YEAR-END SPECIAL: The 'Skeeter Bites Awards for the Worst of '09
In the Tradition of the Razzie Awards for the Worst Films of the Year, The 'Skeeter Bites Report Presents its Third Annual 'Dishonors' for the People Who Have Had the Worst Impact on Politics, Society and Culture in America -- and the World -- in 2009
To say that 2009 was a year of transition would be an understatement, with a new president in the White House and an opposition more fierce than ever before. But who would have thought there the year would see a number of characters who would resort to blatant appeals to racist and religious hatreds? Some of this year's 'Skeeter Bites Award winners for inflicting the worst damage on humanity are such no-brainers that it's difficult to classify who's the worst among them. But here goes . . . (Image courtesy Google Images)
(Posted 5:00 a.m EST Monday, December 28, 2009)
By SKEETER SANDERS
As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close -- wow, has it really been ten years since we all rang in the new millennium? -- it's that time again to take a look back at some of what's transpired over the past 12 months, make resolutions for 2010 -- geez, we finally get to say "twenty-something" instead of "two-thousand-something" when referring to the year -- and, of course, cast an eye on the crystal ball and predict who'll win what in the upcoming awards season.
From time immemorial, it seems, we mark the early months of each new year by bestowing awards to honor the best among us, such as the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Tonys and the Emmys -- and to dishonor the worst among us as well, such as Mr. Blackwell's annual "Worst-Dressed Women" list and the Razzie Awards for the worst movies of the year.
(Richard Blackwell, the former fashion designer who became Hollywood's most famous fashion critic, died in October 2008 at the age of 86. More than 14 months later, It's still not known who, if anyone, will continue his annual list of the "Ten Worst-Dressed Women" in Hollywood.)
In 2007, this writer chose to join in the awards-giving parade, but unlike the "Big Five" best-of entertainment awards and more in the tradition of Mr. Blackwell and the Razzies, I chose to join in the bestowment of "dishonors" to the most richly deserving crooks, liars, power-mad despots and just plain weirdos who've made life a lot more complicated for Americans and the world at large in the previous 12 months.
It seems that choosing the "winners" for the 'Skeeter Bites Awards is getting more and more difficult, even though this is only the third year of the SBAs' existence. Almost like the Energizer bunny, the list of nominees richly deserving these dishonors just keeps growing and growing and growing.
But, here goes . . .
THE MACHIAVELLI 'ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS' AWARD: ORLY TAITZ
This year's winner of the Machivelli Award is also the first multiple-category nominee in the 'Skeeter Bites Awards' brief history. Orly Taitz, the undisputed queen of the "Birther Movement" that still doggedly seeks to remove President Obama from office with trumped-up -- and, I dare say, racially-motivated -- charges that the president is not a native-born U.S. citizen, could just as easily also have won the David Duke Bigot of the Year Award or the Hunter S. Thompson Fear-and-Loathing Award.
But under the rules of the SBAs, you can only win one award per year -- and in Taitz's case, the Machivelli Award is most appropriate for her, for Taitz has proven beyond doubt that she is absolutely determined and will do just about anything to get Obama tossed out of office -- no matter how many times her lawsuits get thrown out of court or she gets slapped with warnings and fines from judges against her repeated filings of frivolous suits.
But then again, what else can you expect from a person who's a virulently Islamophobic bigot tied to a group of radical Jewish extremists who insist that Obama is a Muslim and a "danger to Israel," despite all evidence to the contrary that the president is a Christian -- as The 'Skeeter Bites Report revealed in a September 7 expose?
And the fact that Taitz and other "birthers" of her ilk continue to present trumped-up, immediately-exposed-as-fraudulent "evidence" that Obama was born in Kenya shows just how racially bigoted against the nation's first black president they really are.
More on this year's David Duke Bigot of the Year Award winner later.
THE PINK FLOYD 'BRICK WALL' AWARD: MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD
That the hard-line president of Iran wins this year's Brick Wall Award for the world's most obstinate head of state is a no-brainer -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proven to be even more stubborn and bullheaded than either George W. Bush or the late Saddam Hussein.
