The World is Fortunate that Donald Trump is President

(This is a version of the post I wrote here, re-written in a more formal manner in the hope someone might like to publish it. Anyone know where I could send it?)

Few would argue that the 2016 US presidential election went as planned. It was supposed to be a straight contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, both fully endorsed by their respective parties on the grounds that it was their turn. Bush would have been denounced as a Nazi early on, as happened to Mitt Romney and John McCain, and like his hapless predecessors he’d have spent the entire campaign issuing clarifications and grovelling apologies. Clinton would have been feted by the media as the natural successor to Barack Obama, ideally suited to continue his good works in taking the country in a more progressive direction. She would win by a handsome margin becoming the first female president, thus striking a blow for women everywhere. Eventually the Democrats would concede Bush wasn’t really a Nazi, but not until long after Hillary’s inauguration.

Only it didn’t work out quite like that. Nobody knows why Donald Trump decided to run for the Republican nomination. Was it because Obama mocked him at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner? Or did he simply want the publicity before launching a new series of The Apprentice? It doesn’t matter now. Shortly after entering the primaries, Trump found himself at the head of a political movement no-one knew existed. The alt-right, as they became known, liked what he had to say particularly around topics nobody else would mention: immigration, Islamic terrorism, and the plight of blue-collar America. The more he spoke the more outrageous he became, and the more the media and his Republican rivals reacted with righteous indignation. But at the same time his popularity grew because of, not despite, his willingness to ignore the established rules of political discourse. Before we knew it Trump had won the GOP nomination; party favourite Jeb Bush had withdrawn weeks before with less than 1% support. I suspect nobody was more surprised by this outcome than Trump himself. He had entered the race as a joke figure and emerged as the unwitting leader of a powerful, grass-roots movement he knew little about. But he quickly learned how to speak to them, and they listened, and so did he.

Against all expectations, the forces which secured Trump the Republican nomination propelled him into the White House, defeating Clinton in the November presidential election. Here we had a novice outflanking experienced politicians with the backing of both major parties to become president of the United States. His victory can be ascribed to one simple thing: when it came to voting, he had the numbers.

Since then there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Trump is a Russian stooge, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a danger to the world. Perhaps, but what matters is he had the numbers. Trump showed that simply by saying certain things, millions of disaffected people sick of the status quo and sense of entitlement among the political elites who dominate both parties will vote a maverick into the highest office in the land. Note Trump didn’t have to tell outrageous lies and make too many unrealistic promises, but it wouldn’t matter even if he did. All he had to do was speak to the masses on issues which the established political classes refused to address.

Given how easy it was in hindsight to wrest the presidency from the grasp of America’s complacent political elites, we should perhaps reflect on how fortunate we are that it was a 70 year old multi-millionaire New York playboy that stumbled upon the gaping hole that led straight to the levers of power. Nothing Trump has done – or intends to do – should cause alarm among ordinary, sane people who accept that politics is a broad tent which needs to accommodate many people and sometimes your side doesn’t win. Yet we are subject to a loud and continuous refrain that Donald Trump is without doubt the worst and most dangerous president the United States has ever seen. His presidency is under attack from all sides, including what is supposed to be his own, in the hope that one way or another they can force him from office and things will go back to how they were. Most people in the world would cheer if this were to happen, as would many Americans.

But let’s take a step back a moment. So far, Trump’s main activities in office have been overzealous, ill-advised Tweeting, muddle-headed speeches, fighting with Republicans, and backtracking on his campaign policies. With what he’s up against I doubt he can achieve anything other than slow the decline for a few years at most. The few policies on which he has made progress consist mainly of rolling back Obama’s EOs and other instances of blatant executive overreach. If this is what has the entire world squealing in terror and applying epithets recently reserved for those who had actually committed genocide, they are woefully ignorant, lacking imagination, lying, or a combination of all three.

Consider for a moment who might have got in. What if it had been a young, charismatic unknown who harboured greater ambitions than Trump and a far more ruthless streak that appeared on stage and said all the right things? As Trump showed, it really didn’t take much to win when up against Hillary and a thoroughly corrupt Republican party that takes its voters for granted. Such a person wouldn’t get in, you say? Well, who had heard of Emmanuel Macron before he became president of France. That’s not to say Macron will become a ruthless dictator, but few bothered to find out much about him before voting him into office largely on how he looked and who he wasn’t.

