Sunday, October 25, 2020

Last Call For The Veep Goes Viral

At least five members of Mike Pence's campaign staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few days, and as far as I can tell, nobody on Pence's staff is going to do anything differently, because "it's just like the flu" or something.

At least three top aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last few days, people briefed on the matter said, raising fresh questions about the safety protocols at the White House, where masks are not routinely worn.

Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Mr. Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, said that the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, had tested positive. A person briefed on the diagnosis said it was received on Saturday.

“Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for Covid-19 today, and remain in good health,” Mr. O’Malley said. “While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel.”

The statement did not come from the White House medical unit, but instead from a press aide. Two people briefed on the matter said that the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had sought to keep news of the outbreak from becoming public.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Meadows did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

A Trump adviser briefed on the outbreak, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that Pence adviser Marty Obst also tested positive earlier this week. Mr. Obst’s positive test was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Another person briefed on the developments, who also was not allowed to speak publicly, said that three additional Pence staff members had tested positive. Mr. O’Malley did not immediately respond to a question about others who have tested positive.

Mr. Pence’s decision to continue campaigning, despite his proximity to his chief of staff, is certain to raise fresh questions about how seriously the White House is taking the risks to its staff members and to the public as the pandemic has killed nearly 225,000 people in the United States.

Again, and I really can't stress this enough, all the evidence points towards the US being smack in the middle of a major new wave of COVID-19 infections, and not only is the Trump regime literally not doing anything about containing itit, they are actively spreading the virus through their actions.  Trump, Pence, and their infected campaign staffs are criss-crossing the country and will continue to do so for the next ten days, drawing crowds of thousands of unmasked people daily who actively refuse to take safety precautions.

There's already evidence Trump's hate rallies are spreading the virus, and we'll almost certainly pass 100,000 cases per day next month. Hospitals are filling, people are ignoring masks, and nobody seems to me mentioning the need for a lockdown again.

Maybe after the election, I guess.

Another hundred thousand dead by the end of the year won't really matter, will it?

Orange Meltdown, Con't

In public, at his hate rally/COVID-19 super-spreader events, Trump is guaranteeing a win. In private with the people who give him money, he's predicting a much different outcome, especially for the Senate GOP.
President Donald Trump made a prediction about the GOP's control of the Senate at a fundraiser this week, privately telling donors that it will be "very tough" for Republicans to keep control of the chamber in the upcoming election, namely because Trump refuses to support some senators, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. 
"I think the Senate is tough actually. The Senate is very tough," Trump said, according to an attendee who shared the President's comments on condition of anonymity with the Post. "There are a couple senators I can't really get involved in. I just can't do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can't help some of them. I don't want to help some of them." 
Trump's comments were made at a closed-door gathering held in Nashville, Tennessee, before the last presidential debate, according to the Post, where he said that he thinks the GOP will "take back the House." 
Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, pushed back on the notion that Trump doesn't support some Senate Republicans, according to the Post.
"The Republican-led Senate and President Trump have had a great partnership over the last four years, highlighted by the fact the chamber is poised to confirm a third Trump Supreme Court nominee in the coming days," Hunt said Saturday. 
Hours after the Post released its story, Trump told reporters that he hopes the GOP maintains control of the Senate. 
"I hope to hold the Senate, we do. I think from a presidential standpoint we're winning a lot of states including this one. I think we're doing very well here. The crowd is certainly enthusiastic. I hope that we do. I think we're gonna take back the House because people are tired of Nancy Pelosi. I think we'll take back the House," Trump told reporters after emerging from Air Force One before holding a rally Saturday night in Wisconsin.
Sure, man.  You'll take back the House.
Look, even Nate Silver has the presidential race tightening over the last week, but right now that means Biden has a nine-point lead rather than a nearly 11-point lead.  Unless something catastrophic happens in the next 10 days, Biden is going to be in position to win this.

Sunday Long Read: The Foxiest Of Cons

Our Sunday Long Read this week is how Donald Trump and Scott Walker allowed Taiwanese tech company Foxconn to scam Wisconsin taxpayers out of billions with a massive 13,000 job tech factory that never got built and never will be, and left the state holding the bag for a generation.

HOPES WERE HIGH among the employees who joined Foxconn’s Wisconsin project in the summer of 2018. In June, President Donald Trump had broken ground on an LCD factory he called “the eighth wonder of the world.” The scale of the promise was indeed enormous: a $10 billion investment from the Taiwanese electronics giant, a 20 million-square-foot manufacturing complex, and, most importantly, 13,000 jobs.

Which is why new recruits arriving at the 1960s office building Foxconn had purchased in downtown Milwaukee were surprised to discover they had to provide their own office supplies. “One of the largest companies in the world, and you have to bring your own pencil,” an employee recalls wondering. Maybe Foxconn was just moving too fast to be bothered with such details, they thought, as they brought their laptops from home and scavenged pencils left behind by the building’s previous tenants. They listened to the cries of co-workers trapped in the elevators that often broke, noted the water that occasionally leaked from the ceiling, and wondered when the building would be transformed into the gleaming North American headquarters an executive had promised.

