Video: Are Giraffes OP?

I’m focused on finishing the first draft of my current novel this month, so there’s a decent chance that I’ll have a few more days on which I end up not having much of a blog post. All of this is to say, I’m going to leave you with Tier Zoo, to explore the question of whether or not giraffes are overpowered.

Video: What Does It Mean To Be Indigenous?

If you care about the environment, or justice for the ongoing crimes of colonialism, you probably hear about the various Indigenous groups around the world, and how they tend to be on the front lines of the fight to stop the greed-fueled destruction of the only planet we’ve got. At one point or another, it may have occurred to you what “Indigenous” actually means – who counts as “Indigenous”, and who doesn’t? As Andrew Sage points out in the video below, while we can define a plant or animal as “indigenous” based on whether it was introduced to its habitat by humans, how does that work for us? We “introduced” ourselves to every habitat on the planet, except a small part of Africa, and it’s commonly accepted that there are Indigenous people on every continent, so what “counts”? Is it a matter of heredity? Of culture? Of lifestyle?

I don’t think there’s a clear answer, and even if there was, I’m not the person to propose it. Andrew approaches as a theory question, examining relationships with land and between people, history, and more. Check it out, and if you like his work, consider supporting him on Patreon.

Austin Police Association Demonstrates the Problem with Reform

A few days ago, voters in Austin Texas overwhelmingly decided that they wanted more civilian oversight of their police department. I’ve often heard Austin described as an oasis of progressiveness, and this vote seems to support that. Even in progressive cities, police still tend to operate with little to no meaningful accountability, and so a people in Austin set about trying to change that. As the movement supporting the change puts it:

Under Austin’s current oversight system, the police are responsible for investigating themselves. Prop A will ensure that investigations include civilians with fact-finding ability.

Prop A will ensure any future police contract contains strong oversight provisions to hold police accountable and deter misconduct like excessive force.

Prop A will ensure that accountability and oversight are required in every police contract, bringing stability and predictability to the oversight system and focusing bargaining on pay and benefits.

Court settlements related to police misconduct cost city taxpayers almost $20 million last year and millions more just last week. Prop A will reduce those costs by ensuring there is a strong deterrence for misconduct.

At the same time, the police proposed their own changes, and really managed to demonstrate how much they’re in tune with community concerns:

Prop B is Even Worse than What We Have Now.

  • It eliminates anonymous complaints. Currently anonymous complaints allow police officers and the public to report misconduct without fear of retaliation, and they are doing so.
  • The civilian oversight system will not have access to information about every incident or complaint, and will not be able to actively participate in classifying or investigating complaints.
  • It expands the felony prohibition on membership on the oversight panel to include people with certain misdemeanors as well.
  • The only way the city will be able to strengthen oversight will be through the police contract and with agreement by the police union, a system that has failed residents for decades now.
  • In testimony FOR legislation to block all civilian oversight systems in Texas from unfettered access to information about incidents, APA President Thomas Villareal said, in no uncertain terms, that civilians should have no role in oversight of police.

Still, the voters spoke overwhelmingly, with 79% of voters supporting Prop A, and 80% of voters opposing prop B. That means that, according to law, Austin will now have greater civilian oversight of police, and greater accountability when it comes to police misconduct. In response, the Austin Police Association has demonstrated why cops aren’t workers, and cop unions are in direct conflict with the interests of the working class. See, a union protects its workers against abuse and overreach by bosses, but in the case of a police union, they’re protecting the police from us. Police unions work to ensure that, as enforcers of the rich and powerful, they are not accountable to the peasantry. With that as context, what do you think the APA had to say about this change in law?

The Austin Police Association is aware of the election results and is taking immediate action to determine the city’s intentions regarding the implementation and enforcement of the illegal provisions contained in Prop A. The APA simply will not stand by while this city and anti-police activists operate with blatant disregard for state law and the rights and protections afforded to our hardworking men and women. The APA continues to prioritize negotiating a long-term contract; however, we will not be forced back to the table under a structure in which a new city ordinance attempts to unlawfully interfere with the statutory rights associated with the meet and confer process. We look forward to finding these answers so that we can get back under a long-term contract that allows for our police department to recruit hire and retain the best and brightest people who wish to serve this community in a law enforcement capacity.

Get it? Law and order means that the cops are the law, and we follow their orders. If we try to reign them in, our authority is, by that very action, illegitimate. They pretend to care about the rules that nominally govern society, but when they lose, that pretense evaporates.

