Friday, December 10, 2010

Vote Now! Introducing the The 2010 Crank Crank Revolution Miserable Crank Awards

The 2010 Crank Crank Revolution
Miserable Crank Award

It's nearing the end of the year, and so it's time to reflect on everything that's happened in the past twelve months. Here at C2R, we're not above recognizing those events that have had an important impact on the year. Of course, the best way to honor this year is to find that event that epitomizes everything that is wrong with it, so that we may learn and improve. Or, more likely, bitch about it.

I have divided the various awful events of 2010 into eight categories:

The Most Miserable Person We Permit to Contribute to Our Society  
The Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision
The Weirdest Nonsense We Continue To Allow Ourselves To Be Entertained By
The Most Ridiculous Government Decision Everyone Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About
The Most Embarrassing Thing About Being A Member of the Human Race
The Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle
Things Everyone Else For Some Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled
The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea of 2010

Each of the candidates for each award are listed below, along with a description as to why. The voting form is listed at the very bottom of this post. There is also a ninth question: What is the worst thing about 2010? It lists all of the candidates from all of the categories. Whichever one of these gets the most votes will win the overall award, and whatever category it was pulled from will be awarded to the runner-up. I'm reserving a bit of power on this question; if there is a tie, or if I feel the winning candidate isn't quite right, I may choose a different candidate. We'll see how the voting goes. 

Voting will be available until Friday, December 17th, 2010. The winners will be announced sometime after that weekend.

And, of course, if you feel that something better (i.e. worse) should be added to this list, please let me know! I'll gladly accept write-in votes and post some honorable mentions. Just e-mail me (see the link to the right). You may also want to sign up for my Twitter account, since I'll be posting some updates there as well.

Happy voting!

The Most Miserable Person We Permit To Contribute To Our Society

LeBron James
There's nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments, or acknowledging that you're the best at your game. It's also nice that when you enter a professional sports league that has a draft mechanism that allows teams to self-balance their talent, you gamely participate to the best of your ability. But you know what's not so cool? Kicking a down-and-out city like Cleveland, then producing a self-centered homage to yourself on prime time television for an hour like it's a Haiti Relief telethon. Sure, the money was sent to charity, but putting your huge ego up on eBay might have had a better return for the investment.
Bristol Palin
What do you do when you are put into a competition in which you have no inherent talent and were picked for reasons unrelated to your abilities? You lose the vice presidency. Then a few years later your daughter does roughly the same thing for roughly the same reasons on Dancing With The Stars, where a quarter of America keeps voting for you not because of your performance but just to stick it to those East Coast elites. You know, the ones who are too busy brewing their Keurigs and having late-term abortions to vote by phone forty times a night. Here's a tip for everyone involved: no one wins anything here. It's just for bragging rights, which is worth about as much as abstinence education.
Jay Leno
It's hard to make friends in show business. It's a cutthroat industry, where only a few prized souls can make it to the top, and a large percentage of the talent pool has only very slight degrees of differentiation in that talent. So even small degrees of luck, connections, or willingness to give handies to producers under the desk will make or break a career. Hard work is rarely recognized--witness the standups who pound the clubs nightly for ten years just to play Disgruntled Subway Rider #4 on the fifth season of Seinfeld. So when one of the most powerful figures in the late night talk show circuit--Jay Leno--hands the reigns of a decades-old institution such as the Tonight Show to you--Conan O'Brien--you are grateful and give proper credit when due. And when the same person falls flat on their face in an embarrassing fiasco that was the Jay Leno Show and then demands his old show back, and are ridiculed for even trying to defend yourself, it's not hard to realize that the person you thought was a class act is in, reality, a no-talent mug-faced douchecake.

