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Saturday, 4 July 2009

Camberwell fire - press speculation

Evidence on how the fire started and why it spread will take many weeks to assemble, and the MSM can perhaps be forgiven for their confusion. The BBC is reporting that the fire started on the ninth floor and spread to the eleventh; the guardian that it started on the fourth. The image below suggests it started on the fifth floor and spread vertically through the structure to the eleventh, where the fatalities are reported to have occurred.

So why is this important? Well, for those of us involved in construction, understanding part B of the building regs is fundamental to managing the design of large or complex buildings. The principle is that buildings are constructed in fire resistant compartments, with both horizontal and vertical compartmentation; that individual dwellings also each have a protected lobby to prevent fires spreading to common corridors, and corridors and stairs should be specially protected and in particular that linings should be fire resistant.

I have two major concerns about the Camberwell building. Firstly, the fire appears to have spread vertically through the structure, from flat to flat. Secondly, the fire appears to have spread along an internal protected corridor on the eleventh floor (if the layout was as in the sketch plan below). Older buildings can have fire-stopping and cavity barriers inserted, as well as additional protection such as alarms and sprinkler systems. Those resonsible for reported recent building works will have valuable evidence to give.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Extraordinary claim on Cranmer's blog

For reasons known only to himself, Cranmer gives space on his blog to an extraordinary piece by Michael Shrimpton 'QC' that alleges that Swine Flu, and Hong Kong Flu back in the 70s, and Spanish Flu back in 1918, were all, er, bio-weapons developed and released by the Beastly Hun.

Cranmer has always seemed a level-headed sort of chap to me. Subject to mawkish popular sentimentality, perhaps, but that is usual for an Anglican clergyman. And it's not April the first.

No, of course I don't believe a word of it.

How very strange.

I can find no Shrimpton listed on the 2008 Queen's Counsel lists. Has Cranmer been the victim of an elaborate hoax?

Beware the urban allotment

News that Michelle Obama's much touted White House vegetable garden is contaminated with lead comes as no surprise to me. A few years ago we were developing a London brownfield site adjacent to a large council allotment with scores of plots. To the west of the site a number of light industries had flourished until the 1950s. When we got the results of the ground investigation, we found the soil heavily contaminated with Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury and Lead - heavy metals that fell out of the factories' smoke plumes most rapidly - and that the contamination was a long teardrop shape stretching eastwards, driven by a prevailing westerly wind. Straight across the allotments.

This is also why I'm also pretty sure that whatever comes out of the new Buckingham Palace 'allotment' will end up in the tourist cafe or in staff meals rather than on the royal plate. For the upper classes who maintained both a country estate and a town house, it was the job of the country house kitchen garden and hothouses to produce healthy fare for the table; town houses rarely had their own kitchen gardens.

While I'm quite happy to use the fruit and herbs from my small London garden, I wouldn't want to eat spuds or carrots or other root veg from it in any great quantity. Fresh horseradish root is the exception - the first of the big Autumn roasts wouldn't be the same without the nose-streaming torture of grating fresh horseradish sauce.

The only reason I'd take a local allotment plot would be to grow tobacco on. In fact, for the sake of putting two fingers up to the council, I think I'll put my name down ...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Michael White defends Labour liars

New Labour's emeritus apologist, Lord White of Farringdon, has penned an extraordinary defence of political lying in the Guardian.
"In the age of 24/7 news channels, internet search engines and Twitter-based citizen journalism, some claim political lies can be instantly exposed. It happens, but voters seem to accept the distinction between a direct lie and being economical with the truth: that it is sometimes justified, in war or economic crisis, to withhold the full facts."
Yes, perhaps it is sometimes justified - when in it in the national interest. But surely even White cannot begin to justify Brown's endemic lying which is not in the interests of the nation but in the interests solely of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party? Or perhaps he can.

Reminder - lamps

There's always a little snobbery in every trade. In mine, calling lamps 'bulbs' is as big a faux pas as referring to your 'lounge'. The immediate fitting that the lamp plugs or screws into is called the lampholder, and the assembly of lamp, lampholder, shades, diffusers, fixings, carriers or prisms is called a luminaire.

Anyway, just a reminder that now is a good time to buy incandescent lamps. Those of 150W and 100W have already disappeared from the shops, but are widely available through eBay and from stock discounters at a good price now that the original hysteria has died down. Go on. Treat yourself to a lovely rosy red white light rather than the baleful green white light that comes from the Mercury low energy dross.

Lunatic ban on smoking in the open air

There is no evidence that one single person has ever, ever, died from the effects of passive smoking. Let me repeat. There is no evidence whatsoever that passive smoking has ever killed anyone. Over the years Numberwatch has catalogued this government's abuse of science in support of the indefensible, summarised in The March of the Zealots.

