Wednesday, May 29th, 2019


Well, Isn’t That Special … Counsel

The diaphragm relaxed as air was pushed out of the lungs and through vocal folds causing them to vibrate. Lips parted. Mouth moved. Words were formed. And with that, at long last, Robert Mueller spoke. What did he say? Hodor. I am Groot. Meep Meep. Pizza, Pizza? If, like several fictional characters, Mueller were limited to a single catchphrase, he likely would have simply said, "Read the report." The much anticipated first (and likely last) public comments from the special counsel could be aptly abridged to this: Americans, do your homework. Congress, do your job. NYT: Mueller, in First Comments on Russia Inquiry, Declines to Clear Trump.

+ NPR: Robert Mueller, Long A Sphinx, Speaks — Then Says It Was His Final Word.

+ Bloomberg: Mueller vs. Barr: How They Framed Russia Probe's Findings.

+ Key lines from Mueller's brief statement: "If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime." ... "I want to thank the attorneys, the FBI agents, the analysts, and the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals, who spent nearly two years with the Special Counsel's Office, were of the highest integrity." ... "There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election.
That allegation deserves the attention of every American." ... "I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter." (One assumes he's not going to tweet about it either.)


Strike That, Reverse It

NPR on the illegal border crossings that are routine in rural West Texas. The twist? The people crossing the border are Americans. "Along one rugged stretch of the Rio Grande, U.S. citizens routinely cross the border into the United States illegally. A shortage of basic services in rural Texas, such as health care, means U.S. citizens rely on Mexican services and rarely pass through an official port of entry on return."

+ "The first time, she was raped. The second, she nearly drowned. In order to live in the United States legally, she had to leave her family and attempt to cross the border once more." Darcy Courteau in The Atlantic: Mireya's Third Crossing.

+ WaPo: I gave water to migrants crossing the Arizona desert. They charged me with a felony.


Face Plant

"Even as the technology comes under more scrutiny in the United States, tech giants such as IBM, and China's Hikvision and Huawei, are marketing biometric surveillance systems in the UAE, where citizens have fewer options to push back." Buzzfeed: Facial recognition technology is facing a huge backlash in the US, but some of the world's biggest tech companies are trying to sell it in the gulf.


Thermonuclear Dynamic Duo

"In playing dove to Mr. Bolton's hawk, Mr. Trump may be simply keeping adversaries off balance, as some backers maintained. But questions about his relationship with his chief foreign policy coordinator have profound implications for the president as he tries to manage standoffs in Asia, the Middle East and South America without alienating the United States' allies." NYT: Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran.


Everestless Leg Syndrome

"When asked in 1923 why one would aspire to climb Mount Everest, English mountaineer George Leigh Mallory uttered three immortal words: 'Because it's there.'" Well, these days, it seems like everyone is there. And that's causing crowds, danger, and even deaths. The tragedy of Mount Everest.

+ "The problem hasn't been avalanches, blizzards or high winds. Veteran climbers and industry leaders blame having too many people on the mountain, in general, and too many inexperienced climbers, in particular." NYT: ‘It Was Like a Zoo': Death on an Unruly, Overcrowded Everest.


Techno Chamber

Lisa Miller in NY Mag: Measles for the One Percent Vaccines, Waldorf schools, and the problem with liberal Luddites. "Liberal American parents have evolved from emulating the Jetsons to emulating the Amish in one generation." (There are really two stories here. One is about vaccinations. The other is about how sure parents who work in tech are that tech is probably pretty bad for kids.)

+ "Waldorf schools, which are based on the philosophy of Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner, teach cooperation over competition and a holistic approach to learning. Steiner, who died in 1925, contended that matters of health are better left to nature." The Guardian: As anti-vaxx dispute rages, attention turns to California's Waldorf schools.


Oxy Arrabbiata

Purdue Pharma is currently facing about 2,000 lawsuits for its role in America's devastating opioid crisis. But the problem, and Purdue's role, is not contained by national borders. AP: Purdue foreign arm caught up in opioid probe in Europe. "The police huddled for hours each day, headphones on, eavesdropping on the doctor. They'd tapped his cellphone, bugged his office, planted a camera in a trattoria. ... What Italian police overheard on their wiretaps offers a look at how pharmaceutical executives still pushed opioids abroad even after the cause and consequence of the American epidemic had become apparent."


The Xanny State

"The data clearly show that use of the words 'depression' and 'anxiety' is growing steadily. The word 'peace', on the other hand, has declined." Quartz: Is pop music anxious and depressed because we are too?

+ The hottest young artist around, Billie Eilish, even has a song about Xanax, called Xanny. (Benzodiazepines are a big problem that's getting worse...)


Hallowed Grounder

"This must have been where the exile story started: Buckner chased west by one wise-ass too many. He told Shaughnessy that he didn't want his kids having to hear about '86 anymore. And yet, a few years later, Buckner told the Globe that the tale of his self-imposed hermitude had been overblown: he had a ranch in Idaho, he liked it there, and he wasn't hiding from anyone." The New Yorker: Saying Goodbye to Bill Buckner, and the Myths We Attached to Him.


Bottom of the News

"Sure, it's more polite and discreet to email while excreting than at dinner. Certainly, reading on the toilet, as Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel put it, is an 'attempt to preserve the equilibrium of the ego; part of one's bodily substance is being lost and so fresh matter must be absorbed through the eyes.' And of course, humans have feared sitting alone with their thoughts long before smartphones came on the scene." But things have gotten a little out of hand. Wired: On Pooping In The Dark—No Lights, No Phones, No Distractions. (I try to time my bowel movements to coincide with software updates and system restarts. It's the modern version of being regular.)

+ Many are injured at the annual cheese-rolling contest in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England. But when put to music, the event is oddly beautiful. (It's also fun to imagine that the participants are actually Americans racing to get to their TVs when they heard Mueller was gonna speak...)

+ Photos: The Incredible Ice Formations of Lake Baikal.