Somebody far worse than Trump could have trodden the path he took to power, and Twitter outbursts and trannies in the military would be the absolute least of our worries. Hillary really could be in jail instead of flogging her book of excuses, and the leaders of Antifa and BLM lying in hospital contemplating life in a wheelchair. If you think the decency of the American people and the robustness of the political system would prevent such an outcome, think again. In an era of Executive Orders, a weaponised IRS, politicised appointed judges, and a president with a pen and a phone, there’s an awful lot resting on the decency of Trump. Now there’s a thought.

Alarmingly, the political classes haven’t learned anything and seem determined to compound their mistakes. If they succeed in their efforts to force Trump from office by fair means or foul, what lesson do you think future political leaders will draw from it? They will assume the game is rigged and merely winning an election is not enough to hold power, and will do everything they can to ensure they cannot be unseated in a similar manner. If you conspire to get rid of a fairly elected president simply because you dislike him, expect the next guy to be a lot more savvy and interested in self-preservation over and above everything else.

In 2016 Americans dodged a bullet they never saw coming, and are fortunate it’s Donald Trump that now occupies the White House instead of someone much worse. If they have any sense, they’ll allow him to see out his term and leave office peacefully. If they don’t, historians may come to view this supposedly dangerous white supremacist as one of the most benign presidents of the 21st century.

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Clothes, Parenting, and Vanity

A while back I bought a negative scanner (this one) to transfer old film photos to digital format. It does a reasonable job, not exactly professional standard and the scanning process is rather repetitive, but it’s good enough for home use if you have time on your hands. Anyway, last weekend I started scanning the negatives of all the family photos we had from when I grew up in Wales, most of which are from the late ’70s through the ’80s.

Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy. What would my siblings pay me to ensure they never see the light of day? Something which stands out straight away is the clothes we’re all decked out in (there are four of us, three boys and a girl). I have no idea where my parents got these clothes but they have surely since been banned by the UN on human rights grounds. Was purple really so popular back then? Dear Lord. Alas, my parents appeared to be dressed in whatever they found in a job-lot of clothes gathered from the fields after Woodstock. I’m being unfair, of course. When the photos include other children and their parents, their own sartorial selections were no less hideous. But there are reasons for this.

Firstly, economics. Back in the 1970s there was no clothing industry in China churning out hundreds of millions of garments dirt cheap. I have no idea where children’s clothes were made back then, but they weren’t being knocked out at the volume and price they are now. Like everything else, clothes have got cheaper. The number of hours a breadwinner had to work to clothe his kids in the ’70s was a lot more than today. Kids therefore were expected to wear whatever the parents could lay their hands on, and if you had more than one boy economies of scale would kick in. I don’t know how old I was before I got my first pair of trousers that weren’t hand-me-downs (I was the youngest) but I was pushing six-feet tall. As far as school clothes went, the first thing my brother used to do at the start of a new term was tell everyone my trousers used to be his. Thanks a bunch.

Secondly, availability. Not only was China not pumping out cheap clothes, shops in west Wales in that era were not selling them. The shops were absolutely abysmal, and remained so well into the ’90s. Buying school clothes entailed a trip to Swansea or even Cardiff, which was a fair hike in a VW Beetle with four kids. Even if Gap Kids existed in those days, they’d have been as unobtainable as Rolex watch for anyone living in Pembroke. A lot of people forget how appalling retail used to be.

But something else has changed too, which I alluded to in this post about how parenting has changed. There’s a vanity associated with children now that didn’t exist when I was a kid, or at least I was unaware of it. Frankly, back in the ’70s and ’80s parents didn’t care how their kids looked provided they were washed, their hair cut, and clothes clean. Whether they looked cool or their outfit wasn’t some hideous purple jumper over a paisley shirt didn’t matter a jot. Economics and availability played a role for sure, but practicality was the main driver. As my mother used to say, what’s the point in buying nice clothes for children when 1) they’ll get wrecked, and 2) you’ll outgrow them in weeks. She had a point. Living in a rural area my clothes were usually covered in mud and/or cow crap, and my trousers always had patches on the knees because I sort of lived on the floor. And I was one of those kids who you could watch growing in real-time. Being practical folk raised in the era of post-war shortages, my parents’ generation just kitted out their kids in anything that was practical and didn’t worry too much about what it looked like.

