Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Corsair Pirate Awards (Will be continuously updated until 12/31)

Another year has passed. What is that line in Abba's "Happy New Year" -- my favorite New Year's song -- "Happy new year/ Happy new year/ May we all have a vision now and then/ Of a world where every neighbour is a friend." Ando so on. And this makes our 11th -- ! -- annual Pirate Awards season. Cannot believe that this blog has been going for eleven years. All this week this blog will be re-hashing some of the fiascos, triumphs, epic fails and political coups that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart stuff that people who have been reading this blog for over a decade are used to.Another Year's End, dear readers (The Corsair sips, Auld Lang Synish, with a touch of romantic melancholy, a Chateauneuf du Pape 1999). For the eleventh year and running -- has it really been that long? -- we present you with The Corsair Pirate Year End Awards (Part I; the rest, my dears, as the last days of December unfold ... stay with this blog). Every blogger/Tumblr worth their salt nowadays has year end awards and 'this thing of ours' is no goddam different.. Just smarter. Basta!

The Niccolo Machiavelli Award, 2014: Tie -- Speaker elect John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. The Corsair is not a fan of either politico, but they navigated between the Scylla of the tea baggers -- a motley bunch of nativists and libertarians -- and the Charybdis of the Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Editorial page with what can only be properly construed as extreme finesse. If Niccolo Machiavelli were alive he would note that Boehner exhibited virtu in dispatching Congressman Grimm, an ethical time bomb threatening to undo his majority in the House; if Niccolo Machiavelli were alive he would note that McConnell ran an amazing campaign against the formidable Allison Grimes, and skillfully reacted to the winds of Fortuna in the Republican midterms. Again, The Corsair is not a fan of either, but we do subscribe to the principle of "don't hate, congratulate." Uncle Niccolo would approve.

Oddest Career Move: House of DvF. What the fucketh? Princess, A-Lister, fashion magnate, arbiter elegantiae, wife of billionaire -- all of these things, and more, are the lovely Diane von Furstenberg. So -- why would someone so accomplished and ferociously fabulous want to slum in the ghetto that is reality TV and, worse, live next door to the tasteless Kardashians on the -- omg -- E! "network"? Vanity Fair, in a rare moment of edge, asked DvF if she would have appeared on a reality TV show at an earlier stage of her career. Her answer is profoundly telling. "That’s a verrrry interesting question," she begins, drawing out the answer in search for time. "Yeah . . . I would actually. I would have loved to," she says with only a whisper of conviction. Sure, Diane, suuuuurre (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment).

Underreported Story of the Year: China Overtakes the U.S. as the World's Largest Economy. Understandably, the press in the united States downplayed this story. Economist Joseph Stieglitz did not. "(t)he United States is confronted with real foreign-policy challenges that will prove hard to resolve: militant Islam; the Palestine conflict, which is now in its seventh decade; an aggressive Russia, insisting on asserting its power, at least in its own neighborhood; continuing threats of nuclear proliferation. We will need the cooperation of China to address many, if not all, of these problems," Stieglitz writes in Vanity Fair. He counsels, "(w)e should take this moment, as China becomes the world’s largest economy, to 'pivot' our foreign policy away from containment." Hear, hear.

Sourest Puss on 2014: Kanye West. Why does this man always look as if he just consumed a bad batch of yogurt?

douchebag says what?

Weirdest TV Space: Sorkinworld. Sorkinworld means people of color in ancillary roles at best, operating on the margins, saying unimportant things; Sorkinworld means women characters always in the wrong, begging the omniscient male characters for forgiveness; Sorkinworld means omnipotent white men changing the world with their optimism, verve and principle. Ah, sweetness and light. Finally, Sorkinworld means never having to say you are sorry about your misogyny.

Weirdest Ideological Space: The bromance between Paleoconservatism and Putinism. Like the many Daddy-fixated "isms" before it -- nationalism and fascism come to mind -- paleoconservatism has found a living, breathing representation in Vladimir Putin, on which to practice that which we only be properly construed as profoundly Brokeback Mountainish. Taki, Pat Buchanan -- all those old paleo bulls -- spent 2014 lavishing Vladimir of St. Petersberg with hot, moist kisses in the form of digital columns. Get a room, fellas! "Is Putin One Of Us?" Patrick asks, almost coquettishly, eyelashes batting and heartbeat racing. One cannot fail to note that the political ideology most obstinately against homoerotic love spent 2014 composing homoerotic love poetry in the key of F Major to noted anti-same sexier, Vladimir Putin. Just saying.

