What Passes for Journalism

Two examples of shoddy journalism that irked me.

The first, described on Twitter as being an example of “Tory values”:

In a bid to crack down on so-called ‘health tourism’, 20 NHS trusts across the country have taken part in a government pilot scheme to trial identity checks for patients. The results of the pilots are due to be published later this year, but doctors, patients and health organisations have spoken to Politics.co.uk to raise serious concerns about the impact they have had.

“One of the worst cases involved a pregnant French woman who was of Asian descent,” one doctor says. “She arrived for a routine scan and was asked by reception staff if she was eligible for free care. She told them that she was French and had never needed to provide ID before. The receptionist told her that she didn’t ‘seem French’ and called the Paying Patients department to question her further.

“The woman was so upset by what was happening that she had a panic attack. I was called to check her over. I had to tell the Paying Patients department to leave the room because they had upset her so much.”

Sorry, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. Firstly, French people habitually carry ID with them everywhere and I doubt it’s a habit they ditch when they move to the UK unless they’ve been there many, many years. And to access the healthcare system in France they need to produce a separate carte vitale, which most French people carry in their wallets alongside their ID. It is therefore highly unlikely a pregnant French woman went to a hospital expecting treatment without bringing some form of ID. It is even less likely she had a panic attack on being asked for some.

Secondly, I have a hard time believing a hospital receptionist said she didn’t “seem French”: this isn’t the 1970s, and even the NHS would have given their receptionists some rudimentary training as to how to deal with those without ID. According to the journalist who wrote it, the doctor witnessed the whole thing – yet later she says he or she was “called to check her over”. Did the doctor stand idly by as this woman went into a panic attack, waiting to be called over? And who called her? Or was she actually out of earshot when the “didn’t seem French” remark was made (which I suspect is more likely) in which case who are we relying on for the quote?

This whole thing looks to me like an embellished story fed to a gullible reporter by an anonymous doctor who doesn’t like the policy. As a piece of journalism, it fails to establish key details of the story and doesn’t make sense even on a superficial level.

The BBC, reporting on the withdrawal of subsidies to health insurance companies, doesn’t do much better:

US President Donald Trump will end subsidies to health insurance providers designed to help low income households, as he continues his attempts to dismantle Obamacare.

The White House announced the move hours after Mr Trump signed an executive order allowing the sale of health insurance plans which are exempt from some of the law’s regulations.

The announcements come after Congress repeatedly failed to repeal Obamacare.

They were instantly criticised.

Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement denouncing the end of subsidies as a “spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage” which would harm the poorest citizens.

Meanwhile, critics of the initial announcement argued it could de-stabilise the Obamacare market by encouraging healthy consumers to leave their current plans, prompting a spike in premium costs for older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

According to a statement from the White House, the subsidies, which run into billions each year, were not legal.

This might come as a surprise to the BBC, but rulings on legality are not made in the White House but in courts. As the Washington Post reported last August:

Republicans have long protested the payments, and in late 2014 the GOP-led House filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration, contending that the subsidies were unconstitutional because Congress had not made a specific appropriation for them. Last year a federal district court ruled in the House’s favor, and the Obama administration appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit.

All Trump has done is stop the appeal. The illegality of the payments is therefore not a matter of a White House statement, implying its merely Trump’s opinion, but something ruled upon by a federal court. It’s yet another example of Obama deciding to do things on his own without consulting Congress, as he was constitutionally obliged to do. Not that you’d know that if you relied on the BBC for information.

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May in a Nutshell

From the BBC:

Security at future Conservative events is to be reviewed after a comedian was able to get within yards of the prime minister and hand her a mock P45 redundancy notice.

Prankster Simon Brodkin – also known as his TV persona Lee Nelson – was arrested by Greater Manchester Police after briefly interrupting the PM and giving her a sheaf of paper he claimed was from Boris Johnson.

He was later released, with the police saying he had “legitimate accreditation” to attend the event.

Here’s a pic:

You know what grates most about this? Theresa May is one of those authoritarian busybodies who constantly demands extra powers to snoop on our electronic communications and wants to micromanage every aspect of our lives in the name of security…yet she heads an organisation that can’t even manage the simple task of vetting attendees at her own speech and chucking out a troublemaker.

Why is it that those who profess to know what’s best for us, and want to tell us what to do every five minutes, are so utterly incompetent themselves? The sooner the Conservatives ditch May, the better. What a useless woman.

