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Tuesday

To Eat The World - My New Thriller

Now available in print and ebook formats.
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Everyone must die during dessert. Can Sophie save New York and the world?

In the dying days of World War Two, Nazi rocket scientists were spirited to America to give the United States a strategic edge in the atomic arms race. Some of the Nazis built a secret empire in New York, founded on looted art and gold.

Fast forward to today. Emboldened by the rise of right-wingers and the broken economy, the Nazis plan to take over the Presidency, destroy Wall Street and enslave the world, launching their coup at a King Louis XVI-themed art banquet. Sophie, a Manhattan chef, is asked to cook for the President at the feast. Her ex-lover, art expert Jacob, will be served as the main course.

A sexy, thrilling tale of great food, classic art and the meaning of beauty, love and life.


Extract to follow:

TO EAT THE WORLD
by Gary J Byrnes

That feeling, that good feeling at the end of a busy, smooth service. Uneventful but for the trainee chef dropping his spectacles into the pot of boiling water and the customer who didn’t want to pay for his steak. Sophie put her hand into the water to retrieve the glasses without thinking. ‘All the nerves in your hands will become numb over time. And get a cord for the spectacles, yeah?’ Steak guy said he didn't like it. ‘He should’ve realised that before he ate the whole damned thing. He even licked the T-bone clean! Now tell him that we’ve got police officers on the premises and I can get them to sort it out for us.’ So he paid and apologised. It reminded her of the time the diner complained that her Vichyssoise was simply freezing. This kind of stuff happens every single day. Part of the reason she loved the job. It was all about meeting the key primal need for food, which comes even before sex and shelter in terms of daily importance.

Her dad, who brought his French culinary skills over during the War, always impressed on young Sophie the importance of food as a business. People can put off buying a new car or a coat. They can never put off eating lunch and dinner. And, in the end, hunger will make them kill for food.

So just some desserts going out, then a gushing sliced thumb, ‘You using my Global knife again, Jimmy? So don’t. Back in my knife bag before you get the first aid kit. And never cut towards yourself. Really’. Definitely a first generation cook. The busboys fiddling with the fancy coffees, the waiters counting out and divvying up the tips, the kitchen staff eating the family meal at the table by the kitchen, a hot Thai curry tonight, or drinking Peroni beer from coffee cups or smoking cigarettes or grass joints out in the back alley by the stinking trash and the sodium street lamps and the fat rats and the pure, clean night air.

Sophie pointedly ignored the drug and alcohol abuse that went on among the staff. It was defined by economic class, from the crack-smoking dishwashers to the pot-smoking busboys to the alcoholic waiters to the coke-snorting managers. It came with the territory. When you go out to a restaurant on a quiet night, you will likely deal with a staff that’s collectively off its face. Busier nights are better. Less boredom, less time to be filled with narcotics.

‘Table four sends their compliments, boss,’ says Ramon, a good waiter, union rep.

‘Four? Okay, thanks,’ she muttered. Odd. And he hasn't been out for his smoke with the help yet. Something’s up.

She washed her hands, slapped some cold water on the back of her neck, dried off. Then she carefully applied some lipstick, poured a glass of house red, a decent Californian Pinot Noir - Ingrid’s - good berry and chocolate tingles. And so, to meet her audience.

The restaurant was still full of customers but calmer now, all baked New York cheesecake, Colombian coffee and French brandy. The congressman spotted her and stood, grinning broadly. That spark in his eye, that curious, irresistible molecular reaction in her, like strawberries meeting balsamic vinegar. How did it happen, the two of them? He loved his food and the restaurant was near his campaign office. Was that it? Was that what brought people together, the coincidence of the mundane? No. Her food was definitely not mundane. That’s why her stake in Oral Pleasures was worth at least a million, so the accountant said. She glanced at the couples sharing desserts with single, long-stemmed spoons. Eight out of ten would certainly get in the neighbourhood of sex tonight, the condom machines in the bathrooms proved that. The minds would be willing, the bodies less so. Have more sex, then you won’t get so fat. One hundred and four covers, two seatings per night. Sometimes three. Hundred bucks a head. Do the math. Turnover last year: eight million. Surely this was something to be proud of?

