And Kubuntu to you too . . .

Just spent a happy afternoon installing Kubuntu on this laptop.. Quite an easy process, it worked well and I am pleased with the result. But then . . . !

Last evening I went to fire up and got all sorts of black screens which eventually landed me at a screen like a terminal screen and at the entry point it said, enigmatically – “initramfs”. Not being a techie I thought I might have to reinstall Kubuntu, but this was in any case impossible as I could not persuade the laptop to boot up from the USB containing the programme. Everything ended at “initramfs”. Out of interest and desperation, I fired up my other laptop running Linux Mint and searched on initramfs, and as so often happens got lots of answers. Eventually, today, after following through the instructions in one such answer I got the Kubuntu programme installation repaired and here we are typing away. With computers, you never stop learning.

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“Old Willie” by James Guthrie

The current picture on the Decadenona home page is “Old Willie” by James Guthrie and you can read about the artist HERE

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When to resist, and how . . . ?

I found this “a good read”. Although it is about Germany from the late 1930s and to the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler, it is also terribly relevant for today. The people described are decent citizens or servicemen who, normally, would never think of plotting to overthrow a government or to plan to kill a leader. Yet for all of them there comes a time when they can no longer put down the stories as rumours circulated by ill wishers, but are brought face to face with murders and massacres. They have to decide whether to hear and see no evil, or whether to acknowledge it and to do something to try and stop it. We have had Brexit thrust upon us on the flimsiest of excuses by the vote of just over a quarter of the population – who achieved a majority over their opponents of c. 1.3 million votes*. The arguments for ceasing our membership of the European Union were blatant lies which the media did nothing to correct, and the current government elected in 2019 is led by a serial liar who has appointed a cabinet of equally doubtful characters. Posters on Twitter ask despairingly, “is there nothing we can do to stop them or get rid of them ?”. And the answer is that within the law, no there is not because they have a parliamentary majority and they ignore all requests to cease and desist. So, it becomes apparent that there is nothing that can be done unless violence is resorted to. And this is exactly the position of decent people in Germany in those now far off days.

The early chapters of the book were an easy read in the sense that Ashdown describes the espionage arrangements of the various great powers and the way in which they interlinked and often assisted one another to further their own purposes. But as time goes on, the enormity of the crimes being committed by the regime becomes more and more apparent, and many serving officers of high rank see for themselves what is happening and are sometimes expected to participate. At this point resistance hardens and concrete plans begin to be laid to exterminate Hitler and put an alternative regime in power. With German thoroughness this alternative regime is planned in detail and Ashdown estimates that something like 5,000 people were involved and ready to step up to the mark when the news of Hitler’s death became public. This amazing figure shows the extent to which the opposition to Hitler had grown, but also the increased likelihood that someone, somewhere, would, for whatever reason give away some vital piece of information and bring the whole thing crashing down.

For me, being on the side of the plotters, the increasing success of the authorities in weeding out agents and plotters was agonising and the fact that they got a bomb into Hitler’s HQ and that it went off successfully even though it failed in its task of killing Hitler was little short of a miracle. In this part of the book I had to read only short passages at any one time as I found it too upsetting. This might be quite common with a work of fiction, but I do not think it often happens in a factual, non-fiction account. So, I would say that, particularly at our current juncture, this is an important read from two standpoints. One is its importance as history, and the other is the relevance of the agony of the participants as even as anti-Hitler people they discover that the atrocities perpetrated by the regime are far, far, worse than ever they could have imagined, and how they feel compelled to take actions far outside their normal comfort zones. Without lecturing the reader, the tremendous difference between the traditional army officer of the Wehrmacht and those of the SS is well displayed. The former are moral beings, honourable men with a strong code of behaviour, the latter are political ideologues for whom any means is legitimate if it achieves the end required.

* This in a population at the time of about 64.9 million people, with 46.5 million of them on the electoral register.

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A Woman in War . . .

I have recently finished reading this book. I thought it was an interesting insight into the life of an intelligent, hard working young woman moving from a “genteel” life as a clergyman’s daughter in 1914 to a war worker both voluntary and paid. It is a story oft repeated, but worth being reminded about. The sharp contrast between pre war life, and life in war time. She does not see, as many young women did, the awful sights of the hospital wards, but instead sees, in the latter part of the book, the equally deadly effects of the war on women working in the factories making explosives and filling shells.

She also conveys very well the often poor administrative arrangements in these jobs. Sometimes those in charge are keen but inexperienced, sometimes they are just poor quality people because presumably the better folk are already enlisted on one or other of the armed forces. The writer finds that she can organise and often has to sort things out without authority, and without adequate material or supplies, but she soldiers on until, sometimes, she can take no more and has to look about for a new post.

