Grenfell Tower

So let’s try to unpack this horror a bit, shall we? I happened to watch it almost in real time (on Sky) and I was appalled as it went up. As I said yesterday, it reminded me of the WTC more than anything – essentially all the heroism in the world from the emergency services (and they were, as always) of very little utility, the effects were more like the actions of a particularly malevolent god than anything else.

The best general write up I’ve read as to underlying causes was, not surprisingly on The Conservative Woman. In the immense comment stream, it degenerates a bit into partisan backbiting. Well, what doesn’t these days?

But here’s what I think I know.

  • It’s a high rise (24 stories) with one staircase and two elevators. Not uncommon, there or here, but one must always remember that once you get past roughly 10 floors the fire department is restricted to internal access. 150 feet is about all mobile equipment can reach.
  • Supposedly it was constructed to contain fire, reinforced concrete construction, fire doors and such. Normal stuff, not all that expensive, usually effective. Failed here.
  • A cladding was applied to the building, for appearance and insulation. Some reports say it was not fire resistant. It’s possible it wasn’t, but apply enough heat and almost anything will burn. What appeared to happen here is that fire got behind the cladding and into the insulation. I’ve heard that insulation described as Celotex (may or may not be true), but almost all insulation will either burn or melt, and if it does behind the cladding, it will form a flue (much like a chimney) and heat will rise very quickly feeding the flames. That is what the fire looked like on TV.
  • No sprinklers. May or may not have mattered in the public spaces. Which is all that is usually required. If they had been installed in the apartments may well have contained it, and most also have an automatic alarm, both local and fire department, which would help. Apparently, this building grandfathered the requirement, but best practice would have seen them installed.
  • No (or inaudible) local fire alarm. Inexcusable, in my mind at least.
  • Open windows. England has little air conditioning, and none here, so windows were open, increasing draft for the fire. Well, not really a lot you can do about that.
  • Lots of immigrants in the building. Not a big deal, maybe, but cultural practices do matter. May have been lots of flammable artifacts about, prayer rugs, this, that, and the other. I have also seen immigrants here cooking over open flames (improvised firepits and such) very dangerous in a multi-story building. Don’t know, but might be worth looking at. Also were firedoors kept shut? Canada, for instance, requires that the door to a connected garage have an self-closing mechanism.
  • One that will surprise Americans. There are reports of an exploding refrigerator. That’s something that just doesn’t happen here. Why? Because we use CFCs for refrigerants. If they leak and burn, they can cause phosgene poisoning, but the systems are sealed and pretty much bulletproof. Never, not once, in the last 50 years have I heard of a problem. Europe is different. They use Isobutane, essentially what we call LP gas. Yeah, the same stuff that we use in our barbecue grills, and sometimes stoves and furnaces where natural gas is not available. I won’t have it in my house for any reason, not least because, unlike natural gas, it is heavier than air and will accumulate, and a very small spark (static electricity from a woolen rug, say) can set it off. The other thing is, it’s a small molecule (unlike CFCs) and much harder to seal permanently. LP is every bit as flammable as acetylene that is used for welding, in fact, Oxy-propane is very often used for cutting torches because it burns hotter. Now get a leak in your refrigerator, and a spark in the thermostat, and you have an explosion, and not a small one. Why do they do this? Because the EU has banned CFCs for environmental reasons (we’ve changed our formulations too. The new ones aren’t as effective, but less damaging to the ozone layer).¹

Overall, this was a systemic failure, old Murphy was working overtime. The problems just piled one on the other, and as a result, likely more than a hundred people are dead and died horribly. If I understand the building was council owned (rather like an overpowered city council combined with the zoning board) and managed by a (no doubt connected) non-profit. Strikes me as plenty of room for corruption to sneak in as well, although I have no proof of anything like that. But the one thing we know about bureaucrats is that they can almost never be forced to take responsibility for anything. I doubt anything different than that here.

And yes, the pseudo pious virtue signaling, blame passing, and all those games have already started. Not to mention the wingeing about how we don’t have enough money.

¹ ISOBUTANE

Rep Scalise, and an Attack on the Republic

(Photo: Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency)

[I have some things to say about the Grenfell Tower fire in London, but it won’t be today. So far, I start thinking about it, and I just sit here and cry, not least because of the parallels to the WTC back on 911. The worry over my niece that was working in lower Manhatten that day still haunts me, and the pictures from this disaster bring it all back, terribly strongly. Maybe tomorrow.]

