So Far, So Good

Published at 11:30 on 18 February 2022

The crackdown is in process, and perhaps “crackdown” is something of an exaggeration, since so far I haven’t heard any stories of heads being cracked. Arrests, yes, but they were only to be expected.

It was, after all, a protest that chose to use illegal tactics. Camping on a public street is not allowed in most all cities. And pretty much every place has parking regulations that do not let you store a vehicle on a downtown street indefinitely. Not to mention that parking your vehicle in the middle of a traffic lane and blocking traffic is unlawful even on the most minor of side streets.

Now, protesters commonly choose to use illegal tactics. The reason is rather simple: such tactics are an effective way of attracting attention, and attracting attention is the chief motive for any protest. I have myself been part of such protests, and helped in the planning of them, including the choice of illegal tactics.

The rub is that illegal tactics are still illegal and as such those who choose to use such tactics should expect legal repercussions. It is up to you as a protest participant, and particularly as an organizer, to decide whether or not the likely consequences of the repercussions are a price worth paying for the increased attention. Perhaps more importantly, it is also your responsibility to reflect on how your chosen tactics adversely impact others, and whether it is reasonable for you to exact such an impact on others. And, guess what, the protest planning I have participated in did quite openly ponder all these issues.

When the crackdown comes, it makes for good propaganda as an organizer to then adopt a “those jack-booted thugs are oppressing us” line when the inevitable repercussions materialize, but that’s just propaganda. It is not actual fascism if a deliberately illegal protest gets dismantled by the authorities. As much as you might passionately agree with the cause of the protesters, it is important to keep this in mind.

All that said, never was I part of a protest where the plans were to occupy a downtown core and to expect to be allowed to do so for weeks on end. All of the illegal protests I helped plan got broken up within six hours of their onset. There has definitely been a different standard applied for these protests.

What sticks out, therefore, is not the use of force on the part of the authorities to end the protest, but how reluctant the authorities were to use such force in the first place.

This is, in fact, part of the reason behind the national state of emergency. It would not have been necessary if action had been taken earlier, before the occupations had gotten so large and so entrenched. (None of the protests I helped organize resulted in even a local emergency declaration.) This, and not the mere use of the police to disband an unlawful protest, is the real scandal behind the invocation of the Emergencies Act.

But I have digressed from my original point. So far, so good. I have heard no reports of violence. I hope it stays that way as the rest of the protest is ended. Whether or not it will is an open question, as so far the police have merely nibbled at the edges of the occupation. Things may well change if they encounter a core of more passionate and committed occupiers.

This Seems Odd

Published at 22:00 on 17 February 2022

All the warnings, that is. Not to mention the open announcement to the media that an operation is “imminent” and that things will be different by this weekend. The authorities don’t seem too keen on creating and exploiting the advantage of surprise. Maybe that will work, but I fear it will just cause more digging in and resistance, which will just make violence more likely.

Two Questions about the State of Emergency

Published at 08:56 on 14 February 2022

Is This Just for Show?

If so, if the state of emergency is just more “go away or else, I really, really mean it this time,” is is but a prelude to tragedy, because it just digs an already deep hole deeper, further constraining the immediate future to capitulation to the occupation or using violence to end it.

Will Trudeau Abuse His Powers?

If so, the result will be a tragedy for the principles of an open and democratic society, and not just in the immediate term, for it will create a source of lasting division by giving the political right a legitimate narrative of having been oppressed.

Why Truckers?

Published at 20:25 on 12 February 2022

Before I continue, a word of explanation is in order. I almost did not choose this title, because: a) 90% of Canadian truckers are fully vaccinated, and only a tiny fraction of them are illegally occupying downtowns and border crossings, and b) most currently participating in the occupations do not appear to be truckers.

Yet the protests did start as a truckers’ convoy, before they morphed into something else. That begs the question asked by the title above.

You see, if I were to pick a group of working class people adversely affected by the pandemic, it would have to be workers employed in the hospitality, travel, and live entertainment industries. Those industries suffered almost total shutdowns.

One working class group that it would definitely not be would be truckers. Trucking is a vital service; as truckers are fond of pointing out, whatever you buy in a store, at some point it travelled by truck. While restaurants, hotels, airlines, and live music venues were shut down, the trucks kept rolling.

In fact, if you type the phrase “shortage of truck drivers” into your favourite search engine, you will quickly discover any number of articles in reputable sources reporting just that. Basically, if you want to drive a truck, and you have the necessary training, and you are not banned for some reason related to safety, you have work. And your wages are going up, because that is how the law of supply and demand plays out during a labour shortage.

Truck drivers are, in short, about the last people one would rationally expect to be upset about hardship-inducing pandemic restrictions. Yet it was a truckers’ convoy, and not protests of upset restaurant, hotel, or airline workers, that inspired the occupations.

And, of course, the vaccinated and responsible majority of truck drivers are having no problem finding work and earning a living. It is the small and vocal minority, insisting (paraphrasing Isaac Asimov) that their ignorance be regarded as good as others’ knowledge, who are making all the noise.