So why the unease, the slithering emptiness?

Sophie’s typical day: Lie in bed awake until the alarm bings at 7.30. Green tea and salty olives and French cigarettes on the terrace, feed the dog, the Bijon Frise in her little house outside on the balcony (she rarely gets in the apartment), morning noises and smells, honking cabs and muffled shouts and the aromas of toasting bagels and street coffee drifting up from Bleecker Street below. The Village. The pulsing heart of Bohemian New York. Nigella sniffs the air, cocks an ear. Beautiful. Okay, she gets inside when Sophie's home. Shower. More tea, more smoke. Set up Nigella’s feeder, top-up her water. Then stroll up to West 4th St, catch the E up to 50th Street or, more often than not, walk, walk fast. Impossible to do that now without thinking back to that day, that crazy rush uptown with the bewildered thousands on The Day The Planes Came.
In the restaurant by 9.30, checking that the night cleaners had done a perfect job. Oversee the prep for lunch and dinner and the deli counter. How many potatoes peeled and diced? How much pesto today? Ten gallons, ten! It also sells by the half-pint to take away out front, nice little side earner. Sophie helps out a little during lunch service, but doesn't run the show. Her assistant, Carl, a little rough around the edges but talented and getting better, he manages lunch. She monitors, rolls her sleeves up when required, say when a tour bus with thirty jaded Japanese tourists turns up unannounced, all facemasks and Nikons. This happens. It's the pesto and the Facebook page.

Split shift. The afternoon is all about the accounts, with Wang, who runs the back office for her. Numbers, account balancing, debtor and creditor management, payroll, taxes. The dullest but most important part of the restaurant business. Sophie enjoyed it. As much as cooking even.
This was why she was so successful, why she was sometimes hard to live with. She cared passionately about the little details, wouldn't let stuff slide. When things were in a smooth groove, she'd have some time to work with Lucy, the young marketing graduate who looked after the ads, the coupon deals so-loved by the rich, the public relations, the website. Green tea and cigarettes and a bowl of fresh pasta with butter and black pepper at six. Maybe a few prawns fried in olive oil on top.

On sticky summer days, she would sneak up to the rooftop herb garden and sunbathe naked for an hour. This made her feel like she was being naughty, a feeling she relished. Of such tiny revolutions are interesting lives made.

5pm. Send a busboy out for another pack of Marlboro Gold, then sleeves up and dinner service. Four manic hours, wind down, maybe sit with some guests for a while, depending on who's in: movie star, politician, fashion designer, or anyone old rich. Sip a glass of wine. Maybe another. Pass the baton to her business partner Rod, the general manager and maitre d’, the perfect front of house man, who was rich (old money, very old), interesting and had the connections that mattered in business. Cab back to Greenwich Village. Balcony. Cigarette. Shower. Cigarette. Bed, to lie there, stare at the cracks in the ceiling, process the day. It seems like her eyes just slow-blink and she's awake again, waiting on the alarm.

‘Sophie!’ called Congressman Sam Walsh, the third most powerful man in American politics.

‘Mr Speaker. Enjoy your meal?’

‘Did you get my compliments?’

‘You normally do it in kind. What's up?’

‘Later, honey. Don't bust my balls, okay?’

That vague edge of menace to his syrupy voice, not strong enough to put a finger on, just the subtle ring that made you do what you were told. The congressman was not a super-wise man, not especially charismatic, so go figure how he became so powerful. Family. Tradition. Wealth. Connections. No real ability, yet just two heartbeats from being the most powerful man in the world. Sophie felt this enigma from the beginning, chose to ignore it. And here she was, his piece on the side when he was up from Washington, typically at weekends. No doubt he had a woman, maybe more than one, down there too. She often wondered whether he’d make a good president, wondered if she’d get to see the Oval Office.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said then. ‘It’s all this war talk.’

He embraced her and kissed her cheek wetly, caused her glass to lose a drop or two of red, which trickled down her grubby whites. Then he turned to his party. Sophie knew them all, especially the congressman's permanent detective escort, Danny O'Brien, a decent Irish-American cop from Woodside, over in Queens. Those wet lips proposed a toast to the best chef in New York City.