The only “cool” piece of clothing I remember from infant and junior school was the Arsenal strip, a red and white nylon t-shirt with the gun and cannon balls logo. One or two kids had one, and they were cool. I wanted one, but my mother said no (she’d not have had the foggiest idea what I was on about). Instead I did PE in the same green polo-neck that my older brothers had worn, thus consigning each of us in turn to playing in goal every time we had football. This was the ’80s, after all. Our football socks were also shared among us, knitted from wool by great-auntie Jessie. Little wonder the First Division scouts didn’t linger too long at our PE sessions.

Something changed in the 1990s, probably at the time China boomed and globalisation made us all richer. When I was growing up there were adults’ clothes and children’s clothes. Nowadays children’s clothes are often adult’s clothes but in a small size. Gap Kids and the others use the same or similar designs as their adult ranges. It now became possible to make your kid look cool, and boy did some mothers take it seriously. You started seeing toddlers wearing Lacoste and Ralph Lauren clothing which wasn’t much cheaper than the adult stuff. Parents would still use hand-me-downs but no longer would except sacks of clothes from cousins, neighbours, or friends of the family whose children had grown up. In fact, many would be offended if it were offered, but when I was a child it was gratefully received. There was nothing wrong with the clothes, other than they were absolutely hideous and they had someone else’s name sewn in them. And of course, they were a decade out of fashion: the clothes I wore in the ’80s dated from the ’70s.

I don’t know what came first, the availability of nice clothes or the vanity of the parents, but nowadays many mothers (and occasionally fathers) see their children as fashion accessories, objects which makes a statement about them in terms of wealth and taste (ha!). I’ve seen 5 or 6 year old kids walking around in Canada Goose jackets. For whose benefit are they being worn, do you think? It’s a subsection of the molly-coddling that I mentioned in my earlier post. If a mother thinks her boy needs to look super-cool in the latest designer clothes, you can be sure she’s pandering to him in other ways and her priority is not raising him to be a functional adult.

The same is true for those mothers who style their child’s hair, making it spiky or dyeing it. Ditto for those who give them mirrored shades. If they go on to post pictures of their kid thus adorned on Facebook, it’s a near-certainty the kid is a little shit. Ask any teacher what impression they’d form of a six year old who turned up in class with his hair shaved at the back and sides and spiked on top, as if he were a Premier League footballer. Equally bad is those mothers who refuse to cut their kid’s hair, saying “Oh I couldn’t, he looks so beautiful.” Here’s some advice: if your kid is under ten and has long hair that you refuse to cut because you “love it so much”, he’ll still be living with you when he’s thirty. Or he’ll be living in a one-bed flat with a guy called Ralph.

So looking back, perhaps my folks had the right idea after all. As my dad would say: “It never did you any harm!” Quite right.

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Facebook Politics

Regular reader The Manc left this comment under yesterday’s post:

Over the last few months three different people have posted something on my Facebook feed along the lines of “we needn’t worry about terrorism because far more people die in car accidents each day”. They are the kind of otherwise highly intelligent people that would pull that statement apart if it was posted in relation to anything else. I actually find it quite offensive, in the old fashioned sense of the word.

I might have said this before but I think that it’s difficult to respond to social media posts like that in case it ends up in a public argument in front of everyone you know with a bunch of people you have never met.

Political posts on Facebook are about as appealing as a Mexican karaoke night. I got so fed up with it I wrote the posted the following rant on my own account a few months back:

Can I just say something to all those people who post political stuff on Facebook?

