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Wednesday

The Irish and Water

Shannon Estuary, County Limerick, Ireland, July 2014.
At last. The Irish people, in their tens of thousands, are standing up to their Government and its endless austerity/tax mantra/delusion.

The Irish have a deep connection with water, something that was obviously underestimated by the bean counters who spend every day thinking up crazy new tax-generating schemes. For starters, Ireland is an island and the water around us has been the key driver in our national evolution, our very psyche. From the Ice Age glaciers that carved out the landscape to the Atlantic Ocean that pounds holes in the Cliffs of Moher every day and the mighty Shannon, the biggest river in these islands, we are defined by water, fresh and salt. Our new blood (and blood-letting!) has come by water, from the Vikings to the Normans to the armies of Cromwell. St Patrick was brought over by seaborne raiders and holy water is still revered by many to this day. We call whiskey 'uisce beatha', the water of life. Water is key to our brewing tradition and we are the only country in the world where the law requires the addition of the neurotoxin fluoride to the drinking water supply. Let's not forget the rain. We get a lot of that.

The Romans called Ireland Hibernia, the land of winter. Not bad. The land of water would've been better. Aquania.

It's not just about paying twice for water, or the cronyism endemic in the creation of a new utility which will be privatised ASAP, or the imposition of endless new taxes on the Irish people by the international money overlords. It's really about the unending incompetence of the politicians who have put party political interests above the interests of the people since independence. In my opinion, the only viable solution is not a general election, but a participative, secular democracy and the dissolution of politics as we know it.

Meanwhile, the unholy mess that is Irish Water can be solved with three actions. Firstly, the Constitution needs to be changed to make clear that Ireland's natural resources, including water, will always be owned by, and used to benefit, the people. This could be done as part of a complete, crowdsourced overhaul of the Constitution which would give the Republic back to a battered and disillusioned people.

Secondly, the metering of water consumption by every household should begin immediately, but with no bills whatsover for at least a year. People should be given regular statements of how much water they've used in excess of allowances and how much their bill would be if their habits remain the same. This would give everyone the opportunity to improve their usage of water.

Finally, with a measurement of the amount of water leaving the treatment facilities and meter readings of how much water is being consumed at the far end, we will know exactly how much water is being lost along the way. Until new utility 'Irish Water' gets wastage down to less than 10% nobody should face a water bill.

Ireland's salvation will not come from Bono or Bob Geldof, who hold little sway with the people, or even Russell Brand, who does actually appear to walk the walk. The hope for a better, fairer future can only come from within, from the population as a whole, through mass participation in the decisionmaking process, a process which has been an utter failure to date.

Thursday

Vampire Story - #FREE Full Spectrum Entertainment

Vampire-Story-Gary-J-Byrnes

When I had the idea for Vampire Story a couple of years back (that idea being to tie Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, in with modern vampires living in Stoker's hometown of Dublin), I didn't realise how big the project would become. Making a film, even a short one, is a piece of work. Dozens of talented people, location permits, equipment hire, the weather, the script - all these have to come together at the right time for magic to even stand a chance of happening. But the magic did happen and we have a showcase available now for all the world to see, for free.

I figured that a story about a novelist needed to be expressed in its literary form also, so I wrote Vampire Story the book, taking the intimacy of text as an excuse to push back the boundaries of the story, create some new worlds within the world that was captured so well by Canon 5D cameras.

Then I contacted the musical geniuses who made the movie soundtrack, Carol Keogh and Aidan Casserly, and asked if we could release the Vampire Story music to the people of the world to enjoy as their own, personal soundtrack to life. They said Yes! and, within days, the original soundtrack was available globally.

Vampire Story is now full spectrum entertainment, and all for free (except on Amazon - they don't do free). So go and enjoy it and spread the vampire love...


Download the ebook from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/488055


Listen to the OST, for free, on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/houseofanalogue/sets/vampire-story-ost-2014

You can also find the OST on BandCamp here: https://carolkeogh.bandcamp.com/album/vampire-story-soundtrack

Please share widely - the perfect soundtrack to life. Even if you live forever...

Like Vampire Story on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/vampirestorymovie

Connect with Gary J Byrnes  and find free ebooks here: http://www.garyjbyrnes.com


Saturday

So, How's World War 3 Going For You?

"Destroy IS - God does not exist - All people are equal"
It will be interesting to see what future historians make of us and these days. When will they set as the start date for this great conflict that is slowly eating the world and our hopes for the future? Will it be September 24, 2014, when President Obama told the UN that the war against IS/ISIS/ISIL was just the beginning of a wider struggle against fundamentalist Islamic ideology? Will it be June 29, 2014, when the new caliphate was declared (caliph means successor, the first caliphate declared in the Arabian peninsula back in 632, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad).

