Boing Boing

A nuanced and thought-provoking review of the new Transformers movie

Bilge Ebiri
writes
in The Village Voice: “No matter, because this after all is a Transformers movie, so soon we’re faced with fiiigjhkwetwnwwwjsahafajhwfohofoehaoowofoeoicioeciaqidjFaerlaeaffjgjlje XGRSXSsfdsmfjjjsomuchrandomstuffsomuchegjwogpjwd bldklhjitslikeyouthoughttheearliermovieswereeconfusinghahahah mfjff7ga98fhfhfplwxczchowarekidssupposedtounderstandanyofthisVSSH gmnskglactuallyhowareadultssupposedtounderstandanyofthisjskjjlvr lmnkrjsljrjsaywhatyouwillbutonceuponatimejsogrjdvpvarivpaeimp grfggjsfsfpoemichaelbayc” (via Kottke)

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America knows the GOP's health care plan would harm Americans, new poll reveals

A Reuters/Ipsos poll June 9-13 shows “a majority of the country thinks the American Health Care Act would be harmful for low-income Americans, people with pre-existing health conditions and Medicaid recipients.”

41 percent of American adults polled are opposed to the House plan. 30% support it. Another 29% said they “don’t know.”

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Barbie's Ken is now sporting a manbun

Earlier today, Mattel announced its brand new line of Fashionistas Barbie and Ken dolls. These 40 new dolls come in a variety of body sizes (which now includes Ken’s “slim,” and “broad” figure), as well as a bunch of different skintones, hair colors and hairstyles. The most notable hairstyle, in my opinion, is Ken’s MANBUN.

Yep, Barbie’s boyfriend (they are dating, right?) is finally sporting last summer’s hottest hairstyle.

Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.

(The WOW Report)

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Crown Prince Kushner reveals weak, nasal voice in first public speech

Described by the BBC as “notoriously” reticent to be heard in public, Jared Kushner — President Trump’s son-in-law and de facto factotum of his shambolic administration — was finally obliged to impress his voice upon others in a recorded setting at the MAGA Summer Palace in Washington, D.C. The subject was technology; the result was a better understanding of the fact Ivanka didn’t marry him for his diction.

If you think I’m being mean, just take a look at the absolute savaging he’s getting from the press.

Even The Daily Mail, bastion of international Trumpkinism, merrily deployed the snarky headline “Sounds like he’s giving an 8th grade valedictory.”

Kushner sounded like the smartest guy in the room – if the room was in middle school.

‘It’s probably not fair to observe that finally hearing Kushner’s voice is a major let-down. Sounds like he’s giving an 8th grade valedictory, wrote Darcy Jae.

At least one person thought that Kushner’s voice lost out to the hunky Canadian Prime Minister. ‘After hearing Jared Kushner’s voice, I understand why Ivanka was staring at Justin Trudeau with those hungry eyes,’ sniped Daniel Dresden.

Head left and it goes from insult to injury. The Onion’s A.V. Club:

It’s a wheedling, blandly competent voice, which is, all things considered, a fine change of aesthetic pace from Donald Trump’s freewheeling, real-time portrait of senility.

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Make board game night a brain buster with this puzzle-based board game

COGZ is a game where up to six players compete to see who can fix a mad scientist’s color-coded machine, and it’s currently available in the Boing Boing Store.

In this Mensa-endorsed tabletop game, players take turns laying gear tiles to connect like-colored segments. Points are scored when complex paths are finished, but your unfinished arrangements are constantly vulnerable to sabotage by your opponents. It’s great for all ages, but still takes plenty of strategy to master. COGZ rounds typically clock in under 30 minutes, and the game is fully accessible for colorblind players.

Usually $42, you can get the COGZ board game here for just $33.99.

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In 1956, Hugh Heffner gave MAD's founding editor an unlimited budget for a new satire magazine called “TRUMP”

Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of satire, the guy who convinced Bill Gaines’s mother to bankroll a comic book called MAD, then doubled down by turning MAD into a magazine — only to jump ship five issues later after a bizarre fight with the Gaineses, finding refuge with Playboy founder Hugh Heffner who gave him an unlimited budget to start an all-star, high-quality satire magazine called TRUMP, which lasted for two legendary, prized issues, now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Dark Horse.
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The Lost Arcade: documentary about Manhattan's last arcade

The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the encroachment of gentrficiation upon the last real video arcade in Manhattan, is now available to watch online.

