In the Tradition of the Razzie Awards for the Worst Films of the Year, The 'Skeeter Bites Report Presents its 'Dishonors' for the People Who Have Had the Most Outrageous Impact on Politics, Society and Culture in America -- and the World -- in the Year Now (Mercifully) Ending
(Posted 5:30 a.m EST Tuesday, December 28, 2010)
By SKEETER SANDERS
As the year 2010 draws to a close (Did you start saying twenty-ten instead of two-thousand-ten?) it's that time again to take a look back at some of what's transpired over the past 12 months, make resolutions for 2011 (Yes, twenty-eleven, because two-thousand-eleven sounds really weird) -- 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 -- the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Tonys and the Emmys -- and to dishonor the worst among us as well, such as the late Mr. Blackwell's annual "Worst-Dressed Women" list and the Golden Raspberry Awards -- better known as the Razzies -- for the worst movies of the year.
In 2007, The 'Skeeter Bites Report chose to join in the awards-giving parade, but in the tradition of Mr. Blackwell and the Razzies, we chose to join in the bestowing of "dishonors" to the most richly deserving crooks, liars, power-mad despots and others who've made life a lot more complicated for Americans and the world at large -- and, in some cases, even the "dishonorees" themselves -- in the previous 12 months.
Not surprisingly, the list of nominees for 2010 was longer than in previous years, making the selection of the "winners" more challenging -- at least in some categories. In other categories, the selection was a no-brainer. But, here goes . . .
THE MACHIAVELLI 'ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS' AWARD: MITCH MCCONNELL
The 15th-century Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli is perhaps best known as the one of the main founders of modern political science. His most famous book, The Prince, is a manual to acquiring and keeping political power. But Machiavelli is perhaps more infamous for his belief that morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes; that actions can only be considered morally right or wrong by virtue of the morality of the outcome.
In other words, "The ends justifies the means."
If there's anyone more deserving of this year's Machiavelli Award, it's Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Senate minority leader, for his public declaration on the day after Republicans took back control of the House and gained six seats in the Senate in the November midterm elections that his top priority for the next two years is for he and his fellow Republicans in the next Congress to render President Obama so politically impotent as to doom his chances to win re-election in 2012.
"Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office," McConnell said in a November 4 speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation. "But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.
"We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday's election,"McConnell continued. "But we can't plan on it."
The fact is, McConnell has been working to render Obama politically irrelevant from the day the president took office. Under McConnell's leadership, Senate Republicans have imposed an unprecedented -- and unconstitutional -- tyranny of the minority in the Senate, in which Republicans require a 60-vote "super-majority" for passage of legislation.
That the 60-vote requirement is not supported by the Constitution -- nowhere does the nation's supreme law gives the minority party the authority to tie up all legislation by requiring a "super-majority" for passage -- doesn't bother McConnell.
But it now appears that McConnell's iron grip on the Senate Republican caucus may be slipping. Not only did 13 Republicans break from McConnell and vote with the majority Democrats to ratify the new START arms-control treaty with Russia -- as well as six GOP senators who voted to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces "out of the closet" -- but he faces a class of Tea Party-backed GOP freshmen who've made it clear they won't bow to the party leadership when it comes to reducing spending.
THE PINK FLOYD 'BRICK WALL' AWARD: JOHN MCCAIN
Speaking of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) -- the final repeal of the 17-year-old law was a long-overdue righting of a wrong in which President Bill Clinton, in one of his earliest acts after taking office in 1993, sought to end through an executive order the military's outright ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military, only to be overruled by Congress when it passed DADT, a "compromise" measure that allowed gays and lesbians to serve -- but only if they "stay in the closet" and keep their sexual orientation a secret.
President Obama vowed during the 2008 campaign to repeal DADT. it took him nearly two years to do it, but he finally signed the repeal bill into law on December 22.
Passage of the DADT repeal measure by a 65-31 vote in the Senate was greeted with both celebration and relief by gay-rights advocates. But they were stunned and angered by the fierce opposition to the repeal by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) -- even in the face of a study released by the Pentagon that found that 70 percent of armed forces personnel said that allowing gay and lesbian service members to finally "come out" posed little risk to military cohesion.
McCain, however, would not be swayed. In unusually caustic remarks on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican -- who ironically was elected to the Senate seat once held by the conservative icon Barry Goldwater, who famously said that "You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight" -- blamed "elite liberals with no military experience" for "pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.