A wild-eyed man eased off the bar stool.

They sat and talked and spooned dessert and drank and then the guy showed up at the table. He wanted to keep both fifties. Everything slowed down as the congressman’s security got to their feet and reached inside their jackets. The congressman grabbed a wine bottle by the neck. Sophie's crazy alarm went off as the guy loomed over her. He looked familiar, somehow. But how could a guy like this be familiar, with his shining blue eyes, his shaved head and his tattoos? The street, he's off the street.

‘This is for you, sir,’ he said in a strong voice, more of a bellow, as he thrust a little parcel towards the congressman. Sophie thought that it looked like a lover’s gift, wrapped nicely in golden paper with a white bow. Maybe a pearl necklace inside.

The background buzz of slurred conversation stalled, died.

One of the other plainclothes cops grabbed the guy from behind while Danny snatched the parcel from his outstretched hand. A tableful of drinks went flying crashing. Sophie instantly calculated the replacement cost. Bastard.

The package fell apart, exposed its contents. The congressman saw the flash of gold, remembered, knew. It has to be a real surprise.

End of extract.

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.

---

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

Wednesday

Publish Your Ebook - Best Routes to Market

The ebook revolution is nearing the end of the beginning, with ebook sales value due to exceed printed book sales any time now. Of course, ebooks are much cheaper to buy, so unit sales are already well beyond print. Certainly, the cost of production gives ebooks an enormous edge over print. Once the book is written and the cover designed, then production and distribution costs are essentially zero. Add widening availability and the adoption of innovative business models and you have realities like the first (printed) bookless public library recently opening in Texas. And since no books are being printed on paper, using chemical inks, transported around on smelly trucks and generally returned to the publisher for pulping (this happens to maybe 90% of printed books), ebooks are environmentally sustainable.

And the benefits for authors have been beyond revolutionary, with commission on sales of 45-75% the norm, compared to 10-15% from the traditional publishers. Going indie gives authors complete control over the whole distribution process and it's so fast - once the manuscript is finished, the cover designed and metadata (descriptions and keywords) defined, your book can be onsale worldwide in minutes, with complete global coverage in every key market within a day or two. This is phenomenal! And ebook sales are scalable, which means that once the work is done, it can generate revenues for the rest of your life, without the need for any further blood, sweat or tears. Best of all, writers want to be read, so independent publishing allows them to reach readers, without having to go through the 'filter' of the mainstream publishers who, let's be real, publish an awful lot of shit. (Most of which, as has been said, people don't want to read, so gets pulped.)

As well as fiction, ebooks are an excellent route for distributing non-fiction to a global audience, as you can include images and internal and external links. Businesses can also use this route to tell their stories to customers and potential customers, to be read on ebook devices from iPhones to Kindles, independent of wi-fi access.

So, you're sold on publishing an ebook though the indie route. Now, how do you go about it?

Smashwords.com
Mark Coker and Smashwords have been championing indie publishers since the revolution began, and have given us powerful tools, letting the smallest operator - author, agent or publisher - compete at the highest level. Key to Smashwords is its direct distribution route into all Apple iBookstores. The bulk of my ebook sales are through Apple, and Smashwords has made this not just possible, but easy. Apple's new iOS upgrade, due later in 2014, will incorporate their iBook reader and ebook store access into every iPhone and iPad - at the moment you need to seek it out - so expect phenomenal growth in ebook sales after this game-changing development.

To distribute through Smashwords, you'll need a properly-formatted MS Word document, all formatting to meet the specs in Mark Coker's fabulously useful ebook, Smashwords Style Guide, available free here. You'll also need a professional quality cover image and a gripping description. Think of the purchasing decision you make when buying a printed book - cover, back cover description, opening paragraph - then realise that all these have to work in ebook format. Additionally, your SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - has to be strong, and your cover needs to look good when represented as a tiny icon.

Once you upload your files to Smashwords, their system will convert your files into all the most popular ebook reading formats, as well as PDF and online reading. Once you pass this process, your book is instantly for sale on Smashwords, though you can choose to distribute for free if you like. Then your book is checked - by a human! - to see that it meets the demanding specs for premium distribution. This is key because, once you get premium approval, Smashwords delivers your ebook to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, as well as into new subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Further, Smashwords will send your book to library distributors Baker & Taylor and OverDrive. You will need an ISBN for this, but Smashwords supplies these for free.

