Well There’s Your Problem | Episode 9: Grenfell Tower Fire

JUSTIN: [sounding like the grave] Uh, and
anyway, on that note we should start talkin’ about, uh, hey, welcome to, ummm. ‘Well There’s Your Problem,’-
LIAM: You sound sick, bud. JUSTIN: -a podcast about engineering disasters. Yeah maybe I am starting to get sick at this
point, I don’t know. ALICE: Yeah. Just, we’re all fucking decrepit, uhh, just
falling apart, this is awesome. LIAM: This is embarrassing. ALICE: I love to talk about social murder
and, I just, I feel like shit so I’m in the right headspace for it. Um. People in the comments were saying we were
gonna do Bhopal and that was gonna be depressing. Well, joke’s on you, motherfuckers, cause
this is the sad one first. JUSTIN: Yes. Yes, and that’s what we’re here to talk about,
is one of the worst disasters, which was basically directly caused by… y’know. Politics, which we can think of. You notice this uhh, large tower block in
front of us, uh. Is on fire. ALICE: Yeah, shouldn’t do that. LIAM: Yeah, it’s not good. JUSTIN: Should not do that, no. ALICE: You’ll notice all of the other tower
blocks in this picture, uh, *not* on fire. That’s what you want. Erm. [big sniff]
JUSTIN: The less on fire they are, the better. [fire truck wails]
LIAM: Goddammit. JUSTIN: There goes another fire truck in the
background. LIAM: Hopefully not on the way to a tower
block fire. Although I suppose that would be nicely symmetrical. JUSTIN: In the United States, we have fire
codes that work. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Most of the time. ALICE: Yeah. This is… we’ll get into this, but this isn’t
the case where we talk about something being political, and someone in the comments goes,
[stupid guy voice] “Dyuhhh how can you bring politics into engineering?” No, this is transparently political, like
it involves… politicians, it involves laws, directly. Um. Yeah, no, it’s very very unsubtle about that. JUSTIN: Yes. So, um, with that, let’s, I guess we’ll start
by talking a little about – a little bit about – the history of social housing in the United
Kingdom. ALICE: Mm. Starts bad, gets better for a bit, then gets
much worse. JUSTIN: Yes. So, um, we all know the traditional social
housing in England and the United Kingdom is, uh, y’know, Charles Dickens, like, uhh. Almshouses, workhouses, y’know, prisons, like. “Uh well the surplus population, they can
go and, y’know, work off their, um, their – you can go break rocks and then we’ll give
you gruel,” right? That’s the traditional social housing that
was advocated for by guys with mustaches and stovepipe hats. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, but then there was one guy, with a slightly different style of moustache, who
kind of interfered with all of this. [beat]
JUSTIN: Uhh. ALICE: Nope, nothing? Making an Adolf Hitler reference, because
he fucking bombed Britain hard enough that, uh, some sizable percentage of the housing
was just totally destroyed. LIAM: Fuckin’ Hitler. Goddammit. JUSTIN: I didn’t make the connection because
I was thinking of, uh, I don’t know, maybe it was like there was like some good social
reformer in Britain? ALICE: Erm. Well, there are a couple, but actually not
with mustaches weirdly, because they tended to be Quakers, but, um. Yeah, no, Adolf Hitler, wearing a stovepipe
hat for some reason. Victorian Adolf Hitler. [sniff]
LIAM: The worst steampunk novel I’ve ever read. [laughter]
ALICE: Well, I mean, the Nazis were big into their, um, their zeppelins, so you’ve got
the steampunk thing right there. LIAM: They did love their zeppelin. JUSTIN: I just realized we forgot introductions
and pronoun checks. Uh hi I’m Justin Roczniak-
[laughter] LIAM: Oh goooooood. ALICE: FIVE AND A HALF MINUTES
LIAM: Sorry everyone in the comments who expected them in the first 30 seconds. JUSTIN: Yeah, everyone’s very angry now. LIAM: Alright, go. ALICE: We’re… look, we’re all sick, okay? When I do my pronouns it’s not gonna be me
answering, I’m gonna be ‘they/them’ for this one because it’s just the accumulation of
all of the fucking rhinovirus cells… [laughter] [sniffling]
ALICE: …that are piloting my body like an EVA.
[laughter] LIAM: That’s pretty tight, though, honestly. ALICE: Yeah. No, it rules. Um. Yeah, we love it in here. [sniff]
LIAM: That’s so gross. JUSTIN: I am Justin Roczniak, my pronouns
are ‘he’ and ‘him’, uh, that’s it. ALICE: I am Alice Caldwell-Kelly, my pronouns
are ‘she’ and ‘her’ – although I’ve been leaning more into the ‘they’ and ‘them’ thing, not
*just* out of the rhinovirus thing. But also very much that, I feel like I’m dying. LIAM: Yeahhhhhh buddy. I am Liam Anderson, @oldmananders0n on Twitter. I feel fucking great right now. Uh, pronouns are ‘he/him’. Go to hell, transphobes, same shit as always. ALICE: [sniff] Yeah. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: [brightly] Okay, so back to Hitler! LIAM: Right, yes, go on. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah. So in Dubya Dubya Two, Hitler blew up a buncha
housing in the United Kingdom. LIAM: Bastard. ALICE: Yeah, he vibe checked a lot of our-
LIAM: Oh Jesus Christ. ALICE: [ignoring him] -shitty terraced housing
and stuff. [sniff]
JUSTIN: He was a YIMBY! [laughter]
LIAM: Oh fuck. Thanks for nothing, NUMTOTs. [laughter]
ALICE: I mean, the thing is, in Germany YIMBY is spelled with a J, so it’s like a JIMBY. [laughter]
LIAM: [teutonically] Ja und my back yard. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, um, after World War Two there’s this need for a lot of housing very very quickly,
right? So… ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: We start to get like this concept
of the council house, right? ALICE: Well, we get a bunch of things! We get things like new towns, where we just
decide, hey, we’re gonna build Milton Keynes on these fields. JUSTIN: Mhm. ALICE: Uh, and we decide that, like. [sniff] There’s this wave of postwar socialism
where the Labour Party gets elected, it’s very very good, and aside from doing things
like creating the NHS, they want to create social housing, uh, Labour councils want to
create social housing, and so they do, they just… build… houses. And that’s, it turns out that’s quite a good
idea. LIAM: Are you telling me you can just build
stuff? Like, we can just do it? ALICE: Yeah. Yeah. LIAM: Crazy. ALICE: And then we never do it again. Ever. [laughter]
LIAM: Oh, of course. JUSTIN: Naturally, yes, because uh, in…
after the first wave of social housing, which was, y’know, based on, y’know, everyone gets
– this housing’s oriented towards people of all income levels. In 1951 the Tories come to power, right? ALICE: BOOOOOOOOOOOO
JUSTIN: Exactly. And they start to really refocus council housing
on being, y’know, welfare accommodation for low income earners, right? If you’re a respectable person, you shouldn’t
need council housing, right. ALICE: Yeah, of course. Uhm, because-
LIAM: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, damn it. ALICE: -the Tories’ base constituency is that
you own your own home, and if you don’t do that then you are lost to Labour forever,
that’s your, like, original sin, and you’re, like, condemned to socialism. JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: [flatly] Oh no. What a burden. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So this is when we start to get, uh, council housing which is oriented more towards
the concept of slum clearance rather than adding more housing, right. LIAM: Oh, that sounds promising. Yeah. ALICE: Yeah. I mean, the thing is, the history of British
slums is… the area where Grenfell is, that we’re gonna talk about, uh, was a notorious
plague spot, in which the biggest problem for slums in the 19th century, well into the
20th, was that people were just keeping pigs, and there were just pigs just roaming around
shitting everywhere. LIAM: I like that a lot, and I wish I didn’t. ALICE: Yeah. Right, and what happened is that this transformed
into a slum largely at the hands of a guy called Peter Rachman, who was sort of the
prototypical slumlord, and he did this thing of, like, creating – cramming as many separate
flats into one house as possible so you didn’t have to have rent control, things like that. And so it became much more, um, of what you
would think of as a modern slum, and *then* the government decided to kind of swoop in,
like, hey, we can do this a lot better than this one guy, who is like, this one fat organized
crime guy. [laughter]
JUSTIN: But uh, yeah, so we start to get into like slum clearance, and after the Housing
Subsidy Act 1956, like, building more units than were there before is banned, it’s a one-for-one
replacement. LIAM: Dumb as dogshit. ALICE: This is not actually *as* dumb as housing
policy gets. We’ll get there. LIAM: Terrific. JUSTIN: Yeah. And if you want to hear about how one-for-one
slum clearance works, you can check out my two-parter episode on public housing in the
United States on my YouTube channel. Um. Shameless self-plug. ALICE: It’s very relevant – no, it’s very
relevant here. When you talk about public housing projects,
what I would call ‘estates’, um. Yeah, we’ll get to that, but there’s a lot
of the same politics involved. JUSTIN: Yeah. So we get, we have, what results from this
is that through some slum clearance there’s mass displacement of working class neighborhoods,
in the name of providing decent housing for the working class, right? We have support structures just annihilated,
y’know, people *may* get better housing out of the end of it, but in the meantime, y’know,
it’s just like, alright, someone shows up, they wanna bulldoze your house, y’know? LIAM: Now you have nowhere to live. That’s great, that’s fucking great. ALICE: The shitty thing is, where social democrats
sign onto these things, which they do sometimes, usually at a local level at like local councils
– there’s always some utopian vision involved. LIAM: God. ALICE: We’re gonna have high-rise tower blocks
that are going to be streets in the sky! Where you can just like, everybody’s going
to know each other like on a street full of rowhouses but the row is gonna be, like, five
hundred feet in the air. Or, the Scottish edition of this is, not so
much we build tower blocks but we build satellite towns, where we just have an entirely new
town built mostly out of concrete for all of the poor people, and they can just live
on the outside of town. And of course those places turn into holes,
immediately. So-
JUSTIN: It never occurred to these people that all they had to say was, look, we’re
gonna build a market on the corner where you can buy bacon, instead of having a pig that
you own… [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. Back in the old days in Lancaster West, you
could just like, grab a pig and just like take a rasher off of it. It was a better time. Yeah. [laughter]
LIAM: A more simple time, a better time. [laughter]
JUSTIN: I’m just ripping strips of bacon off a pig passing by. LIAM: Oh, that seems so mean!
[laughter] JUSTIN: Alright, and this system goes on for
a while. ALICE: Dismally. JUSTIN: Dismally, yeah. I mean, y’know. By and large, before 1951 it was sort of low-rise
houses like what we’re lookin’ at in the picture here. After 1951 when the Conservatives come in
power it becomes, like, a land grab, a money grab. ALICE: Yes. JUSTIN: We start to get tower blocks, right. ALICE: And you start to get the figure of
the estate, this, like, controlled housing project area that is its own form of social
segregation. JUSTIN: Yeah. And then in 1979, of course, under Thatcher’s
[laughter] LIAM: I was ready with the fuckin’ boo. JUSTIN: -pass this wonderful thing called
‘right to buy’. ALICE: Yes. She got a generation out of that. Just as like a simple bribe. And this is a problem that the Tories are
still facing, uh, cause they just kind of kicked the can down the road with this, which
is that if, as we mentioned earlier, the Tory base is ‘owns your own home,’ but the Tory
ideology is to do capitalism in such a way that nobody owns their own home, then you
kind of end up with an electoral contradiction, and so you have to do this big government
subsidy where you, like, let people buy their social housing, so that they can be landowners
and become Tories. JUSTIN: Yeah, and then it’s even more confusing
when you like buy a condo in a social housing estate, y’know, like a tower block. Like now it’s like real weird. But right to buy, you could buy your social
house or flat for a discount of 33-50% off the market value, depending on how long you
lived there, and yeah, by turning people into homeowners, they turned Labour voters into
Tories. Yeah, and after Margaret Thatcher, council
housing construction effectively ended. Right? ALICE: Well I mean part of the thing is that,
[sniff] because you’re making councils sell all of these properties at these knock-down