This is a real diary, not a fictional one, so it is written when the author has time, and not all of her notebooks have survived. This makes it all the more real and wishing that chance and circumstance had allowed more of her writings to survive.

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Home Page Art . . .

This picture, and the one I have just taken down, was painted by William Charles Penn. It seems to be known as “Family Group” although I have seen somewhere, “The Family at Breakfast”. It is dates as c. 1910.

The one I have just taken down is here . . .

Afternoon Light, 1919.

Edit : 5 June 2021.

I have had the top painting as my desk top for a week or two now, and I begin to feel like one of the family. Father stoically reads his paper. Mother looks across at her daughter eating a soldier with her egg as though she does not quite approve of something. The other daughter at the head of the table, looks a bit blank as though she is taking it all in, but reserving judgement. And the son, drinks his tea or coffee – and does his cup holding hand disguise a little wry smile ?

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Still alive . . .

We are still alive – when we last checked – and are now at Scottish Level 2. We have even been out in the car round the local area. We don’t stop to chat or go to shops, but we do talk to sheep and cattle. They are, however, not great conversationalists.

Our wee Toyota car went off to the garage on 15 March (or thereabouts) and we have not seen it since. The ECU aka, Electronic Control Unit, has failed and they are trying to get it repaired which is evidently turning out to be more difficult than expected. Looking on the web, this failure seems to be very common amongst the various Toyota models and seems like it is a bit of a weak point. This rather goes against the eulogistic view of Japanese cars so often expressed in the media.

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Oh no he doesn’t . . .

David Pogue dances with a test dummy in New Mexico in Beyond the Elements. Photograph: Cara Feinberg

“Science writer David Pogue sets out to discover the molecules and chemical reactions responsible for making life and the universe possible in this wide-ranging three-part series. In tonight’s opening episode, Pogue explores the chemistry of life via soap and a shopping trip to find the constituent fats that make up the body. First, though, there’s a trip back to the school classroom for a recap on photosynthesis while Pogue asks how we can continue to grow enough food to feed our ever-increasing global population. Ammar Kalia.”

So says part of an article in today’s Guardian. Writing like this is a regular feature of blurbs about radio or TV programmes. Years – sometimes centuries – of thought and research are suddenly stood on end by 30 minutes or an hour’s worth of “look at me” filming by some hitherto unknown presenter, or by a well known one who had no known expertise in anything except how to perform in front of a TV camera.

If they just told the truth (very unfashionable these days) and said that “x” will tell us about these things, or introduce people to them it would be OK. But the notion that someone is going to come to the studio and make great scientific discoveries under the glare of TV lights is just another example of the media misleading people. And, as you can probably deduce from the foregoing it both makes me very cross, and saddens me at the same time.

And quite what the antics of the presenter shown in the picture above do in helping all this remains to be seen.

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Boulversement . . .

Canon Michael Bordeaux, Church Times Obituary of 16 April 2021.

Reading the obituary of Canon Michael Bordeaux -a well kent figure once, but unknown to many now I suspect – I was struck by the overturning of the situation attributed to Bordeaux in his own memoirs. The memoir is called, “One Word of Truth” . . .

One Word of Truth is a vital document for anyone studying the years of the Cold War. In his review of Bourdeaux’s memoirs in an article for the Center for European Policy Analysis of 20 April 2020, Edward Lucas, the Times columnist who knew Bourdeaux well, wrote of the contrast that the memoirs drew between the East and the West. “On the one hand there was moral clarity, the belief that the truth matters above all; that freedom is not on a spectrum with slavery, but fundamentally different from it. On the other side of the East-West divide was woolly language and thought, cowardly evasions, and bureaucratic buck-passing.”

How things have changed ! In the West in recent times with Trump in the White House, and Johnson in Downing Street the West has fallen under the leadership (if it can be called that) of “woolly language and thought, cowardly evasions and bureaucratic buck passing.” A complete reversal of the situation as it was in Bordeaux’s life and times.

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70 Years Ago . . . Signs of Hope

The Treaty of Paris, 18 April 1951

Back in 1950 I was 16 years old. Foreign countries making declarations and signing treaties did not mean much to me. But I sensed that the Schuman Declaration seemed to be generally thought of as a “good thing” (1066 And All That), but many years had to elapse before I realised its significance and just how correct M. Schuman had been, and how far sighted. Now, alas, subsequent generations who know little of their history have failed to see and share his vision and all that he and others had hoped for has been abandoned by our country.