With Smashwords, you get daily sales reporting, payment every quarter (via PayPal), the ability to generate discount coupons (for use in Smashwords store only) and space for an author interview.



Amazon Kindle Direct Programme (KDP)
Amazon is currently battling the big traditional publishers, many of whom want to charge more for ebooks than printed books! Amazon will win in the end. It's been stated that the only person essential to the publication process is the author and this is true. Amazon's KDP programme offers powerful tools to the indie publisher, including virtually instant sales graphs, the ability to preview ebooks on different reading devices, content spellcheck and age targeting. Amazon also offers the KDP Select programme, whereby authors who offer their ebooks exclusively on the KDP platform can share in a fund whenever their book is borrowed.

The Kindle publishing interface is quite straightforward. As with Smashwords, key requirements are a Word doc with similar formatting to Smashwords, a cover image and metadata. Amazon also offers Author Central, a bio page in many key marketplaces. This is certainly worth completing.

KDP payments are directly into your bank account, monthly, though you need to reach a threshold before payments in currencies different to your own can be made.



Google Play
Google are new to the market for ebooks on Play, and it shows. The registration and upload interface is quite tricky and sales reporting is poor. You need an Epub file to upload your ebook to Play, which should help you to reach readers on the Android platform. Luckily, you can download a perfect Epub file from your book page on Smashwords.


My overall advice:

  1. Get your ebooks into all three distribution routes, in the order shown above.
  2. Don't bother with exclusivity on Amazon.
  3. Make sure your ebook content is properly proofed, edited and formatted.
  4. If you can't design a professional cover image yourself, get help.
  5. Think long and hard about your metadata, looking closely at search volumes and book categories.

Good luck and Up the Revolution!



For more help with publishing your ebooks, contact gary@webtimesten.ie, tel 087 249 3051.

Friday

New #Ebook Release - Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now on sale in every good ebook marketplace. Excluding Kobo*. Find it now:







Fabulous value Thriller Box Set. Three full-length thrillers at an unbelievably low price (US$0.99), for a limited time only. Your summer holiday reading problems are solved with Gary J Byrnes’s bestselling novels, now brought together for the very first time.

Pure Mad: The Dagger Award nominated crime thriller, set in Ireland’s bubble economy, when cocaine, gang wars, dirty money and dangerous sex were a way of life. Join private detective Charlie Doyle on a mindbending journey into the dark heart of a country gone mad. 

The God Virus: A forensics expert near London is given DNA proof that humans evolved from stardust, that God does not need to exist. When his wife is murdered, he’s the prime suspect. Dark forces will stop at nothing to silence Dr William Bunk in this globespanning conspiracy thriller.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - An Alternative History: A detailed examination of the birth of Al-Qaeda, as told by one of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants and a heartstopping vision of what might have been.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes, author of number one bestseller, 9/11 Trilogy. Download it today and get your summer holiday reading sorted.

*I do not distribute my writing through Kobo, including online stores such as Eason which are fed titles by Kobo, as Kobo is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, which is the world's biggest online marketplace for elephant ivory products.

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Find out more at www.garyjbyrnes.com

Stay in touch on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garyjbyrnesthrillerwriter

Saturday

The UN Must Investigate Ireland's Catholic Past and Save Us from Ourselves

President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, kissing the episcopal ring of Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid at the turning of the sod ceremony, University College Dublin, 1962. Photo: UCD Archives
Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn has called for the United Nations to be brought in to investigate the horrors of Ireland's mass graves. As well as investigating the undocumented burials of hundreds of vulnerable children, the UN should look at all the abuses committed by the Catholic Church in Ireland and identify the politicians and civil servants that facilitated them.