Directed by Kurt P. Vincent, the story is as much about the Chinatown Fair’s community as the games, celebrating the final years of a pop culture phenomenon that moved into our homes so slowly we never realized what we were losing.

“I wanted to create a film that would capture the spirit that hit me the first time I walked through those doors,” writes Vincent. “There was a melting pot of a community that congregated there, where all walks of life came together and shared one common interest: video games. It was a microcosm of what New York was all about. Not the overpriced New York we’ve come to accept, but what this city originally stood for and still does when you look deep enough.”

The Lost Arcade sheds a behind-the-scenes light into the demise of arcade culture, as it coincided with the rise of home console and online gaming, and showcases the dichotomy of how gamers connected then vs. now. But more importantly, it highlights the diversity and camaraderie among the competitive gamer community that arcades like Chinatown Fair were so uniquely able to foster.

View links: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, Vimeo, and Vudu.

Previously: The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade

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Today is the anniversary of the first woman in space

On June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times over a period of three days. Inspired by Yuri Gagarin who in 1961 became the first person in space, Tereshkova applied to the Russian space program and was accepted based on her extensive background as a skydiver. It wasn’t until 40 years later that Tereshkova’s nearly tragic experience in orbit was made public.

An error in the spacecraft’s automatic navigation software caused the ship to move away from Earth. Tereshkova noticed this and Soviet scientists quickly developed a new landing algorithm. Tereshkova landed safely but received a bruise on her face.

She landed in the Altay region near today’s Kazakhstan-Mongolia-China border. Villagers helped Tereshkova out of her spacesuit and asked her to join them for dinner. She accepted, and was later reprimanded for violating the rules and not undergoing medical tests first.

Valentina Tereshkova: First Woman in Space (Space.com)

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Podcasts we love: NPR's 'Invisibilia' uncovers invisible truths

One of the things I love about long summer weekends is catching up on podcasts and filling my mind with something other than bummer political news. The third season of NPR’s most popular podcast, Invisibilia, just launched, and I’m really enjoying it.

One of their latest episodes is about the minds of dogs. You should subscribe.

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Watch Rakka, Neill Blomkamp's short science fiction film

The first short film from Neill Blomkamp, starring Sigourney Weaver, is online free of charge. Amazing to see such a big director work so forcefully outside the system. I hope it does well!

Want to get involved or support this project? We’ve made film assets for Rakka available on Steam and will be adding more later. Join the discussion and support this experiment on Steam or our official web page: www.oatsstudios.com

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Real words that work as CSS colors for your website

In CSS, the style markup that goes with HTML, colors are encoded as hexadecimal RGB values of either 3 or 6 letters. This means that certain words, such as EFFACE and FACADE, are legitimate CSS colors. Allow for substitutions, such as 0 for O, and a full gamut presents itself, with BIOTIC and OTITIS and so on. c0ffee.surge.sh is a beautiful collection of all the words that work.

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“The Crucible,” Starring Donald Trump

FOLLOW @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book.

JOIN Tom the Dancing Bug’s subscription club, the Proud & Mighty INNER HIVE, for exclusive early access to comics, extra comics, and much more.

GET Ruben Bolling’s new hit book series for kids, The EMU Club Adventures. (”Filled with wild twists and funny dialogue” -Publishers Weekly) Book One here. Book Two here.

More Tom the Dancing Bug comics on Boing Boing!
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Republican Greg Gianforte, who punched reporter, sentenced to 40 hours community service

Greg Gianforte, the congressman-elect who punched and “bodyslammed” a Guardian reporter, will perform 40 hours of community service and pay a $300 fine after pleading guilty to assault. He must also attend 20 hours of anger management courses.

Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was asking Gianforte a question on May 24 when the Republican candidate threw him to the ground.

“A Gallatin County judge sentenced Gianforte to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management classes and a $300 fine,” Montana Public Radio’s Eric Whitney reports.

According to Whitney Bermes, a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the judge initially gave Gianforte four days in jail, where under the terms of a jail work program he would be able to spend two of those days working.

The judge, for whatever reason, reportedly change the sentence within minutes to specify community service instead of jail time.

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A comic that profiles Columbia University's first-ever comics curator

Nick Sousanis is the comics creator who broke ground in 2015 by being the first doctoral candidate to submit a dissertation in comics form and ever since, he’s been doing wonderful nonfiction work in the form, on subjects ranging from entropy to climate change to elections.