rates, uh, you are quite knowingly cutting the funding *and* the housing pools of local
councils. You can’t build more social housing with this,
because you’re losing money on every house that someone buys out from under you. LIAM: Right, and then you just say, “Oh, well,
see how much money we’re losing, this shit isn’t working. Wink wink, nudge nudge.” ALICE: Yes. It’s really, it’s funny that the way this
was couched at the time – still is! – is that you should run a council like a business. LIAM: GYUUUUUURGH
JUSTIN: Oh my God. ALICE: I know, but, the thing is, it’s- that’s
not even true on its own merits, on its own logic, because… I love to run a business in such a way that
the government mandates that I sell all of my assets, in such a way that I don’t make
a profit. LIAM: I thought socialism was bad!
[laughter] JUSTIN: It’s just like the helium reserve. ALICE: Yeah! Pretty much! JUSTIN: Alright. So. We gotta talk about, uh. C’mon, next slide, please. LIAM: Oh dear God, dude. JUSTIN: Tower blocks. ALICE: Streets in the sky! LIAM: Yes. Everyone knows everybody, cause that’s what
fuckin’ happened. ALICE: Uh huh. JUSTIN: So, um, now a lot of these tower blocks
that were built through, y’know, British social housing, this is- they’re ‘system built,’
right? Which is another way of saying they’re prefabricated. ALICE: Yeah. What used to be in… if you do this over
the Iron Curtain, that’s called Plattenbau, or a Khrushchyovka, and that’s bad, because
that’s socialism. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Whereas if you do the same thing, uh,
where you use prefabricated concrete slab construction and you just balance the concrete
on the concrete all the way up, if you do that in, like, Denmark or Britain, that’s
called, uh, system building. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Like Legos! That’s anodyne, that’s not socialist. But if you do it in Russia, that’s socialist. LIAM: Oh, of course. JUSTIN: If you do it in the United States
it’s… usually in a parking garage. And not a tower block. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Prefab garages have a lot of problems. Uhmm. So imagine all the problems that happened
with these buildings, but also add road salt. [laughter]
ALICE: Awesome. And just the weight of, like, a couple of
hundred cars. Uh. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Just shifting, unpredictably… amazing. JUSTIN: Yeah so they build a whole bunch of
these tower blocks, they’re all built off like similar prefabricated, y’know, construction
systems, they’re all, y’know, the sort of [Frenchly] Le Corbusier uh-
ALICE: FASCIST JUSTIN: Look, sometimes he was okay. Most of the time he was bad. [laughter]
JUSTIN: He was anarcho-syndicalist for a while, before he became fascist-
LIAM: AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED. Yeah. JUSTIN: -and then he became liberal-
ALICE: Weird progression. Uh. JUSTIN: Every architect is a piece of shit. Alright? I’m just gonna say that. They’re all bad. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. That’s true. LIAM: It’s true. Batting a thousand on garbage people. JUSTIN: They’re all bad. We can’t-
ALICE: That is true. JUSTIN: We can’t say anything positive about
any architect, ever. ALICE: No. JUSTIN: So, um, alright, in the notes here
I mentioned: ‘British fire codes are shit.’ LIAM: Oh that’s, Jesus, yeah. ALICE: Well, this is because they actually
had a system [meaning the Parker Morris standards but instantly forgetting] – I forget the name
of it, it’s like the… the Bretton Woods system is what my brain is giving me, but
that’s not right [lol dumbass]. The something Morris system? That set out, like, scales of everything for
like living space, and what you need to make an apartment livable, and some of that had
to do with fire safety, and then the Tories immediately cut all of that in I think 1958? LIAM: Niiiiice. ALICE: And it just sort of started a long,
slow decline from there. Uh, so, yeah, the fire codes are not good,
*and* we’ll get into this, but in the immediate leadup to the Grenfell Tower fire, the (again)
Tory government passed a law shifting responsibility for fire codes and fire inspections from the
fire brigade, the fire department, to local councils. LIAM: Who don’t have any money to conduct
such things, presumably. ALICE: Even if they want to! Which… JUSTIN: Well, they own the building. So… LIAM: They definitely have no reason to… JUSTIN: They have a vested interest in passing
it. But we’ll get to that in a minute. LIAM: That sounds ethical. ALICE: It is… yeah. They made every local council in England and
Wales into Grover, certifying himself to pass his own shitty work. [laughter]
LIAM: Yeah! See, there’s your continuity, folks! Subscribe to the Patreon, and then you can
have the bonus episode. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Yeah, that one has jokes in it, it’s
funny, unlike this one. LIAM: Although we’re cancelled for culturally
appropriating Groverhaus. JUSTIN: Grovertower. [laughter]
ALICE: Jesus. JUSTIN: Alright, so a lot of things were common
through these tower blocks, is there’s like, *one* stairwell… LIAM: Safe! JUSTIN: There’s something called the ‘stay-put’
policy, right- LIAM: Oh fuck. JUSTIN: -and the idea with the stay-put policy
is that these concrete buildings, y’know, they got fire doors. Um, if there’s a fire in one flat, there’s
no way that that fire’s gonna spread to another flat. LIAM: Oh, that’s bold, I like that. ALICE: Well, I mean, it’s… it makes more
sense, from a certain perspective, than trying to drag 300 people down 20 flights of stairs
in the middle of the night, right? LIAM: Yeah, sure, no, I understand that. JUSTIN: And it’s very, very difficult to set
concrete on fire. ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: It can be done! It’s very difficult. ALICE: The real worry with these tower blocks
was, um, there was one of these called Ronan Point that, uh, collapsed. So the worry was structural rather than fire. Until about, like, I think like 2008, maybe? There was another fire in another one of these
[Lakanal House], but until then, the thing everyone was worried about was that these
were gonna be structurally unsound and they were just gonna collapse. JUSTIN: Cause Ronan Point was like a kitchen
exploded? Near the top floor? ALICE: Yeah. A gas line exploded and it, like, blew out
a couple of load-bearing walls, and about 13 storeys that were on top of that flat just
sort of came down with it. LIAM: Jesus fuckin’ Christ. JUSTIN: No, it happened near the top of the
tower, and the four flats above it collapsed, and then the 13 flats *below* it collapsed. Or however many. ALICE: Ahhh. LIAM: Oh, delightful. JUSTIN: If I recall correctly. Right? They weren’t necessarily built all that well. ALICE: No. JUSTIN: But I believe after that point – and
I believe Grenfell was post Ronan Point – they built a lot better. They were like, ah. ALICE: When they built it, the architects
mentioned Ronan Point as something they were trying to, as something they were mindful
of avoiding, right? LIAM: Well, that’s good to hear. [laughter]
JUSTIN: “This will never collapse from a kitchen fire and God will never destroy the world
by flood again.” LIAM: “You see that rainbow? That’s God swearsie-realsies that he’ll never
blow up the planet.” ALICE: Yeah. LIAM: Even though we deserve it. Just want to put that out. ALICE: I love… I love architects and I love engineers because,
much like militaries always fight the last war, uh, they always prepare for the *previous*
disaster. JUSTIN: Mhm! ALICE: So, yeah, the floors? Absolutely did not collapse! Like, it’s all still up, covered in- Grenfell
Tower is still there, and intact, and covered in big white sheeting so you don’t have to
think about it too hard. Um. It’s just sort of, you know, very burned. JUSTIN: Yeah. Another thing is, um, so yeah, the stay-put
policy worked pretty well, y’know, before this incident, and we’ll get into why, after. There’s no sprinklers in this building, there’s
no sprinkler system installed, um, which again, I think is bizarre, although… ALICE: They’re not common here. At all. LIAM: Good Lord. ALICE: In almost any kind of building. [sniff] Not sure why, I think that may just
be a cultural thing, that we just never appreciated them? But, yeah, no, almost nothing requires you
to install a sprinkler system now, except high-rise tower blocks in the aftermath of
this. LIAM: Well thank God y’all have never had,
say, a massive conflagration that burned, say, two thirds of your capital city, or anything. ALICE: Yeah. Several times. [laughter]
LIAM: No. Never happened. Never happened. ALICE: No, we… Britain said “fuck sprinklers,” at some point,
for reasons unknown to me. Uh. JUSTIN: I don’t think y’all ever invented
them. They didn’t come over on like the land bridge. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. Sprinklers never evolved here. JUSTIN: Yeah. So, and then, as Alice mentioned before, in
2005, regulations shifted responsibility for fire code enforcement from fire brigades to
local councils. Which are of course in this case the building
owners. ALICE: Both of whom are getting cuts to their
budgets. So, to a certain extent it might not have
made a huge difference, but maybe you want someone doing your fire inspections whose
job is to prevent… fires. JUSTIN: Look, I mean, there’s very few aspects
of government that like, I trust, like, implicitly, or inherently, but firefighters? I always think the firefighters have my best
interests at heart. ALICE: Well, this is the thing, I’ve been,
on Twitter, I’ve been banging the drum for fire department based socialism for a long
time. Because, especially in this country, they’re
actually quite well organized, uh, we have a Fire Brigades Union, uh, and they… not
the *most* militant, but they’re certainly not shy about going on strike when they have
to. Uh, and, yeah, no, quite left wing, quite
uh, quite, let’s say class conscious, and I appreciate that. JUSTIN: Aren’t the French firefighters fighting
the police right now? ALICE: Oh yeah. LIAM: That’s the most French thing I’ve ever
heard. ALICE: About once a year, you… [laughter]
ALICE: You’ll usually see a picture of like, a bunch of guys in bunker gear fucking fistfighting
riot cops and stuff, it’s amazing. LIAM: [Frenchly] “Hon hon, oui oui,” [Englishly]
as you just get drilled with a 40 foot truck. [laughter]
ALICE: Yes. JUSTIN: So we gotta talk about tenant management
organizations, right. LIAM: Oh boy. ALICE: Mm. Running councils like a business! LIAM: Yes. ALICE: And like a business, you have to split
everything up into, uh, these black box organizations that do the one thing at arm’s length from
any sort of elected representation. LIAM: Terrific. JUSTIN: Well, this was something confusing
when I was organizing, when I was researching this, right, because I looked at it and I
was just like, this seems like sort of a homeowners’ association? ALICE: Uh, no. JUSTIN: But like for…
[laughter] LIAM: “No.” Straight no. JUSTIN: …social housing? No? Okay. ALICE: No. It’s, it’s not like that, what it’s like is,
erm… the council going, “Okay, but what if we were a letting agency?” Or “What if we were, like, I don’t know, a
property management company? And we just run that bit separately, as a
distinct organization.” Uh. “It’s still filled with our people, it’s still
nominally accountable to us, but it’s this distinct thing, so if you don’t pay your rent,
or we won’t fix your boiler, you don’t get a letter with a letterhead saying ‘Kensington
& Chelsea Council,’ you get a letter saying ‘KCTMO,’ which is Kensington & Chelsea Tenant
Management Organization.” LIAM: Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I haaaaaate thaaaaat. ALICE: “So you can’t get mad at us, because
the branding is different,” right? LIAM: Ah, okay. JUSTIN: Oh, there you go. ALICE: It’s more, it’s organized to be more
– and I’m doing air quotes – ‘streamlined’ and ‘efficient’ and ‘like a business, in ways
that sort of… aren’t. LIAM: Horrific idea. JUSTIN: Alright, I gotta ignore a lot of my
notes then, because- [laughter]
LIAM: You weren’t ready for that, huh? JUSTIN: Yeah, I thought it was like a homeowners’
association, like, again, which is like a bad organization. ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: Aren’t there, like, residents elected
to the board of this organization? ALICE: Ooh. Well, this is the thing, it has *elements*
of that, erm, but when we look at, in practice, how these things work… you can’t even, like. You can’t point to an example of a tenant
management organization sort of capture from homeowners, right? There are no militant tenant management organizations. LIAM: There fucking should be. ALICE: There should be! Yeah. This is, like, a mechanism that *in theory*
would allow for that, in practice, is just kind of way for a council to distance itself
