9/25/2017

The Rude Pundit's Biennial Fundraiser Continues: 14 Years in the Political Coal Mine

Yep, the end of this week marks 14 years of this here blog. You could go through the archives and see a rogue's gallery of motherfuckers and dickholes, some of whom you may have blocked from your Trump-addled memory.

Remember the sneer and scowl Scott McClellan, Sean Spicer's slightly more evolved predecessor?

Remember corpulent rage whisperer Richard Perle, who, with now-loved-by-liberals-with-short-memories David Frum, helped convince Americans to shit themselves over Iraq and terrorism?

Remember poor Harriet Miers, who was nominated for the Supreme Court because she was buds with W. Bush?

Through it all, this here writer has been striving to offer the finest shit-faced commentary in the blogiverse. But now I'm aching to expand to other domains.

So every two years, I do a fundraiser because, well, shit, mostly I do this for free (you see any ads?). But here are some goals for this year's donations (beyond more whiskey and weed):

- Get the right microphones and shit to make a decent-sounding podcast (yeah, another goddamned podcast, but this one'll be less douchey than most)

- Produce more videos. I wanna try to put out something once a month

- Go back to Los Angeles to do an encore of Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour podcast, where you'll get to hear me talking filthy and honestly to one of my favorite humans. Just need the scratch for the plane ticket.

While you should absolutely donate to Puerto Rico or Mexico first, if you've got some spare rubles lying around, you can hit that PayPal button over there on the side to donate (it even takes credit cards) or you can click right here.

Big thanks to everyone who's given so far from sea to shining sea and in amounts small and large.

The President and Puerto Rico: Dividing Us When We Should Come Together

I know that I should be writing about President Trump's belligerent, oafish attacks on National Football League players who take a knee during the National Anthem. I know I should point out that Colin Kaepernick and others aren't protesting the flag or the dumb, boring National Anthem, but that they are protesting police brutality and the murder of unarmed African Americans by cops. I know I should call Trump all kinds of names and make nasty references to body parts.

But, instead, when it comes to Trump, it's more important to point out that, since last Wednesday, the President of the United States has not tweeted about Puerto Rico, the American territory that was devastated by Hurricane Maria last week and Hurricane Irma before. It's more important to point out that the White House website offers no information on Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, also wrecked by storms, since a readout of a phone call with their governors from last Thursday. At a point where a real president would be uniting us behind Americans whose lives have been destroyed, Trump has chosen to divide us between people who give a shit about the goddamn American flag and people who do not.

So I'm sorry that I'm not railing on that red meat topic. Instead, I'm thinking about the families of a hell of a lot of my students. I'm thinking about the millions of loved ones of the estimated over 5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the United States mainland.

I'm thinking about how:

- About 80% of the lines that bring electricity to cities and towns were decimated by the storms, on top of the fact that all the local power lines are down. The power grid will likely need to be rebuilt from scratch. The heat index in San Juan right now is 100 degrees. 91 plus the humidity. With not even a fan. And no water pumping stations on line. Which means you can't flush a toilet. Or get a drink. Imagine for a second being without electricity for months, as people without generators will be. Imagine being without every modern convenience and more than a few necessities.

- Maria "wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico." It took out dairy barns, chicken coops, and plantations. It destroyed the roads where food is transported with debris and landslides.

- The Guajataca dam still is at risk of breaking, flooding an area where 70,000 live. Meanwhile, the streets of the cities in Puerto Rico are still flooded, days after the storm.

- Fuel is in short supply. People line up for hours to get anything for cars or generators.

- Hospitals can't guarantee that they can take in more patients, let alone take care of the ones who are there. Hospitals lack enough electricity and running water, even with generators helping.

Fox "news" personality Geraldo Rivera is from Puerto Rico, and he was able to get to the island to see how his family was doing. His assessment is stark, especially for, well, Fox: "Only an approach like the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe in the wake of World War II can save this place known as La Isla del Encanto, the island of enchantment. Bring in the aircraft carriers; import thousands of generators. Recruit linemen from around the United States to rally to the cause of their fellow U.S. citizens. The need is dire."

