I think that’s enough futile wars for one decade, thanks

Despite the ghastly consequences of being an international police force, the West just can’t seem to get enough of it. Apparently the First Gulf War, the Second Gulf War, Afghanistan and Libya weren’t enough. We feel the need to accentuate the world’s problems by trying to fix them.

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The Middle East is an incredibly complex, diverse, and messed up region. Western interference stretches right back to the medieval crusades. The partitioning of the defeated Ottoman Empire amongst France and Britain is probably one of the largest factors. As Daniel Hannan so aptly said, “The Arab Spring has failed because constitutional democracy needs nation-states”. When we divided up the region, we paid no heed to ethnic divisions. We merely drew the lines where it was convenient for us. “The resulting states were wholly synthetic, lacking ethnic or religious identity.” They were only united by their hatred for the Western powers who had toyed with them.

Like all good Englishmen, I hold a healthy degree of suspicion for the French. Like all socialists, I hold the ‘Special Relationship’ in high contempt. We certainly shouldn’t sacrifice British lives in honour of its maintenance. We can’t allow inflammatory Daily Mail headlines to provoke us into war. People are describing events along the lines of a classroom, with Obama as the teacher and Britain and France as competing students, each pleading with the teacher to “Pick me! Pick me!” Why are we so eager to rush headfirst into the worst idea since the election of Margaret Thatcher?

A Syrian intervention would be costly when we have no money, stretch our military when its already stretched at present, and most likely have no positive effect on the situation whatsoever. It is not our responsibility to police the world, and we must remove ourselves from that mind-set.

A most probable consequence of military strikes, carried out by the West against the Assad regime, would be that the fighting spills out into surrounding territories. It’s very possible that other Muslim countries may seek retribution in the form of reprisals against Israel. Very soon we would no longer be dealing with a local tyrant but with a region-wide total war with no conceivable end.

Even if we won out over the Assad regime with minimal fighting, if Shia Muslims simply took the attack lying down, we would be hard put to know what to do with Syria once that war was over. As we have seen so often before, Arabs are a very difficult people to govern. It’s far more likely that the situation will descend into the urban warfare faced by Allied soldiers in Iraq. Intervention would be a terrible idea, even if we were capable of it. It would be a much better solution to donate large sums to The Red Cross and other humanitarian groups, in the hopes that they might actually help people. Aside from that, I’m afraid there is really nothing we can do.

We should be culling Tory policies, not badgers

The government plans to decimate badger populations across the country are ludicrous and pointless. The scientific evidence has worked against this idea for a very long time, with several notable figures coming out against it. These include Brian May, former guitarist for Queen: “We don’t believe it will work, we don’t believe it’s humane.”

The fact that the badgers aren’t human aside, it’s still a bad idea. The government will be launching two pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucester, which will aim to cull 5,000 badgers between them. You may be asking, why cull badgers?

The National Farmers Union is a body which has been pressing for such a cull for years. Farmers can be totally destroyed by the spread of TB to their cattle. Such a scenario is heart wrenchingly tragic, but the solution is not this cull. As a nation, we eat far too much beef anyway. That doesn’t even come into this debate, since the culling will not effect cattle stocks at best, but severely affect them at worst. We need to invest in vaccines and stricter checks on the movement of cattle, not on pointless culls which will hurt badgers and do very little else.

Bovine TB, or Tuberculosis, is an infectious disease which hugely affects the British cattle industry. According to the BBC, “Scientific evidence has shown that bovine TB can be transmitted from cattle to cattle; from badgers to cattle and cattle to badgers; and from badger to badger.” It costs the taxpayer £500m a year to control TB, whereas the planned culls will each cost £100,000 a year, costs which will be met by the farmers in the area.

The culls: “will aim to kill at least 70% of badgers across areas about the size of the Isle of Wight in each zone.” However, the evidence that the plans will make any difference to TB is very much lacking. Social groups will be broken by the culling, forcing surviving badgers to travel to other areas, taking the TB with them. The killing will cause a widespread movement in badger populations, exactly the opposite desired effect when dealing with an infectious disease.