Will the start of WW3 be dated at September 11, 2001, when the al-Qaeda attacks on the US punched the liberal western world in the gut, almost causing the collapse of society, but leading directly to the financial crisis that has made the 99% so tired, miserable and hopeless? Or will it be back in August 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued his Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places (US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia by President George HW Bush in 1990, enraging Muslims. Most were withdrawn in 2003.) Is it only a declared war when the superpower decides to name it so? Or did it really get serious with al-Qaeda's second declaration of war, fatwa, on February 23, 1998?

The second fatwa states that three facts that are known to everyone compel war against the United States. First, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places. Second, the crusader-Zionist alliance has inflicted great devastation upon the Iraqi people. Third, the United States' goal is to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. It concludes with instructions to all Muslims everywhere:



The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it. Every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded should comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.






Or should we go back a little further? Perhaps to 1095, when Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Two centuries of war ensued. Two centuries. Or should we go back to 636, when Muslims forces defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Yarmouk (in Syria) to take control of the famed Levant? Or back again, to 610, when Muhammad first started receiving revelations from the archangel Gabriel? (Of course, these early options for dating WW3 precede World Wars 1 and 2, creating a paradoxical conundrum for another day.)


Tricky.
Let's just go with the reality that we are where we are. So, what's it all about? I have three possible answers:


1. This is just the latest chapter in the clash of cultures between Islam and Judaism/Christianity (remember Yarmouk*?).
This is credible, but strange, because all three religions are monotheistic (believing in a single god, as opposed to, say, Hinduism, which believes in many gods) and all their god stories derive from Abraham, an ancient figure from Canaan who was 'ordered by god' to kill his son and was about to do so until 'told by god' to kill a goat instead. Really. So it's all a big, stupid, endless game: Which of these related religions is the most mental? As an atheist I am both horrified and confused by how religious fervour on both sides seems to underline the entire conflict.

*The Battle of Yarmouk happened in Syria in 636, when the first Muslim Caliphate destroyed the army of the declining Byzantine Empire, effectively forcing the West from the Levant until the Crusades. The parallels with the current sutuation are uncanny and IS is really pushing the historical precedent of Yarmouk. Find out more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Yarmouk.

2. This is all about the American Empire in decline and IS wanting to fill the vacuum.
WikiLeaks, the diplomatic cables, Edward Snowden, the NSA. Our understanding of American strength has changed in recent years. Duplicity, conspiracy and hypocrisy led to the Arab Spring and the downfall of US puppet dictators across the Middle East. Some of them, anyway. The most powerful US-allied dictators, the Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia, still reign supreme, still control the flow of oil, upon which the US economy and the US war machine depend. The Saudi brand of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, birthed al-Qaeda and Saudis piloted the 9/11 jets. Many assume that the Saudis also created IS, as a counter to Iranian (Shia) influence in Iraq. Maybe they saw their American proxy army having its political limitations so they decided to create their own?

3. This is really a war between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam and the west is being used as a pawn in a bigger struggle.
Saudi Arabia leading the majority Sunni Islamic sect against Iran leading the minority Shia Islamic sect. The Sunnis and Shias have been at each others' throats virtually since the dawn of Islam. Consider the Catholic V Protestant Christian wars that have consumed Europe for centuries, most recently in Northern Ireland, and you get the flavour of what hatred pathetically minor religious differences can generate. Some say that the disastrous Iraq War which began in 2003 was caused by Iranian agents leading the US into an unwinnable conflict so as to remove Iran's greatest regional and religious enemy, Saddam Hussein. The very first caliph (Sunni), who ruled after Muhammad from 632-634, was named Aby Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State caliphate is named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In my opinion, the real answer is a bastard mix of all three scenarios and the only way to effectively deal with IS and this never-ending conflict is to address the three main issues from bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war: Get all US troops out of Saudi Arabia, while replacing the horrific Saud monarchy with a secular democracy. Place the religious sites of Mecca and Medina apart from Saudi Arabia, controlled by a coalition representing all Muslims everywhere. Then fix Iraq. A secular, participative democracy must be created. Throw as much money at this problem as was thrown at the war that destroyed the place (about $6 TRILLION, including future veterans' benefits). Fix Palestine, a two-state solution, ideally without Netanyahu, recognising that Orthodox Judaism is as much part of the problem as Fundamentalist Islam.