A massive effort will need to be undertaken, and, to be fair, FEMA is there and helping, as much as it can. But there are very few places for planes to land, and the Navy could send a hospital ship to help. Mostly, the level of devastation is too huge to grapple with. And we're talking a population roughly seven times that of New Orleans during Katrina. Right now, the White House is talking about getting a disaster aid request to Congress in the next couple of weeks. Enough time for a whole lot of people to die. Enough time for a humanitarian crisis to overtake any efforts going on now.

Trump's refusal to discuss Puerto Rico at all this weekend while he was freely disparaging the NFL and John McCain and, of course, playing golf come across as distressingly apathetic and unsurprisingly racist. And, frankly, the media is aiding and abetting this apathy by concentrating on his bullshit tweets (it'd be one thing if CNN was using Trump's hissy fit to discuss police tactics, but, no, it's just "Trump mad. You mad, too?"). This morning, NPR didn't even mention Puerto Rico in its news round-up. The New York Times had a brief mention of an article on the bottom of the front page.

Maria would be Trump's Katrina, except very few people seem to give a damn.

9/22/2017

The Rude Pundit's Biennial Anniversary Fundraiser: Your Chance to Give Me Money

Through most of Bush, all of Obama, and now plowing down the road until the end of history with Trump, this here blog has been going strong for nearly 14 years. Next year is the big anniversary of the first time I thought, "Blogging? Shit, any monkey can do that."

And through it all, the orgasmic good, the ferociously bad, and the obscenely ugly, Rude Readers have been there by the thousands, gluttons for punishment, coming here for a rhetorical purge so they can face the world a little less burdened.

Here's the deal: Every couple of years (because I'm not NPR), I wanna update the computer, try out a couple of projects (like a podcast and more video), and restock the whiskey cabinet. I might even pay another visit to Miss Stephanie Miller out in L.A. if you guys give the scratch for a plane ticket.

So I do a fundraiser. Every year, Rude Readers come through with donations big and small.

If you wanna donate this year, if you got some spare cash, you can do it the usual way, through PayPal.

Just pound that button over there on the right or click right here. Hell, I even take credit cards.


Republicans' Fake Concern for Fetuses: Flint Edition

So here we are, once again, looking at Republican policies that result in deaths and damage. We already knew that the disastrous decision to switch the water source for Flint, Michigan, which was done by emergency managers appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder in order to save money, led to elevated lead in the water, elevated lead in the kids, and undrinkable, unusable water. Hell, we know now that a handful of people died of Legionnaire's disease because of bacterial contamination in the water, too.

Now we get the gut-churning news that the water caused the pregnancy rate to plunge and fetal deaths to skyrocket in Flint during the 18 months the contaminated water was running through the faucets and fountains there. That's not hyperbole. That's from a report by Kansas University researchers, which saw a 12% drop in the pregnancy rate and a 58% rise in the fetal death rate, a number the scientists called "horrifyingly large."

Need a graphic representation of this? Here ya go:


The top line is the fertility rate in 15 other cities in Michigan, which is fairly consistent. The line that takes a dive is Flint. (Also of note: In general, the fertility rate in Michigan improved once the Affordable Care Act was passed.)

That's as clear evidence as you could ask that Republicans' concern about fetuses stops once abortion politics are taken out of the equation. And let's not deny the racist implications here of making a majority African American community essentially guinea pigs in a budget-cutting experiment. We used to say that conservatives only care about children before they are born. But the truth of the matter is that they only care about fetuses when they can use that "care" to whip up their ignorant base.

There is something I keep coming back to whenever I read or hear about Flint, something I wrote back in January 2016: "Michigan has a $700 million surplus in its state budget. It would have cost perhaps $100 a day to put phosphates into the water when the supply was first switched to prevent the water from corroding the pipes" and leaching lead into the water. It was foreseeable and preventable. An ounce of prevention, man, just the tiniest bit. I wonder how much funding was spent on things like the militarization of the police instead of making people's homes safe at a fundamental level.

The authors of the study conclude, "Our results suggest that a more lax regulatory environment in the context of drinking water may have substantial unforeseen effects on maternal and infant health, including large reductions in the number of births." They call for greater spending on the EPA and more regulations to protect essential things like, you know, water.