"[Our soldiers] will do what is asked of them," McCain said. "But don't think there won't be a great cost [by allowing gays to serve openly]."
That McCain remained steadfast in his opposition to repealing DADT, even in the face of the Pentagon study, revealed that persuading him to change his mind was akin to talking to a brick wall -- which makes McCain, who now must struggle to live down accusations that he's homophobic, this year's shoo-in winner of the Pink Floyd Brick Wall Award, named in honor of the British rock band's song from their now-iconic album 1980 album, "The Wall."
THE DARTH VADER 'DARK SIDE' AWARD: KIM JONG-IL
Each year, one 'Skeeter Bites Award is reserved for a foreign leader whose actions outrage the world. For 2010, that foreign leader is North Korea's Kim Jong-il. He richly deserves this year's Darth Vader Award for his country's November 23 attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, which lies off the west coast of the divided peninsula near a disputed maritime border.
The North Korean barrage of artillery shells that killed to South Korean soldiers and sent hundreds of the island's residents scrambling for cover was the first direct military attack by the North on the South in nearly a half-century, since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The attack -- and the subsequent heightening of tension on the Korean Peninsula -- was the latest of a series of belligerent North Korean action in recent years. Now, according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables made public by the whistleblowing Web site WikiLeaks, even China -- North Korea's longtime ally -- is "fed up" with with the regime in Pyongyang, with senior Chinese officials quoted as derisively branding North Korea "a spoiled child."
The cables reveal China's mounting private frustration with North Korea in the four years since Pyongyang's provocative underground nuclear tests and test firings of its long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles.
In a February 17 cable, South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister, Chun Yung-woo, told Kathleen Stephens, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, that senior Chinese officials told him that Beijing "is fed up with the North Korean regime's behavior and would not oppose" the unification of the Korean peninsula under South Korean control.
When even China says it's fed up with North Korea's bellicosity, there's got to be something seriously wrong going on in Pyongyang. And since Kim Jong-il is the undisputed leader of North Korea, it is he who must bear responsibility for what actions his country takes. Which is why Kim Jong-il -- whom Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels civilian anti-crime patrol and now a New York radio talk-show host, derisively calls "Kim Jong Mentally Ill" -- is the 2010 winner of the Darth Vader Award.
THE HUNTER S. THOMPSON MEMORIAL 'FEAR AND LOATHING' AWARD: WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH
Last year's winner of this award -- named in memory of the late "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson's magnum opus, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" -- was Fox News host Glenn Beck. Who would have thought that someone would rise to the occasion and outdo Beck in instilling the kind of fear and loathing -- with the emphasis on loathing -- that Thompson talked about in his novel?
But someone has indeed "stepped up to the plate" -- actually several someones. Most of those someones bear the surname Phelps and all are members of a gay-hating cult that's outraged America for their protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The father of one such soldier has taken that gay-hating cult to court, accusing the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church of inflicting emotional distress upon himself and his family as a result of its protests. The case has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to issue its closely-watched ruling by spring.
As issue in the case, Snyder v. Phelps, is: Where does the First Amendment right of free speech end and where does defamation of character begin?
Make no mistake: Westboro has succeeded in making enemies of just about everybody, regardless of political leanings, with their protests at military funerals drawing sharp condemnation from across the political and social spectrum. Everything Westboro does is motivated by the sect's extreme hatred of homosexuality.
In short, Westboro -- whose members are almost exclusively relatives and in-laws of its iron-fisted leader, Fred Phelps -- is an extremely paranoid hate cult. Aside from its hatred of homosexuality, Westboro has a dirty secret it doesn't want the world to know: That Fred Phelps has a history of alcohol and drug abuse and of physically abusing his wife and children -- a history that The 'Skeeter Bites Report brought out in 2006 and repeated in 2009.
Talk about generating fear and loathing. Nobody does it better than Westboro.
THE DAVID DUKE 'BIGOT OF THE YEAR' AWARD: MARK WILLIAMS
A close second to Westboro in generating fear and loathing, however, is former Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, who made headlines in May with his highly inflammatory anti-Muslim remarks and his fierce opposition to the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque in New York near the site of the destroyed twin towers of the World Trade Center.
