There are screw-ups, and then there are screw-ups that make headlines, like those guys who made a fire extinguisher that was highly flammable. These are the kinds of things professionals have nightmares about: the hilariously ironic failures that everyone will find out about. Like ...
The GSA, short for General Services Administration, is the agency that is supposed to be the Prius to other U.S. agencies' gas-guzzling SUVs. They're all about limiting waste, tirelessly working to make government processes sustainable, smart and transparent. They're the kind of people who dispatch goats to eat overgrown grass instead of firing up a lawnmower. Apparently, they are also firm believers in that old saying about happenings and Vegas.
Any cash spared thanks to goats and whatnot was happily blown away the second a 300-strong entourage of GSA savings experts hit the 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas. To their credit, they didn't just squander our valuable tax dollars on hookers and blow ... though they might've run up a smaller tab by doing that.
"She OD'd on the cocaine, so now I don't have to pay. You're welcome, America."
They kicked their spending splurge off with a $75,000 team building exercise, where attendees built bicycles (seriously) and received lame T-shirts. Then there were various $5,600 in-room parties, $31,000 "networking receptions" and assorted mysterious catering bills, such as a $7,000 sushi bill.
When you start looking at the smaller stuff, the madness truly unfolds: They bought water bottles ($2,782), commemorative coins ($6,325) and actual goddamn yearbooks ($8,130), because apparently the GSA is staffed entirely by high schoolers. Perhaps the most mind-blowing expenditure was $44 per head for breakfast. That is, for each breakfast, every single day. Hell, don't most hotels throw that in for free?
Each and every aspect of the trip was filled with ridiculously inflated bills like that, to the point that the whole trip ended up costing $822,000. That's $2,740 per attendee. For a five-day convention.
And that doesn't even count the "diamond fight" portion of the team building exercise.
Unsurprisingly, the expenses led to an investigation where a bunch of other anomalies were uncovered, including this gem:
To select a venue and plan the conference, GSA employees conducted two "scouting trips," five off-site planning meetings, and a "dry run." Six of these planning events took place at the M Resort (the conference venue) itself.
Man, when an official government document starts using sarcasm quotes, you know someone's in trouble.
If you put it in air quotes, it isn't a crime. That's, like, the 30th Amendment or something.
Their reputation as a saving agency now in ruins, the only thing the GSA had left was their other key pillar, transparency of operation. Too bad they decided to piss all over that, too, as the responsible executive pleaded the Fifth Amendment when he was questioned by congressional committees ... then resigned before he could be heard.
Some of you have seen this anti-piracy PSA so many times, you can quote it by heart (hint: it's the infamous "YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR" ad):
The "Piracy -- It's a Crime" campaign was created by a Dutch anti-piracy group called BREIN to be inserted on DVDs, and as such has briefly delayed millions of people from enjoying movies over the last few years. But as annoying as the constant repetitions of the video may be, it's plain to see that BREIN is just trying to support the rights of the artists.
That is, unless said artists work for BREIN, in which case they can suck it.
"Then we steal their handbag."
In 2006, BREIN asked one Melchior Rietveldt, who we assume is a real person and not a Skyrim character, to compose music for an anti-piracy ad for a local film festival. Melchior agreed, threw together a few quick notes and received his payment.
A few years later, Rietveldt -- who apparently doesn't watch a lot of movies -- made himself some popcorn, popped a Harry Potter film into his DVD player ... and was shocked to see BRIEN's ad, still accompanied by his music. The music he had composed for a one-off event, and was paid next to nothing for.
"Cover your ears so I can call them cocksuckers without your mom getting mad."
It turned out that BREIN had decided not to pay Rietveldt for using his music in the ad that was playing on, well, more or less every DVD made since he had composed it. Thus, they had happily robbed him of compensation of well over $1.2 freaking million. The justifiedly pissed-off Rietveldt sent a collecting agency to claim his dues and was promptly contacted by Jochem Gerrits, a record company executive and one of BREIN's board members. Gerrits agreed to help Melchior get the money they owed him ... but only if he gave Gerrits a 33 percent cut.
After a long, awkward silence, Rietveldt decided he'd had enough of this bullshit and took his case to court. Gerrits wound up resigning from the BREIN board of directors, and although the group denies that they did anything wrong, it looks like the composer is finally getting some compensation from his contribution to the famous video that aggressively defends the rights of artists to get compensation.
"Well, let's not get all hasty here. Let's talk about what 'crime' actually means in the big picture ..."
If you know your sports history, you might recognize James Naismith as the name of the inventor of basketball. He developed the game in 1891, and by 1898 it had gained enough popularity to sustain a league. Naismith was teaching at the University of Kansas at the time, so he obviously wound up coaching their basketball team, the Jayhawks. It was a natural fit, really -- who better to know the ins and outs of a game than the guy who invented it?
As it turned out, pretty much anyone else.
For instance, these 12-year-old girls, who took the time to knit their own championship sweaters midgame.
James Naismith boasts a record that differs radically from any KU basketball coach since. This is because his record sucks. While you'd think that opposing coaches would constantly have been calling timeouts just to come over and ask Naismith questions, the reality is that Naismith ended his career as a basketball coach with a losing record of 55-60.
What's worse is that he's the only Jayhawks coach with such lousy numbers -- each and every other coach KU men's basketball has ever seen has a substantial winning record.
Including this toddler, who they once let coach for three seasons because "he looked kind of sad."
This makes Naismith either the least motivated coach in history or the biggest believer in fair play we've ever encountered. Come on, dude -- the game was your creation! If your team was down, what stopped you from introducing new rules midgame? If the refs tried to call you on it, you'd be all, "Uh, I like to think I know how my game is played, sonny."
You have to wonder if he didn't watch other coaches coming up with innovations that left his team in the dust and think they were just totally ruining his sport.
Via Wikimedia Commons
"Fuck you guys, I'm taking my ball and going home. Know what? I'm taking my basket, too."