This is why police reform doesn’t work – because the police actively work against it every step of the way, and like it or not, our society gives them a huge amount of power and deference. To take another example, requiring officers to wear body cameras doesn’t really do any good if they keep turning them off or hiding footage when they don’t want a record of what they’re doing. These people are a problem for society, and it’s pretty clear that when it comes to democracy, they think they know better. We’ll see how their efforts to avoid oversight play out in the coming months, but even if they lose every legal battle they pick, I fully expect cops to continue acting as if they are personifications of the law, rather than servants of it. They are a class of people set above the ordinary rabble, and they value that privilege and power more than anything. I’m willing to bet that for a great many of them, that power is what drew them to the profession in the first place, which makes them the worst possible people to have it.

Despite my pessimism, I do hope that Prop A is enforced, and that it makes a difference. Police are out of control in the US, and while I think that some of that is inherent to the nature of their job, abolishing them is going to be a long-term project. Anything that reduces the harm they cause in the short term has my support.

Dark Powers Resurrect Dead Argument, Demonstrate Need for Direct Action

Many years ago, when I was still fairly new at this whole climate blogging thing, I came across a fantastic website called Skeptical Science that had a list of all the arguments against the scientific consensus on man-made global warming, along with their rebuttals. I was also an avid consumer of Peter Sinclair’s work, and between those resources, and my old hobby of arguing with deniers on the internet, I ran into the claim that the planet hadn’t been warming in years – over a decade, in fact. Specifically, the claim was that global warming stopped in 1998.

This was, of course, a dishonest argument. 1998 was the ultimate cherry-pick, because of an unusually strong El Niño that caused ’98 to stand out from the broader trend. Because it was such an outlier, using it as a starting point allowed dishonest actors to draw a line showing an apparent temperature decline, by ignoring the years prior. From

Did global warming stop in 1998?

No, but thanks to natural variability, volcanic eruptions, and relatively low solar activity, the rate of average global surface warming from 1998-2012 was slower than it had been for two to three decades leading up to it.

How much slower depends on the fine print: which global temperature dataset you look at, whether it includes the Arctic, and the exact time periods you compare. Regardless, the big picture of long-term global warming remained unchanged.

Global temperature trends by decade

(top) Based on NOAA data, global average surface temperature (orange line) has risen 0.13°F (0.07°C) per decade since 1880 (red line), which is nearly identical to the rate of warming during the 15-year period from 1998-2012 (gray line). (bottom) The rate of warming from 1998-2012 was slower than the two preceding 15-year periods, but faster than the two 15-year periods before that. NOAA graph, based on data from NCEI.

Those who deny the scientific evidence of human-caused global warming turned the slowdown into a slogan: “Global warming stopped in 1998.” In scientific journals and assessment reports, climate experts described the episode as a “pause” or “hiatus” in the previous decades’ rapid warming: they knew it wouldn’t last.

Not only was 1998-2012 the warmest 15-year period on record at the time, but greenhouse gases continued to climb to new record highs, and other climate indicators continued to show the impacts of long-term, global-scale warming: subsurface ocean heating, global sea level rise, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and record-low Arctic sea ice extent.

The argument was dead on arrival, but it was never meant to be truly alive. It was designed to spread doubt among people who didn’t know enough to spot the lie, and to support the beliefs of those already committed to denial. Understanding the intent of an argument like that is important, if you want to understand why, a decade later and a good bit warmer, some people are trying to bring it back to life:

For those who can't see it, this is a screenshot of a tweet by one John Shewchuck that reads:

For those who can’t see it, this is a screenshot of a tweet by one John Shewchuck that reads: “After over 1,000 queries via Twitter, Youtube comments, various blogs, and during my talks, every #ClimateScam alarmist completely avoids answering the question … Why are we in a 7-year cooling trend? They fear data – like a vampire fears the sun.” Followed by a graph showing Lower Tropospheric Global Temperature Anomalies from 2015 to 2022, with a trendline showing a very slight decline.

They don’t need real arguments, because the climate denial “movement” exists to support the interests of some of the most wealthy and unscrupulous people on the planet. On the one hand, I feel almost nostalgic. I was so much younger and more naïve when I first met this particular bullshit. On the other hand, it’s a testament to just how much power stands against real action on climate change. All they have to do is keep spending money, and the arguments they like will hang around forever, no many how many times they’ve been refuted. More than that, bought politicians will continue pretending that arguments like this have even a shred of merit. Still, this means I get to bring out one of my favorite gifs, at least from this particular debate:

The gif shows 7 previous "cooling periods", each one warmer than the last, between 1970 and 2020.

