For a country that gets so annoyed when foreigners (mainly Americans, let’s start by pointing fingers) claim to be from here when they’re from the place where they’re from, Irish people tend to love claiming anyone with a barely tangential historical relationship with Ireland.

I experienced Barack Obama Plaza for the first time yesterday evening. For foreigners who are not from here, Barack Obama Plaza is a motorway service area in the middle of nowhere, mainly consisting of a petrol station, a fast food joint and a convenience shop. It’s named after your current president for no better reason than it gives a concrete craphole an aura of worth. Oh, there’s an exhibition upstairs, which I didn’t get to see as it closes when it gets dark. I assume it contains utterly useless crap like the pint glass Barack Obama drank out of when he visited here, a toenail clippng, a few pictures and a copy of someone’s birth cert. Even though I’ve just listed the most boring rubbish you could possibly have in an exhibition, I bet it has everything I mentioned except the toenail clipping.

They advertise the place on buses so I assumed it would have a funfair or a circus or at the very least some sort of statue in an actual plaza. It has none of these. I am comparatively confident that it is the most overstated spot on the planet and I’ve been to most of the locations mentioned in the unofficial guide to Britain’s worst theme parks.

Barack Obama Plaza on Ireland’s M7 motorway. It’s not Camelot. Picture via Killeen Civil Engineering.

It’s the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Dante finds himself falling into a deep place with a silent sun, unable to see the path to salvation. It’s the story within a story in Poe’s ‘A Descent into the Maelström’, a vortex which swallows soul and sanity until nothing of consequence survives. It’s the mythological Lethe, the river that upon entry wipes away your past, leaving you as a blank slate to be rewritten or discarded.

In the awful TV version of this non-tale, part of my soul never gets to leave that non-place and remains there, staring out the window for all of eternity.

There’s a moral here. Oh yes: stop advertising petrol stations on buses. I thought Barack Obama Plaza would be some sort of modern-day Camelot, a place of justice, chivalry and affordable health care. It is not. Don’t be fooled. Oh and the service in the Supermacs is really fecking slow too as staff get confused by more than one order. That’s because all reason and rationality have been sucked into the hellmouth of pitiless storm, rounded by houseless head and and unfed sides, bereft of all but ragged madness.

The point, which we’ve taken some time to reach, is that I suggest that you will get to your destination sooner if you just zip past. Especially tourists. Just keep going.

Once, two women came to King Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of a baby. The baby was crying and seemed to be quite ill. “Can’t they sort it out between them?” asked the king. “Alas, majesty, no. They’ve been fighting about this for quite some time,” answered his chief advisor. Solomon sighed, adjusted his crown of wisdom and put down his frothy latte. “Hmmm, DNA testing won’t be invented for another three thousand years. Fine, send them in, I’ll hear their case”

The two women entered the throne room, dragging the whimpering child between them.

The first woman spat at the second, shouting “It’s my child, your majesty. It’s mine and I’ll have it, no matter what the cost! It will learn to fend for itself and be self-sufficient because that’s what children should learn.”

Solomon looked at the second woman. “And you?” he asked.

She looked sheepish. “Your majesty, I’m not a perfect mother. In the past, I sometimes haven’t been a very good person and there are times when I don’t learn from my mistakes. But this child is my child and I want to care for it, to raise it and make sure it gets well.”

The king thought for a moment and stared at the scene in front of him. Both women were snarling at each other. The child was licking the floor but, in their mutual anger, the women hadn’t noticed.

“Fine,” said Solomon. “You’re never going to agree and you’re never going to co-operate so there’s only one solution. Bring me my sword and I shall cut this child in half. You will each have one half of the child. This is my ruling”

One woman looked horrified at this prospect, while the other smiled and said: “Fine. As long as she doesn’t get what she wants, I don’t care. Cut the child in half.”

Now, here’s your belated question: as the US government shutdown kicks into effect, which of these two women unidentified in the final paragraph represents the US Republican party?

This week’s Idiot of the Week is Mitt Romney.

Thumbs-up from Mitt Romney. He probably didn't approve this post but I wouldn't be so sure.

Thumbs-up from Mitt Romney. He probably didn’t approve this post but I wouldn’t be so sure.