His re-election to a second term as Iran's president last June remains controversial, but his regime's brutal repression of its critics in Tehran puts Iran right up there with China's even more cold-blooded mass murder of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tienanmen Square almost exactly 20 years earlier.
The only difference between Beijing and Tehran is that the reins of power in China have passed on to a new generation of Communist Party leaders in the two decades since Tienanmen and the leaders directly responsible for the massacre are no longer in charge (Although Beijing's current leadership remains steadfast in not tolerating political dissent and refuses to re-examine the Tienanmen crackdown).
But nowhere has Ahmadinejad proven to be more stubborn and bullheaded than over Iran's nuclear development program, one that the United States, the European Union, Israel and -- increasingly -- Arab countries believe is aimed at building a stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic adamantly insists that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes -- but has refused to furnish any evidence to back up its claims. Iran is under three sets of United Nations sanctions for refusing to suspend enrichment and risks a further round after rejecting a UN-brokered deal to send its low-enriched uranium abroad to be further refined into fuel for the reactor.
Although Tehran allowed inspectors from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access in October to a second, previously top-secret uranium enrichment facility near the Shiite holy city of Qom, the agency's newly-retired director-general, Mohamed Elbaradei, declared in late November that the IAEA's cooperation with Tehran had reached a "dead end."
Ahmadinejad's words and actions have done little to bolster his country's credibility on the nuclear issue. Only last week, in an interview with new "ABC World News" anchor Diane Sawyer, the Iranian president stunned the world when he steadfastly refused to state flatly that his country would never develop nuclear weapons.
When pressed point-blank by Sawyer for a yes-or-no answer to whether Iran would weaponize its nuclear material and turn it into a bomb, Ahmadinejad refused to answer the question directly. Instead, he shook his head and said, "We have got a saying in Iran which says, 'How many times shall I repeat the same thing?' You should say something only once. We have said once that we don't want nuclear bomb. We don't accept it."
But it's clear that the U.S. and much of the world doesn't believe him -- nor should they.
THE DARTH VADER 'DARK SIDE' AWARD: RUSH LIMBAUGH
Former Vice President Dick Cheney had won this prize two years in a row for having been the chief enforcer of former President George W. Bush's policies -- much as Luke Skywalker's father was brutal enforcer of the Galactic Empire's rule across the galaxy -- the right-hand man of the evil Emperor Palpatine.
Emperor Dubyah and his regime are no longer in power, but one of its staunchest allies is still the undisputed "boss of bosses" when it comes to keeping the former emperor's party in line.
Of course, I'm referring to right-wing radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
Much like the fictional New Jersey crime-family boss Tony Soprano, Limbaugh and his "Dittohead Mafia" of angry, mostly white-male listeners have "whacked," at least rhetorically, one Republican after another -- from party chairman Michael Steele on down -- for daring to publicly "cross the boss." Each and every one of them ended up apologetically bowing down to Boss Limbaugh within 24 hours after they got "whacked" on his show.
It should be noted that Limbaugh was the first runner-up for the David Duke Bigot of the Year Award for his deliberate and repeated race-baiting on the air (I'll tell who the winner of that award is later on).
His disgusting remark in September that school buses should be segregated in the wake of a violent incident aboard a school bus in Illinois went too far -- it was an open call to deliberately violate more than a half-century of federal and state laws outlawing segregation and discrimination by race.
Then there is Limbaugh's questioning of Obama's ethnicity -- going so far as to claim that the nation's foirst black president isn't an African-American at all, but a foreign-born Arab.
This prompted The 'Skeeter Bites Report to editorially call for an advertiser boycott of Limbaugh's show -- just as there is one of the Fox News TV show of our next award winner.
THE HUNTER S. THOMPSON MEMORIAL 'FEAR AND LOATHING' AWARD: GLENN BECK
This award is also a no-brainer. Who's more deserving of it this year than Fox News talk-show host Glenn Beck, named by the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters as its 2009 "Misinformer of the Year."
