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.

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.

 

A Most Resolute People?

This was taken in London in 1940. These people are serious, but they look pretty unafraid, and they even have a smile for their Queen. In fact, those people, no less than the Few in Fighter Command, inspired the world, to defeat Nazi Germany. As has been said so often, there was no more compelling reason for the United States to enter the European War than there was for the Soviet Union to enter the Japanese war, and they didn’t till after VE Day.

But we did. Why? Well, there were the famous radio broadcasts, by Edward R. Murrow, starting with “This is London” with the bombs going off in the background, there was the bravery and success of the RAF. But there was also admiration for the British people, fighting on alone, with the King and his family at their head (and bombed himself) and the words of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the best of both countries distilled into one man.

And so, together we built the world of today. But…

The pictures from London this weekend didn’t look like that. They didn’t show a resolute people, who could legitimately say, “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job”. Instead we saw this.

REUTERS/Neil Hall

That is not a portrait of serious, resolute people, that’s a picture of a defeated people, who have given up any control of their own life. Perhaps the police instructed them to do this, it is a reasonable way to make sure they haven’t weapons, but this went on for blocks. They damned sure weren’t ‘walking like free men.’

Thing is, if reports are right, the wannabe terrorists killed 7 people with the total destruction of their force. That ain’t no victory, that’s a defeat, and a bad one. They killed three people each, none of whom had anything to do with their cause, just happened to be there. I think in America the wannabe terrorists would have done even worse, it sounds like there were plenty of opportunities for a civilian who knew what he was doing to intervene decisively. The Mets response was very good, but as always when you need a cop in seconds they were only minutes away.

Then there is this:

It’s kind of reasonable advice, if you’re a helpless subject, totally dependent on the police, which is what the British government seems to want these days. But at some point one must fight, even rabbits will, and rabbits have teeth, and sometimes win.

Kim Quade over at Victory Girls wrote yesterday

Free people don’t live to react. They live confidently and proactively. They fiercely guard their borders and maintain their culture. It’s sad to think that the little island nation of Britain, which kept Nazis from invading their land nearly 80 years ago, may be succumbing to their own folly within.

She’s right, it’s very sad indeed to think that the little island of Britain, whose people more than anyone else, built the world we live in, will end this way. But if they don’t change, it will.

But let’s end with something much more uplifting.

 

The Rule of Law (UK Style)

On NEO there are 228 articles dealing with the ‘Rule of Law‘ or so says the search box. It’s been one of the most common topics here since day one. It continues to be, for cause. Here’s why, from the £ Daily Mail.

An ‘extraordinary’ Oxford University student who stabbed her Tinder lover with a bread-knife could be spared jail after a judge said a custodial sentence would damage her future career as a heart surgeon.

Lavinia Woodward, 24,  swiped at her boyfriend with the blade, before stabbing him in the leg.

She then hurled a laptop, a glass and a jam jar at him, during the drink and drug-fuelled clash at Christ Church college, Oxford.

Woodward, who currently lives in Milan, Italy, previously admitted unlawful wounding at an earlier hearing.

Judge Ian Pringle said the offence would normally mean a prison term, but instead delayed sentencing and slapped her with a restraining order to stay drug-free and not to re-offend.

He told the court: ‘It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off, to prevent this extraordinary able young lady from not following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to, would be a sentence which would be too severe.

‘What you did will never, I know, leave you but it was pretty awful, and normally it would attract a custodial sentence, whether it is immediate or suspended.’

Prosecutor Cathy Olliver said Woodward met her ex online and at the time of the attack, September 30, her behaviour ‘deteriorated’.

The student’s boyfriend called Woodward’s mother on Skype, and his then-girlfriend punched him in the face before assaulting him with the knife.

Defending, James Sturman QC said his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon were ‘almost impossible’ as her conviction would have to be disclosed.

Woodward had a ‘very troubled life’, struggled with drug addiction, and had been abused by another ex, Mr Sturman said.

Lavinia Woodward will be sentenced on September 25.

