There can be little denial that this corner's Significant Saps of 2011 are a unique and highly impressive collection of lamebrains as this country continues its steep dumbing down slide. This year's grand grouping admittedly is weighted by crazed politicians attempting to gain the Republican Party nomination for the Presidency. Better days are ahead when the GOP ninnies are filtered down to a not so precious few shortly into the new year giving hope for a much more balanced assemblage of the bizarre next year. Let us count the ways in which they have distinguished themselves while entertaining us this year.
Worth noting is Sarah Palin's largely subdued performance while failing to achieve the kind of sap stardom of past years. Palin is to be commended for staying away from commentary about such subjects as Russia, turkeys and death panels while concentrating on self-promotion, something for which she has enormous energy as she sells books and does phoners with Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Alas, there was no further enrichment of Webster's dictionary by her, a somewhat disappointing development.
It was, however, a past year's blunder that came back to haunt Palin when Rep. Gabriella Giffords was shot in Tucson. It was on a SarahPAC map that Palin had placed a target over Giffords' congressional district, an act that many blamed for the shooting that took six lives. Palin, therefore, is a member tried and true of this year's team. Charlie Sheen is not. He's simply a creep.
If Palin is a turkey, then former Rep. Anthony Weiner is, well, a weiner. As we learn to live with and understand the quick communications that dominate our lives, we continue to make mistakes and Weiner made a big one when he sent a crotch shot to a young admirer out there in Twitterland. First Weiner claimed his twitter account was hacked, then resigned when the photo suddenly appeared on the web.
So much has been written about and captured on TV about the GOP contenders that words seem inadequate to describe each candidate's faltering attempts to connect with a confused public. Of the candidates, only Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann have stayed on message. What has been reduced to a seven-ring circus defies analysis as attack ads mount in intensity with Newt Gingrich's "high road" showing signs of abandonment. Newtie's in trouble (it couldn't happen to a nicer guy) with an inclination to augment answers to questions. Such add ons can be devastating as he smugly proves what we already know: he's the best debater of the bunch. One is reminded of the Hitler story in which The Fuhrer is deep in a Berlin bunker being bombed by both Russian and U.S. armies. In a particularly impressive rage, Hitler shouts: "O.K. No more Mr. Nice Guy." As this is written, Newtie has begun to fight back.
The social conservatives can't handle Romney's Mormon faith nor does Newtie's marital baggage inspire hosannas. Ron Paul, who may very well win Iowa, is over the cliff on half the debatable subjects while the rest have simply not gained reasonable traction. Rick Perry does a great impression of George W. Bush while Huntsman's great hope is New Hampshire which he needs to win. As a Jewish friend once observed: "It's such a puzzlement."
The biggest GOP laughs were provided by Herman Cain whose salesmanship on behalf of pizza and restaurants proved to be poor preparation for the rough and tumble of politics. Offering public pronouncements of little sense, Cain provided memorable moments heavy on the kind of jive associated with The Kingfish of "Amos & Andy" fame. Cain's campaign disintegrated when a number of women stepped forward to reveal the pizza man had fast hands in the back seats of cars; one revealed an affair of 13 years.
Also prominent in the Sex Sweepstakes was Arnold Schwarzenneger whose marriage to Maria Shriver was terminated with the discovery of a love child conceived with a housekeeper of some 20 years. Now 14, the former governor's son began getting strange looks from Arnold and Maria's friends who decided he looks more like the ex-body builder than the other four kids.
We finally got rid of Nevada Senator John Ensign in April and it took a while. It was in 2009 that Ensign, who had called on President Clinton to resign because of adulterous conduct with Monica Lewinsky, admitted doing the same thing with the wife of an employee. Ensign's parents paid off the mistress with a total of $96,000 in eight tidy payments of $12,000, a figure that complied with tax rules governing gifts. Followers of the current GOP Presidential nominating process probably were spared an even great degree of TV attack ads when Ensign's infidelity was revealed. Amid much speculation that he would run, a June Iowa trip was planned, then called off. Some "kids" move in with their parents, other maneuver them into mistress payoffs.
Speaking of politicians, another former Illinois governor made it to prison this year. In a move both criminal and highly gutsy, Rod Blagojovich attempted to sell Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Amid seriously bad hair displays, Blago, as we have come to know him, was recently sentenced to 14 years on felony corruption charges. Those knowledgeable about the sentencing of Illinois governors for criminality believe Blago should not have attempted to become a public personality of wide recognition while a judge determined how much time he should serve. By appearing on such shows as Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," displaying a propensity for endless TV interviews, and achieving stardom on a TV commercial for Wonderful Pistachios, Blago gained notoriety just this side of the Kardashians that may have added a year or two to his sentence.
Speaking of Trump, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that The Donald needs a new gig as he seeks whatever it is he is seeking. Further public recognition is what it appears to be mostly about; rumors, largely floated by him, continue to suggest he wants to be President. There was a period during the year when Trump seemingly was determined to be a king maker over food. The Trump Primary first found The Donald meeting over pizza with a self-invited Palin. Other candidates sought Trump's imprimatur with Paul and Huntsman declining. Disappointed with the many TV debates, The Donald decided to hold his own, then had to back off when all but Gingrich declined.