But, again, why?

I have a theory and it relates to loners. Driving a truck is a great job for a loner because you will be alone behind the wheel most of the time. Now, not all loners are antisocial, but the vast majority of antisocial people are loners (they basically have to be, it gets them away from those other people they have such a disregard for).

So by simple virtue of the profession being a magnet for loners, being a truck driver is also a magnet for the antisocial, and the proportion of antisocial people amongst truck drivers can reasonably be expected to be higher than in society as a whole. This being the case, it is not a big surprise that within this industry a critical mass of selfish people formed. And they had tools at their disposal (their trucks) with which to use to express their contempt for the concept of being asked to consider the well-being of others.

Now we get into the mythology of the Trumpist right. (Despite being Canadians, it is completely fair to call them Trumpists. There has been no shortage of MAGA hats and Trump campaign flags at the occupations. But I digress.) They vocally proclaim themselves to be the majority, to be “true” Americans (or, in this case, Canadians), as if those with values different from theirs do not even deserve to be considered full citizens in their own country. No amount of data to the contrary will shake them of this belief.

Related to this, they believe themselves to be salt-of-the-earth, humble, regular, working-class type people, or at least that their movement is comprised of mainly such people. (This is also incorrect. The much-reported factoid of Trump voters tending to be less affluent is mostly an artifact of Trump voters being more rural, and rural incomes and property values trailing urban ones. Within rural communities, the affluent support Trump at higher rates than the non-affluent. Again I digress.)

But if facts were relevant to the beliefs of Trumpers, they wouldn’t believe most of what they do. Their myth requires them to be humble, genuine, “real” types, so that is what they are to themselves. A movement that got its start from a subset of truckers is therefore proclaimed to be a truckers’ movement, because believing it to be so is politically convenient.

It’s not because those poor truckers are having their livelihoods ruined by all those uncaring elites and city-dwellers. That is a right-wing myth, nothing more.

But What Would YOU Do?

Published at 23:28 on 11 February 2022

If I were Trudeau, I would right now probably not be doing all that much differently, when it comes to publicly visible actions: simply making increasingly stern warnings that the occupations must end ASAP. Given that the worst occupations are in Ontario, I would probably try to get Doug Ford to issue a similar message. (Interestingly, Ford did exactly that today. I would not be surprised to later learn there was coordination behind the scenes.)

The one thing different I would do is I would not openly rule out the use of military force. Mind you, I would still try very hard to avoid it, but publicly I would be much more in “all options are open” mode. Something like “We would like very much to avoid using the military to end the occupations, but the occupations must end and we are willing to use whatever means are necessary to this end.”

The goal here is to instill a sense of uncertainty and fear amongst the occupiers, in order to encourage them to disperse. And definitely let them disperse, don’t make arrests as they walk away. Punishing people for doing what you want is not the way to get more of them to do it. Arrests can always be made and charges pressed later, after the occupation has dispersed.

Aside from that, though, openly I wouldn’t be doing much. Behind the scenes it would be a different story entirely. Plans would be being made and put into place to break the occupations up. The planning would be kept secret, with as little signs as possible of how concrete plans actually were, or what the time frame was. It is key to have the element of surprise.

So far as the time of day, sometime between midnight and dawn would be ideal. That is when most participants would be asleep and thus at their most vulnerable. Then come in aggressively but at the same time using non-lethal means only.

So far as the trucks go, they are not so easy to remove as those who drove them, but once the latter individuals have been removed, the trucks can be dealt with. Any motor vehicle can be hotwired, particularly if those doing the hotwiring are themselves the authorities and therefore do not have any reason to fear getting apprehended while doing so. Hotwiring is in fact not even necessary; give a manufacturer a VIN and you can often get a set of keys made. At that point, there are plenty of trucks in the military, and therefore plenty of military members trained in driving trucks. Drive them away.

So far as the time of week, early Monday morning would seem ideal. It would keep the story out of the weekend news for the longest. And I mean this Monday: the occupations have already gone on unacceptably long, and the occupiers are getting both physically and psychologically more entrenched with every passing day. Waiting another week would invite tragedy.

This would have to be a coordinated effort. Both the Ottawa and the Ambassador Bridge occupations would have to be broken up simultaneously. If they are not, the one not broken up first will have to be broken up later without so much benefit of surprise.

In other words, don’t be surprised if Monday morning dawns a big news day.

Seriously, This

Published at 21:32 on 1 February 2022

What is it about those who write labels on bottles of household chemicals, anyhow? The recipes are always for ridiculous quantities. Honestly, how many people need 5 liters (or litres, if you prefer the Canadian/UK spelling) of cleaning solution?

So you just end up using the ratio, and that’s the point of this post. Quick, how many milliliters in a liter? So 60 ml per 1 l is a 6:100 or 1:16 ratio. And the other ratio is in the 1:20 to 1:40 range. Wow, that was simple, wasn’t it?