What's brought us to this sorry point in Irish history? Ireland is a Catholic-controlled country, governed by a tiny elite which has always bent the knee to the Catholic Church and the global capitalist elite, whether they are in New York, London or Brussels. Yes, there was a blip from 1916-21, when a small number of genuine republicans managed to wrest independence from the British Empire. But after a vicious Civil War, 1921-22, our best and brightest were slaughtered by their fellow Irish, leaving the conservatives to define the new Republic. So they kept the Empire's control systems in place and allowed the Catholic Church to define the nation's morality, even to the extent of the Church taking complete control of Ireland's education and health systems. we have had investigations and we have concluded that the Church abused tens of thousands over decades, much of the twentieth century.

And as for the poor unmarried mothers and their kids? They were to be punished, that was God's Will. And punished they were, as the recent discovery of a mass grave of perhaps 800 dead children in Tuam, County Galway attests. These children, born out of Catholic wedlock, through no fault of their own, were brutalised, starved and mistreated by the nuns who took control of them with the blessing of the State. They were, essentially, murdered by religion in the name of the Irish State. And we must assume that there are many more such mass graves throughout this septic isle.

So how can we find justice for these children? Can the Irish Establishment, which continues to allow the Roman Catholic Church to dominate education and health and is more concerned about our bond prices than the growing inequality in society, can this gilded, aloof cluster of grey men in grey suits truly grasp the horror that lies in Ireland's dark heart? Unlikely. So we must hope that external forces, ideally in the form of the United Nations, comes to save us from ourselves, by unearthing (literally) the truth so that we can learn from it and aspire once more to the genuine ideals of our first republicans.

The timeframe for the investigation should begin in 1937, the year we adopted Eamon de Valera's Constitution which, in its preamble, states:


"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of √Čire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ... "


...giving a green light to Catholic priests and nuns to act above the law as they carried out their dastardly deeds.

Ireland is a truly rotten state. We are in a downward spiral to malaise, melancholy and madness. This cannot go on.

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available for pre-order, release date Friday, June 13, 2014.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available for pre-order, release date Friday, June 13, 2014.




Check your local ebook supplier territory.

Fabulous value Thriller Box Set. Three full-length thrillers at an unbelievably low price, for a limited time only. Your summer holiday reading problems are solved with Gary J Byrnes’s bestselling novels, now brought together for the very first time.

Pure Mad: The Dagger Award nominated crime thriller, set in Ireland’s bubble economy, when cocaine, gang wars, dirty money and dangerous sex were a way of life. Join private detective Charlie Doyle on a mindbending journey into the dark heart of a country gone mad. 

The God Virus: A forensics expert near London is given DNA proof that humans evolved from stardust, that God does not need to exist. When his wife is murdered, he’s the prime suspect. Dark forces will stop at nothing to silence Dr William Bunk in this globespanning conspiracy thriller.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - An Alternative History: A detailed examination of the birth of Al-Qaeda, as told by one of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants and a heartstopping vision of what might have been.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes, author of number one bestseller, 9/11 Trilogy. Pre-order today and get your summer holiday reading sorted.





Thursday

Voteman, Ireland, Europe and the Illusion of Democracy

Voteman - "Vote or I will destroy you!"
I was shocked to learn that the nation's councillors have cost us €52 million over the past two years. I don't buy the line that this is the price of democracy, as recent council votes in Dublin have not reflected the wishes of the people. I refer to the decisions to keep the toll on the East Link bridge and to reject the opportunity for the electorate to choose their mayor. And Irish local democracy seems to be defined by an X Factor-style popularity contest, with thousands of hideous posters of really alarmingly ugly candidates hanging on every lamp post in the land. I would like to see some of the candidates hanging on lamp posts - especially the tired old fucks who've been around for years, and the members of political dynasties that have been screwing us over since 'independence' - but probably not in a way that they'd like.

But there is an alternative. It would involve sacking every councillor and giving every citizen a direct voice in local government. For a fraction of the cost of maintaining our councils, we can build and run a web-based, participative local democracy, giving citizens a real, ongoing say in how our cities and towns are managed. Our current council structure dates back to 1898. Isn't it time for a fresh look at local government?

Ireland votes in local elections on Friday, May 23rd, when we will also vote for our members of the European Parliament, which is just as pointless and deluded as Irish local government, just on a bigger and vastly more expensive scale. Europe is run by unelected people, such as Manuel Barroso and Baroness(!) Catherine Ashton. The parliament is just a talking shop, a distraction, costing EU taxpayers €1.756 TRILLION - that's €1,756 BILLION. A YEAR! I needed a sit down after discovering that figure.