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Lord Buckethead wins 249 votes in UK general election challenge to Prime Minister May

Lord Buckethead, standing against British Prime Minister Theresa May in the country’s Wednesday general election, won a staggering 249 votes. The “intergalactic space lord” who “enjoys planet-conquering” and “dominating inferior species” (and UK TV light entertainment classic Lovejoy) fought for office in the Maidenhead, Kent constituency hitherto and henceforth considered a safe seat for May’s Conservative party.

Though Buckethead did well, May retained her seat by thousands of votes.

The nation as a whole, however, is unexpectedly up for grabs: May, convinced by opinion polls that a snap election would yield a landslide mandate for her Brexit agenda, instead found herself reeling against a resurgent Labour Party, led by the suddenly and unnervingly competent old-timey socialist Jeremy Corbyn. Though her party seems likely to retain the largest vote and perhaps a very slim majority in Parliament, her cred is toast. And Corbyn’s success is energizing the left, and not just in Britain…

The far-right UKIP party seems to be utterly vanquished, too, a sweet outcome for anyone left of Mussolini.

That said, given the assumption Corbyn’s Labour party will hang parliament without quite gathering enough seats to topple the Tories, are you ready for Prime Minister Boris? Just imagine how great he’ll look in photo ops with Trump.

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Read the Trump team's pathetic anti-Comey talking points

These RNC talking points to Trump allies on Comey’s testimony tomorrow are making the internet rounds. Pretty rich. You can also see these words and phrases start to percolate through statements coming from various members of Team Trump, on social media and in the press. Fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence panel is expected to start at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. Hold on to your butts.

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Looks like Eric Trump steals from kids with cancer

Eric Trump, embodying Orange Julius’ love of self-dealing, has kept monies he publicly stated were donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Young Eric claimed he was able to raise oodles of money for cancer research as he was donating the resources of the local Trump golf course. Said Trump golf course was paid well over $1MM for its services.

Via Forbes:

The real star of the day is Eric Trump, the president’s second son and now the co-head of the Trump Organization, who has hosted this event for ten years on behalf of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. He’s done a ton of good: To date, he’s directed more than $11 million there, the vast majority of it via this annual golf event. He has also helped raise another $5 million through events with other organizations.

The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity’s efficiency: Because he can get his family’s golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. “We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” Trump tells Forbes.

That’s not the case. In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

Surprised?

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Nemo and Friends SeaRider Opens at Tokyo DisneySea

Disney fans here have been much preoccupied with the retheming of “Tower of Terror” to “Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission Breakout” at Disney California Adventure, and the opening of Pandora at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. On the other side of the planet at Tokyo DisneySea (one of the best Disney parks in the world—ask anyone who’s been there, or just look at a photo below) the latest attraction to open is “Nemo and Friends SeaRider.” The new ride, which opened on May 12, replaces one of the park’s 2001 opening day attractions, “Stormrider.” That ride was kind of like a bigger version of “Star Tours,” but not nearly as good. You could see the seams all over the large screen, thus destroying the illusion that you were supposed to be looking out a large observation window at the front of a new type of plane. Said aircraft was designed to drop a “fuse” into the center of a hurricane which immediately dissipates it. The ride was not the best thing Walt Disney Imagineering has done, and it usually had the shortest line in Tokyo DisneySea, about 20 to 40 minutes in a park where two- and three-hour lines are the norm.

They just fixed it by redoing the entire thing with an overlay from the film Finding Dory. There are many Disney park enthusiasts who bemoan the conversion of a ride with an original storyline and characters to that of an Intellectual Property (“IP”) which Disney owns. Personally, I don’t care as long as the ride is good. And from all reports “Nemo and Friends SeaRider” is good. As in the film Fantastic Voyage (or Disney’s own ride “Body Wars” which had a propensity to make its riders barf), you enter a vehicle, in this case the SeaRider, which is then magically reduced in size. Thus you are able to participate in the frolics with Nemo, Dory, and the other anthropomorphized undersea critters.

What surprised everyone on opening day is that there are at least two, and likely more, different films and ride sequences, making subsequent visits a necessity (at least for the Disney-infected, such as myself),

So take a looksee! 

Via Disney and More.

