foucault once spoke of the boomerang effects between coloniser and colony – and it is easy to see how, in today’s global world, what happens in the Middle East can have implications for us elsewhere.

Simon Mabon, Lecturer in International Relations, Lancaster University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT: “terrorism & economic growth”


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