from its own social housing. Which is always a good sign, never indicative
of any neglect or anything, and it’s certainly, if you have, uh – [sniff] – half a dozen residents,
who are elected to this board, it’s certainly not a way that you can then, like, throw them
under the bus and say, “Yeah, it’s this unpaid guy who just lives here who isn’t fixing your
boiler,” instead of the councillor who’s on, like, £180,000 a year. JUSTIN: Jesus! Okay. Alright. I feel like I’m learning something today. So…
[laughter] ALICE: This is the one episode… like, this
is why we have to do a British episode, in between the Canadian ones, is so I have *something*…
[laughter] ALICE: …to contribute. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organization is the largest in
Britain, formed 1994, operated almost 10,000 buildings. LIAM: Good Lord. JUSTIN: I thought it was 10,000 *units* when
I looked it up the first time, no, it’s 10,000… well, they said 10,000 properties, so, y’know,
maybe a property has two buildings on it, even. So who knows how many units they had. And, um. ALICE: Well it’s… yeah. Kensington has… we’ll get into this, but
this is a central area of London, it’s very large, very crowded, huge income disparity
which means there’s a lot of social housing, but it’s also a Conservative-run council because
it’s, like, by the numbers the actual borough is I think… I don’t actually know the number but it’s
one of the richest in London. LIAM: Mm. JUSTIN: And it’s like the, I’m sort of familiar
with it, cause I’ve been there. Cause that’s where we stayed the one time
I’ve been to England. It was right on Earls Carl… Earls Court? LIAM: Urls Curls. ALICE: Oh, nice. [laughter]
ALICE: How did you find Arls Crlsbrmrt? JUSTIN: I was very sick. LIAM: This is getting to be a theme for you. ALICE: This seems to be a theme with us and
Britain. Whenever we do any BritCon, we just, like,
we all get sick. At the horror of this awful country. JUSTIN: That’s right. I have the plague. LIAM: The last time- it’s back, motherfuckers!
[laughter] ALICE: Bring out your dead! LIAM: It’s just Roz, throws himself into an
ambulance, just like, “save yourselves!” as he’s vomiting on the queen or whatever. JUSTIN: It’s free here. ALICE: Ah, not any more for foreigners. No, they’ll bill you now. LIAM: Oh, you dirty motherfuckers. ALICE: I know. JUSTIN: Well, good luck getting it out of
me. America: not a commonwealth country. [laughter]
LIAM: The last time I was in England I was also extremely sick. We had run, we had kind of gone from Dublin
to London to Paris, and I remember my dad being like, “Yeah, well, if you’re gonna die,
like, do it now. That way we won’t get charged for it.” Ah, that’s tight. [laughter]
ALICE: You don’t have to like see the inside of a French ambulance. Uh, and be confronted by the French emergency
medical system. Which is… strange. LIAM: [Frenchly] Hon hon, oui oui, CLEAR. [laughter]
ALICE: They’re just applying the blackface to you in the ambulance. LIAM: “Euhhh, you clean up so magnificently,
hon hon, euayyyy.” ALICE: [sniff] This is actually, there is
one thing that I know about French emergency medical services, and this is absolutely true,
swear on the Quran, that if you… I saw a woman collapse, in Paris, and a fire
truck rolled up. And they like, tried to – she was conscious
and everything, she was fine, but they got her some water, *in a wine glass from the
back of the truck*. Like, they just carry a wine glass around. LIAM: You’re serious. That’s serious. ALICE: The most French thing. JUSTIN: That sounds about right. Alright, so we gotta talk about the Grenfell
Action Group, right. ALICE: YES. *This* is the militant thing, right, this
is the… what you originally envisioned the tenant management organization as being. JUSTIN: Well, I thought they were sort of
like, uh, a… I don’t know if you can describe them as a
tenants’ union? ALICE: Yeah. Kind of. JUSTIN: But they’re certainly a group of activist
tenants. ALICE: Yeah. A pressure group, at the very least. JUSTIN: Yeah. In opposition to the Tenant Management Organization,
right? ALICE: Mhm, yep. JUSTIN: And they were initially formed to
protest the loss of a bunch of green space at the north end of the estate, right? LIAM: Promising so far. JUSTIN: Which was Lancaster Green, uh, cause
the council wanted to put in a new school there, right? ‘Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre’. [laughter]
LIAM: Oh God. That’s dystopian as fuck. ALICE: Love… so, an academy is something
that the Tories also invented, and it’s… well. You say this in the notes, but it’s essentially
a charter school, like it will be privately operated, and it’s not fee-paying, but uhhh. Yeah, it’ll be run by some fucking weird trust
that has its own agenda, like making all the kids wear suits so that they can learn about
business. LIAM: Ugh. JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly, it’s like, um, it’s
like any charter school, the deal is, “look, we give you the money, you give us the grades,
capiche?” LIAM: I would like to point out just as a
quick aside because it’s fucking hilarious, is that, uh, the school I went to, York Suburban
High School, my beautiful alma mater in York, Pennsylvania, uh. Our school district was formed because in
the 50s, the white parents of the York City School District refused to integrate, and
so they started their own school district. And I just, I need you to know that, because
everyone gets mad at me when I point this out. ALICE: Well, this ties in, because all of
the history of the Lancaster West estate is tied in very deeply with race and racism,
because this area… LIAM: Are you sure? ALICE: Kensington and Chelsea, yeah, we had
the first wave of largely Caribbean migration to the UK, was in the early 50s, and this
was one of the first areas that absorbed that migration, because it was very cheap, and
shitty, and you had slumlords like Peter Rachman, and so… since then it went through a lot
of the same things that Justin, you get into in your public housing thing, where it becomes
this sort of de facto segregated area. Um, and so that, the idea that this is a largely
more diverse area than the rest of London – which is pretty diverse already – but especially
it was blacker, contributes a lot to understanding why it might be neglected in this way. JUSTIN: Yeah, and it’s not like, y’know, in
Virginia when they tried to integrate all the schools, they just shut all the schools
down. I just felt like I needed to get that out
there, not even like form a separate school district, every school in the commonwealth
shut down for like two years. ALICE: Yeah. Well this academy thing is an attempt to sort
of revitalize inner city education districts, but… which had previously, of course, been
cut back to the bone. And so the idea is that you *run them like
a business*, and that’s going to make everything fine again. JUSTIN: We have to use some kind of Steven
Pinker metric in order to do racism, as opposed to just doing racism. LIAM: Ohhh, hhhhh, please no. ALICE: Yes, yeah yeah yeah. Mhm. [sniff] Well, the really Steven Pinker
thing is, like, free schools, which are another kind of charter school that just anybody,
you can just set up a school, with whatever, like, whackadoodle-ass-
LIAM: Oh yes. ALICE: -racial hygiene views that you have. Um. This is more corporate, it’s like, you go
to school on the set of The Apprentice, basically. Uh. JUSTIN: Anyway. The charter school got built, right, despite
the complaints of the residents of the tower, who were losin’ their nice green space, right. The Grenfell Action Group continues criticizing
aspects of the tower’s maintenance and operation – one of the most famous blog posts they put
up was in 2013, where they’re like, y’know, the fire safety in this tower is shit. Right? Cause it’s like, fire extinguishers had not
been inspected for a long time, most of them had expired… ALICE: Yeah, they’re all full of rats. Uhh. JUSTIN: Exactly, you pick up the fire extinguisher,
you push the button, a bunch of rats fly out, it’s not very good. LIAM: God. [laughter]
ALICE: No, the rats… too combustible, for one thing. JUSTIN: This is true. LIAM: Those bastards. ALICE: I, the one thing I do remember from
that thing is, we were talking about the fire codes being shitty – there’s one stairwell,
and they’re like, “Yeah, this is blocked, like… all the time. To some extent. There’s always, like, old mattresses and trash
bags and stuff, and if the building catches fire, we’re just gonna have to… I guess try to surf these bags of trash down
20 flights of stairs.” JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: Oh, that’s super tight. JUSTIN: So, and after the first blog post
where they’re really complaining about it, the uh, the person in charge of the tower,
like, threatens to sue them? LIAM: Yes. ALICE: Oh yeah. This is… British defamation law is super tight, so
they might actually have lost that one, too. JUSTIN: Two thirds of us are American, which
is why this is an American podcast, we can say anything we want. [laughter]
LIAM: You know what we didn’t do, is sign a goddamn treaty preventing us from somehow
investigating the Estonian ferry wreck. Which your dumb country did. ALICE: That’s true! I can’t believe that we did that. But, yeah. JUSTIN: We’re basically like the Cayman Islands
but for podcasts. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. I can, I’ll do the Epstein stuff [wow phrasing],
you guys do the Estonia stuff, and we’re like, we’re untouchable, it’s perfect. JUSTIN: Alright, so pay attention to the tower
as it looks in this slide. Right? ALICE: Mhm. JUSTIN: Kinda drab, concrete, y’know, whatever. It’s… there. People live there. I’m sure they don’t hate their housing that
much. ALICE: No. They called it ‘the forgotten estate.’ LIAM: Oh, that’s good, sounds good. JUSTIN: After they build the academy it’s
like, alright, time to do a renovation on this tower, right? And renovation was mostly for the sake of
energy efficiency. ALICE: Well. I mean, energy efficiency and the fact that
you don’t want your nice rich people, who live in the rest of Kensington and Chelsea,
to have to look at social housing. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: So it has to look like everything else. JUSTIN: L-look at this beautiful metal panel
facade that they put on, yeah. It looks absolutely incredible. LIAM: Yeah, it looks gorgeous, I am a better
person for having looked at this. ALICE: Don’t be too proud of this technological
terror you’ve constructed, KCTMO. Like… JUSTIN: So, there was genuine improvements
they were doing to the tower through this renovation, right? There’s improvements to heating, individual
water heaters per unit, right, they’re putting in new windows, they’re putting in new cladding
a) to match their fancy charter school, b) because it was gonna improve, like, y’know,
thermal efficiency, like releasing heat to the environment, so on and so forth, right. They even put in a few more housing units,
right? ALICE: Mhm. JUSTIN: Most residents were pretty much in
favour of the renovation when it was proposed, cause it seemed like a pretty good deal? ALICE: Yeah. If somebody- if you’re looking at this stairwell
full of bullshit, and the fire extinguishers full of rats, and the council tells you, “Hey,
we’re finally gonna renovate this thing,” you’re gonna be like, “Of course. Finally. What took you so long?” JUSTIN: Yeah. So the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management
Organization sends out the job for bid. One contractor came in at £11.3m. They had budgeted £9.7m for the job. LIAM: I’m sure this will end well. JUSTIN: Another contractor came in at £8.7m. LIAM: [meaningfully] Mmmm. ALICE: That sounds fine. Um. JUSTIN: Came in a full million under. While the other guy was two million over. ALICE: I’m pretty sure Kensington & Chelsea
Council runs a huge budget surplus, it’s one of the only councils that does. Uh. So, yeah, no, this seems fine. JUSTIN: Cause of good cost control, Alice. ALICE: Ah, that’s true, yeah. LIAM: Obviously. [laughter]
LIAM: They’re very prudent. Austerity works, goddammit! JUSTIN: So, um, one of the things, I guess
if you’ve ever worked in municipal, like, construction, with y’know, when you’re working
under a low bid system, is if it seems too good to be true, it is? But also the regulations may force you to
use that thing. [laughter]
ALICE: Yes. Because you have to, like, limit big government
overreach by having the government come in and tell you that you have to run your council
like a business. Uhh. JUSTIN: So they went with the low bid. Right? ALICE: Of course! JUSTIN: Yeah. So they replace it with this, uh- they came
in, they did a bunch of work, they put in this metal panel facade. I wanna talk a little bit about metal panel. ALICE: Mm. Go off, king. JUSTIN: Yeah. LIAM: Hit us with it. JUSTIN: So, metal panel is a very flexible