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Multiple attacks in London described as ‘Potential Act of Terrorism’

Multiple attacks in London tonight are being described as a coordinated ‘potential act of terrorism’ by British Prime Minister Theresa May. London police confirm that more than one person was killed as a van plowed into a crowd of people at the London Bridge. One man was seen leaving the van, then running toward Borough Market, carrying a large knife. Reports of stabbings followed soon after.

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Suburban Chicago library set to fire only African American librarian who spoke out about racial equity

Cheryl writes, “The sole African American librarian in Evanston Public Library (population ~75K– first ‘burb north adjacent to Chicago) faced a termination hearing today related to social media posts she made in protest to the library’s lack of action related to addressing racial equity in library services.”

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Macron rewrites Trump campaign slogan as “Make Our Planet Great Again”

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, rewrote U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘MAGA’ campaign slogan today in protest of the administration’s absurd withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. “Make Our Planet Great Again,” says Macron. We’re in alignment with Nicaragua and Syria, says Trump.

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Amazing looping GIFs of waves

The image you see here is a still frame from a splendid cinemagraph—a seamlessly-looping short video or GIF—that does not do the original justice. Atlas Obscura’s Anika Burgess writes on the strange majesty of Ray Collins and Armand Dijcks’ cinemgraphs of waves, where the captured natural beauty becomes weird, even threatening, in the eternally-recurring moment.

“The idea was to stretch out the 1/8000th [of a] second during which the image was created into infinity. In a lot of my work, I like to mess with people’s minds a little, and this contrast between a very short time span being stretched infinitely long, and between motion and stillness is a perfect example of that.”

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The best Trump tweet of all time

Sadly to be deleted. But not yet.

The domain covfefe.com was registered within minutes, but has yet to be put to use.


UPDATE:
It’s been up for a couple of hours now and the dumb orange bastard still hasn’t fixed it. Surely he’s not the only one with access to the account? Or maybe he just fired everyone else who does. Maybe courtiers are hovering outside the imperial bedroom, fearfully debating whether to wake him. (Note that Trump must archive his tweets for posterity, but often deletes them.)

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Great deal on a Dremel compatible rotary tool ($13)

I have a battery powered Dremel which is good for light work, but I wanted a rotary tool with more oomph. I decided to take a chance on the $13 WEN Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit. This thingsis crazy powerful and fast. I used it to rough out some wooden spoons I made this weekend:

It comes with a bunch of bits, sanding discs, polishing pads, and mandrels. It also has a keyless chuck spindle lock that you can turn by hand to swap bits without a wrench.

For a few bucks more you can buy the the same tool with a flexible shaft. I just bought that one, too!

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Surveil your own state with the PapaGo Dash Cam

If you don’t want to get stuck footing the bill for a hit and run, this dashboard-mounted camera offers up to 2K resolution to make sure you always have a reliable witness, and it’s available in the Boing Boing Store for 30% off it’s usual price.

The PapaGo mounts unobtrusively to your windshield to see everything in its 175º ultra-wide viewing angle. It supports recordings up to 12 hours in length onto a micro SD card, and can be set to activate automatically from nearby motion. To prevent against unexpected data loss, the included G-sensor ensures files are saved in the event of a collision.

You can pick up the PapaGo Dash Cam in the Boing Boing Store for $124.99.

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Kickstarting gorgeous, illustrated slipcased classics with art from Pope, Shimuzu and Sienkiewicz

Zachary Zmith writes, “A Kickstarter is funding beautifully-designed and illustrated editions of classic stories, with illustrations from Paul Pope, Yuko Shimizu and Bill Sienkiewicz. They have already met their initial goal to fund a version of Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’ with art by Paul Pope. If they reach $100k, Bill Sienkiewicz will illustrate H.G. Wells’ vivisection classic.”
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Liverpool, I'll see you tonight on the Walkaway tour! (then Birmingham, Hay-on-Wye, San Francisco…) (!)

Thanks to everyone who came out for last night’s final London event on the UK Walkaway tour, at Pages of Hackney with Olivia Sudjic; today I’m heading to Waterstones Liverpool One for an event with Dr Chris Pak, followed by a stop tomorrow at Waterstones in Birmingham and then wrapping up in the UK with an event with Adam Rutherford at the Hay Festival.
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London! I'll be at Pages of Hackney tonight with Olivia Sudjic! (then Liverpool, Birmingham, Hay…) (!)