Honestly, I didn’t want Romney to be at the top of the pile six weeks before the election. Mostly because I’m pretty sure that he’s going to do something really stupid between now and November 6, so I wanted to keep him in reserve. Also, having Romney propping up or topping the list week after week makes me look as though I’m primarily anti-Romney rather than merely anti-idiocy. But the plain mismanagement of his own campaign and lack of control over what he’s saying is now so bad that I couldn’t avoid observing that he’s put himself in the super idiot box (I don’t put people there – I just take note of where they are), even if I wanted to.

Political commentary last weekend was almost entirely devoted to Mitt Romney’s comments about not being able to open windows on planes. In case you missed it (and if you did, it was funny), Romney’s wife Ann was on a plane that had to make an emergency landing in Denver on Friday due to an electrical fire. A day later, Mitt Romney was at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, where he said: “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous.”I’ve included video of the comments below. A few days after the report (and following what seemed like half the news sites on the Internet poking fun at Romney’s lack of understanding of why planes don’t have windows that can open), writer of the original pool report Ashley Parker was pretty clear that Romney was joking. That’s three days where every broadcast and Internet comedian had free rein to explain to Romney how planes work. He’s fighting a campaign that is completely failing to control the message getting to voters. What’s getting to voters is that he’s an idiot. Being blunt, his failure to control that message does, in fact, make him an idiot.

The comments attracted scorn from Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Steven Colbert. Rachel Maddow’s reaction was: “I don’t think he was joking because he couldn’t possibly joke about his wife being in a plane crash – you can’t possibly joke about that, especially with her standing right there.” No, you can. I could (mind you, I’m not married and maybe that’s part of the reason why). The key word is “almost”. There’s an entire planet of seven billion people out there, a chunk of whom use  humour as a defence or coping mechanism or an opportunity to make people giggle. I might even make such a joke in public if I happened to be running for president and that’s part of the reason that I’d probably lose. Mitt Romney may have been joking. If he was, he’s suddenly discovered an ability for deadpan humour that he’s never before exhibited, even as a political chameleon. Bob Dole famously said in his 1996 campaign that “If you want me to be Reagan, I’ll be Reagan.” If you want your president to be a deadpan comedian of the dark humoured variety, Romney’s probably willing to try that too, at least if there are six or seven votes in it.

Joking or not, various news outlets took the time to explain why planes don’t have windows that open. Here’s one, if you need to read it. None of them felt the need to include “Because fools would open them.” Those five words should have been enough of an explanation. I’m slightly surprised that none of the commentators cited what happened to a New York Port Authority patrol boat earlier this month when someone opened a below-waterline hatch to see if there was a piece of driftwood clogging the motor. Not surprisingly, it sank.

Last Wednesday, Romney was accused of dying his face brown for a Univision interview. It would be tempting to see this as evidence of a concerted Democratic smear campaign (of course there’s a Democratic smear campaign – there’s also a Republican smear campaign. US elections thrive on smear campaigns) but it was the second time in a week that he’d been browned up for a Latino audience – his face was as brown as a berry the previous Monday when he addressed the LA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Outside of these two occasions, he’s had the pasty-white pallor one would expect of a Michigan-born WASM. Once is unfortunate. Twice is… well, you don’t get fooled again. Romney and Obama were both interviewed on Univision and both audiences were stuffed with their own supporters. One way or another, these audiences usually are. Then again, if you’re going to insist on a re-tape and your tactic of bringing in supporters by bus gets highlighted by the show’s anchor, people will talk about you in an uncomplimentary manner.

Campaigning across Ohio this week, the Romney campaign hit another self-imposed obstacle on Tuesday when Mitt failed dismally in leading a “Romney, Ryan” chant in front of voters. MS-NBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ show played the clip from Dayton on Wednesday. It’s worth watching for the failed chant attempt alone but, even better, it includes Joe Scarborough’s reaction. He’s not particularly impressed. Despite the subtitles indicating a chant of “Ryan! Ryan!”, the crowd is obviously cheering for both (check out this 20-second c-span video and listen carefully) and it’s to MS-NBC‘s discredit that they don’t highlight that. But the shot of Romney playing failed cheerleader as he tries to get his own supporters to chant “Romney, Ryan” – not just in unison but even at all – is almost painful to watch. It’s like a cringeworthy episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ without the comedic premise.

