The 2010 Muckmaker Awards (Page 2)

Worst Religious Leader: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
If you think the separation of church and state is almost non-existent in this country, then you should take a trip to Iran and meet this guy. (Actually, don’t. Just read on.) Ali Khamenei is an ayatollah, a high-ranking Islamic cleric, and has served as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1989. Since there’s already a president of Iran, you may be wondering what exactly a Supreme Leader does. Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything. He appoints the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, the Guardian Council (who decide the laws), special tribunals, the commanders of the armed forces, religious leaders, the national security council, and the director of the national media network…so where does that leave the “democratically elected” president? Well, he’s pretty much a figurehead who’s also chosen by the Supreme Leader, despite holding an election, but the Iranians weren’t having that happen again this past June. Even before the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced, peaceful protests began to form in the streets. Once the results were publicized, however, the protests began to turn increasingly violent. Everyone knew something wasn’t right. The results were being disputed worldwide, and numbers just weren’t adding up. Under the orders of Khamenei, thousands were arrested and more than 100 people were killed as they tried to fight back. This kind of thing was old hat to the Supreme Leader – he’s had any opposition over the years beaten and tortured, has had thousands of women arrested for violating the “dress code,” has banned the free press, has condemned homosexuality, was believed to have been behind several assassinations, and has even forbidden children’s music education that’s funded by the state because it gives kids “bad ideas.” (Yes, he’s fundamentally the Muslim version of the preacher from “Footloose.”) After just telling the Iranians that Ahmadinejad’s election was “divine assessment,” he ordered an investigation into the fraud, but everyone knew how that one would turn out. Newspapers and television stations were censored when they tried to report the ongoing violence, and websites and social networks were being blocked and filtered by the authorities. Khamenei’s voice is the only one the government of Iran wants people to hear, and there’s a good reason for that – they don’t want the world to know that the people are becoming more liberal. Modern times (and modern lifestyles) are increasingly finding their way into Middle Eastern culture, and this ayatollah is finding that his conservative beliefs are becoming less and less accepted all the time. But what he lacks in support he makes up for in might, and until there is a free press and a free election, there’s not much hope of breaking old traditions. It’s good to be the king.

Worst Religion: Catholicism
Pope Benedict XVI has uttered some pretty ridiculous shit this past year, as is his M.O., but his “condoms help spread AIDS” statement to the people of Africa last March certainly brought whole new meaning to the term “AIDS and FAIL.” We did not choose Catholicism as 2009’s Worst Religion because of what made the headlines, however, but because of what didn’t. On May 20, 2009, the Irish government’s Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report, commonly referred to as the “Ryan Report” (after presiding judge Seán Ryan), that made the 2002 clergy abuse scandals in Boston look like a free trip to Disney World. Taking over 10 years to compile, it covered the systematic abuse of poor children who were forced into orphanages, schools, and institutions run by Catholic organizations in conjunction with the Irish government and the Department of Education from the 1930s until as recently as the 1990s. They gathered evidence from over 2,000 witnesses, victims, and religious leaders, and more than 800 nuns, priests, and brothers were implicated in their investigation. More than 170,000 children were sent to these hellholes, and the crimes committed against them included daily beatings, starvation, inedible food, forced labor, unhealthy working hours and conditions, habitual sexual abuse and rape, neglect, humiliation, ridicule and belittlement, unfit living situations, and keeping them under a climate of constant fear that has lasted over 70 years. Up until recently, it was too taboo to talk about what had happened, but once the Ryan Report was released, the floodgates were opened and Ireland hasn’t been able to stop discussing it since. The rest of the world, however, has barely paid attention, and that’s no accident – the Catholic Church has had a death grip on the truth for this long, and they’re not about to let go now after all these years. The Church has worked for decades to keep this quiet, moving abusers from place to place and covering their crimes as they went, and in such a heavily religious country, this was almost too easy when every ill word anyone said was considered blasphemy. Some survivors have called this the “Irish Holocaust,” and rightfully so – once you start reading the individual stories of the victims, you cannot deny that what these people went through was a sin worthy of the term. Yet the Church still has billions of loyal followers across the world, willfully supporting and donating to an organization that has justified unspeakable atrocities such as this since its inception. Believing in a higher power is one thing, but blindly conforming to a religion that carries out (and covers up) depravity like this in your name, with your money, is another, and it’s simply inexcusable in this day and age. Catholics, wake the fuck up.

Worst Politician: Dermot Ahern
While we’re on the subject of Ireland and the Catholic Church, let’s also give an award to a perfect example of the Church’s dominance over the Irish – Dermot Ahern. He is the Minister of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform in the Irish government, and ironically stands for none of these principles. You may not recognize his name, but you probably read quite a bit about his despicable actions; he’s the man behind the amendment to Ireland’s Defamation Bill that added the “crime” of blasphemy to the books. It was passed on July 9, 2009 with only an hour of debate, and it was narrowly approved by the Seanad the next day. Yes, a law against blasphemy was passed…in 2000-fucking-9! I guess it should come as no surprise that a mentality this medieval could only have come from a conservative Christian like Mr. Ahern, and even though he’s a member of the Fianna Fáil political party, he’s far from what anyone would consider a “centrist” or a “liberal conservative.” He’s been quoted as saying that homosexuality “is a departure from normality” and “they do not deserve our tolerance,” yet he has demanded tolerance of his own lifestyle to the point of making it illegal to disagree with it. And while he’s said that the blasphemy law includes protection of all religious beliefs, we all know damn well which faith he was “protecting.” (Of course, atheists, agnostics, and theists who consider themselves of no particular religion were conveniently not addressed.) With this in mind, the effectiveness of this law has come into question, as pretty much anything can be considered blasphemy. Even the belief in Jesus Christ as our savior is blasphemous to a Muslim, and countless sects of Christianity fight amongst themselves over minor differences in Biblical interpretation that are deemed blasphemous in the other’s eyes, so who, exactly, do you punish? And what kind of punishment should they receive? How is the severity of blasphemy measured? So yes, the law in itself may be, in essence, useless, but it’s far from meaningless. Even after the publishing of the Ryan Report just months before, the fact that Ahern was able to push this legislation through shows just how much power the Catholic Church still has in a country that it has continually betrayed and exploited for so long. As any good politician does, he has abused his political position to push his own personal agenda, and we can’t help but think that his timing was no coincidence. Finally, after so many years of silence, Ireland has just begun to speak out and exercise freedom of speech in their supposed democracy, and Ahern was waiting in the wings with a rope and gag. It seems that he’s learned more than just “values” from the Christian Brothers.

