Tuesday, September 10, 2019

SUGGESTED READINGS


In late June, TIME Magazine published a very succinct and useful report by distinguished legal scholars Barbara McQuade and Joyce White Vance, outlining Eleven Mueller Report Myths that Won't Go Away. I present for you here, first, their brief introduction, followed by the first-listed myth, and the authors' explanation as to why, exactly, it's so bogus:
When we joined other legal experts earlier this month to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding lessons from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it became apparent from the questioning that a number of misconceptions continue to exist regarding Mueller’s findings. The narrative was shaped by Attorney General William Barr, who issued his description of Mueller’s conclusions three weeks before the public saw the full 448-page report. In a letter to Barr, Mueller complained that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his team’s work and conclusions, and created “public confusion.” Here is our effort to dispel some of those myths.
Myth: Mueller found “no collusion.”
Response: Mueller spent almost 200 pages describing “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” He found that “a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” He also found that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations” against the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.
While Mueller was unable to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians involved in this activity, he made it clear that “[a] statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” In fact, Mueller also wrote that the “investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” 
To find conspiracy, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the crime: an agreement between at least two people, to commit a criminal offense and an overt act in furtherance of that agreement. One of the underlying criminal offenses that Mueller reviewed for conspiracy was campaign-finance violations. Mueller found that Trump campaign members Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with Russian nationals in Trump Tower in New York June 2016 for the purpose of receiving disparaging information about Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to an email message arranging the meeting. This meeting did not amount to a criminal offense, in part, because Mueller was unable to establish “willfulness,” that is, that the participants knew that their conduct was illegal.
Mueller was also unable to conclude that the information was a “thing of value” that exceeded $25,000, the requirement for campaign finance to be a felony, as opposed to a civil violation of law. But the fact that the conduct did not technically amount to conspiracy does not mean that it was acceptable. Trump campaign members welcomed foreign influence into our election and then compromised themselves with the Russian government by covering it up. 
Mueller found other contacts with Russia, such as the sharing of polling data about Midwestern states where Trump later won upset victories, conversations with the Russian ambassador to influence Russia’s response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government in response to election interference, and communications with Wikileaks after it had received emails stolen by Russia. While none of these acts amounted to the crime of conspiracy, all could be described as “collusion.”
Pretty thorough, not to mention disturbing, stuff. There's also great, revealing material on the flawed logic behind all the various Trumpnik preemptive defense strategies, like the "double jeopardy" gambit, all the way down to the Nixonian "it's not illegal if the President does it" argument. Anyhoo, it's well worth reading. Of, if you're lazy, at LEAST watch this video about the same topic.


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In a world where the President of the United States of America is capable of tweeting out the above "disinfographic" to his millions upon millions of Social Media followers, despite the information contained therein being totally false, created pretty much exclusively to get "white" people to fear and hate Black people even more than they've already been conditioned to over the last few hundred years, it's a damn good thing there exist organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (increasingly despised and lied about by the Far Right, the Alt-Right, and now, increasingly, "mainstream" conservatives) fighting the good fight and setting the record straight with contributions like their excellent report, entitled "The Biggest Lie in the White Supremacist Propaganda Playbook: Unravelling the Truth About Black on White Crime". The Executive Summary declares, in part:

The idea that black people are wantonly attacking white people in some sort of quiet race war is an untruthful and damaging narrative with a very long history in America. 
On a Wednesday night in June 2015, a 21-year-old white man walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and gunned down nine black parishioners taking part in a weekly Bible study group. Dylann Storm Roof sat quietly with the group for about an hour before taking out his Glock pistol and firing 70 rounds, stopping five times to reload. Court testimony revealed that during the shooting Roof said, “Y’all are raping our white women. Y’all are taking over the world.” 
How this horrific violence came to take place traces back to a particularly destructive idea, one as old as the United States itself and rooted in the country’s white supremacy: that black men are a physical threat to white people. The narrative that black men are inherently violent and prone to rape white women, as Roof said during his rampage, has been prevalent for centuries. This idea has served as the primary justification for the need to oppress black people to protect the common — meaning white — good. 
Roof saw himself as a victim standing up for oppressed whites, not as an aggressor. He had a racist “awakening” spurred by online research he did about the 2012 murder of the black high-school student Trayvon Martin. As he wrote in his manifesto, the Martin killing “prompted me to type in the words ‘black on white crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day.” 
Roof’s internet search quickly led him to the website of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that claims to document an ignored war against whites being waged by violent black people. Google led Roof down a rabbit hole of hate, leaping from one hate site to the next, many filled with “evidence” that black people are pillaging, raping and murdering white people. 
 