architectural material. Um, I just wanted to look at, here’s two metal
panel buildings near where Liam and I live in West Philly. LIAM: [flatly] WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
[laughter] ALICE: Are you booing the buildings or West
Philly? LIAM: No, I was saying ‘woo’, it just sounds
exactly the goddamn same because I’m sick. ALICE: Ahh.
[laughter] JUSTIN: So I mean metal panel’s interesting
because you can do a lot with it. You can make it very interesting and colorful
and fun. This is The Hub, it’s a student housing building
in West Philly- ALICE: They love using this for student housing
buildings! All of the ones in Glasgow are metal panelled
too. As was the one in Manchester that caught fire
last month. And it, hnngh, well. JUSTIN: Yes. Um. Y’know, so this one’s like, it’s got two kinds
of wood veneers, it’s got some lime green accents, it’s got like, I dunno, some weird
corrugated bullshit… I like what they did with this building. I used to hate it, but now I’m kinda like,
I like it because the other option is what they did down the street, where it’s just
all tan. LIAM: God, it looks so fucking bad. ALICE: Yeah, it’s… I kind of like the Legos thing over the, over
the one on the right, for sure. LIAM: The one on the right is also next to
Elon Musk’s old house. Where he lived when he was a student at the
University of Pennsylvania. Proving once again that there are no good
Penn alum, and go to hell, all of you. [laughter]
JUSTIN: It was very strange, cause they preserved Elon Musk’s house but they demolished the
rectory for the Presbyterian cathedral. Or, not cathedral, what’s the word there. Episcopalian cathedral right there. Um, cause they put that tower up so they could
raise funds to keep the church standing. But they kept Elon Musk’s house, again, I
don’t know why. [laughter]
ALICE: Oh, it’s gonna be important, it’s like him getting mentioned in the same breath as
Edison on Star Trek, you know. LIAM: [moaning in pain]
ALICE: We’re all just betting on this fucking Boer dickhead to be…
[laughter] JUSTIN: He was on Rick and Morty, I was like,
I thought they had some integrity on that show. Maybe I’m more, too generous to Rick and Morty,
but I was like, there’s no way they’d bring Elon Musk on. Oh no, they did. Ah. Fuck this show. ALICE: Simply epic. JUSTIN: Aghhhh, Jesus. LIAM: Aaaaand that’s the podcast, that’s it,
goodnight everybody, go to hell all of you, et cetera. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. We all just simultaneously die of flu while
cursing Elon Musk with our dying breath. LIAM: Well, probably he’ll SWAT us, because
that’s a thing Tesla does now. JUSTIN: S’a good point, yeah. ALICE: Oh yeah. JUSTIN: Cybertruck bad. Um, so in Grenfell they used this metal panel
to match the new charter school, right, they had to make the tower look a little more modern-
LIAM: Oh, of course. JUSTIN: -as we saw before, um. ALICE: Yeah, because if you just have kids
looking out of the window during their lessons and they see social housing, as opposed to
aspirational metal panel clad social housing, they’re not gonna think like a business any
more and it’s gonna ruin their education. LIAM: They might go into the arts! ALICE: Yeah! JUSTIN: God forbid. ALICE: It’s just an absolutely unacceptable
risk to the council of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea that those children look
out of their windows and see anything disturbing in the slightest about Grenfell Tower. …that’s called foreshadowing. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So we gotta talk about the, um, the actual cladding that was used on this building,
right? So we have a material called Reynoband PE… Reynobond PE, excuse me, from a company called
Arconic, right. So this is a metal panel, it’s a sandwich
panel, right, so you have an aluminum sheet here, you have a core made of polyethylene,
right, which is a petroleum product, and then you have another aluminum sheet, right? ALICE: Sure. JUSTIN: And this thing cost £22 per square
meter. There’s a more flame retardant version that
cost £24 per square meter, so, y’know, they got some real big savings out of that one. ALICE: Yeah, somebody worked out that to do
the whole tower in the flame retardant cladding was about £5,000 more. JUSTIN: Yes. There was a *more* expensive version they
were *supposed* to use, cause even the more flame retardant version was not enough, but
y’know. I can’t say that wouldn’t have helped. ALICE: No. JUSTIN: Um, and also this particular kind
of cladding has been banned in the United States for decades. Or at least used in the way it was here, right? ALICE: Yeah. Well the, um, as weak as our fire codes are,
the idea was that if you go above a certain floor height then everything above that has
to be in fire retardant cladding. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: And they kind of, did not do this. The whole thing is just the cheaper, shittier,
highly flammable one. JUSTIN: And the material specifications from
the manufacturer say, do not do this. Absolutely do not do this. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So this was, a, this picture over here, right, this is for-
ALICE: Oh, you’re John Maddening? [but the John Maddening breaks again so you can’t see
JUSTIN: Yeah, for the rain screen, right, if you look in the second image, that’s the
cladding here. Now that had an air cavity between it and
the insulation, because it was the rain screen, right? And this insulation was the Celotex RS5000
PIR – that’s polyisocyanurate… ALICE: I don’t like the sound of that ‘cyan’
in there. LIAM: No, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. JUSTIN: It’s normal, don’t worry. Yeah. ALICE: Just means, just means blue. Uh.
[laughter] LIAM: You have nothing to worry about. JUSTIN: So, that’s thermal insulation, right,
and it’s not rated for use with flammable cladding, only with fiber cement on the outside,
right? So the thing about polyisocyanurate is it’s
usually very flame resistant. But it does catch fire. And when it does, it gives off cyanide gas. LIAM: Oh good! JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: Of course. LIAM: I love the smell of almonds! JUSTIN: And um, this is again another petroleum
product, I believe one firefighter described it afterwards as ‘pure petrol’ in the way
it burned. LIAM: Good God. JUSTIN: Getting ahead of myself, but y’know. ALICE: Petrol being British for gasoline. JUSTIN: Yeah. LIAM: You people. JUSTIN: Well, this is the thing about a lot
of modern energy-efficient materials, is they’re all just straight-up made outta oil. ALICE: But, I, I thought we were gonna Green
New Deal this, and like, rebuild every house in America, with, like, energy efficiency
stuff, that is made out of, I don’t know… magic. JUSTIN: Magic is made out of oil, actually. [laughter]
ALICE: This is the most depressing version of, you know those-
JUSTIN: Of Harry Potter. Like it’s all oil. [laughter]
ALICE: Well, that too. But no, I was thinking of those films that
they make you watch at school that are like, sponsored by some industrial concern. And it’s like, “What would a world be like
without zinc?” You know. “Oil is found in everything around you.” And it’s just like, no, that’s terrifying. JUSTIN: The cladding on the building? Oil. The energy-efficient, y’know, insulation? That’s oil. The furniture? That’s made of oil and wood. [laughter]
JUSTIN: It’s like woodchips and oil, this is how we make flame resistant furniture somehow. And, like, it’s not… ALICE: Yeah. By weight, Grenfell Tower was, like, I don’t
know, 20% concrete, like 70% oil, 5% rats in the fire extinguishers and 5% some of the
most vulnerable people in the city. JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: Terrific. JUSTIN: So, um, thanks to these 2005 regulations
during this renovation I believe – did I mention it was 2012, I believe it was in 2012, right? ALICE: [audibly filled with Olympic spirit]
Yeah. So, long after the fire brigade has lost the
responsibility for inspecting any of this. JUSTIN: So there were 16 inspections by the
council and all of them failed to notice that all of the cladding they were installing was
illegal and flammable. ALICE: Well, I mean, anybody could fail to
notice that 16 times. Uh. That certainly wouldn’t put… the inconvenience
of noticing, “Oh hey, you’ve clad this entire building in the fucking deathtrap oil thing,
instead of the slightly less deathtrap oil thing, and you’re gonna have to redo all of
this, it’s gonna take months, cost a lot more than the insulation originally did…” There’s no, like, incentives that might be
subconsciously or consciously weighing on anybody looking at that. LIAM: Mhm. JUSTIN: Mhm. Yeah, there’s no way the council woud have
an interest in approving its own work. LIAM: No. Upstanding members of society, goddammit. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: It’s perilously close to load-bearing
drywall. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Now, if they had done this properly with non-flammable cladding, it would have
cost about… uh, the estimate I saw on the internet was £293,368 more, over the whole
building, right. ALICE: Wow. I mean, that’s like… JUSTIN: That would’ve brought it up to £9m
as opposed to… which is still £700,000 under the council’s budget, right. ALICE: But £293,000 that’s, like… two really
nice cars? Or, I don’t know, what else could you buy
with 300 grand? Like.. I don’t know, some nice furniture. Or… um… I dunno. LIAM: A house. ALICE: Yeah, what else do councils spend money
on? LIAM: A yacht. JUSTIN: A house, but not in London. ALICE: Yeah. LIAM: A Cessna! Maybe six Cessnas? [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, that’s true, maybe they could’ve had like a council light aircraft. JUSTIN: Several used Cessnas. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. Well, this is the thing. We can develop this as a theory, and our conspiracy
theory of Grenfell is the cost-saving leading to all of this neglect and social murder is
because Kensington & Chelsea Council wanted to build an air force. [laughter]
LIAM: I buy that. Yup. JUSTIN: So, um, the fire. Again, here’s the building. Um. So this, the fire started at 12:50am in the
morning on June 15th 2017. LIAM: 12:50am in the morning… JUSTIN: In flat 16. ALICE: Mmyeap. Love to, love to have a fire in a high-rise
building in the middle of the night, that’s always the best time for it to happen. Uh. Everybody’s in the building. JUSTIN: Yeah. LIAM: That’s the most exciting setting. ALICE: It’s *dark*. JUSTIN: Yeah. Yeah. So some guy’s fridge got firel. …some guy’s fridge caught fire. LIAM: God, the irony. JUSTIN: Yeah, the irony. That which is meant to cause cold, caused
hot. [laughter]
ALICE: The ultimate act of betrayal. LIAM: How could you do this to me, auto 134? ALICE: It wasn’t this guy’s fault at all,
either, it was just a… it was a defective refrigerator, it happens. They kind of, they do this a lot. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: You get some wiring that’s, like, too
close to some insulation or something else, and it just catches light. It’s not a huge deal. When this has happened previously, you just…
it stays contained to that one flat and you put it out. Like maybe the guy loses his kitchen. Uh. JUSTIN: And, and, like, also in the United
States we have better regulations against fridges catching fire, cause our fridges have,
like, big metal plates on the back? ALICE: Mm. Yeah, ours don’t, this was – also because
this is social housing, again, the lowest bidder, this is going to be the cheapest possible
fridge. JUSTIN: Yes. So the fire bruhgrade-
LIAM: Bruhgrade. JUSTIN: The fire brigade. ALL: The fire brigade, the fire brigade. JUSTIN: [carefully] The fire brigade arrived
to fight the fire at about 1am, right, so like ten minutes later. Very good response time, very good on the
fire brigade overall. And by this time, the fire was spreading in
the flat. The owner of the flat I believe got out. ALICE: I mean, this was a low flat anyway,
but yeah, I think they got him out when they were putting it out. And they had a couple of guys with extinguishers
I guess, just inside the flat, trying to put it out, and trying to keep it from getting
out of the unit. JUSTIN: Yeah, one of the things is, this is
a council flat, right, not all the furniture is provided by the council, um, and the thing
about modern furniture is it’s made out of woodchips and oil. Right? So it catches pretty regularly – pretty easily. And keep in mind this building is, it still
has the stay-put policy we mentioned before, in terms of fire. ALICE: Sure. JUSTIN: So, y’know, if people are awake and
they know there’s a fire, they know they’re supposed to stay put, right? LIAM: Yes. ALICE: Yes. And if you are, as happened many times, if
you are on the phone to the fire brigade at the time, the operator will tell you that