Last night’s sold-out Walkaway tour event with Laurie Penny at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road was spectacular (and not just because they had some really good whisky behind the bar), and the action continues today with a conversation with Olivia Sudjic tonight at Pages of Hackney, where we’ll be discussing her novel Sympathy as well as Walkaway.
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Get a 'crash course' in coding with this programming bundle

Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad overview of programming topics in a variety of widely-used languages, take a look at the Crash Course Coding Bundle, offered in our Boing Boing store.

You’ll get familiar with low-level systems by learning how to write code for internet-of-things devices, as well as high-level language features offered in languages like Python and Java.This bundle includes the following courses:

  • Fundamentals of Operating Systems
  • C Programming Part 1 and 2
  • Java 8 Part 1
  • Java 8 Part 2
  • Perl Programming 1 and 2
  • Python Programming Essentials
  • Advanced Python Programming
  • IoT Programming

With unlimited access to over 60 hours of instructional content, you can pick up new programming skills at your own pace. Usually $2950, you can get this Crash Course Coding Bundle for 98% off—just $39.

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The arctic seed bank that was going to save us all is flooding

Strategically placed to survive any natural disaster, this winter’s rains flooded the arctic seed bank. The bank wasn’t destroyed, but it shows how fast things are a changing.

The Guardian:

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

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Feds admit they used secret anti-terror mass surveillance tool to catch an undocumented waiter

Rudy Carcamo-Carranza was an undocumented restaurant worker in Michigan wanted for a DUI and a hit-and-run; the FBI and ICE used IMSI catchers — powerful, secretive cellphone tracking tools that the agencies bill as a kind of superweapon in the war on terror — to catch him and put him up for deportation.

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Get some use out of your car's CD player – with a phone mount

If you drive daily, especially to new destinations, it’s wise to have a smartphone car mount. Aside from making map directions considerably easier to follow, they also keeps your phone in a central location so you can keep an eye on notifications without taking your eyes off the road. While most mounts attach to your dashboard via suction cup, the ExoMount CD inserts into your CD player which you probably aren’t using all that much these days.

Plugging into the CD drive assures a sturdy mount while the grip is compatible with any kind of smartphone. It can even be rotated 360 degrees, letting you orient your screen however you like.

Until automakers start integrating smartphone mounts directly into the dashboard, this ExoMount CD is one of your best bets. You can get one here in the Boing Boing Store.

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It’s Mental Health Awareness Month: Trumpcare’s dangerous impact on mental health care

Last week, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly uninsurable. While tracking the Trumpcare vote (AHCA), I felt like Princess Leia, helplessly watching the Empire destroy her home planet. Yes, the Senate still has to vote on it, and no, I’m not saying that Republicans are evil. But for me and so many Americans, Obamacare (ACA) got rid of the terror and carnage of being denied or unable to afford healthcare coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Watching it dismantled was disturbing.

Obamacare also did away with the false separation of mental health from physical health. Trumpcare does the opposite, classifying mental health care as non-essential, meaning that states, employers, or insurers will decide if the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental illness will be covered at all. May is

Mental Health Awareness Month

, so here’s one fact to be aware of:


“The World Health Organization determined that depression is presently the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.” –



World Health Organization

That’s just ONE KIND of mental illness. How will Trumpcare affect you, your friends or family with mental health issues? Like this:


The House bill allows states to let health plans:


  • Drop coverage of mental health and substance use (one of the essential health benefits).

  • Charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, like depression or anxiety.

  • Create high-risk pools, which are another way of charging people with mental illness more money and providing less coverage.


–From



NAMI



(National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)

As a person with pre-existing mental health conditions, who is here and stabilized today because of consistent, quality mental health care, it’s disturbing to watch federal health care policy under the GOP re-ghettoize mental health care. Obamacare is flawed, yes, but throwing out the progress which brought relief and functionality to so many Americans is illogical and dangerous. It’s not great for the GNP numbers either — which should matter to both the GOP and Democrats. My concern is not just for myself, but for people suffering the way I used to, who now have an uncertain path forward. People like Matt, who courageously agreed to share his situation here:

“I was mugged and knocked out pretty bad way back in 2008. Lost some speech capability and had to get all the MRI’s and CT scans and whatever else. I basically recovered, but haven’t been the same since. My decision making is the worst now. Impulse control and compulsions can be frustrating for everyone — I believe those decisions happen in the frontal lobe. I guess mine was damaged. I was never a genius, but I had control before.