Ben Roethlisberger
Football players are, by nature, an aggressive breed. They are paid to hit people with a level of relentlessness that would be illegal in anything outside of a Juggalo concert. So when Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Superbowl champ of the Pittsburgh Steelers, wrecked his motorcycle a few years ago, we all chalked it up to the youthful indiscretion of living life when society has decided to pay you millions of dollars to throw a ball around a field for four hours three months out of the year. And when a young lady in a Las Vegas hotel accused him of sexual harassment, we cast it off as a spurned lover with a checkered past. But when the details of a hot, sweaty night in Milledgeville, Georgia came to light--involving accusations of rape, drunken minors, and off-duty cops hamming it up for the cameras--one kind of gets the skeebies about the guy. Insincere protestations that he is a changed man who looks to God and is a Pittsburgher till he dies--or until he's 36 and can't fit under the salary cap anymore-- has more than just a tinge of a jailhouse conversion.

Christine O'Donnell
A politician like Sarah Palin only comes around once a lifetime. Unless you're Christine O'Donnell. Winning a primary against the experienced and popular--and, more importantly, electable--Mike Castle, O'Donnell came out as a rising star in the new fight for control of Congress. Then, about six hours after her upset win, Delaware realized that they had nominated a complete intemperate fool to represent them in the Senate. Video clips aired of her talking about witches and masturbation (thankfully not in the same incident). Answers to simple questions were botched to the point that Dan Quayle could have been her phone-a-friend and answered correctly. And--to no one's surprise--she lost, where she will have an awful and humiliating career for the rest of her life making millions of dollars writing books and having a talk show on Fox News.

Most Indefensibly Stupid Business Decision

Remote Kindle Erasure
People tend to get pretty defensive when anyone--whether it be the boss, the government, or a large internet-based book company--reaches into their personal devices and fusses with all the important stuff. (Why on earth the folks who have Apple products don't get all outraged about the same is beyond me.) So when Amazon self-deleted copies of books from users who had legitimately purchased them without their permission or advance notification, people were understandably upset. The reason for doing so at the very least was halfway legitimate--the publisher of the book didn't have the proper copyright credentials--but the way it was handled was more or less the worst possible way to do so. And, of course, the titles involved were from George Orwell, including Animal Farm and--you guessed it--1984, a book that is pretty much a how-to manual for heavy-handed information removal. For a company priding itself in being the poster child for the new, leaner model of online retailing, it sure acted like part of the big, old-school, clumsy economy it's trying to replace.

The Kardashian Kard
There aren't a whole lot of products that would convince me to purchase them with the persuasion of one Kim Kardashian--with the possible exception of the services of a defense attorney--but that didn't stop her from endorsing a financial product called the Kardashian Kard, quite literally a poor man's prepaid debit card. Ignore for the moment that people would be placing their money into a product that, as a marketing gimmick, spells "card" with a hard K. Ignore for the moment that it's hard to shill for a financial product when one sincerely doubts the concept of living within means has ever been a part of the spokeswoman's routine. But--as it turns out--this was all rather apt. The card itself was a straight-up ripoff, full of hidden fees and loan-shark levels of interest. While the product was quickly cancelled, one has to wonder exactly how many levels of sheer incompetence this ran though, presumably by a bunch of distracted paper-pushing banking regulators who were under the impression there would be a chance they would see her buttcrack.

iPhone Reception
A new version of the iPhone was released this year--and, as usual, cell phone customers when batshit crazy standing in line at three in the morning to pay $500 for a device that can roughly do the same thing as a $300 laptop (or, translated in Apple terms, a $3000 laptop). But when phone users starting complaining that the phone's reception was shit, Apple, hoping to catch some good PR by solving the customer's issue, told consumers that it was their fault that they were holding the phones wrong and they should go piss up a rope. After insulting their intelligence and refusing the acknowledge an obvious flaw in its engineering, he then promised to provide free "bumper" accessories to fix the issue. iPhone users then hailed him as a benevolent messiah for providing a need that was created due to his own mistakes. Seriously, guys, this somehow makes you look simultaneously pretentious and stupid. 

Prius Recall
What do trendy progressives like? They like to buy cars that are good for the environment. You know what else they like? Foreign cars, so they can show their friends and random strangers that Detroit doesn't control them with some necessary faux sense of patriotism. Of course, they also love to brag about how cheap it was and how reliable it is even though it's foreign-made. (How this is different than buying fair trade coffee and railing against exploiting third world laborers is left as an exercise to the reader.) So it's particularly embarrassing when Toyota--already reeling with last year's recall of the Camry and Corolla--then had to recall their flagship vehicle for safety and craftsmanship. This would have been a prime time for the Big Three automobile manufacturers to step up and exploit this gap in the marketplace, but they were too busy being bankrupt and owned by the government to care.

