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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Briefing on Bibi and beyond...

I haven't much time, so let's bustle...

Bibi to address Congress? Boehner wants him; the WH says it's a breach of protocol. If Bibi does come, I wouldn't mind joining a protest (if I have $$ enough for fare to DC). Mondoweiss argues (persuasively) that this move is in response to Obama's SOTU statement about vetoing any further moves on Iran.
Obama was warning the Israel lobby; bug out of these negotiations. That’s the line he drew in the sand in the New York Times last week, criticizing donor pressure on Democratic senators.

Well, Congress has responded. This morning it invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session in the House chamber on February 11– a month before the Israeli elections (as Haaretz noted).
As Boehner aides pointed out to the Hill “there is bipartisan support for Iran sanctions legislation.” That’s true: Netanyahu met two days ago with a bipartisan group of seven senators.
Just to make things really weird, Mossad is making an end run around Bibi...
The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Israeli intelligence officials have been briefing both Obama administration officials and visiting U.S. senators about their concerns on the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would increase sanctions on Iran only if the Iranian government can't strike a deal with the so-called P5+1 countries by a June 30 deadline or fails to live up to its commitments. Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister’s office has been supporting the Kirk-Menendez bill, as does the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, ahead of what will be a major foreign policy confrontation between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government in coming weeks.

Evidence of the Israeli rift surfaced Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry said that an unnamed Israeli intelligence official had said the new sanctions bill would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.” But an initial warning from Israeli Mossad leaders was also delivered last week in Israel to a Congressional delegation...
You have to admit, this is unusual.

Norman Finkelstein on the Charlie Hebdo affair. I'm not sure I agree with what he says here. He says that the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were "sadism, not satire," and he compares them to the kind of cartoons that appeared in Der Sturmer.

Well, yes, let's make that comparison. But let's also compare them to the Leo Taxil illustrations published here a week or so ago. And while we're at it, let's compare them to the work of the Robert Crumb and the other great -- and utterly outrageous -- underground comics artists who came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s.

(As always, let us keep in mind the dictionary definition of the word "compare." Comparison does not imply equivalence.)

Finkelstein makes one excellent point which deserves to be repeated...
Finkelstein pointed to the contradictions in the Western world’s perception of the freedom of the press by giving the example of the pornographic magazine Hustler, whose publisher, Larry Flynt, was shot and left paralyzed in 1978 by a white supremacist serial killer for printing a cartoon depicting interracial sex.

“I don’t remember everyone celebrating ‘We are Larry Flynt’ or ‘We are Hustler,'” he said. “Should he have been attacked? Of course not. But nobody suddenly turned this into a political principle of one side or the other.”
As I recall, people reacted to the Flynt shooting in a rather unusual way. Obviously, nobody approved of it; the act was outrageous and horrifying. But I spoke to a few people who seemed to feel that Flynt was so addicted to shock that he almost courted a violent reaction. I don't recall speaking to anyone who seemed utterly surprised.

William Blum. Blum's response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy is quite informative...
I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:
“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?

“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”
My take? Well, I've noticed that neo-cons have skulked into places where one normally would not expect to see them -- such as the Slate website. (Or, for that matter, the Obama White House.)

If neocons were content to appear on Fox News and similar venues, they would speak only to the converted. To control the policy debate, they need to persuade people outside the conservative media bubble. So they craftily look for ways to get their message out to people who would never watch Fox.

That's what has been going on here in America; something similar may be happening in France.
Comparing Robert Crumb to Charlie Hebdo, I don't remember any of Crumb's cartoons being viciously mean-spirited, or mocking the suffering of exploited minorities, such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoon which depicted the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram as pregnant welfare mothers, or the one mocking Egyptian protesters as complaining that their Korans were shit because they couldn't stop the bullets of the army. Finkelstein in right, there was a terrific amount of sadism on their front pages.

As for the Larry Flynt shooting, I wasn't surprised by it, only because violence by religiously-minded white supremacists was hitting a peak at the time, as psychopaths such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell fanned the flames. As a lefty political organizer, I had already learned to live with death threats. Maybe they would actually follow through and shoot me or more likely, they were just trying to frighten me. Who knew?
Well, Crumb himself has something to say about it....and apparently he lives in France. Ignore
disinfo's typical clickbait headline.
As I recall, it was not a cartoon, but a pictorial spread depicting "Peaches" and a black man that triggered the attack on Flynt.
Gareth, you really think Crumb's work could not be mean-spirited? Have you SEEN the way he drew black people? Not to mention what he did with women...!

When anyone complained, he would simply say "It's all ink on paper, folks."

I was always of two minds about this. One one hand, Crumb is brilliant, and Crumb would not be Crumb if he wore fetters. On the other hand -- well, some of the stuff he drew back in the day WAS offensive as hell.

Actually, I think his cartoon of Mohammed's ass is pretty brilliant.
Also, it was several years before Flynt's shooter was identified. At the time the most common assumption was Flynt had been shot by someone offended at his publishing of pornography in general, rather than a specific kind of pornography.

For that matter, the porn industry in the late 70s was still heavily controlled by the thuggier side of organized crime.* A little over a month after Flynt was shot, Michael Thevis, who at one point controlled roughly 40% of the porn sold in the U.S.,** escaped from prison where he was serving 8-1/2 years for burning down the factory of the inventor of the peepshow booth.*** (Urban Industries founder Nat Bailen had created the peepshow as a kind of automated babysitter where Mom could park the kids while she shopped. Angered his brainchild had been co-opted by smut peddlars, Bailen publicly denounced Thevis -- who by this time was manufacturing his own booths.) That October, Thevis tracked down and killed the associate whose testimony put him behind bars, arrested the following month, and currently serving 28-to-life. It was far from far-fetched that Flynt could have been taken out by a competitor, backer, or former partner.
* As opposed to today, when the business is controlled by the children of mobsters.

** Thevis was also responsible -- through legit businesses set up to launder funds -- for giving the world 'Poor Pretty Eddie,' one of the strangest allegedly commercial movies ever made, and the multi-million hit single, "Chevy Van."

*** In 1995, the SoCal sex toy factory owned by Doc Johnson burned to the ground. Ruled an accident, the blaze has long been rumored to have been arson. For that matter, Doc Johnson itself has long been rumored to have been secretly owned by Reuben Sturman, who is said to have controlled 80% of the US porn market...****

**** ...pretty much at the same time that Thevis was said to control 40%. That's 120%, with only two of a number of players mentioned. I guess after the DOJ largely stopped going after obscenity convictions, the surplussed agents were put to work calculating the alleged street value of drug seizures.
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