Which just makes me realize how deeply screwed we are from womb to grave right now.

9/21/2017

The Rude Pundit's Biennial Money Grab Fundraiser: 14 Years of Bloggery

Yes, yes, yes, next week marks 14 years since I first put pot smoke-stained fingers to whiskey-sticky keyboard and barbarically yawped out the beginning of this here blog. It was a desperate time, with the worst president in history plunging us into a war based on lies before wrecking a strong economy that had been handed to him by a Democrat. Hmmm...

Fourteen years is about 830 in blogger years, and the scarred hellscape of this internet highway is littered with the remnants of blogs great and small that have come and gone. Some have moved on to greater success, some have passed away, some have just wandered off into the desert, driven mad, no doubt, by the snowballing barrage of fucknuttery that comes rolling our way.

But, goddamnit, this stubborn sumbitch is still here, through a book, a CD, two stage shows, and radio and TV appearances. With a brief pause to recalibrate in the wake of the election of the new worst president in history, this here Rude Pundit has been a constant companion to many of you. Let's keep riding along. And to those of you who have just recently joined in the convoy barreling through the American carnage, welcome aboard.

So, every couple of years, I ask for money, which you have always kindly, generously, amazingly donated. I'm not gonna lie. There's no noble cause here. I'm gonna buy a new computer, and I'm gonna restock the whiskey. Plus one or two other things:

If she'll have me (and I think she will), your donations will help me go back to Los Angeles to join Madam Stephanie Miller for another go round on her Happy Hour Podcast. The first two were utter, embarrassing, hilarious filth. Let's go again.

Oh, and I'm gonna start my own podcast. Yeah, fuck it. Everybody will have a podcast some day, so why the hell not. And, if I get enough, I'll do a few more videos.

Here's the deal: You can donate by clicking over there on that PayPal button on the right or right here. It even accepts credit cards.

And here's something new: I've started a Patreon page. Yeah, monthly subscribers will get extra bonus posts and stuff and it starts at just $1 a month. That's right. The cost of a cup of bodega coffee once a month will get you special, extra rude punditry. I've got a simple goal of 1000 subscribers, with that podcast and more video stuff as the result.

Oh, and, hell, I'll open this up for any questions. You don't have to donate to ask, just like you don't have to donate to read. I'll answer a couple over the next week of this fundraiser

But I'd sure appreciate whatever affordable, adequate love you can toss in the hat.

Back soon with more ravenous rudeness.

Republicans Admit the Whole Trumpcare Scam by Bribing Lisa Murkowski With More Obamacare

(Don't forget: The Rude Pundit's Biennial Fundraiser/Whiskey Support is happening now.)

Republicans are desperate to pass a bill they can claim repeals and replaces the Affordable Care Act. They have to do it because they said they'd do it, even though what they said all along is they would pass something better and any analysis by anyone not a GOP meat puppet shows that everything they've attempted to pass is far, far worse, so they're not really doing what they promised except at the crudest level.

But fuck that. Republicans just want to go around the country and crow that they did it, goddamnit, even if that means they have to stand on a stack of corpses to be heard. There's your image of the 2017 GOP: Mitch McConnell in the September 30 twilight, tortoise howling in victory atop the bodies of his dead and dying constituents, who would still vote for him.

Now, in an attempt to fist-fuck the Graham-Cassidy-other-assholes bill through the Senate, Republicans have decided to just say, "Fuck it" and flat out bribe Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. And what is the bribe? Alaska gets to keep Obamacare.

No, really. Here's a summary of the proposal: "Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive Obamacare’s premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states. It appears this exemption will not affect Alaska receiving its state allotment under the new block grant in addition to the premium tax credits." On top of that, Alaska's Medicaid funding not only doesn't get cut; it gets more. The amendment to the bill "provides for an increased federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) for both Alaska and Hawaii."

In other words, Republicans are admitting that the only way they can get Senator Murkowski to vote for the bill is to make sure that Alaska doesn't have to deal with much of the bill, especially when it comes to funding. In otherer words, major portions of the bill are a fucking scam and the GOP is admitting that.

