Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vote Now! The 2012 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

It's day two of voting for the 2012 Miserable Crank Awards. Remember that voting closes on Thursday, December 20th. If you haven't already, vote on yesterday's post, and do not forget that there is another vote for each of the next two days.

The Most Ridiculous Government Decision Everyone  Hates But No One Will Ever Do Anything Meaningful About
A heavy-handed attempt by large media conglomerates to combat copyright infringement, the Stop Online Piracy Act. It became a cause many internet web sites--most notably Wikipedia and Reddit, but also lots of other well-established sites--immediately became concerned about. The main issue most technology advocates had with the bill was that it would effectively stop all user-created content to be allowed on the internet, since as written any violation of copyright from anyone would result in the entire site being shut down. On January 18-19, many sites held a blackout, with their home pages being nothing but a short message detailing the proposal. Thankfully, the bill was withdrawn, and internet users could go back to uploading pictures of cats and making fun of Wal-Mart shoppers with reckless abandon.  
NYC Soda Ban
It's tempting to just throw New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's entire performance this year in this slot, but we'll just take a representative example. Somehow, someone convinced the mayor that the worst thing going on in New York city was obesity  and that a ban on soda is a good solution to that problem. Yet another example of the alarmingly increasing low-scale government control of our lives, Bloomberg pushed through the ban on any sugared drink over 16oz. A solution in search of a problem, it is a nearly impossible to enforce law that will have zero impact on calorie consumption, all the while causing the regulatory costs of doing business to skyrocket. Next up: prohibiting the sale of unicorn meat and regulating fairy dust.

Pussy Riot
No one is under the impression that Russia is any sort of Valhalla of liberty, but the case of Pussy Riot was particularly jarring. The all-girl punk rock band (or whatever passes for punk rock in Mother Russia) was thrown in jail for holding a protest against President Vladimir Putin inside a Russian Orthodox cathedral. The girls were charged with "premeditated hooliganism" and most got two years in prison. This was not only a blatant attempt to curb free speech and a draconian , it also displayed the growing power of the church in Russia, which used the case as a way to establish laws against blasphemy. Granted, this is a huge leap forward from the days in which you were sent to the gulag for enjoying your allotted weekly slice of bread instead of eating it in the name of the people's struggle, but it's lamentable nonetheless.

Petraeus Scandal
If there is one person you kind of want to keep their pants on, it's the head of the CIA. General David Petraeus--long thought to be Presidential material--got caught in a complicated affair that involved multiple women and mysteriously came out the day after the Presidential election. (The chances!) While there were a few voices claiming that his private life is just that, more realized that if there is someone who really shouldn't be in a position to be blackmailed, it's the nation's top spook.

Fiscal Cliff
A mostly manufactured crisis, the fiscal cliff is a direct descendant of last year's debt ceiling negotiation failure, and reinforced by the failure of the Supercommittee that ended up doing nothing. Everyone wanted to punt the problem forward until the new president was determined, and now both sides are desperately trying to claim that they have the upper hand. Sadly, the consequences of yet another failure will end up meaning reasonably massive tax increases for pretty much anyone combined with a drastic cut in spending for various programs. While there is still time left for a compromise, if nothing come to fruition by the end of the year there will be a few days of panic and the only true losers are the citizens. So, as you can see, after the tumultuous election season we had this year, things are finally back to normal.

The Most Embarrassing Reason  To Be A Member of the Human Race

Kony 2012
A prime example of the feel-good cause célèbre that is ultimately a failure, the entire Kony 2012 campaign proved that social media doesn't prevent completely balling up what could have been a halfway decent movement to get behind.  The creator--one Jason Russell--created a primitive if slick video addressing the evils of Joseph Kony, the admittedly brutal Ugandan leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, especially his recruitment of child soldiers. Glossing over scant details and misrepresenting the facts, it certainly tugged on one's emotional heartstrings--and yet drew the ire of nearly everyone who would have benefited from its message with its irrational focus on the creators and a complete dismissal of the real problems facing Uganda. When the pressure became too much, Russell ended up stripping down naked and rambling incoherently at passersby, which more or less sums up the complete disaster of this campaign.
"Illegitimate Rape" Senators
When Todd Akin, senatorial candidate for a Senate seat in Missouri, managed to mouth off about how "legitimate rape" was a thing (under a woefully misunderstood notion of how the female body works), the GOP pulled their funding and encouraged others to abandon him. While Akin maintained his polling in the usually reliable Missouri delegation, many simply tried their best to beat back the PR nightmare. Not to be outdone, a few months later Richard Mourdock in the even more reliable Indiana Senate race somehow managed to answer a debate question effectively stating that rape could be "God's Will." Neither men seemed particularly repentant about it, while the Republican Party as a whole--while the leaders clearly expressed disagreement with both men--tended to be tone-deaf to the damage it had caused. Neither candidate ended up winning their completely winnable seats, and, fairly or not, these two Senators acted as a proxy for the perceived misogyny of the Republican Party.