Most of what is posted is of a quality consistent with that of a high school debating class, relying on third-hand opinions, anecdotes, and sources which lost their credibility back when The Spice Girls were popular. None of what I read is new: they are the same tired tropes wheeled out again and again, subjects which have been done to death on forums, blogs, and chat rooms since the day the internet was born. If any of this was posted outside of Facebook and subject to public scrutiny it would be torn to shreds within a matter of seconds and the author would be made to look so ill-informed and stupid they’d probably only do it once. The reason this doesn’t happen on Facebook is because family members and friends are too polite, and have too much invested in the real-life relationships, to risk upsetting them by challenging bullshit. Most people would roll their eyes and move on.

Unfortunately, a few likes and suddenly people think their opinions are popular and they’re offering valuable insight. But no, most people I speak to are beginning to realise how much politics on Facebook make their real-life friends and acquaintances come across as real dicks. I confess I have occasionally posted political stuff on here, but I ought not to have done. If anybody thinks their political opinions are worth listening to, put them in front of a public audience first: join a forum, start a blog, open a Twitter account. Thrash out the ideas first so at least you get some proper, unvarnished feedback before peddling high-school crap to friends and family who only connected with you because up until then you seemed all right.

Please, Facebook politics is the worst kind. It’s a terrible forum for it, and you’ll end up believing your own bullshit and losing friends.

It didn’t change anything. One person in particular is a gay man from an authoritarian, Muslim former Soviet Republic who went to New York on a tourist visa and quite deliberately overstayed so he is now living there illegally. His Facebook timeline is just a blur of re-posted anti-Trump articles, many pertaining to how homophobic he is. If I were American, I’d be fucking livid.

I’m going to start unfriending people soon.

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Motes & Beams

Sorry, I know I promised, but this is just too easy.

Laurie Penny talking about Donald Trump, September 16th:

Two days later:

Calling Donald Trump a white supremacist as a matter of course is something to be encouraged. Applying wholly inaccurate labels to Laurie Penny is beyond the pale. And of course, this professional attention-seeker has a disorder to disclose on the internet. Is MHD something real, or one of those trendy middle-class disorders?

As for this:

Try being less abusive yourself, perhaps?

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Another Era

This is somewhat ironic:

The East German secret police went to extraordinary lengths to track down people who wrote letters to the BBC during the Cold War. One of those arrested and jailed was a teenager who longed to express himself freely – and paid a high price.

Today the BBC is the last place you’ll find people expressing themselves freely, and the employees these days would make the Stasi’s job a lot easier by dobbing him in at the first opportunity.

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The Inertia of the British Middle Classes

The fascinating social experiment which is the United Kingdom got a bit more interesting last week when a bomb was planted on the London Underground. Fortunately it failed to fully explode, but it burned a number of people as the carriage passed through Parsons Green tube station, leaving behind a smoking Lidl carrier bag with fairy lights and crocodile clips which people seemingly walked right up to and photographed. Obviously they didn’t know it was a bomb, which leaves me to assume they were merely outraged at carrier bags littering the tube, bags they thought had been banned.

The media are, as usual, doing everything they can to obfuscate over who planted the bomb. Check out this BBC report:

An 18-year-old and 21-year-old are being held over the explosion, which injured 30 at Parsons Green station.

The house being searched in Sunbury-on-Thames belongs to a married couple known for fostering hundreds of children, including refugees.

Friend Alison Griffiths said the couple had an 18-year-old and a 22-year-old staying with them recently.

She described Mr and Mrs Jones as “great pillars of the community”, adding: “They do a job that not many people do.”

Lots of people have 18 and 21/22 year olds staying with them. What we want to know is are these the same ones who planted the bomb? The BBC can’t quite bring itself to ask the question, let alone answer it.

When the British government decided to admit thousands of child refugees from Iraq, Syria, and everywhere else it was obvious that many were not refugees and an awful lot of them weren’t children. The authorities didn’t even bother hiding this, such is their contempt for truth and transparency. They were warned time and again that these people weren’t being properly vetted and, having come from a war zone, some of them could be Islamist nutters bent on waging jihad once in the UK. Nobody cared: not the government, and nor the population.

