Monday, January 26

Car hits roof.

The headline says it all: a car has hit a roof. With, it has to be said, quite a bit of style. Go see the photos.

Police say the car, a Skoda Octavia, flew some 30 meters (98 feet) before landing in the roof seven meters (23 feet) off the ground.


How the hell, you might well ask, does something like this happen? Well...

The man was apparently speeding, missed a turn, hit an embankment and took off.


Oh, he hit an embankment. Well, no mystery there, then. Explains everything.

You know how roadworkers in films just casually leave a pile of rubble and a couple of planks lying around in such a way that any car that happens to crash into it all will in fact not crash but will fly through the air instead? I'd always thought that was strictly Hollywood-only; that, if I ever drove into some roadworks in, say, Ballynahinch, my car would not fly through the air at all but would instead stop very suddenly and hurt me. Well, apparently not. Turns out there's at least one group of roadworkers, somewhere in Germany, who build roadside embankments in that special Hollywood way. I wonder how many crashes we'll see over the coming weeks as drivers rush to check whether any of the other local roads have this special quality?

Well, either that or it's some very clever viral marketing by Skoda.

Friday, January 23

So, farewell, then.

Maligned and abandoned though he may have been, I never stopped liking George Dubya Bush. There are several reasons for this.

I liked his sense of humour. Despite eight years of never-ending piss-takes, I don't think any comedian managed to attack him with as good a line as he himself used to describe a collection of his quotations:

It's like the thoughts of Chairman Mao, only with laughs, and not in Chinese.


And surely the single greatest embarassment for our own Prime Minister was when Bush demonstrated to the world that the dour git can't even improvise a simple handshake.

More importantly, there was The Bush Doctrine, a foreign-policy strategy that combines idealism, pragmatism, and humanity while utterly rejecting the cynicism and low expectations of realpolitik. Whenever you argue with a lefty about American foreign policy, it rarely takes them more than about a minute to bring up Pinochet. I always let them say their piece and then say that, yes, I agree, and so does Bush:

Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.


Or as Steyn paraphrased it:

To the old CIA line that he may be a sonofabitch but he’s our sonofabitch, the best response is that he may be our sonofabitch but in the end he’s a sonofabitch


And there was his honesty — far more of it than is usual in politicians of any stripe. People often told me that they didn't trust Bush. I would respond that, whenever he said he'd do something, he would then do it. What could be more trustworthy? Steyn again:

Conservatives can’t complain they were misled, although many do. Governor Bush campaigned in 2000 as the GOP’s first open, out-of-the-closet federalizer of the school system and as a big softie pushover for the ever swelling ranks of the Undocumented-American community. ... Most of us were suspicious ... But we were demoralized by the impeachment flop, and watching a touchy-feely sob-sister campaigning in Spanish for increased education spending it seemed reasonable to conclude that the guy couldn’t possibly mean it. He was surely indulging in the GOP equivalent of those feints that doctrinaire Democrats feel obliged to do every other November when they suddenly discover they’re “personally” opposed to abortion or start scheduling improbable hunting expeditions.

....

But it turned out the compassionate conservative did mean it — on immigration, education and much else. And, whatever one feels about those policies, we cannot say that we were betrayed — for few candidates have ever been so admirably upfront. Indeed, it is a peculiar injustice that the 43rd presidency’s most obvious contender for a Bartlett’s entry should be “Bush lied, people died”. The activists who most assiduously promoted the line are now having to adjust to the news that their own beloved “anti-war” candidate’s commitment to bring home every last soldier within 16 months has now been “revised” into a plan for some 30,000-70,000 troops to remain in Iraq after 2011. On Fox News the other night, I found myself talking to a nice lady from Code Pink trying to grapple with the fact that Henry Kissinger and Karl Rove are more enthusiastic about Obama’s national security team than she is. Many other Obama policies now turn out to be inoperative, and we haven’t even had the coronation. I don’t know about my Code Pink friend, but I already miss Bush’s straightforwardness. He spoke a language all but extinct in the upper echelons of electoral politics.