The gif shows 7 previous “cooling periods”, each one warmer than the last, between 1970 and 2020.

This is called The Escalator, and it shows very nicely how cherry-picked data sets can show a “cooling trend”, even in the midst of a rise in temperature that has climate scientists shitting their proverbial pants. The most recent iteration of this lie was debunked earlier this year, but I doubt you could convince Mr. Shewchuck of that. I particularly appreciated this tweet from climate scientists Zeke Hausfather:

The tweet reads:

The tweet reads: “While our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are driving long-term warming, natural variability in the form of El Nino and La Nina (ENSO) events can have a big impact on year-to-year changes. If we remove the effects of ENSO from the record, we see clearer warming:” Followed by a graph showing the Berkley Earth temperature record (blue), with a recent “pause” visible over the last few years, along with the temperature record with ENSO removed (orange) showing a more steady rise in temperature.

The thing is, I feel pretty comfortable saying that this “cooling trend” is about to reach its end, and we’re all going to be worse off because of that. The deniers will be worse off, of course, because it’ll kill their zombie talking point, and they’ll have to wait a bit before they can re-animate it and go back to insisting it’s alive and well. The rest of us will be worse off, because this whole global warming thing is getting to be a serious problem.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, scientists have detected an anomalous spike in sea surface temperatures that seems to be separate from the coming El Niño. By itself, that would already herald an increase in extreme weather, and an increase in air temperature. Add in El Niño, and it seems likely that things could get pretty wild. More than that, there’s some concern that the temperature spike might indicate that a line has been crossed, with regard to the ocean’s ability to absorb heat. If that absorption is slowing down, or if some of that heat is returning to the atmosphere in a new way, then the rate of warming may be about to increase dramatically.

The problem with this “cooling trend” line is that even if it were sincere, it relies on a vague hope that there’s some causal factor, still undiscovered, that explains the apparent pause. Even were that the case, we’d still need to account for the known thermal properties of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, because as I’ve said before, it’s physically impossible to pour that stuff into the atmosphere without trapping more heat. It’d be like putting on a heavy winter coat, and expecting to cool off over time.

I’m posting this in part because it’s worth having more rebuttals out in the world. More that that, though I’m posting this to point out the way that the concentrated power of capital – the aristocrats at the top of big corporations – can keep arguments going forever, no matter how much evidence is provided to prove them wrong. We can work to debunk and persuade, but by itself, that will never be enough. If we want change, we have to make change. We have to organize, coordinate our actions, and bring and end to this greed-fueled rush to extinction.

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Solidarity Sunday: Support the WGA Strike

I’m sure most of you have heard of this, but the Writers’ Guild of America has been on strike recently. The reason for the strike is pretty simple – revenue from TV shows and movies used to come primarily from advertising, and each time a property aired, a fraction of that ad revenue went to the people involved in its production. Now, revenue comes through subscription services, and the people involved in the production – like writers – don’t get anything from repeat views. Basically, they went from being financially rewarded for writing a popular show, to getting nothing beyond their initial payment, while profits skyrocket.

Basically, capitalism innovated a new way to not pay workers.

I support this strike, in case it needed to be said, so no matter how many Hollywood executives are begging me to write for them, I won’t be crossing the picket line. If you want to help out in a more material way, and you have the resources, here are a couple places to which you can donate help keep the WGA supplied during their siege.

Show solidarity to build solidarity – if the WGA wins this, its members will be better equipped to help other unions with their own efforts, and the closer we will be to being able to get the revolutionary change we so desperately need.

How “AI” Technology Can Dramatically Increase Research Speed

While I’m still a bit leery of the art, I think my real problem with most of the stuff we’re calling “AI” is the context in which it exists, same as with other forms of automation. There’s also a reasonable concern about the energy requirements of this technology, but today we’re going to look at one of the was in which it could be a huge benefit to all of us.

The development of computing machines in the 20th century made a lot of things possible, including new avenues and scales of research. The climate models that have, despite what you may have heard, done a surprisingly good job at projecting future warming, needed the capabilities of computers. Like its predecessors, this new AI technology opens up new approaches to research that were previously off the table.