“There were pages and pages of these brutal black on White murders,” Roof wrote in his manifesto. “I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored.” 
It’s not surprising that a fragile-minded young man who swallowed hate material whole came to see this so-called problem of black-on-white crime as something he had to personally confront. But the resonance of these ideas goes much deeper, infecting the thinking of many prominent people, including public policymakers to this day.
Take then-Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, who in November 2015 tweeted an image that originated from a neo-Nazi account that made exactly the same point as the hate sites Roof was reading. Filled with bogus crime statistics, the graphic Trump tweeted supposedly showed that black people are uniquely violent. The Washington Post found that the data in Trump’s tweet to be false.  
One of the most exaggerated statistics was about the number of white people killed by other white people. Trump’s tweet claimed the number was 16 percent, while the FBI’s data shows it is 82 percent. The tweet also asserted that 81 percent of whites are killed by black people; the FBI number is 15 percent. As the Post concluded, “Trump cast blacks as the primary killers of whites, but the exact opposite is true. By overwhelming percentages, whites tend to kill other whites. Similarly, blacks tend to kill other blacks. These trends have been observed for decades.” 
It’s not just Trump. The far-right ecosystem repeats versions of these ideas ad nauseum. Relying on “statistics” found in a white supremacist tract, the paleoconservative one-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan wrote in 2007: “The real repository of racism in America — manifest in violent interracial assault, rape and murder — is to be found not in the white community, but the African-American community.” Until very recently, Breitbart news used a “black crime” story tag. 
Misrepresented crime statistics are a main propaganda point of America’s hate movement, and a pillar of white supremacist thinking in the United States. Stormfront, the oldest hate site on the internet, has thousands of pages devoted to the “issue” of black-on-white crime. 
The idea that black people are wantonly attacking white people in some sort of quiet race war is an untruthful and damaging narrative with a very long history in America. White Americans’ unsubstantiated views about the potential of violence from black people was the number one excuse they used to justify slavery, lynching, Jim Crow and various forms of mass incarceration. Never was Klan violence or the lynching of black people by white people ascribed to an inherent white trait. Without the ability to claim oppression of black people as a form of self-defense, racial segregation and white supremacy would be seen for what they are: rank oppression of other people for financial or other benefit.
The maze of online white supremacist propaganda that Roof entered into is largely no more. Google cleaned up its search results after the Southern Poverty Law Center publicly exposed the problem in a January 2017 video. When black on white crime is typed into a Google search now, the results return legitimate sources of information, such as the FBI’s crime statistics, mainstream news and academic research.
Okay, so I know that's a LOT of information to absorb. But give me a break... it's a big fuckin' topic. That's why you should probably download the full report and read it at your leisure. I mean, just in case you missed the court case that basically removed all doubt about how conservatives/right-wingers/Republicans are pretty much all racist sacks of shit, if and when they think they might be able to get away with it, check out the linked to a Washington Post article by Christopher Ingraham.