it’s safest to stay in your flat. JUSTIN: Yes. And so since it’s burning through this guy’s
furniture, and just generally the fire is taking over the flat quicker than firefighters
can put out the fire, at 1:08 in the morning, it breached the window and it set the cladding
on fire. LIAM: Oh good. JUSTIN: Right? ALICE: Well, to the best of my knowledge it
didn’t actually – it breached the window *first*. They had the fire in the flat pretty much
controlled, and unbeknownst to them, because you’re inside the thing, it’s full of smoke
anyway, you can’t see the outside, it’s burning up the outside as they’re fighting it on the
inside. JUSTIN: Well the big problem here, right,
is this external metal panel cladding is a rain screen, right? ALICE: Yeah, you have that air gap in between
the cladding and the insulation. JUSTIN: As such, it is intended to keep water
out. LIAM: Oh good. I’m sure that won’t be an issue in a second. JUSTIN: Yes. So, y’know, once the fire started to get into
the cavity between the cladding and the insulation, the insulation caught fire, right? And this cavity acted as a chimney, y’know,
it started shooting the flames right up the building, right? You wouldn’t even be able to figure out the
flames were there, if you were looking straight at the building. ALICE: No. Just nightmarish. JUSTIN: But even if you could see it, if you
shot, y’know, a huge jet of water from a fire truck directly at where the flames were? The rain screen’s gonna be like, [rain screen
voice] “Hmm. This is rain. I’m not letting this through.” ALICE: Your rain screen voice. LIAM: I like it. ALICE: Yeah. No, this is like, this is nightmarish, because
as far as – if you’re a firefighter it’s just like, it’s burning up the outside, you don’t
even necessarily know, and then just, units are catching fire in a line up one side of
the building, and you have to work out where it’s coming from, and you can’t actually put
out the insulation – which, by the way, is also giving off cyanide gases. [audibly upset] Oh, man, just looking at it
is fucking… uh… it’s not a good feeling. LIAM: [sympathetically] Yeah. I would imagine. ALICE: I think the thing that fucks me the
most about this is… at the time, I remember it felt like this huge, transcendent moment,
because a lot of the mask came off a lot of [crying], a lot of neoliberalism, and then,
sort of. LIAM: It just didn’t matter. Yeah. ALICE: Yeah. It’s… yeah. It’s strange. You, um. [beat] You kind of expect everything
to be different, because, y’know, people are getting up in the morning and they’re going
to work and they have this… absolutely charred, I don’t know if we have pictures of it coming
up later, but just like the skeleton of the building just looming over them. Um. And it turns out, people can just kind of
live with that. Cause, you have to. [beat] Um. And, yeah, I dunno, that’s… that’s really
difficult. LIAM: Yeah. I just imagine- y’know, I remember seeing
the pictures, and just it looking so goddamn out of place. And then I remember, kind of concurrently,
the reports coming out, and just… I remember thinking the same thing that I
thought, kind of, after Sandy Hook, where… and I’m, I’m a person who believes that Americans
have a right to firearms and like, I’m not a big fan of gun legislation, but… ALICE: Oh yeah. Sure. LIAM: But it was kind of like the same feeling. Like, alright, so we as a society are okay
with 26 kids dying, and it doesn’t fucking matter. ALICE: Yeah. We’ll just, we can just, we can just tolerate
this, because… yeah. I dunno, it’s grim. There’s some stuff that I’ll get into later
about some of the like, social repercussions of this. But… yeah. Um. Fun fact-
JUSTIN: I’m back. LIAM: Hooray. ALICE: Oh good. Okay. JUSTIN: No, I wanna hear the fun fact. ALICE: Oh, the fun fact is that erm, currently
a Lib Dem called Sam Gyimah is attempting to, uh, cast the Grenfell Tower fire as being
the fault of the Labour MP for the constituency- LIAM: Oh, that makes sense. ALICE: -who was wildly overruled by the council,
and who in fact led a lot of the campaign in the aftermath to it, and she might lose
her seat, not to him, but to a Tory. On that basis. JUSTIN: FUCK THE LIB DEMS, fuck those guys,
oh my God! [laughter]
LIAM: Alright, he’s back, folks! JUSTIN: These fuckin’ pieces of shit! I mean, what- you know what they’re doing,
is… the traditional Lib Dem anthem is like ‘The Land’, right? Which is also like the traditional Georgist
song. ALICE: Yeah. Oh yeah. JUSTIN: And here are the fuckin’ Lib Dems,
like, proposing direct subsidies to landlords, as one of their major fuckin’ campaign platforms,
right? LIAM: Fucking what? JUSTIN: Y’know, like, I have a lot of problems
with like Georgist socialism as a concept, but these fuckin’ Lib Dems are like appropriating
the only – one of the few positive contributions to society Pennsylvania has ever made!
[laughter] JUSTIN: THESE PIECES OF SHIT. Oh my God! ALICE: I just… yeah. I want to see a slightly weirder timeline,
in which we got the same shitty neoliberal party. but claimed as an outgrowth of, like, Fourierist
socialism? [laughter]
LIAM: Ohh. ALICE: So they’re just doing all of the same
shit, but they’re singing about how the sea’s gonna turn into lemonade under communism. LIAM: I mean, I *like* lemonade… JUSTIN: Good Lord. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Anyway yeah, so uh, land value tax probably a good idea, but Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
is not exactly God’s planned parandise. LIAM: Parandise? ALICE: Parandise. JUSTIN: Parandise. LIAM: We’re doin’ good. ALICE: This motherfucker said ‘Parandise’. JUSTIN: Rename the group chat. Alright. So. LIAM: Love you, Harrisburg. JUSTIN: So, this fire, through the chimney
effect that the cladding created, um, this fire got out of control very quickly. What I’m going to do now is I’m going to play
a YouTube video that some firefighters took as they were heading towards the fire, which
had rapidly gotten out of control. Uh, CONTENT WARNING, this is some serious
shit. ALICE: It is, yeah, it is. If you were, sort of. I feel like almost everyone in Britain was
on some level traumatised by this happening – THIS IS GONNA DO IT AGAIN. So, yeah, be aware.
FIREFIGHTER: Jesus Christ mate. FIREFIGHTER: Mate, is that… that’s not a
real building with people in it? FIREFIGHTER: Fuck me. Mate, how the fuck are we gonna get into that? [laughing in disbelief]
FIREFIGHTER: Jesus Christ. FIREFIGHTER: Oh my God, there’s gonna be fucking
kids in there. FIREFIGHTER: There’s gonna be people jumping
out of them windows. FIREFIGHTER: How the fuck has that happened?! Jesus Christ. FIREFIGHTER: Is that one that’s being built,
or is that an actual one? FIREFIGHTER: It’s coming up now, look. FIREFIGHTER: …that’s a real block. Oh shit. FIREFIGHTER: Jesus. [several seconds of silence]
FIREFIGHTER: Mate, it’s Towering Inferno, innit? Fuck… FIREFIGHTER: How is that possible?! FIREFIGHTER: It’s jumped up all the way along
the flats, look. FIREFIGHTER: How the fuck is that even possible?! FIREFIGHTER: How has that happened?
[long beat] ALICE: [unsteadily] I mean, I think the thing
that always strikes me when I see that, cause… I was the one who dug this up for… this…
is the disbelief. Right? Like, it’s not… something that’s supposed
to happen, even by the standards of… like, you go to stuff going wrong for a living. Um. It’s, it’s, this thing that’s sort of completely
outside the context of even stuff that goes wrong. JUSTIN: Yeah, there’s absolutely no way a
tower block like this was supposed to catch fire in that particular way. ALICE: Right. JUSTIN: Like, you could imagine a lot of bad
situations, but not that one. ALICE: Well, like, just to be timely, the
commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, she just resigned-
LIAM: Good. ALICE: -over this. Uh. Yeah. Well, the thing is, she, um. The actual firefighting was. I think as best as was possible, but she had
a real problem with the PR afterwards, especially like, having been there and having run that
scene and having been thoroughly traumatised doing it. Uh, but, at the inquiry, the public inquiry
into this, um, she had this. She had two things. She said that she wouldn’t have done anything
differently, which, of course… not great, but then also she got quite defensive and
quite irritated because one of the barristers asked her, “Did you have an operational plan
for a fire like this in a high-rise tower block?” and she said, “No, for the same reason
I don’t have an operational plan for the Space Shuttle crashing.” It’s not meant to happen. And that ended up being the thing that forced
her out, but at the same time, I do see where she was coming from, it’s not something that
you can reasonably be expected to plan for. JUSTIN: They’re… high-rise fires, and we’ll
get into this later in the podcast, high-rise fires are very, very difficult to fight in
any capacity, anywhere in the world, and no-one has really a good plan-
ALICE: No. LIAM: Right. JUSTIN: -for fighting one that’s got out of
control like this, it’s, it’s, it’s a problem which has not been solved, except by Dahir
Insaat in, y’know, some videos on YouTube. [bleak laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, no, it’s a series of horrible options. If you send firefighters into that building,
you’re looking at the possibility that you’re just going to kill all of them too, uh. Which they did anyway! And they still saved some people. JUSTIN: Mhm. ALICE: But, um, yeah, no, it’s… this is
one of those situations where the only thing you can really do about is prevention. Um, and as we have seen in the previous slides,
they serially fucked every chance to do that, so. JUSTIN: Yeah. So, the scene we looked at, I believe was
around 1:30, 1:40ish in the morning, the fire had already spread around the building in
like an hour. Smoke had filled the single stairwell, which
made escaping difficult on your own, right? ALICE: Yep. JUSTIN: And if you were still in the building
at about 1:58 in the morning, uh, you had about a 50% chance of escaping, y’know. Half the people in there died. ALICE: Yeah. And that’s if, if you made the choice to,
because at this point the fire brigade was still on the phone, which, y’know, you still
have a mobile signal, still telling people that it’s safest to stay in your flat. Um. LIAM: Oh. JUSTIN: And they didn’t stop saying that until
2:47. LIAM: Jesus Christ. ALICE: Well, what they were trying to do,
was – and this literally, it came down to people, they staged in the building lobby,
and they had people running back and forth, just like residents, with slips of paper with
who was in what flat when. So that they could send firefighters up to
get them. Uh. But because it’s full of smoke, people are
moving around, and so you end up with a lot of cases where the firefighters miss people,
or they can’t find people, and there’s just, it’s just, an impossible situation. JUSTIN: Basically, yeah, I mean, they, so
they abandon the stay-put policy at about 2:47 in the morning. ALICE: Yeah. Which is, like, an hour after you, like – hindsight
being 20/20 – you would have wanted to. JUSTIN: I don’t think anyone – no-one expected
this fire to get as big as it did! I mean, that’s the thing. And then, y’know, you have the standard sort
of high-rise fire stuff. Y’know. Folks were jumpin’ out of windows instead
of getting burned to death. I believe someone, one person, managed to
escape by knitting a rope out of bedsheets. So good on them. ALICE: Yeah. I mean, the, the horror- the thing that really
fucked me up was, uh. There are a lot of [distantly] livestreams,
but there was this one woman on I think the 20th floor who was livestreaming and just
like, uhhh. [long pause] Who could see the fire engines and everything. Like, 20 floors below her, and just, could
do nothing. So. LIAM: That’s fucking horrifying. ALICE: It’s, it, it, it is fucking horrifying! It’s grim! It… and. Yeah, no, and it’s one of those things where
[paradoxical laughter] where social media is a way where you can really fuck yourself
up like that, because… you just, you have all of this, y’know, what else were these
people supposed to do? Um. And, yeah, no, yeah, now that’s, that’s on
the internet forever. Uh. Just… [long pause]
JUSTIN: Well, one of the lucky things, though, was that it was Ramadan, though, right? ALICE: Yes… yeah. JUSTIN: So a lot of the residents of the tower
were Muslim, and therefore they were awake for the pre-dawn meal of…
ALICE: Suhoor. JUSTIN: Suhoor, okay, thank you for saying
that before I had to pronounce it. LIAM: Thank God. [laughter]
ALICE: No, that’s… I mean, the. I feel bad, because if you’re Muslim, and
it’s Ramadan, this is really the cap to a shitty day. Is…
[laughter] ALICE: You, fucking, you’ve been fasting all
day, this far north it lasts for fucking ever, and then, you finally get to eat, and then,
just, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you at that moment? Oh yeah, your house catches fire. And you gotta go and wake up all of your neighbors. JUSTIN: Goddammit, I’m converting to Catholicism
so I can drink with impunity! [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, no, I… LIAM: No-one would blame you. ALICE: That really is just putting the cap
on an absolutely shit day. Yeah. [sniff]
JUSTIN: So um, I believe firefighters got up to about the 10th storey, and rescued most
folks, um, but from the 20th storey onward I believe only 2 people got out of the tower
alive. LIAM: Holy shit. ALICE: Well, they still didn’t – it took them
until like 4 in the morning to get engineers out to be able to say, this isn’t gonna fall
down. And I think one of the concerns within the
fire brigade at that time was, if you sent a bunch of firefighters up to rescue people
and it just, you know, 9/11ed. And it just like pancaked down. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: Um. [sniff] So. JUSTIN: So overall 72 people were killed by
the fire and the aftermath. So, like, what’s the aftermath, right? Um, number one, Grenfell Tower held the um,
sort of utilities for the entire estate, right? ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: So the three low-rise blocks on the
estate lost hot water and they were uninhabitable. ALICE: Well, this was why they were renovating
it to have individual heaters, was that it was built with like a gigantic boiler in the
basement, that just did the whole estate. LIAM: Mm. JUSTIN: Yeah, and it was like really bad for
like the flats, because it heated it too much. Which, I mean, is kinda… same thing here
in Philly, but. ALICE: [sharp intake of breath] I thought
you were gonna say the same thing in the picture and I’m like, well, on a thermal level…
yes, but. [very bleak laughter]
JUSTIN: A lot of residents of this tower block have not been permanently rehoused to this
day. ALICE: Nope. Absolutely shameful. LIAM: That’s fuckin’ embarrassing. ALICE: Mhm. [sniff]
JUSTIN: And of course Jacob Rees-Mogg… LIAM: FUCK JACOB REES-MOGG
JUSTIN: …blamed the victims. Oh my God. That fucking guy. ALICE: First… I mean, on one level I’m grateful to him for
going full mask off, *first day after the election was called*, straight out of the
barrel with, [Tory voice] “Well if I was in a burning building, I would just leave.” LIAM: [Tory voice] “I would simply leave.” Yeah. Alright. Well, fucking go into a burning building then,
asshole. ALICE: “Yeah, these fucking dumbasses, staying
where they were, like the fire brigade told them to.” LIAM: What a fucking garbage person. ALICE: “I would be smarter than that, and
I would just leave.” JUSTIN: A very American mindset, I gotta say. LIAM: Oh yeah. Remember that time Mark Wahlberg said… JUSTIN: I’m sure Mr Moggs would not like me
to say that. LIAM: But luckily we don’t have your libel
laws, and Mark Wahlberg said, “if I was there, 9/11 wouldn’t have gone down that way,” and
it was the fucking, same fucking mentality. [laughter]
ALICE: Was he gonna fight the planes? LIAM: I think he was gonna try to Flight 93
all of them, like, by himself? Uh, which is. ALICE: Uh. He was gonna try and shoot them all down with
a missile and cover it up? LIAM: No, it’s the end of Strangelove, where
he just rides a Sidewinder into another plane. [laughter]
LIAM: Yeah, you literally have, bud. [laughter]
JUSTIN: [offended] I’ve never played Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
LIAM: Oh. JUSTIN: I’m a Train Simulator guy. LIAM: Oh. Of course. My bad. JUSTIN: I can definitely prevent the train
9/11, though. LIAM: That’s good, congratulations. ALICE: Well, train 9/11 is probably King’s
Cross station fire, which we’ll also do at some point. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Or maybe it’s [correctly] Eschede? I dunno. I don’t even know how you pronounce that. The one with the German ICE train? JUSTIN: [wrongly] Eschlede. ALICE: Eschlede? Okay. JUSTIN: Yeah, but I would say it’d probably
be the one where, um, some teenagers flipped a switch as a prank on the Northeast Corridor,
and it threw a Northeast Regional into a building. That was a long, long time ago. Or whatever the equivalent of the Northeast
Regional was at the time. Um. But so, yeah, Jacob Rees-Mogg says, common
sense would say you should get out of the building, well. One of the things about common sense is, of
course, it’s not very common but it’s also not sense. ALICE: Yeah. Also, like, to hold onto your common sense
while also breathing cyanide fumes coming up through your floor, erm, and also trusting
it over the professional rescue service that’s meant to, like, understand what’s happening
to you and how you can best help yourself. That’s not exactly common either. JUSTIN: If my house were on fire, right, um,
and the fire brigade told me, y’know, “You should stay put, it would be safer.” Well, I know that there are exactly 12 feet
between me and the outside. So I would leave. But! If there are… 20 flights of stairs between me and the outside… ALICE: In one stairwell! LIAM: In one stairwell. JUSTIN: In one stairwell, yeah. ALICE: Which is full of smoke, full of people
going down, firefighters going up… uh, because that was the other thing about them not sending
people above the 10th floor, was that they, uh. Wearing the breathing apparatus, and carrying
tools and everything, if you’re just sending, like, four guys, you block a stairwell completely. Um, and nobody is getting down past you. JUSTIN: It makes sense, that folks would follow
instructions here, y’know? Whatever Jacob Rees-Mogg’s… maybe he could
get. Maybe Jacob Rees-Mogg could get Jacob Rees-Mogg
out of the building. I don’t know if he could’ve gotten anyone
else out of the building. LIAM: No. ALICE: No. JUSTIN: I believe shortly afterwards Jeremy
Corbyn called for the state to appropriate empty housing in the area to house the victims,
who were out of house and home at this point, and that doesn’t happen, of course, because
that’s- ALICE: Yeah, well the thing is, that’s a particularly
good idea because, as I mentioned earlier, Kensington and Chelsea is, uh. I feel like in the States it’s much less common
to have these areas where just geographically and administratively, you have incredibly
rich and incredibly poor so close together? JUSTIN: Well, we have some, we have a place
like that in Philadelphia. Which is… called Kensington, actually. [laughter]
ALICE: Oh. Well, perfect. Well, this is… the very rich end, right,
erm, is full of property that’s owned purely for speculation. To play the housing market. And it’s empty, it’s always going to be empty,
and, like, using it to rehouse people who have been burned out of their homes seems
like a very, a fundamentally decent and good idea which is why we didn’t do it. JUSTIN: Obviously, yeah. LIAM: Sounds about fuckin’ right. ALICE: [sigh] This fucking country, man, I…
yeah, I. Get back to me after the election to see if
I’m fully blackpilled on this shit, because, oh, I don’t know. JUSTIN: Well, you could just go straight-up
Tory. None of us would blame you for it. LIAM: Please don’t. No, I would. I would. [laughter]
ALICE: No, you’ve gotta… I’d join those people who are at the energy
conferences like “We should pump MORE coal into the atmosphere actually! Because it’s good. Maybe we don’t have ENOUGH carbon dioxide.” I’d just join those guys. JUSTIN: The CO2 Coalition? ALICE: Yeah, yeah yeah. JUSTIN: Uh, Theresa May, of course, announced
a public inquiry, that’s ongoing… ALICE: Never, never met with any of the victims. LIAM: Oh, of course not, why would she? JUSTIN: Why would you do that, yeah? ALICE: She went there the day after, she talked
to some firefighters and then none of the people who, y’know, lost their house. LIAM: Oh, how noble. ALICE: This did not hurt her politically at
all. LIAM: Of course not. ALICE: Of course. No. LIAM: Fuck the Tories with a tire iron. ALICE: Yeah… JUSTIN: Recently a civil suit followed – a
civil lawsuit philed in Philadelphia… ALICE: Huh. JUSTIN: Against Arconic and Celotex, the manufacturers
of the cladding and the insulation respectively. LIAM: Hm. JUSTIN: To say, how could you allow this to
happen, right? They sold their products to a project that
was obviously installing it incorrectly, right? This is also ongoing. ALICE: Yeah. Well, I mean, I don’t have a lot of faith
in that one, given that, as we saw, all of the spec sheets and all of the instructions,
it’s like, yeah, don’t do this thing. LIAM: Did you say do it?
[laughter] ALICE: Yeah. Well, this was the problem, unbeknownst to
them, they had had a printing error, and they had accidentally omitted the ‘don’t’ in all
of the, like, spec sheets. JUSTIN: Exactly, right. Yeah, both these manufacturers. I mean, the thing is, these products go through
so many resellers on the way to the final project. LIAM: Right. JUSTIN: It’s, like, really difficult for,
y’know, I don’t know, some guy [some guy voice] “Ey uhh, Tony’s Facade Materials, ey, I’m
gonna sell ya… yeah, you can prolly use that, it’ll prolly be fine, yuh.”
[laughter] JUSTIN: “Yeah, Kensington Council? Yuh, you can prolly use that, yuh. Uhhhhh. Fuhgeddaboutit.” LIAM: I was waiting for the fuhgeddaboutit. You never let me down, bud.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Y’know, high-rise fires: hey, what’s
the deal? LIAM: EYYYYY
ALICE: What’s the *deal*, with high-rise fires? Yeah. Low-rise buildings catch fire like this, but
high-rise buildings catch fire like *this*. JUSTIN: This is how fire codes are oriented,
though, right? Is that we have these flammable claddings
which we’re allowed to put on low-rise buildings, ehm, which were the kinds which were applied
to Grenfell, a high-rise building. Y’know, the idea being, a low-rise building,
well, you can probably get out of there pretty quickly. Right? And you can have this slightly cheaper product,
which is not, y’know, flame resistant. Um, but when we apply them to high-rise buildings,
y’know, it’s not a good time. High-rise fires are just very, very dangerous
and difficult to fight, right? Prevention is the only option. ALICE: Yeah. I mean, unless you do the Branes Geniouse
Donald Trump thing of, “Why don’t you have a plane dump a bunch of water on it?” LIAM: Well, asshole,
[laughter] ALICE: Yeah, nobody’s tried that yet so we
don’t know if it works or not. JUSTIN: This is true, yes. Um. ALICE: Could’ve just had a big plane just
dump a bunch of water on it and collapsed the whole building. Uh… JUSTIN: Even like the best prevention is of
course a sprinkler system. Which for whatever reason you don’t have in
the United Kingdom. ALICE: Because fuck sprinklers, yep. JUSTIN: It’s bizarre. ALICE: Yeah, I don’t… JUSTIN: What I’ve put on the screen here is
One Meridian Plaza, which is the closest thing I can think of, which happened in Philadelphia,
in 1991. This was a high-rise fire, it burned through
three floors, and then it hit the first floor where sprinklers were installed – and it was
stopped dead. No-one could figure out how to fight it, but
the sprinkler system, well, y’know. That turned out to stop it. Now, crucially, this building didn’t have
flammable cladding, right, so it’s not the same kind of fire, but if you had a sprinkler
system in the Grenfell Tower, it might have stopped the fire before it reached the cladding. The thing is, the flammable cladding was still
the problem. ALICE: Yes. And I’m- there’s still, there’s been a spate
of these fires, because building high-rises with this cladding is not unique, it’s cheaper
and it looks quite aesthetic so it’s happened in I think Dubai, in Australia, there’s been
a couple of high-rises where almost the same thing has happened but never with results
as bad. And usually the difference is sprinklers. Um, whereas this was, I feel like it became
impossible to fight within minutes. JUSTIN: It’s just absurd, right? LIAM: Yeah. JUSTIN: It’s very bizarre-
ALICE: It’s obscene. JUSTIN: When you hear about it – yeah. It’s obscene. Like, I don’t understand… when I read about,
when I first, like, heard of this I was like, “Wow. British fire codes are bad.” ALICE: They are, but it’s like… it’s, I
think, the culmination of, at the very least 40 years of politics in this country that
have said either implicitly or explicitly that people like the people who were living
in Grenfell Tower, who were black, or who were Muslim, or who were refugees or asylum
seekers… which, incidentally, we still don’t necessarily know how many people were actually
in the building at the time, because of having a ‘hostile environment’ and people not wanting
to get deported means you have to live like a fugitive… LIAM: Super tight. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Yeah. But you… when you conduct politics in such
a way as to say that those people’s lives don’t matter, then this is what you’re enabling. If you go back to the Grenfell slide, that’s…