An artificial intelligence system enables robots to conduct autonomous scientific experiments—as many as 10,000 per day—potentially driving a drastic leap forward in the pace of discovery in areas from medicine to agriculture to environmental science.

Reported today in Nature Microbiology, the team was led by a professor now at the University of Michigan.

That artificial intelligence platform, dubbed BacterAI, mapped the metabolism of two microbes associated with oral health—with no baseline information to start with. Bacteria consume some combination of the 20 amino acids needed to support life, but each species requires specific nutrients to grow. The U-M team wanted to know what amino acids are needed by the beneficial microbes in our mouths so they can promote their growth.

“We know almost nothing about most of the bacteria that influence our health. Understanding how bacteria grow is the first step toward reengineering our microbiome,” said Paul Jensen, U-M assistant professor of biomedical engineering who was at the University of Illinois when the project started.

Figuring out the combination of amino acids that bacteria like is tricky, however. Those 20 amino acids yield more than a million possible combinations, just based on whether each amino acid is present or not. Yet BacterAI was able to discover the amino acid requirements for the growth of both Streptococcus gordonii and Streptococcus sanguinis.

To find the right formula for each species, BacterAI tested hundreds of combinations of amino acids per day, honing its focus and changing combinations each morning based on the previous day’s results. Within nine days, it was producing accurate predictions 90% of the time.

Unlike conventional approaches that feed labeled data sets into a machine-learning model, BacterAI creates its own data set through a series of experiments. By analyzing the results of previous trials, it comes up with predictions of what new experiments might give it the most information. As a result, it figured out most of the rules for feeding bacteria with fewer than 4,000 experiments.

“When a child learns to walk, they don’t just watch adults walk and then say ‘Ok, I got it,’ stand up, and start walking. They fumble around and do some trial and error first,” Jensen said.

“We wanted our AI agent to take steps and fall down, to come up with its own ideas and make mistakes. Every day, it gets a little better, a little smarter.”

Little to no research has been conducted on roughly 90% of bacteria, and the amount of time and resources needed to learn even basic scientific information about them using conventional methods is daunting. Automated experimentation can drastically speed up these discoveries. The team ran up to 10,000 experiments in a single day.

This is the kind of thing that could, at least in theory, lead to the rapid development of new antibiotics – something we definitely need. I think the odds are good that even without using robots to do experiments, this technology could accelerate a great many fields of research. I’m not looking for some kind of magical tech “solution” to climate change or pollution, but there’s a real possibility that advances due to this tech could enable us to survive conditions in the future, which would destroy us in the present.

Of course, that all depends on who gets to decide what kind of research is prioritized, and what is sidelined. Our technology may give us the ability to do marvelous things, but it will never fix the injustice, inequality, and suffering that are a deliberate outcome of our current political and economic system. Technology won’t ever remove the need for revolution, all it will do is change the landscape in which we fight.

Unequal Protection: Jordan Neely Killing Highlights White Supremacy Ingrained in US Society

A while back, I talked about NY mayor Eric Adams’ plan to round up and forcibly commit unhoused people deemed “mentally ill”. Part of my point was that it’s disturbingly easy for police, mental institutions, and the courts, to label someone who’s perfectly rational as “crazy”, and then force them into situations that are virtually designed to destroy a person’s mental health:

They had the means to verify what she was saying, but instead they dismissed all of it as delusions, forced her to take powerful psychoactive drugs, and demanded that she convincingly lie about herself before she be released:

According to the New York Daily News, a treatment plan for Ms Brock at the hospital states: ‘Objective: Patient will verbalize the importance of education for employment and state that Obama is not following her on Twitter.’

This was torture. They imprisoned a person, and for nine days they told her she was insane. They forcibly drugged her, and denied her reality over, and over and over again for days. And then, one day, they gave her discharge papers, and put her out the back door of the hospital. A few days later, she got a bill for $13,000 worth of “treatment”. The idea of holding anyone criminally responsible for this nightmare was apparently never even on the table, so she went with the option left to her – she sued them.

And lost in 2019.

Brock began sobbing as the verdict was read.

“It’s reasonable for them to diagnose me with bipolar even though I’m telling the truth?” Brock said through tears.

“What am I supposed to do? I’m crazy because of this verdict.”