So, let’s talk about something perhaps more evil. The assassination attempt on Steve Scalise and a bunch of other Republican Representatives. Lots of time I don’t agree with any of them, you know that, but they are our elected representatives, and we should assume they are doing what they think is right. That goes for the Democrats as well. We are a representational republic, if you don’t like what they do, vote against them.

The weapon was apparently an AK 47 variant, not that it matters, it could have been anything including a bolt action. Much of the problem was that while I suspect many of these guys have carry permits, who carries a gun at baseball practice?  I don’t, you don’t, I doubt anybody does, but yesterday it would have been a Godsend.

That said, Rep Scalise being there likely saved us from a massacre, as leadership, he is entitled to security. And a couple of very brave Capitol Police officers saved the day. I don’t know whether they took the gunman out or the responding locals did, but they at least bought time for that response.

It’s no easy thing to go up against a rifle with a handgun, but Special Agent David Bailey and Special Agent Crystal Griner are beyond doubting real American heroes. Agent Griner was apparently wounded in the attack and we obviously wish her all the best. Both agents were as well as two others, and we pray for them all.

The perpetrator is dead, which is a good outcome, as Jonathon Turley reported earlier today the penalty for attacking Congressmen with intent to kill, ranges from 25 years to death, as it should. This was not a terrorist attack, at least as we generally perceive them. He was a 60-year-old supporter of Bernie Sanders, and opposed virulently both Trump and Clinton. As usual, he was likely just crazy, not that the current environment doesn’t aggravate that. None of this rebounds to Senator Sander’s fault, it is purely the responsibility of the perpetrator. Sen. Sanders released a statement which said this.

 

Fair enough, you will all remember that Senator Sanders also defended Ann Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley. I almost never agree with him, but he’s an honest and an honorable man.

We are already, unsurprisingly seeing the attack turned into partisan politics, especially by the press, which seemingly will do and or say anything to get noticed these days. Which of course is why they have become irrelevant in the first place.

But it is time, indeed it is well past time, to cool the rhetoric in this country some. The witchhunt and the defenses against it are becoming much too likely to precipitate violence, and as we saw this morning, that is not in any of our best interest. We don’t need to agree, but we do need to agree to act civilly, if we don’t this will become the precursor of who knows what. I was asked today by a British friend whether we are getting ready to kick off Act 4 of the “Cousin’s Wars”. My answer was that I hoped not, but I feared we are.

The AG Testifies, Higher Education, and a Report Card

Welp, I was going to talk about the Attorney General’s testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, but I couldn’t manage to keep my mind on the nonsense being spewed about. Lucky for us that Toni Williams could.

Today, Trump Administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss colluding with Russians or Russian interference in the 2016 Election or whatever whale excrement the Democrats are trying to peddle this news cycle. The Senators, especially Ron Wyden (Moron-OR) and Kamala Harris (Fool-CA), showed themselves to be disrespectful, small and bitter. It was so sad.

Although the Senate sees itself as “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”, it has long been the home of gassy, windbags, pompous dolts, and unctuous twits. Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Patrick Moynihan may have been great Senators, but you wouldn’t want to live with them. Joe Biden and, not to speak ill of the dead, but they know it’s true, Arlen Specter and Ted Kennedy, pompous dolts.

Today, we have John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden as Senators on the Intelligence Committee. Dear God, I pray for our Republic. …

Yeah, me too. If you’d like a serious summary, not that Toni is wrong, mind, how about from John Hinderaker. Here is his final paragraph.

The Democrats are making fools of themselves. But that is what their base–black-masked “antifa” hoodlums, the New York Times, the Washington Post–wants, so no doubt it will continue for a while. Eventually, though, they will have to admit that their Russia investigation, an attempt to smear the Trump administration with whatever the Russian government may or may not have done, has come to nothing.

An excellent summary of how our tax money is being wasted on this nonsense. Best quote of the day, from AG Sessions.

This I’m afraid will result has already resulted in investigations and I fear that some people may find that they’ll wish they hadn’t leaked.

I certainly hope so.


A couple of things from the world of higher (?) education. From Chris Queen.

Oxford University – long held as one of the premier educational institutions in the world – is changing one of its core history exams in order to ensure that more women get the highest possible grade on the test.

