December 9, 2018 in 2,482 words


Special counsel Robert Mueller was expected to reveal more of his hand this week in hotly-anticipated court filings about three key players at the center of the Trump Russia probe.

Instead, Mueller’s memos were more memorable for their redactions than new revelations, leaving outsiders to wonder what lies behind all that black ink.

But by dealing most of his cards face down, Mueller achieved something big: He blocked President Trump and his next attorney general from permanently burying whatever’s concealed within those documents, legal experts told VICE News.

Put simply: Mueller just dispersed some of the findings of his investigation to a couple federal judges, who now have the power to safeguard, and later reveal, the key parts of the special counsel’s work directly to the public, former prosecutors said.

“He’s putting the product of his investigation into safe hands,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and expert on legal ethics at New York Law School. “All that redacted material is now with a judge. Once it’s with a judge, other officials within the Department of Justice lose the power to destroy it.”

The man supposed to impose order in Trump’s White House has been sent packing


No longer welcome.

The rumors around John Kelly, the US president’s chief of staff, have finally been confirmed: The former Marine general will leave his current job by the end of the year. President Donald Trump announced the news to reporters on the White House lawn on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 8). Even the timing of the announcement was an indication of the sour relationship between Trump and Kelly; the chief of staff had planned to tell his staff on Monday, according to the New York Times (paywall), but Trump beat him to it.

Kelly was hired in July 2017, and he quickly established himself as “the adult in the room” (paywall), emphasizing the narrative that his experience as a Marine would allow him to bring order to a chaotic White House. Politicians on both sides of the aisle bought into the chief of staff’s steely, no-nonsense manner. “The kind of discipline that he is going to bring is important,” senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, said on CNN shortly after Kelly was hired. “I hope that we’re at a turning point now.”

Those hopes proved misguided. In the months since, many have lamented that Kelly was not living up to his cultivated reputation as a man who could keep Trump in check. Indeed, his own rhetoric on immigration was incendiary. He claimed that illegal immigrants refused to assimilate into US culture and that those who didn’t register for DACA were“too lazy to get off their asses.” He also referred to Confederate general Robert E. Lee as “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.” That comment was widely condemned as implying that the fight to maintain slavery was a valiant act.

Meanwhile, like so many other West Wing employees, Kelly’s relationship with the president has slowly deteriorated. In April, White House staffers claimed that Kelly had called Trump an “idiot,” saying that the president “doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” and, “we’ve got to save him from himself.” At the time, Kelly seemed confident of his influence in the White House, allegedly claiming that, “If it weren’t for me, the president was going to agree to some hasty deal.” Though Kelly denied these comments, and Trump dismissed them as “fake news,” the relationship between the two soured. Trump reportedly believed that his chief of staff was keeping crucial information secret, and Kelly’s departure from the White House was widely anticipated for months.

So now George Bush Sr is celebrated as a titan of unity. How on earth did we get here?

References to Bush’s support for Hillary Clinton have been reverently repeated, as has his unlikely friendship with Barack Obama.

George HW Bush: ‘Arrogant, careless and self-serving.’

George HW Bush was no one’s idea of a great president. His 1988 presidential campaign was the first I followed as a child in the US – supporting, under my mother’s instruction, his hapless rival, Michael Dukakis – and even then he seemed strangely unquantifiable, a blank. His presidency bore this impression out, in which his credit sheet was cancelled out by enough debit that the balance ultimately came to nothing.

A war hero and famously polite, Bush Sr signed the Clean Air Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act (protecting, among others, people with HIV, from discrimination), and eventually spoke out against the National Rifle Association. But he was also arrogant, careless and self-serving. He exploited racial politics and pardoned the defendants in the Iran-Contra hearings to protect himself from investigation.

He kowtowed to America’s evangelical right, and under his watch, AIDS ravaged the US more than any other developed country. He left a mess in the Middle East and his vice-presidential choice of Dan Quayle – a pro-life hawk who famously couldn’t spell – set the Republican party on a course that eventually led to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

After Bush’s death was announced last weekend, the predictable schism opened in the reactions between two extremes: on the one side, the cap-doffing hagiographies, and on the other, a hipster-esque “burn the elders down” condemnation. And yet the anecdotes about the now late president that seemed to tickle people the most, even some of the cynics online, were ones about his relative lack of partisanship.

How One Guy Got Famous For Being Constantly Hit By Lightning

Roy Sullivan achieved fame in a way that you wouldn’t wish on anybody: by being struck by lightning seven motherfucking times.

His unbelievable tale has been told again and again in publications around the world, including The Guinness Book Of World Recordsand this very website. His Wikipedia page features a photo of him wearing a hat with a charred lightning hole in it. The only problem is that, as far as I can tell, that hat is the only evidence we have that any of this actually happened.

Here we have a man who swears that he was licked by Odin one time for every day of the week. A dude who sold the world on the idea that he not only lived through seven Marvings from Home Alone 2, but that he mostly came away unscathed. Let’s take a deeper look at his shocking story. Roy, buddy, I love you and I really hope this story is true, because you’re a true American legend if it is. But brother, I’m not buying it.

1. Roy Unplugged

Roy Sullivan was born in 1912 in a small Virginia town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. If you grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in the early 1900s, you were basically a wildling. Sullivan once claimed to have shot 30 rabbits in one day, which is a super weird brag, and also seems a tad bit excessive. Isn’t there a point after you’ve killed, I don’t know, five, six, hell even ten rabbits that you stop and think to yourself “Ya know, I think I’m good for the day”? Roy never had that thought. Thirty rabbits had to go down that day, and that was that.