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And, finally for today, the Los Angeles Review of Books has published Tony Fonseca's magnificent career overview of Ramsey Campbell, one of yer old pal Jerky's all-time favorite writers in any genre, who just happens to be an absolute master of the Modern English horror story. After starting off on the wrong foot with a terrible title--"Horror For People Who Don't Like Horror"?! NON-sense!--it quickly gets down to business, starting out with a thorough accounting of Campbell's early ouput:
RAMSEY CAMPBELL IS ONE of the most respected authors of weird and dark fiction in the world. Born in 1946, he began reading Lovecraft at the age of eight and began writing when only 11. As a teen, he submitted Ghostly Tales, a self-illustrated collection of 16 stories and a poem, to a reputable publisher, under the name John R. Campbell. Although the stories were rejected because of their genre, the publisher encouraged Campbell to keep writing (the author’s juvenilia was eventually published in 1987, as a special issue of Crypt of Cthulhu magazine). In 1961, Campbell submitted a story to Arkham House’s iconic author/publisher August Derleth. That story, “The Church in High Street,” appeared in the anthology Dark Mind, Dark Heart (1962), edited by Derleth, under the pseudonym J. Ramsey Campbell. It was Campbell’s first professional publication. 
Campbell’s first published book was the Lovecraft-tinged The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (1964), published by Arkham House when he was 18. His collection Demons by Daylight (1973) brought attention to his distinctive style and thematic concerns, and eventually led to a second Arkham House collection, The Height of the Scream (1976). That same year, he published his first novel, The Doll Who Ate His Mother. His second novel, The Face that Must Die (1979), explored dark psychological themes of madness and alienation — themes he would return to throughout his career. He received his first World Fantasy Award in 1978 for the story “The Chimney,” his second in 1980 for “Mackintosh Willy.” His 1980s novels and novellas — The Parasite (1980), The Nameless (1981), Incarnate (1983), The Claw (1983), Obsession (1985), The Hungry Moon (1986), The Influence (1988), Ancient Images (1989), Midnight Sun (1990), and the semi-comic Needing Ghosts (1990) — displayed a newfound interest in switching between the horror, dark fantasy, thriller, and crime genres. 
Campbell hit his stride in the 1990s, publishing his first dark comedy, The Count of Eleven (1991), followed by The Long Lost (1993) and the three novels Campbell fans line up behind when they want to argue for his mastery: The One Safe Place (1995), The House on Nazareth Hill (1996), and The Last Voice They Hear (1998). Campbell has remained prolific, his more recent output including Silent Children (2000), Pact of the Fathers (2001), The Darkest Part of the Woods (2003), Secret Stories (2005), The Grin of the Dark (2007), Thieving Fear (2008), Creatures of the Pool (2009), The Seven Days of Cain (2010), Ghosts Know (2011), The Kind Folk (2012), Think Yourself Lucky (2014), and Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach (2015). Never one to rest on his laurels, he has recently (and incredibly quickly) completed his Three Births of Daoloth trilogy: The Searching Dead (2016), Born to the Dark (2017), and The Way of the Worm (2018). Word has it that yet another novel, The Wise Friend, is due to be published in autumn 2019. 
One of Campbell’s earliest creations was the fictional city of Brichester (of the fictional Severn Valley), around which he constructed an elaborate mythos. He recently returned to the Brichester Mythos in the novella The Last Revelation of Gla’aki (2013). The Three Births of Daoloth trilogy (a.k.a. The Brichester Trilogy, all three titles released by PS Publishing) further develops the cosmic horrors he invented as a young man in The Inhabitant of the Lake. In a 2016 interview with psychology professor and horror author Gary Fry, Campbell explained his motivation for the trilogy: he wanted not only to update the Brichester mythos but also to perfect it, correcting the small mistakes he had made as a young writer. He conceived of the trilogy as a unit, so the series is tightly knit and the vision consistent, even as the story and characters evolve over 60 years. The trilogy is a nod to some of Campbell’s other early influences, such as Arthur Machen, but it was Lovecraft, according to Campbell, who provided the “crucial focus.” In the trilogy, Campbell aims for cosmic terror, calling it “the highest aspiration of the field” because it results in “a sense of awe that can border on the numinous, or more precisely a dark version of that experience.”
Look, I'll probablyhave more to say about Campbell at some later date, but for now, I'm falling asleep at the computer due to recent bouts of insomnia. In the meantime, you should definitely check out his work, as it is goddamn magnificent. I'm a particular fan of his short works. The anthologies Cold Print (for his Lovecraft-influenced early work), Demons by Daylight, and Dark Companions are all great places to start!

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