No one can really understand what I’m feeling. Depression is constant, super anger flashes, heightened over-sensitivity to light and noise, and I don’t like to be looked at (which I guess is called sociophobia). I don’t feel joy anymore. Thoughts of suicide are always present and sometimes I, irrationally of course, feel like other people are somehow communicating that I should kill myself. Weird stuff, but very real. 

First and probably most importantly, I am not an immediate harm to myself. Just giving you the rundown of pervasive thoughts. They are not rational thoughts, this is just the brain I live with now.”

This could happen to anyone, literally walking down the street. Matt wrote the email excerpts in this piece to a former co-worker who lives with a degenerative disease, hoping to find understanding and help. He was about to become homeless due to the cumulative impact his mental health had on his ability to support himself. He is unable to maintain steady employment, and cannot afford Obamacare premiums.

Matt’s situation came to my attention when his former co-worker asked if I might know how to help him. My credentials? I’d been there. I’d also been on disability for mental illness. She forwarded me his message, which hit me hard — not just because of what was going on for him — but because I’d written letters like this. I remember how humiliating, terrifying, and useless I felt asking for help. I wanted him to know I was on Team Matt. I called him that night, to try to figure out next steps, and hopefully find a way through. I know it’s not easy, but part of me wondered, with the current and future state of our healthcare system, just how hard it was going to be. His letter continued:

“There is also shame involved. Shame about being a grown man who can’t handle his business, shame about going backwards with employment goals and generally shame about not being, you know, just normal like everyone else. There’s always that element of starting a new job where people innocently ask ‘so what did you do before?’ Well, I’ve been clinically depressed and haven’t worked much in the last three years.

It’s not acceptable in our current society. Lies are preferable, which bugs me, because if someone hurts their leg, they limp and a doctor diagnoses the cause and sets a course of action to correct it. Maybe they still limp, but nobody cares. If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing our mental health system, then good for you. Programs and money are constantly cut, so we have Cook County Jail, right?

I’m sorry but Obamacare sucks, too, probably because it was Romneycare first. You don’t get any benefit if you can’t work. So my mom paid for Blue Cross straight up for a year. The cost of that went from $230/mo for the cheapest plan to $322/mo the next year! Are you kidding me? So I had to drop any kind of insurance. Seriously, thanks Obama for being too much of a pussy to push for single payer. God knows what Trump will bring.”

These are the kinds of catch-22s that beg us to consider single payer, aka Medicare for All. Matt sent his email just hours before the AHCA passed the House. What Trump and the American Health Care Act bring is this:


  • “over $800 billion cut from Medicaid in the next 10 years, which will cause vital mental health services in states to be slashed.

  • effectively ends Medicaid expansion — a lifeline for single adults with mental illness who fall through the cracks — which today covers 1 in 3 people who live with a mental health or substance use condition.






NAMI

Matt recently applied for Medicaid, but was denied — apparently they didn’t think his lack of income was believable. If you think that’s far-fetched, the same thing has happened to me twice. He will now have to go through the red tape of appealing it. Even if Matt is eligible for Medicaid, it’s not going to be a long-term solution if the AHCA passes the Senate. Mental health is not a partisan issue, but it’s being treated as one. That we are still discussing this issue is, well, sad.

The brain is a vital organ — arguably the most important. The brain, in tandem with other bodily systems, regulates thought, mood, and behavior, so symptoms of a problem with the brain will manifest primarily in thought, mood, and behavior. Brain health can be impacted by traumatic injury, genetics, brain structure, disease, or biochemical makeup, to name a few. A problem with the brain IS a physical health problem. Mental health already IS physical health, and mental illness already IS physical illness.

Now, we’re going backwards in government messaging and it is negatively impacting the already-precarious public understanding of mental illness. Once believed to be caused by demons or possession, humanity progressed to blaming a person’s bad character, flawed morality, or laziness for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps during a rough time. We progressed again when science and medicine started to recognize common symptoms and classify disorders. Still today, many people believe mental illness symptoms are a person’s fault, or can be fixed by a positive attitude, or a good walk in nature. When you have a mental illness, trying to fix your brain with your brain is like trying to fix a broken arm with a broken arm.

Standard mental health treatment includes talk therapy, and prescription medication, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, psychiatric medicine gave me my life back: a functional, motivated quality of existence that I had lost sometime in my early twenties from recurring, disabling depression. Unfortunately, many people who take prescription medication for their mental health conditions get pill-shamed frequently by friends and family — and bad Facebook memes.