The cull will be carried out in one of two ways, both under cover of night as badgers are nocturnal. Marksmen will  either search through an area with a rifle and a flashlight, or bait the badgers and lie in wait for them. The personnel involved will number three men in each team, a shooter, a spotter and additional transport help.

Here’s a video compiled by environmental experts, about the effects of the culling plan. They put it into much better words than I ever could:

Environmental experts on the badger cull.

Community Gardening for Transition Eastbourne

When I went to the film screening hosted by the Transition Eastbourne group, I was given to understand that we’d be working towards a community orchard, but the plans had been updated. We are now aiming for an all-round, all-encompassing community garden, with seating, a play area for kids and vegetable plots as well.As I’ve said before, the Transition Town movement has the power and potential to replace oil-driven consumer capitalism, and put something far more sustainable and egalitarian in its place.The best way to support such ventures is to join them, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Sunday 26th August saw me, my sister and her boyfriend helping out with the ‘mulching day’ for the new community gardens in Eastbourne. Everybody involved was tasked with bringing as much cardboard as they could, which was then laid flat against the ground to kill the weeds.

The scrap of land we were working with was pretty desolate, the occasional weed sprouted from a bed of broken glass and pebbles, a smurf hand thrown in. But soon enough, we had cleared the ground of refuse, covered the ground with cardboard, and had begun to shift vast quantities of council-provided compost on top of it. Here are some photos I took:

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All in all we did well, despite us having to leave early to catch our train. It will need a lot more work over the course of the year. For more information regarding Transition Eastbourne, go to their website: http://www.eastbournetransition.org/

The Tudor Dynasty, how Henry VIII ruined something beautiful

When Henry Tudor ascended to the English throne on 22nd August 1485, it marked an end to decades of bloodshed and strife. England’s fields had been painted red with the blood of Lancaster and York, and the country had begun to weary of it all. Tudor had been living in exile for some time before he finally landed on Welsh shores on 7th August, and he had been running from his enemies his whole life. Henry’s strenuous claim to the English throne derived from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt.

The main Lancastrian line had been destroyed at Tewkesbury, when Edward of Westminster (the only son of Henry VI) was killed in battle. Edward of York had taken the throne by force from a king whose grasp on the country was weak, feeble, overly-pious and mad. Edward ruled well, but upon his death his younger brother Richard and his widow Elizabeth Woodville started squabbling over power. It ended with the disappearance and assumed murder of Edward’s two sons in the Tower of London. Richard, described by many as a petty-minded hunch-backed tyrant, died at the Battle of Bosworth Field, when the Tudor and Yorkist armies clashed. Thomas Stanley and his brother William turned their cloaks and joined with Tudor, putting an end to the Yorkist, and the Plantagenet line.

Henry Tudor, or Henry VII as he would become, had the potential to heal England’s wounds and restore peace and stability. He did these things to a degree, but his methods were vastly unpopular and often openly-tyrannical. The Wars of the Roses had been caused, on some level, by a nobility which simply had too much power. Nobles kept their own armies, and often had coffers to rival those of the crown. A problem which Henry was determined to fix. Henry had spent much of his life in France, where things were done very differently from England. French kings had a degree of power which was far greater than English kings could hope for-they could raise taxes on a whim, whereas English kings were forced to consult parliament before doing so. Henry brought these French ideas to the throne, and they very much showed in his dealings.

He was known to fine noblemen on the spot for employing servants which he claimed were soldiers. As his reign went on, he often resorted to full-blown thievery. Such was the extent of his money-grubbing that his death was marked by bonfires and street parties across the realm. Dynastically, Henry had done quite well. He had sired the perfect set of offspring that any king could hope for, an heir, a spare, and three daughters with which to buy useful alliances. His first son, Arthur, had been married to Catherine of Aragon, but when Arthur died before he could consummate the marriage, the second son was forced to marry his brother’s widow.