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Most Relevant Print Magazine in 2014: Paper. Paper magazine was, hands down, the most relevant print magazine and their #breaktheinternet campaign was a stroke of media marketing genius. Kudos to Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, who, thirty years in, are still hugely relevant in the digital age.

Hell Awaits: Anthony Marshall. It would appear that you really can't take it with you. "Tony" Marshall, the wastrel son of Brooke Astor ended up in the least "toniest" of places -- the pokey.  All sorts of deliciousness. He had the most privileged of upbringings and did fucking nothing with it all. He died unheralded and unsung in November. Brooke, the mother, hated his wife and made it publicly known. "This knowledge led to the campaign of besmirching Charlene Marshall in the press and among her friends — another blow to Anthony Marshall’s dignity, integrity and lifelong devotion to a mother who never paid much, if any, attention to him until she was an old woman who could depend on that support," wrote NYSD. "Ironically, it was a relationship not unlike Vincent’s mother and her behavior toward her son, Vincent the boy." May he rest in peace; Hell awaits.

Retro Trend: Racism, AKA, Fear of a Black Planet. Racism was the new black, it would appear, in 2014. An African-American President notwithstanding, on social media there was fear of a black storm trooper, fear of a black Annie and -- dare I bring it up? -- lots of fairly fucking disgusting tweets about police brutality. So. Very. Mississippi 1955. Stinking little bastards.

Geopolitical Gambler of the Year: Saudi Arabia. The Obama Doctrine vis-à-vis the Middle East has been, in part, to open dialogue with Iran and to de-emphasize the relationship with the hooker-chasers in Riyadh (Averted Gaze; Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment)). Clearly, one of the biggest losers of the Obama presidency has been the House of Saud. Obama's body language with the Saudi royals is ... difficult. Clearly the President of the United States does not like the cut of their jib. They have lost their stalwart ally Mubarak, the price of oil -- their main export -- is int he shitter, and they are in a  deadly position in their proxy war with Iran, which is rapidly gaining geopolitical credibility in talks with the United States and the West at, as they see it, their expense. So what does any smart, small, wealthy nation do? It gambles. Big time. Doubling down, Saudi Arabia is digging in to protect their market share of black gold. They are not cutting production, no matter how low the price of oil drops. The strategy is that many of the smaller oil players -- including the frackers -- will be driven out and in the long run Saudi Arabia will have an even stronger hand than they do now in the grey and greasy River Limpopo-ish oil game. "(Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia) spoke of his role in persuading the 12 member cartel of the reasons to keep production at current levels," writes the FT. “'As a policy for Opec — and I convinced Opec of this — even Mr al Badri [Opec secretary-general] is now convinced, it is not in the interest of Opec producers to cut their production,' Mr Naimi told the Middle East Economic Survey." Play on, Playa.

Worst Politician: Nouri al-Maliki. "To understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006," wrote Ali Khederi, who, from 2003-2008, was the longest serving American official serving in Iraq. To call al Maliki divisive would be a tremendous understatement. Our situation in Iraq is largely because of his inept sectrarianism.By the time he resigned, in August, Iraq had become, essentially, a client state of Iran with large swaths controlled by ISIS. So, in fine, he was monumentally inept as a politico.

Best Politician: Joni Ernst. The Natural. It didn't hurt that Joni Ernst was funny, positive and seemed to be having one hell of a time campaigning for the United States Senate in purple Iowa. It also didn't hurt that her opponent -- picked by the increasingly inept, halfhearted and overworked Chuck Schumer -- was one of the most positively horrible candidates in our collective lifetimes. Ernest is a rising Republican superstar.

Trend of 2014: Ass. 2014 is the year that we, as a society, achieved "peak ass." Terminal butt-osity. Anaconda by any other name. It is all about the bass. We are talking, of course, about the booty. Ass -- not pun intended -- was big in 2014. Everyone, it seemed, was shaking it off. Is that a good thing or a decadent thing for the world's oldest democracy? Part of me feels feels that this is wonderful, but the part of me that thinks thinks that this is rather not. 

