Category Archives: Rants

Day Seven: DEATH TO THE VISA GIFT CARD

I’m currently staring at three different Visa gift cards that I received for the holidays. I’m not complaining about receiving gifts, but why the hell do they have to be in the form of these meaningless gift cards? If you’re going to do that, why not just give me cash? Or an Amazon gift card? At least with that I can see how much money I have left on the card from my account and use the remainder on my next purchase. With these things I have to keep a tally of how much I’ve used on them, which make them almost useless for using on small, everyday purchases. Which basically means that you have to use them on medium-to-big purchases.

But honestly, what’s the point of these “I wasn’t creative enough to buy you a gift, but at least this shows I made a small amount of effort to not be the scumbag who gave you cash”-gift cards? The only purpose the Visa Gift Card serves is to make you feel slightly better about having no creativity or just not giving enough of a shit to make a enough of an effort. Like, why purchase $25 Visa Gift Card, really? You mean you couldn’t pick up a couple of decent craft six packs, or a hardcover book on one of the millions of things I’m interested in? Shit, even buy me something you *know* I’ll return – at least it forces me to make a purchase at your store of choice. The point of receiving Christmas gifts is that I’m not supposed to do the work. I have no earthly idea what I’d like to purchase, and I’m definitely not gonna be the asshole who uses a Visa Gift Card to pay his bar tab. Don’t buy me these gift cards and force me to buy my own gift, that goes against the very ethos of Christmas. (I may not understand Christmas very well.)
So in conclusion: fuck you bad gift-givers. I wish you a lifetime of Visa Gift Card-filled Christmases.
[I should note that it’s perfectly acceptable for parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/old people in general to give these as gifts. I’ll take one of these over a New Jersey Devils sweater any day.]

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Lance Armstrong is a scumbag.

Sure, I admit, I’m easily annoyed, and I am ridiculously cynical, but Lance Armstrong is just the latest in a stretch of narcissistic dickbags that have emerged from the world of sports in the last decade or so; he’s certainly not the first, and he will, most assuredly, not be the last. So why the fuck do we care? Why the fuck does anybody give a shit about Lance Armstrong? What part of his story do we not understand that we think will somehow be revealed by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist that useless, opportunistic cunt, Oprah?

There’s been a bullshit narrative driven by some parts of our media that whatever wrongs Lance Armstrong may have committed – taking PEDs, lying about taking PEDS – they should not overshadow the work he’s done fighting cancer. (For the record: I could care less that Armstrong was doping, it’s a non-issue in my opinion.) The problem is that Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation don’t actually fight cancer – which is to say that they don’t fund cancer research. Most of their money is used for public relations, and media, and pamphlets, and merchandise and wristbands. As far as their expense reports and the foundation’s practicality are concerned, Livestrong is the fucking Kony 2012 of cancer foundations. Is this to say that the foundation doesn’t do good things? Of course not. They do provide some invaluable services for cancer survivors and their families. But it’s becoming fairly clear that Livestrong and Lance Armstrong exist in this symbiotic relationship where neither could survive without the other.

It should be mentioned that Lance Armstrong has received no money from the foundation, ever. He, the foundation, and its board – which includes Sanjay Gupta – has been adamant about that. But Bill Gifford reported for Outside Magazine:

Much of the foundation’s work ends up buffing the image of one Lance Edward Armstrong, which seems fair—after all, Livestrong wouldn’t exist without him. But Livestrong spends massively on advertising, PR, and “branding,” all of which helps preserve Armstrong’s marketability at a time when he’s under fire. Meanwhile, Armstrong has used the goodwill of his foundation to cut business deals that have enriched him personally, an ethically questionable move.

Armstrong doesn’t use the foundation as a direct source of income, but, instead, uses the positive public image it provides him as a vehicle for securing six-figure speaking gigs (it is said that he charges upwards of $200,000 per appearance) and shady deals like selling out livestrong.com (as opposed to the foundation’s livestrong.org) to a commercial website for $1.2 million. (It’s worth noting that under public pressure Armstrong later gave the money to the foundation.) At the same time the foundation needs – or at least needed, since it’s now publicly distancing itself from its founder – Lance Armstrong to remain viable and relevant. The Livestrong foundation, however, was always a means to an end for him. That end, of course, was the apotheosis of Lance Armstrong.