Henry VIII’s marriage resulted in one daughter, Mary, later to become known as ‘Bloody Mary’. The marriage grew stale and boring, a situation accentuated by Henry’s adultery, his obsession with Anne Boleyn, and the absence of a son. The king looked for a divorce, unsuccessfully applying to the Pope for an annulment. When he did divorce Catherine, he was only able to do so by splitting with the Roman Catholic Church and declaring himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. This was a monumental event on which enough emphasis can never be put.

Henry’s children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward would bicker over the national religion until the cows eventually did come home, burning many brave men along the way. Edward was the fruit of Henry’s third marriage to Jane Seymour, and his only legitimate son. He instituted numerous Protestant reforms, going further than his father ever did. Before he died he tried desperately to ensure that his Protestant cousin Jane Grey would succeed him, but his efforts were overturned by Mary. She presided over a reign of terror, killing over 280 Protestants, mainly through burning. I think it’s fair to say that this brutal slaughter was her way of resolving childhood issues regarding her parent’s marriage. But that’s only speculation, and should not be mistaken for gospel.

Mary left no heirs, and was succeeded by her younger sister Elizabeth, who brought stability back to the realm by way of religious compromise. Whatever the case, Henry VIII’s racing libido and soaring immaturity caused him to leave Britain with only one sickly male heir, undoing the good work of his father, and dooming Britain to suffer the Stuarts. To reconsider British history (assuming that Catherine had given him a son) would be a monumental task, and not one that should be attempted by the likes of me.

Wind turbines aren’t crazy about you either, James Delingpole

Wind turbines have an uncanny ability to make right-wingers furious, and for that alone, they are worth a shot. One such furious right-winger, is the ever-so furious James Delingpole, whose written so extensively and venomously on the subject that I feel he can’t have had time to write anything important.

I rather enjoyed Delingpole’s latest writing on the subject, despite disagreeing with every word he wrote: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100232437/official-wind-turbines-are-an-iniquitous-assault-on-property-rights/

His main objections to the erection of these wondrous objects is that they obscure the view from what I’m sure is a delightfully quaint holiday home in the Edw Valley. He claims that they lower property values, ruining people’s lives and views. This is irrelevant nonsense.

Global Warming is something which will hugely affect all our lives for many generations to come, it’s the sort of problem which is very capable of making a serious dent in our civilisation. As global temperatures rise, sea levels will rise with them, flooding many of our towns and cities. National climates will be tampered with, causing all sorts of problems in all sorts of places. Water supplies will be diminished, storms and hurricanes will increase in strength and number. According to he National Geographic website: “Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.”

I’m sorry for the slight disturbance to James Delingpole’s holiday, I truly am. But when you balance a slight disruption to rural views against the collapse of civilisation, the destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods all around the globe, it really does pale in comparison. We must sacrifice some pleasures for continued survival. Wind turbines are a totally clean and renewable source of energy. As long as the sun shines, the wind will blow.

Mankind has harnessed the wind for centuries, in the form of sails and windmills and much else besides. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make use of it when avoiding our impending doom.

Notorious criminal Caroline Lucas finally arrested

For years, the British people have lived in terror of Caroline Lucas and her gang of green-minded cronies. Their crimes range from the most petty to the most heinous of violations, not least their obsession with the installation of solar panels.

Thank god that nobody fell for that whole ‘climate change’ scam, which we now know to be a trans-global hoax designed to destroy industry, robbing hard working capitalists of their savings.

This gang of lay-about socialists would even re-nationalise the railways and utilities, when we all know free market capitalism has been working so damn well.

The whole world can now let out a breath of relief, knowing that this dangerous, deranged woman is now firmly under lock and key.

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A book review of Ice and Fire

I should start by first stating my absolute respect for George RR Martin, he’s an extremely talented author, and anything else I say here must be weighed against that.

