Monday, December 8, 2014

Vote Now! The 2014 Miserable Crank Awards: Day One

It's time for the 5th annual Miserable Crank awards, where we determine the worst events of the year!

The categories are:
  • Worst Person
  • Worst Business Decision
  • Worst Entertainment
  • Worst Government Decision
  • Worst Embarrassment 
  • Worst Sports Event
  • Worst Inconvenience
  • Worst Popular Trend
  • Worst Incident
  • Worst Technological Advance
Simply vote for one candidate in each category over the next three days. Then, you can vote again for any one event as the "Worst Thing About 2014" on day four. On that day, you can vote for the same candidate as you had in the past or a different one; it's up to you. Whichever one wins the overall vote wins the Worst Event, and whoever the runner-up is in that category wins that category instead. I retain a little bit of judgement and discretion on this one, however, since not all of the candidates are appropriate.

(The second day of voting, for Business, Popular Trends, and Incidents, can be found here. The third day of voting, for Entertainment, Person, and Inconvenience, can be found here.)

Voting will end on Thursday, December 18th. The results will be posted the following Monday.




Secret Service Breach
It's the job of the Secret Service to do a lot of things, but the most notable is to provide security for the President of the United States. When that duty fails, it's usually quite notable. It was a comedy of errors this year, when the Secret Service allowed a stranger to get through to the White House grounds. One agent obliviously chatted away on a cell phone while the suspect scaled the fence, and other agents simply assumed that a group of bushes would stop him and so were in no hurry. When your agents are replying on foliage to do their job for them, it might be time for a review.

Chris Christie Shuts Down A Bridge
Things are done a little different in Jersey. When the mayor of Fort Lee chose not to endorse Chris Christie for re-election last year, Christie's administration (allegedly) ordered the closing of the George Washington Bridge for a "traffic study" for the sole purpose of gumming up the roads of his city. While Christie doesn't appear to have been directly involved, his staff certainly was. Revenge is weird in politics, doubly so in the Garden State.

Brakes Put On Tesla Sales
Don't let a little thing like innovation or the future of our environment get in the way of car dealerships. For decades, laws on the books restricted how cars could be sold; it's generally illegal for manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. In practice, this really didn't matter, because it worked out better for both the auto companies and the dealerships (and, usually, consumers as well). Along comes Tesla Motors, the innovative car manufacturer, who wants to dispense with the archaic middleman structure altogether. Those old laws, however, instead of being repealed, were reinforced across the nation. Many governors effectively prevented Tesla from selling cars in their state due to the rusty, unresponsive nature of the industry. Tesla will find a way, of course, but it's a testament to the power of entrenched institutions.

#NYPD
As would become abundantly clear by the end of the year, police departments around the nation have a bit of a PR problem. But early in the year, in an effort to transform public opinion, the New York Police Department tried to use the tools detractors use against them--social media, specifically Twitter. inviting the public to use the hashtag #NYPD to provide examples of how the cops are helping everyday folks sounds like a great idea within the walls of a meeting room, but once released to the public it quickly because an easy showcase for abuse and violence. The department quickly backtracked, although in retrospect they probably wished this was the worst thing that happened to them this year.

 Veterans Hospital Scandal
The VA hospital system in America has always been a shining example to the commitment to our veterans and also a shining example of how bloated and inefficient the government is. Both of these things came to a head when it was revealed that veterans were dying because the government hadn't been able to get their shit together and admit patients who needed to be in the hospital. It started off in the Phoenix system and soon spread to the entire system as a whole, culminating with the resignation of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.


Heartbleed
Heartbleed wreaked havoc on the Internet this past spring. The bug operated in the OpenSSL cryptography library, which is used in the Transport Layer Security protocol. I don't know what any of that means, because I copied and pasted it from Wikipedia, but I do know that it affected about 17% of all internet traffic. Hell, even Grumpy Cat couldn't get those numbers.

Space Disasters
Private space flight has always been touted as the panacea of the future: no longer was exploration the exclusive domain of a bloated, inefficient government agency prone to interference and used as a tool for warfare development and misplaced economic activity in Texas and Seattle. Sadly, it was easier said than done, when several privately-held spacecraft crashed and burned upon launch, sending a huge does of reality to futurists and Kickstarter backers everywhere.

Assault On Net Neutrality
The ongoing battle over the internet's openness continues this year, as the FCC announced they were considering changing their stance on net neutrality, the (hugely simplified) concept that internet speeds should remain equal for everyone. Activists rallied around keeping the internet the same for all, while telecom companies pleaded their case for a tiered internet. The political situation has wavered back and forth but, so far, appears to be continually punted down the road for future officer holders to decide. Still, the trend was decidedly against net neutrality by the year's end.

The Fappening
Much has been made about oversharing in social media; it's one thing to post pictures of every single thing you eat, it's another to post explicit pictures of yourself in unfortunate poses for your significant other/future employers to see. The huge cache of leaked celebrity photos--notably Jennifer Lawrence, Kaye Upton, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead--that were stored in the cloud demonstrated to everyone--especially actresses with big boobs--that even if you take every precaution to keep your information private, someone, somewhere, has access to it.