Sure, people made noises on social media but when Nigel Farage brought up the issue of refugees in the last General Election the middle classes howled in outrage and backed that nice man Corbyn instead. However you interpret the results of the GE, one thing is clear: the bulk of the British people seem quite unconcerned about refugees and mass immigration. Proof of this is the reaction of the media and middle classes to people on the continent like Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen. They wrung their hands at these nasty, racist people and cheered when the Netherlands and France “rejected hate” by electing nice, reasonable people who avoided mentioning Islam, terrorism, and immigration as much as they could.

The British middle classes have gone into full-on meltdown over Donald Trump, with many wanting him banned from the UK and others openly calling him a white supremacist. The same people reacted with apoplectic outrage when the rather mild and reasonable Jacob Rees-Mogg said that, being a Catholic, he opposed abortion in all forms. Apparently there is no place for opinions like that in British political discourse, and he was branded a dangerous extremist. The chances of someone like Rees-Mogg, i.e. a genuine conservative being elected British Prime Minister are slim indeed.

What people want is the sort of wet centrist that Cameron personified. Looks like a nice young man, not especially bright, will say whatever makes people happy and won’t really try to change anything. He’s basically the nice-but-dim uncle your parents let run the kids’ birthday party, a safe pair of hands. They don’t want the other uncle who goes on anti-nuclear marches and everyone suspects is a bit of paedo, and nor do they want the one who’s been in the marines and swears too much. People don’t like Theresa May because she exudes soulless mediocrity and reminds people of the dinner lady nobody liked in school, not because her policies are stupid.

This smouldering bucket on the tube has proved that beyond doubt. The policy of admitting in unvetted migrants from the Middle East and passing them off as child refugees was central to the government of which Theresa May and Amber Rudd were part. Okay, perhaps the 18-year old was a child when he got admitted. It would certainly explain the amateurish bomb-making efforts. The instructions on Fisher Price detonators were always hard to follow. I digress.

My point is that anyone who had not been following politics for the past few years would think the British public would be going absolutely mental at this government and the last for pursuing this insane policy, which has bitten them on the arse in the very manner everyone said it would. But no, the media and middle classes are as muted as ever in the wake of an Islamist bombing, hands are being wrung about a possible Islamaphobic backlash, Sadiq Khan has requested the BBC play the same speech he did last time to save him the effort of repeating himself, and all focus is on how Boris Johnson isn’t fit to be Foreign Minister because he said some things Remainers don’t like.

One can only conclude from all this that the majority British public, and certainly the middle classes, are not unhappy with the situation. Economists have this wonderful term called revealed preferences whereby you watch what people actually do rather than listen to what they say. Well, I’ve seen the reaction of the British public to Wilders, Le Pen, Rees-Mogg, Trump, and Farage and I’ve also seen their response to a series of Islamist bombings aimed at killing as many Britons as possible. What conclusion am I supposed to draw?

My guess is most people live nice, comfortable lives. They have enough food, a warm dry bed, a roof over their heads and more luxuries than their parents ever had, including a second car, foreign holidays, and an expensive phone. By historical standards they are financially secure (nobody is going to evict them from their home, and they can always get another credit card), and most are raising one, two, or three absolute brats who give the mother that unconditional love she’s craved since her student days when she watched far too much telly. It’s not just material, they have spiritual satisfaction, too: in the absence of a religion they have taken to virtue-signalling, backing righteous causes such as banning carrier bags, and making the world a better place – by opposing nasty men like Donald Trump, for example.

One should never discount how much intertia resides in a population so satisfied. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to change anything very much while things are going so well. If a giant bomb went off in London next week killing dozens of people and a fringe politician came out of the woodwork and said “By fuck, enough’s enough, I’m gonna solve this!” the middle classes would shit themselves and would cheer the Met as they arrested him for hate speech and carted him away in a paddy wagon decorated with LGBT livery. The chances of any individual being blown up or mown down by an Islamist nutter in the UK are miniscule, and for most people it’s simply not worth rocking the boat by electing someone who’s willing to harbour robust opinions, never mind actually do something.

In other words, Islamic terrorism is an acceptable price to pay to avoid upsetting the material and spiritual status quo the middle classes enjoy. And that’s why nothing gets done about it.

Anyone want to come up with a better explanation?

