Democratic candidate Rob Quist, shortly before his guitar was repossessed
Tomorrow is the last day to vote in Montana’s special election. That means opposition researchers have only 24 hours to reveal one more embarrassing detail about Rob Quist’s personal life on the internet. For a second it looked like the photo finish would go to Brent Scher, who published an item in the Washington Free Beacon today claiming that the National Archives had no record of Quist registering for the Selective Service. But it turns out Scher filed the records request wrong. I quote his correction:
After publication of this article, the Washington Free Beacon obtained a copy of Rob Quist’s Selective Service System registration card, which was filed on January 10, 1966, five days after Quist’s 18th birthday. The registration card was indeed held at the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, but could not be located for the below referenced records request because not enough information was initially supplied [emphasis added] to locate a record from Montana, where the registrations are organized by local board, according to an archive supervisor.
A-plus use of the passive voice in that second sentence, bro. It turns out no one could find Quist’s draft card because Sher asked for it wrong. This correction retracts the entire story. Instead of pulling the article, though, the Washington Free Beacon has left it up, but with the correction at the top saying none of it is true. It’s almost as though the Beacon were not a responsible news organization. It’s almost like it’s a propaganda site that was founded by a dark-money group and then spun off into a for-profit news venture.
Such outlets are everywhere, and they find no shortage of ethically flexible young people to write for them. You may remember Scher from this report that Quist had genital herpes, which cites his former urologist, whom the candidate sued for malpractice. Those are the kind of sweet moves you get when you use a PR flack instead of a reporter, but the downside is basic screwups like the one above. Kombat! Kids: Remember to tell the truth, or you won’t know if you’re becoming evil later.
The image above shows the bill for an emergency room visit that a man without insurance incurred after he was bitten by a snake. It’s been floating around Twitter, where a lot of users assume that it is fake—particularly users from countries that offer some form of socialized medicine, if anecdotal reading is any indication. But this bill is real. CBS News confirms that Todd Fassler got it in 2015, when he posed for a selfie with a rattlesnake and got bitten. That’s a very dumb thing that Fassler did. But the stupidity of taking a picture with a rattlesnake pales in comparison to the evil of charging $83,000 for the antivenom CroFab, which Fassler required to live.
Only one US manufacturer makes antivenom for rattlesnake bites, so they can charge what they want. So can the hospital, which first treated Fassler in its emergency room before moving him to intensive care for a few days. All this stuff is expensive because of concrete market forces, but from the perspective of the person who actually buys health care—the guy with a puffy arm whose heart will stop if he doesn’t agree, in advance, to pay whatever the hospital charges—the system is completely arbitrary.
Imagine if a man dragged himself to your door in the night, dying of an injury that you had the power to treat. “I’ll save your life,” you say, “but you have to buy a house and give it to me. Alternatively, you can become my indentured servant.” You would be an asshole. It’s immoral to extort dying people for more money than the median American household makes in three years. But because this process happens through a series of billing companies and office functionaries, we think of it as unavoidable. No single person is responsible, so it’s nobody’s fault. We have invented a system that ruins lives in the process of saving them, because the alternative is to do the difficult work of overhauling a broken system.
But what about personal responsibility? If Fassler didn’t want so much debt, he shouldn’t have gotten bitten by a snake. I say unto you, dear reader, that this kind of appeal to personal responsibility is a dodge. People are going to get bitten by snakes. They’re going to do really stupid stuff and incur injuries they easily could have prevented, because this is the way of the world. Saying sick people are responsible for what happens to them abdicates our responsibility to treat the sick. It posits an imaginary world without illness, when illness has been an aspect of human life since the beginning. The problem is not that people need medical treatment. It’s that we refuse to think of a fair and decent way to give it to them.
Bros who love Bernie Sanders
Bernie bros are like raccoons. We know they’re out there, but we have a hard time actually laying hands on one. On Friday, Mashable ran a story headlined The bros who love Bernie Sanders have become a sexist mob. Emily Cahn writes:
[W]ith the Iowa caucuses now days away, a subset of Sanders supporters has become extremely vocal. Their messages, which are oftentimes derogatory and misogynistic, are geared at Clinton supporters (or anyone who disagrees with Sanders for that matter). They’ve even become prominent enough to earn a nickname: the “BernieBros.”
As examples of Bernie bro behavior, the story screenshots two Facebook comments on a photo of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Hillary Clinton. The first is from Carol Jean Simpson, who writes, “I am no longer voting for you. You should have supported someone with integrity instead of a lying shitbag like HRC. #FeelTheBern.” That’s derogatory. But it’s not misogynist(ic), and the astute reader will note that Carol Jean Simpson is a woman. The second commenter, Scott Lockhart, writes, “Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” Now that’s the kind of cartoonish misogyny we’re looking for. Unfortunately, Scott Lockhart turns out to be a parody account.
Marcus Kaarma and a child he didn’t shoot
I can’t read the Missoulian comments section anymore, because I installed CommentBlocker. Its combination of comment-blocking power and arbitrary bugs prevents me from reading comments at the Missoulian even when I override it. So finally I have escaped the funhouse. Yesterday, the prosecution in Marcus Kaarma’s murder case argued that it was more a hall of mirrors. Objecting to Kaarma’s attorneys’ motion to move the trial because it had become “sensationalized” in local media, Deputy County Attorney Jennifer complained that much of defense’s evidence consisted of Missoulian.com comments. For example:
As an example, attached to one Missoulian.com article about the case a single user commented 31 times and another user posted 34 times, Clark retorted.
I wish that sentence were not a train wreck, because it confirms what we suspected all along.
A fake chart the internet made to mock Fox News for tricking people
Miracle Mike Sebba sent me this beautiful graph with the caveat that it might be fake, and sadly it did not really air on Fox News. By “sadly,” I guess I mean “fortunately,” since in theory we are against misleading people. That’s why we’re so angry at Fox. The image above, with its y-axis reversed and crammed into the bottom half of the graph, is a fake issuing from the bowels of the internet. Don’t read too much of that Reddit thread, lest you encounter people who argue that it’s still a downward-trending line “even if you flip the numbers,” plus people who, after they know it’s fake, continue to decry Fox News for airing it. The point is that Fox News tricks people, even if you have to trick people into understanding that.