 

When you’re in a position where Russian broadcasters are finding you a little worthy of pity, you’re probably heading for oblivion, apart from the post-midnight comedy circuit. Bloomberg’s poll (PDF link) from the beginning of this week has George W Bush viewed more favourably than Mitt Romney. In a weak economy with high unemployment, Romney should be in a perfect position to highlight to voters that he’s not the guy presiding over a weak economy and high unemployment. He’s reduced his foreign policy views to Bush-era hawkish chest-beating, making Obama’s foreign policy failures (and, yes, there are quite a few of those) look progressive by comparison. Voters don’t believe him and they don’t like him. They don’t relate to him, they don’t think that he relates to them and he’s losing to the president with the highest national unemployment levels since FDR ran for re-election in 1936. That’s incompetence at the Dan Quayle level. He’s reduced his 59-point economic plan to a simple statement that the economy will get better merely by virtue of his election as president. That’s incompetence at the level of someone who keeps walking into doors. He’s turned out to be his own worst enemy – every time he opens his mouth, it costs him votes.

Romney’s slump in the polls gave birth to what Jillian Rayfield on Salon.com labelled the ‘dumb tweet of the day‘ on Tuesday –  a plea to Sarah Palin to campaign for Romney/Ryan.

 

As Palin issued a statement to the Weekly Standard on Sunday, saying that Romney and Ryan “should ‘go rogue’ “, adding that “America desperately needs to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment in discussing our big dysfunctional, disconnected, and debt-ridden federal government”, perhaps she’s listening, watching and waiting in the wings. Or she’s really annoyed at Julianne Moore. She didn’t clarify whether her proposed ‘come to Jesus’ moment involves a choice between kicking the money-lenders out of the local temple or kicking unmarried mothers out of the local welfare office.  It’s Sarah Palin, so it may be the latter.

Romney can still win and Obama can still lose. There are three presidential debates between now and November 6. Romney has had a full year of debates while Obama hasn’t had one in four years. Two jobs reports will be issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on October 5 and November 2. Bad news in either or both of those reports would hand the Romney campaign a tower of throwable fodder. In the final few weeks of the campaign, a staggering amount of money will be spent on TV adverts and the Romney-associated SuperPACs have more money to throw at the media than the Obama-associated ones.

In the meantime, Romney appears intent on closing as many of his own pathways to the presidency as he possibly can. He’s coming across as an idiot. I’d love to believe that this is an amazing meta-humour comment on the power of the media, the needs of the voter and the presentation of a presidential candidate in balancing form and function but that would make it the most expensive joke in history and Romney just isn’t that funny. Is he facing a hostile media that is now conditioned to assume that he’s gaffe-prone like his father in 1968? Yes. He’s facing that hostile media through his own poor decision-making though and his own tendency to say stupid thins. He deserves to be this week’s Idiot and might even re-earn that honour in the coming weeks. I’d like to think that he won’t, but he probably will.

 

Dishonorable mentions:

 

It’s not easy being Paris Hilton’s publicist.

Paris Hilton‘s publicist is having a few sleepless nights following the – dammit, what do I call her… ‘socialite’, yeah, that’ll do… – socialite’s comments about gay people being whisked on to the Internet faster than a house spinning in a Kansas hurricane. While she said “They’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS … I would be so scared if I was a gay guy. You’ll like, die of AIDS.”, the publicist has been at considerable reality-warping pains to point out that what she meant was to “express that it is dangerous for anyone to have unprotected sex that could lead to a life-threatening disease.” That’s nice.

 

Ig Nobel Prizes presented. Swinging ponytails are a hit

The 2012 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded last week at MIT. It would be unfair to cast all winners into the idiot pit and I don’t propose to do so.  In the past, trivial research (even Ig Nobel prize-winning research) has led to some genuine breakthroughs. However, I can’t let the week of the Ig Nobel awards go by without noting it. People who approved spending money on some of this research should probably be chased out of their cosy offices. Prizes included:

  • Psychology: Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and Tulio Guadalupe, for their study “Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller”
  • Literature: The US Government General Accountability Office for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports
  • Physics: Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren and Robin Ball, for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail
  • Fluid dynamics: Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer, for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee (the paper was called ‘Walking with coffee. Why does it spill?’)