GamerGate
 It all began when a female game developer was accused of sleeping with a gaming journalist who gave her (otherwise unremarkable) game a glowing review, bringing up several points about gaming journalism and how welcome women were in the industry. What started out as a civil debate ended up with an amicable agreement that different viewpoints should be considered by both sides and that a rational course of self-reflection was acknowledged by both sides. Ha! Just kidding! It became a complete shitshow and held a sad, lonely funhouse mirror to the entire gaming industry--including its customers--as a whole.



World Cup Protests
Soccer is the world's game. No matter how hard Americans close their eyes and cross their fingers and wish really, really hard, it's not gridiron football. So when the 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil--the Patron Nation of Pele, The Only Soccer Player Americans Know--most assumed it would be a fantastic time. Not so; the preparations for the event were marred with corruption and dissonance; protests were held by Brazil's poorest citizens at the cost of the thing; and accusations of financial mismanagement by FIFA hung like a dark cloud over the entire event. Germany was the eventual victor, while Poland got the cavalry prepared and the UK started asking for crates of ordinance from the US.

Sochi Olympics
A lot of hand-wringing was done over last year about Russia's homophobic laws, but the Olympics themselves weren't great, either. While most of the day-to-day operations ran relatively smoothly, there was the embarrassment of that fifth Olympic ring not opening in what could have otherwise been an awesome opening ceremony; figure skater Ashley Wagner's unbelieving face quickly became a meme; and the imminent invasion of the Ukraine precipitated much of the conversation.

The Washington Redskins
Time marches on, but sometimes branding doesn't. The Washington Redskins--for those who for some reason don't know, "redskin" is a derogatory name for native Americans--have long had pressure put on them to change their name to something less offensive, and the Redskins organization generally ignores such pressure because they're stubborn jerks. Things got a little more tense this year, however; their trademark application was denied by the government, congressional hearings have been held about it, and several high-profile football analysts have said they will not use the team name when referring to them on air. The vast majority of people don't want to see it changed, but then again the vast majority of people weren't forced to move to Oklahoma.

NFL Abuse
Professional sports has never denied that they have a problem with behavior. Many athletes get into trouble with the law. This is nothing new--when you get a bunch of hot-headed teenagers playing a violent sport and give them a million dollars, bad things are bound to happen. But the NFL took it to a new low: it wasn't the errant pot arrest or punching a random towel dispenser at Sheetz; we're talking domestic violence and child abuse. commissioner Roger Goodell's lackluster response has caused many longtime fans to question their loyalty to the brand.

Tony Stewart Runs Over A Guy
Accidents happen. But it's still a little disconcerting when that accident kills someone, and the entire incident is broadcast live during a sporting event. So it was at a sprint car race in New York, when Kevin Ward, Jr., exited his vehicle on the track to admonish participant and NASCAR legend Tony Stewart and was then run over by Stewart's vehicle. Despite some talk of it being negligent behavior and even some insinuations that it was deliberate, Stewart was cleared of all wrongdoing in the incident. 


 Renee Zellweger's Face
Rene Zellweger hasn't been around lately, and when she finally showed up earlier this year something was...different. Specifically, her face. Her facial features were so strikingly different it caused a lot of people to be equally confused and amused. Armchair outragists and feminists decried the attention given to her looks, but then again she is an actress who is paid specifically for people to look at her, so...it would have been weird not to.

Solange Knowles 
 The sister of Beyonce, Solange has had minor success in the entertainment field. She made headlines this year, though, when video footage of her assaulting Jay-Z in an elevator surfaced. Jay-Z didn't react (good on him) and Beyonce seemed nonplussed at the incident, and none of the three will talk about what the hell happened, which is awesome because we can thus assume the absolute worst and spread rumors to that effect. 

 Alaskan Pot Reporter
Reporters are supposed to be impartial arbiters of the facts--even when they are a third-tier on-air news reporter for an Alaskan television station. Carlo Greene has been reporting on a marijuana business illegally operating in the state, and one day finally had enough when she declared, on air, live, that 1) she was quitting and 2) she was the one who actually ran the illegal club she was reporting on. Pot enthusiasts rejoiced, but most everyone else found it both bizarre and unprofessional. 

The Mispronunciation of Idina Menzel 
Call it a temporary slip-up. Call it a random muddling of an admittedly uncommon name. Or call it a coded shout-out to fellow Scientologists. When John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel at the Academy Awards this year, he called her something that sounded something like "Adele Dazeem," which most cryptologists believe has very little in common with Frozen

Bob Costas' Pink Eye
You know what I don't like watching? The Olympics. You know what I really don't like watching? A long-time highly acclaimed sports broadcaster suffer through a painful facial anomaly that makes me want to vomit every time he shows up on the screen. Poor guy--it wasn't his fault, but damn was that difficult to watch.

[Voting is now closed.]

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