The most striking thing about this vote will be the proportion of the vote secured by UKIP and other anti-EU parties. If UKIP do as well as expected, then Britain's withdrawal from the European Union becomes a real probability (it is already a possibility). That act, if it happens, will have more of an impact on Ireland than every election - local, national or European - since the foundation of the State. I fear it may end up marking Ireland's return to the UK fold (the Queen's visit here and President Higgins's visit there can be described as a 'softening up' process). Which will bring about civil war.

Meanwhile, the single best thing to ever, ever come out of the illusion of European democracy, Denmark's Voteman cartoon, was pulled just a day after release. I will vote on May 25th, as I fear Voteman will come and get me if I don't. See it for yourself, then dare to defy Voteman:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/13/danish-parliament-cartoon-sex-violence-european-elections-video

Find out more about the cost of the European Parliament, straight from the horse's mouth (blood pressure warning):
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/00059f3ea3/The-budget-of-the-European-Parliament.html
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THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available to pre-order. Find links at: www.GaryJByrnes.com


Friday

Boycott Kobo Ebooks and Save the Elephants

With effect from today, I am opting out of the distribution of my ebooks into Kobo ebook stores from Smashwords. Kobo is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten. Rakuten made the news this week when it announced that it was ending the sale of whale meat through its websites. This is good news. But Rakuten remains the world's biggest marketplace for elephant ivory products, with approximately 28,000 ivory listings on its core Japanese site.

As reported in the Guardian (18 March, 2014), "Rakuten's ads are effectively as deadly as giving bullets to elephant poachers and harpoons to whalers," said Environmental Investigation Agency's president, Allan Thornton. "[It] must act immediately to ban all ads selling elephant and whale products, or its global brand will be irrevocably tainted with the ongoing mass slaughter of these species."

Boycott Kobo

While closing off any distribution route for my work may be commercially damaging, I don't want to endorse or profit from the trade in ivory. Ireland's biggest bookselling chain, Eason, sells only ebooks supplied by Kobo but I will forgo sales through Eason's website if it means sending a message to Rakuten. The survival of elephants is more important than the sale of my ebooks.

My ebooks will continue to be available in all other ebook channels, including Apple, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I urge all independent ebook publishers to withdraw their works from sale on Kobo until Rakuten ends the sale of ivory products. To do this, just log in to your Smashwords Dashboard, choose Channel Manager, then click on Opt out for each title under Kobo. Save changes and your ebooks will be withdrawn from Kobo at next scheduled channel update. I also urge anyone who's thinking of buying an ebook reader to avoid Kobo ereaders (and Sony ereaders, as they link directly to the Kobo ebookstore) and instead choose an ereader that links to an ebook ecosystem that doesn't contribute to the slaughter of elephants.

Without marketplaces for ivory products, there will be no point in slaughtering elephants. In refusing any association with ivory marketplaces we, as ebook publishers and consumers, have the power to say that some things are more important than the mindless pursuit of profit.

Gary J Byrnes, 4 April, 2014



Oscars 2014 Preview - Is This a New Golden Age of Cinema?

I don't normally get over-excited about the Oscars, considering it to be a vaguely interesting show and a masterful marketing exercise and nothing more. It says so much about the film industry and how we, as consumers, perceive it, that they can hand awards to each other and the entire world sits up and takes notice and is amazed and is jealous and goes to the cinema and buys tickets. Bravo! And this is to say little about how the 'media' sweats itself into multiple tiny orgasms, red carpet onanism, the build-up, oh, the build-up. Oh.

But 2014 looks different. Whereas we typically have a strong film or two in the nominations, along with the film that must win the key awards because of its 'worthiness', this year virtually every film that's up for the key awards deserves to win. Is this coincidence or is the film industry getting better? Is the increasing connectedness of humanity making it easier for talent to find talent? Are producers finding creative mojo, attempting to make art as well as dollars? Are we, as a species, improving at everything? Nah. It's probably just coincidence. So here's my take on what films deserve to take Oscar home (spoiler alert!):

Gravity - Gary J Byrnes's Top Tip for Oscars 2014
Gravity
This space epic is the best 3D cinema experience I've ever had. It looks incredible, the acting is great and the tension palpable. What I like most about Gravity is that it's not trying to tell us something bigger, worthier. It doesn't make us feel guilty for enjoying the ride. It's simply a story, entertainment. Tight, short and very sweet. Deserves to win best picture, best director, all special effects, sound, production design, best actress - Sandra Bullock is entirely credible and effective.