Isn’t that much better than cups per quart (quick, how many cups per quart?) or whatever it would be in the USA? Aren’t all those 10’s, 100’s, and 1000’s easier to deal with than a hodgepodge of 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and 16’s?

I sure think so.

Work S.N.A.F.U.

Published at 19:01 on 14 January 2022

I have a performance review coming up at work next month.

To say I am pessimistic would be putting it mildly.

The root cause of the matter is that never have been hired at a position where I was expected to learn more, yet at the same time never have I been hired where management does less in the way of technical onboarding. I’ve basically been left to fend for myself while being expected to decipher terse assignments relayed in cryptic shop-specific jargon. And it tends to be like pulling teeth to get anyone to meet with me and explain what it is I am expected to do. Then, when I fail to deliver on a time frame commensurate with extensive in-company experience (surprise, surprise), the sense of disappointment is almost palpable.

Every other place I’ve been hired, there was much more onboarding for much less new position-specific knowledge. I’m at a loss to understand just what they expected to happen, given the general parameters of the situation they created for me. My best current theory is one of conflicting objectives: higher-ups wanting growth while my immediate manager is satisfied with the existing size and composition of his team. Result is an immediate manager under pressure to hire even though he does not want to. Solution is to hire someone but then engineer failure.

Now the question is what, if anything, I can do or say to prevent the coming performance review from being the corporate analogue of a Stalinist show trial with a pre-decided outcome.

That, and what this all will do for my current status in Canada under a temporary work permit.

Canadian Republicanism

Published at 19:18 on 30 November 2021

So, at midnight local time this morning, Barbados became a republic.

If you are in the USA, you are probably unaware of this fact. If you are in Canada, you can’t escape it. The news media are covering this story over and over and over again. It started a few days before the transition, and continues today, on Barbados’ first day as a republic.

This is obviously quite telling, as though there is presently no serious effort to get rid of the monarchy in Canada, the remarkable degree of coverage of what is an aspect of the internal affairs of a tiny island nation shows that many Canadians are obviously thinking about it on some level.

The Scramble for Housing Is Over

Published at 16:25 on 13 November 2021

Just signed a lease on a place in Kensington this afternoon, so the biggest hurdle to getting settled is now over. Location is neither great nor terrible, neither my first choice nor my last one. Landlord seems like a nice enough guy; he plays in the Vancouver Symphony and keeps his rental in good condition. That’s more than can be said for the landlord for the place I looked at in Strathcona (which would have been a dream neighbourhood to move to).

Best thing about it is that it’s what is called a laneway house, which means no common walls with anyone, windows in all four directions, and a location in a quiet residential neighbourhood. There is frequent bus service a few blocks away, and a good natural foods market about ½ mile (or since this is Canada I should say just under a kilometre) away. It’s also a fairly easy bike ride to the Commecial Drive area, where some of my friends are.

Laneway houses are one of the advantages of Vancouver. Unlike Seattle, one doesn’t have to choose between a (very expensive) detached single-family dwelling on a quiet street, an apartment on a busy street, or scrambling like mad for one of the very few apartments on a quiet street. (Mind you, a lot about the housing situation here is definitely an effed-up mess, it’s just that the tyranny of extensive single-family zoning is mostly a thing of the past here, and that has really beneficial effects.)

Returning to the City

Published at 18:04 on 4 November 2021

So I bicycled all over Vancouver today running various errands related to getting settled in here. And it came to me how much I really do like living in a big, older urban core. It’s so nice to have a more human (as opposed to automobile-centric) scale to things, and it’s also a big plus to have a wide variety of stores and services within easy reach. (Such as, for example, an electronic parts supply house, where I could procure a few parts to fabricate a replacement for the fused power cord that I forgot to bring up with me.)

I left Seattle not because I lacked appreciation for the benefits of a large city, but because Seattle forced me to give up access to wild nature in order to get those benefits. In fact, the vast majority of large North American cities have this problem. That Portland did not have it is one of the reasons I clung so tightly to that place, despite it massively not working well for me in either the employment or allergy departments.

Vancouver has that access to nature in spades. Not only is there Stanley Park, which is absolutely huge and contains large wild tracts, there is the North Shore, a quick ferry ride away, where suburbia (a lot of which is old-school, walkable, ferry-and-streetcar suburbia) gives way quite quickly to all-out wilderness. My temporary rental is in fact on the North Shore, and my host talked about bears prowling the neighborhood.

I just assumed that it would be too hard after fifty to convince Canada to let me in. Persuaded by a good friend, who thought otherwise, I decided to conduct a little experiment, and well, here I am.

Now we get to see how long it lasts. If there is one constant in my life, it is that work and living arrangements never last long, so it is not reasonable to expect this one to last long, either. It is reasonable to expect it might last two or three years, which would be long enough to secure permanent residency in Canada. If that happens, I will consider the little experiment a big success.