The renovations never arrived. Neither did the factory, the tech campus, nor the thousands of jobs. Interviews with 19 employees and dozens of others involved with the project, as well as thousands of pages of public documents, reveal a project that has defaulted on almost every promise. The building Foxconn calls an LCD factory — about 1/20th the size of the original plan — is little more than an empty shell. In September, Foxconn received a permit to change its intended use from manufacturing to storage.

Soon, the office began to fill with people who had nothing to do. Many just sat in their cubicles watching Netflix and playing games on their phones

Even the handful of jobs the company claims to have created are less than real: many of them held by people with nothing to do, hired so the company could reach the number required for it to get tax subsidy payments from Wisconsin. Foxconn failed at that objective, too: last week, Wisconsin rejected the company’s subsidy application and found it had employed only 281 people eligible under the contract at the end of 2019. Many have since been laid off.

Foxconn did not return repeated requests for comment.

It’s not unusual for either the Trump administration or Foxconn to make announcements that prove hollow. But for Foxconn, the show went on — for two years, the company, aided by the vocal support of the Wisconsin GOP, worked to maintain an illusion of progress in front of a business venture that never made economic sense.

That illusion has had real costs. State and local governments spent at least $400 million, largely on land and infrastructure Foxconn will likely never need. Residents were pushed from their homes under threat of eminent domain and dozens of houses bulldozed to clear property Foxconn doesn’t know what to do with. And a recurring cycle of new recruits joined the project, eager to help it succeed, only to become trapped in a mirage.

Months after the 2018 groundbreaking, the company was racing to hire the 260 people needed to receive the first tranche of payments from the lucrative subsidy package passed by then-Gov. Scott Walker. Recruiters were told to hit the number but given little in the way of job descriptions. Soon, the office began to fill with people who had nothing to do. Many just sat in their cubicles watching Netflix and playing games on their phones. The reality of their situation became impossible to ignore. Multiple employees recall seeing people cry in the office. “The best is when you’re in the elevator with somebody and then they just scream out of nowhere,” said an employee who experienced this several times. “They’ve had enough, because things don’t make sense here.”

“Imagine being in a job where you don’t really know if it’s real or not. Or you know it’s not real, but you don’t know it’s not real. It’s a constant thing you’re doing in your head day after day,” said one employee, who returned to the rented building Trump had spoken at, where workers had been assembling TVs, only to find the line shut down and the lights dimmed a couple of weeks after the photo op was over. “I think all of us were on the verge of a major breakdown.”

It was just the beginning. Foxconn would spend the next two years jumping from idea to idea — fish farms, exporting ice cream, storing boats — in an increasingly surreal search for some way to generate money from a doomed project. Frequent leadership changes, a reluctance to spend money, and a domineering corporate culture would create an atmosphere employees described as toxic. Many of the employees The Verge spoke with have since left the company, and all of them requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. It has been a baffling ordeal for the people who thought they were building the Silicon Valley of the Midwest — “Wisconn Valley,” Walker called it — all the more so because so many others still believe the vision.

“All people see is the eighth wonder of the world,” said an employee. “I was there and it’s not real. I mean, it’s not. This is something I can’t talk about ever again, because people think you’re crazy, like none of this could ever happen. How could this happen in the US?”
The project was a disaster from the beginning.
Key Findings:
  • Foxconn said it would build a 20 million-square-foot LCD complex. Instead, it constructed an empty building 1/20th that size it calls the “Fab.” Records show Foxconn recently changed the intended use of the building from manufacturing to storage.
  • The company said it would aim to employ 5,200 people at the end of 2020, a number that was to grow to the promised 13,000 jobs. At the end of 2019, Wisconsin found Foxconn employed only 281 people eligible under the terms of the contract.
  • Foxconn attempted to exploit a loophole in its contract with the state by hiring a sufficient number of employees to receive subsidies just before the end of the year. Employees were hired with no actual work to do. Many were laid off after the deadline passed.
  • One recruiting program targeted foreign recent graduates on student visas. Employees say these workers were targeted because they would work longer hours for lower pay, and their immigration status was used as leverage.
  • Employees describe a toxic workplace, where supervisors often berated and publicly humiliated employees. Many of the original Wisconsin hires have quit or been laid off.
  • Despite publicly insisting it was building an LCD factory, as early as 2018, Foxconn employees had been asked to figure out a business plan for the company in Wisconsin.
  • Foxconn’s search for a viable business led it to consider everything from fish farming to exporting dairy to renting storage space. Almost every idea collapsed in corporate infighting and a reluctance to spend money.
  • Very little manufacturing ever occurred with the Foxconn project. Recently, the company set up a small manufacturing line for servers.
  • Foxconn raced to finish buildings and set up an assembly line in time for a visit from Trump during the 2020 campaign. It obtained a temporary occupancy permit for the empty factory building and tried to finish a glass sphere, which had no clear business purpose, before falling behind.
It's a failure of Trumpian proportions, and more economic carnage like this is coming to your state in a Trump second term.
Let's make sure that doesn't happen.

