Save Whitstable Crown Post Office

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Julian Brazier, our Conservative Party election candidate, has intervened in the Post Office debate by stressing the “urgency of getting the mobile building alternative in place before the Gladstone Road site closes.”

I can’t see anyone in Whitstable arguing with this.

Where some of us might disagree, however, is in the status of the service that will be housed in the new, temporary space. Mr Brazier is on record as saying that “in principle” he has “no problem with the Post Office moving to another store as part of a franchise.”

I’d just like to remind readers that, had the Post Office’s plans come to fruition and the branch been moved into Budgens Invicta as a franchise before that store closed down permanently, we wouldn’t now be talking about a temporary Post Office: we’d be talking about no Post Office at all.

Surely that underlines the dangers of the franchise model for Post Office services in our town.

We also have to be very wary of statements coming out of Post Office HQ.

According to its website, the company has a specific target regarding Crown Post Offices of “turning around the current losses to achieve break-even by March 2015.” They plan to do this by “increasing revenue, improving customer experience and controlling costs.”

In the case of some Post Office branches “controlling costs” means closing them “temporarily” for periods of up to seven years.

If you don’t believe me, look up the Yorkshire Times, Monday 2nd March 2015.

According to that paper “some 38 branches across the region have been shut for longer than 12 months with the average closure lasting more than three years and three months.” The longest has been in the village of Coxwold, its branch having been closed “temporarily” since February 2008.

In Whitstable, Post Office Ltd has known about the impending redevelopment of the Gladstone Road site since 2010, and yet they still haven’t got round to organising a couple of portacabins in the carpark, for which there is already planning permission.

It’s not exactly rocket-science, is it? I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

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Time we gave up on the folly of saving daylight?

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Money as Debt

One of the unfortunate side-effects of the scandal over MPs expenses was that it took people’s minds off that other group of perennial fiddlers, the banks.

The difference is, of course, that whereas MPs expenses amounted to thousands of pounds, bankers bonus’ are measured in the millions. And whereas MP’s perks consisted of such unlikely items as floating duck islands and cleaner moats, the ultimate outcome of the present banking system is nothing less than total domination of the whole world by a few powerful institutions.

Everywhere you go you see the same thing. In the middle of every major city, in every country, there are huge buildings of glass and steel which tower above the city landscape like imperious statements of wealth and power. Invariably these buildings are banks.

How did the banks grow so big and come to dominate our world?

How come we have let them?

The process is insidious. Most money in existence does not consist of the notes and coins we carry about in our pockets, but is in the form of debt to banks. The banks create this money out of thin air. This is the simple and startling fact. The money we owe did not exist until the moment we signed the contract to pay it back.

This is known as Fractional Reserve Banking. Banks do not only lend out money deposited with them by savers, but are legally entitled to lend out many, many times this figure.

Thus banks create money. They create money as debt. They create money as debt and then charge interest on it. Thus our money is already devalued even at the moment it is created, since the amount lent out is always less than the amount which has to be paid back.

This is the cause of inflation and it forces us to borrow even more money to cover the difference. Thus there can never be enough money in the entire world to pay off all the debts owed to the banks, and the banks will, in the end, own everything.

And here’s us worrying about floating duck islands.

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Time for discussion on potential of drugs

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Ukip like Basil Fawlty on steroids

A Ukip member at their Spring Conference

I was talking to a work colleague over the weekend. He said, “I’m not racist. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, if you have a British passport you are British. But I am racist about people without British passports coming over here and getting benefits.”

He lives in Margate. He told me he was going to vote Ukip at the next election.

This was a bit of a surprise. I’ve often had political conversations with him and I’ve always taken him to be a left-winger.

I said, “you know they are more right wing than the Tories, don’t you?”

He said he did, but that he was going to vote for them anyway in order to teach the mainstream parties a lesson. He said that, amongst his friends, everyone he knew was voting Ukip.

This seemed very odd to me. If you look at Ukip policy, aside from their stance on the EU and immigration, they are, indeed, more Tory than the Tories.

Most of their donors are ex-Tories. Most of their candidates are ex-Tories. Most of their members are ex-Tories. The phrase about ducks and quacks springs to mind.

Nigel Farage said that he’s the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive. I would disagree with that. Pretty well all the parties are keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive, which is precisely what is wrong with politics at the moment.

We only have a choice between Thatcherite parties. Thatcher herself said that her greatest legacy was New Labour.