(The stunt itself was about as lame as it gets. This is British comedy in 2017.)

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High-Flyers in Modern Organisations

This is an interesting article:

Senior cop Maggie Blyth is set to take command of all officers in Portsmouth – despite having only put on a uniform a year ago.

As the city’s district commander, she will be leading scores of officers who have climbed their way up the ranks and garnered years of experience on the beat.

Uh-huh.

Yet Supt Blyth only made her first arrest in the last few months after being handpicked for what’s known as the direct-entry scheme.

Ah.

Since putting on the uniform, she has been getting ‘full exposure’ to the streets of Portsmouth, making arrests at alcohol-fuelled violence and tackling anti-social behaviour.

A veritable baptism of fire.

Supt Blyth became a warranted officer in November last year, after a tough six-month process to get on the course between February and September last year.

Tough, eh? We’ll revisit that in a minute.

Transformed from a civilian to warranted officer in about a year, Supt Blyth knew she would be facing questions over her credibility, even though she has decades of experience in the criminal justice system.

‘During that time I had a lot of questions, I think first and foremost was credibility,’ she told The News.

Indeed. So how did she respond to these questions over her credibility?

‘Policing is very much based on working your way up through the ranks. I knew I would be managing a workforce that had never had a senior manager who had not come through the ranks.

Right, but how did you convince them you were the right person for the job?

‘A lot of the six months was taking to the police officers and other professionals about what the concerns would be.

That took six months? Finding out what might concern rank and file police officers when their chief is a complete greenhorn? A few paragraphs before we were told this was a tough course. It sounds more like a talking shop.

‘I came on quite prepared for the good and the bad for what I might find.

And what did you find?

‘I went in with my eyes open – and I must say I was really, really welcomed in Hampshire.’

You found you were very popular. Sorry, but couldn’t we hear about some of the concerns over your credibility? Or was everyone told to shut up and get with the programme?

Putting on her uniform for the first time was ‘life-changing’, she says, transforming her into a warranted officer of the crown.

Alas, we’re drifting further away from the topic of your credibility.

She says: ‘It was a really big significant life change for me, it’s still very much a way of life. It’s wearing uniform but becoming a warranted officer and the responsibility that you get with that is different from being a civilian.

And further still. She seems more interested in talking about her feelings than addressing concerns over her lack of experience.

Now Supt Blyth is looking forward to taking over in January, having completed stints on response and patrol – answering 999 calls – along with placements on neighbourhood patrols – which Supt Blyth calls the ‘bedrock of policing’, and investigations.

Stints. I’ll come back to that later.

She says: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with partner agencies across Portsmouth and working together, and working with the team I have in place within policing in Portsmouth.’

She is hoping to take on board the experience gained from the frontline during the training scheme – and go back out with officers while in post as district commander.

She says: ‘I was working with officers at a frontline level and that was really interesting. I was able to go back to my colleagues and those managers above me.’

Partner agencies…working together…take on board…frontline level. Somebody took home a copy of the Powerpoint presentation and memorised it, didn’t they?

Her first arrest also brought home her new powers as an officer. She says: ‘That was a new duty for me, arresting somebody and realising the impact of taking someone’s liberty.

Felt good, I bet.

Supt Blyth, a mother-of-three who is expecting her fourth grandchild soon, was assessed while on placements.

Who says motherhood is an impediment to a full-blown career! Take that, glass ceiling!

Okay, what we’re seeing above is absolutely typical of how most large, modern organisations are run these days. First you need to decide what your high-flyer looks like, and for many organisations being female is highly desirable if not essential. In the case of Portsmouth police, her being a mother and grandmother was probably a bonus in their eyes, too (as it was, no doubt, for the local criminals: if the bobby making their first arrest is a grandmother of three, then we can probably assume they have the run of the place). Next, you need to fast-track them into a senior position without delay, putting them through the absolute bare minimum of training necessary to deflect the inevitable criticism from the 95% of the organisation who are not deemed high-flyers. This is where “stints” come in.