Flash Crash
If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that our financial sector is a teetering house of cards, barely able to withstand any unpredicted change in the atmosphere or the entire thing comes crumbling down in a pile of broken dreams and jail sentences. You know what's not so reassuring about the future? The fact that some sausage-necked fat-backed broker on the trading room floor fat-fingered an order and caused a 1000-point drop in about thirty seconds for no other reason than physical clumsiness. I thought androids would be taking care of all this nonsense at this point. C'Mon! It's 2010, people!

Weird Nonsense We Allow Ourselves To Continue To Be Entertained By

Lady Gaga's Meat Dress
One has to imagine that each morning Lady Gaga wakes up and thinks about new and creative ways to make herself appear to be a bigger nutcase than the day before. Then, after she contemplates this for a while, she eats a big bowl of crazy, dresses up like a street hooker, and goes to the recording studio to produce some music. One day, somewhere in Lady Gaga's Internal Flowchart Of Batshit Craziness, she decided that the best course of action to take one day is to make a dress out of meat products and wear it to an awards ceremony. The most surprising thing is how unshocked everyone was at her behavior. When no one is alarmed that you left the house wearing bacon underwear and bologna knee-highs, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the direction you've taken with your life.

Joaquin Phoenix
You know how when you pretend to be someone or something you're not? That's called acting. You know what isn't acting? Just going around and being a jerk, and then having someone pay you to let them film you being a jerk, and telling everyone after the fact that you're not being a jerk but just acting. Guess what, homeslice--you're still a jerk.

The Quaids
Poor Uncle Eddie! It's one thing to be a down-on-your-luck B-list actor scraping by with infomercials and guest spots on Psych. Maybe you've overmortgaged your overpriced house in the hopes that someday they'll make a Branson Vacation. But when you delve into a meth-fueled squatting jag that includes accusing a complex Hollywood murder plot that involves Heath Ledger and David Carradine, you've gone from Hollywood crazy to straight-up white trash crazy. And you know what? It is possible that there is a conspiracy that includes an intricate plot to kill you, but the murder weapon is going to include cough syrup, tinfoil, and PBR.

Katy Perry's Exploding Boobs
To be fair, no one should be surprised about those prudes on Sesame Street--just look how that harlot Letter M is dressed--nor should anyone be surprised that Katy Perry's sweet boobs pretty much were sneaking out of her "dress" the entire time they were filming the segment. (The reason no one caught it was because Bert and Ernie were in charge of it, and, well, maybe they weren't the guys you want in charge of being distracted by bouncy female parts.) But when you shoot music videos where your cleavage is literally shooting actual fireworks, your career has slid from self-parody to straight-up attention-whore pity. I realize it's kind of her thing, but so help us if they ever figure out how to autotune her tits instead of just her voice.

Shake Weight

Late-night infomercials are always chock full of half-assed gimmicks to accomplish what could easily be accomplished without spending ten bucks plus shipping. The Shake Weight is no different. It's a weight designed to let you lose weight while you practice giving hand jobs. That's pretty much it.

Ridiculous Government Decisions Everyone Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About

Arizona Immigration Law
There is a lot going for America as a concept, if not a country. It more or less forged liberty and freedom as the government structure of record. The welcoming of different classes, races, professions, and culture were seen as a positive rather than a negative, at least those outside of the former Confederacy. So when something like the Arizona Keep Those Mexicans Out Act of 2010 was passed, it's an embarrassment to the nation. Sure, the US isn't alone in being skeptical of foreigners--see the refugee crisis in Australia, for instance, or the Gypsies in modern-day France. Oh, and ask those Germans what they think about Scientologists and Jews. Passing a law where you ask for papers just based on appearance alone smacks of Reichlike behavior, and let's just say a lot more busboys and landscapers get asked than tan guys in suits.