Dallas Buyers Club - Deserves to Win Best Picture Oscar
Dallas Buyers Club
Brilliant film, packed with great acting and storytelling. Matthen McConaughey is a revelation in the main role and Jared Leto makes for stunning support. The story starts off small and achingly personal but grows up big and crosses the globe, talking about the neverending struggle between small humanity and big government. Deserves to win best actor, best supporting actor, best picture.

Her
A beautiful evocation of a nightmarish future where everything looks lovely on the surface but everybody's miserable. I guess the underlying theme is that technology drives us apart. The idea of falling in love with an OS is utterly depressing and believable - it's probably happened already - but Her manages to give us a happy ending. Deserves to win best actor for Joaquin Phoenix, but he's not nominated! Original screenplay and production design, so.

American Hustle
Character-led caper movie with such terrific acting from all the main players that Robert DeNiro barely registers. Deserves to win for best hair, but isn't nominated. What's that about? Jennifer Lawrence is almost certain to win best supporting actress - the whole microwave thing is just class - and Christian Bale is certainly great enough to win best actor. Best director, best film, why not?

12 Years a Slave
Beautiful, artistic, soul-destroying, painful. Oozes emotional punch. Deserves to win best supporting actor for Michael Fassbender's star turn. Could he be the best Irish actor ever? Will likely win best picture, best actor, best director, best cinematography.

The Wolf of Wall Street
I do volunteer work at my local credit union and I have to admit it's exactly the same as Wolf of Wall Street. Only without the sex, drugs and money. Leonardo diCaprio is mesmerising and certainly deserves a lead actor Oscar. Jonah Hill is excellent in his supporting role and could get the nod on the night. Martin Scorsese's direction is perfect, but his formulaic approach could work against him as, visually and structurally, Wolf of Wall Street is similar to Goodfellas in many respects. This is not a criticism, more an observation.

Captain Phillips
"Hey Irish!" Yet another true story with Tom Hanks as impressive as always. The strong script and strong supporting actor in Barkhad Abdi could take Oscars. Good film, even though it does descend into a US military recruiting video towards the end.

Bottom line: This year, it really doesn't matter what films win. Enjoy the show!

Note: I haven't seen the remaining best picture nominations, Philomena or Nebraska, yet but I look forward to both of them.


Thursday

Forget Big Brother, Boycott Russia and Sochi Olympics Sponsors

Big Brother loves Facebook, really loves it. Besides the fact that anonymous security officials can monitor your online opinions and friends, keep tabs on where you are, what you're doing, what you're thinking, Facebook is a great way for its users to vent. Putin sends Pussy Riot to jail because they don't dig his new, medieval-style blasphemy law? 'Like' (but ironically). Gay people are getting beaten and killed in Russia every day because Putin gives his tacit consent to such deeds? 'Like'. 'Share'. Comment. "Down with this sort of thing." And it's done. We've given out, but within the walled garden that is Facebook. Big Brother loves Facebook because that's where our passions are trapped, in endless circles of liking and sharing, going round and around the network. But going nowhere really.

As the Sochi Winter Olympics get under way, it's time to move beyond Facebook and do something real. In these horrid times, money is all that matters, certainly to the people who run the world. So we need to hit Putin in his pocket, affect the Russian economy and the corporations that help fund Sochi 2014. Russia's main source of income is natural gas and Germany, France and Italy rely on Russian gas for energy, which means the EU will do absolutely nothing to challenge Russia's homophobia. So it's up to us, the consumers.

Where to start: Even though Russian vodka is the best vodka, boycott it. This means no Stolichnaya or Russian Standard. Don't buy it as gifts. Don't drink it in bars. Tell your friends to stop drinking it.