One of Oxford’s five final-year history exams will be replaced by a paper that can be done at home to try to improve results for female students.

The move, which begins in the next academic year, comes as statistics showed 32% of women achieved a first in history at Oxford, compared with 37% of men.

Under the new exam structure, students most likely will be given similar questions to the existing exam, but rather than completing the test within a specifically designated time frame, students will have several days at home to finish.

University officials say that the “gender gap” was a major factor in considering the new exam, along with the fact that the new format would “reward research skills rather than memorisation, or performance under pressure.”

The decision isn’t without its controversy, however. Even the university admits that the risk of plagiarism grows with a take-home test. There’s no guarantee that students won’t collaborate, cheat, or seek outside help with the exam.

I’m very sure that my friends, including my co-blogger whose history degree is from Oxford, are thrilled with the University cheapening their accomplishment. But as all good leftists know, girls aren’t the equal of boys they need special help, only nasty conservatives think they can do the work without special consideration.

Then there is this, from Steven Hayward.

Colleges are all about teaching “critical thinking,” though in most places that is a mere euphemism for teaching “critical theory,” which is not the same thing. Quite the opposite: “critical theory” is the highly ideologized core of the academic left. And it shows.

News item:

Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

By Douglas Belkin

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. . .

For prospective students and their parents looking to pick a college, it is almost impossible to figure out which schools help students learn critical thinking, because full results of the standardized test, called the College Learning Assessment Plus, or CLA+, are seldom disclosed to the public. This is true, too, of similar tests.

Wonder why I am not surprised.


Just to finish off, a little short one from Ace’s on how a town in Ohio thinks Trump is doing. Follow the link and read the comments,  they’re the best part of AoSHQ.

Interestingly, the conservatives I speak with do not really consider Trump one of them. Rank-and-file Republicans tend to view Trump more as an independent who ran under the Republican banner.

But for the most part, they’re still with him. They appreciate Trump’s “America first” agenda, not because they believe in isolationism, but because they believe the U.S. and its citizens should be the government’s top priority.

The president’s tweets can be as annoying to his supporters as to his opponents, and if there is a common criticism it is that he should tweet less. But his inability so far to overhaul health care, enact tax reform, destroy the Islamic State or “drain the swamp” is largely blamed on overreaching courts and the open “resistance” that appears dedicated to opposing anything Trump wants.

For the record, I agree with the townspeople, and I’m getting very tired of the nonstop nonsense, both from the Democrats and the never-Trumpers, both of whom are beneath contempt.

Narratives and Terrorism

London police chief Cressida Dick

This is rather bizarre

London Police commissioner says nationalities of eight London Bridge victims tell a proud story of city’s diversity https://t.co/9msx7b7s4Spic.twitter.com/euPEDQknTM

— ABC News (@ABC) June 10, 2017

And yet, they weren’t particularly diverse, they were all from either Europe or the Anglosphere. London is lots more diverse than that. And everybody is aware that London is a world city, indeed it is the oldest of them, going well back into the nineteenth century.

“It’s desperately sad and poignant but among those who died is someone who’s British, there are French, Australian, Canadian, Spanish,” Cressida Dick told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

“In terms of our witnesses that we’ve spoken to so far, out of the 300-odd people, there are about 20 different countries of origin. And the London British population comes from all kinds of backgrounds and every kind of faith and ethnicity.”

She said longtime Londoners value this international aspect of the British capital.

“We believe of course that that’s what makes our city so great,” she said. “It’s a place where the vast majority of time it’s incredibly integrated and that diversity gives us strength.”

This is one of those times that what is getting reported is not exactly untrue, but so mundane as to be, “Well, so what?”

What Commissioner Dick did not report on, however, is the diversity of the attackers. Why? I have no idea, maybe because there was none. They like just about every known wolf attack in the last decade or so, were radical Islamists. But it is not PC to say so, so the British authorities won’t. Which has much to do with their inability to stop these attacks. How does one fight something one is afraid to identify. Well, one could establish a proxy.

This is the mayor of London

As always – give me more money. I dislike agreeing with Piers Morgan but he’s right, “What is more important?”

This maybe?

Priorities, don’t you know. Can’t be offending the Muslims, now the Christians that’s an entirely different matter, just ask the DUP.