There was a time when those seeking the higher echelons of an organisation would have to demonstrate both competence and time served. The former requirement was dropped some time ago in favour of blind obedience to one’s superiors, but at least they would be expected to do the necessary time. But the modern organisation has an image to project and diversity quotas to fill, and can’t hang around for years waiting for its golden boys and girls to obtain knowledge through experience. Instead they’re sent on a whirlwind tour of the organisation, spending barely a few weeks in one department before moving onto the next, so that at the end of the period the individual knows just enough about each part to be able to interfere and fuck things up once they’re in charge. Humility is in short supply among a modern high-flyer.

Anyone objecting to what is happening is told in no uncertain terms to shut up and stay on-message. Those who fail to heed the warnings are subject to enormous pressure from the surrounding management along with dark threats over their future career and continued employment, such that everyone falls into a silence, the sort which would make a high-flyer assume they are “really welcomed” by whichever department they’re foisted on that week.

All of this ties into what I said in this post, that pretty soon the smartest people, particularly ambitious young men, will not even bother joining large organisations and instead set up on their own to feed off the bloated carcasses of those who railroad grandmothers with one year’s service into the top job. In fact, I have a friend doing pretty much that. He is a rather large man with a bushy beard and tattoos and has a colourful history of mercenary work in Iraq before joining the security team of a prominent Russian billionaire. He has since set up his own security company and, from what I can tell, does rather well doing jobs the police used to do, plugging the gaps when they withdrew from law enforcement and became a branch of the social services. It’s not hard to see how doing this sort of work is more attractive than joining the police. His idea of diversity is ensuring you have several means of maiming people at your disposal at any given time.

I’d advise any smart young man about to graduate to get a firm understanding of what sort of chap he is and take a good look at the organisations trying to recruit him. Just have a look at their website and graduate brochure, that’ll be enough. Certainly the police Twitter feeds tell me everything I need to know about the state of the various forces in the UK, and this latest story from Portsmouth didn’t surprise me one bit. This is the new normal.

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The Pussyfication of Society, Rugby Edition

From the BBC:

The UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) are being urged to protect children from the risks of rugby injuries by removing contact from the school game.

Let’s see who’s driving this:

Prof Allyson Pollock, from Newcastle University, is presenting new evidence that banning tackling would reduce concussion, head and neck injuries.

So a woman is trying to ban the fundamental aspects of a sport that boys have enjoyed for generations. At this point I’d say the feminists have pretty much won, wouldn’t you?

A spokesman for World Rugby said it was unaware of any new evidence that would challenge the current position.

Good. Stick to your guns, boys.

Last year, the CMOs rejected a call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby.

Another relentless campaign. Who’s funding this crap? Want to bet it’s the taxpayer?

They said the benefits of learning, training and playing rugby outweighed the risks of injury.

And who’d want to bet that none of those trying to force these changes ever played rugby to any standard?

I hear the same thing is happening with American football across the pond: over-protective mothers and meddling feminists are running around waving scare stories about concussion, causing participation rates to plummet.

Prof Pollock said children who wanted to could still play contact rugby outside school, for clubs, but schools should not be able to enforce contact rugby.

Look, I grew up in Wales where rugby was a near-religion. I couldn’t run, pass, or tackle which meant I could only play prop, but I weighed six stone soaking wet and was skinny as a beanpole so that was out too. (I also knew to come in from the rain, further ruling me out as a prop.) So what did I do? Well, the lads who were decent got put in one group and the rest (like me) were put in another. The first lot did some proper rugby training and we just had a bit of a run about, enough to get us warm(ish), muddy, and out of breath. I don’t remember putting in many tackles, but you could if you wanted. But it was the boys in the first group who really benefited, because they would later go on to play club rugby and one or two even for Wales. If they were relying on clubs to teach them the basics most of them would never have gone, particularly the working class lads. Going to a rugby club relies on having parents who both care and have the time and means to take their kids there on a Saturday morning. Aren’t we forever being told we need to be more inclusive? It didn’t come much more inclusive than school rugby.

She said: “We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game.”

Oh please. Rugby has been a feature in schools since way before the game even turned professional. This woman hasn’t got the first clue what she’s on about.

The authors reported research that girls were found to be three or four times more likely than boys to be affected by symptoms of concussion for 28 days, and they also highlighted the links between head injuries and an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Wasn’t the argument for girls not playing rugby that they would not be up to it physically? Perhaps we ought to have listened, eh?

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New Labour and the Abolition of Standards

This amused:

The Times columnist Oliver Kamm is among the staunchest of an ever-dwindling band of Blairites, and was a supporter of Blair and New Labour throughout his time in office. That he should now be complaining of a lack of standards in the Labour party is somewhat ironic.

