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Virtual Insanity

In 2020 things seemed to have moved at the speed of light, making it so hard to keep up. Days have felt like hours, as big event after big event has kept coming at us. But if for most of 2020 days have felt like hours, the past two weeks those days have felt like mere seconds. It’s amazing to think of all of the things that have happened in these past two weeks, and even the last week since American President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19.

We’ve been sent down some strange rabbit holes since that fact came to light, which has forced people and institutions to react to the fact that he has this disease and is still contagious. It’s forced many to ask some questions they never thought they’d ask and take steps that they’ve never need to take. Just last night we saw the sight of a Vice-Presidential debate with the candidates separated by plexiglass, a direct response to COVID. But this morning that has been knocked up a few levels with a surprising piece of news:

2020 just keeps delivering doesn’t it? After everything that’s happened in this year, during this pandemic, a “Zoom Presidential Debate” feels as on-brand as it is fitting. After what we saw in the first debate last week and with Trump’s COVID positive diagnosis, how else could you seriously run a debate safely in person, especially a town hall debate like this next one is supposed to be? Put bluntly, you can’t.

There is no way to pull this off safely in person. So when faced with the choice of something or nothing, the commission that runs debates in the US chose something because while that something is less than ideal, debates are important to help inform voters. That is decision of a body made up of mature, responsible adults who are making the best of a crappy situation. In contrast to that, we got the following responses from Donald Trump:

I know that many people online and in the media are making jokes about the effects on Trump’s COVID treatment of steroids and experimental drugs on the state of his mental health, but when you see stuff like that it’s hard not to join in the parade. Seriously, that’s the stuff of deranged narcissists. It’s nothing new to see from Trump yet in this serious moment, instead of seeing that impulse tamped down, it’s been cranked up way past 11. After he recklessly put more people’s health at risk, all for his own political benefit (real or assumed), he’s doubling down again with this crap. He’s clearly run out of f*cks, if he ever had any to give to begin with.

What makes it even worse is clear Trump’s inhabitance in an alternate reality, sane or otherwise. The other day this guy said he’s probably immune to COVID now, while he’s still contagious and exposing others and wants to get back out on the road to expose even more people. He actually said he didn’t think he needed medication to beat COVID, which is just nutty. Trump is acting like he’s a licensed broker of COVID and he’s getting a commission for every new COVID case he creates. Instead of following public health measures, even when he’s sick, he’s doing the polar opposite doing everything he apparently can to spread this damn thing.

But if any of those Trump comments are true (which they aren’t), it’s the one about this move around the debate being about “trying to protect Biden”. That’s partially right, but not for the reasons why Trump wants to admit. The debate commission is trying to protect Joe Biden, along with the debate moderator, the everyday citizens who were supposed to ask questions, the audience, the workers at the venue and everyone else they might come in contact with during that debate next week. They’re trying to protect them from COVID-19, the disease that’s ravaging the country he leads, but not from debating Trump.

Biden has said he’s showing up for the virtual debate because he’s not afraid to debate Trump. In fact it’s Trump who’s now saying he won’t do it unless he gets his way, unless he gets the chance to put more innocent people at risk of infection, and for what? All so he can ignore debate rules again? Constantly interrupt Biden and the moderator, not letting them get a word in edgewise whenever they try to utter a syllable? So Trump can somehow dismiss reality and the concerns of actual voters right in front of him? He can still do all of that (which no one can apparently stop him from doing) during a virtual debate. Yet instead he’s ignoring all of that, insisting on something that’s simply not safe.

Donald Trump is sick, physically ill on top of whatever mental and emotional illnesses he’s long suffered from. By being sick with COVID, he can easily make others ill, which he clearly is:

Enough is enough with this crap, seriously. Is doing a virtual debate ideal? Hell no, but we’re in the age of the unideal. This is an extraordinary circumstance that requires extraordinary steps, which the presidential debate commission deserves credit for taking. If Donald Trump can’t get that through his steroid-addled mind in this moment, we can’t control that. But thankfully some of the adults in the room are stepping forward and acting. If that means that toddler who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue takes his toys and goes home, so be it. But that’s on him and makes him look weak and ungracious, like most wannabe strong men who pout when they don’t get there way.

Talking COVID-19 in the White House & the Second Wave of COVID in Canada on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the COVID-19 diagnosis of American President Donald Trump, the spread of the disease in the White House, what it says about the current state of politics in the United States, the start of the second wave of COVID in Canada, how different provinces have dropped the ball & what we should expect from our leaders in this moment. You can listen to it all below.

Attacks on American Democracy Under the Radar

2020 has been a crazy year and more so than usual, it’s felt like life have serious come at us fast. It feels almost like the further we’ve gotten into the pandemic, the faster things have started to move with huge events happening one after the another in quick succession. Just look at what’s happening to our South in the United States as the prime example. It was just over a week ago that the bombshell news about Donald Trump’s taxes came out, huge news of its own that would normally dominate a news cycle.

Yet here we are today, and it feels like it happened ages ago, with bombshell story after bombshell story wiping it right off the map. So many things have happened in between that it feels not so much like trying to drink from a firehose, but more like trying to drink from a dozen firehoses at once while standing on your head. It’s been crazy but it’s been the times that we live in. While we’ve seen some big stories in that flood, we’ve missed some important, serious stories in the process that deserve more attention. One particular story jumped out at me this morning, as it spoke to the campaign geek in me but also because how disturbing it was to my eyes:

The American electoral system is complex, mostly because it’s not one-uniform electoral system but a collection of many state and local systems. That can make it a bit unwieldy but one positive feature of that is that it takes a lot of work to mess with it; you can’t target one place with lawsuits or hacks. That’s why this story from the Associated Press about what the Trump campaign is doing across the country  really disturbed be on a few levels.