Tom Blumer has a bit to add:

Sadly, almost no one in the press dares to observe the utter lack of diversity among terrorist attackers. As has almost invariably been the case since 9/11, those who carried out the two most recent UK attacks were Muslims with a jihadist mindset. That combination has proven itself to be the greatest current enemy of genuine diversity and ethnic and cultural camaraderie on earth.

Regarding the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, which at last count has left 23 victims dead and 119 injured (23 critically), the facts are these:

  • The UK Telegraphreported that“Manchester bomber Salman Abedi took his twisted revenge out of ‘love for Islam’ after being radicalised by (an) Isil (Islamic State) preacher.”
  • 22 others were ultimately detained after the attack, but they were released without charges Sunday morning.
  • On May 24, the BBC described“a triangle of Islamist-jihadist connections between Manchester, Libya and Syria” which also may have influenced Abedi, even if one takes the unlikely view that he acted totally alone without anyone else having the first clue as to what he was up to.

Concerning the June 3 London Bridge attack, which at last count has left 8 victims dead and 48 injured (21 critically):

  • Attackers Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, and Youssef Zaghba first “mounted the pavement at London Bridge and ploughed into pedestrians, knocking them down like skittles.” Then, after leaving the vehicle, they “began attacking passersby,” and “shouted ‘this is for Allah’, as they stabbed indiscriminately.”
  • 19 others have been arrested in connection with the attack, but 12 have already been released without charges.

Instead of uncritically taking dictation from London’s police chief, reporters like the AP’s Katz might consider looking into whether the quick releases of most of those arrested after these two attacks indicate that post-attack police “roundups” really represent a form of street theater designed to make it appear as if officials are accomplishing something when they really aren’t.

Returning to the main theme, there’s not a lot of precious “diversity” among the attackers because those involved never got the memo that there’s nothing wrong with racial and ethnic “diversity” in a society as long as its members buy into that society’s fundamental values.

The reason they never got the memo is that it hasn’t been sent to new arrivals in the UK and many other western nations for years.

To be honest, until we are willing to again send that memo, and enforce it. This is how life is going to be in the West.

 

Mobocracy, Individual Rights, and Government

This new Bill Whittle series is extraordinary. This one, entitled Government may be the best short explanation of why and how America’s government was designed as it is.

The last week has been rather heavy in British constitutional theory and practice, what with the general election and all. It’s not a bad reason to remind ourselves and others why it is so important to limit the size and power of the (especially general) government.

And yes, the Brits actually do know this as well as we do. That’s where we learned it, of course. We here in the United States, when it came our turn to mount the recurrent civil war (English Civil War, American Revolution, and American Civil War) we learned not only from the Stuarts, and their overthrow but from Cromwell and his excesses. And because we started with a clean slate, and toweringly good men, and above them one, George Washington, we were provided with safeguards from almost all dangers, except for we the people ourselves.

My British friends have always been uncomfortable with the emphasis we put on the individual. I understand their concern well, so did Benjamin Rush, who wrote to John Adams, in 1789.

Philadelphia Jany. 22nd. 1789.

My dear friend

Your affectionate and instructing letter of Decemr 2nd. did not reach me ‘till yesterday. I Embrace with my Affections, as well as my judgement that form of Government which you have proved from so many Authorities, to be the only One that can preserve political happiness. It was my attachment to a constitution composed of three branches, that first deprived me of the Confidence of the Whigs of Pennsylvania in the Close of the year 1776. My Observations upon the misery which a single legislature has produced in Pennsylvania, have only served to encrease my Abhorance of that Species of Government. I could as soon embrace the most absurd dogmas in the most Absurd of all the pagan religions, as prostitute my Understanding by approving of our State constitution—It is below a democracy. It is mobocracy—if you will allow me to coin a word. If you will not permit me to compare it to a Wheelbarrow, or a Balloon. I never see our self-ballanced legislature meet, but I feel as if I saw a body of men ascending in One of those air vehicles—without sails or helm.—I have collected materials for a history of the Revolution in Pennsylvania, but despair of being Able to arrange or publish them, while I am so closely confined to the duties of my profession. They contain such an Account the follies & cries of mankind as would tend forever to discredit a single legislature. …

If memory holds, the Pennsylvania government of 1776, was not all that different from that of England, a fairly weak executive, and courts, all subservient to the basically unitary legislature. It was a decided failure. In England at the time, the House of Commons was moderated by both a much stronger House of Lords and crown than they are now.

