Friday, 17 February 2012


Broadly speaking I am in favour of euthanasia, which is just as well because any day now it’s going to be compulsory. A boy genius called David Halpern who heads the “Nudge Unit” at Number 10 (that is the Behavioural Insight Team which no prime minister can afford to be without) has found out what is wrong with society.

It is us, the Artful Dodderers who insist on living in the houses we have slaved all our lives to pay for; who retire at 65 when we could go on working until our dotage, or, better yet, death. Dave points out there are 25 million empty bedrooms in Britain and they could more usefully be used as squats for the feral young.

Dave....DAVE........DAVE. Hold your foot up......

It’s a marvellous idea but there are just two tiny flaws. Bigger houses cost more than small ones so it’s unlikely the young people will be able to afford them, especially if old people hang on to their jobs. Twenty per cent of the young are unemployed at the moment. It will be far greater if the job market is clogged by Ancient Persons. So the money you will save by this bold initiative will be swallowed up by the increase in the job seekers’ allowance.

Oh, and Dave whilst I have your attention... you are worrying whether to send ammunition and weapons to the Syrians because you cling to the foolish belief that the Arab Spring is a good idea. It isn’t. Have you noticed what has happened in Tunisia where dawn first broke? Sharia law in all its unpleasantness. The Muslim Brotherhood is poised to take over Egypt and the rest of liberated Arabia. In Libya the new dawn is shining on the torturers and terrorists...

What’s that you are saying? ... Yes, I know the Brotherhood are all excellent chaps, devoted to cricket and acts of kindness to minorities. That is the argument which landed London with Ken Livingstone and Liverpool with Derek “Degsy” Hatton. Both cities elected good chaps to run them but they were soon kicked out when their parties won power.

Beyond our glad desert horizon is a very nasty tribe call the Wahabis, who already rule Saudi Arabia, the country you may have noticed that is bank-rolling the Arab Spring; nurtured bin Laden and inspired the Mad Mullahs who are corrupting British Muslims.


Nothing bothers Hipkin but Paul, our other gardener, is upset that his daughters teachers are telling them that if Cameron does not support the Euro, war in Europe is inevitable. My own concern is that schools are employing teachers with such boundless ignorance of the world around them. Germany doesn’t need a war to run Europe; Italy, Spain or Greece could not afford a war; and Eastern Europe is united in its willingness to be occupied. It must also be said that none of the above has proved adept at winning wars in the past. Britain? Ask Obama


Angela Ripoff is concerned that football commentators are paid forty times more than she is. My own concern is that she is paid anything at all. But surely the argument should not be that women broadcasters are paid too little but that ALL broadcasters are paid far too much. I speak from thirty years experience when I claim that broadcasting is easy. Don’t just take my word for it. One of the finest broadcasters today, Libby Purves, made the same point in her autobiography. She claims that if you can read and speak you can broadcast. If there is another talent it is the ability to disguise the fact that you are reading a script or an autocue. Those brilliant off- the-cuff half hour programmes by dazzling wits usually take at least two hours to record and the “off-the-cuff” witticisms are responses to questions they have known about for days. The chairman’s witty comments are all scripted.

I used to get £1,000 a week for broadcasting to 25 million people, largely unscripted, and for around twenty years I took part in a weekly quiz in which no one knew the answers. Since I worked for less than a day a week I have always thought I was vastly overpaid.


The F.A., an acronym which aptly describes it, is insistent that it would prefer a Briton to manage the English team. Wouldn’t he feel lonely in a sport where so many of the participants hail from distant shores?

A number of Sun journalists have been charged with bribing policemen, never a very difficult thing to do in my newspaper days. They have been arrested on the back of information provided by the Sun. Presumably the evidence is documentary and likely to be expense claims. If those claims did not name the recipient it would be very strange. How come then that no policemen have been arrested?


A Belgian Court has ruled that “Tin Tin in the Congo” did not breach anti-race laws and a children’s commissioner has insisted that boys should be allowed to wear skirts at school in the interests of equality. He said ‘gender variant issues’ contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

That will come as a relief to my doctor’s public school in Perth where the kilt is part of the uniform. Oddly enough, it is the ruling of Tam Bailey, the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland.


MPs have spent nearly half a million renting a dozen fig trees to brighten their offices. The Health Minister tells us the NHS needs virtually rebuilding but 84 per cent of patients (including me) think he is wrong and rate their experience as excellent and very good.


The West bankrupted us all building up defences against Russia, Recently published documents, says commentator Andrew Alexander in his new book “America, and the Imperialism of Ignorance” prove that Stalin had no intention of invading anywhere beyond the countries which gave Russia a buffer against Germany. Perhaps it would be wiser to keep the fig trees and get rid of the wooden tops.