My favourite past Ig Nobel winner was in 2004, when five biologists won a prize for discovering that herrings communicate by farting. Silly as it seems, it had the knock-on effect of revealing that millions of krona spent by the Swedish government to guard their territorial waters from Soviet submarines could have been saved if they’d realised that they were instead chasing herrings having a chat.

 

No, Barack Obama, you took office in January 2009.

Barack Obama‘s not making as many stupid errors as Mitt Romney but, occasionally, he’s causing his own controversies by getting things wrong. Asked about Operation Fast and Furious at the Univision forum last Thursday, he opened by blaming his predecessor. “I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration”, he said. The Fast and Furious programme began in October 2009, nine months after he took office. Project Gunrunner, which was an ATF attempt to lessen the power of Mexican drug cartels by stopping the flow of firearms into Mexico, started in 2006 under the Bush administration. As part of that programme, Operation Wide Receiver was run by the ATF in 2006/07 to track gun shipments to high-level members of Mexican cartels by ignoring buyers of illegal guns until they reached a high-level target. In October 2009, Operation Fast and Furious started, largely using the same tactic of ‘gunwalking’. Barack Obama addressed problems with the operation in March 2011, saying that it was not authorised by him or by Attorney General Eric Holder. The operation was shut down. Obama’s presumably confusing Operation Fast and Furious with Project Gunrunner but, either way, Fast and Furious was begun under his administration, not under Bush’s.  You can’t blame everything on the previous administration.

 

All I wanted was a cuddle. And you cut me, right in the shoulder.

New York real estate agent David Villalobos was mauled by a Siberian tiger at the Bronx Zoo last Saturday after he jumped from an elevated train so that he could pet the tiger. While he briefly got his wish, the 400-pound cat attacked him and dragged him around the enclosure by his foot. He currently has “bites and punctures on his arms, legs, shoulders and back, as well as a broken right shoulder, right rib, right ankle and pelvis and a collapsed lung.” Zoo officials chased the animal away with a fire extinguisher. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told reporters that Villalobos said to detectives that “his leap was definitely not a suicide attempt, but a desire to be one with the tiger.” He’s been charged with misdemeanor trespassing as New York does not currently have an anti-stupidity law.
(note: I held off on posting this on facebook as I wanted to ensure that it wasn’t a suicide attempt or an action by someone with mental illness. I highlight stupidity rather than cravenly laughing at people with mental issues.)

 

Fox News: Pirates (totes awks) and fake interviewees (also a little bit awkward)

Not the best week for ‘Fox & Friends’ on Fox News. On Monday of last week, Gretchen Carlson terminated an interview with a “former Obama supporter” who gave bizarre answers to her questions (youtube link – 2 minutes long) about his political views. Presented as a college graduate who was now supporting Mitt Romney, aspiring standup comedian Mike Rice took part in the aborted interview, later telling Raw Story that he lied about his situation and views “just to see if they’d do their homework”. Producers had ten days to check the background of their chosen interviewee and… sort of forgot to bother. The video itself is below. It’s not funny, simply awkward, which is something of a missed opportunity for an aspiring standup comedian. I’m including it because it happened.

 

Last Thursday, ‘Fox & Friends’ presenters saw a joke picture of Barack Obama that had been taken in 2009 and retweeted for ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’ and concluded that the current US President is currently too busy meeting with pirates to conduct foreign policy. Co-host Brian Kilmeade said “The White House doesn’t have the time to meet with the prime minister of Israel, but this pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday.” Happy to display it a second time, the show also featured it as its Shot of the Morning. Before the show ended, they gave it a third showing, with the headline “Too busy for Israel”. The picture was from 2009 and used for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that year. Still, 2009, 2012 – in three hundred years, the difference won’t be all that significant.

 

Congressman Peter King: not concerned with facts

Peter King, US Representative for New York’s 3rd district, is pretty sure that Obama is on an apology tour as he travels around the United States and abroad. What’s interesting about his interview with Soleded O’Brien (youtube link: 2 minute video) on CNN’s ‘Starting Point’ on Monday last week is that he “doesn’t care what factcheck says” and will interpret what he hears as he sees fit.