I’m perfectly in tune with the idea of giving the mainstream parties a bloody nose at the next election. But Ukip? Judging from Meet The Ukippers, on BBC2, they’re more like the cast of Fawlty Towers on steroids than a political party.

I thought I was watching the pilot for a new comedy series.

On the other hand, I’m not one of those people who thinks it’s a good idea to go around shouting abuse at them, as many of my friends did at the Ukip spring conference this Saturday. They love being shouted at. It makes them feel important.

They’re like the embarrassing, drunken uncle at a wedding. The more you pay attention to them, the more you encourage them. Best to ignore them and hope they go away.

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Prosecute scandal bankers

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Alternative Funerals

Claire and Rupert Callender of the Green Funeral Company

Grief over the death of a loved one never really goes away. Even years later an unexpected memory can arise, bearing with it the pain of the original loss. It is vital then, when we say our goodbyes, that this is done in a way that fully expresses the love and the sense of sadness we feel when laying our loved-ones to rest.

This is a universal truth.

How we deal with death tells us a lot about the kind of society we live in.

First published in Kindred Spirit Nov 2014.

Read more here.

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One rule for the rich

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Have a careful read of library proposals

Whitstable Library in a post May Bank Holiday photograph taken at 11.00 am on 28th May 2013. Courtesy of Red Sands Radio: http://www.redsandsradio.co.uk/

Oh dear. “Kent County Council is transforming the way it delivers its services as well as reducing costs.”

I’m quoting from the KCC website here: the Libraries, Registration and Archive Service Consultation page, which links to the consultation document about the future of our public libraries.

It all sounds very nice. To quote from the document itself: “We strive to continually affect people’s lives in a positive way and deliver services for every community in Kent”. What can be wrong with that?

Well nothing, obviously. What these soothing words do is to mask the real reason behind the consultation document: saving money.

If you want to know the purpose behind the government’s austerity programme, then look no further than this. As a policy it has utterly failed to reduce the deficit. Instead it has increased the deficit and made us all poorer.

What it has done, however, is to serve as an excuse for an all-out attack upon our public services.

Once the library service has been handed over to a Charitable Trust, as KCCs consultation document proposes, can we be assured that it will still be the same service?

Will we continue to have democratic influence over the way the service operates?

Will we be able to complain to our KCC Councillors about problems, about proposed closures or cuts or reduced opening hours? Will our Councillors be able to do anything about it if we do complain?

Will free local libraries – open to all and linked to others across the county – be guaranteed? Will minimum levels of properly-trained and paid staff be set for all Kent’s libraries?

Will the number of books and computers be increased or decreased? Will the availability of other information be improved?

If the Trust fails or proves unsatisfactory, will we be able to take the library service back into public hands?

These are just some of the questions you might like to ask. If you value your library service, please go to the KCC website and take a look at the proposals.

It might be your last chance to have your say over the way our libraries are run.

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Out-of-date calendar is making aliens of us all

“It’s what Stonehenge was built for…”

It’s that time of the year again. The clock has ticked, the numbers have switched, and another year has gone by.

Actually the day on which New Year takes place is purely arbitrary. The earth goes round the sun every 365+ days, so it’s a matter of debate when the cycle starts.

If you were going to place the New Year in the winter, the most obvious day would be December 22nd, after the solstice, when the days start getting longer again. That’s the day our ancient ancestors, the people who built Stonehenge, placed it.

It’s what Stonehenge was built for, to track the solstices, so our ancestors would know what time of year it was.

Which makes our modern New Year nine days late.

The calendar we currently use is a recent invention. It is known as the Gregorian calendar, after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582 to correct an error in the earlier Julian system.

The word “calends” means “the called”. It represents a countdown to the day when debts were called in in the ancient Roman world. In other words, it is a bureaucratic device for the management of money.

The moon cycle – or “month” – is actually around 28 days long, but in the Gregorian calendar a month can be anywhere between 28 and 31 days and has no connection to the moon whatsoever.

As a measurement of time it is completely absurd.

Imagine if a mile could be anywhere between 1603 and 1935 yards, depending on which part of the country you were in. It would make calculating distances nearly impossible. And yet we put up with our peculiar and uneven measurement of time as if it was a natural thing.

So we hold our New Year’s celebrations nine days late for no other reason than that our clumsy and outmoded calendar-system tells us to.

We put the clocks forward in the spring and back again in the autumn, thus messing up our body clocks twice a year.

Our months have no connection to the Moon, and our year has no connection to the Sun.

It’s no wonder we’re acting like aliens on our own planet.

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