Pill-shamers make the same mistake Trumpcare makes: treating mental health as non-physical and non-essential. Sadly, I have seen people cave to this pressure, and tragically, in one case, take their own life. Just as you would not tell a person to stop taking pills for their high blood pressure or insulin for their diabetes, you should not medically advise someone on their psychiatric regimen. That said, medication does not work for everyone or for every condition. It doesn’t work for Matt:

“I have seen a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I saw a psychiatrist for a year last year, and my primary care physician was great until she retired. Between them I have tried probably a dozen or so medications to no avail. The clinical term is “treatment-resistant.” I have since been diagnosed with Bipolar II and PTSD.

They throw lots and lots of pills at you if you aren’t making progress. This can create problems in behavior by itself. I had basically a psychotic break, including auditory hallucinations, caused by medicine. That experience was such a humiliation, it really broke me.

So now I basically have this huge gap of three years of work history with not a lot to show for it. I’m trying to put together some semblance of self reliance again — find a place that would be accepting of spotty work history. If I can find a place to sleep while I try employment again, if you have any openings where I can janitor or host or try bartending or whatever. So yes, even though it’s not ideal to go back to a job I had when I was in my twenties, at least it’s a place that I know how things work. Those were definitely my happiest days, working with you all.”

Mental health disability doesn’t mean a complete lack of functionality. It means a lack of consistent, predictable functionality. If you are at times functioning normally and take on a job, then when you have your next episode or acute symptoms, depending on what they are and how often they occur, you risk losing your job. Steady employment is not a psychiatric treatment plan — it’s the byproduct of a successful one.

Another option for Matt would be applying for Disability, but that is a long shot considering the rate of denial. Disability, like retirement, is a benefit all Americans are eligible for if they have paid Social Security taxes via work over their lifetime, as Matt has. However, it is such a lengthy and complex application process, that it is common — and recommended — to hire a disability lawyer. For a lawyer to take his case, Matt would need to be under the consistent, documented care of a physician — a crucial component of a successful disability application. With no health insurance or job right now, this is not possible.

Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I align with the experts from @aafp @AmerAcadPeds @AmerMedicalAssn in opposition to #AHCA

&– Andrey Ostrovsky, MD (@AndreyOstrovsky) March 9, 2017


The Chief Medical Officer of Medicaid was called a “hero” for breaking with the administration in opposing the #AHCA.

When your symptoms impact your ability to work, people most commonly turn to Medicaid, if they have insurance at all. They are the ones who will be most impacted by these $800 billion in cuts that supposedly don’t impact anyone. Right now, Matt is one of the “anyone”:

I’m in a slightly dire situation now. I thought I had co-signers for my current apartment lease renewal, but money and a cosigner are both problems of my own making. I wouldn’t co-sign for me either without any income. I have to be out actually tomorrow by midnight. So I’m throwing it all at the wall. This is all going in slow motion for me, like it’s not real, but after this Friday I’m probably going to try and sleep in the park.

I hate to depend on other people, but that’s all I can do now. I’m a 43 year old man who is mentally ill. I’ve never really admitted that before. There’s a reason mentally ill folks end up homeless. And now it’s me. Gross feeling to own.

I can say that I’m going to sleep in the park, but I have to admit, it’s pretty scary. But I wouldn’t be the first. To be extremely honest and real with you, I would just like to end my life, since I haven’t felt or looked forward to anything for awhile. But logistically, I don’t know how people do it. I do, of course, but the options are tough to conceive and accomplish, believe it or not. I’m not a fan of gruesome for other people.”

Yes, Rep. Labrador, people do die from lack of access to healthcare, and those with mental illness or in active addiction are arguably the most critically vulnerable, whether by their own hand or accidental overdose. In talking to people about suicide, one thing is clear: the symptoms of untreated depression are not sustainable in the long term. People are looking for relief. As strange as it may sound, the thing I hear the most from friends with severe depression, is that just knowing you have the power to make it end can get you through another day. Worldwide, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.


  • “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million will lose insurance for mental health care, pushing people with mental illness to emergency rooms, jails and the streets.” — NAMI

And yeah, probably some to the morgue, frankly. To those who say that nobody is denied care, that they have to treat you at an ER, that does not work for the mentally ill. I know from taking suicidal people to the ER that their only legal obligation is to medically stabilize you, and consult with a psychiatrist to determine if you are still a danger to yourself. For people without insurance, that’s about as far as it goes. A particularly hard hit group will be

U.S. Veterans
.