In many ways, it’s a balancing act, between the executive, the legislative assembly (House of Representatives, now), the States (The Senate as originally constituted), and the courts, not to mention the people.

Mobocracy is always a danger, of course, as we are seeing in our own time, offsetting that is that by guaranteeing the unalienable rights of the individual, we thereby guarantee those of the family, the community, the church, and the constituent state vis a vis the federal government, which then as now is seen as the most likely to degenerate into tyranny, which must be guarded against from all comers, whatsoever. And it also guarantees them in practice from the mob itself.

If you would know why I, and many Americans, supported Brexit, full-throatedly, you will find your answer here. We, as Americans, if we know our history, easily quote from our Founders, to make all these points, on rights and obligations and all the rest. But so can the British, more than any other people in the world. For all of these men, who bequeathed to America whatever share of freedom and liberty we have maintained, every one of them considered himself a free-born Englishman, and a proud one, until that government attempted to remove those rights. Then they became Americans. There is nothing comparable to the Anglo-American concept of responsible liberty on the face of the earth, there is only the autocracy of the elites, and the mobocracy of the serfs.

Only in the Anglosphere, (not so) strangely including Israel, do men walk as free men, with unalienable rights.

 

The hubris of Theresa May

o-THERESA-MAY-facebook.jpg

Politics is a curious business, and foreign politics may be particularly so, but since this is an Anglo-American blog, I thought some reflections from the recent events in the UK might interest Neo’s readers.

The background is that 7 weeks ago the Prime Minister, Theresa May, having a 20 point lead in the opinion polls, decided to call a General Election. She had no need to, with a majority of 17 in the Commons, and another 3 years before law would require one. The media was agreed on only one thing, she would win a crushing victory, perhaps over 100 more seats, and the Labour Party, under the Bernie Sanders sound-alike, Jeremy Corbyn, would be crushed. She asked for a mandate and a majority, she got neither. In normal circumstances such a leader would go, and it seems as though her first instinct was to do just that, but as so often, she let her advisers overrule her. Since then her advisers have ‘resigned’ – it is said before members of the Cabinet insisted on their resignation. Having wanted a strong and stable government, she has given us a weak and wobbly one. In a few days negotiations over Britain’s leaving the EU will start, and we are no closer to knowing what sort of deal she wants. The only thing for certain is she is a weakened and diminished figure whose authority dwindles daily.

The only way she can now secure a majority for crucial legislation is via a deal with Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland. As Churchill put it in his memoirs of the Great War, writing about 1922:
“The whole map of Europe has been changed … but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.”

As the English electorate frantically googled ‘DUP”, the shape of modern toleration was apparent. At least one bigot on Twitter compared them to ISIS, and seemed surprised when I did not want to engage; minds that closed and toxic are not places any sensible person would wish to probe. Objections to their opposition to abortion and homosexual marriage are voiced loudly, as though no decent human being could think such things; the notion that no decent person could approve of the killing of babies in the womb does not occur to those quick to judge others.

So where now? Corbyn offered a lot of ‘free stuff’ to the young, and the old, who, naturally, bought it, so to say; after all, if bankers can be bailed out by billions of pounds, why can’t the young and the old? After nearly a decade of ‘austerity’, ordinary people are fed up. They do not feel they caused the crisis of 2008, but they know they have paid for it. The young, especially those who have been to university, are saddled with debts which they do not feel the jobs on offer to them will allow them to pay off; they are the first in this post 1945 generation not to be able to look forward to a better standard of loving than their parents – and they are not in the mood to vote for those who offer them no hope.

The Conservatives took the electorate for granted. Confident to the point of arrogance, they thought that could offer an uncosted manifesto with some unpopular policies, and make up for that by personal attacks on Corbyn. To his credit, he did not respond in kind, and whilst his own manifesto was full of dubious economics, it at least looked as though there was a message of hope there. The electorate have punished the hubris of Theresa May, and one thing is for certain, she will never be allowed to lead her party into another General Election. Can she carry on? Well, as long as there is no obvious successor, she can survive, but the Tory party has always been good at poleaxing failed leaders and finding new ones, so it will not be long, I suspect.

Do not take the electorate for granted or for fools.

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