I remember when Blair won the 1997 election. Central to New Labour’s campaign was the idea that the Conservatives were out of touch and old fashioned and Britain was badly in need of modernising, and once in office they set about dismantling or “reforming” as many institutions as they could. Anything traditional was trashed, the latest whimsical fad adopted without question. Organisations and practices that had stood the test of time for generations were overhauled by Blair and his cronies who had not the slightest clue what they were doing, and nor did they care. All that mattered is Blair maintain his image as one of the cool, hip guys who could get down wiv the kids and get rid of Britain’s stuffy past. These were the days of Cool Britannia.

Blair’s contempt for the institutions and traditions of his own country went a long way to making the Union Flag a symbol of racism in some circles. Caught up in the stupidity, British Airways removed it from its tailplanes replacing them with tribal symbols and other such empty guff which typified those times. At least they were smart enough to reverse their decision in 2001, and BA were far from the only established firm to embark on a disastrous modernising and rebranding programme in the late ’90s and early ’00s; that list is long indeed.  It goes without saying that New Labour’s reforms were cack-handed in the extreme: their ban on fox hunting was an unworkable mess followed by an absolute fudge; the wholly unnecessary House of Lords reform made things worse; and the abolition of the historic Lord Chancellor’s position without consideration of the constitutional effects epitomised the hubris of Blair and the whole New Labour mindset.

As is so often the case when a leader sets about trying to modernise institutions they don’t understand, Blair ended up chucking out standards in the process. Principles no longer mattered, nor did truth, honesty, and transparency. “Spin” was the new buzz-word and one’s political stance could be changed suddenly if a focus group advised the winds of public opinion had shifted momentarily. Endless tinkering, meddling, and unnecessary reforms coupled with cronyism, pettiness, and mediocrity were hallmarks of Blair and New Labour, and they left behind them an almighty mess inherited by jumped-up PPE graduates in shiny suits and power skirts who knew only Blair-type politics and nothing else. The absolute joke that were the Milliband brothers were fine examples of this, as was the clownish David Cameron. Desperate to win back the political centre, the Tories abandoned all pretence to conservatism and became another version of New Labour, indeed its natural successor. This had the effect of shoving Labour further to the left as political standards across the whole spectrum fell even further.

And now we have Labour scraping rock bottom with the Tories trundling up to the hole with drilling equipment, and metropolitan journalists who used up half their column inches praising Blair’s cultural, institutional, and political vandalism complain that standards have slipped.

Well, who’s fault is that, then?

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The State of Women’s Football

The BBC has been running this story on its front page since last night, possibly assuming more than a dozen people give a shit:

Mark Sampson has been sacked as England women’s manager following evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.

The Football Association says that last week it was made aware of the full details of safeguarding allegations made against Sampson in 2014 relating to his time as Bristol Academy manager.

Mark who? Oh, right. Okay. Women’s football. Sorry, where did I leave my paint-drying specs?

Saying that, I found the article illuminating but probably not in the way the BBC would want me to.

Sampson was also cleared this year of wrongdoing following discrimination allegations made by England [women] players, including Chelsea and England striker Eniola Aluko.

The concerns Eni Aluko raised were about perceived bullying and perceived racism. We have investigated those properly, there have been two separate investigations actually which have broadly concluded there’s no systematic evidence for that.

Top-flight women footballer complains about bullying and racism from her male coach. Subsequent investigation turns up no evidence to support the complaint. We then get a timeline (emphasis mine):

December 2013: Sampson becomes England manager having left Bristol Academy

May 2016: England forward Eniola Aluko is asked to participate in a cultural review of all England teams by the FA’s technical director Dan Ashworth.

December 2016: An independent investigation, led by barrister Katharine Newton, hears Aluko’s claims that during a meeting in 2015, Sampson made a “highly inappropriate remark”.

March 2017: The independent review clears Sampson and his staff of wrongdoing but it is understood that Aluko was paid £80,000 in a confidentiality agreement.

13 September 2017: FA says it received the full safeguarding review panel report on the allegations against Sampson.

14 September 2017: The FA says it could re-open its investigation into racism claims against Sampson after further evidence is submitted.

20 September 2017: Sampson sacked by FA

I’m building up a picture here. Are you?

Last week, the FA announced it was to re-open its investigation into separate discrimination claims against Sampson, first made in 2016.

