Hurricane Ian, which hit western Cuba last week with Category 3 force winds and brought devastating flooding to the western provinces of Pinar del Río and Artemisa, destroyed more than 7,600 homes and damaged more than 68,000, Cuban authorities said. According to the Office of the Presidency, 68,370 homes suffered damage in Pinar del Río alone, including 7,664 that were totally destroyed by the storm, which made landfall on the province’s southern coast on Sept. 27 and spent several hours barreling over its territory. More than a thousand people remain in government shelters, the president’s o...
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Former President Donald Trump this week recorded a video for a fundraiser on behalf of the people who are currently serving jail sentences for violently rioting on his behalf.
The Washington Post reports that Trump this week sent a recorded message to a fundraising event for the Patriot Freedom Project, which bills itself as "a non-profit organization providing legal, financial, mental-health, and spiritual support for individuals and their families — including young children — who are suffering at the hands of a weaponized justice system."
In the video, Trump pledged justice for those supporters who illegally broke into the United States Capitol building on January 6th, 2021 and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives.
“People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” the former president pledged. “It’s the weaponization of the Department of Justice, and we can’t let this happen in this country.”
Trump's message isn't the first time he's expressed support for the Capitol rioters, as earlier this year he vowed to give them full pardons and even formal apologies for the ways they've purportedly been mistreated.
Trump's expression of support for the rioters came in the same week that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy charges over his plot to use force to block the certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.
We're about to return to a Beltway narrative in which nothing Republicans do is actually their fault: It is somehow all because Democrats have failed to manage them properly and are way too mean.
Republicans are about to take power in the House of Representatives once again, and so, with exhausting predictability, we return to a Beltway narrative where none of the choices they will make with that power are their fault: It is somehow all because Democrats have failed to manage Republicans properly. Unsurprisingly, the latest example comes from Politico, which pins the blame for the rise of right-wing superstar Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene not on the voters who sent her to Congress or the GOP leaders who indulge her or the conservative media that celebrates her. Instead, Greene's popularity with Republicans is laid at the feet of Joe Biden and the Democrats.
"Biden world once ignored Marjorie Taylor Greene. Now it's making her the face of the GOP," announces a Thursday headline in Politico. Underneath it, Eugene Daniels and Jonathan Lemire write that the Biden White House has tried to turn Greene "into the poster child of the incoming House GOP majority."
But of course Biden had nothing to do with that, because Republicans had already done it. Republicans in her district enthusiastically voted her into office. Republicans gave Greene a standing ovation in response to her remarks claiming that school shootings like Parkland and Sandy Hook were "false flags." Republicans made her one of the top fundraisers in the House. Republican leadership is currently indulging Greene's demands to treat the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as "political prisoners."
As Heather Digby Parton wrote previously at Salon, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is nominally the top Republican in the House, has basically allowed Greene to become a "shadow speaker" who keeps him "on a short leash." To Politico reporters, evidently, this makes McCarthy a victim. They write that he has "no choice but to offer the hardcore members prominent posts in exchange for their support."
More nonsense, of course. There's always a choice, even if that choice is just to go home and live a life of lobbyist luxury. Kevin McCarthy goes along with the open fascists of his party because he wants to. Remember that he voted to nullify the 2020 election, even after Trump sent a mob to the Capitol to physically threaten members of Congress. He may play-act moderation for the gullible Beltway press corps, but McCarthy has been a cheerleader for the Trumpist agenda all along.
The D.C. press corps covers Republicans not as actual adults who should be held responsible for their own decisions, but as lost and confused children who are the pawns of other people's machinations.
All of this is far too familiar: The D.C. press corps covers Republicans as if they were not actual adults who should be held responsible for their own decisions, but as lost and confused children who are the pawns of other people's machinations. When McCarthy kisses Trump's ring and elevates the far-right members of his party, he's portrayed as a hapless stooge. But the Trumpists who manipulate McCarthy and force him to grovel are not held to account either. As with the Politico report, blame for their behavior is often assigned to Democrats for failing to do more to control them. But, as Daniels and Lemire tacitly admit, Biden tried the "ignore them and they'll go away" tactic for more than a year and it didn't work. So now he's being blamed for amplifying Greene's popularity by belatedly acknowledging her existence.
This tendency to excuse all Republican misbehavior by treating them like purely reactive animals hit its zenith this week, in response to reports that Trump had loudmouthed antisemite Ye (formerly Kanye West), along with his Holocaust-denying buddy Nick Fuentes, over to dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Obviously, the reason Trump keeps finding himself in the company of white supremacists is that he agrees with their views, something he hasn't exactly been subtle about. Still, in the face of considerable blowback, Trump used his standard go-to excuse: He simply doesn't know these white supremacists who keep showing up next to him! Absolutely no idea who they are, darn it all!