Worst Businessman: John Thain
Former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain picked a bad time to be a typical Wall Street tycoon. The only thing the media loves more than a hero is a villain, and there’s no bigger villain during an economic recession than a greedy business mogul who goes on a spending spree. That’s not to say that he doesn’t deserve the bad press – knowing that Merrill Lynch was going under, he sold the company for $50 billion to Bank of America. That’s $29 a share, which was a 70% premium over what their market price was at that point. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that Thain had given himself and other Merrill executives billions in bonuses for their failures, which did not include the $1.2 million he spent on redecorating his office when he first scored the “job.” If an $87,700 area rug, a $1,400 waste paper basket (yes, a trash can), and a $35,000 “commode on legs” (yes, a toilet) isn’t a sign of corporate excess spinning out of control, we don’t know what is. But they may just be commonplace for a man with five homes, one of which is in Vail, Colorado, where he took his previously-planned skiing vacation even after knowing the devastating losses that Bank of America was facing. It was then, of course, that our tax dollars went into bailing out these crooks, and Thain, other than having to “answer a few questions,” got off scot-free. Sure, (now former) Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis forced him to resign, but when the subpoenas were filed and the investigations began, it was Lewis who took most of the heat. (Not that he didn’t deserve his share of the blame, looking at his income and bonuses.) Following an unsuccessful attempt to restructure its debt and mounting loan losses as customers continued to default on their loans, CIT Group has just recently asked Thain to pull them out of their post-bankruptcy hell, even after all his gross self-indulgences became public. Much like in politics, this proves that in business, you can only fail upward; this also confirms that white collar crime is still on the rise, even during a recession, and we’re only rewarding it. We almost feel bad awarding him a golden toilet, since he already flushed $35,000 on a Victorian shitbowl, but it’s not like he couldn’t have bought himself another one anyway.

Worst Muckmaker: The Tea Party Protesters
Now let’s get one thing straight – nobody hates politicians and corruption more than we do, but the Tea Party protesters make every dissenting voice in America sound like the spittle of a violently shaken infant struggling to articulate his first word after his soft head was dropped onto a concrete slab from a third story window. There are so many things wrong with their “platform” that it’s hard to decide where we should begin. In fact, it’s pretty easy to see that they don’t have a platform at all; just a bunch of imbeciles with misspelled signs and mislead opinions on topics they don’t care to comprehend. We hate to break it to these “rebels” without an actual cause, but yes, you do have to pay taxes, and no, socialism, communism, and fascism are not the same thing; nor are they even relevant in this conversation. You know why? Because you’re not in a deep, dark cell or fucking dead for saying them. We’re pretty sure that we don’t have to link to the countless videos of these drooling automatons unable to answer simple questions about the way the government works, or even their own purpose for protesting, because they’ve all gone viral by now for a reason – we love watching idiots make fools out of themselves, and that’s all the tea partiers have ever done for their “movement.” You want to be taken seriously? Then you should probably stop calling yourselves “teabaggers.” You want to be heard? Then you may want to stop interrupting people when they speak and debate them intelligently instead…and not with talking points and buzzwords fed to you by Fox News. Just the fact that they’re being covered and sponsored by a major world news outlet with deep connections in our government should be bright red flag screaming, “It’s not rebellion if a major corporation supports it!” This leads us, of course, to special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Even if the tea parties actually originated as grassroots movements, as many of them claim, they have only grown to the proportions that they have because their rallies are now funded and controlled by Republican puppet masters who just want to see the Democratic majority fail. FreedomWorks, for example, is run by Dick Armey, a former Republican congressman who played both sides for personal profit. He was asked to resign from his lobbyist position with DLA Piper, who was pushing for health care reform on behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies, while FreedomWorks organized protests against “socialized medicine.” Do they really think guys like that care about what’s best for the American people? And with Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin speaking at these events (and getting paid $100,000 to do so, mind you), isn’t it obvious that this is just a political ploy to dump all the guilt for the recession on one party? If these protesters truly cared about ending political corruption and punishing corporate greed, then they would have been protesting the last eight years of the Bush dynasty as well. No matter what your political leanings are, the fact remains that both parties have failed at leading this country into the promised land, filling their pockets the entire way, and the only “indoctrination” going on is our continued support of a two-party system that, arguably, has never worked very well in the first place. The tea party, however, is not that third party we’ve been looking for (It’s not really a party at all!), and all it’s missing at this point is a Mad Hatter and a white rabbit. They are the Worst Muckmakers of 2009 because the only thing worse than the politicians themselves are the huddled masses who enable them, and that’s all these assholes have ever done.

Don’t forget – if you want more information on these muckmakers, be sure to download the podcast version of the Muckmaker Awards right here! Agree with our picks? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!