really sort of the epitaph for neoliberalism, is that it’s gonna kill… however many people. Could be 72, could be a hundred, could be
a thousand, could be a million. Because it’s slightly cheaper, and their lives
aren’t worth protecting. It’s a vicious ideology that has to be defeated
at all costs. LIAM: Absolutely. JUSTIN: It’s, it puts *everyone* at risk,
too, because like- ALICE: Yes. JUSTIN: If these are the fire codes that we…
if this is the code, and we allow this sort of thing to happen, this can happen to anyone. LIAM: Right. ALICE: Let’s say, like, the small business
tyrant, right, who votes for Trump, or, like, somebody who bought their council house under
Thatcher, might have had that upward mobility and think, “Oh, well, okay, well this might
apply to them, but not to me.” There was a video that came out at the end
of the year, when Grenfell happened, of people having a Halloween effigy, butning, literally
burning Grenfell Tower in effigy, and somebody said something about them being benefits claimants,
and somebody said something about how they should have paid their rent… and I mean,
that does lead you to become completely blackpilled and lose your faith in humanity, but the other
thing is that, for all of those people: this same kind of politics is coming for you, too. There isn’t, like, an upper limit on this,
and the more the austerity increases, the more that this sort of rhetoric of dehumanization
is allowed to proceed, the more likely you are to find yourself thrown under the wheels
of it too. LIAM: Yup. JUSTIN: There were 13 or 14, if I recall correctly
right to buy flats in Grenfell Tower. ALICE: Yeah. And, turns out, they burned the same fucking
way! JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: You have this most, the most Humean,
the most Smith, the most Hobbes right of all, under capitalism, your right to property,
and it avails you nothing at all. LIAM: Shit still burns as it turns out, yeah. ALICE: Shit still burns the same way. Yep. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: So anybody who tells you that this
form of capital is immutable or intrinsic or it’s rational or it’s factual is lying
through their teeth, because when, as soon as it meets something that actually is, like,
say, a law of thermodynamics, it falls apart. It’s a paper tiger. And it just killed 72 people and left everyone
feeling… whatever it is that I’m feeling now. Forever. Um. And, yeah. I feel like we have a duty, a moral duty,
not to let this become *normal*. And it’s a stark example of exactly this kind
of politics, because this happens… something like Grenfell happens every single day, but
it’s always more distributed, right? You don’t have this big, black skeleton of
a building, or you don’t have heaps of bodies necessarily, because you don’t pay attention
to, uh, somebody dying because of homelessness, or somebody dying because of cuts to healthcare
or whatever, but it’s all the same thing. It’s just a particularly stark example and
reminder to us, about what this kind of politics does. It is socialism or barbarism, and this is
the barbarism. JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: Yep, I think you pretty much nailed
it. Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. ALICE: Please, please vote Labour. JUSTIN: Please vote Labour. I’m gonna get this out before the election,
so I’m gonna start to wrap this up, of course our next episode is on the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge disaster. ALICE: Yeah, which, finally we can get some
jokes in, because that one, that’s funny, I don’t give a shit about the dog in the car,
I’m sorry. [laughter]
LIAM: Aww. JUSTIN: I give a shit about the dog, maybe
not about the car though. I don’t care about the car. ALICE: Like an old Ford V8, and you’re just
like, “Nyeh.” JUSTIN: Nyeh. You seen how many people make them into like,
fucking stupid lookin’ hot rods? Like, I assume… there’s plenty of these
things left over, they’re invincible. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, a huge loss, that could have had flames painted on it, it could have had
a giant fucking stupid engine sticking out of the hood, awesome. JUSTIN: Yeah. Well, now you’re making me miss it. Now you’re making me think it’dve been pretty
cool. [laughter]
ALICE: Alright, I’m excited for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, it’ll be a palate cleanser. LIAM: Yup. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: And for whoever was saying about, in
the comments, about us doing the Bhopal disaster, yes, but give us a minute. I feel like we have to do, uh, a couple of
frivolous ones, minimum, to every one like this. LIAM: Yeah. ALICE: Um, I mean, just as a final closing
word, I feel like if there is any utility in what we do, aside from making jokes, it’s,
um. We saw in the video, the firefighters being
totally perplexed by this, and one of them at the end says, “How has this happened?” I think if we can do, in any fucking stupid
de minimis sort of way, if we can articulate how things like this happen, then that is
the value of us doing this dumb podcast, and I’m glad if we can ever approach that. JUSTIN: Yes. I mean, it’s just, there’s no way you could,
in that profession, take a look at that tower on fire and think, I can do anything that
will make a difference here. It’s too much to handle. ALICE: Mhm. LIAM: Right. JUSTIN: It’s like… the one guy who was like
laughing as he was looking at it, I kind of relate to that the most. LIAM: Just the brain breaks down, yeah. ALICE: Cause what else, yeah, what else are
you gonna do? Yeah. JUSTIN: I can’t believe- there’s nothing you
can do, other than like, wow, someone fucked up. ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: And I gotta figure it out. I might die. [we all laugh like that for a second]
ALICE: They ended up with um… pretty much all of the London Fire Brigade there. We don’t have alarms for fires, but we have,
like, numbers of engines, and this was like 40 in total, at the end of it. LIAM: Jesus. Hell. JUSTIN: One of the last posts from the Grenfell
Action Group blog was just, one of the last people who were posting to it being terrified
that the inquiry was going to blame the fire brigade for the response. ALICE: Which it did. Yeah. JUSTIN: Which… there was nothing they could
do! Just straight up nothing you could do! ALICE: I mean, same thing with like… mixed
feelings about Dany Cotton, the commissioner, because, yeah, like on the one hand boo hoo,
who cares that she loses out on a £2m pension, or whatever, but on the other, she was *there*,
she did command that operation and then… have to be extremely traumatised and then
go to this inquest, where she just kind of fucked it from a PR perspective, and hurt
a lot of people’s feelings. But… y’know… JUSTIN: That’s a Kobayashi Maru situation. LIAM: Yeah. ALICE: Yes! Yeah, it literally is. And I don’t know… I don’t know how you can get on the stand
and say, “Yeah, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” to a room full of survivors
and relatives… LIAM: No, that’s… ALICE: But I don’t know how you could express
otherwise that you were put in a position where you could do nothing to save a lot of
people. And that’s you’re still proud of the work
that your firefighters did. LIAM: It’s just that nobody… I mean, I think it’s a very human thing to
look for blame. And like, I’m not-
ALICE: Of course. LIAM: If 72 people are fuckin’ dead, that’s
a systemic failure, that’s all sorts of failure, but at some point you just, there are some
things you can’t win, and one of those is like… Grenfell wasn’t because the firefighters,
like, decided to put the fucking cladding up. ALICE: No. LIAM: It’s just, I think, speaks to institutional
failure, people don’t give a fuck about poor people. ALICE: Yeah. If you needed a scapegoat, then instead of
the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, I would suggest, perhaps, the councillor who
was the head of the Tenant Management Organization, who has the wonderfully Tory name of Rock
Feilding-Mellen. LIAM: Oh my God. ALICE: Oh, I know. JUSTIN: Jesus. ALICE: Who is still a Conservative councillor
in Kensington & Chelsea, and who, the weekend after the fire, went to just have a party
at his stately home in Cornwall. LIAM: Fall into the fuckin’ sea. ALICE: Yeah. No. Garbage country. Nothing else to do with it. JUSTIN: How is his name organized? Is it just like… Rockfeilding? ALICE: His first name is Rock. Like the fucking, like stone. LIAM: Like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. ALICE: Yeah. And then-
JUSTIN: Someone took ‘Peter’ too literally. ALICE: Yeah. Yes. [laughter]
ALICE: And the surname is Feilding – but I think it’s spelled weirdly – hypen Mellen. LIAM: Yeah, never trust anyone with a double-barrelized
name. Myself included. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah, or me. JUSTIN: The Tories, I mean, they just, this
is a group of people which is… LIAM: Bastards! JUSTIN: Just completely alien to, like, humankind. This is a… they’re basically lizard people. Just based on what they name each other, like…
[laughter] ALICE: Yeah, I feel like you can get on whatever
level of LaRouche you want to, in that these people are lizards and demons, it’s just whether
you believe that’s a literal expression or whether we’re being metaphorical. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Good Lord. Alright, well, we’re at one hour and 39 minutes
by my clock, I suppose we should wrap up. ALICE: Gonna have to transcribe all of this
shit. [Yeah sis – Future Alice]
LIAM: Jesus Christ. JUSTIN: Well, we only got three people this
time, so it should be a little easier. I know it’ll be a little easier to edit, thank
God. So, let’s go for the pitches. The commercial at the end of the episode. ALICE: Erm, listen to Trashfuture, we get
very angry about other British politics things that all tie into this same underlying inhumanity. JUSTIN: Yes. Listen to, or watch my YouTube channel-
LIAM: Attaboy. JUSTIN: I guess you could listen to it, too,
yeah. ALICE: You could just listen to it, not watch
the thing, yeah. You still get the views. JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly, it’s called donoteat01…
or is it donoteat1? LIAM: How do you not know your own… JUSTIN: Because I had to change them every
time, between every platform I go on, because someone’s *always* taken ‘donoteat’. LIAM: You are donoteat01 on YouTube, you are
@donoteat1 on Twitter. ALICE: [sniff] Maybe you should get a better
name. JUSTIN: Y’know, I gotta keep the branding. I’m not gonna change it. ALICE: Ah, that’s true. You got that little coin and everything, yeah. JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly. It’s a nice token. ALICE: Somebody who did fanart for the show
– and I *love* that people are doing fanart for the show – drew you as the token, wearing
a hard hat. [laughter]
LIAM: Yeah, as just an angry grey ball. Which is honestly pretty spot on. ALICE: Yeah, that was perfect. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Pershonally, I can’t wait for the Trailer Guy fanart, but… spoilers. LIAM: Oh, I forgot we hadn’t released that. ALICE: Mnh. ‘Pershonally’? JUSTIN Mhm. LIAM: Uhh, I guess wrap this up once and for
all. I am Liam Anderson, I am @oldmananders0n on
Twitter, vote Labour, I can say as a Jewish person, uh, the Tories are not your friends,
folks. So I feel like I get to speak on antisemitism,
and I say eat a dick, Tories. [laughter]
LIAM: So, yeah, good luck to you in the election, et cetera. ALICE: Yeah, thank you. [sniff]
LIAM: Uh, vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. ALICE: Yeah. Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. LIAM: You’re just gonna keep saying it?
[laughter] JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Just fade us down… LIAM: And pronouns are ‘he/him,’ by the way. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. LIAM: Vote Labour. ALICE: ‘She/her’! LIAM: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: My pronouns are ‘vote’ and ‘Labour’. [laughter]
LIAM: Vote Labour. ALICE: [stupid guy voice] Uhhh, did you just
assume my political party? LIAM: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: I did, and I insist you have my political
party, which is Labour, and voting. [laughter]
LIAM: Vote Labour. ALICE: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote? Vote Labour. LIAM: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. LIAM: Vote Labour. JUSTIN: Vote Labour. Alright I’m killing it. ALICE: Vote Labour. LIAM: Vote Labour. ALICE: Vote Labour. [laughter]
ALICE: We’re gonna keep going around until it becomes funny again. JUSTIN: [singing] Vooooote Labourrrrr. LIAM: Oh, I like that. ALICE: Shake hands with Labour. LIAM: Oh, that’s good. JUSTIN: SHAKE HANDS WITH LABOUR
[laughter] [‘Shake Hands With Danger’ plays]