You can’t get an accurate psychiatric diagnosis and a long-term mental health treatment plan in an ER. You can’t complete addiction treatment in an ER. When someone says they’re suicidal or abusing substances, they’re describing symptoms they need a solution for, they’re not looking to get committed to a psych ward for two or three days.

Regressive policy and ignorant thinking are particularly lethal for mental illness — and that includes addiction. The U.S. Surgeon General recently reclassified addiction as a brain disorder, a type of mental illness, in the agency’s bombshell report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.

Why didn’t anyone hear about it? Because the report was released a week after the 2016 presidential election. It was huge, life-altering news for anyone with skin in the game: the idea that the substances of addiction are ancillary, that the modern focus of cause and treatment is on the brain’s role. Sadly, it didn’t get the attention it deserved.


“We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw — it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.” – former Surgeon General



Vivek Murthy

However, compassion does not seem to be in Trump’s playbook when it comes to drug policy. Trump has since

fired Surgeon General Murthy

, and cut the Drug Policy budget by 95%,

effectively killing it

. There is little indication as to how he plans to address the opioid crisis, outside of his continued praise of

addict-killing Philippines President Duterte

, whom he recently invited to the White House, appointing Chris Christie to head the now-gutted White House commission on drug policy, and knowing the

economic benefit

he gives the private prison industry when his policies call for incarcerating certain types of people.

The mentally ill and addicts are not a powerful lobbying force. Considering the stigma, who wants to join a coalition made up of them? Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, was an

outspoken advocate

of mental health and addiction treatment. She is gone now. The mentally ill are not only under-served, they are largely powerless, and without treatment, symptoms become acute and lethal. Who will stand up for them?

The United States has been observing Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. It’s time for us a nation to consider the minimum threshold we are willing to maintain for mental health care in this country, based on our shared values and humanity, not religion, race, or party. Humans are too reckless and stupid to wear seat belts unless we’re forced to. There is a reason we drive on one side of the road. Laws have to be better than the worst of us, for the good of public safety and health. So what are we willing to do for the mentally ill? We need to decide what baseline of care lets us sleep at night, and legislate from there. I do not take my mental health for granted — I need to be vigilant every day. So it is with our democracy.

Civil rights, which seem obvious, had to be embedded into the nation’s laws, and they are tested daily. In the same way, progress in our understanding and treatment of mental health as undifferentiated from physical health, needs to be in the fabric of our laws, accepted in our culture, and reflected in our media. We need to institutionalize empathy and compassion for the mentally ill to preserve the social and civic progress we have made. Otherwise, we go backward, and people will be ground up in the apathy and red tape. Like Matt, they already are.

The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, should have basic health care, or

Medicare for All

, that is not tied to employment status or work requirements — for so many reasons. One of them is so that people with debilitating health conditions like Matt’s are not cast out to fend for themselves. I hope, as a society, we can agree on that basic principle. If we do, we need to get the details right, because the details matter when you’re facing the street. In all the current and forthcoming analysis and partisan bickering, we need to remember people’s lives are at stake.

Consistent, quality mental health care enables me to function and be a productive member of society — something I am not capable of without it. So yeah, Obamacare was my Alderaan. Now what? I hope people will stand up for us, for people like me, for people like Matt, because Go Fund Me cannot be the solution to America’s healthcare crises — but right now, for Matt, that’s

all he’s got.

”I never thought in a million years I would be this guy. But I guess this is how it happens. I rarely drink, I don’t use drugs, and I don’t smoke. Luckily I can’t grow much of a beard, so I won’t be one of those dirty beard guys. So there’s that. I’m trying to kid myself into believing this will be fine. And I fully realize I am actually one of the lucky ones. Some folks are totally alone.”

Regards,

Matt


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Useful magnetic LED clip lights

I bought a pair of these magnetic clip lights a few years and they’ve proven to be incredibly useful when I have to do repair work. The light has 8 LEDs and it throws a pretty wide beam of bright light. It sticks securely to any ferrous metal surface and has a clip so you can attach it to your pocket. I used it when I was installing a new safety switch in a washing machine. I stuck it on the side of the washing machine cabinet and it gave me plenty of light to attach the ground wire and route the cable. I haven’t had to change the batteries yet, either.

I keep one on our fridge and the other in my toolbox.

The price is right, too. A set of 2 costs $9 on Amazon.

mr-light2

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