It's important to realise that Steyn isn't trying to get at Obama here: he's not saying that Obama is particularly dishonest, but that this sort of opportunistic lying is normal behaviour for politicians of any party — so normal that Bush probably wouldn't even have got the Republican nomination in the first place if it hadn't been for the fact that pretty much the entire Republican Party assumed that he was lying through his teeth and so voted for him on the basis of his support for policies he never claimed to support and his opposition to policies he enthusiastically espoused.

I remember the 2000 election. At the time, the two candidates seemed equally bad. In retrospect, thank God the right man won. Bush was, contrary to his opponents' crazed fantasies, yet another government-expanding socialist, not only the most left-wing Republican president ever but also more left-wing than most of the Democratic ones, but, really, who cares? I'm with Christopher Hitchens on this: defend civilisation first, then argue about fiscal policy and state education and prescription drug entitlements and all the other crap. If you've got a candidate who won't defend civilisation, none of his other policies really matter. And if you've got a candidate who will defend civilisation, none of his other policies really matter.

To finish, here's a perfect example of what was right with Dubya and wrong with his opponents:

Here's Slate's latest Bushism of the Day:

I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein.


Here's the full context — note that Slate persists in refusing to even link to the full statements:

I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein. I'm with six other Iraqi citizens, as well, who suffered the same fate. They are examples of the brutality of the tyrant.

I am also here with Marvin Zindler, of Houston, Texas. I appreciate Joe Agris, the doctor who helped put these hands on these men; Don North, the documentary producer who made a film of this brutality, which brought the plight of these gentlemen to the attention of Marvin and his foundation. These men had hands restored because of the generosity and love of an American citizen. And I am so proud to welcome them to the Oval Office. ...



It's going to take a while, but history's going to be kind to Dubya. The man has honour — and the stuff's so rare most of the world couldn't recognise it. I'm going to miss it.

Brave new world.

If I were in charge of The White House's website, one of the things I would do would be to start a project to get transcriptions of all the past presidents' speeches up there. A lot of work, but, I think, worth it.

Obama, apparently the most Net-savvy president ever, appears to be taking the opposite approach: Whitehouse.gov's archives seem to have been purged of Dubya's speeches. For example, Google has this speech in its cache and says that the original should be at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/11/20031119-1.html, but that link is now being redirected to www.whitehouse.gov/briefing_room. Searching using Whitehouse.gov's own search engine, it really does look as if Bush's speeches have been not just moved but wiped.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I really don't think this bodes well.

Charity and dishonesty.

The Devil's Kitchen has set up a Good New Thing: fakecharities.org:

Welcome to fakecharities.org, a directory of those so-called charities that receive substantial funding from either the UK or EU governments.

These charities are usually brought to our attention through interviews in the mainstream media (MSM) in which they support the position of the government that funds them.


For those of you who don't already know, these charities are used by the state as a smokescreen. To say to the public "This proposed legislation of ours must be brilliant, 'cause we support it" would, of course, be transparently silly. So what you do (if you're in government) is you fund a "charity" and you say "This proposed legislation of ours must be brilliant, 'cause this charity supports it." In other words, the state uses taxpayers' money to bribe organisations to tell it to do bad things to taxpayers. For some reason, this pathetically childish ploy actually is good enough to fool most of the people most of the time.

fakecharities.org will keep a register of these "charities" which are in fact just arms of the state. I for one won't give a penny to any of them. For all the difference that'll make.

It has been specials designed.

Thanks to the ever-excellent Idea 15 for discovering that comparethemeerkat.com really exists.

Kendokat wields big stick and wears specials designed armour. He look scary but actually is very nice. When not engaging in extreme combat, Kendokat likes picnicking and pedalling boats shaped like swan.

