Koch brothers betray Trump

Public enemy number one for liberals? The Koch brothers. Liberals love to lash out at these titans of industry who’ve spent some of their fortune promoting free enterprise and liberty and working to get Republicans elected to office.

But increasingly, the Koch brothers are teaming up with the people who typically tear into them, finding common ground on criminal justice and alleviating poverty. Now, it may be a touchy-feely campaign to restore their battered public image, but one has to wonder: are they licking their wounds after a 2018 beating and retreating? If so, what does that mean for GOP efforts to retain control of the U.S. Senate and the White House in 2020?

The Washington Post reports that at their biannual meeting:

“….unlike in previous election cycles, there was little talk of politics, and leaders declined to reveal their projected budget on politics and policy for 2019 and 2020 as the presidential election approaches.”

While Jared Kushner was instrumental in securing a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill with Koch backing that President Trump went on to sign, there’s some serious daylight between the Kochs and the President on a number of issues, including protecting young immigrants from deportation, immigration more broadly, and tariffs and trade.

It looks like a potentially serious disagreement, to the extent that the Kochs aren’t committing financial backing for the President’s re-election.

As John Binder writes at Breitbart, why do those globalist Kochs still have access to the White House?!

A shred of sanity from YouTube

YouTube has long been criticized for its secret algorithms and tendency to go down some pretty disturbing rabbit holes, like when children are served content on YouTube that features disturbing or violent content.
As one writer recently remarked:

“Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale.”

And it’s not just children who are being manipulated by this: plenty of adults have fallen prey to misleading conspiracy theories or inadvertently watched something vile because YouTube’s algorithm thought fit to play it next.
Now, the ubiquitous platform is finally taking some steps to rein in the problem. The New York Times reports:

In a blog post, YouTube said it would no longer suggest videos with “borderline content” or those that “misinform users in a harmful way” even if the footage did not violate its community guidelines.

We’re always alert to anything that reeks of conservative censorship and none of the major tech platforms have a very good track record on free speech issues near and dear to conservatives’ hearts.

Facebook and Twitter have been the most egregious, with their takedowns of conservative commentators’ accounts with no warning and flimsy reasoning. But YouTube (owned by Google’s parent company) hasn’t gotten any gold stars either as far as conservatives are concerned.

But for concerned citizens who want our children protected from filth and exploitation and who prefer to win over supporters with the sound logic of small government and limited regulation rather than by tricking them with baseless conspiracies, the news from YouTube is a welcome development.
The policy seems balanced, as content in this new category will still be recommend to users who subscribe to a channel with that type of content (i.e. conspiracy theorists can sign up to receive more conspiracy theories) and the videos will still show up in search results.

But, you won’t get sucked down a vortex of one video leading to the next and end up on something questionable via YouTube’s “recommendations” (i.e. the heavily-guarded algorithm that determines what content it will recommend next to user).

A shred of sanity in an otherwise depressing tech landscape.

Is Roger Stone’s Nixon fetish a liability for Trump?

Conservative political consultant and longtime confidant of President Trump, Roger Stone, was indicted in the Mueller probe following an early-morning FBI raid. He insists he’s innocent of the charges and plans to fight them, enter a “not guilty” plea, and take every opportunity to tell his side of the story with characteristic colorful swagger.

Stone is charged with witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to Congress to cover up details of the Trump campaign’s association with Russia.

On Tuesday, Stone had some ominous words for the President, saying the Mueller investigation is a “speeding bullet heading for his head.”

His comments were in the context of ostensibly defending Trump but they raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle:

“I lived in 1974. I worked for Richard Nixon. I saw that takedown. It was very, very similar…The president needs to wake up. This is a speeding bullet heading for his head. Not me. I’m just small collateral damage compared to him.”

Nixon is not a figure widely respected or valorized by either party, given the fact that he was directly implicated in Watergate, a criminal scheme, and resigned the presidency facing certain impeachment.

But Stone is apparently a big fan, so much of a fan that he has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back. He famously mimics the Nixon v-is-for-victory salute for photographers. Stone even wrote a book about Nixon, a man he self-described as a “boyhood hero” of his.