Hell, back in June, Murkoswki said as much. "Let’s just say that they do something that’s so Alaska-specific just to, quote, ‘get me.' Then you have a nationwide system that doesn’t work. That then comes crashing down and Alaska’s not able to kind of keep it together on its own." Now we get to see if Murkowski, who really fucking hates McConnell, has the courage of her own damn words.

There are so many lies bound up with this blatant buy-off. Like the lie of how they want states to be able to figure things out on their own. Well, can Ohio, Vermont, Nevada, and other Republican-led states, as well as the Democratic-led states, now say, "Hey, we want that same fuckin' deal as Alaska, man"?

Or how about the lie of how much they trust the states. Louisiana's other shitty senator, John Kennedy, wanted to ban states from setting up single-payer systems. Why? Because something, something, freedom, no doubt: "I don't think states should have the authority to take money from the American taxpayer and set up a single-payer system." And, in a stunning bit of parody, Kennedy said, "I think the only way we are going to solve the health care problem in America is through the private sector." Motherfucker, the private sector is the health care problem in America.

This whole effort is such a savage farce that you half expect it to end in an orgy in a pool of money where the Republicans fuck each other with rolled up wads of cash to the masturbatory delight of the Koch brothers while the Mercer family fondles each other in joy.

9/20/2017

Graham-Cassidy Dicks Over So Many People (and Its Sponsors Are Liars)

There's a ton of insidious shit going down in the massive clusterfuck that is the effort to bring the Graham-Cassidy-and-the-rest's "Lynch Obamacare" bill to a vote in the Senate before September 30. Motherfuckers are just flat out lying about shit now in order to get support.

For instance, they insist that the bill protects people with pre-existing conditions. Here's co-sponsor and Louisiana Senator Bill "I Look Like a Creepy Panty-Sniffer" Cassidy on CNN this morning: "There's a specific provision that says that if a state applies for a waiver, it must ensure that those with pre-existing conditions have affordable and adequate coverage." But what the fuck is that? The bill doesn't define "affordable" or "adequate." And I have looked at the fuckin' bill itself. Funny thing: except for one time, the word "affordable" is used only to talk about the Affordable Care Act, which seems to have cornered the fucking market on affordability.

Where's that other usage? In the waivers section. What the bill has about states getting waivers from requirements for the block grants that will take the place of Medicaid is simple. On pre-existing conditions, the waiver applications have to say "how the State intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions if such waiver is approved." You see the wide wiggle room there? States just need to say how they "intend" to "maintain access." That ain't a fucking requirement to do anything but say, "Yes, let me pave the road to Hell some more with my fucking intentions." It is not an ironclad assurance in the way Cassidy and Graham are promising it is, the lying shit-sacks.

So you might say, "Well, obviously, if a state doesn't do what it says it's going to do, its waiver can be taken away, right?" No, you fucking credulous dolt. Because, see, once the state gets the waiver approved for one year, it's considered approved for every year after that. Let's go to the bill: "If an application of a State submitted under this subsection is approved by the Administrator for a year, the application shall be deemed to be approved by the Administrator for that year and each subsequent year through December 31, 2026." In other words, Texas can write in its waiver application, "Oh, we totes intend to make sure the cancer patients get affordable, adequate coverage, scout's fuckin' honor, man," and then they don't have to do a goddamn thing because there's no mechanism to take away the waiver once it's given.

Oh, and the waivers are decided by the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Who appoints that person? Who the fuck do you think?

Another tit-punch in the bill is its blatant attack on anything to do with abortion (with the usual trio of exceptions). First, it says that any insurance that includes abortion coverage is not a "qualified plan," which means that several states, like California, Oregon, and New York, where abortion coverage is required, would have all of their plans immediately ineligible for tax credits to individuals and businesses.

On top of that, there's this groin kick in the middle of the bill: "no Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity, whether made directly to the prohibited entity or through a managed care organization under contract with the State." What is a "prohibited entity"? Any place that "is primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health, and related medical care; and...provides for abortions." So here is a back door way to slash spending on Planned Parenthood. Dream fulfilled, motherfuckers.