This meerkat goes to Weston Super Mare to play slot machine and snog stranger outside closed beach bar or stand in middle of gigantic empty car park when feeling sickness of home in Kalahari.

 

Tuesday, January 20

Artistic genius.

A big thanks to the Czech artist David Cerny for providing me with a good solid laugh:

a new art project commissioned by Prague in honor of its six-month stint at the head of the 27-member bloc has caused the Czechs to blush with embarrassment. Called "Entropa," the piece is a €373,000 over-sized mosaic map of Europe that relies on stereotypes to depict each country. And a number of countries are furious about it.

"It is preposterous, a disgrace," Betina Joteva, press officer for Bulgaria's permanent representation in Brussels told the euobserver Web site. "It is a humiliation for the Bulgarian nation and an offence to national dignity."

Joteva has, perhaps, reason to be upset. Her country is depicted in the eight-ton sculpture as a Turkish toilet.


Nice. Here it is in all its glory. It's bloody huge.

Germany is shown as being criss-crossed by autobahns — and some thought they recognized a slightly deformed swastika in the resulting design.

Cerny was categorical in his denial. "It has nothing to do with the swastika," he said. It is about highways and Germany's obsession with cars. Nothing else."


Hmm. Here's a photo. Cerny has made it just enough unlike a Swastika to get away with his denial. Probably.

Romania is shown as a Dracula theme park; Spain is merely a slab of concrete, in reference to its recently burst real-estate bubble; Holland is shown as being flooded over with only a few minarets poking out above the waves; Luxembourg is a gold nugget with a huge "For Sale" sign sticking out of it; and France is covered with a large sign reading "strike," an allusion to that country's frequent labor battles.


And Denmark's bit is a depiction in Lego of one of the Mohammed cartoons, so Cerny could be facing not only the pompous outrage of EU diplomats but also an actual bloody great fatwa over this. Good for him.

As if the sculpture itself wasn't brilliant enough, he didn't stop there. His original application to the Czech Government stated that the work

would be completed by artists from the 27 EU member-states. ... Instead, Cerny made up the names of the European artists supposedly participating in the project and put it together with a couple of friends.


And he didn't just make up their names. He invented imaginary portfolios and histories for them, and wrote a blurb by each of these artists describing their part in the project.

The UK's bit is described by its creator, the acclaimed yet fictional British artist Khalid Asadi, thus:

If art and associated attitudes are not to become pleasing-appearance ready-made goods, but a living, albeit perhaps fleeting, organism, art should be able to improve exactness of its message in the time allotted to it and thus, paradoxically, define itself in history... These screen points are spatial holograms of historical memory, experience, and therefore each such new overlap becomes another non-linear tangle to the naked eye.


Particularly excellent, I think, since the UK bit doesn't actually exist. But, you see, they didn't leave it out: they put it in, but it's non-existent. Genius.

Quoth Mark Steyn (yeah, yeah, I know):

I also like the list of previous exhibitions Mr Cerny has provided for each artist. You may recall "Sabrina Unterberger's" solo show in Vienna, "Ernst Logar is cooking a soup of his childhood."


"We were hoping that it wouldn't be taken with the kind of seriousness that it has been and that it would be fun," Cerny said. "It wasn't about insulting anyone. I am shocked that certain states don't have a sense of humor."


Yes, shocked, shocked, I say. Sure you are, David.

Best piece of modern art since that giant rabbit, in my opinion.

Er, really?

I appreciate that the BBC are a tad fond of Barack Hussein Obama, but, honestly. This from their front page right now:

Once today's celebrations have concluded, Barack Obama will be faced with the stiffest challenges facing a new American president for a generation.


What? Some banks and a couple of car manufacturers being in trouble are stiffer challenges than September the 11th? On what planet?

Sounds like a Bond villain.

OK, frivolity in the face of horror, I know, but I can't be the only person who sees headlines like

DR Congo cancels timber contracts


and wonders for a fleeting moment who Doctor Congo is.