In a 2014 interview, Stone said:

“I saw Nixon up close. He was brilliant, devious, insightful … sometimes less than truthful. It was his sheer resilience and his will to compete and win that I admired. I wear [the tattoo] as a reminder. One must always get up from the mat and fight again.”

Stone, who worked alongside Paul Manafort (also recently indicted in the Mueller probe) for decades, isn’t backing away from his love of Nixon. He thinks he’s fighting the good fight for President Trump… but his obsession with disgraced former president Nixon doesn’t seem to be helping matters.

Trump caves, ending longest-ever government shutdown

After 35 tumultuous days of a partial government shutdown, President Trump caved in fairly dramatic fashion on Friday, January 25.

Without a dollar of border wall funding, he agreed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demands to re-open the government to continue negotiations. For someone who claims he’s a master negotiator, it was a spectacular failure for the President.

Now the government is officially re-opened until February 15 and federal employees will be receiving backpay in a matter of days.

In the lead-up to the decision by Trump, dueling votes in the Senate did not go his way, with six Senate Republicans defying the President to vote with the Democrats to re-open the government without funding for the wall. While some of the Republican votes were GOP Senators from purple states, like Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins, others like Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander were a big surprise.

Following that embarrassment, air travel in the U.S., which had already been impacted by TSA agents calling out sick to avoid having to work without pay, came to a standstill at several major airports because of a shortage of air traffic controllers, also federal employees forced to work without pay.

New reports came out outlining the impact of the shutdown on the private sector, as reports on GDP, home sales, durable goods, and more were held up by the shutdown, wreaking havoc for economists and investors.

President Trump’s cabinet wasn’t helping matters. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross found himself in hot water for dismissing the very real economic pain many federal employees were facing after missing two paychecks back-to-back. He callously suggested that workers should just get no-interest loans and carry on, while fellow Trump official Larry Kudlow ludicrously suggested that federal workers were “volunteering”  because of their love of their country and their allegiance to President Trump.

It turned out to be a perfect storm, finally persuading Donald Trump that he wasn’t going to get the outcome he wanted and it was time to fold. What an ending to this saga.

Conservative immigrant activists break with Trump on the wall

In a fascinating new development, anti-immigrant activists are frustrated over President Trump’s insistence on $5.7 billion for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

If even hardliners on immigration policy don’t support the wall, who in the world wants this badly enough to justify a drop in the President’s approval numbers and hundreds of thousands of people in dire economic straits as they prepare to miss a second paycheck?

Politico reports that groups like Numbers USA, which seek to curb immigration, would rather see a broader focus than just “barriers, walls, and fences.”
In the offers Trump has made to the Democrats so far, offering to extend temporary protections for young illegal immigrants for instance, he may be jeopardizing his most conservative anti-immigrant activists’ support.

Politico sums it up like this:

“…immigration groups that have stood with him in the past complain that he is giving too much for too little — a sign that his determination to fulfill an oft-repeated campaign pledge risks costing him even some hard-core supporters.”

If he doesn’t have conservatives and the left rejects it out of hand, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board?

Instead of meeting with furloughed workers, Mitch McConnell has them arrested

Eight hundred thousand federal workers are directly affected by the partial government shutdown, either forced to work without pay or furloughed.

recent poll found that 1 in 5 Americans said they were directly affected by the shutdown and President Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit, including with non-college educated men and suburban men, who were critical to his victory in 2016.

On Thursday, hundreds of workers and their families protested at one of the Senate office buildings, demanding the government be re-opened and requesting to meet with Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader who’s made little effort to find a path forward on the shutdown.

But instead of hearing their stories and providing any explanation for his plan to address the shutdown, McConnell had protestors arrested.

This shutdown is causing serious economic hardship for tens of thousands of people and McConnell can’t even be bothered to let them into his office for a face-to-face meeting. It reeks of a cold, inhumane standoffishness and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders on her way out?

If you thought you’ve seen less of Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently, it’s not your imagination. The White House press secretary has been notably absent recently. She hasn’t held a single press briefing since December 18, before the record-setting government shutdown started.