Accusations of sexual harassment or assault are never to be taken lightly, even more so when it is against a minor, and even less so when the assailant works for a children's program, and even less less so when that person is literally Elmo from Sesame Street. Originally, the allegations were refuted as a simple shakedown of a vulnerable party, but subsequent allegations made it much more serious and couldn't be dismissed with a payoff. The normal jokes about poor Tickle Me Elmo aside, it's a sad situation for everyone involved.

Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh
No one really won in this war of words between activist Sandra Fluke and blowhard radio host Rush Limbaugh. Fluke was called to testify after the issue of birth control in the new health care law was brought into question; after her remarks, Limbaugh unceremoniously called her a "slut" based on her testimony. While Limbaugh was rightfully chastised for his vulgar statements (and his apparent ignorance of how the female reproductive system works), Fluke's testimony wasn't flawless either, being full of the sort of half-truths and obfuscated statistics that advocacy groups love to use. In the end, it helped launch the "War On Women" that continued throughout the 2012 presidential campaign in that great American tradition of offering a small amount of real issues candy-coated with loaded buzzwords, misrepresentations, and name-calling. U.S.A.! U.S.A!

End Of The World
Last year, some random pastor from a no-name church claimed that the end of the world was neigh, and he became the punch line to every joke in America. Meanwhile, a centuries-old, barely translated stone tablet about the Long Count calendar from the long-dead Mayan empire and people treat it as if it is set in stone (ha). Major motion pictures and daily freakouts on Coast to Coast AM aside, there is zero evidence that a cataclysmic maelstrom of disasters will hit the earth anyt

The Most Unsportsmanlike Conduct Perpetuated By A  Bunch Of People Running Around And Hitting  Things With Other Things For Money

NHL Lockout
Aside from the usual complaints about millionaires fighting with billionaires, the National Hockey League's inability to come to an agreement over the 2012-2013 season signals both what is right and wrong with hockey. While it is a growing sport--jumpstarted by a lamentable but much-needed break a few years ago--it's still the least popular sport in the United States. Most franchises are broke, many clubs are an embarrassment, and someone, somewhere decided that Nashville was a hockey town while Quebec City was not. Pessimistic players took the quick boat to Europe, where there was plenty of money to be made in the Russian leagues and plenty of Dutch hash and Swedish prostitutes in the otherwise subpar European leagues. There is a chance that an agreement will occur, but not before half the season is gone, much to the disappointment of Phoenix Coyotes fans. Both of them.
Lance Armstrong
Once hailed as an uber-athlete much on the level of Bruce Jenner, Michael Jordan, or Captain Lou Albano, Lance Armstrong won the grueling Tour de France seven consecutive times, a feat impressive in and of itself but even more amazing given that he was a cancer survivor. He also translated his celebrity into charitable giving through his Livestrong campaign, which helps with cancer awareness. Sadly, however, he was stripped of all his titles when it was found that he had illegally doped and engaged in drug trafficking during most of those years, reinforcing the notion to impressionable children everywhere that anyone who is successful got there by being a cheating bastard, and no amount of cheap plastic yellow bracelets sold will cover up the shame.

NBC's Olympic coverage
NBC has positioned itself to be the exclusive broadcaster of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and in that role managed to somehow completely ball it up. Refusing, at first, to show any events live and heavily editing other events for cheap prime time consumption, they also spoiled many victories though the blatant commercialization of the contests. They cut into many ceremonies to cram in more ads, especially galling in a case where they broke away from a showing of a moment of silence for the 7/7 London Bombings. They refused to live stream any coverage, citing a tin-eared explanation that the ceremonies "required context," something apparently not required in their airing of, say, the dismal sitcom Animal Practice. In an age of social media where news travels instantly, NBC instead chose to ignore its existence, much like it ignores the existence of any culture aside from American.
Gisele Mouthing Off
After the New England Patriot's loss in Superbowl XLVI--a rematch between them and the New York Giants--there were plenty of people available for which fingers could be pointed. None was more eager to do so than one Gisele Bundchen, the wife of dashing star quarterback Tom Brady. Previous to the game she asked that people pray for a Patriots victory, a request some found tasteless. But that was nothing compared to her complaints after the loss, when she defended her husband and blamed the receivers for not catching the ball. While there's a grain of truth to the claim, it was also awkward--no football player really wants his wife to 1) defend him in public over his playing abilities, and 2) in the process place the blame on his teammates. Presumably Gisele is going to have to get even more extra hot to make up for her lack of decorum, but we are not sure if that's possible.

New Orleans Saints Bounty System
Football is a violent sport. Anyone who states otherwise doesn't understand the game, quite possibly because they've sustain a steady stream of concussions for their entire lives. In any case, the NFL has taken a particularly hard stance against the physical damage that is done to this inherently combative game. So when it was revealed that the coaches under the New Orleans Saints were actually offering cash bounties to take out specific players on the other team, it took exactly what the NFL was trying to prevent and made it even worse--somehow making the Saints look like an even more horrible team, a feat previously assumed impossible. 

[Voting is now closed.]

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