When I started reading A Game of Thrones– the first book in the series- I was initially pleasantly surprised by Martin’s descriptive writing style. He focuses on the individual actions of each character, and describes objects in the context of how they relate to other objects. Example: Page 337 A Feast for Crows- “In the end she chose a simple velvet ribbon in autumn gold. When Gretchel fetched her Lysa’s silvered looking glass, the colour seemed just perfect with Alayne’s mass of dark brown hair.” This may seem ordinary, but not all books that I’ve read have displayed the same technique. It gives the writing a fluid style.

I have nothing but admiration for how Martin used the Wars of the Roses as initial inspiration, and then used the characters to branch out into all the different corners of the world he created.

The medieval struggle between the royal branches of York and Lancaster show stark similarities to Martin’s storyline. As I described in a previous posting, Eddard Stark is based on Richard of York. He came south from his northern home, to bear the administrative burden of the realm. He fell to the machinations of Margaret of Anjou, who acted out of concern for the prospects of her son. In this case, Cersei Lannister. The Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, the last of the dragon kings, is based on Henry VI, whose madness and incompetence undid the great work of his father, Henry V. Just as Aerys undid the work of his ancestor, and the founder of his dynasty, Aegon the Conqueror. The idea of an exiled family, the last survivors of an ancient and glorious empire (Old Valyria) uniting a fractured realm with the use of dragons is brilliant. Robert Baratheon, who won his throne with a distant claim but more importantly with his war-hammer, shows similarities to King Edward IV, who deposed his cousin Henry VI.

Of course, this admiration can never truly disappear, even when you’re so furious with the author you want to rip out the pages. Martin has collected a series of irritating habits, regarding the strucutre of his works, that drive readers up the wall, myself as well. These include: His relentless pursuit of storylines which don’t hold any interest to you, and his insistance on writing cheap, corny names for POV chapters. Examples: The Princess in the Tower, The King’s Prize, The Soiled Knight. I suspect that Martin grew to regret his naming each chapter after the character which tells it, and so tried to think of some bad-ass names which also described characters. The story of Brienne during A Feast for Crows was boring and seemingly pointless. In fact, those two words could be used to describe the whole book. A Feast for Crows was my least favourite of the whole series, not least because it covered characters which held no interest for me. I personally felt betrayed when Martin abandoned characters who’d we had seen since the very first book.

During the latter stages of a Dance with Dragons, I felt frustrated that the last survivors of House Targaryen couldn’t co-ordinate their efforts. Obviously there were difficulties of communication, but never the less, Tyrion could have taken it on himself to use the Second Sons for Aegon‘s cause. Daenerys made me angry in that book. She has three dragons, and she spent her whole time pandering to her enemies. The blood of the dragon does not pander.

On another note, Jon Snow took the hard decisions that had to be made, but he should have seen it coming. He was clearly favouring the Wildlings, and he shouldn’t have sent the ships to Hardhome. Allowing Tormund Giantsbane through the Wall was necassary and prudent, but the Night’s Watch had no need of four thousand useless mouths. Discontention was spreading through the upper echelons, it was’t as if there wasn’t warning. When they can murder one Lord Commander, they can murder another. Never the less, I refuse to believe that he’s dead. He’s far too central to the storyline, and Martin has a habit of bringing people back to life. Which is another of his annoying habits, did I mention?

Furthermore, I believe that Rhaegar Targaryen in Jon Snow’s father, and Lyanna Stark his mother. I never knew this, until I read a spoiler online. I assmued that Jon would find his Targaryen heritage in time for a Dance with Dragons, and that the final book would be conflict between him and Daenerys. The phrase ‘Dance with Dragons’ means a Targaryen civil war, after all. But it was never proved, and was merely speculation. Never the less, I think that it adds up. Eddard Stark was far too honourable to father a bastard, and we know that Lyanna made him ‘promise’ something. I think that him, Aegon and Daenerys are the three heads of the dragon. And Jon Snow is Azor Ahai reborn, as he is currently fighting the war against the Others, not Daenerys. He is half Stark and half Targaryen,  half ice and half fire. His is the song of ice and fire.