Far from the political arena except for Iowa caucusers (that one's a Palin leftover) was Jesse Dimmick of Shawnee County, Kansas who made the mistake of kidnapping newlyweds a couple of years ago. Dimmick was a murder fugitive at the time with the cops in pursuit when he burst into the home of Jared and Lindsey Rowley.
That was shortly after the cops chased the stolen van Dimmick was driving onto the front yard of the Rowleys, married some seven days. A confrontation followed, a cop shot Dimmick in the back and the fugitive was sentenced to 10 years and 11 months. The past two years in the pokey gave Dimmick time to thnk about life's vagaries and what happened when he broke into a home. Late in October, Dimmick filed a lawsuit of $235,000 against the Rowleys for his pain and suffering.
Then, there's the story about the drunken Santa Claus at the recent Mavericks-Heat game in Dallas. Santa, gin and tonic in hand, was confrontational with Heat star LeBron James, maybe the most disliked NBA player--particularly in Cleveland where he once played.
"What do you want from Santa?" questioned jolly Santa as James got set at the foul line.
"How about a ring?" added Santa in reference to James's having been preeminent as the Heat folded in the finals against the Mavericks. James made the free throw and scored 37 points as the Heat won.
While the dunce cap in business hss been worn by many--Coca Cola, Ford's Edsel and Enron come to mind--Netflix achieved high honors this year for losing what probably will total two million subscribers. With the motion picture industry in the doldrums largely due to ticket prices running from $8 to $13 a ticket, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings thought it might be a good time to raise prices. What ensued was a disastrous financial drama that included a stock tumble from $304 to a recent $71. The preparing of loyal customers for a price change was not considered and the price hike was as sudden as a roadside bomb. There was no PR campaign explaining a marketing strategy down the road and Netflix pulled the business blunder of the year. It was the kind of decision suggesting Reed's qualification for politics.
What Jon Corzine did this year may very well have been both stupid and criminal. While most of us can revisit poor financial decisions by examining our checkbooks, Corzine managed to lose $1.2 billion and he made it look easy. A former U.S. Senator, ex-Governor of New Jersey, and former head honcho of Goldman Sachs of Too Big to Fail fame, Corzine proved a remarkably poor gambler when he bet $11.5 billion on a horse named European Debt. Now gone are bankrupt company MF Global, the billion dollars and change and a reputation that was looking a bit tarnished before he decided Wall Street offers more excitement than Las Vegas. Oh, yes. The money of customers and former workers as yet to be found. How do you jmisplace that kind of money?
One might be inclined to feel sorry for Rupert Murdoch if it weren't for the man's dreadful record as a media impresario and social climber whose leech-like use of people like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reflects how he gains power in the UK. Murdoch's media empire hacked the telephones of celebrities, the royal family and public citizens with the past year the worst yet for the Australian. His hacking included the phone of a child murder victim. The investigation of Murdoch is taking place in the UK and in this country (his U.S. holdings include Fox News) with the FBI heavily involved.
By all means, let's not forget Kim Jong-Il who had the decency to take leave of us as starving North Koreans shed tears. Maybe the tears were real. After all, the supreme leader was a fashion icon of enormous impact, he invented the hamburger and, yes, shot a round of golf 38 strokes under par while making, you're going to have a hard time with this, 11 holes-in-one. You could, as Casey Stengel once put it, look it up. Better yet, check out the bodyguards who were present and attested to Kimmy's feat (there were no pars on his card) and bear in mind it was his first round of golf. Measuring 7,700 yards, the Pyongyang Golf Course is not some tricked up, short track whose 19th hole that momentous day likely served the divine one his Cognac obsession, Hennessy, whose homeland cost of $630 a bottle amounts to just $270 less than a North Korean family's average annual income. Hennessy, the corporation is in deep mourning since Kimmy used to spend around $800,000 a year on his favorite booze making him Hennessy's biggest customer.
While Christmas gives us the kind of bemusement that comes with those (hopefully) one-page literary round-ups of familial triumph sandwiched by a card of holiday tidings, the subject of accompanying pictures of poor taste are recalled. Going away winner this time around is Jorge Santini, mayor of San Juan, who reminds us that politicians are at least a little goofy just about everywhere. Jorge really outdid all others picture-wise when he posed his family huddling around not a manger scene but one depicting a taxidermied killing. As a leopard sinks its teeth into a fear-stricken antelope, a little girl smiles sassily. That's not all. The caption suggests "the hunt scene was chosen to embody the mayor's holiday spirits over a few other creepy options--including an unconvincing penguin figure staring into a young man's ear in a frosty wonderland a giant bird swooping over the Mayor's head as a black bear poses nearby." Perhaps something got lost in the translation.
Understandably, political rivals have made their own interpretations suggesting the picture is an understated warning to Santini's opponents in an upcoming election. This, as we know, wouldn't be the first time a politician has used family as an election furtherance. The mayor, meanwhile, insists the picture was a promotion for the San Juan Wildlife Museum.
Finally, there's a community of saps who live in State College, Pennsylvania. We know not how many they number but for a minimum of 10 years (we're not yet sure how long this outrage went on), the townsfolk managed to know nothing about child molester Jerry Sandusky. The disgusting story tells us a lot about the power of a university (or a corporation) in a small, relatively isolated town and how people, somehow, can become incapable of doing the right thing.
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