By the way, the bill mentions the word "abortion" 15 times. It uses "pregnancy" 8 times, most of them having to do with abortion. These fucknuts are obsessed.

When I originally started to write this post, I was intending to talk about how Graham-Cassidy-fuck-you dicks over states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, how it was a calculated punishment for those who dared to be compassionate, how it was taking money away from liberal states like New York and California to give to the ones run by savages, like Texas.

But this isn't just an anti-blue state or anti-Obama bill. It's anti-human, as in "inhumane," as in "devoid of humanity." Which is the motto of the Republican Party.

9/19/2017

The Short Bus to Armageddon: Trump at the U.N.

When do we get to stop being embarrassed, huh? Every time that President Donald Trump opens his lamprey mouth and shakes his semen-colored mane, it's like another shiv in the gut while we stand in the prison shower that is the United States in 2017.

"Which group of shit-sniffing baboons is he gonna talk to this time?" we wonder. Will it be the crazed conservative hawks, the ones whose savagery make Democratic hawks look like confused parakeets? Will it be his base, whose heads are evolving into the shape of a permanent dunce cap, the one-third of the American populace who pretend they want anarchy when, really, all they want are more guns and fewer dark-skinned people? Will it be the unsatiated capitalists, the ones who would monetize child rape if they thought they could squeeze a few more pennies out of the bloodied anuses of babies? And usually, it's all three, to varying degrees, with Trump a carnival barker yelling at the freaks and carnies to scoop up the spilled popcorn and toss it back in with the rest to sell again tomorrow.

At the United Nations today, Trump spoke stiffly and boorishly, his pinch-fingered hand gesticulating like he was jacking off his own micropenis. It was like some kind of dumb college prank, where you make the stupidest freshman get up at karaoke and sing the National Anthem instead of some damn Ed Sheeran song. Put a MAGA hat on that bitch, and you've got a Trump voter.

Whatever you think of the U.N., most of the leaders in that room are people who have dedicated their lives to the politics of their nation. Most of them are vastly educated, well-read, worldly, and, to varying degrees, smart enough to know a fucking idiot when they see one. So you had to imagine the reactions to Trump at the General Assembly ranged from horror to bemusement to calculating how easy it would be to roll this rube (looking at you, Saudi Arabia).

Did Trump brag about how great things are now that he's been president for all of 8 months? Fuck, yeah, you know he did. Actually, apparently, his presidency started even earlier: "The United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high -- a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time." Yes, I'm sure Hage Geingob, the president of Namibia, who has a PhD in international relations from the University of Leeds, really thought that Trump deserved the credit for this. (By the way, interestingly, Geingob came to the United States to start college at Temple University, in Philadelphia, in 1964 before transferring to Fordham University in New York City. Trump started at Fordham in 1964 before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.)

Were there lines that should have made any sentient world leader just crack up with sad laughter? You bet. "In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch," Trump had the gall to say as most of Central and South America, a good chunk of East Asia, and assorted islands from all over the world rolled their eyes so hard they saw their own brain pans.

Sure, but did he sound like a pathetic, low-level thug who wants everyone to think he's a made man? Aw, come on. That's his default mode. He warned, "We can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return." He threatened, "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." And, yeah he called Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man." In front of the U.N. It's like having your drunk aunt shake her bare titties at her nephew's graduation.

And, obviously, Trump talked as if no one else there has any idea how the world works. "If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," he said in a line that's right out of his Captain America fanfic. He continued, "When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength." Certainly, every country that has dealt with terrorism, which is a fuck-bunch of 'em, appreciated being told they should not be bystanders.

On it went, with shitting on the Iran deal (which is working, despite every feeble protest Trump makes), praise for Russia and Turkey, called out the "loser terrorists," and repeated a blatant lie: "Our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined."

Yeah, it was like piss from heaven that all the golden showers lovers on his side could bathe themselves in. And everything you need to know about the speech, and everything that you believe about it, is contained in how you think about this: One of the first people to praise the speech was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted, "In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech."

Yes, it's so very brave to threaten to wipe out a desperate tiny country, to walk away from a peace deal, and to ignore the greatest threat to the planet, climate change, altogether. We're riding the short bus to Armageddon. And there are no stops ahead.