The Schuman Declaration was a speech made by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, on 9 May 1950. It proposed placing French and West German production of coal and steel under a single authority that would later be opened to other European countries. The ultimate goal was to pacify relations, between France and West Germany in particular, through gradual political integration, which would be achieved by creating common interests. Schuman asserted that “[t]he coming together of the countries of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany…the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”[1]

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, responded positively to the Declaration, as did the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Luxembourg. On 18 April 1951, the six founding members signed the Treaty of Paris. It created the European Coal and Steel Community – Europe’s first supranational community, which paved the way for the European Economic Community and subsequently the European Union.

The Treaty of Paris (formally the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community) was signed on 18 April 1951 between France, Italy, West Germany, and the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which subsequently became part of the European Union. The treaty came into force on 23 July 1952 and expired on 23 July 2002, exactly fifty years after it came into effect.

The treaty was intended to bring diplomatic and economic stability in western Europe after the Second World War. Some of the main enemies during the war were now sharing production of coal and steel, the key resources which previously had been central to the war effort.

The Europe Declaration, issued by the representatives of the six nations, declared that the Treaty had given birth to Europe. The Declaration emphasised that the supranational principle was the foundation of the new democratic organisation of Europe. The supranational concept was opposed by Charles de Gaulle.

Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

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Boris Johnson – In Other People’s Words

Yorkshire Bylines, 2 April 2021.

The Daily Mirror breathed new life into the Jennifer Arcuri affair last week and brought the prime minister’s tawdry reputation back under the spotlight. His spokesperson claimed that Johnson had “conducted himself with honesty and integrity” in a four year long extra-marital relationship. That caused some amusement, to say the least.

When the story of Ms Arcuri receiving £126,000 of public money with Johnson’s help first broke, he claimed he didn’t need to declare an interest because “there was no interest to declare”. This now seems a somewhat strained definition of ‘interest’.

Of course, politicians have always been ‘economical with the actualité’. Only the very naive might think otherwise. However, by his personal conduct, Boris Johnson has rendered the phrase ‘they’re all the same’ totally redundant.
Politicians are not all the same

Boris Johnson is in a class of his own.

Most politicians are just low-level miscreants as far as veracity is concerned. They engage in sophistry here and there, occasionally a bit of dissembling, often as a result of trying to avoid telling an outright lie. Not so the PM. He is qualitatively and quantitatively different; a fearless, habitual and prodigious liar.

Some have suggested Johnson suffers from a chronic and persistent mythomania (also known as pseudologia fantastica or pathological lying) a condition involving compulsive lying by a person who is often convinced they’re being truthful. That may or may not be true.
Fishermen’s trade bodies accuse Johnson of lying to them
Anthony Robinson
16 January 2021

The chief features writer at the Financial Times, Henry Mance, says current British politics is morphing from delusion into sleaze and that this new era is partly at least “built upon Johnson’s personality”. It’s hard to disagree.
Johnson’s capacity for falsehood

Johnson has not just embraced the post-truth world, one might say he was the architect of it, headed up the construction crew, poured the foundations and cemented the capstone into place. It’s hard to think of any man in British public life described in such disparaging terms, in so many different ways, so frequently and by so many people, including those who know him well.

The best summary surely came from former Conservative MP and leadership contender, Rory Stewart in The Times Literary Supplement (£) last year:

“[Johnson] has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie – which may inadvertently be true.”
Rory Stewart, The TLS October 23 2020

Stewart ruthlessly set out the range of Johnson’s depressing facility for falsehoods. But he isn’t alone: at the foot of this article, you can read many more descriptions of the man who is surely the most gifted purveyor of untruths ever to enter British politics.
Johnson is openly called a liar

When the head of government of the United Kingdom is openly called a liar, without solicitors getting involved, something is clearly very wrong.

Prime ministers usually need a spin doctor to distance themselves from any hint of not being truthful, and avoid any potential impropriety. The Daily Mail (the irony!) used to refer to Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair’s liar-in-chief. But Johnson doesn’t need a spin doctor to protect his reputation, that was trashed even before he was sacked from The Times in 1988, and has got progressively worse. One might say the PM is impropriety made flesh.

Nowadays, Downing Street press officers spend most of their time correcting his more egregious and easily disprovable lies. The rest they double down on.
Johnson leads by poor example

The tone of any administration is set from the top. It cascades down from Johnson himself and taints everything. The deep flaws in the prime minister’s personality can now be seen in every corner of government.

Some of the ‘sleaze’ that Mance refers to can be seen in the list of breaches of the ministerial code set out by our own Alex Toal, for which there has been no action taken. All the ministers are still in place.
If Conservatives care about the ministerial code, at least 11 cabinet members should resign
Alex Toal
23 March 2021

And it doesn’t even cover the accusations of ‘lobbying’ by David Cameron, the appointment of cronies to positions of power, or the placing of single bidder PPE and other contracts with Tory donors as exposed by Byline Times or indeed, a host of other apparent transgressions.

