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The Unapologetic Geek


Top 5 Heroes & Idiots of 2014 - Page 2

Though I will touch on entertainment and politics, 2014 was more about science for me than anything else. Whether it's the idiocy of pseudoscience or the heroicism of legitimate science, plenty of headlines this year dealt with the subject. Even the Ebola scare is a science story before it is a political one, and I give an honorable mention to the heroics of everyone fighting the disease in Africa and throughout the world. I also give an honorable mention in the other direction to all those who treated a handful of isolated cases of the disease in the U.S. as the harbinger of the end times for North America. The panic and wall-to-wall news coverage for over a month late in 2014 did far more damage than the disease itself, and that's a testament to both the miraculous power of medical science and the unfortunate strength of irresponsible sensationalism. But I'd hate to be a hypocrite by pretending that's the only story worth talking about from 2014, so here are some more heroes and idiots for your consideration:

3. Hollywood

The Sony hack has gone down in history as the biggest cyberattack in history. I am not unsympathetic to the position Sony found itself in when the hackers--apparently under the orders of the North Korean government--initially agreed to pull their film The Interview from theaters. From a business standpoint, I can almost understand it, even though the political and cultural implications are horrifying. The reason Hollywood as a whole winds up on this list is not Sony's capitulation, but how Hollywood as a whole reacted to it. Paramount refused to let theaters replace The Interview with their similarly North Korean-mocking Team America: World Police, Fox and New Regency permanently halted pre-production on their North Korea-set Pyongyang, and when George Clooney (an honorable mention for the other half of this list) went around all the studios and asked for signatures declaring solidarity in the face of threats to free speech, he didn't get a single signature. Not a single goddamn signature. Remember that next time Hollywood applauds itself for its moral and cultural superiority at the next Academy Awards.

Same-Sex Marriage Rally
2. Judges who Defended Same-Sex Marriage

2014 should be remembered as an enormous turning point in the legal and social battle over same-sex marriage. There were dozens of federal court rulings (and a few state rulings) that struck down bans on same-sex marriage, encouraged states to permit and recognize same-sex marriages, and defended the rights of homosexual couples to enjoy the same privileges as heterosexual ones. There were one or two rulings in the other direction, but for the vast majority of cases, it is clear that we are becoming a more tolerant and accepting society, and that is a great thing.

2. Jonathan Gruber
Jonathan Gruber

A year ago, Jonathan Gruber was considered one of the primary architects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by pretty much everybody. Despite citing him multiple times in the past, now Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and even President Obama downplay his importance or deny even knowing who he is. The reason for this is that videos surfaced over the course of 2014 that showed Gruber publicly and unapologetically declaring that the entire law was predicated on "the stupidity of the American voter," that it was designed in a "tortured" manner to hide its dramatic tax increases and jerry-rig its CBO score to make it appear revenue-neutral when it wasn't, that leaders needed to lie in order to sell the law to a majority that would never approve it as it was written, that subsidies were designed only to go to states that set up their own exchanges (a point of contention the Supreme Court is currently considering), and much, much more, essentially confirming every fear conservatives have had about the law since its inception. When confronted near the end of the year by a House subcommittee, his excuses and dodges were unconvincing, once and for all confirming that this guy is the personification of cynical liberal arrogance, of the belief that America is simply too provincial to be trusted with its own democratic process. Unfortunately, the fact that the law passed is compelling evidence that he might just be right about that.

The Rosetta Team
1. The Rosetta Team

Dude, we landed a probe on a comet! How awesome is that? All of the scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at the European Space Agency who worked on the Rosetta program (even that guy in the horrible shirt) deserve a hearty round of applause for what they did. It's not just that the probe landed on a comet--though that is amazing enough on its own--but that it also used solar cells as a primary power source, went through the asteroid belt, passed close to Jupiter, orbited the comet it eventually landed on, and gave us the most detailed information about the structure, composition, and physics of a comet that we've ever had. This is frontier science at its finest.

1. Thomas Eric Duncan
Thomas Eric Duncan

Four days after riding in a taxi with a sick pregnant woman, her father, and her brother (all of whom he lived with) to an Ebola treatment ward in Monrovia, Thomas Eric Duncan filled out paperwork confirming that he had not been near the Ebola virus before boarding an airplane and making his way to Texas. What followed was indeed tragic--and there may have been some neglect from the hospital that sent him home with a fever of 101.2 and a script for some pointless antibiotics that wouldn't have helped the sinusitis he was incorrectly diagnosed with--but it all boils down to Duncan lying at the airport about being in contact with Ebola. That's kind of a big deal, and Duncan's irresponsibility put thousands of people at risk, lead to two more cases of Ebola in the United States, sparked a widespread panic, forced the CDC and several hospitals into lockdown, and eventually cost the man his life. Now his family is trying to pin it all on racism (no, really), claiming that the hospital didn't want to treat Duncan's Ebola because he was Liberian, that the doctors and nurses knew he had Ebola when he came to the hospital (because, of course, every person who shows up to an emergency room with a fever and a stomach ache is given immediate, first class treatment and is easily diagnosed with a horrible disease that hasn't been seen in the United States before), and that they put him back in the general population to infect others because, you know, he was black. Apparently, idiocy runs in the Duncan family.

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-e. magill 1/15/2015


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