(Incidentally, this isn’t just a British thing: the German election is about to see Angela Merkel rewarded for her insane immigration and refugee policies with another term, running against someone who makes her look sensible. Again, what conclusion am I supposed to draw?)

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Let them eat rabbit

From the BBC:

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has devised a “rabbit plan” to counter the economic war he says is being waged against his government by “imperialist forces”.

The president urged crisis-hit Venezuelans to breed rabbits and eat them as a source of animal protein.

I’m going to be bone idle and just copy and paste this entire post I wrote in January 2007.

***

According to most of the major news sources, North Korea is considering breeding giant rabbits from Germany to help feed its starving population:

A German pensioner who won a prize and worldwide fame for breeding his country’s largest rabbit — Robert, a 10.5kg (23lb) bruiser the size of a dog — has been offered an unusual opportunity to exploit his talents overseas.

Karl Szmolinsky has been given a contract by North Korea to supply giant rabbits to help to boost meat production in the reclusive Communist country, which is suffering severe food shortages.

Kim Jong Il is not the first despotic communist leader to have the idea of breeding rabbits to stave off the starvation which communism inevitably brings.  In 1932 Nikita Khrushchev found himself as deputy to Mikhail Kaganovich and effectively running Moscow.  As William Taubman explains in his book Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (page 90):

Moscow’s working class, allegedly the apple of Stalin’s eye, was going hungry in 1932, and with his legendary concern for their welfare, the great man “suggested the idea of raising rabbits for food”.  Naturally Khrushchev was all for this plan and worked zealously to carry out his instructions.  Almost every factory, plant and workshop started raising rabbits to help stock its own kitchen.

Needless to say, the idea was a flop, although I doubt Khrushchev put it to his boss quite like that.  I have also no doubt that the latest North Korean attempt is being touted in the DPRK as the brainwave of Kim Jong Il and not the 75 year old idea of his father’s mentor.

As an aside, another of Stalin’s brilliant ideas for alleviating food shortages in the Soviet Union was to introduce the Pacific giant crab to European waters, specifically the Barents Sea.  Whilst these spiky crustaceans did little to silence the rumbling of Soviet bellies, they did adapt remarkably well to Europe and they now number more than 10 million and are slowly marching their way down Norway’s coast destroying all manner of marine life in their path.  Rumours that I have relocated to Sakhalin to collaborate with their leadership in their imminent invasion of the United Kingdom are completely unfounded.

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Also worthy of attention is the comment made by Pootergeek under the original post. No, not the appalling pun which would earn a lifetime ban on less charitable blogs, but this link to “rabbit starvation”:

Protein poisoning was first noted as a consequence of eating rabbit meat exclusively, hence the term, “rabbit starvation”.

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The Grenfell Tower and Sprinklers

From the BBC:

London’s fire commissioner says the Grenfell Tower blaze must be a “turning point”, calling for sprinklers in all high-rise council flats.

Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said: “I think Grenfell should be a turning point.

“I support retrofitting – for me where you can save one life then it’s worth doing.

“This can’t be optional, it can’t be a nice to have, this is something that must happen.

“If that isn’t one of the recommendations (of the Grenfell Tower inquiry) then I will be so very disappointed.”

Firstly a little on the background of Dany Cotton:

Since 2017, she has served as the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade and is the first woman to hold this position. She had previously been the Director of Safety and Assurance at the London Fire Brigade. In 2004 Cotton became the first woman to be awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal. She is the National Chair of Networking Women in the Fire Service.

Aged 19, she had been a full fire-fighter for just three months when she attended the Clapham Junction rail crash. In 2007, she was assigned the post of Area Commander, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the British Fire Service.

Her professional biography seems to be a lot more about being a woman than a firefighter. But let’s look at her remarks.

Retrofitting sprinklers into an existing building will be extortionately expensive:

Croydon Council, in south London, has taken the decision to retrofit sprinklers in its 25 high-rise blocks at a cost of £10m.

I bet that figure will triple. Of course, somebody who has only every worked for a taxpayer-funded organisation like Cotton wouldn’t care too much about what things cost. Look at this statement again:

for me where you can save one life then it’s worth doing.