In the United States of America, it is apparently legal for police to decide that you’re “in need of medical treatment”, restrain, drug, and imprison you, and for doctors to keep you prisoner, keep you drugged, and demand that you deny reality because they said so. Not only is it legal, it’s apparently barely newsworthy. I could only find two articles online that followed up on Kam Brock’s story, and I needed a VPN to read them because they’re geo-restricted to the U.S., like so much other “local news” that’s not considered worth a larger platform. How can this be?

Well, I suspect that, aside from the ever-present white supremacy in our law enforcement system, it’s because it’s considered perfectly acceptable to do all of that to “crazy” people. Solitary confinement, assault, sexual assault, some of the most powerful psychoactive drugs available – all are just routine parts of how our society deals with mental illness, to the point where all of this can happen, triggered by some cop deciding to hassle the black woman in the expensive car, and it’s barely newsworthy that a court, as Brock said, ruled that she was “crazy”.

It’s even more horrifying when you consider what this means for the rest of Brock’s life. It’s now a legal fact that she’s “crazy”. The torture inflicted on her was ruled by the courts to be just fine. That means that if this, or something like this happens again, there is legal precedent that it’s OK to imprison and torture this woman. Any legal dispute she’s in in the future will have this hanging over it. Any time she has a negligent or vindictive landlord, or a dispute with a neighbor, or is wrongfully fired, it could make that nightmare happen again. Crying seems like a pretty reasonable response.

Remember how we saw, over the last few years, the way white women have been able to weaponize white supremacy to sic cops on black people? Brock now has to deal with that, plus the legal declaration that she’s crazy. Practically anyone has the power to get her locked up at any time, for any reason, because some cop decided to pull her over.

It’s made worse by the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, mental health has always had a political dimension to it, and just as white supremacy didn’t end when the Civil Rights Act was passed, the politicization of sanity and the stigma against people with mental illness – sanism – is also very much alive and well within the systems that govern the people of the United States.

I think any person who’s reasonably well-informed can understand that it’s not possible to honestly discuss the US “justice” system, without also discussing white supremacy. Likewise, the history of mental health, in the US, is also steeped in white supremacy. There’s a quote I like throwing around, from a composer named Frank Wilhoit:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, along side out-groups whom the law binds, but does not protect

When you consider conservative policy and rhetoric, I think it’s important to keep “Wilhoit’s Law” in mind. When we hear about a plan to forcibly commit “mentally ill” unhoused people, it’s important to remember that in the United States, the law is never applied equally. That’s part of why so many well-off white conservatives are happy to draft laws limiting people’s rights – experience has taught them that the “spirit of the law” isn’t really meant to apply to them. They get a scolding for drug use, or a slap on the wrist for rape, while a black kid can be locked up for years, without trial or plea, on suspicion of maybe stealing a backpack.

We are working to change the world, but as we do so, we also have to deal with the world as it is, and in this world, equal protection under the law does not exist.

Race isn’t the only dynamic here, either. We’ve already discussed mental illness, and the way that label can be forced onto people, but I think it’s worth spending a little more time on the consequences of that. There’s stigma associated, of course, and that can be a problem, but it gets much, much worse. Above, we already saw how it’s apparently fine drug, imprison, and torture someone because of a “reasonable belief” that they’re mentally ill. If this feels familiar to the “reasonable belief” of danger that cops use to justify killing, that’s because it is. This extends beyond cops, too – when a white person kills a black person, the same defenses often crop up as when a cop kills a black person. Remember – in-groups whom the law protects, but does not bind. And that’s how you end up with a white man slowly killing a black man while a subway car of people look on, and not only did the NYPD not arrest him, news outlets praised him, while denigrating the murdered man. From the New York Post:

Dramatic new video shows a straphanger taking matters into his own hands, pinning down an unhinged man in a deadly incident at a Manhattan subway station this week.

The 24-year-old passenger stepped in after the vagrant, identified by sources as Jordan Neely, 30, began going on an aggressive rant on a northbound F train Monday afternoon, according to police and a witness who took the video.

Neely was “ranting” about the fact that he was starving, and he was killed for it.

And according to the police, a number of news outlets, and a lot of shitty people on the internet, that’s just fine. You see, in the United States, black lives often don’t matter, and the situation only gets worse when you add in mental illness. Neely apparently had a criminal record, but as illustrated above, that doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, because cops and the courts can just decide that reality doesn’t matter, and because cops plant evidence, and arrest people for bullshit reasons. Neely was not protected by the law, but he was absolutely bound by it.