9/18/2017

Fresh Health Care Fuckery: Your McCain Praise Was Probably Wasted

Ah, remember when Mighty Maverick John McCain was the mighty maverick hero last time there was a vote on a bullshit health care "reform" bill with his mighty mavericky thumbs-down? Remember the ejaculations of praise for this irascible cockhead doing something decent just to fuck with Donald Trump? Remember his slobber-coated speech where he said of the Senate, "Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order"? Remember how he insisted, "Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate"?

Yeah, fuck all that noise. Now that the new spiked dildo of health care, the Graham-Cassidy-etc bill, is threatening to be rammed up the hemorrhoidal anus of the American people, with just about every fucking terrible thing as the last attempt intact, McCain said that he wanted to hear from Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona. Ducey had opposed the previous Trumpcare bill because it dicked over Arizonans on expanded Medicaid. Now Ducey has said he supports Graham-Cassidy-who-the-fuck-cares, even though the aforementioned dicking remains, and McCain has tweeted that he's still feeling cranky about the process but is "inclined" to support the bill.

And even if McCain ends up going thumbs-down again, fuck him for even contemplating an upraised thumb. Either you've got principles or you don't, motherfucker.

In all the time the GOP has had, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, since the election, since the failure of the "Fuck You, We Don't Care If You Die Bankrupt" bill in July, they have not made a case for repeal except "We said we'd do it." It's like a bunch of morons promising to light their farts if their favorite team wins a championship. The only people who wanna see that are other morons. Right now, we're down to 8.8% of Americans without health insurance, and a good number of those are because of the assholes in Republican states not expanding Medicaid.

Who does this bill help? It's faith-based legislation. Republicans say that Obamacare is making you suffer, so, if you're GOP-inclined, you believe it's making you suffer (even if it's paying for your chemo or psoriasis medication). And you have staked your entire political belief system on your investment in this bullshit. You'd rather die a miserable death than admit that you were always the mark for a bunch of low-rent Barnums. This way to the amazing egress, idiots. Grab a snipe on your way.

I wrote last week about the remarkable care I received in the UK for free. I was in the middle of the fourth largest city in the country, and every complaint I've heard about single-payer was rendered utterly and completely false.

Yet here we are, unable to even agree that tens of millions of people, including those with pre-existing conditions, who are now covered by the Affordable Care Act, deserve to be treated as human beings. What a stupid goddamned society we've built. It's repulsive. It's disgusting. It's immoral. And yet so many of our dumb fellow citizens think this is the way things ought to be.

The cruelest trick that capitalists ever played on Americans was making them believe they didn't need everyone else. Our fake rugged individualism will be our undoing.

And for those of us who do give a shit about our fellow Americans, it's once more to the phones to make Senators fear for their careers.

9/14/2017

An American in the UK National Health Service

It had been a stressful few weeks, with far more than the usual amount of fuckery and frantic frenzy, and I arrived in Liverpool last Friday on a total of about 4 hours of sleep in two days. Walking around the Liverpool One area shortly after dropping off my bags, heading towards the Tesco to get some supplies, I realized that I was sweating like Nicholas Cage on a meth bender and my heart was racing like, well, the same. I felt a tightness in my chest, short of breath, needing to sit down, and I thought, "Well, fuck, this would fuck up the next week or so." When your Dad dies of a heart attack at 46, you take that shit seriously.

So I found a National Health Service walk-in clinic just around the corner from Tesco. It was in the same space as the NHS's sexual health office, which offered free morning after pills, among other things. I went in and there were maybe twenty people sitting there. I don't know how many needed sex-related attention and how many needed regular medical help. But a very nice receptionist took my name, date of birth, and phone number, and then she asked what was wrong. I described my condition without the mention of Nicholas Cage or meth, which could have confused the whole situation. She very nicely told me to take a seat and that triage would be with me shortly. The triage nurse, I learned, examines everyone to see who might need to get in sooner than others. Apparently, I was looking terrible enough to be bumped to the front of the line.