President Trump claims he’s told her not to hold the briefings anymore, tweeting:

“I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!”

She claims she’s still accessible to members of the media, though a Washington Examiner survey found that Huckabee Sanders presided over fewer news conference than any of her predecessors since the briefings were televised in 1995.

Part of why we’re hearing less from Huckabee Sanders is because Trump himself is taking more questions. President Trump has directly fielded more media questions than any president since Bill Clinton.

We have to wonder if Huckabee Sanders might be on the way out, following in the footsteps of Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, and Hope Hicks. All of those earlier press staffers in the White House had a little trouble dumping their baggage upon their exit and landing their next gig.

Is Sarah struggling to figure out her next steps while Trump lets her bide her time for a little bit? Or is he getting ready to say: “You’re fired!”?

Amazon Ring lets employees into homes

Reports have surfaced lately that Ring, the home security camera system company owned by Amazon, has been allowing employees complete access to unedited and unencrypted video footage from within customer’s homes.

Per the Intercept, Ring “provided its Ukraine-based research and development team virtually unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that contained every video created by every Ring camera around the world.”

Horrible story short: If you let Ring see into your home, you let countless strangers see into your home, too. The possibility here are endless. Have hard feelings about a competitor or a journalist? Take a peek into their homes and see what dirt you can dig up. Got a crush on a co-worker? Watch what they get up to after work.

Ring denies the claims, but that’s only natural. What’s happened here is beyond acceptable. Privacy should be Ring’s number one concern, but of course, where Amazon is involved, it never will be.

Anonymous administration official praises Trump for using federal workers as pawns

In what is perhaps a nod of appreciation to the much-ballyhooed anonymous Trump administration official New York Times op-ed, another anonymous op-ed was published this week, this time in the Daily Caller.

In this latest op-ed, the author claims to be a senior White House official working without pay during the government shutdown. He has some fighting words for civil servants across the country:

“As one of the senior officials working without a paycheck, a few words of advice for the president’s next move at shuttered government agencies: lock the doors, sell the furniture, and cut them down. Federal employees are starting to feel the strain of the shutdown. I am one of them. But for the sake of our nation, I hope it lasts a very long time, till the government is changed and can never return to its previous form.”

One of the things that’s fascinating to observe is the way in which the gloves have come off during this shutdown and political leaders have made it abundantly clear in their own public comments that this is a political game of chicken, and no one wants to blink.

In the meantime, the American economy is facing the consequences, with Trump’s own economic advisers admitting they underestimated the impact of the shutdown on our GDP. Hundreds of thousands of everyday Americans are struggling in real ways.

Federal employees are either forced to work without a paycheck or sent home. Either way, mortgage and rent payments are still due and groceries and gas still need to be purchased for workers and their families.

Has the government’s bureaucracy become bloated? Hell yes. But do the American people deserve an honest and transparent conversation about how we ought to scale back government overreach? Also yes. Simply manipulating a melodramatic fight about the border wall to massively gut government functions may be a bridge too far.

Rep. Steve King under intense pressure from GOP over racist remarks

In an unprecedented move, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been stripped of his committee assignments and rebuked by the House of Representatives for his remarks in support of white supremacy.

King has a long history of making racially charged statement and has been quick to pounce on liberal critics obsessed with political correctness.

But his latest comments seem to have struck a nerve even within his own party.

Every single Republican in Congress voted for a resolution rejecting white supremacy and white nationalism, following King’s comments:

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Even King himself voted for it, amazingly enough!

And now there’s growing pressure for King to resign. Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney said she thinks King “should find another line of work.” Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah thinksKing should resign and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also said it may be time for King to step aside.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said:

”We will not tolerate this type of language in the Republican Party …  I watched what Steve King said and we took action.”

And House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio told CNN:

“For Republicans all across the country, not just here in the House, I think it’s important to reinforce the message in every way possible that our party does not support racism. It’s always been wrong.”

In November, King narrowly won his race for re-election in a district that Trump won in 2016 by double digits, suggesting a broader rejection of his rhetoric and policy stances even amongst Republican voters.  Now, it seems like GOP leaders may be taking note.

Will King manage to survive this crisis or is he on the way out?