It is my dream that atheism and secularism can replace the religions that have poisoned the Middle East and spread like a virus into the world. Without religion, can you genuinely see this mutating conflict, from Iraq and Syria to Gaza and Afghanistan, sustaining itself?

In 2014, in 13 countries, all members of the United Nations, and all Muslim nations, being an atheist is punishable by death, typically by beheading - so shocking when carried out by IS. These nations are: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Is this a clash of civilisations? I think so.

Connect with Gary J Byrnes at www.GaryJByrnes.com

Thursday

Scotland Decides


The decline and fall of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland began in 1919, with a guerrilla campaign, devised by Irish terrorist Michael Collins. Collins and his teams murdered British agents in cold blood on the streets of Dublin, organised ambushes of British military columns and dealt with informants ruthlessly. Britain responded with massacres of civilians, the torching of cities and the mobilisation of death squads, the infamous Black and Tans. But Collins' asymmetric warfare campaign could not be countered with the standard British scorched earth tactics that had worked so well in Ireland for centuries. So a peace settlement was reached in 1921.

When the Irish Free State was created, Northern Ireland remained with the Union. Settled by mainly Scottish Protestants during the Plantations of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ulster would keep her Scottish links, treat Catholic/Nationalist residents as officially second class citizens and continue to say "Never!" So the island of Ireland remains a broken place, divided by anger, hatred and the Union.

Scotland today has an opportunity to break with the Union, to break with the idea of a 'united kingdom' dominated by an unelected monarchy, controlled by an elitist, English Establishment and ruled by a ruthless, market-obsessed Tory Government. Importantly, Scotland can break free using a referendum, without a single shot being fired. And, if she does choose independence, the Unionists of Northern Ireland will sleep uneasily as the last vestiges of legitimacy for their union are stripped away, exposing the moral vacuum at the heart of the failure that will be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Come on, Scotland!

On Finishing A Novel - Advertisement for Myself

Working cover design for the new novel from Gary J Byrnes

Four years. That's how long it took to finish my latest novel. Looking back at the events of the summer of 2010 - on Wikipedia, you can look at world events for every day in the recent past, every day! - I was struck by how little has changed. Iran, Gaza, recession, this was the 2010 news. If anything, things have gotten worse. Syria. IS. Ukraine. But I have my novel and maybe that can help to make things a little better for some, if only by providing my readers with a distraction, an entertainment, a different perspective.

That's the magic of stories. Stories are what give us the best of humanity. They are educators. They share ideas, spark revolutions - yes, a tweet is a story - and can provide a history and a future all at once. The Internet is a story, a glorious, connected, infinite dazzle of chapters and books and autobiographies. "Here I am! Look at me! Please." And the Internet has changed book publishing over those four years. The terrible beauty of self-published ebooks, with virtually instant distribution to an entire planet, countless trees saved, swathes of middlemen and their margins bypassed, analytics that don't lie and, best of all, readers in the driving seat.

"Read this sad and desperate ghost-written autobiography of a perfectly boring sports person!" shouts the ad on the side of the bus. "Let's talk about the shit book written by the actor who works for the film company that's also owned by the megalomaniac who owns this TV channel and is also the publisher of said shit book," says the talking head on the living room flatscreen. "Christmas is coming, so let's talk to a tedious chef about why you must buy yet another fucking cookbook," says the dying magazine which has been paid peanuts to peddle crap. These are the breathless last gasps of a dead business model.

I will be happy, delighted even, to publish To Eat the World myself. My story is about food and art and Nazi bankers who want to control the world economy but who will also detonate a nuclear bomb under Wall Street, because fiddling with the economy is just so fucking boring and people have had just about enough of that shit reality. So you can smell the food, you can visualise the great art as you glimpse a greater understanding of why we cook and why we make pictures and why the two go together. Why Nazis? Because they have influenced the modern art world more than any other organisation. Perhaps they've had more of an influence on today's world than we would like to acknowledge.

And the understanding that you will reach as you read my story will come from you. I don't join all the dots. I give you the dots to join as you will.

So, yes, I will be happy - delighted even - to publish To Eat the World myself. It can be in the iTunes stores and on Barnes and Noble's virtual shelves in a day. It can be in every Google Play app store and every Amazon marketplace that same day. And it will be very good value and it will sell as my body of self-published work proves. But would I like to work with an agent or publisher who can put it on bus sides and TV and magazines so that it can reach a wider audience? Absolutely. Because I know that my story is worth it.