But who, exactly, were we sanctifying? This is a man that has ruined people’s lives in order to protect his public image, and, therefore, his bank account. He’s never given a shit about anyone else but himself, and it’s silly of us to give a shit about him. So seriously, who the fuck cares?

Do you feel cheated because you were a fan and he turned out to be a fraud? Get the fuck over yourself. I’m sorry that your too-good-to-be-true story actually turned out to be too fucking good to be true.

Do you feel cheated because you donated to his foundation, which was built on lies? You only have yourself to blame. You should feel fucking dumb for donating to a shit-ass organization that doesn’t even provide money for research grants. And even then, its not like your money was lost in a Ponzi scheme, Livestrong still does provide services for cancer survivors. So shut the fuck up.

The reason why Lance Armstrong is going on this bullshit apology tour isn’t because he actually believes he did something wrong, it’s because he wants to compete in triathlons and marathons but can’t because he’s banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Again, he doesn’t give a shit about his fans, his teammates, or anybody else, only himself. This is a man hoping to restore his public image because he’s about to pay millions of dollars to the government (the U.S. Postal Service was the primary sponsor for Armstrong’s racing team) for defrauding them throughout his career. The dude needs money. That’s what this is about. He had to sell his fucking private jet and his properties for fuck’s sake. The writing’s on the goddamn wall.

Lance Armstrong is just another piece of shit our media deified until it realized he was, well, a piece of shit. This narrative of “Lance Armstrong: Philanthropist” is a complete and utter farce. This “apology,” to fucking Oprah of all people, is more of his usual self-aggrandizing bullshit. He’s just another narcissist trying to make himself feel better. (He’s also a part of, perhaps, the greatest sequence of Drudge Report links in the history of history.) The truth is, Lance Armstrong is about as fucking useless of a human being as there can be. I would rather watch an hour-long interview in which Barbara Walters and Kim Kardashian choose baby names than a sit-down interview where Armstrong and Oprah jerk each other off and try to make themselves feel important.

I get it. I mean, I wore a Livestrong bracelet in high school, too. Granted, I never actually bought the fucking thing, but I still wore one because everyone else seemed to be. I also popped the fucking collar on my polos – I did a lot of dumb shit back then. (I now support gravity.) The thing is, I don’t give a shit about Lance Armstrong or his story because I never lionized him. If I hear another media type refer to him as a “disgraced hero” or some other bullshit, I swear I’m gonna lose it. There are actual people out there fighting very real battles with cancer, and struggling to simply take care of their families. These people are heroes. Not some douchebag in a yellow jersey that rides a fucking bike.

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Maybe it’s time to re-think the constitution, guys.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. – Second Amendment, US Constitution

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. – Thomas Jefferson

Two-hundred and twenty-one years ago – to the day – the US Bill of Rights was adopted, having been largely written by James Madison, and ratified by the vote of white men – the men whom we now refer to as our “founding fathers” – who owned slaves, who believed blacks were equal to three-fifths of one white person, and who actively worked to disenfranchise not just blacks, but women and the poor as well.

What we seem to forget when we (all too often) cite these founding fathers in our political discourse, is that these founders were nothing if not flawed men. There is no greater proof of this than our nation’s history – the landmark amendments of the post-Constitutional era are all amendments which explicitly overrule their judgments. Seventy-four years after the Bill of Rights was enacted (in 1865), the thirteenth amendment emancipated the slaves; five years after that (1870), the fifteenth amendment prohibited the denial of suffrage based on race or color; fifty years after that (1920), the nineteenth amendment finally afforded women the franchise.

The question I have to ask, then, is why do we seem unwilling to compromise the language found in those twenty-seven words above? If we – through ratification of the thirteenth, fifteenth, and nineteenth amendments – are willing to admit that these founding fathers were incorrect in their assessments of women and minorities, why are we similarly unwilling to admit that, maybe, the founding fathers were incorrect about guns? After all, if George Washington saw the Bushmaster .223 that Adam Lanza used to murder more than two dozen people, mostly children, he’d shit his pants. Advanced firearms in 1789 (when the second amendment was written) were fucking muskets; are we really this dumb, as a society, that we believe that a twenty-seven word piece of legislation, written (poetically) 223 years ago, envisioned a nation filled with automatic and semi-automatic weapons? Of course not. But our ability to harness this simple fact for meaningful change is dependent on our answers to the two previous questions, which, in turn, are dependent on numerous outside factors – none of which are common sense.