Sampson was alleged to have asked mixed race England midfielder Drew Spence whether she had been arrested during a tournament in 2015, a claim which he denied.

The horrors!

The claim was first made by Spence’s England and Chelsea team-mate Aluko, and Spence has now submitted written evidence to support it.

In a further separate allegation, Aluko said Sampson told her to make sure her Nigerian relatives did not “bring Ebola” to an England game at Wembley in 2014.

Her background is Nigerian, eh?

Two investigations – one internal FA inquiry and one independent review led by barrister Katharine Newton – cleared Sampson of any wrongdoing.

He’s been cleared by two separate investigations, yet people are still unhappy.

Senior FA executives are set to face a parliamentary inquiry over the investigations after Aluko initially raised a “bullying and harassment” grievance against Sampson in response to an internal cultural review.

Parliamentary inquiries, investigations, grievances, internal cultural reviews? There is an entire sub-industry operating in women’s football it seems. Why, it’s almost as if…

Aluko, who has 102 caps and is a qualified lawyer…

Ah, they beat me to it.

Remember folks, this is a sport we’re constantly being encouraged to take seriously. Frankly, my solution would be to appoint a woman as the next England coach and let them get on with whatever the hell they want. Just don’t keep shoving stories about it under my nose, if I wanted high-drama about a load of women I’d watch Desperate Housewives.

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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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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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More on Jacob-Rees Mogg

I spent a chunk of yesterday discussing Jacob Rees-Mogg on Twitter with a bunch of people who don’t like him. Their concerns appear to be as follows:

1. JRM doesn’t believe in abortion. This is in itself bad, because the UN has apparently declared access to abortion services a human right.

2. JRM has a history of voting against abortion rights. This is evidence that if he were to become PM, this would become the Tory party line and he would change legislation to ban abortion. Given his control over healthcare spending, he could even do this without changing any laws.

3. By voting against abortion rights, JRM was “imposing his personal views” on other people.

Where to begin?

Firstly, JRM opposing abortion is an abomination to the left. There was a time when dissenting views were tolerated, but now only absolute acceptance of today’s shibboleths is allowed (Helen Dale makes this point here, on a different subject). Secondly, that the UN has declared something a human right is meaningless. Much as though supranational outfits such as the WHO and UN enjoy trying to set domestic policies on a global basis, it is pointless unless the people who make up the various societies go along with it. But that’s a subject for another post.

The second point raises two issues. Is voting history as an MP a good indicator over which direction a PM will lead their party once in power? I suspect it is, provided they’ve toed the party line. If they’ve voted in dissent of the party line on highly specific subjects, like abortion, it probably isn’t. For JRM to become Conservative party leader he would need to be in-synch with the other MPs on most issues. His views on abortion are likely to be out-of-synch with most Tories (but not all), hence he would be voted leader because of his other qualities and views. In other words, he’d be a solid Conservative with some outlying views on abortion. Would he then be able to make banning abortion the party line? No, he wouldn’t.

Of course, this assumes that he’d want to. Lefties assume that a PM, once in power, will immediately set about making his own personal views the party line, because this is what lefties do whenever they get in power anywhere. Yes, there is an awful lot of projection going on in the criticism of Jacob-Rees Mogg. The right have traditionally been more interested in pragmatism than ideological purity and imposing ruthless discipline of the party line (which is why they’ve lost the culture wars). It is almost certain that JRM, should he become PM, would not risk tearing his party apart in order to foist his minority views on abortion onto them. The left don’t believe it of course, one chap even saying he would ban abortion and abandon secularism across the country “if he could”, based on his personal views and voting record. Again, that’s because this is what their side would do once in power. The idea that JRM might hold principles in his head to do with not imposing ones unpopular views on the citizens of a representative democracy once in charge is alien to them.

The third point was rather tedious to keep having to deal with. The UK is a representative democracy, whereby MPs are elected to represent their constituents in the drawing up of legislation and voting it into law. This is a messy compromise to avoid the leader of a nation standing accused of “imposing his personal views” on the citizenry. In order to beat JRM over the head, lefties have declared that his voting on various issues is in itself “an attempt to impose his personal views on others”, as if the entire legislative process with all the consultations and horse-trading that accompanies it never took place. I could understand if he was championing an anti-abortion bill, or insisting health bills contained anti-abortion clauses, but merely voting a certain way is imposing one’s personal views on others? Since when?

