The ballots are in, the results counted and not a small amount of blood wiped off the floors. Dear reader, I speak not of the Iraqi elections; this is a matter of true democracy, where oppressed people the world over – not to mention the oppressors! – have picked and chosen their Rum and Monkey Person of the Year 2004.

Let me tell you, reader, I was stumped when I asked for submissions, and I’m still stumped. So many people deserve this honour, and I thank you for your wise e-mails.

Perhaps the most popular nominee was President George W. Bush, sometime cocaine addict, alcoholic warmonger and – while he was governor – winner of the Most Prolific Government-Sponsored Murderer award. As one reader notes:
“While you are correct that the plague of conservatism that has seemingly seized the western world is an amalgamation of numerous factors, President George W. Bush has emerged as a figurehead for the conservatives. It is on this premise I nominate President G. ‘Dubya’ Bush for the fifth and final (and belated) person of the year.”
I have chosen to ignore the “belated” remark.

Another reader thought that the American public deserved the honour for voting the man into power to begin with:
“(1) through a bogus first election when he lost the popular vote, economy that has been down since whenever, and all the other crap you aforementioned, they still stuck by his slimy side.

(2) Voting with their discriminatory religious minds instead of the rational one that the country is suppose to be founded on - but hey, fuck our forefathers.”
Well indeed, and this pundit is continually bemused by the religious right. It’s not, after all, like America was founded as a secular country and that, in 1788, John Adams wrote a treatise entitled A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America in which he stated that, “it will never be pretended that any persons employed in [American government] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” Perish the thought!

(Yet more readers nominated Karl Rove, which is almost the same as nominating George. Or should that be the other way around?)

Blaming the media is always a popular choice, as another reader pointed out:
“The last person of the year has to be Fox News, which has become a sentient entity unto itself. Fox News can be largely credited with the sharp right turn America has taken, and it had more personality than most of the other People of the Year. Thanks to you, Rupert Murdoch, for teaching us all that only jihadists and America-haters ask why!”
Equally:
“My vote would go to US television demigod Bill O'Reilly. Forever a champion of the misguided, illiterate middle-American, he has consistently promoted the delusional right-wing agenda of hazy logic, angry rhetoric and flat-out hateful punditry. Despite his lofty self-image, choosing to put himself high about the media circus upon which he consistently pours scorn, he delighted all of us with his delicious sex-tape scandal in which he bragged of his penis, tried vainly to promote rigorous vibrator use, and fantasized in great detail of the tropical holidays for him and his busty co-worker. It truly brought him back down to earth, and the rumours of the pay-off were so outrageous considering his categorical denials of ever having done anything even slightly questionable.

For his moral ambiguity and gloriously flawed character, I vote Bill O'Reilly to be person of the year. You simply cannot get more off-the-beaten-path than this chap, and 2004 proved it.”
Further off the beaten path lay none other than Osama Bin Laden:
“Who else can lay claim to the fact that they've managed to elude American ‘Intelligence’ forces and the military for 4+ years. In addition, he set into motion the current American fad of ‘remove own freedoms to fight for democracy’.

Please put Osama up for it, I'm sure he'd really appreciate it.”
Done!

Further correspondents were quite fervent about other issues. One nominated the NHL and NHLPA because,
“they went into a lockout and not only that, they cancelled the season altogether. When the season comes back their brilliance will real shine with no TV contract or a fan base. They pretty much screwed themselves over, so therefore I nominate the entire NHL.”
Sir, I have to tell you, I just don’t care. Good attempt though!

Sports issues dominated another armchair pundit’s thoughts:
“While not an individual, I feel that the collective group of multi-millionaire professional athletes deserve a nomination. 2005 was a banner year for greed, steroids and controversy that has created an overall disgust amongst the public. Just a few of the incidents that deserve recognition include:

Barry Bonds was implicated in the BALCO trial, involving steroid use amongst professional athletes. When confronted about it, he claimed that he didn't know the cream that a friend had given him, contained steroids. A professional athlete's livelihood is based on their body. He knew. With his ridiculous claim, he confirmed the fact that steroid-induced head growth does not lead to greater intelligence.

Latrell Sprewell of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves demanded a contract extension at his current salary of approximately $14.5 [million, we presume] on the basis of needing to feed his family.

The NHL lockout has left hockey fans (especially Canadians) without appropriate television to accompany their beer and without an excuse to not take their girlfriends to the ballet. Toronto Maple Leaf All-Star blue liner, Bryan McCabe further provoked his hockey starved city in saying that the players only wanted to make a decent living. McCabe, with an annual salary of over $4 million, was making, in fans' eyes, approximately 50 decent livings.

And those three incidents are just off the top of my unswollen, steroid-free, noggin.”

Sir, I urge you. Take your girlfriend to the ballet. Your cultural consciousness will appreciate it, and maybe that hot dog gut you've been nurturing will have a chance to deflate.

And finally:
“I would like to nominate mother nature as Person Of The Year, 2004. She has reminded us time and time again that she is in charge of this world. Hurricanes pounded Florida. Droughts starved much of Africa. Mudslides buried California. The tsunami took over 150,000 lives. Global warming is undeniable, and may be Mother Nature's way of getting even with humanity for our misuse and abuse of the wonderful planet we live on. For all the politicians and influential people in the world, Mother Nature trumps them all. One puff of wind could down Air Force One. One sandstorm reveal Osama Bin Laden's hideout. One earthquake tear apart the Israeli 'security' fence. One flood drown much of central Europe.

Yes my friends, Mother Nature deserves person of the year 2004, for no one affected as many people in as direct and personal a manner.”
Thank you for writing! There's always a place in my dark, cavernous, windswept heart for environmental melodrama.

So who does deserve to be crowned Rum and Monkey Person of the Year 2004? Is it a politician, sportsperson, media hack, animal, vegetable or mineral? In the best traditions of democracy and free thought – not to mention cop-out endings and poor writing – I’ll leave it for you to decide.

One thing’s for certain: considering natural disasters, political catastrophes, pop culture debacles and sporting incidents about which I'm still completely apathetic if I tell you the honest truth, if 2005 isn’t a better year, I’m going to see the manager and demand my money back.