After a few moments, I was called back to see the nurse practitioner, Niamh (pronounced "Neeve" because, well, Irish names). I can honestly say that I've never been treated with as much care, patience, and good humor by a medical professional as I was by  Niamh. She asked permission every time she wanted to do anything, from take my blood pressure to listen to my pulse. Even as I kept insisting that I was probably just exhausted and whiny, she took everything about my condition incredibly seriously and assured me that I should just follow through with what she was recommending. "It won't cost you anything," she said more than once, as if understanding the anxiety that Americans have about health care spending. "Unless you're admitted to hospital." She laughed and joked, and we talked like we're human beings having a conversation, not a transaction.

Niamh asked me a few questions about health insurance in the United States and shook her head at it. "I'm afraid we're going to head to that kind of system," she exclaimed. She told me a story about when she and her family - husband and five children - visited New York City the previous year. Her youngest, a toddler, had gotten an ear infection, so they went to a walk-in clinic, just as I had come to this one. She told the receptionist that they would pay out of pocket for expenses because they would be reimbursed when they came home. "Now, they prescribed my little one a medicine," Niamh said, "one that I know is in that locked cupboard behind you. And I know that it costs about three pounds. Do you know how much they charged me in the states? $354." She laughed, as one can when they get the money back for outrageous expenses. I told her that her experience is pretty typical.

Apparently, the way the UK system works is that whoever is taking care of you stays with you until you are moved on to the next person. Niamh recommended that I go to the Royal Liverpool Hospital for blood tests. She called ahead to see if they could move me through quickly because she knew that I wanted to get back to what I was doing. And she insisted, gently, that I take an ambulance to the hospital, even as I said I could just take a cab and would be embarrassed by such a fuss. She thought I was foolish for saying that and said that she didn't want to have to worry about anything happening to me on the ride over. I relented when she said I wouldn't be wheeled out on a stretcher. Just a wheelchair.

The two EMTs were also kind and professional and chatty, utterly and completely concerned with my well-being. One of the EMTs, a woman named Phil, told me that she had just gotten into the Royal Coast Guard sea rescue training program. The other, a man named Jack, told me about his two teenage boys, one who loves history and one who was an IT guy. When we arrived at the hospital, they advocated for me to get treatment, even though my blood pressure had returned to earth and, really, I was feeling much better. Phil and Jack said their good-byes when a nurse took me (by now, I was on a wheeled stretcher) to check me in, sitting in the hallway outside the emergency room. I was placed next to another gurney with a grizzled old man there who said he was "Mike" and wanted me to fist-bump his scabby, fungal hand. I did because, fuck, why not.

People working there wanted to talk about New York and New Jersey. One attendant, an old guy named Mick who sounded like John Lennon, chatted me up about Bruce Springsteen and Jake Clemons. The nurse who did my ECG (my second of the afternoon) wanted to talk about The Sopranos and places she could visit from the show (looking at you, Holsten's Ice Cream).

Finally, I was brought to a curtained room in the ER where, after a bit, a doctor came in and took blood samples. The doctor examined me again and, even though she insisted I should stay for another two hours and await the lab results, she brought me forms where I could discharge myself, promising I would call to see if the tests showed anything. (Spoiler: They didn't. I was fine.) As I filled out the forms, I asked her and the attending doctor, who needed to witness, for restaurant recommendations, which they readily gave me.

I've sped up the last part here, but, from walking into the clinic to leaving the ER of the hospital, it was a total of four hours. And there was not a single person I met who seemed angry or beleaguered or disgusted by the system they worked in. Every one of them was simply devoted to making sure I was ok. No profit motive. No forms to fill out. No card to check. No in-network or out-of-network. No phone calls to beg for approval. I didn't pay a dime. That's how you treat a guest.

I was blown away. Obviously, I know it can't always work so smoothly and efficiently (and that there are rocky times ahead for the NHS), but, holy shit, there was something so sane and humane about the entire process that I felt a revulsion towards what we're put through in the United States just to try to not die, the degradation of putting a price tag on our health.

If we actually lived up to the ideals that we supposedly have as Americans, we'd look out for each other by making sure that no one has to have one's worth measured against what one can afford.

Fucking pass single-payer. Or stop fucking pretending that we're a society and just admit that the USA is a Darwinian dystopia.