100 thoughts on “Well There’s Your Problem | Episode 9: Grenfell Tower Fire

  1. Continue to be amazed by how the British manage to combine the downsides of Soviet and American systems of running a semi public service. First British rail, then this. Don't fall for the two party system meme, kids, flip flopping between the two extremes will only fuck up everything

  2. Some Tory just literally came out a couple days ago and said mentally disabled people shouldn't be paid a minimum wage because "the work is therapeutic and makes them happy so that's all they need." Exploiting the mentally disabled is the purest example of the dogshit ideology of tory government imaginable.

    For fuck's sake, vote Labour.

  3. "Vote Labour to stop this sort of thing"

    Harrow Court fire
    Garnock Court fire

    Tankies always ignore parts of history that are ideologically inconvenient.

  4. UK, vote Labour! 🌹
    That said, I'll be back after Dec 13, because I don't have time to watch this before the walkout starts.

  5. Three leftists on a podcast talking about taking strips of bacon off pigs, and not one person mentions the Land of Cockaigne?

    Shame on you 😛

  6. You guys should cover the Rocketdyne facility that was in canoga park California where they built rockets and dumped all of that waste and burned it in open pits near by wrecking the area. If that isn't good enough for you it is also the location of the worse nuclear meltdown in US history back in 1959 which created entire blocks where every house someone living there has cancer.

  7. Wait, another Canada podcast? Here's hoping for a recount of the many roof-fallings-in of the Montreal Olympic Stadium, if only so I can continue my ongoing occult "the Olympics is bullshit" chant with appropriate back-chatter.

  8. So glad you did this video. It breaks my heart what my country of birth has become. I'm so glad I left. This incident is the ultimate example of how the tory cheapskate ideology can kill. Vote Tory in this election and the blood of the victims of the next Grenfellesque disaster will be on your hands.

  9. Thank you for not only providing me with an interesting podcast, but also reminded me to double check how to get my terrible window in a window quickly open and what will cut through the stupid screen if I can't kick it out for some reason. Running down the stairs is my normal fire escape plan (only on the second floor), but this old house is stupid, and it's important to know alternate routes.

  10. Fire fighter here, firefighters are trained to have an understanding of building construction and fire-dynamics to get ahead of the blaze. That disbelief is because buildings don't burn that way. unless you make the siding an oil lined chimney. that fire chief was right.

  11. Lack of empathy, guilt, conscience or remorse
    Shallow experiences of feelings or emotions
    Impulsivity and a weak ability to defer gratification and control behavior.
    Superficial charm and glibness
    Irresponsibility and a failure to accept responsibility for their actions.
    A grandiose sense of their own worth.

    Is that descriptive of your average Tory or a psychopath?

    For the sake of sanity vote Labour.

  12. Dear god Ronan Point, you definitely need to cover it independently of Grenfell because it was essentially a giant Jenga tower barely standing up

  13. 9/11 was an inside job in the sense that the United State's refusal to even meet with Sayid Qutub in the early 1900s about the plight of colonized Egypt directly led to him forming theoretical basis for All Qaeda

  14. This was a good episode. Lots of goofing around and jokes, but you got serious when it came to actually talking about the incident itself. I think you summed it up well by talking about the firefighter laughing when seeing the block on fire. Some of these disasters are so horrible, catastrophic, and absolutely avoidable that the only way to process it is to laugh at the sheer ridiculous nature of it. It feels like a fever dream, that it couldn't possibly be real.

    In a way I feel like that's why the humor for this podcast is so important. If you didn't have that humor you guys would be wanting to jump off a building 5 episodes in, provided the guy who had it built didn't cut a corner on the elevator contract and it broke down on you plummeting you to your death ahead of schedule.

    Keep up the good work guys

  15. God what a gut-punch of an episode. The glenfell fires always just reduce me to tears.
    It really feels like one of those hyper-horrific fires of the early industrial age but Fucking Yesterday.

    Anyway, its great to finally have some engineering/disaster media that's leftist.

  16. I honestly cant understand how on earth the Tories are still polling so high after 9 years of utter bullshit. Bunch of callous bastards seem to make up about 40% of the population.

  17. well the funny thing about common sense is…its a very good pamphlet and you should go read it no the the about common sense is.. its much more common in hindsight…

  18. I'm ready for Train 9/11 – which I think regionally for Australia was uh…. I think when the bullet train derailed and hurt/killed some olds? Trains good but Dead Olds – Also Good?

  19. Also my dad is a Fire Alarm inspector and I worked with him at a job in a high rise – there's alarms and sensors and sprinklers and shit in the walls and all that stuff. Also Vote Labor in all countries – and when possible – The Greens.

  20. Hi I'm a brit, I was born and grew up in a block much like Grenfell (Rachel Point, Nightingale Estate, if you've seen that episode of topgear where they put a truck on top of a tower as it's demolished, that's the one) so this episode fills me with that special sort of fuck the tories to hell rage. it was a good episode however I feel that it was missing some vital information:

    In the months following Grenfell, Sajid Javid, the housing minister at the time actually tried to weaken fire regulations by allowing information gathered from "desktop studies" (simulations without real world tests) to continue to be used in the drafting of fire safety regulations and loosening the wording regarding their use.







    Fuck tories forever.

  21. Liked it – but you might have mentioned the way we don't certify domestic appliances anymore – the CE mark was dreamed up by neo-liberals as a way to improve market efficiency by getting the companies that make stuff promise that it's safe in use, rather than the old fashioned way of making sure it actually gets tested.
    Course if it hadn't been the fridge someone in the building would eventually have started a chip pan fire or fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette.

  22. There's a great documentary on youtube that really spells out the attitudes in the council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXSR-Jd25Ds

    Still feel everything sinking inside when Grenfell comes up. I did some work in and around high rises for years, seen how badly maintained some could be.

  23. I used to take the Hammersmith and City line to work when Grenfell happened, so my train went through Latimer Road station directly adjacent to the estate at like 7:30am, but I didn't actually see that anything was happening until I got to work and looked out the office window at the huge volumes of smoke. I didn't actually know about the degree of loss of life until later in the day.

    Grenfell had basically nothing to do with me personally, but it's really fucked me up over time, and it's a major contributor to me wanting to not live in a major city anymore. The complete lack of connection to the people I share the place with seems endemic to London and the UK cities in general. Naturally, I blame neoliberalism.

    Vote however the fuck you can to fuck up the Tories, but if there's any doubt about who that vote would best serve, vote Labour.

  24. 42:30 Star Trek Discovery s1 spoilers my headcannon is that Lorca didn't read up on non-mirror earth history, so in his fascist universe Musk was like a famous dictator or smth and he just zoned out and didn't realise he was talking to normal timeline people.

  25. Ronan point came down because the lady who lived in the flat brought her ancient old gas cooker with her when she moved in (because gas cookers were expensive and electric ones even moreso to run) It set off a gas explosion that blew her out of the kitchen into the living room, largely unhurt! Unfortunately the pressure managed to blow the concrete panel that was the outer wall of her kitchen, clear off the side of the building. As the LPS buildings were reliant on the concrete panels to hold up the floors above, this caused several floors above to pancake down on top of the ones below. Fortunately as this happened because the lady was up early to make a cup of tea, most people weren't in their kitchens at the time. This shouldn't, in theory, have been able to happen, as the LPS was rated for far higher pressure than this.

    The reason this happened is because the large panels were often a bit shoddily made, and the bolt holes that the construction crews were supposed to use to bolt the panels together didn't line up properly (ease of construction with relatively unskilled labour was the main point of the LPS after all) and so, it turned out, that if the holes didn't line up, the crews often just didn't bother with the bolts. So it turned out her kitchen wall which was the main load bearing member for that side of the building was essentially press fit into the panels around it. Upon inspection, quite a few buildings in the area using the large panel system were found to be missing a lot of bolts and basically held together with dreams and gumption.

    E: Oh and vote labour obviously. And trans rights too.

  26. Alice didn't know what a Homeowners Association is 🙁

    Alice, HOAs are not advocacy groups, they are basically just the people that choose the property management company :/

  27. Mistake early on: council housing was originally for respectable families with jobs. The move to means testing and needs prioritisation came under a Labour government in the 1970s.

  28. one thing I wanted to add but forgot to: when I mentioned Lancaster West being called 'the forgotten estate', one of the things I meant by that is that it wasn't a 'failed' project, a distinction Justin gets into in his social housing video. yeah it struggled with crime through the 90s, but by no means was it a particularly rough area by reputation or data when the fire happened. part of the tragedy is that it was successful enough, despite decades of cuts, that it was easy for policymakers just to overlook, because even the racist and shitty understanding of what an area in crisis looks like didn't apply

  29. 15:00 Khrushchevka was a different type of standardized house, it was a five-storeyed brick building. The concrete panel houses were called Brezhnevka.

    And they're both were (and still are) bad not only because of socialism but because they were built like shit.

  30. Off course its the firebrigades fault.
    If you make shitting on the street legal, its also the janitors fault for not cleaning up fast enough, when you slip on it.

  31. Novara Media did a really interesting interview of Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union concerning Grenfell https://youtu.be/qfv-SHDos4w

  32. Hopefully if Rees Mogg ever does find himself in a burning building he'll find "just leaving" somewhat difficult due to the doors having been barricaded prior to the first petrol bomb being thrown in.

  33. My tower's had several fires in the last 20 years I've lived here. Not one has spread beyond the kitchen of the flat it happened in. Everyone followed the stay put advice, to provide firefighters with clear paths into the building to get to the fire. The fire doors kept fire and smoke from spreading. The fires were put out. This is the best possible advice until you wrap the entire exterior of the building in flammable material and don't tell anybody – at which point all the internal barriers which keep fires from spreading become worthless as the fire rockets up the exterior to every single flat.
    I'm very glad for the nice, old fashioned brick exterior of my building.
    A few months after Grenfell I did notice that the freshly erected student flats down the road from mine suddenly had scaffolding up on the exterior, and all the cladding was being stripped. So that was reassuring…

  34. So, what's the deal with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge joke? Why are you teasing it at the end of every episode?
    As a civil engineer myself, I naturally know about that incident but I don't get the joke.

  35. voting isn't enough. electoralism has never, in history, been the driver of social change. what has is mass action from the working class – protests, strikes, and taking over workplaces and running production through worker's councils. it's only these revolutionary mass tactics which have ever threatened the ruling class enough to force them into concessions, whether we're talking Allende, Lula, FDR, Whitlam or now Corbyn. Jeremy "I'm not anti-business" Corbyn is not enough and he won't support the international wave of revolution that is required for socialism to permanently succeed.

  36. It's like 9/11, one of those situations where what the FUCK are firefighters expected to do? It's something that's not supposed to be possible to get to that stage. As Alice points out, prevention is 99% of something like this. There's a reason they were so dumbfounded on the video of them approaching the fire – they expect that sort of thing from maybe a building under construction that doesn't have all the preventative measures installed, but not from a completed structure with people living in it.
    A total Outside Context Problem.
    All due to shitty cost-cutting.

  37. thanks for making me miserable and furious. keep it up x i know the ms estonia was fairly recent, but i wanna shout out the sewol ferry sinking to the future awful episode pile

  38. "You have a core, made of polyethylene …"
    Oh God, such synthetic orgo chem names immediately bring to mind The Station Nightclub Fire

  39. 28:40 Pretty sure everyone gets sick when they go to London. The air quality is shit and everyone's crammed together especially on the train. I jumped on the Piccadilly at rush hour when visitng, holy shit that was crammed lol.

  40. You guys should do an episode on the Hanford Site and the decades of nuclear clean up that it has and will continue to cause.

    If you want something fairly light, where there is no death or injury for a change, maybe look into New York City's on going repair of the Delaware Aqueduct and the challenges in maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure.

  41. There was nearly another Grenfell in North West UK but it's fine because it wasn't the same highly flammable cladding, it was a DIFFERENT highly flammable cladding!

    But don't worry guys! It wasn't a high-rise building, it was a couple inches below the limit that requires it to be classified as a high-rise, so the orders to the 220 students were to evacuate rather than shelter in place.

    Just don't mention the enormous void that travelled the height of the building, or the 2 stories of timber frame construction (which went up like firewood) that was added on top of the concrete construction when they turned it from offices into student accommodation.


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