They’re trying to make mountains over molehills on every level of the electoral system, flooding them with complaints and attacks on their legitimacy on a scale that’s just mind blowing. They’re writing local election offices suggesting that they ignore lawful state orders from Boards of Elections on counting votes, simply because they don’t like them. They are deliberately creating conflicts around mail-in ballots, blowing up and misconstruing what’s happened there, using Twitter and shout outs in the Presidential debate to do so. They’ve filed more than 200 lawsuits over voting procedures in the election, challenging everything under the sun as they try to game the refs.

They’ve tried to challenge the rules around election observers to allow them to send in thousands of people into other states to “watch” the vote, even in periods and places where election observers aren’t allowed to be period. In North Carolina, Trump’s team is harassing Board of Elections officials because they settled a lawsuit with a voting rights group making it easier for voters to fix mistakes, which saw Black voters sending in a disproportionate number of ballots with errors. In Wisconsin sent a cease and desist letter to the City of Madison over their hosting of a “Democracy in the Park” event, which was promoting voting. And on top of all of that, there was this story the here that just further blew my mind:

Yes folks, the Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to threaten pro sports teams in Milwaukee from promoting voting. They are trying to get mascots like Bango the Buck, Bernie Brewer and the famous racing sausages banned from their venues during early voting. They’re trying to also ban players from those teams from being present at those venues at the same time, saying that it would be “electioneering” therefore illegal. That’s completely insane when you think about it, because “electioneering” means trying to get someone to vote for one candidate or party, not just simply the promoting the very idea of voting itself.

Yet with all these examples (and many others not listed here) you’re seeing a huge and concerted effort here from the Trump campaign on a scale the likes of which we’ve never seen. They aren’t trying to “make things fair” or ensure that the rules are upheld, they are actively trying to stop people from voting. They are trying to make it harder to vote, they’re trying to make it easier to intimidate those who wish to exercise their right to vote and they are trying to stop anyone from daring to promote voting. When you see it on this scale, the amount of time, work and effort it would take to go after all of these smaller bodies, all of these threats, letters and such, one thing becomes very clear. They’re putting an inordinate amount of effort into trying to stop people from voting instead of convincing them to for their candidate.

And that’s what’s probably most disturbing to me. The Trump campaign is actively trying to stop people from voting and scare them away from the polls. This is an attempt at voter suppression on a level the likes of which we’ve never seen. But further to that, it belies a sense of paranoia on the behalf of the Trump team. They’ve managed to take the slogan “Fear the Deer” to a crazy place. Seriously, when you see a group of racing sausages as a threat to your re-election, you’ve really lost the plot. Yes, these sausages:

2020 man, what a trip. The other insidious part of this move by the Trump team is that they know they are going to lose most if not all of these fights. The defense that they are using for these tactics aren’t based in fact and quickly fall apart once they get before a judge. Yet they clearly aren’t designed to succeed. They’re designed to frustrate, clog and overwhelm an electoral system that simply not designed to handle such shenanigans. It’s the kind of anti-democratic campaign that would make Vladimir Putin proud, as it’s all about trying to grind the ability of people to exercise their rights into the ground. Any campaign that decides to go so heavy on such tactics is sending a clear signal that they can’t win a straight up race. It also tells us that they will do whatever, however, to hold onto power and if Trump himself has made anything clear over the past few weeks, it’s that he’s willing to do just that. And if you look at all of these examples put together, he’s clearly acting on that impulse in a way that’s dangerous to free and democratic elections. That from the so-called “Leader of the Free World”. In Trump’s mind, it’s only that if you agree with him and if not? Well he’ll do whatever he can to stop you, which is exactly what his team appears to be doing right now.

Talking the First Trump-Biden Debate with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Zoe Knowles for a rare Wednesday appearance. We talked about the first Trump-Biden Presidential Debate, the dumpster fire of a night that it was, just how far things have degenerated & the dangers in where this all could lead. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 15:00 minute mark.

Flowers

Today is Orange Shirt Day, an important day on our collective calendar here in Canada. On this day we remember and honour the First Nations, Métis and Inuit children who were sent away to residential schools across the country and learn more about the history of those schools. This is a part of our history that for the longest time went unspoken about, untaught in schools and largely ignored by society. Thankfully, that started to change with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission started to change that, forcing Canadians to face up to the history of this country and deal with its fallout.

For some in Canada this is a story that took place in the past but for others of us this is very close to our hearts, our lives, our friends, families and loved ones. There are too many people in my life, family, friends and those who I admire greatly, who added either a residential school or a day school. There are too many faces and names of those people who were affected by the policies enacted by the elected governments of Canada for generations that created those systems and awful places. I am who I am today and am influenced by the experiences felt by those people in my life, and that’s something I cannot ignore.

It was with that in mind that I debated if I would even write about this today or not. As my daughter put on her orange shirt before going to school today, I thought about talking about that experience now as a parent and our conversations that we’ve had about why we wear orange on this day. But the words didn’t come to me, they just didn’t. But thankfully in the House of Commons today all parties made statements on this important day. NDP MP Leah Gazan rose to speak on the behalf of her party and in doing so, she said things so much better than I ever could have. So I decided to share those words here. Marsi, Miigwetch, Merci and Thank You Leah for your words, they spoke the volumes that needed to be said.

Source: Parlvu.parl.gc.ca