But more than that, his criminal record shouldn’t matter because nothing he did justified killing him. The man who killed Neely was, apparently, a Marine vet. According to the articles I’ve read, he held Neely in a chokehold for 15 minutes. At most, it takes 5 minutes to die from that, and I feel like a Marine, more than most people, should be aware of that. That’s why the word “murder” keeps coming to mind – if he’d choked Neely till he stopped struggling, then let go and made sure he was still alive, that would still be assault, but I’d be more inclined to believe that there was no intent to kill. By all accounts, that is not what happened.

I don’t know what was going on in the killer’s head, and at the moment I don’t really care. What matters is that we have a society in which a white man can strangle a black man to death in front of witnesses, and be allowed to walk free – in which a killer like this is not bound by the law. The news about this is going viral, so the killer may face a trial after all, and some news outlets may change the tone of their coverage. I don’t think either of those things entered the realm of possibility until activists made it impossible to ignore.

We can – must – work for change, but to do that, we must be clear about the world as it is.



PSA: Colonoscopies are good, and you should get one

I tend to be a bit picky about what personal information I do or don’t share here. Part of that’s because I don’t feel like the minutiae of my life are particularly interesting, but a lot of it is that I often don’t feel comfortable sharing personal stuff on the internet. That said, I got my first colonoscopy today, and like many before me, I feel the need to “celebrate” by telling other people to do the same.

Happily, my plumbing all seems to be in normal working order. I wanted to state that early on, because a lot of these PSAs come in the context of either catching cancer just in time, or of catching it too late. I’m fine, but if I had not been, literally poking a camera in there to see what’s going on is the best way to catch problems before they become crises. Over the past decade, my digestive system has decided that it cannot cope with an annoyingly wide range of foods, taking away many of my favorites. This means that I’ve had reason to worry that something’s wrong, but with insurance bullshit in the US, an international move, COVID, and a smaller international move, I haven’t managed to actually get the procedure done until now.

It was an interesting, if not particularly pleasant experience. For those who don’t know, there are a couple days of preparation that must be done prior to a colonoscopy. It includes a low-fiber diet, followed by a 24 hour fast, and starting the day before your probing, you have to drink large quantities of a thick, citrus-flavored potion that makes you shit out literally everything in your intestines. This is not a pleasant process, but it’s important if you want the doctors to be able to get a clear view.

Thanks to Ireland’s public health system, my health insurance is cheap, and completely covers hospital procedures, so I didn’t have to worry about cost – just €25 or so for the gut-cleaner. Apparently the default, at least in Ireland, is to get the stomach checked out while you’re in the endoscopy unit, which is a much quicker procedure, though unpleasant in a whole other way. My throat is a bit sore from it, and that’ll probably continue through tomorrow.

Even so, it was interesting to see what the inside of my own stomach looked like, and also interesting to see my own large intestine – I even got to see the entrance to my appendix! I also got to watch them take biopsies of my intestinal and stomach linings, which was… a little unnerving. I’m grateful that there aren’t any nerve endings in there, because while the clipper/grabber they used is tiny, it’s still unnerving to see someone just… snip at my entrails like that. I’ll find out the results of those tests in a few weeks, but the impression I got is that nobody’s expecting to find anything exciting or worrisome.

I’m glad that I got this done. I was pretty sure my own health problems were related to food tolerance/intolerance, but I just couldn’t be sure, you know? I’m also extremely grateful to be in a country with an actual healthcare system. I was starting to seriously consider getting a colonoscopy shortly before we left the US, and my insurance at the time was not only not very good, but it also didn’t seem to work – they kept sending us different cards and contradictory letters, while we kept sending them money. I got a 10 minute check-up shortly before our flight, and had to pay $200 out of pocket for that, because my insurance wasn’t working. In the US, a colonoscopy would have cost me thousands of dollars, possibly even with an insurance plan. Here, I was covered, and if the biopsy results do show any problems that need addressing, I know that I will be able to afford treatment.

For those living in the US, a universal system is worth fighting for. For those outside the US (especially in the UK), keeping your universal system is worth fighting for as well, because there are absolutely those who want to force you into the nightmare of for-profit healthcare.

If you are at all able, especially as you move into your 40s and beyond, get a colonoscopy. I recently turned 39, so I’m a bit early, but I had symptoms that needed investigating. Even without symptoms, it should be routine as you get older, to match your increasing odds of bowel cancer. It’s an uncomfortable process, but the peace of mind is lovely to have, and an early warning that there’s trouble coming down the pipe is even better.