Once again I am indebted to my chum Dai Woosnam for drawing my attention to this obituary in the Economist.

NOBODY who met Jonathan Keith “Jack” Idema could doubt his self- belief. It hit you as forcefully as his rocky good looks, his patriotism and his prickliness. But who was the self he believed in?

Was it Jonathan, the rather spoilt single child from Poughkeepsie, fond of fast cars and prone to collecting speeding tickets, who was inspired by John Wayne in “The Green Berets” to join the American special forces? Was it Keith, the ex-soldier who went into business selling paintball equipment and then military clothing, before being convicted of defrauding 59 companies and sentenced to six years in prison? Was it Jack, the tough guy who rocked out to Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11th attacks to do humanitarian stuff, capture Osama bin Laden and work undercover, he said, for the Pentagon? Or was it Black Jack, the swashbuckling captain of a tour boat in Mexico who, before he succumbed to AIDS, saw himself as Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, flew a pirate flag from a minaret, held constant orgies and liked to play the score of “Apocalypse Now” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”?

No doubt it was all these selves, and others too, for Mr Idema was a man of many parts, and his lack of self-doubt helped him both to ignore setbacks and to gain the confidence of those who should have seen through him. The real and the imaginary were as one to him, just as right and wrong were. And he moved in a world peopled by others with as many fantasies, as few scruples and plenty of motives for inventing tall stories.

Some of the stories made Mr Idema seem almost lovably heroic. He preserved genetic material from his dog, for example, so that he could later be cloned. Sarge was, after all, no ordinary dog but a Tibetan shepherd that would jump out of aircraft with his soldier master and help sniff out bombs (when not scuba diving). Other tales cast Mr Idema in a more Bond-like guise. Thus in 1991 he told the FBI that among the detritus of the Soviet Union he had discovered a Russian mafia gang bent on smuggling suitcase-sized nuclear weapons out of Lithuania; no details could be revealed, though, because the FBI was riddled with KGB agents.

He could be a victim, too. Was he not the object of a vendetta by the FBI? And had his story not been stolen by Steven Spielberg for George Clooney in “The Peacemaker”? He sued Mr Spielberg, and others who had crossed him: journalists, an aid worker, a colonel, even his father.

Then there was his discovery of an al-Qaeda plot to kill Bill Clinton at a summit in Malaysia (the president wisely stayed away) and two other planned assassinations in Afghanistan. He claimed, too, to have fought with the Northern Alliance, America’s anti-Taliban allies in Operation Enduring Freedom. He had also secured a video of al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists undergoing training, which he sold to CBS and several other broadcasters.

Oh, what a lovely war

Journalists were not alone in being conned by Mr Idema, especially after he formed Task Force Sabre 7, a freelance group of American and Afghan vigilantes-cum-fortune-hunters who operated with impunity for a while after the Americans had ousted the Taliban in 2001. Afghanistan at this time was an adventure playground for thuggish American ex-servicemen employed or masquerading as security guards. They hung around the Mustafa hotel, wearing wraparound sunglasses and camouflage fatigues, drove about in big Toyotas and carried a small arsenal of weapons. They were not so much the dogs of war as the coyotes, dingoes and hyenas. Mr Idema was one of them.

Some of these people operated with the complSome of these people operated with the complicity of the American authorities, who had contracted out so many of the tasks once performed by soldiers. No wonder that on three occasions in 2004 Mr Idema found it easy to con the NATO force into providing him with support for raids on compounds. He even conned the Americans into taking into custody a captured Afghan alleged to be a Taliban loyalist. He was nothing of the kind.

Far more serious was the private prison run by Mr Idema and his friends. When it was discovered, complete with torture chamber and eight captives, bound and hooded, some hanging by their feet, the Afghans said Mr Idema was trying to extract information that would lead to bounties. He said it had all been okayed by the Pentagon, even by Donald Rumsfeld. But he was tried nonetheless and given ten years. After three, spent in extraordinarily comfortable conditions in the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi jail, he was inexplicably pardoned by President Hamid Karzai.

By this time, though, Mr Idema was beginning to look less plausible, his luck less inexhaustible. His loyal wife, Viktoria Runningwolf, had been abandoned, along with the Ultimate Pet Resort that he had helped her set up in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And his past, including 36 arrests (though no convictions) in the 1980s and 1990s, had come to light. He was still wanted in North Carolina for impersonating a policeman and, despite claims to “superblood”, he was to contract AIDS. His life ended in a haze of vodka and cocaine, the self-belief perhaps slightly dented, the self-delusion as strong as ever.