I am grateful to Witterings from Witney to drawing my attention in a comment to a post below to a lunatic proposal to ban smoking in the open air. Well, it's already started. South Eastern Trains have already banned smoking on open station platforms, and I expect it won't be too long before my local council bans smoking in its parks.

In a beautifully excoriating post, the Devil sums up the recent history of attacks on smokers, and now drinkers, all founded on a fouled tissue of outright lies, false science and emotive propaganda. The demonisation of smokers exempt from any discrimination law, though, could well prove to be the undoing of the zealots.

For if there is no offence in discriminating against smokers, there can be no offence in smokers discriminating against non-smokers. Where's the smokers' paper in which I can place employment adverts?

Just as gay people, fed up with an underlying hostility, used the strength of the 'pink pound' to run their own hotels, bars and facilities, I can see the advent before long of a whole network of smoker-friendly facilities. I'd love to arrange travel and accommodation on a website dedicated to the smoker's needs; a list of hotels with smoking encouraged in all rooms, even airlines that permitted smoking. Pubs and bars rated with stars on the quality of their smoking accommodation. I'm overdue for a short holiday; where are the world's most smoker-friendly destinations?

At the same time, a very small number of legal challenges to the EU smoking bans is growing. The prospect of class actions across the EU as well as a low level civil disobedience beyond the resources of the State to police can regain much of the ground lost to the Zealots. Where's my directory of smoke-friendly solicitors? Where's the legal advice line for smokers?

At a time when financial services are under pressure, I'm astonished that the pensions and annuities sector isn't making more of the enhanced benefits available to smokers. Where are the entrepreneurs chartering smoker's flights to Luxembourg to stock up on 3,200 cheap ciggies each and back the same day? Every flight would be filled to capacity.

The time for whingeing has ended. The fightback must begin. Let us smokers use our financial resources, our flair, skill and expertise and carve out for ourselves a future despite the Zealots.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Labour killjoys deprive the poorest of culture

There was a piece in the Standard last night by Simon Jenkins that documented a massive revival of the hunger for live entertainment, in particular amongst the young. It was the iPod generation, Jenkins said, who are filling not only Glastonbury but also packing theatres, the O2 and other live music venues. As with any mass enthusiasm amongst the young, this one cuts right across class lines - but Labour have been instrumental in destroying opportunities for the less affluent and less mobile.

Local clubs - CIU clubs, previously known as working men's clubs - have been a mainstay of our entertainments industry, providing employment and experience for a large number of acts and individual entertainers. In February of last year I commented that 'The Stage', the house-journal of the ents industry, was reporting 100 clubs a year closing as a result of the smoking ban, and club ents budgets the first to suffer from a downturn in trade, hitting employment in our important creative and cultural sector particularly hard.

For many people who can't afford thirty or fifty quid for a theatre or O2 ticket, local CIU clubs provided quality live entertainment at a fraction of the cost, often of surprising quality. Had they remained open, the current hunger amongst the young for live acts would be packing them out and revitalising them with a new generation of not only audiences but management capacity. Labour's spiteful smoking ban has destroyed this vital popular culture, and stifled opportunities for the less affluent to provide for themselves.

A press release from Freedom 2 Choose received yesterday says:

Through the good auspices of The CIU Club Journal, a monthly issue delivered to more than 2300 Working Men’s Clubs, Freedom2Choose have uncovered some shocking facts about the smoke ban implemented on 1 July 2007:

  • 98% stated the ban had definitely had a detrimental effect on their club.
  • 98% stated the ban was not implemented fairly.
  • 98% believed there should have been freedom of choice.
  • 98% of clubs had the facility for a separate smoking room.
  • 81% stated that they did not trust this government anymore.

Phil Johnson, Club Liaison Officer for Freedom2Choose, said "This clearly proves that the smoking ban has had a disastrous effect on one of the largest social institutions in the country. This ban, supposedly brought in to protect staff, has caused nothing but unemployment and hardship throughout club-land and cannot be proven to have saved one single life. Yet 90 clubs have closed forever, with more set to follow."

Phil further stated, "The biggest shock was the disastrous 81% that no longer trusted this government. When you consider that the majority of the clubs lie within the Labour voting heartlands, this government has clearly shafted 'their own' with this draconian law. Had any form of fairness been applied to this law, i.e. choice or separate rooms, then this control-obsessed government would not be facing the inevitable backlash from its hardcore supporters."

The survey was verified by Dr Ruth Cherrington, Lecturer in Cultural and Media studies at Warwick University, who commented "When the truth of such prohibition surfaces it is always a very sad truth. The clubs are the backbone of our communities - but for how much longer?"