Since JRM popped up, that’s when. Naturally, lefties have no problem with the absolute mountain of legislation which is imposed on the long-suffering British population via activist MPs, lobbyists, health-fascists, and other special interest groups which do represent the personal views of a very few people. That much of this is railroaded onto the statute books without proper scrutiny or debate doesn’t bother them one bit, and this is all ignoring the giant, lumbering elephant in the room: the EU.

Of course, they don’t believe half this stuff they’re saying about Jacob Rees-Mogg. They’re just throwing words around hoping some of them will stick: “he wants to impose his personal views”, “he doesn’t respect women’s rights”, “he’s an extremist”, “he’s a deadbeat Dad“, “we can’t take a chance”. They’ve looked across the Atlantic and seen this is how their counterparts are behaving and copied their techniques. But they didn’t stop to notice that it doesn’t work and, if anything, is rather counterproductive.

The British left have spotted a young, very bright, ambitious Tory MP who appears to be gaining somewhat of a following and, despite his poshness, is somehow quite likeable. He also appears to have integrity and principles, and so naturally scares everyone else – including a very great many Tory MPs – absolutely shitless. Their response has been to seize on the rather insignificant (at least in the UK) topic of abortion in order to paint him as a dangerous extremist who will take the country back to the Middle Ages. I give it another week and he’ll be labelled a white supremacist Nazi. This is exactly what American liberals did to Trump, and all it did was get him elected. The more the left express their hysteria over JRM, the more people will take a look at him and either like what they see (for the most part) or be glad he’s upsetting the right people.

Lefties project, but alas they don’t learn.

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The Ratchet Effect in Politics

There is an infuriating but effective method of political campaigning employed by the British left which goes as follows:

1. Labour wins election in 2005. Raises spending on X in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

2. Labour lose power in 2010, Tories come in.

3. Tories propose cutting spending on X in 2012, which would take spending back to 2008 levels.

4. Lefties scream that spending is being slashed to where it was in 1882, conjuring up visions of starving children in Dickensian workhouses.

It’s known as the ratchet mechanism whereby spending can only ever be increased but never, ever reduced. The middle classes – who are enormous beneficiaries of state expenditure – suck it up without question, not even realising the expenditure will drop only to 2008 levels (and things weren’t that bad then).

There’s a similar thing taking place now in the US, only it’s not to do with spending. Yesterday I came across this superb video explaining the phenomenon of Mattress Girl, the Columbia University student who falsely claimed she was raped and responded to his non-prosecution by dragging a mattress around campus. It is 47 minutes long but worth watching if you wish to understand the Title IX row that’s going on in America.

For those who can’t be arsed to watch it, I’ll summarise:

1. Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, had a friends-with-benefits arrangement with a fellow student, Paul Nungesser. They’d had consensual sex once or twice and, if her text messages are anything to go by, she fell for him pretty heavily. He wasn’t interested in a relationship with her, and she threw a wobbly and claimed he raped her. Anyone sane reading Sulkowicz’s text and Facebook messages to Nungesser after the alleged rape would conclude the sex was consensual and her actions thereafter were of a jilted lover seeking revenge.

2. She didn’t go to the police for various rather convoluted reasons, but complained – quite a while later – to the university authorities. They investigated (as best they could) and concluded Nungesser didn’t rape her.

3. She then begins a campaign claiming sexual assaults and rapes are rife on college campuses, and she is but one of thousands of “survivors” whose ordeals are being brushed under the carpet while the rapists are allowed to roam free to rape and rape again.

4. Feminists seize on her story and amplify Sulkowicz’s campaign, giving it national prominence. Article after article pushes her version of events uncritically, and unanimously refer to her as a “survivor”, implying Nungesser raped her. The campaigners set about digging up other rape “survivors”, and claim there is an epidemic of sexual assault and rapes going unpunished across America’s college campuses. According to their figures, Ivy League campuses present a greater risk of rape than the worst African war zones. The campaign gains the attention and support of feminists in or close to the Obama Administration – particularly New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand – who takes up the cudgels on behalf of Sulkowicz, swallowing her story whole and inviting her to the State of the Union address.