Coming of Age Award: Vice Media. Shane Smith has come a long way -- or maybe journalism has had to adapt to different, far more competitive media universe. Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice, in 2014 made the move from indie, underground, gonzo publisher to respectable Establishment media figure. He announced in December the Knight-Vice innovators fund at the Knight Innovation Award and spoke in the media sanctum sanctorum the Paley Center in the shadow of CBS.

The mother of Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf mourns at her funeral. Ashraf was shot dead while covering clashes in eastern Cairo. (AFP/Ahmed Mahmoud)

Courage Under Fire Award: International Correspondents. Are international journalists brave professionals bringing important information to the light of day from conflict zones or are they simply foolish? Nine out of ten journalists killed this year were local journalists, many of them in global trouble spots. According to CJR, "In total, at least 60 journalists were killed globally in 2014 in relation to their work, compared with 70 who died in 2013. CPJ is investigating the deaths in 2014 of at least 18 more journalists to determine whether they were work-related." Further, journalists all over the Arab world -- and beyond -- are being arrested (see: Turkey; see: Al Jazeera) Fool or brave, they brought us vital information about the Islamic State, they took us behind-the-scenes in Afghanistan, the Phillipines, the Central African Republic and showed us what is happening in Syria and deserve some praise.

Bad TV: There was a lot of bad TV this year -- Bad Judge, Mixology -- but Utopia was, by far, the worst. As Katy St. Claire, of the SF Weekly wrote, "The worst show of the year was Utopia, Fox's attempt at Lord of the Flies that stuck a bunch of uninteresting people on a ranch and asked them to create their own society." Yup.

Best TV: The Night The Wu Tang Weeded Up The Daily Show. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart staff writer Daniel Radosh noted, wryly, on his Facebook page the day after the Wu Tang Clan's now-legendary appearance, "My entire office smells like weed right now." As if to make sure we know exactly what he's talking about, Daniel links to the Wu Tang bio under that statement. Sounds positively herbal. It was, quite frankly, the coolest TV moment of the year -- thank you, Jon Stewart.

Asshole of the Year: Rudy Giuliani. Last year -- 2013 -- the Asshole went to Bibi Netanyahu. To be an asshole is a little like being a douchebag -- to wit: Charlie Gasparino -- but on the larger, national-international geopolitical stage. Giuliani, who has built a career race baiting, is now, it appears, the GOP point man on all things racial-dog-whistling. He was called upon by the GOP to deliver the perfect racial buzzwords speech against Obama at the 2008 Convention ("Comm-yeeeew-nity organizer") and has amped it up as the 2014 pointman for police brutality. Vladimir Putin is an asshole of world-historical proportions, yes -- but he is also pathetically cartoonish. In his own 19th century way, Putin is being a patriot. Kim Jung-Un has obvious mental health issues. Giuliani, however, appears to take a real perverse joy in his pathetic role in the Republican Party -- the hungry man's role of standing athwart the progress of people of color. He acquits this role with great gusto. Star Assy, Mr. Mayor!

Political Force of the Year: Libertarianism, Left. In the last few years, the Tea Party has risen -- on the right -- in political opposition to the nation's rising debt and the growth of government. This year, the Tea Party caucus lost key elections. But libertarianism, as a political force, rose up yet again -- this time on the Left -- as police brutality became a major national issue after the death of Eric Garner in July. One month later, in August, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, further nationalized the issue. By November a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson and in December another grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner. Riots against the excesses of the police raged as the year came to a close. Proto-Libertarian Rand Paul penned an essay for Time arguing for the demilitarization of the police. Police brutality is now a left-libertarian issue.

Media Flameout of the Year: Matt Taibbi's The Flameout. Ah, hubris. The name, The Flameout, says it all. "Taibbi hired great, voicey, no-bullshit editors like Alex Pareene and Edith Zimmerman," Wired said of the flameout. "The plan was to make an Internet magazine that mixed hard-hitting reporting and in-depth features with wicked, Spy magazine-style satire." What's not to like? Actually satire had a bad year in 2014. We lost The Flameout -- although it never even really began -- and we lost Stephen Colbert, the blowhard, knockoff Bill O'Reilly.

Tune in tomorrow for more 2014 Pirate Awards ....

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