The gun control debate is – by all accounts – a fairly nuanced one. There are issues of constitutional law, existing gun laws and states’ rights, mental healthcare and healthcare in general, campaign finance, and the separation of powers. Any measure of comprehensive gun control requires compliance from a wide range of people and institutions.

Missing from all of this, however, is the moral imperative: on 9/11 terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent civilians and we entered two wars; drugs have historically led to gang violence, so we’ve entered a war on drugs; 10,000 people have been killed in gun-related deaths over the last year, and we, apparently, have done nothing.* How can we live in a society where we not just allow, but codify and protect one’s abilities to purchase firearms? These are firearms, which, in the hands of civilians, are only used for two purposes: to kill people and animals, and to practice killing people and animals. Purchasing a firearm is nothing more than one’s implicit declaration of his or her willingness to not just fire this weapon, but to kill – even if only in self-defense.

*I’m not advocating for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor the war on drugs, but, rather, that proportionate measures must be taken.

There’s always the libertarian argument of the inverse relationship between guns and violence – that more guns lead to less violence. This is not just patently false, but ridiculous to its core. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center, in fact, found that there is overwhelming evidence that in states and countries where there are more guns, there are more homicides.* Still, somehow, this seems to be an argument which fills our political discourse – whether made by congressmen, or by Ann Coulter. We know better than this, and yet, somehow, we allow this argument to be perpetuated, from ignorant generation to ignorant generation. So how can we, as a people, as a government, and as a nation, live with ourselves when we legally sanction one’s ability to purchase a weapon that’s only purpose – even if used in self-defense – is for killing other living beings?

*Also false is the argument that guns are essential to our right to overthrow the government, considering that Tunisia – the birthplace of the Arab Spring – had the lowest rate of gun ownership in the world prior to their revolution.

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The Real Trouble with the Aurora Massacre; also, Batman 2012.

At 12:30 am (local time) on July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, a 24-year-old male opened fire on an unsuspecting theatre filled with innocent men, women and (curiously) children at a sold-out, midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest, and final, episode in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What was meant to be a three-hour escape from reality for the hundreds of patrons at the Century 16 movie theatre turned out to be far darker, and deadlier, than even the most gruesome Batman villain could be. In total, the assailant – said to be James Eagan Holmes, a former PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver – has injured upward of 70 people, twelve fatally.

In the following hours (on the east coast, at least) the morning news programs were very quick to point out that Holmes was white and was not believed to be connected to any form of terror organization. It was an odd move by the news organizations to essentially say that because Holmes was white, and because he had no connection to any citizen militia, or (God forbid) al Qaeda, Holmes was not a terrorist. This couldn’t be more false.

As David Sirota at Salon asks: “what is terrorism, if it is not a man in a riot mask and bullet-proof vest, armed with tear gas canisters and weapons, meticulously executing a military-style assault on a crowded movie theater?”

In America, though, we are quick to connect the term terrorism or terrorist with dark-skinned, Islamist extremists half-a-world over, while we refer to our own domestic terrorists as a “lone wolf,” “sociopath,” or “psychopath.” The truth is that terrorism has no race, no religion and no specific set of motivations – terrorism is simply an exploitation of fear; it isn’t a concept which is mutually exclusive to a certain region of the world, but, rather, it may be the single most universal aspect of geopolitics.

The question we often find ourselves asking in the aftermath of a tragedy like this is why would he do this? Perhaps we’re focused on the wrong question. After all, we’re a nation with some 270 million guns floating around, 255 million prescriptions for antidepressants and a population of 313 million – it’s shocking that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often. Of course, it does happen at an alarming rate – at least when compared with the rest of the civilized world – but it’s sort of a surprise the rate isn’t even higher.

