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.