The New York Daily News, citing a blog posting on his MarkTalk.com Web site, reported that Williams branded the project "a monument to the 9/11 terrorists" and wrote that Muslims "worship the terrorists' monkey-god."
The 13-story glass-and-steel building, which includes a 500-seat theater and athletic center, is under construction just two blocks from where the twin towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, when two hijacked California-bound jetliners crashed into them and exploded in massive fireballs.
Williams has also made inflammatory anti-Muslim remarks about Obama -- despite all evidence that the president is a Christian -- calling Obama "an Indonesian Muslim-turned-welfare thug" and a "racist-in-chief."
But Muslims weren't the only targets of Williams' bigoted screeds. In July, Williams had the gall to accuse the NAACP -- the nation's oldest African-american civil rights organization -- of being "professional race-baiters" after delegates to the NAACP's annual convention in Kansas City passed a resolution condemning "extremist elements" within the Tea Party movement and calling on the movement's leaders "to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches."
In an interview with NPR, Williams branded the NAACP "professional race-baiters . . . who make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It's time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile racist groups that emerged in our history."
That same day on CNN, Williams went further. Asked if the Tea Party movement should tell bigots that they're not welcome, Williams replied, "Racists have their own movement -- It's called the NAACP! They're a bunch of old fossils looking to make a buck off skin color!"
If Williams was trying to be cute, he failed miserably. He also failed in his apparent attempt to draw attention away from his own record of making highly inflammatory, bigoted remarks -- a record that is well documented, despite his best efforts to sanitize it. He therefore is the 2010 recipient of the David Duke Bigot of the Year Award, named after the former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon and avowed "white nationalist."
THE SAMANTHA STEPHENS MEMORIAL AWARD: CHRISTINE O'DONNELL
Those of you over a certain age will probably remember the TV sitcom, "Bewitched," that starred the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, a typical 1960s-era suburban housewife -- except that Samantha was a witch. Her advertising-executive (and mortal) husband, Darrin (played by Dick York and later by Dick Sargent), insisted that Samantha limit the use of her witch powers to the bare minimum (This was, remember, the pre-feminist '60s).
As cliched as "Bewitched" was, the series was the first on television to portray witches in a positive light, if only to draw laughs. But the old stereotype of witches -- real-life witches -- being strange at best and evil at worst still persists even to this day. And Tea Party-backed U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell did nothing to dispel them.
Within hours of O'Donnell's stunning upset victory over former Representative Mike Castle in the Delaware GOP Senate primary, O'Donnell's past role as an arch-conservative social activist with ties to the Religious Right came back to haunt her -- and to cause deep embarrassment for GOP leaders.
Video clips quickly surfaced on the Internet and cable-news channels in which O'Donnell, who first gained national exposure in the mid-1980s as a spokeswoman for conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly's Concerned Women for America, made a series of highly controversial statements on the use of condoms, the fight against AIDS and the role of women in the military.
But none drew more attention -- and ridicule -- than O'Donnell's admission during a 1999 appearance on Bill Maher's now-defunct ABC late-night talk show, "Politically Incorrect" that she "dabbled" into witchcraft.
"One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn't know it," O'Donnell said. "I mean, there's a little blood there and stuff like that." She insisted, however, that she never joined a coven.
Many voters dismissed O'Donnell as a kook, while members of the Wiccan community blasted her for perpetuating negative stereotypes of Wicca, a nature-based Pagan religion that is alternately known as the "Craft of the Wise."
O'Donnell didn't help herself when she put up her first TV ad of the fall campaign. The very first words she uttered in that ad were, "I'm not a witch." O'Donnell's attempt to dispel the witch controversy blew up in her face; instead, it haunted her for the rest of the campaign (Not to mention a controversy over alleged embellishments on her academic resume).
For this, Christine O'Donnell wins the Samantha Stephens Memorial Award.
AND FOR 2011 . . . WHO KNOWS?
Of course, there a lot of other notorious names that I left out, particularly Laurent Gbagdo (pronounced BAG-bo), the president of the West African country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) -- who, after losing that country's November 28 presidential election, has not only refused to concede defeat, but has clung tenaciously to power, with the support of the country's military. Gbagdo's refusal to step down threatens to plunge the country -- once one of Africa's most stable -- into civil war.
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 2010 was a strange year. One can only hope that 2011 will finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for millions of unemployed Americans.
Happy New Year!
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Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.