Like Peter King (US Representative for New York’s 3rd district), I sometimes make up my own reality when I don’t like what’s around me. Just a bit, not too much. Unlike Peter King (US Representative for New York’s 3rd district), I can mostly tell the difference between what’s in my head and what’s in the outside world. Then again, unlike Peter King, I didn’t support the IRA throughout the 1980s, didn’t compare Gerry Adams to George Washington in 1985, didn’t fundraise for Noraid and didn’t (laughably, considering views of Irish people) abandon support for the IRA because Irish people mostly didn’t support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yes, he thought that would tick off the Irish, exhibiting that he never quite understood the thing that he was rabbiting on about. Of course, support for terrorist organisations became less politically advantageous in the US around 9:30EST on September 11th, 2001. Scarily, he may have been asked to be the US Ambassador to Ireland – I suspect, to get him away from US soil. He’s now pretty sure that Obama is on an “I’m sorry” tour. I wonder if he knows that there’s a US presidential election this November. There’s a 2-minute video. Send me a Republican congressman/woman who isn’t a plonker, I’m looking partisan here. I’ll take suggestions.

Here’s the video of King on ‘Starting Point’. 2 minutes long.

 

Darwin Award nominee: Death fall from escalator handrail

59-year old Theodore Meiners fell thirty feet to his death last Thursday in Valdez, Alaska after he attempted to slide down the centre rail of a second-floor escalator at the city’s convention centre. He was attending the International Snow Science Convention. Eye witnesses said that he may have been drinking. Before his death, Meiners had been the National Ski Patrol Regional Avalanche Advisor for the Northern Intermountain Division in Alaska due to his research on avalanches. (yes, the inference I’m drawing is that the man understood what gravity is)

 

Shrink-wrapped bananas? Gott im Himmel!

A German-owned supermarket in Austria, took some heat last week for selling pre-peeled bananas packaged in plastic (link contains a picture)Billa, which advertises itself as the “common sense” supermarket, began selling the pre-peeled bananas last week. They also stopped selling the product last week, when critics arrived in waves to their facebook page, pointing out that bananas already come safely pre-wrapped in banana skins. Staff called it a “one off” mistake that would not happen again. Any plans that the company may have had for pre-peeled oranges and onions have, presumably, been abandoned.

The Also-Rans

 

Philippe Raines, personal spokesman for Hilary Clinton at the US State Department, told a reporter to “fuck off” in an email on Sunday. While government officials occasionally lose it with reporters, it’s not that typical from the US department responsible for international relations and diplomacy. You can read the full email exchange here. I suggest a quick ctrl+f for “fuck off”. It’ll save time.

The Powder Springs City Council in the US state of Georgia last week approved an application by a local shooting range to sell alcohol. They’ll sell the finest Tennessee sippin’ whisky. And bullets. Both for use on the premises.

E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, has such a penchant for bow ties that, since 2007, he’s spent $64,000 of his university-funded expenses on bow ties, bow tie cookies and bow tie pins. In an email to USA Today, an Ohio State Uni spokesman stressed that the bow tie purchases were not just for Gee’s personal use, saying that they were for “charitable auctions and other non-personal uses”. The bow tie fetish is a small part of the total expenses run up by the president since 2007, which total $7.7 million. In the same period, student fees have increased by 13.3%. As every Doctor Who fan knows, bow ties are cool when worn by a quirky time traveller. Probably not so much when it’s a university president though.

In the UK, a West Midlands Christian League soccer game last Saturday had to be abandoned when a fight broke out between rival teams Zion Athletic and Common Ground United. An argument over a penalty turned into a fight, ignoring the league rules that player behaviour is expected to be “morally, decently and ethically sound of action and speech, honouring the name of Jesus Christ”. The players are expected to be banned from the league for up to a year and from heaven until 2050.

 

And finally…

A look at least week’s idiots couldn’t be complete without a reference to the NFL and the replacement referees that they hired. There, that’s done. Also, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still isn’t doing himself any favours.

Yes, I realise that this should have been written on Sunday. Must do something about that.

This week’s Idiot of the Week Award goes to the Moon Landing Deniers.