Beck is the real-life version of Howard Beale -- the "mad prophet of the airwaves" played by the late Oscar-winning actor Peter Finch in "Network," Paddy Cheyefsky's uncannily prophetic 1976 commentary on the state of American television in general and television news in particular.
The "mad prophet" image fits Beck to a T. As Media Matters points out, "Beck's well of ridiculous was deep and poisonous before he launched his Fox News show, but the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States -- and the permissive cheerleading of his Fox News honchos -- uncorked the former "Morning Zoo" shock jock's unique brand of vitriol, stage theatrics, and hyperbolic fright."
Who else but Beck would dare call the nation's first black president -- who carefully avoided racial issues as much as he could during his successful campaign for the White House and in the year since he took office -- a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture" on national television -- without a shred of evidence to back him up?
Who else but Beck would call Obama's proposal to expand the foreign service, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps "what Hitler did with the SS?"
Who else but Beck would claim that the 2008 election was a coup d'etat conducted "through the guise of an election" and allow a guest on his show to boldly state that the "only chance we have as a country right now is" for Osama bin Laden to "detonate a major weapon" on American soil?
There are a lot more "Beckisms" -- far too many to retell here. Suffice it to say that there is no one who is more deserving of the Hunter S. Thompson Memorial Fear and Loathing Award this year than Glenn Beck.
THE DAVID DUKE 'BIGOT OF THE YEAR' AWARD: KEITH BARDWELL
This year's David Duke Bigot of the Year Award could have been won by Orly Taitz for her relentless, Islamophobic drive to kick President Obama out of office. It could have been won by Glenn Beck, for having the gall to call the president a "racist" on national television without producing a single scrap of evidence to back him up. It could even have been won by Rush Limbaugh, for his repeated race-baiting on his daily radio show.
But nope. The three of them were outdone by a Louisiana man who until two months ago had been totally obscure -- Keith Bardwell.
The aforementioned Bardwell wins the David Duke Bigot of the Year Award hands down for doing something that has been illegal under federal law for more than 40 years. Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish, refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her fiance, Terence McKay, 32.
Humphrey is white. McKay is black.
Why did Bardwell refuse to issue a marriage license to this interracial couple more than four decades after the U.S. Supreme Court declared unanimously that such refusal violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?
Bardwell says he couldn't personally endorse the marriage out of concern for any children that would result from it. In an interview with CBS News, Bardwell says that he had seen "countless" interracial couples where the children were rejected by family members, and he didn't want to see that happen again.
Oh, really? Isn't that one of the reasons the Ku Klux Klan was founded -- to prevent interracial unions, particularly between black men and white women?
And yet this man denies that he's a racist. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," he told Baton Rouge television station WAFB-TV. "My main concern is for the children [of interracial unions]."
Ironically, McKay is himself the son of black-white interracial parents. He and Humphrey were eventually married by another justice of the peace. Bardwell said he does not believe that interracial marriages last and it is not his place to perform them. "I stand by my decision and it is my right not to marry an interracial couple," he said.
Bardwell's decision sparked nationwide outrage. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared flatly that Bardwell's refusal to issue the license "is a clear violation of constitutional rights and of federal and state law." The governor called for disciplinary action to be taken against Bardwell, "including the revoking of his license."
As it turned out, however, the heat got to be too much for Bardwell. He resigned on November 4 after McKay and Humphrey filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against him on October 20. Bardwell said he tendered his resignation to the Louisiana Secretary of State's office after being advised "that I needed to step down because they was going to take me to court, and I was going to lose."
Indeed, Bardwell didn't stand a chance of winning in court. But he has won the 2009 David Duke Bigot of the Year Award -- named for fellow Louisiana resident and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, now a Louisiana state representative.
You'll recall that Duke embarrassed the national Republican Party leadership in 1991 when he unsuccessfully ran for the GOP presidential nomination. Duke remains a self-proclaimed "white nationalist."