The question we should be focused on, though, isn’t the why – as long as civilization exists, there will always be those terrorists batshit crazy enough to open fire in a crowded movie theatre – but, rather, the how. How was James Holmes able to open fire in a crowded movie theatre? This is, of course, a complex question, but deals far less with the abstract than the first.

Holmes, it is said, carried out his plot with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and two handguns – as well as with a smoke bomb (possibly filled with tear gas) and bullet-proof armor. (It is also said that Holmes has “booby-trapped” his apartment, with ammunition and canisters filled with some form of liquid.) The question, then, is how did he obtain these guns?

According to the Aurora Police Chief, Dan Oates, Holmes purchased these guns, legally, and purchased over 3,000 rounds of ammunition for the AR-15 (and a 100-round magazine), another 3,000 rounds for the two glocks, and 300 rounds for the shotgun over the internet. So to re-cap, Holmes purchased four deadly weapons in gun shops – presumably passing the background check – including two of the guns from a Bass Pro Shop*, and then was able to – again, legally – purchase six-thousand, three-hundred rounds of ammunition over the internet. With laws that allow you to purchase that many guns, and that much ammo over a sixty-day period…what the fuck did they think would happen?!

*Question: why the fuck is a fishing equipment shop selling handguns?

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Seriously Guys, Why the *%#! Are You Rooting Against LeBron James?!!!??!

Barry Bonds was a gigantic asshole. There’s, really, no other way to put it. He spurned Pittsburgh for San Francisco (and the then-richest contract in baseball history); he (allegedly) took steroids or HGH or whatever the fuck it was that we spent $25 million in taxpayer dollars trying to figure out but never did; he broke, perhaps, the most cherished record in all of sports, whilst (allegedly) taking these “performance enhancing drugs;” and he was a dick to the media, and to fans, and basically all walks of life. You’d probably be hard-pressed to find a teammate, or executive or media member who genuinely liked Bonds, just as a human being. The media hated him, the fans hated him, and a lot of his ex-teammates hated him. He was an asshole. He was also (arguably) the greatest hitter of all-time.

The thing that sucks about Barry Bonds’ career, is that so much of this country spent it hating him, and hoping he failed that nobody really took the time out to appreciate just how scary-fucking-good he was (and he was really scary-fucking-good).* You look around baseball these days and there are some great hitters in the league – Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun – but, no offense to any of them, none of them are Barry Bonds. Albert Pujols may go down as the greatest right-handed hitter of all-time, but he wasn’t a Gold Glove outfielder who also averaged almost 30 steals a season; he just isn’t Barry Bonds, even he’d probably tell you that.** Ask any manager from the last two decades which hitter struck the fear of God in them with the game on the line, and you’ll hear one, maybe two, names, but they will always say Barry Bonds.*** The greatest show of respect for any hitter is to intentionally walk him – Barry Bonds was intentionally walked 688 times in his career, Hank Aaron was second with 293. He was so feared as a hitter that on May 28, 1998 Buck Showalter intentionally walked him with a two-run lead in the bottom of the 9th, and the bases loaded. He’d rather give the Giants one run, than allow Bonds the opportunity to plate four.**** Just think about that for a minute. I’m not sure there’s an equivalent to that in any sport. That’s how good Barry Bonds was; and it kind of sucks that our memory of him is so shrouded by our hatred of him, that we never really got the chance to appreciate his greatness. I’m starting to get the feeling that this is sort of where we’re at with LeBron James right now.

*For the record, I really couldn’t give a shit what you think about the steroid era. It’s my belief that every record from that time should stand, and everyone, whose career was deserving of the honor, should be in the Hall of Fame.

**Though their 162 game averages are remarkably similar: .298/.444/.607 with 41 HR, 108 RBI, 121 runs, 28 steals and a 139/83 BB:K ratio for Bonds, while Pujols has put up (thus far – we still haven’t accounted for his decline phase, which seems to be taking place now) .326/.417/.610 with 42 HR, 125 RBI, 121 runs, 8 steals and a 91/67 BB:K ratio.

***The other, I’d argue, is Manny Ramirez. But that’d be its own essay.

****The last time this happened, I believe, was back in 2008 when Josh Hamilton was going crazy – Joe Maddon intentionally walked him with the bases loaded and Tampa up four.