European Bailouts
Greece tried. It really, really tried. And so did Ireland. But both ultimately failed. Ireland, after nearly ten years of miraculous growth, had mismanaged its banking regulation, finding that it's a bit more difficult than herding sheep or running an off-shore abortion cruise ship. It's demise was partly hubris--when the warning rockets were fired years ago, the government promised to back everything. Not up to a limit, or with proper investigation, but everything. This, of course, wasn't something that the Irish government could handle, and the crisis spiraled out of control to Portugal, Spain, and even the UK. The entire financial fiasco threatens the Euro currency system, and may finally break the decade-long cooperation that had provided so many stable elements in the region. Thank goodness Europe has a tradition of keeping their conflicts confined to the mainland.

Health Care Reform Act
Health care needs to be fixed. As with every single issue in the history of mankind, there is a right way to fix it and there is a wrong way to fix it. For some incredibly arcane reason, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats not only did it the wrong way, they seemed to have gone out of their way to find new and creative ways to make their decision-making even more awful. Whether it was enacting a huge, expensive bill in the middle of a recession so that business are even more uncertain about whether they should hire new workers or the political mistakes of forcing a flawed bill through the House just so they wouldn't have to compromise, a lot of bad had to go with the good. Thankfully, the one thing both sides could agree on made it in the final version of the bill: most of the unpopular and expensive provisions don't kick in until two elections later, when most of them will have left politics. Go America!

Banning of Four Loko
Mixing massive amounts of alcohol with massive amounts of caffiene is probably a bad idea. But on the grand scale of bad things in this world, does banning a beverage that could easily be made by purchasing two separate cans and dumping them together really rate that high of a priority? It's one thing to be recklessly pollyannish about things and simply dismiss it as "kids are gonna do it anyway," but it's quite another to blame a company that manufactures a ready-made mixed drink for the fact that your daughter is failing her freshman Business Administration classes at state.

Firing of General McChrystal
One of the greatest aspects of the military is its rigid discipline--troops don't question their leaders with the implicit agreement that the leaders look out for their men, keeping the objectives in mind first and foremost. The involvement of the military immediately raises the stakes to those of life and death, being one of the few professions with established sanction to kill. So when the commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan--General Stanley McChrystal--gave a rare (and unnecessary) interview to Rolling Stone magazine where his aides mocked the civilian staff in charge of the war, President Obama called for his resignation. While the details are fuzzy--the General himself wasn't quoted as being critical, but didn't deny anything when asked.--the fact that the President would be willing to disrupt major military operations because he couldn't take the equivalent of the last sketch of the show on Saturday Night Live makes him appear a little...insecure.
Most Embarrassing Reason To Be A Member of the Human Race

Tom Brady's Hair
One would think that, after securing three Super Bowl rings and an assured spot in the Football Hall of Fame when you're barely halfway through your career, you would pretty much be entitled to do what you want. Like have an affair with a Brazilian model and dump your other equally stunning pregnant girlfriend. Or take a car from a charity even though you make a few million a season and subsequently wreck it. But one thing you can't do is have a mulletized Justin Beiber haircut when trying to inspire your team to make it to the playoffs. You just...don't. For crying out loud, you look like a cross between Luke Duke and the guy that hangs out at the Denny's parking lot during the waitress shift change doing whippits.

Everyone makes mistakes--and in the case of former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, some make more mistakes than others. The proper thing to do is own up and correct it, and hopefully learn not to do it again. The opposite of the proper thing is to embrace the mistake and use it as a way to make yourself feel more important. Palin did just that when she conflated the words "refute" and "repudiate" to create a new, quite comical word--the annoying kind that causes a red squiggle to show up when I type it in anywhere. Slip-ups like this occur to the best of us, but it was then twisted around as a statement against cultural elites picking on minutia to make themselves feel more superior than the rubes. Now, sickeningly, it's probably going to become part of our political-cultural complex for generations. 