If you're an agent or publisher and would like to find out more, email Gary at garyjbyrnes@gmail.com or call +353-87-249 3051.


Find Gary's books, including bestselling 9/11 Trilogy, on iTunes.

Wednesday

Why the Islamic State Must be Stopped

The Islamic State (IS) flag shows that strong, contemporary branding can coexist with 7th century ideology.
The cold-blooded murder of journalist James Foley, as reported on 19 August, 2014, is notable for many reasons:
  • It was the first known blow by IS against the US.
  • It was planned and filmed.
  • It was broadcast on social media.
  • It will further limit the ability of journalists to report on the horrors of the Middle East.
  • A British man is thought to have committed the act.
  • It followed multiple massacres of Iraqi soldiers and civilians.
  • It followed US airstrikes on IS, which followed three years of US inaction in Syria.
  • And it happened against a broader backdrop of a Middle East in flames and in danger of general collapse and/or all-out war.

IS exploded into the global consciousness in just the past couple of months, as it seized a huge chunk of the Middle East, including oil fields, US weaponry and that dam. But its roots go back to al-Qaeda in Iraq and Bin Laden's vision of a Muslim Caliphate stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the Middle East, North Africa and into Spain. IS wants to erase all modern borders between Muslim countries - many drawn by the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement during WW1 - and create a hardcore (Sunni) Muslim superstate, governed by Sharia (religious) law and with a huge chip on its shoulder towards the West, USA and Britain in particular. The complete destruction of Israel is also on the IS agenda.

Some believe that US policy post 9/11 was to engineer a Sunni Vs Shia civil war, getting both key Muslim ideologies to fight each other back to the Stone Age. We may be nearing that reality, but in a messier way than any analyst or strategist could have foreseen. What with Wikileaks, Snowden and the NSA revelations, Russia resurgent, Western hypocrisy exposed, the Arab Spring, Iran's nuclear weapons programme, Gaza, Syria, Europe's impotence, China's calm waiting, the collapse of the (grossly unfair and exploitative) global financial system and civil rights riots on the streets of America, the world is a huge mess. Where are the good guys? There are no good guys any more. The mask has slipped, the curtain is torn down forever.

And into the moral vacuum has stepped the Islamic State. They don't have our Western morals, of course. They have seventh century Sunni Islamic morals. But for the desperate, hate-filled Muslims of Syria, Iraq and Europe, who have seen their lands, wealth and people plundered by foreign powers and the West's client dictators, the IS moral compass is magnetic, powerful and, most worryingly, successful.

IS is approaching critical mass. If it succeeds in grabbing more territory in the Middle East, in completing a coup in a West-leaning dictatorship, or in launching a spectacular attack on the US or Europe, it will draw even more disillusioned, angry young Muslims to its ranks and deliver a tangible model to the millions of Muslims who know only lives of grinding poverty in lands of plenty.

The Islamic State, described as a cancer by President Obama, must be stopped, before it imposes its insanity across Muslim lands and, eventually, the world. If it requires Western boots on the ground to achieve the destruction of IS, let's leave faith and prayers and all thoughts of crusade behind and fight for liberty, equality and humanity. Britain and France must take responsibility for drafting the borders in the Middle East, the cause of much of the strife, so Europe should take the lead in attacking IS. By helping to fix past wrongs we in the West must learn something about ourselves and our role in this horrible reality. The European Union was invented to deal with history and avoid its repetition. Here we go again...

The IS Caliphate was declared on 29 June, 2014. At the time of writing, it still stands.

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Sunday

An Online Survey into the Human Condition

The Human Condition Online Survey by Gary J Byrnes

What is the human condition? This is a subject I tackle in my writing and I'm trying to improve my understanding of what makes us human, our hopes and fears. I'd really appreciate your help with an online survey, it'll only take a couple of minutes and your input is totally anonymous. Many thanks!

Find the survey here: http://goo.gl/PcgUlE

What is the human condition? It can be loosely defined as the unalterable and unique realities that affect all people, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, culture or class. It is your perception of what it is to be human.

An ongoing attempt at understanding the human condition is found in literature, art, history and philosophy. Most importantly, an attempt at understanding is going on right now, in you. If you can share your current feelings about being human, you will help me to better discover a universal meaning of life and humanity in my writing.

Your answers are entirely confidential and cannot be attributed to you by me. So please be as honest as your human condition allows. Upon completing the survey, you will be able to access summary charts of the responses collected to date. Many thanks.

Connect at www.GaryJByrnes.com