To American eyes, British sentencing looks pretty mild at any time, but even there one would expect a custodial sentence for a drugged binge, including assault with a deadly weapon on one partner, even if one were attending Oxford hoping to be a doctor. You know, us provincial Americans, “You do the crime, you do the time”. Yeah, we know a woman, especially a fairly cute one, won’t catch as severe a sentence usually, that’s a bit wrong, but it’s a cultural thing with us, and not that big a deal, because women usually aren’t as violent as men anyway.

But this is well beyond that point, It’s a hard thing to ruin someone’s future, even for cause, but it seems hardly a good thing for the average Briton to have unstable, drug abusing, prone to violence, heart surgeons. That’s why we take people off the street, not so much to punish them (in theory, anyway) but to help them get their life straightened out.

But I wonder if the Mail provided us with the answer, after all. Here’s another picture of poor Lavinia.

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m pretty sure that ain’t cattle class on Ryanair. Yep, it’s a private jet of some kind, and they are not economy class. Mind, one doesn’t have to be close to being Donald Trump to have one, and they often make business sense, but it is not the way we usually go off to Podunk U, to fulfill our dreams.

I won’t say there is bribery involved here, although there certainly could be, in one manner or another. After all, not all bribes are money, many are access, or influence, or other things, and they may actually be more harmful.

But even that is problematic, what I really suspect is that it is simply class solidarity, can’t send our kind to prison, she’d have to deal with all those [insert your own group] here.

And that is why it is pernicious. What has made Great Britain, America, and very few more countries what we are is that the law applies equally to everyone.

And forgetting that will destroy much of the reason they work.

Special Counsel

So, we have a Special Prosecutor Counsel. Isn’t that special, well we have it because there is a lot of smoke, not least to find out if there is a fire, swamp gas is burning off, too much grilling in the fog, or somebody bought some army surplus smoke generators and are manufacturing smoke. I think I may know, and so may you, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The farce must play out.

But I suspect it may not go the way the writer of the script thinks, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is fairly obviously well connected, that does not necessarily mean that he is dishonest. He’s also a former Marine Officer decorated for his service in Vietnam. One thing it will do is reduce the volume a bit, and let the Administration do a bit of administrating rather than running around like fools all day long. Well, one hopes anyway!

Best I’ve seen on it comes from Joshuapundit, here’s some…

Rosenstein may even have been told by Trump to appoint a special counsel. It puts this garbage on the back burner somewhat, and will hopefully shut it down. That’s because there’s nothing for Mueller to find on the president and no crime. But just look at Mueller’s actual brief! To supervise the investigation of:

“(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a).”

Regulation 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a) is part of the federal regulations that authorize appointing a special counsel. It expands a special counsel’s jurisdiction to all crimes, such as perjury or obstruction of justice, that interfere with his original responsibility.To wit, (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a).”

Think of the ground that could cover! It could definitely include investigating Seth Rich’s murder* and reopening the investigation of the Clinton Foundation that FBI Director Comey closed on Obama AG Loretta Lynch’s orders after she met will Bill Clinton on that plane. It could include compelling testimony from Loretta Lynch herself. It could expand to exploring President Obama’s surveillance of the Trump campaign by President Obama and the clear violations of FISA laws that took place. Imagine some of these juicy scandals coming to light just in time for the midterms…talk about a total reversal of fortune.

In any event, the supposed ‘Comey memo’ if it even exists amounts to hearsay evidence no judge would take seriously. And even if Trump suggested Comey ‘go easy on Flynn’ after he had been fired, that is not obstruction of justice. That crime involves actual overt actions like destroying evidence, perjury, inducing other people to commit perjury, you know, the sort of felonies the Clintons did routinely.

And recall that both ranking member Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Burr (R-NC),the chairman both said that Trump was not under investigation based on the classified briefing they were given.

Another thing to consider. Comey is a lawyer. As such, he is an officer of the court who is legally obligated to report a crime like obstruction of justice. Yet he did not…until now. That could be grounds for disbarment.

Do read it all at the link above.

Who knows, Special Counsels are official loose cannon, nobody (usually including them) know where an investigation like this is likely to go, and that’s if the Counsel (and staff) are honest. It may be the worst thing Trump could do, it may also be the best, only time will tell.

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