Jersey Shore
Reality TV has, alas, become a mature genre of entertainment. Of course, not all reality television bad; some is educational, some is fun without insulting our intelligence, and some just hit the right combination of legitimate reality, slick production, interesting story lines, and class. Jersey Shore is none of those things. The show about guidos and guidettes debuted in 2009, but reached the media saturation point this year, with the cast members making well-publicized (and well-paid) appearances and even having The Situation (don't ask if you don't already know) appear on Dancing With The Stars. While the glorification of stereotypes has had a long and proud tradition in America's cultural heritage, one just hopes that their excessive tanning doesn't preserve and extend their expiration date.

Mel Gibson
When it's common that your name be used as a superlative to a bad adjective--such as "That dude is Mel Gibson crazy!"--you know you have a PR problem. Gibson apparently doesn't realize that when you have a PR problem that bad--Jew-baiting cops is generally frowned upon by those of us living outside of a pre-Vatican II world--the last thing that you want to do is reinforce that generalization by doing even crazier shit than before, such as having a baby with a Russian woman who is capable of downloading apps onto her iPhone. While accusations of domestic violence have yet to be resolved, the audio recordings of his psychological threats haven't done him many favors. I guess he doesn't know what women want.

"We Are The World," Take Two
Far be it for me to make fun of something that's done for charity, but c'mon. When music producer Quincy Jones released "We Are The World" in 1985 to help combat hunger in Africa, he cobbled together a mix of top-tier stars like Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, along with then-hot stars like Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis. The anthem was a huge hit and made millions of dollars for charity, all for a good cause. But when a similar effort this year to help with the relief efforts in Haiti was made, it was more or less a disaster on all fronts--although it sold well enough to reach #2 in America and chart decently worldwide, the lasting impact was minimal and critically panned. Sure, as a fundraising device it served its purpose, but the best artists it could cough up were Miley Cyrus, Toni Braxton and Dead Michael Jackson. It also used auto-tune and had a rather awkward rap segment added to specifically address Haiti, neither of which was seen as a positive trait. About the only good to come from this song, aside from the obvious money raised, is that it may deter future earthquakes from attacking the world in fear that a third arrangement would be recorded.

Greatest Disruption From Allowing Us To Live A Comfortable Middle-Class Lifestyle

Icelandic Volcanoes
We can send men to the moon. We cure diseases that mere decades ago were certain death warrants. I'm pretty sure they have cyborgs running the State Department. And yet when a volcano stars spewing ash all over Europe, it ground air transport to a halt. I mean, sure, the sky over the Nordics looked like someone lit one of those cheap Chinese ash-snakes multiplied by about ten thousand, but I just assumed Boeing equipped their plans with windshield wipers or at least a travel-sized bottle of Rain-X  and a squeegee or something.

Lawless Mexico
Mexico is an endlessly beautiful country. The beaches are sublime, the food and drink are exquisite, and there is only a 50% chance that a drug lord is going to kidnap you and slice your head off with a hacksaw. This presents somewhat of a reputation problem for Mexico, since usually the drug-related crimes were confined to those little puzzle-piece nations in Central America and good ole Mexico was simply the highway populated by indifferent Federales. You know things have escalated pretty bad where travel warnings are being issued, tourists are staying away in droves, and college girls are going to have to start doing topless body shots on Prince Edward Island instead.  

Continuing Unemployment
Recessions are horrible things, and this particular recession is quite the lingering affair. Businesses aren't hiring because they're uncertain about the future, the government's solution is to spend money on anything except getting the economy moving again, and it's only a matter of time before the Chinese conduct a leveraged buyout of the Federal Reserve. The only good news is that it can't get any worse. Unless, of course, the housing market collapses. Or commodity prices rise due to demand from India and southeast Asia. Or the euro bottoms out. Or another terror attack grinds business to a halt. Or liquidity in the market dries up. But that should be it! Oh, also: oil prices and layoffs and Somali pirates and Russian natural gas manipulation and computer hackers and tax increases and strikes and government nationalization of industry.  

