Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Vote Now! The 2016 Miserable Crank Awards: Day Two

Here are the candidates for day two of voting for the Miserable Crank Awards of 2016. Don't forget to vote on the Day One Categories and the Day Three Categories!


 EpiPens--the medical delivery system commonly used by people with severe allergies--have been around for a few decades and manufactured largely by a corporation named Mylan. In the past few years, the price of the device jumped by nearly 500%, despite no material reason as to why. Well, yeah, there was one--they had a virtual monopoly on the thing, and people weren't going to not get a life-saving device. Congressional hearings were held, accusations of Medicare fraud were made, and the company paid some money and signed some meaningless papers. So things went about as expected.

Dakota Access Pipeline
 The Dakota Access Pipeline, a planned construction project stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, was met with protests as the pipeline encroached on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Concerns over water safety and destroying scared grounds fueled much of the protests--and like most protests, fed in itself as local authorities used more and more aggressive tactics at dealing with the situation. To date, there has not been an effective resolution.

No Man's Sky
 No Man's Sky was a highly anticipated release this summer; the sandbox sci-fi game promised an almost infinite number of planets that one could explore and nearly infinite people to interact with, all while under the aegis of pulp science fiction novels of the 70s and 80s. Throwing around a lot of phrases like "procedurally generated" and "quintillions" of possibilities, plenty of people pre-ordered the game with real, non-procedurally generated money. The end result was...highly unsatisfying. The game was so disappointing, and missing so many promised features, that the FTC got involved for false advertising. 

Oil Email Scandal
 Shocker! An oil company based in Morocco, Unaoil, was accused of running a wide-spread bribery and corruption scheme to operate in oil-rich nations, largely in the Middle East. Earlier this year a cache of incriminating emails were leaked, providing authorities with evidence and leads to a lot of the transgressions. Given that it is incorporated in a notorious tax haven and operates almost exclusively in nations known to willingly accept bribes, the fact that a joint investigation involving the United States, the UK, and Australia is not surprising. 

 Hasbro Phishing Scam
 People seem to be wary of internet scams these days--that is, unless you're a top-level executive at Hasbro. The email was sent to an executive, who took the extremely simple email at face value. No flashy tricks, no calls to the prince of Nigeria, just a standard link that goes to a bank account that is not the vendor in question. Another executive had to sign off, which they did, and three million bucks made its way to a shady bank somewhere in China. Thankfully, an offhand comment alerted the CEO of the danger, and they managed to halt the money transfer in time. Still, though, someone in IT needs to fix their spam filter.

Clown Killings
 Everything old is new again. Thanks to a combination of factors--mostly related to the remake of Stephen King's It, no doubt--the long-dead urban legend of killer clowns started making the rounds again. Instead of it being an underground word-of-mouth legend about Bozos riding around in grey vans with diamond-shaped windows and a box full of those weird fruity Tootsie Rolls as we old people enjoyed decades ago, this spread like wildfire thanks to social media--so much so that actual police departments with actual police officers were writing actual press releases advising people not to dress like clowns lest they be shot. 

Ken Bone
 Politics is serious business, as long as something slightly weird happening doesn't distract anyone. Poor Ken Bone--whose absurd name, bright red camera-challenging sweater, and otherwise reasonable demeanor during one of the Presidential debates catapulted him to flash-in-the-pan status. Being a reasonable sort, he used his short moment of fame to sell T-shirts for charity, do a quick media tour, and took his brief time in the limelight in stride. 

David S. Pumpkins
 Saturday Night Live has always been funny for everyone right up until they become an adult, where it stops being funny and then people wistfully talk about how funny it used to be. But even the most cynical of us were surprised at the endurance of one David S. Pumpkins, a (at best) mediocre Halloween sketch propped up perhaps a little bit too much with the star power of Tom Hanks in the titular role. If you're wondering what made the sketch so weirdly popular, I couldn't tell you, because as far as I can tell I've already explained as much of the joke as makes sense. 

Be Like Bill
 If social media couldn't be any more condescending, we got Bill. Instead of airing our grievances out like adults, or even learning how to handle minor irritations of our fellow man, we reduced all of our problems into passive-aggressive little stick figure cartoons, projecting our absurdly minor rages onto posts that everyone will swear up and down aren't about them. 

The Mannequin Challenge
  Harlem Shake got you too wound up? Do the exact opposite with the Mannequin Challenge, where everyone stands still for a while. That's, uh, it. The more professional time-wasters made a go of it, putting people in deliberately awkward situations. I, myself, practice the Mannequin Challenge every single day at my computer, so I don't get what the big deal is.

Zika Virus
  While the Zika virus has been around for a while, it blew up to (literally) epidemic proportions this year. The virus, which in and of itself is only mildly dangerous to most adults, can cause major issues for women during pregnancy. Transmitted mostly by mosquitoes but can be spread by other means, there is no known cure or vaccine for it, and many South American nations have issues travel warnings and precautions--especially since the Olympics were held in the epicenter of the outbreak and a large number of international visitors would be entering the infected region. 

 Brussels Attacks
 Europe suffered a major terrorist attack in Belgium, as a coordinated bombing hit metro stations and airports. Most likely a reaction to recent police raids against ISIS in the country, it ended up with several dozen dead and increased security. Many nations around the world indicated solidarity with the international city. 

2016 Election
  This year's United States election was historic in many ways, even before it was held. With the first woman nominee, Hillary Clinton, involved, things were always going to be interesting, but the entrance and eventual winner of the GOP nomination businessman Donald Trump was also, uh, interesting. And despite trailing for most of the campaign, he managed to get within striking distance by the end of it all, and (amongst a million other reasons) a strong rural turnout and a lighter than expected turnout from much of Obama's base propelled Trump to the victory. The election was relatively unique in the historically low popularity of both candidates, along with plenty of unprecedented behavior almost entirely acted upon by Trump. Whatever one thinks of the eventual outcome, it is something we'll all have to deal with in our own way for at least four years. 

Orlando Shooting
 When a mass shooting by an American-born ISIS sympathizer with Afghan heritage occurred at the Orlando nightclub Pulse, which catered to a gay clientele, it intersected four distinct political issues--terrorism, violence against gays, gun control, and immigration. One of the worse domestic tragedies on American soil for quite some time, it brought to the forefront a whole array of issues and concerns that many people are still working through. 

Hurricane Matthew
 A particularly nasty hurricane swept through the Caribbean in late September, one of the largest in the Atlantic for almost ten years. It was one of the deadliest in recent memory, largely hitting Haiti but a host of other islands and caused almost ten billion dollars in damages. It eventually wound its way up to the Canadian Maritimes, leaving a path of destruction.

[Voting is now closed.]

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