For a public servant in charge of safety to come out with this is rather illuminating, as it appears she has no idea about how resources are applied to minimise risk. When it comes to safety, you want to spend the money in the areas where it will have the most impact. For example, do you spend £10m on sprinkler systems if the same money spent on networked fire alarms and better fire doors would save more lives? This is something a risk assessment and cost benefit analysis would tell us, and this is what should have been done. The fact that we have the head of the London Fire Brigade saying sprinklers should be retrofitted regardless of cost and their effectiveness suggests that it hasn’t. Then again, nobody seems even in the slightest bit interested in what caused the initial fire, so perhaps we ought not be surprised.

The money from these sprinklers has to come from somewhere, and this will mean cuts to other services or an increase in rents. If the latter, it will push those at the margins into cheaper, less safe accommodation. The video here is not an outtake from The Lord of the Rings but an interview with a spectacularly smug and idiotic Welsh MP talking about Wales being the first country ever to make sprinklers mandatory in all new homes:

I hope they will just look and listen, and I think this idea about over-burdening and over-regulating has proved that we do have to have those regulations. You know, sprinklers have been around since 1886 and the building industry haven’t used them successfully so, you know, if you’re not going to use them in goodwill, then as we have done in Wales, we’ll mandate for you to use them to keep people safe.

Aside from the first sentence being gibberish, at no point does it occur to her that there are good reasons why not a single country in the world has insisted sprinklers are installed in ordinary homes since their alleged invention in 1886. But apparently the Welsh know better and have made it compulsory, and now want to foist this idiocy on the rest of the country.

All this will do is push up the cost of housing, which in the UK is the last thing you want to do. Again, this will simply push those at the margins into cheaper, less safe accommodation. And presumably all homeowners and tenants will know exactly how these systems work and are maintained. I know I wouldn’t.

There’s also the issue of how effective sprinklers are in houses and flats. My understanding, at least from how they’re deployed on oil and gas installations, is they exist to keep surfaces cool and stop fires spreading as opposed to putting fires out. From what I can work out, the fire protection philosophy in buildings is to contain the fire using fire doors, use sprinklers to stop it spreading and keep the escape ways clear, giving you time to evacuate. The fire brigade then come in and put the fire out. In other words, they make sense in places with a proper evacuation plan but not so much in stand-alone private residences.

Interestingly, I’m sat in a 40-storey tower built between 1982-85 which has no sprinkler system. They have fire hoses on each floor but (and I’ve just checked) no sprinklers in the offices, corridors, or stairwells. Is the building unsafe? Probably not. Every door is a fire door, they have a decent alarm system and in the event it goes off everyone evacuates. I suspect a more modern tower would have a sprinkler system in, but I am reasonably sure its purpose would not be to put out an actual fire.

Would sprinkler systems help in a tower like Grenfell? Probably. Would they make much difference in the absence of fire doors and an evacuation procedure? Probably not. They might keep the stairwell clear, but if they’re installed in the apartments themselves you can expect a lot of spurious discharges as people set them off by mistake or maliciously, which would upset those in the flats below. Are they worth the money? In a new-build block, probably. But to insist they’re retrofitted regardless of cost or the lives they’ll save is madness, as is mandating their installation in new-build houses. The money would be far better spent on other fire-safety measures.

I think people have seized upon sprinklers as the solution of the day without really knowing what they’re for or how they work, let alone what they cost. That the head of the London Fire Brigade doesn’t seem to know any better ought to shock, but actually it doesn’t, not at all. This is the new normal. At least she’s got a few medals.

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The Fox Without a Tail

Okay, I know I said I’d not write about Laurie Penny again but this is just too tempting. Here’s an extract from her book:

I think that it’s usually better for women to be single. Particularly young women. Particularly straight young women. Not just “all right”, not just “bearable” – actively better.

I grew up without much to do in a house full of books, one of which was The Fables of Aesop. I am reminded of this particular fable:

It happened that a Fox caught its tail in a trap, and in struggling to release himself lost all of it but the stump. At
first he was ashamed to show himself among his fellow foxes. But at last he determined to put a bolder face upon his misfortune, and summoned all the foxes to a general meeting to consider a proposal which he had to place before them. When they had assembled together the Fox proposed that they should all do away with their tails. He pointed out how inconvenient a tail was when they were pursued by their enemies, the dogs; how much it was in the way when they desired to sit down and hold a friendly conversation with one another. He failed to see any advantage in carrying about such a useless encumbrance. “That is all very well,” said one of the older foxes; “but I do not think you would have recommended us to dispense with our chief ornament if you had not happened to lose it yourself.”