TSA Groping
Everyone wants to feel safe when they fly; airplanes are inherently dangerous machines, so people want to make sure that other passengers don't turn them into makeshift rockets either by box cutters, crafting their shoes into bombs, or downing eight shots of Maker's Mark before you put your uniform on and get in the cockpit. And, of course, terrorists have used everything from computer printers to shampoo bottles to smuggle explosives onto planes, so at this point pretty much anything goes. And yet the current method of reinforcing everyone's safety involves what most people have to pay for at the strip club. Add to this delays, indiscriminate searches, and the fact that they never, ever pick that hot chick to show up on the backscatter scan and show the results to everyone in line, and you've got one pissed-off customer base that already hates everything there is about flying.

Campaign Commercials
No one really likes campaign commercials. Sure a few policy wonks and advertisers like the content and the revenue it generates, but they are often trite, poorly made, and overwhelmingly negative. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act attempt to curb some of these excesses, with mixed-to-no results. But when the Supreme Court struck down the provision preventing unions and corporations from paying for ads, the floodgates were open. From roughly May until November--and, hell, I bet there's some still airing yet--every single commercial on every television station ever created in the history of mankind was an obnoxious, sense-assaulting ad for or against every evil perpetuated in our nation since Washington shot at some French diplomats. Heck, they were airing in Canada simply because they could. It almost--almost!--makes one want to read a book instead.

Things Everyone Else For Some Reason Loves But I Hate With A Passion Unparalleled

The McRib Sandwich
Sometimes I wish I had the foresight of Ray Kroc. Who knew that taking the slaughterhouse-floor sweepings, pressing them into the vague shape of what ribs would look like if people ate the ribs of flattened rodents, then slathered the remains with brown-colored flour-thickened sugar water would be a mutli-million-dollar marketing genius move? I need to start making more stupid decisions with my life.

Once upon a time, people had a desire to be where someone couldn't find them. The wife, the boss, nagging family members you owe money to--you just needed to get away. And sometimes, there's a quiet solace in not being bothered by anyone simply for the sake of being alone. Well, worry no more! Foursquare has made it possible--and alarmingly popular--for everyone to know where you are at all times. Not only do your friends and exes and companies willing to give you coupons know where you're at, but petty thieves and your parents do, too.

Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck should consider himself lucky. The world can only handle one post-alcoholic formerly homeless old-school drive time shock jock Mormon shilling gold and unrealistic dreams about our democratic society, and he managed to pull it off. It's a shame, because Beck used to be a reasonably listenable standard conservative talk show host with a penchant for solid political philosophy before he went on TV and starting crowding up the airwaves with his own particular brand of rampant bullshit. While I understand the sentiment--hard times flush the chump, as Ulysses Everett McGill said--the immense level of popularity is still staggering.

3D Movies
I'm fully aware of the spectacle that is 3D movies. Part of why I'm perplexed at its popularity is that my depth perception makes it difficult to view 3D. But I also make money, and I just don't see the appeal of handing out even more of my own hard-earned cold cash to the movie theater just to see things slightly more awesome. I guess it wasn't so bad when it was just the latest James Cameron circle-jerk flick or the odd Pixar cartoon about lonely building blocks or star-struck medical devices or whatever the hell they make cartoons characters out of nowadays. Now it seems like every other movie is now IN 3-D, from Harry Potter (where the first six installments seemed to do just fine; I'm sure Quidditch seems just as absurd of a concept in traditional 2D than in 3D) to the Che Guevara biopic (not really, but I wouldn't be surprised.)

The Lost Finale
I have a soft spot for those poor TV shows that never make it--I'm as good a browncoat as the next, have Bob Loblaw on retainer, and weep for Jericho every Monday night--and even like those that make it but are quirky enough not to fall too far into the mainstream. I tried to like Lost, which finally ended this year, promised resolution to all of the mysteries but really just made people confused and angry. I really, really tried to like it. But every time I watched it, I was struck by how pretentious and deliberately confusing the entire thing was. Forging a dramatic feeling of suspense takes skill and is incredibly entertaining when done right. Just throwing random shit on an island for six years is the equivalent of every freshman-year film editing class final ever. 