5. The feminist campaign, which is based on unalloyed fabrications, targets Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, which says:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

In response, in 2016 the Obama administration – which is stuffed full of deranged feminists and headed by a man who lacks the balls to control them – issues a 19-page Dear Colleague letter which contains the following instruction:

We recognize that sexual harassment represents unacceptable conduct, and those found responsible should be appropriately sanctioned. Some of us have witnessed the injustices resulting from institutions that downplay or ignore sexual harassment on their campuses, and we commend OCR for taking a proactive approach to this problem. In pursuing its objectives, however, OCR has unlawfully expanded the nature and scope of institutions’ responsibility to address sexual harassment, thereby compelling institutions to choose between fundamental fairness for students and their continued acceptance of federal funding.”

In other words, the Obama administration bought into the rape-on-campus hysteria driven by the feminist movement, and effectively instructed colleges to remove due process for male students accused of rape. The presumption of innocence would be removed along with other obstacles such as proving guilt. The onus was on believing the women without question and throwing men under the bus – all in the name of liberal feminist politics.

Many people, and not just white male rapists, were appalled at this development branding it a contravention of a person’s right to a fair trial under the Constitution. Once Trump got elected the feminists lost their influence over the administration, and he appointed the decidedly non-feminist Betsy DeVos as Secretary of State for Education. One of the reasons her appointment was so viciously opposed by the Democrats, especially women, was partly because they knew full well she’d roll back the more lunatic policies of the Obama era (the other was that she’s likely to upset the unions).

This week DeVos has started to rescind the Title IX guidelines issued in the Dear Colleague letter, and – predictably – the left have gone absolutely ballistic, accusing her of siding with rapists over their victims. But it’s not just demented feminists on Twitter. Consider this:

Twenty state attorneys general published a letter to Betsy DeVos on Wednesday, urging the Secretary of Education to maintain the sexual assault reporting guidelines for college campuses currently found in Title IX.
The letter was co-signed by state attorneys general from around the country including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico and Hawaii.
“We’re calling on Secretary DeVos to listen to law enforcement and trust survivors of sexual assault by keeping these protections in place and putting student safety first,” lead author of the letter Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press release.

This is nothing to do with justice or the rule of law and everything to do with the promotion of poisonous, divisive, liberal politics. Even the BBC manages to be fairly even handed, reporting that:

During a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, Mrs DeVos called the Obama-era guidelines a “failed system” that had done a “disservice to everyone involved”.

“Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponised the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students,” she said.

She said the definition of sexual assault was too broad and that too many cases involved “students and faculty who have faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes”.

Mrs DeVos, however, noted that acts of sexual misconduct are “reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable”.

“Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” she continued. “These are non-negotiable principles.”

It’s clear that every piece of Obama-era legislation, no matter how wrong-headed and unconstitutional it may be and how little debate or even thought was involved in its writing and adoption, will be defended to the death by Democrats, Republicans who wish they were Democrats, activist judges, and unhinged protesters determined to override the wishes of the people and make America ungovernable. We saw the same thing earlier this week with Trump’s decision to overturn the 2014 DACA policy, which Obama signed off in his office without bothering to run it through Congress.

The good news is that I doubt most Americans are taken in by this squawking in the way the British middle classes are, in fact I think the opposite is probably happening. Like a torch shining on cockroaches, I think a lot of Americans are grateful that Trump’s actions are revealing the true nature of their political elites, and they’ll be taking a careful note of who said what come election time. The other good news is that this process is happening at all: had Hillary won, the Title IX guidelines would have probably been enshrined in law.

UPDATE

This article by Emily Yoffe in The Atlantic is long, but worth reading. Choice quote:

Its report for the latter half of 2015 included a new category: third-party reports in which the alleged victim, after being contacted by the Title IX office, refused to cooperate. These cases made up more than 30 percent of all undergraduate-assault allegations.

Mark Hathaway, a California attorney who has dealt with several no-complainant complaints, says that the zeal with which these complaints are sometimes handled can be wounding psychologically to both the accused and his partner. Hathaway represented a young man who was in bed with his girlfriend in her dorm room. They were fooling around but not having intercourse. In the next bed was the girlfriend’s roommate and a male student. They thought that the girlfriend had had too much to drink to be able to consent to sexual activity. They mentioned their concern to a resident adviser, who was obligated to report it to the Title IX office, which then opened an investigation. “The girl says nothing happened; it was all consensual,” Hathaway told me. “But the school still goes forward.”

Thank you feminists, and Obama.

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