Even if the moon landings were faked (which they weren’t), it’s still a better movie than James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’. Pic from worldofweirdthings.com

Following the death of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, his passing was noted by pretty much every news organisation on the planet. He’s one of the most famous humans in history. So much so that in a few hundred years, it’s quite possible that only three things from the twentieth century will be significant enough to be known by a typical eight-year old: the two world wars and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. While many people were recalling the achievement of Neil Armstrong and NASA on Saturday evening, the Moon Landing Deniers were reminding everyone that they don’t believe that it happened. I realise that a chunk of them like to call themselves Moon Landing Truthers or Moon Truthers but, either way, it’s pretty clear to whom I’m referring.  Discussions as to whether the Apollo missions actually reached the moon or the moon missions were all a hoax shot on a soundstage have been active since the mid-1970s, with flames initially fanned by Bill Kaysing’s self-published book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. Obviously the Flat Earth Society had some profound views as well.

Over the years, photos and video footage from the missions have been examined at great length by scientists and non-scientists, leading to a series of accusations and rebuttals on the topic. Short view: there are too many people in the world who make up their minds based on one or two badly-made documentaries by people looking for attention. There’s a comprehensive wikipedia page examining the claims and evidence, which is a nice embarkation point if you’d like to check out what people have been claiming for forty years. A simple google search for “moon hoax” will give you as much information on both sides (crazy and sane) as you’d ever need to know. To a committed conspiracy theorist, evidence is nothing compared to what they really know in their hearts so if you’re convinced that Stanley Kubrick directed a series of movies for NASA depicting faked landings on a holographic moon that is only 30,000 feet above the surface of the Earth, there’s nothing that anyone can say to convince you that it actually happened. Still, don’t worry – you won an award this week. Even if it’s the Idiot of the Week Award from someone you’d consider one of the sheeple. Everyone loves awards.

Here’s a two minute sketch from series 4 of That Mitchell and Webb Look. If we’re going to talk about moon landings, we may as well get a laugh out of them.

 

NBC was first with the story of Armstrong’s death and NBC staffers got everything correct in their tweet announcing that Neil Armstrong had died. Unfortunately, on the NBC website, they didn’t.

NBC’s announcement of the death of “Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on the moon”

We’ve all thought one thing and typed another. But just for the record, Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, died on Saturday. Neil Young, Canadian rocker who released an album called ‘Harvest Moon’, is still alive.

 

Dishonourable mentions:

 

The Todd Akin “legitimate rape” incident has turned into a minor saga since last week, mostly due to Rep. Akin deciding that he needed a bigger hole to sit in. He’s continued to dig down, hoping to find sanctuary, forgiveness and a group of voters who will assume that he’s just a misunderstood good ol’ boy. Let’s remember his original quote from last Sunday:

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

When his comments became international news, Akin’s first reaction was to assume that the problem was with the use of the word “legitimate”. He said that what he meant was “forcible rape”. Over the next few days, he gradually realised that the greater problem was with his statement that the female body has a built-in alarm system to prevent pregnancy when a woman is raped. He eventually said that his statement was incorrect, asked for people’s forgiveness and their prayers. One can reasonably assume that he’s made peace with his God over the issue as he sees him in the mirror every morning.

Rep. Akin has confirmed that he’s staying in the Senate race in Missouri, despite GOP leaders pleading with him to drop out and withdrawing central funding for his campaign. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, accused Akin of “endangering Republicans’ hopes of retaking the majority in the Senate”. Since Akin’s comments were made public, his lead in Missouri opinion polls has turned into a nine-point lead for Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. He’s clearly “endangering Republicans’ hopes of retaking the majority in the Senate”.

The Renegade Raging Grannies took some time out to record this song with a message for Todd Akin. As it’s sung to the tune of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, it’s pretty darned catchy.

 

Most people have become used to the reality that large corporations are not charitable organisations and have profit-generation as their primary purpose. Still, no-one expected Chris Mahoney, director of agriculture trading at Glencore, to come out with this humdinger in relation to difficulties in feeding all the people on the planet: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.” You could reasonably say that he’s just being honest – CEOs at some of the large food companies are probably rubbing their fists with glee as a result of the failure of local crops in the US Midwest and across Russia. Wholesale food prices have soared this year as crop yields have taken a beating, leading to food shortages across the world. With a few short comments, Mahoney managed to remind anyone listening that he’s planning on making a fat pile of cash out of it. There’s probably a team of PR people in his office trying to teach him how to act a little more sad about it.