The Most Painfully Awful Event or Idea of 2010

Oil Spill
Granted, the oil industry hasn't won too many laurels over the years, and someone needs to tell them that just because you're running print ads that are shaded green and talk about scientists boiling additives in their gasoline cocktails doesn't mean you're not still encouraging people to burn dinosaur bones and liquid smog in their SUVs and Cadillac tanks. So when an offshore platform explodes and causes a grade-A four-alarm continual oil leak for four months in the Gulf of Mexico--and thankfully nothing bad has happened in that region lately so they were well-prepared to meet the challenges of an environmental disaster--the best course of action is not to send your CEO to a yacht race and lie about the quality of the video feed of the disaster. Granted, the government shares a lot of ill-prepared blame as well, but in fat years of record profits, oil-soaked pelicans and unemployed crawfish producers aren't what you want to see in your end-of-year report.

Welcome to the global stage, South Africa! After decades of trying to erase the memory of apartheid and work through the various social and political problems of developing Africa's brightest star, you now have the chance to be a showcase to the world! And you get to do so in an entertaining manner, enough that people will tune in to watch but the logistics of which will prove your nation to be up to modern challenges. And maybe this will be the year that the world's largest untapped market in soccer--America--will finally be sold on the sport. The only thing you have to do is make sure that these skittish Yanks aren't turned off by the seemingly boring sport played by a bunch of unknowns by making the presentation as attractive as possible. And how do you do this? BZZZBZBZZBBBZZZZBZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZBZBZBZZBZBZZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZBZZBZBZZZBZZBZZBZBZBZBZZZZZZBZZZZZZZZBZZZZBZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZZZBZBBZBZBZZZZZZZZZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZBZZBZBZZBZBZZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZBZZBZBZZZBZZBZZBZBZBZBZZZZZZBZZZZZZZZZBZBZZBZZZZBZZBZBZZZZZZZBZZBZBZZZBZZBZZBZBZBZBZZZZZZBZZZZZZZZBZZZZBZBZZZZBZZBZBZBZZZZZZBZZZZZZZZBZZZZBZBZZZZBZZB

Haiti Earthquake
The best of the world shows itself when a major natural catastrophe hits a nation.  Unfortunately, it often cracks open the fault lines, so to speak, of a broken society unprepared to meet the challenges of today's world. Disasters such as earthquakes and tidal waves tend to be apolitical, since it's largely chance that determines its presence, but one can't ignore the helpless void that is the Haitian government. The world responded admirably and continues to do so, but the underlying lack of any sort of preparedness, concrete social structure, or stability to prevent the island from degenerating into a morass of crime and disease is impossible to ignore.

What do you do when a mild-mannered alleged rapist Swede starts posting intimate secrets about the world's largest superpower? You freak out, that's what you do. Wikileaks is a web site devoted to posting diplomatic cables and other important papers that are normally classified as secret and releasing it to the world; these are papers that should really only be seen by like four people, three of which are shot immediately upon reading. This has been highly embarrassing for a lot of people, but mostly the State Department--for now. A rather clumsy attempt to bring sexual assault charges against him currently has founder Julian Assange in a London jail, but the posts keep on coming. Some see it as the ultimate check on abusive government power, while others see it as a clear-cut crime that will cause more soldiers and civilians to die. In either case, the important thing is that by making an esoteric point about freedom and liberty, everything has now because almost completely impossible to resolve. Thanks a lot, standing on principle!

The Rise of the Tea Party
What do you get when you mix one part John Birch Society, one part anti-fluoridation activism, and about six parts Limbaugh-sized crazy? You get a political force that was somehow able to decimate a major political party. When they weren't busy comparing President Obama to a Nazi or misspelling Nancy Pelosi's name on a homemade placard, they were busy forming a large, complex political force with very little by way of national leadership, an accomplishment that is almost embarrassingly impressive. This force could be used to force a dialogue on the role of taxes in our civil society and redraw the boundaries of the government's federalist nature. Or, it just as easily can be used to kick out all the Mexicans, Catholics, and gays. We shall see.

[Voting is now closed!]

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