Boycott Sochi 2014 Sponsors
Then look at the sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympics: McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Dow Chemicals, Procter and Gamble ('Proud sponsor of mums'? Don't make me laugh, you're the proud sponsor of homophobic tyrants), Visa, NBC, Omega and Atos (French IT consultants). Can you avoid spending money on them, at least for the duration of the Olympics? Can you remember their names so that, when making future purchase decisions, Russian discrimination and its corporate sponsorship leave a lingering taste of fear and horror in your mouth? AT&T, a key sponsor of the US team has stated that "We stand against Russia’s anti-L.G.B.T. law". So it can be done. Corporations can take a moral stand and, in the longer term, I'm confident that they will benefit financially. But the first step is to shame the corporations who look the other way in their insane quest for never ending growth.

Then look at homophobia and religious discrimination closer to home. Stand up for the human rights of all humans everywhere. Challenge the religious, the media, the politicians and the corporations who, between them, have made the world a hate-filled toxic dump.

For sure, Facebook is good for expressing opinions, building networks, learning about stuff. But don't let it end there. Look over the wall. Do something real.


Within Facebook's walled garden, like this page and share it out: https://www.facebook.com/Boycott2014WinterOlympicGamesInRussia
Join the Spartacus Project at https://www.facebook.com/aslavenomore

Saturday

Ireland's Green Delusion

Sure, isn't Ireland a grand little country? Endless - mostly benign - wind blowing in from the Atlantic. Sweet rain, again driven by the Gulf Stream, pristine by most standards. Lush, green fields as far as the eye can see. Naturally beautiful landscapes in every direction. And then the Irish happened.
"The only way to stop repeating our catastrophic mistakes is to abolish politics and political parties." - Gary J Byrnes

Though the Republic of Ireland is less than a century old, we've already ruined the environment, poisoned the water, destroyed the view and pumped more than our fair share of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Ireland's disgraceful environmental failings include:

  • We dig up our bogs, which are unique wildlife habitats, safely storing millions of tons of carbon. And we burn their peat, releasing more greenhouse gases than even filthy coal. It's 'tradition'.
  • We put poisonous fluoride into our drinking water, as the peasants are too dumb to buy fluoridated toothpaste. Ireland is the only country on the planet that necessitates this mass medication by law. Then we privatise the whole water network so the peasants can be made to pay for it, without doing anything to reduce the wastage - estimated at 40-50%! - from the Victorian-era pipe network. Pay up, Paddy!
  • We let Shell develop huge natural gas fields off the west coast in a deal so bad for Irish citizens that we may never see a cent from it. Profit share? You're having a laugh - we're thick Paddies!
  • Whenever there's a strong gust of wind, power lines are knocked down plunging thousands into darkness. So what do they want to do? Build more pylons, of course, across beautiful vistas. Put wires underground? Are you mad or something?
  • Ireland hates nuclear power because east coast residents have been poisoned - been given cancer, some would say - for decades by the Sellafield disaster zone across the Irish Sea. So what do we do? We connect the Irish and UK grids so that nuclear-generated electricity can flow to Ireland and wind-generated power can be exported to the UK to help them meet their targets. But what about our own targets? Erm...
  • The ESB, Ireland's monopoly power company knocked, an entire Dublin city street of beautiful Georgian houses to build an ugly concrete head office.

The EU has set ambitious targets to help mitigate the disastrous effects of global warming, aiming for 27% of energy to be generated by renewables (such as wind) and 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990 levels) by 2030.

Ireland currently generates just 3% of power from renewables and actually increased greenhouse gas emissions in 2012! While the new EU targets are overall, not country-specific, I fail to see how our bungling, self-serving government ministers with responsibility for environment and energy can possibly get us on the right path in time. Their track records do not engender confidence.

If we are to stand any chance of compliance, we need a coherent wind power policy, one that doesn't foist the bill on the taxpayer to suit the UK, and we also need to shut down our peat-burning power stations with immediate effect. But the only way to stop repeating our catastrophic mistakes is to abolish politics and political parties as we know them, building a participative democracy in which citizens collectively take decisions. And not just in Ireland, but everywhere on Earth.  It can be done. It must be done or the entire planet is fucked.