LeBron James is an asshole – or at least he seems like an asshole; we project him in our minds to be an asshole, even though he is (by all accounts) a great teammate, and a really loyal friend. We stick with the narrative in this country, though – he left Cleveland! he did “The Decision!” Jordan would never have played with Bird or Magic! – so we’ve decided as a nation that he is an asshole.* And we absolutely hate him for it; we vilify him for it – for being this asshole we project him to be. And since we hate him – and, in turn, the Miami Heat – we want him to lose, and every fourth quarter we hope and pray that he fails, because if he does, it’s some sort of vindication for society – as if the fate of the civilized world rests on whether LeBron hits a free throw or not.

*I mean, at the very least, we’ve come to a national consensus that he’s a douchebag, right?

I don’t want to sound like the “good job, good effort” kid, but this is all pretty silly, really. This is the third round of these playoffs that I’ve now had to hear everybody wishing that the Heat lose; actively rooting against them. And, honestly, I can’t understand why. Give LeBron as much shit as you want for “The Decision” – it was poorly handled and even he understands that now – but he’s still the single, most talented player in the world.

Seriously think for a second: if you were to create the greatest basketball player of all-time out of parts of other NBA legends (a sort of Megazord of NBA players) how would you build him? Karl Malone’s body? Magic’s agility and passing ability? Pippen’s defense? Kobe’s scoring ability? Jordan’s will to win? LeBron James has all of those attributes, except, maybe, the last one – that competitive fire that only Jordan had, and probably only Kobe can come close to emulating. Except maybe he does have it.* It certainly looked like he had it in Game 6.

*Stop reading right now and read this piece by Joe Posnanski. Like now. Really. Seriously. I won’t mind if you don’t come back. Ok, I will. But, seriously, read it.

It’s games like this that make you remember he’s the best player on the planet right now.* You can spare me the he hasn’t won a championship! argument; I didn’t say the greatest, I said best. We can measure greatness by rings if we want, but on pure talent we’ve never seen someone like LeBron James before, and if you argue otherwise you’re 1) wrong, and/or 2) so much of a LeBron hater that you just aren’t willing to accept the truth [or, perhaps, 3) from Cleveland, which is, really, just an extension of 2].**

*I won’t say the universe, because if Independence Day is any indication, aliens are pretty fucking advanced – and I don’t even wanna know what the fuck they’re developing on Moron Mountain – but from the life forms we’re able to observe, he is, hands down, the best.

**And please realize that this guy ranks THIRD all-time in points per game (27.6; behind only Jordan and Wilt) while also averaging 7 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals and a block.

So explain to me, again: why, exactly, do you want, so badly, for LeBron James to lose (if you’re not a Celtics fan)? Because the only thing you can possibly accomplish by getting your wish – the only possibility that can come from LeBron James and the Miami Heat losing Game 7 on Saturday night – is depriving us, as a nation, of being able to watch the best possible basketball available. You’re basically rooting against your own best interests; LeBron James losing is bad for you as fans. You’re, really, no better than the poor schmucks in Alabama who vote Republican just because they’re Christian – you make no fucking sense. Go check some tape of the Boston Celtics and tell me that watching them against the Oklahoma City Thunder for seven games is more intriguing than LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, or Dwyane Wade vs. James Harden and Russell Westbrook. (Don’t worry, I’ll wait…)

Listen, I don’t like that LeBron did “The Decision,” or that he left Cleveland, or even just the way he carries himself – he comes off as a bit of a douchebag or an asshole, he just does; that’s sort of (from the public eye) indisputable. But he’s also the best player on the planet, and actively rooting against him robs us, as fans, of the chance to watch a once-in-a-generation (possibly even a once-in-ever) talent during the peak of his career, on the sport’s biggest stage.

A couple of people joked around on Twitter before Game 6, saying shit like “Today, we’re all Celtics fans.” Honestly, though, fuck that. I already missed out on appreciating Barry Bonds’ prime, I’m not repeating it again with LeBron James. Come Saturday, I sincerely hope we’re all Heat fans. (Then we can all go back to rooting for Oklahoma City.)

– bhb

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