Just another whole tier of local intermediate institutions destroyed by Labour's ruthless Leviathan State.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

What a dog's breakfast of a 'policy document'

Gordon's latest relaunch yesterday has been billed as Labour's election manifesto in all but name; if so, what a dead, dull, uninspired, tired dog's breakfast it is. Every desperate little policy scraped up from the cutting-room floor, every gimmick, every uncosted promise, all capped with yet another slogan that the BNP will throw back in Brown's face - 'British homes for British workers' - made up a desperate mish-mash of failure.

No change to the suffocating Statism, the Leviathan Labour State, the ever-powerful central State. No change to Brown's Rousseau-esque dream of a direct relationship between the central State and each individual, to the exclusion on intermediate institutions, neighbourhood, communities and even families. No change to the cloying micro-management of every aspect of every individual's life. No change to the repressive surveillance and security State. No change from a decade of failed lunatic social engineering experiments. No change from a decade that has wasted our national wealth, our national savings, our national earnings and has crippled our economic strength.

No change.

That was Gordon's message yesterday; just more of the same. If this is Labour's manifesto, it was the best-spun launch of a political death warrant I have ever seen.

Monday, 29 June 2009

A strong Parliament, not a stronger government

I've written before how a strong Parliament coupled with a strong government makes for a healthy democracy. Strong Parliament, weak government or vice versa or weak Parliament weak government are a recipe for national disaster.

The Devil catalogues brilliantly how Brown's reaction to sleazy MPs weakens Parliament beyond reason. But government is also as weak as a kitten; the civil service is preparing for regime change, and its heart is no longer in Brown's initiatives, Brown cannot find enough ministers from the Commons to the extent that he's forced to co-opt unelected Lords to half the seats in the cabinet, he's lost the confidence of the country and of the media (with the exception of the BBC, of course) and his party would love to ditch him.

We cannot face the challenges this nation faces with both a weak Parliament and a weak government. To withhold from the country the panacea of an election at this time is an action both seditious and beyond responsibility. For Labour to condone it for the self-interest of their MPs must remove them forever from a place in our political system. They must be cast into the electoral outer darkness for this crime against the people of this country.

Spending madness

The recession is not over. A thousand billion pounds of global derivatives have not been deflated. The banks remain as precariously balanced as a fifteen stone man on a unicycle. The world is still walking on eggshells, and that the necessary popular confidence in the banking system has been maintained means we're still in a breathing-space, not a recovery. Any loss of confidence by the market that results in a collapse of gilt prices could plunge the UK in particular into the abyss.

The government have reportedly delayed producing the next draft Comprehensive Spending Review, to kick in from 2011 onwards. It doesn't matter that they won't be in power; the CSR defines spending decisions that will be made now. Capital projects with long lead times don't begin to spend big money for two or three years, so it is intensely irresponsible to withhold from Parliament the reality of the nation's bare cupboard for the sake of trying to disguise Gordon's lies. And this is the only reason for halting the CSR. Brown has been caught in a big, clumsy lie and Cameron must keep picking at the scab, week after week, until everyone knows it.

The public services promises are spilling from Labour's lie machine like ordure from an overflowing cesspit; guaranteed cancer treatment within a fortnight, a hundred thousand personal tutors for parents who have wholly abrogated the care of their offspring to the State, and no doubt Brown's (fourth? fifth?) policy relaunch today will shower us with yet more lies. The truth of course is that there's no money to pay for any of this.

And then of course there are Gordon's five million welfare slaves, costing well over £80bn in non-pension benefits, whose offspring no doubt will be first in the queue for Balls' personal tutors, in addition to costing us a massively disproportionate share of criminal justice, education, social services, health and other public expenditure.

Brown's last fling is the madness of desperation. If he has an ounce of sanity remaining, he cannot possibly believe a word of it.

But Brown is driven by petulance, spite, a burning resentment and the certain knowledge that he will down to the opprobrium of having been the nation's worst ever Prime Minister, hence he will promote the FSA over the Bank in spite at Mervyn King's outspoken criticism. He really doesn't care about the people of Britain, far less about our economic health. He's on a downward spiral of destruction, and he's going to pull us all down with him.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

MPs 'second jobs' - risible pap

Hugely busy today so posts will be much later, but just had to comment on the risible pap being spouted by Brown and his idiot coterie about MPs 'second jobs'.

Listen, you purblind halfwit: If MPs are incapable of being proper MPs if they have another additional occupation, this would rule out every minister, every whip and you and your entire cabinet (apart from all the Lords) from being effective MPs.

Get it?