This week’s Idiot of the Week is Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

What Putin really thinks of cranes. Photo from his trip to the Construction Design Bureau in Tula in 2009. Photo via KPA / Zuma / Rex Features.

What Putin really thinks of cranes. Photo from his trip to the Construction Design Bureau in Tula in 2009. Photo via KPA / Zuma / Rex Features.

Putin’s most recent “look at me!” stunt, last Wednesday, was a motorised glider attempt to lead endangered cranes to start their annual migration to their winter homes in India and Iran. Reporting for the BBC, Daniel Sandford called it “his latest action man stunt(link includes a video). Fewer than twenty Western Siberian white cranes are believed to survive in the wild so the trip was rather important for species survival. Mariya Goncharova, a biology student working at the bird sanctuary, claimed on Russian social networking site that two of the chicks died and several others were injured in the haste to prepare the birds for Putin’s arrival. She said that “One more broke a beak and stripped its claws off on bad netting, and many simply flayed themselves”. Her post was deleted a few hours after it was posted. Less a flight of mercy or hope and more a straightforward photo op, then. It’s fine when politicians have their picture taken next to a toothy girl grinning inanely but if it was a genuine effort to restore the birds to the wild, then it was little more than an idiotic effort with Putin’s involvement.

Having faced ridicule from some Russians for his latest photo-op, Putin hit back at naysayers on Sunday, saying “It’s true that not all flew right away, but the ones that didn’t fly were the weak cranes.” On Putin’s first attempt, only one crane followed him into the air. His second attempt was more successful, with five cranes following his glider but only two birds remained in flight for the full fifteen minutes of his flight. Putin appears to have forgotten that his supposed purpose was to guide endangered birds into the air, rather than engage in a modern form of Spartan population culling.

On Thursday, Putin was pondering the benefits of group sex. Not that anyone actually asked him what he thought of multiple partner rumpy pumpy but he decided to tell everyone anyway: “Some fans of group sex say that it’s better than one-on-one because, as with any collective work, you can skive off”. Yes, Vlad, we get it. You’d like us to remember that you have any Russian woman you like. And if they’re not that willing initially, you can send their families to a gulag or to the darkest part of the matryoshka doll factory where they do nothing but paint noses. You’ve got your finger on the button for all the Russian nuclear warheads that haven’t rusted away and we’re pretty sure that, deep deep down, you want to launch a few just for kicks. Though at least while Putin is flying with cranes or fighting sickly bears, he’s not invading small countries to make awesome displays of Most Feared And Unified Russia so perhaps we should be thankful.

Putin may see himself as the latest man of steel to rule over the steppes (and beyond) but to the rest of the world it just looks like he’s overcompensating for being kicked in the schoolyard in his youth. Those Вовочка jokes (“Vovochka” is a diminutive form of Vladimir) so loved by Russians may not have helped. He’s ruling over the world’s largest organised kleptocracy, with a penchant for corruption that would make Al Capone proud. Unfortunately, his control over the Russian press and the ballot box keeps him in power. While that still exists, we’re likely to see quite a few more years of Putin continuing his testosterone compensatory outings while corruption continues unabated and possibly a few more decades of it if he finds someone to replace him. He’s this week’s Idiot and I expect him to feature at the top a few more times before he pushes off. One day, I’ll post one of these pictures but not quite yet.


Dishonourable mentions:


DNC delegate would like to kill Mitt Romney

Julia Rodriguez, a New York delegate at last week’s Democratic National Convention, has been questioned by the US Secret Service after declaring on camera that she’d like to kill Mitt Romney. Asked on the convention floor for her views by a reporter from, she said “If I see him, I would like to – to kill him(link includes 50-second video of the interview) in relation to Romney. Presidential candidates are assigned Secret Service protection for the duration of the campaign. In the video, she’s wearing a giant hat, which has been a clown tradition since the middle ages. While Ms Rodriguez almost certainly threatens her local shop clerk with death on a weekly basis for not bagging her eggs correctly, she shouldn’t have been that surprised when the secret service came knocking on her door. She probably was, though.


Jury asks judge what “unanimous” means

Jury members in the Joliet, Illinois murder trial of William Peterson last Thursday had to ask the judge what “unanimous” means. Judge Edward Burmila sent back a note defining the word as “its common meaning. It indicates the agreement of all on the matter at hand.” Ninety minutes later, the jury found Peterson guilty of killing his third wife. 85 of those minutes were probably spent on interpreting the judge’s note. Peterson’s fourth wife is still missing, presumed dead.


Irish judge in plonkerism shocker

Athlone judge Seamus Hughes (for non-Irish people, Athlone is in the middle of Ireland and mostly exists because if you’re going to build a bridge over a river, you build a town with it) did the reputation of the Irish legal profession no favours last week when he included the following in sentencing an arsonist: “Nobody has indicated it to me, but I suspect he comes from a certain ethnic background that would give him even more form given the type of behaviour in which some of them engage… As I’ve described it before, they are like Neanderthal men living in the long grass, abiding by the laws of the jungle.” Judge Hughes may have thought his comments were cleverly oblique but he was obviously referring to Irish Travellers. Unfortunately for the judge, he made his comments without checking to see if his stated suspicions was correct. Also, he’s created a situation where anyone who is a member of that community can now legitimately claim that he’s prejudiced against them and, thus, should recuse himself from judging any case against them. He’s made a mess.