Bizarrely, some people still accept Johnson’s word as evidence of good faith. This is akin to repeatedly sending money to the ‘nephew’ of the Nigerian minister of finance in the hope of getting millions of dollars in return, even though you know it’s a scam.
The body language of a liar

When occasionally he is trapped and forced to confront a previous falsehood, out comes the trademark smirk, secretly admitting the lie whilst denying it was one. He knows he’s lied and he knows we all know it. Half the nation enjoys being in on the joke, the other half are enraged.

The smirk is the acknowledgment that he can do it with impunity, that nobody is going to call him out for it. That he has somehow imposed a lie on his cabinet and on the whole nation. Imagine the sense of triumph the prime minister must feel when senior colleagues like Brandon Lewis or Matt Hancock are heard repeating and even defending the lie.

Calls for stricter rules are hopelessly misguided when Johnson himself has had a lifelong disdain for them. At Eton he believed he “should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.” He simply cannot exercise moral leadership because he is a completely amoral person.
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In 2011, when Johnson was London mayor, the BBC’s James Landale felt able to paraphrase Hillaire Belloc’s Matilda and poke fun at his life-long affliction.

Boris told such dreadful lies
It made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes
His desk, which from its earliest youth
Had kept a strict regard for truth
Attempted to believe each scoop
Until they landed in the soup.
The moral, it is indeed,
It might be wrong but it’s a damn fine read.

Now that he is the prime minister it doesn’t seem quite as funny does it?
This is the man we elected our leader

Max Hastings said as long ago as 2012, if we ever elected Boris Johnson as prime minister, Britain would have “abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country”.

Johnson’s reputation and proclivity for dishonesty was hardly a secret even then but despite it all, the Tory party elected him as leader and the electorate gave him an 80-seat majority. He is still ahead in the polls.

What does that say about us?
What others have said about Boris Johnson

“Johnson is … the most accomplished liar in public life – perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister.”
Rory Stewart, The TLS October 23 2020

“Boris Johnson is probably Britain’s most famous liar. He appears to have lied in every job, at every level.”
Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian 21 June 2020

“If the Prime Minister tells the truth it’s probably by accident.”
Chris Patten, former party chair, quoted on Twitter, 6 December 2019

“Johnson is a dishonest charlatan, a liar and a cheat, bent on leading this country to the calamity of a no-deal Brexit if that’s what it takes.”
Jonathan Freedland, The New European 25 July 2019

“…a liar, an adulterer and a pedlar of fantasies who is so utterly lacking in principle and integrity that he is willing to sacrifice the nation’s future on the altar of his own ambition.”
Martin Fletcher, The New Statesman 24 July 2019

“They’ve just spaffed 114 first-round votes on a subclinical narcissist whose chief qualification for the gig is knowing the ancient Greek for raghead.”
Marina Hyde, The Guardian 14 June 2019

“He is congenitally dishonest — he was fired by the Times for fabricating quotes, and as shadow arts minister for lying about an extra-marital affair. He is a serial philanderer with two broken marriages and a love child. He is profoundly untrustworthy and disloyal, as his wives and a succession of Tory leaders can testify.”
Martin Fletcher, The New Statesman 11 June 2019

“…the greatest charlatan in the history of the Conservative party: that incompetent, manipulative, lazy, overentitled, media-constructed and media-protected fatberg of dishonesty, Boris Johnson.”
Nick Cohen, The Guardian 8 June 2019

“a habitual liar, a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal to have an offending journalist’s ribs broken, a cruel betrayer of the women he seduces.”
Matthew Parris, The Times 7 June 2019

“I would not trust him with my wife nor – from painful experience – my wallet. It is unnecessary to take any moral view about his almost crazed infidelities, but it is hard to believe that any man so conspicuously incapable of controlling his own libido is fit to be trusted with controlling the country.”
Max Hastings The Guardian, 10 October 2012

“He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect, save as a superlative exhibitionist. He is bereft of judgment, loyalty and discretion.” – “A gold-medal egomaniac” – “Manically disorganised”
Max Hastings The Guardian, 10 October 2012

“When I worked with him all those years ago, I realised that this was not a kind of normal person, with normal feelings of empathy. It’s like there’s something wrong with the wiring. Really, other people don’t interest him very much. Unless they are women that he wants to get into bed.”
Sonia Purnell, ‘Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition’‘ September 2011

I am unfamiliar with the Yorkshire Bylines web site, but their prejudices and mine appear to coincide.

Read the article here . . .

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