Or did they? This is an important time to stop and say that this, like everything we’re about to read, was just a claim by Roy, unverifiable and dubiously grandiose. It’s entirely possible that Roy’s penchant for boastful storytelling began at a young age. Or it’s possible that he was known to the other Shenandoah free folk as Rabbit’s Bane, and he did truly kill the entire cast of Watership Down.

As Roy grew older, his love for nature grew as well. He made it official by joining the park services as part of the fire patrol. Roy was now entrenched in an environment where he would spent the rest of his adult life — that sweet spot where God’s taser has pinpoint accuracy and intent.



Charles Harrison at the 2008 National Design Awards

Design legend Charles Harrison is remembered as the “Jackie Robinson of industrial design.” Harrison, who passed away at age 87 on Nov. 29 due to a bacterial infection, was Sears’ longtime chief product designer and first African-American executive. Harrison’s talent and work ethic was so impressive that the department-store chain broke an unwritten policy against hiring black employees during a racially charged era and offered him a full-time position in 1961.

During his 32-year tenure at Sears, Harrison shaped more than 750 mass-market household products: baby cribs, band saws, blenders, coffee percolators, electric shavers, frying pans, fondue pots, hair dryers, hearing aids, hedge clippers, irons, lightbulbs, portable turntables, riding lawn mowers, sewing machines, shoe buffers, stoves, toasters, and wheelbarrows among them.

Humble masterpiece.

But of his countless projects, Harrison is proudest of a humble plastic trash bin, which replaced the rattly and rusty tin can long a standard in most American backyards. “Looking back at my career, it was one of the most significant and innovative products I ever created,” he writes in A Life’s Design. “When that can hit the market, it did so with the biggest bang you never heard—everyone was using it but few people paid close attention to it.”

Harrison was a master at paring products to their essential elements. Diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age, he had great empathy for people with various learning or physical disorders. His quest was to create elegant consumer products that didn’t require elaborate instruction manuals. “Because he was dyslexic, he wanted you to be able to just see how they worked,” Joeffrey Trimmingham, Harrison’s former student, tells the New York Times (paywall).

Where is the boundary between your phone and your mind?

As our online existences become less distinct from ‘real life’, experts raise concern about the growing power of big tech.

The influence of both the phone itself and the tech revolution as a whole can often feel irresistible.

Many of the boundary lines in our lives are highly literal, and, for the most part, this is how we’ve been trained to think of boundaries: as demarcations shored up by laws, physical, legal, or otherwise, that indicate exactly where one thing ends and another begins. Here is the border of your property; here is the border of your body; here is the border of a city, a state, a nation – and to cross any of these boundaries without permission is to transgress. But one of the most significant boundary lines in our lives is not this way, and one piece of ubiquitous technology is making this line increasingly permeable and uncertain, at a cost that we may only be starting to comprehend.

Here’s a thought experiment: where do you end? Not your body, but you, the nebulous identity you think of as your “self”. Does it end at the limits of your physical form? Or does it include your voice, which can now be heard as far as outer space; your personal and behavioral data, which is spread out across the impossibly broad plane known as digital space; and your active online personas, which probably encompass dozens of different social media networks, text message conversations, and email exchanges?

This is a question with no clear answer, and, as the smartphone grows ever more essential to our daily lives, that border’s only getting blurrier.

Michael Patrick Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and director of the school’s Humanities Institute, which promotes interdisciplinary research, says that the notion of an “extended self” was coined by the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers in 1998.

“They argued that, essentially, the mind and the self are extended to those devices that help us perform what we ordinarily think of as our cognitive tasks,” Lynch says. This can include items as seemingly banal and analog as a piece of paper and a pen, which help us remember, a duty otherwise performed by the brain. According to this philosophy, the shopping list, for example, becomes part of our memory, the mind spilling out beyond the confines of our skull to encompass anything that helps it think.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Media critic Jay Rosen explains why ad-free news is so important, lays out a better way to cover the Trump administration and makes his pitch for The Correspondent.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Big week at The Late Show! Go behind-the-scenes with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Kathy Griffin, Lucas Hedges, Jon Batiste and of course your host, Stephen Colbert!

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

PC Principal’s babies may be cute, but they’ll cry like hell if anyone says anything offensive.

THANKS to Comedy Central and South Park for making this program available on YouTube.

もちろん、箱に入っているまる。Of course, Maru is in the box!


Update: ‘Victor’s Heart’

Victor and his wife Estella say that his heart condition has been particularly difficult for their two young daughters, Ailin, 10, and Yaretzi, 5.

“I think better things are going to come,” Victor says this week, after finding out the crowdsourcing page raising funds to get him health insurance, and therefore the heart transplant he so desperately needs, has exceeded its goal. “I now have more options.”

Boulder Weekly spoke with Victor and his wife, Estella, for the Nov. 29 cover story “Victor’s heart,” which chronicled the challenges their family faces to get Victor the medical care he needs given his immigration status and lack of health insurance. Since the story ran, the Boulder County community has contributed more than $10,500 to Victor’s GoFundMe page.

“When we first opened the GoFundMe we didn’t think anyone was going to support it,” Victor says. “I’m so thankful for everything that’s been helping me, and thanks to God, everything will work out.”

From Guatemala, Victor has lived in Longmont since 1999, when he was 17. He was diagnosed with severe cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, which consequently leads to a long list of other health issues, in 2005. Shortly after, he married Estella, whom Victor (now 36) knew in Guatemala, and the couple has two young daughters, Ailin, 10, and Yaretzi, 5. In recent years, his condition has worsened, leaving him unable to work and the family unable to afford private health insurance on Estella’s salary from working multiple fast-food jobs.

Doctors have told Victor and Estella that a heart transplant is his only real chance at survival, but without the ability to access public benefits or the funds for private insurance, he hasn’t been able to get on the transplant list.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?