I can’t think why.

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People are different. Who knew?

There are a few snippets I’ve read over the last few days which can be tied together with a common thread. Firstly, Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the NYT:

The challenge facing democratically minded Russians therefore isn’t simply to remove Mr. Putin from power; it’s to replace the authoritarian system he personifies.

The whole piece is an American liberal’s wet dream of a country which has never seen proper democracy simply seeing the light and embracing the sort of society readers of the New York Times claim they want to see. This was the same idiotic thinking which got people believing if only we bombed the shit out of Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein, democracy would flourish. I don’t know if democracy and a free, tolerant society can take hold in Russia but if it does it must come from Russians themselves, preferably ones who aren’t former robber-barons who spent a decade in prison before fleeing abroad. I don’t agree with the conviction of Khodorkovsky, but I doubt he had much interest in turning Russia into a liberal, open society until he fell foul of the regime and the New York Times and their ilk started paying him to promote one. Simply stating Russia needs to move away from a centralised, authoritarian system is a bit like saying if only Israel dropped Judaism things would improve. You’d need a new population first.

The second is a comment from Bloke in North Dorset under yesterday’s post:

Going back to Tim’s point about the media, especially the BBC. Part of their problem is they have spent years carrying out the Buddhist equivalent of beatifying Aung San Suu Kyi and now she’s turned out be just like any other leader in the region who is more interested in power than human rights, especially those of minority Muslims.

There are a lot of people expressing their disappointment in Ms Suu Kyi , presumably for failing to leap to the aid of the Rohingyas. I expect those who are disappointed don’t know much about the Burmese or Asians in general, and those who do aren’t surprised in the least. I confess I don’t know much about Asians and nothing about Burmese, but in that part of the world one’s race or tribe counts for quite a lot. From what I can tell, Ms Suu Kyi’s original beef was with the ruling militia which was oppressing ordinary Burmese, and she wanted things to change – for the benefit of Burmese. Did she care about other minority groups out of adherence to some universal standards of human rights? In hindsight, obviously not. Alas, the wet lefties in the west who wrung their hands for years as Ms Suu Kyi languished under house arrest simply assumed she was just like them. Funnily enough, being Burmese and not American or European, she isn’t.

Thirdly, this news report from the BBC:

The EU’s top court has rejected a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia to a migrant relocation deal drawn up at the height of the crisis in 2015.

In asking the court to annul the deal, Hungary and Slovakia argued at the Court of Justice that there were procedural mistakes, and that quotas were not a suitable response to the crisis.

Officials say the problem is not of their making, that the policy exposes them to a risk of Islamist terrorism and that it represents a threat to their homogenous societies.

Their case was supported by Poland, where a right-wing government has come to power since the 2015 deal.

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was furious, calling it “appalling and irresponsible”. He vowed to use all legal means against the judgement, which he said was “the result of a political decision not the result of a legal or expert decision”.

“Politics has raped European law and European values. This decision practically and openly legitimates the power of the EU above the member states,” he said.

“The real fight starts now.”

In a milder statement, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said his country’s position on quotas also “does not change”.

The people and governments of Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have made it abundantly clear that they do not want refugees from the Middle East and Africa being settled on their territory. The powers that be in Brussels deem this unacceptable, and wish to force these countries to take them.

The thread linking these three stories is the one whereby the ruling classes in the west seem to loftily assume that everyone else in the world is just like them, and if they aren’t then they should be. That western liberals are western liberals because they are products of the west’s liberal culture doesn’t seem to occur to them; they think people who are from wholly different cultures bound by very different histories and geography are the same, simply because they wish them to be.

As an attitude, it’s all rather 18th century colonial, isn’t it? Christian missionaries telling the natives to take the bone out of their nose and stop eating people would fit in well with today’s establishment classes.

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