A review of the film “Gone Girl”

October 24th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I haven’t read the novel (I will now) but I have seen the film (I want to see it again) and “Gone Girl” is a terrific thriller – two and half hours of edge of the seat tension. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

Do you accept that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin in the killing of President John F Kennedy?

October 22nd, 2014 by Roger Darlington

The 1960s was my decade – I was aged 12-22, so it was the formative years for me and I remember it all: James Bond, the Beatles, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam …

I am currently watching the showing on British television of an American series called simply “The Sixties” and Episode 3 is devoted entirely to the assassination of President Kennedy.

The programme reminds viewers how independent were the members of the Warren Commission and how thorough was their report. I have always accepted their conclusion that Kennedy was shot by Oswald alone.

The programme looks at a few of the many conspiracy theories around the assassination, dismissing each. Indeed no alternative theory has ever been supported by credible evidence.

Yet, at no point since the assassination has a majority of the American public accepted the conclusion of the Warren Commission. Even today twice as many Americans believe that others were involved in the killing than accept that Oswald was the sole assassin – see polling data here.

Of course, the United States is the society where many believe that Area 51 is hiding evidence of aliens, that the Government was responsible for 9/11, and that Obama is not an American. Why are Americans so prone to believing conspiracy theories and why do they have such an ambiguous relationship with the truth?

Posted in History | Comments (2)

Bye-elections in the House of Lords

October 21st, 2014 by Roger Darlington

If you’re British and interested in politics, you’ll know that that we have recently had two bye-elections to the House of Commons: Rochester and Strood, where UKIP took the seat from the Conservatives, and Heywood and Middleton, where UKIP narrowly failed to take the seat from Labour.

Even if you’re obsessive about British politics, it’s unlikely that you know that in recent months there have also been two bye-elections in the House of Lords. The possible candidates (hereditary peers) and the electorate (all current Lords members) are pathetically tiny. Sound crazy? It is. You can learn more in this blog posting and comments and read the experience of one of the voters.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)

There is something special about spending time with an older person

October 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Today Vee and I took a dear friend out for lunch to celebrate her 85th birthday.

Hana Ludikar has led a remarkable life, largely as a result of having a father who was a Czechoslovak politician who had to flee the Nazis in 1939 and the Communists in 1948. You can read the story of Dr. Ladislav Feierabend (1891-1969) here.

Most of us take our freedoms for granted. We have not had to fight for them and we have not experienced losing them. But the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Posted in History, My life & thoughts | Comments (0)

At last, an article on the problems facing the British economy which is concise, clear and honest

October 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

What are the origins of the current deficit?

“Contrary to the Conservative portrayal of it as a spendthrift party, Labour kept the budget in balance averaged over its first six years in office between 1997 and 2002. Between 2003 and 2007 the deficit rose, but at 3.2% of GDP a year it was manageable.

More importantly, this rise in the deficit between 2003 and 2007 was not due to increased welfare spending. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, social benefit spending as a proportion of GDP was more or less constant at about 9.5% of GDP a year during this period. The dramatic climb in budget deficit from there to the average of 10.7% in 2009-2010 was mostly a consequence of the recession caused by the financial crisis.”

But, even if Labour didn’t cause the crisis, aren’t the Conservatives doing a good job tackling it?

“The success of the Conservative economic narrative has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts.”

Who says so? Ha-Joon Chang who teaches economics at Cambridge University and has contributed an article to today’s “Guardian” newspaper. You can read his piece here.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)

A review of the recent movie “The Monuments Men”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

This unusual World War Two film was directed, co-written and co-produced by George Clooney who also plays the lead character. It is not his best work, but certainly worth viewing. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues, History | Comments (0)

A review of the book “War. What Good Is It For?”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I try to alternate reading fiction and non-fiction. The latest work of non-fiction that I have read is “War. What Is It Good For?” by Ian Morris. You can read my review here.

Posted in History | Comments (0)

A review of the novel “The Shock Of The Fall”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I try to alternate reading fiction and non-fiction. The latest work of fiction that I have read is “The Shock Of The Fall” by Nathan Fidler. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

The future of our post offices

October 18th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been interested in post offices since 1978 when I became Research Officer at the Post Office Engineering Union (POEU) which later became the National Communications Union (NCU) and is now the Communication Workers Union (CWU). I spent 24 years as a trade union official before taking early retirement.

This week, I chaired the Post Offices Advisory Group (POAG) of Consumer Futures which is now part of Citizens Advice. This is something which I have done for six years now, dating back to when I was on the board of the then Consumer Focus (before that I was on the board of Postwatch, which was merged into Consumer Focus, when I attended the predecessor body to POAG).

At its post-war peak, the size of the post office network was around 24,000, but today it is down to about 11,500 and the Government has committed to maintain the network at this number of outlets. I can remember when Post Office Limited (POL) proudly claimed that there were 28 million customer visits a week but that figure is now down to about 17 million a week.

So the network is currently undergoing its third major change programme in a decade. Urban Reinvention involved the closure of nearly 2,500 post offices and the Network Change Programme required another 2,500 closures with around 500 new outreach locations. The current project is called the Network Transformation Programme and, while the size of the network should stay the same, every office will be modernised, redesignated or relocated.

Outside the 370 or so Crown offices (owned and staffed by POL itself), the network will consist of three models: main offices (open plan section in another retail operation), local offices (till in another retail operation) and community offices including outreaches (effectively the last shop in the community).

The Network Transformation Programme has so far involved just over 3,200 physical changes and the whole programme is due to be completed by 2018.

So, if you value your local post office, use it.

Posted in Consumer matters | Comments (0)

An account of my trip to Malta

October 17th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Last weekend, I made a short visit to Malta with my sister Silvia. Although at the time I posted daily reports on the trip, I have now stitched these daily reports into a single narrative and added links and photos. You can check out the account here.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (0)