Trump coughs up this obvious lie because it creates a tiny envelope of not-very-plausible deniability while allowing him to avoid denounce people like Ye and Fuentes. He's used this tactic for years, but the press still falls for it every time. Witness this credulous story from NBC News that paints Trump not as a racist who enjoys the company of other racists, but as a hapless goofball starved for attention who "was essentially tricked by the rapper and his guests" into breaking bread with a big fan whose views on race relations are just louder versions of Trump's own.
NBC's source for the claim was an innocent victim in the dinner-date fiasco was Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who works for Ye (and recently worked for Greene) and who has a long and storied history of having zero respect for the truth. This could perhaps be a rare example of Yiannopoulos telling the truth, but it's far likelier that he knows the mainstream media is always ready to excuse Republican politicians who say or do execrable things as victims of circumstance, not actual autonomous grownups making their own choices. It's no skin off Yiannopoulos' back to take the fall for Trump's dinner with neo-Nazis. If anything, it helps bolster his image as a "dirty trickster" — while also creating at least faint excuses for Trump and his supporters.
Indeed, the Trump campaign followed up this report by claiming they've assigned Trump a 24/7 babysitter, to make sure he has no more "accidental" meetings with white nationalists. (OK, Trump's people did not literally say "babysitter.") It really ought to be an embarrassment that a 76-year-old former president and third-time presidential candidate requires a full-time minder. But this also feeds into the larger Beltway narrative which holds that Republicans are never to blame for whatever they do, even when it's something gobsmackingly awful, such as having dinner with a notorious fascist and a downward-spiraling rapper who has declared "death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE."
And somehow — this is the deeply obvious but really important part — this perceived inability of Republicans to be responsible for their own choices never counts against them (at least in the mainstream media narrative) when they make the risible argument that they deserve to run the country.
Trump is running for president again and Republicans take control of the House next month. That can only mean we're about to see a dramatic escalation in nutty right-wing antics. Trump will continue to associate with scumbags. Republicans will threaten to torpedo the global economy to demand cuts to Social Security. House committees will be hijacked for GOP showboating about stupid conspiracy theories involving Hunter Biden's laptop and other irrelevant or imaginary pseudo-scandals. Trump will make any number of racist and sexist remarks and Republicans will claim they haven't heard about it and, gosh, doesn't he say the darndest things?
There are two ways for the press to deal with these depressing inevitabilities. Option No. 1 is to say straight out that the GOP is run by a bunch of shameless liars who are waging war on truth and democracy. But doing that, of course, means giving up the pretense that "both sides" are the same. The other option is to stubbornly refuse to see the abundant evidence that Republicans are deliberately sinister actors and to go on depicting them as wayward children who honestly can't be expected to know any better. The former frame fulfills the purported mission of journalism, which is to tell the truth. But alas, we're probably in for at least two years of elaborate apologies and roundabout justifications and Murc's Law proving out once again across the media universe.
The limits of Elon Musk's self-professed "free speech absolutism" were laid bare, critics said, when he banned rapper Kanye West from Twitter over his latest anti-Semitic outburst on Thursday.
Only a few days earlier, Musk tweeted that he was engaged in "a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead."
Since taking over Twitter, the billionaire has reinstated several controversial figures, including ex-president Donald Trump, who was banned for inciting violence with his false claims about fraud after his defeat in the 2020 United States election.
But Musk's claim to be a free speech absolutist was always going to struggle to survive the clash with reality -- and particularly the clash with West (officially known as Ye), who has mounted an increasingly vociferous campaign of anti-Semitic outbursts in recent weeks.
The final straw for Musk was West's tweet showing a Nazi swastika interlaced with a Star of David.
It followed an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, in which he declared his "love" of the Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler.
"The problem is that Elon Musk has a half-baked free speech philosophy," said Jacob Mchangama, author of "Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media".
"Sometimes he talks about total freedom of speech, sometimes about respecting the law. But of course laws are very different around the world where Twitter is present. Some of the things (West) has said would arguably be punishable in court in Europe, especially in France."
Few believe that total freedom of speech is possible, especially for a private platform that relies on advertising.
"So-called free speech absolutism is just a fantasy," said influential podcaster Sam Harris earlier this week on his "Making Sense" show. "Almost no one really holds that position even when they espouse it."
He said some level of content moderation was needed to stop platforms turning into "a digital sewer".
"Contrary to what most people think it's legal to shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre, but wouldn't we want the owner of that theatre to remove someone who was shouting that over and over again?" Harris said.
Mchangama said he did not believe West's comments actually amounted to inciting violence, not least because the rapper has a well-documented history of mental illness that appears to be fueling his erratic behavior.
"He seems profoundly disturbed rather than trying to organize violence against Jews," Mchangama said.
He would also like to see more creative solutions to the challenge of content moderation, and feels Musk has missed an opportunity.
"The best way forward is to empower users to filter more of what they don't like rather than have governments or big tech make these decisions at a centralized level," he said.
"You can't have free speech absolutism... but you should err on the side of free speech and there are ways that Musk could have done it. But he's been chaotic and has not made a persuasive case for the skeptics."
© 2022 AFP