Biden, His Time, Con't

Doesn't look like Joe Biden is hiding in his basement to me. It looks like he's on the road during the final week of the campaign ready to deliver the coup de grace to Trump's Southern states, and quite possibly help put Mitch McConnell out of his Senate majority leader's office to boot.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is headed to Georgia on Tuesday, part of a late effort by the campaign to flip a state that Republicans have carried in every White House contest since 1996.

The former vice president will deliver remarks Tuesday afternoon in Warm Springs on “bringing Americans together to address the crises facing our nation,” his campaign said, before an evening drive-in rally in Atlanta to encourage Georgians to cast their ballots during the last week of early voting.

It is Biden’s first trip to Georgia as his party’s nominee, and it comes as Democrats are pushing to expand the battleground map. Recent polls show Biden and President Donald Trump deadlocked in Georgia, and a defeat here would likely doom the Republican’s reelection chances.

There’s little surprise that Biden’s visit would include metro Atlanta, home to the broad majority of the state’s Democrats. But Warm Springs is off the beaten path.

The west Georgia town of roughly 400 was the home of former President Franklin Roosevelt’s private retreat, known as the “Little White House,” and it’s where he died in 1945. Biden’s campaign said his remarks there will focus on how “Americans have always come together to triumph and overcome, and that we can, must and will again now.”

State Democratic officials also hope his visit sends a signal to voters outside of Atlanta, which has drawn the lion’s share of campaign visits.

“That itty-bitty town was the center of the world between 1933 and 1945, and it’s incredible that he’s going down there,” said Seth Clark, a Democratic commissioner-elect in Bibb County.

“The reason you saw people like my grandfather vote Democratic down the ticket was because Georgia was saved by Roosevelt’s New Deal,” said Clark. “And Roosevelt pushed the most progressive policies the party has ever pushed from little old Warm Springs.”

Georgia Democrats have long urged Biden to compete in Georgia, where Republicans have clung to narrowing margins of victory due partly to struggles in Atlanta’s suburbs. Biden’s visit would also likely promote Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the top Democratic challengers to two U.S. Senate seats that could determine control of the chamber.

Stacey Abrams wrote last year it would be “strategic malpractice” for Democrats to bypass the state in the race for the White House. On Saturday, she said she was “thrilled” with the news that Biden was focusing on flipping Georgia in the final week of the campaign.

“GA is a battleground state,” she said in a tweet, “and our 16 electoral votes are up for grabs.”

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was offered salacious photos and other documents belonging to Joe Biden’s son Hunter in the spring of 2019, earlier than previously known, according to one of Giuliani's closest former associates.

And the alleged offer came from an intriguing source: a Ukrainian oligarch looking for help with a potential legal jam.

The claim made by Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-born businessman who was indicted last year on campaign finance charges, raises new questions about the provenance of the materials Giuliani has said he obtained recently from a computer repair shop in Delaware — and that he is now touting to accuse the Democratic nominee of corruption.

Parnas, who collaborated with Giuliani on the former New York mayor’s quest to find damaging information on the Bidens beginning in late 2018, now says that similar materials were being offered to Giuliani just weeks after Joe Biden launched his presidential run.

“It was May 30, 2019 when we first heard about this stuff,” Parnas said in an interview this week.

Democrats and former intelligence officials have raised questions about the Biden documents, alleging the leak of the materials could be part of a wide-ranging Russian effort to interfere in American politics on Trump’s behalf. Neither Hunter Biden nor his lawyer have confirmed the materials are real, though the FBI has indicated it now has custody of the younger Biden’s laptop hard drive.

But Parnas’ narrative suggests Giuliani might have first learned about at least some of the content on the so-called “the hard drive from hell” through other means — from a Ukrainian contact searching for help in fending off any legal issues with the Justice Department. And as Giuliani embarked on a mission to get his hands on the materials, other actors in Ukraine were trying to profit from them, according to a person who was approached by someone trying to sell the explicit photos and emails for millions of dollars.
They've had this fake garbage on Hunter Biden and Joe Biden for almost 18 months now, nobody wanted to touch it because it was so obviously fabricated and we're only now seeing it put into play because Donald Trump is down 10 points with 10 days to go.
The problem for Trump is that nearly 60 million Americans have already voted.  These guys are the worst scumbags on Earth, and if we're ever going to be free of them, we have to tosds them out on their asses.
Voting ends in ten days. Make yours count.
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