THE JERRY SPRINGER 'NAUGHTY-NAUGHTY' AWARD: (TIE) -- MARK SANFORD AND TIGER WOODS
For the first time in the history of the 'Skeeter Bites Awards, there is not one, but two winners of this year's Jerry Springer Naughty-Naughty Award for bad personal behavior.
Named in honor of the ringmaster of the daily circus in which guests bare all their dirtiest personal laundry before a national TV audience, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had for months been a shoo-in to win it by himself. But then on the day after Thanksgiving, Tiger Woods crashed his SUV into a tree near his Florida mansion. The billionaire golfer's life would never be the same after that.
More on Woods later.
Sanford was a rising Republican star -- especially after his highly publicized opposition to President Obama's economic stimulus package. For months, Sanford refused to accept some $700 million in federal stimulus money for his state. Supporters of the stimulus package sued and the South Carolina Supreme Court in June ordered the governor to accept the funds.
But things started to unravel later that summer. Sanford mysteriously dropped out of public view, his whereabouts unknown. It later turned out that the state's first lady, Jenny Sanford, found a love letter the governor wrote to his mistress and demanded the relationship end. But Sanford fled the state -- to Argentina, to be precise -- leading his staff to believe he had gone on a hike along the Appalachian Trail.
After a growing furor over his whereabouts, Sanford returned to South Carolina and held an emotional news conference in which he acknowledged that he had carried on an affair with an Argentine woman in Buenos Aires. In subsequent interviews with the Associated Press, Sanford identified his mistress as Maria Belen Chapur, whom the governor said was his his "soul mate."
Sanford survived an attempt by his fellow Republicans to impeach him, but his marriage will not survive; two weeks ago, Jenny Sanford filed for divorce. The governor still faces a formal rebuke from the South Carolina legislature and possible fines resulting from a state ethics investigation into his travel and campaign finances.
Tiger Woods, on the other hand, is the last person one would expect to become embroiled in an infidelity scandal. The world's number-one professional golfer had spent years cultivating an image as a stand-up guy and as an inspiration for millions of young people.
So when the news broke on the day after Thanksgiving that Woods had crashed his SUV less than a mile from his Florida mansion, this writer immediately thought, "Oh, no! I hope it's not a DWI!"
But as the days and weeks passed, with Woods refusing to talk to the media, all hell broke loose, with the tabloids printing lurid stories about Woods having affairs with several women. Woods, who married Elin Nordegren, a Swedish former model, in 2007, was ultimately linked to as many as 40 women -- one of whom, New York club hostess Rachel Uchitel, is reportedly pregnant by him.
That was shocking enough. Now there are reports that Woods may soon find himself embroiled in an even worse scandal: alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday that Keith Kleven, Woods' longtime trainer, has come under scrutiny in the wake of a joint U.S.-Canadian investigation of a Canadian doctor who treated the world's top golfer.
The FBI was called in after Dr. Anthony Galea was arrested October 15 in Toronto. Galea had earlier been stopped at the U.S.-Canada border, where U.S. Customs agents found human growth hormone and Actovegin, a drug extracted from calf's blood, in his car.
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported Saturday that Kleven's silence "has done little to stop the speculation about the dramatic changes in Woods' body beginning around 2004, the same year other Kleven clients began noticing Woods' regular appearances in the Kleven Institute and peaking around 2006 or 2007."
Say it ain't so, Tiger.
AND FOR 2010 . . . WHO KNOWS?
Of course, there a lot of other notorious names that I left out, particularly Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -- named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2009. On the one hand, he paid far closer attention to Wall Street than he did to Main Street, but on the other hand, he did take measures that, by all accounts, prevented the severe recession -- the worst in 30 years -- from plunging headlong into the Second Great Depression. The jury is still out on Bernanke.
Of course, if I included everyone deserving of this year's awards, this article would run far too long for anyone to read. Suffice it to say that 2009 was a strange year. One can only hope that 2010 will finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Happy New Year!
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Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.