While Irish judges are renowned for their off-the-cuff asides, Judge Hughes has some form even by general standards. In July of this year, he declared that “It’s like handing snuff around at a wake the way social welfare is handed around in this country” when it emerged that a man convicted in his court of copyright offences was claiming social welfare after leaving Ireland. In September 2010, he ordered a man convicted of shouting abusive comments at a female police officer to climb pilgrimage mountain Croagh Patrick as contrition. In March 2011, he offered support to vigilantism not typically expressed by a legal justice during a trial following a farm equipment theft when he said: “It takes a Mayo man to put an end to that sort of thing and I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about the venerable Pádraig Nally” (Pádraig Nally was acquitted of manslaughter in 2006 after he shot a burglar).  There are other examples of his faux-hilarity but he’s had enough space here already. A Fianna Fail TD for Mayo West between 1992 and 1997, Judge Hughes was appointed as a District Court in 2009. Slow as I am to put myself in a situation where I have to carefully check every speed limit as I drive through the judge’s jurisdiction, Judge Hughes could do well to leave his editoralising until after he leaves the bench.


Arizona judge has existentialist view on sexual assault

Completing the trio of court-related stories this week, Arizona judge Jacqueline Hatch told a victim of sexual assault that “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you”. While the judge said that the victim, unnamed by the press, was not to blame in the case, she added: “I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it. You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.” Robb Evans, convicted of sexual abuse in the case, had drunk eight beers, before driving to a local bar and flashing his police badge to gain access. Standing behind the victim, who was a friend of one of his friends, he put his hand up her skirt and rubbed her genitals. Following the judge’s comments, the victim pointed out to the Arizona Sun newspaper that if she had not been there, “it probably would have happened to someone else”.


Is that a monkey in your trousers or…

Three unnamed people (the Hindustan Times calls them “three boys“, the BBC “three men” – either way, they’re three idiots) were arrested in Delhi on Monday when small primates were discovered in their trousers during a flight stopover. Red slender lorises were concealed in polythene bags in the trousers of two of the individuals, who were flying from Bangkok to Dubai. After the first loris was found, a second member of the threw his concealed primate in a nearby bin in an effort to evade detection. The animals were sent to a local zoo for treatment. The animal-smugglers were arrested at the airport. The single member of the trio without a primate in his pants was permitted to continue to Dubai. Lorises, related to the better-known lemurs, mainly live in forest regions of south-east Asia. This was the second incident of animal smuggling discovered in India in September. Last week at Mumbai airport, a man was caught with ten turtles in his underwear. He was accompanied by two other men helping him to smuggle six Persian cats, three tarantula spiders and eleven eggs of unknown birds.


Darwin nominee: Dangerous stunt spins out of control

A German man, identified only as “Tobias” was killed last week in the Bavarian town of Oberviehbach when a dangerous playground stunt went wrong. With the help of three friends, he duct-taped himself to the carousel. His friends then ran a rope from the carousel to their car before driving off, spinning the carousel quickly. The carousel was spun at such a high speed that the duct tape failed to secure the man. He was flung a distance of six yards, landing face-first into the ground and breaking his neck. He died at the scene. He was a member of the “Bavarian Dumbasses”, who are known for videoing dangerous stunts and posting them on the Internet. The victim’s father said: “I wish these video on the Internet would be banned — these are dangerous actions.” Police have since removed the carousel from the playground. Commentary: Obviously it’s sad that he died but this was a stupidly dangerous stunt carried out without any proper effort at safety control so the tragic result isn’t entirely surprising.

The also-rans

In Ashburn, Virginia, middle school substitute assistant teacher Jaqueline Barnes was sent home for coming into school drunk on her first day of work. The local sheriff charged her with being drunk in public. People don’t tend to be very kind towards being drunk if you’re supposed to be teaching children.

Scott Douglas Jury, of Grove City, Florida, forgot that bank ATMs have cameras when he filed a police report saying that someone had withdrawn $1,515 from his bank account without his knowledge. After accusing his son of withdrawing the money, police examined footage from the banks. Jury confessed to withdrawing the money himself, using it to pay bills and for illegal prescription drugs. He’s been charged with filing a false police report.

Kanye West has been plumbing new class-lacking depths by bringing up his girlfriend’s sex tape at every opportunity. I’m not really much of a fan of celebrity for celebrity’s sake and I couldn’t tell one Kardashian from another (and that probably includes the non-Kardashian living with them who used to do the decathlon) but if you’re going out with someone you like, continually banging on about their sex tape shows a lack of class. Even from Kanye West, whose idiocy is pretty much beyond parody.


And finally…

A survey carried out at St Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland appears to indicate that 20% of Irish people think that people suffering from mental health problems are of below average intelligence. It’s unfortunate that a chunk of people know so little about something that affects so many but you’re not that surprised, are you?