 

Spare a thought for Ole Derje, the director of the Soli Brug Gallery in Greaaker (Norway), who has been saving his gallery some money, pennies at a time, by not using courier services to transport artworks bought for the gallery. This week a Rembrandt went missing in the post. Mr Derje said that the painting is worth 40,000 to 50,000 crowns. The Norwegian postal service is offering him compensation of about 2% of its value as it was sent via regular post. They have “advised him to use a more appropriate form of mail when sending items that are worth as much as this with the appropriate insurance connected”. Mr Derje has presumably now realised that all of the money he saved the gallery over the years by using regular post has been dwarfed by the amount of money lost when one parcel went missing.

 

Barack Obama is “110% behind our teachers”, according to a tweet from today. I realise that this is a personal bugbear of mine but this 110% thing has to stop. Saying that you’re 110% behind anything is bad enough on a regular day but when you’re president of the United States, you’re not helping. When you’re using the magic percentage to refer to supporting teachers, including mathematics teachers, you’re reaching for the idiot box. I didn’t think that Barack Obama would make the weekly list this early as he’s rather smarter than his predecessor but I’ve attached the tweet below for your own head-shaking pleasure.

 

Driving while intoxicated is a bad idea. It’s also illegal and rightly so. New Zealand forklift driver Ryan Scott Thompson was so drunk that he went off the road and ploughed his car into the living room of an elderly resident of Woodend, New Zealand at the end of July. His court case was last week, which makes him eligible for the week’s Idiot award. But there would have to be more to the story to make the cut and, of course, there is. It wasn’t enough that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. While the police officer on the scene was taking some details, Thompson was busying himself by urinating into the box of breathalyser tubes. Yes, that’s right. He pissed all over 301 breathalysers without pausing. Apart from the expected driving ban and fine, he’ll also have to pay for the breathalysers. And suffer people poking fun at him on the Internet.

 

British para-cycling world champion Jon-Allan Butterworth has accused non-cyclist members of the UK’s Paralympic squad of “just having a laugh” in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. His blunt comments included: “The para-cycling team won 17 gold medals and three silvers in Beijing from a squad that was only 13-strong. Athletics had 30-odd people there and they won two golds, so where’s that money gone? Scrap all their funding, give it to cyclists and we’ll win double the medals we do already.” Coming only a few days after Lance Armstrong’s decision not to contest the US Anti-Doping Agency’s case that Armstrong had been using prohibited substances in his cycling career, it hasn’t been a good few days for the image of professional cycling. Butterworth apologised for his comments earlier today, after realising that other athletes would probably hear about them.


Tyra Banks seems intent on telling everyone that she’s a graduate of Harvard Business School following her completion of an Owner/President Management Program at the college’s open-enrollment extension school.  Tyra Banks is very far from a dummy but she’s not doing herself any favours here.

 

British smalltime shoplifter Marcus Banwell managed to outwit himself by chewing down on a Scotch Bonnet pepper that he’d lifted from the Singh Stores in Bristol. After drawing attention to himself by vomiting outside the shop, police discovered another four chilli peppers in his pockets (which he was presumably planning on enjoying later with a nice glass of milk and a hospital), a clarinet tucked into his trousers, determined to have been stolen from a nearby music shop, and some crack cocaine and heroin. A Scotch Bonnet pepper has a heat rating of 12-40 times that of a typical jalapeño pepper. Not recommended for consumption on an empty stomach. Or, if you’re me, ever.

 

Let’s close with something cute from the land of leprechauns (as I live in the land of leprechauns, I’m happy to remind you that there are no leprechauns).
The Irish Department of Finance has done some crazy things in the past decade. Failing to adequately respond to an overheating housing market, turning massive losses incurred by non-state-run banks into into debts owed by the state and taking an economy with effectively no unemployment into one with 15% unemployment in under four years. This could be true of most governments in Europe in recent times though. Here’s a new form of craziness: the Department of Finance is actively considering a change in car number plates next year to avoid the number 13. Even nuttier is that the proposed change won’t actually get rid of 13 from the licence plates – it’ll add a ‘1’ or ‘2’ to the end of the number. There are some other reasons for doing so – as the current system effectively groups all cars bought in the same calendar year for ageing purposes, the new system would make cars purchased after June seem newer to buyers. The government hopes that this will encourage more people to buy cars, thereby supporting the car sales market. Ireland has no car manufacturing industry and also has an issue with import-export trade balances. Clearly, this is a country that needs to import more cars.