Other Truckers — Expect tactic deployed in Ottawa to spread

Other Truckers

Expect tactic deployed in Ottawa to spread

February 8th 2022

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

By now, people who thought Ottawa was an indigenous tribe in Kansas know of the Canadian capital. Ottawa in February is a bleak, gray place, buried in snow and still beset by temperatures well below freezing. It’s the second coldest national capital on Earth next only to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Yes, it’s even colder than Moscow.

The place comes to life in the Spring, which is usually on a Tuesday. The world-famous tulips erupt, the forests are eye-searingly green, and the tourists arrive. Winter returns in November and the place goes back to a monotonal study in gray: gray skies, gray buildings, gray streets, gray slush. Even the residents get a bit gray as the tans wear off. Only night relieves the grayness.

So Ottawa doesn’t make the news very much, and even in the rest of Canada people don’t know much about the place outside of Parliament Hill. It has two seasons, really: Life is Wonderful, and Oh, God, Please Kill Me Now.

How is it I know so much about the place? It’s the city of my birth, and I spent a fair bit of my childhood there. Wonderful people, but not exactly the wildest place to grow up in.

The truckers rally/protest changed all that. It is, at its heart, an astroturf movement. Fully 90% of all licensed eighteen-wheel operators in Canada are fully vaccinated and can cross the border freely. And it’s a pretty safe bet that even amongst the unvaccinated drivers, only a small minority are willing to sign on to a movement that enrages most Canadians, paralyzes cities, and features such non-Canadian flags as the American rebel flag, Trump flags, and even swastikas. Nearly all the known funding underwriting this movement is coming from American sources. Most of the cheerleading of politicians are among the scummier Americans, such as Donald Trump, and some of the scummier American politicians who renounced their Canadian citizenships in hopes that people wouldn’t notice they can’t be president, such as Ted Cruz. Compare with actual Canadian politicians, where rabid dissent come in the form of “Well, they might have a point. Let’s listen to what they have to say.”

Canada has right wing extremists, but nothing like the neo-Nazi madness that has beset America for the past six years or so. Fascists haven’t been able to flood the population with propaganda the way they have in America. Canada has no equivalent to Faux News, or fascist propaganda pits such as the Heritage Society or the Federalist Society.

But it does have social media, which has been a boon for the extremists. They figured that out right away—even back in the 80s, when “on line” meant local privately owned networks called “BBSes” or Bulletin Board Systems, right wing extremists flooded the nets with neo-Nazi, KKK and Christian fascist propaganda. They began with a presence far out-sized to their actual numbers, and they do to this day. Coupled with financial and communication support from America’s fascist billionaires, they were able to transform a small and powerless fringe group into a force that has paralyzed several cities and as of today, the busiest single border crossing spot in North America, the bridge that connects Windsor with Detroit.

It’s an effective tactic. Ordering a fleet of 18-wheelers to disperse isn’t going to work if the drivers of the trucks don’t want to disperse. All they have to do is set their air brakes, and moving said truck will be nearly impossible.

But what little popularity the movement had is evaporating fast. Residents felt besieged by the endless sounding of air horns and fireworks, and a court finally did uphold an injunction against that tactic in Ottawa yesterday. A significant incident late last week is getting a lot of attention: two males ignited fire starter blocks in the lobby of a 400 unit apartment building near the wood panelling of the lobby, and then used duct tape to make the lobby doors impossible to open from the inside. If the parties responsible were associated with the truckers in any way, the events just slopped over from raucous demonstration and major annoyance into the realm of outright terrorism. Fortunately, the arson attempt failed, and nobody was hurt.

Ottawa authorities have already blocked fuel from entering the truck zone, leaving the truckers to deal with Ottawa’s marvelous February climate once the tanks run dry. I would advocate that the RCMP and other authorities go through the ranks of the trucks, demanding passports and/or licenses from the drivers, with the promise that they will get them back at the city limits, and if they try the same thing a second time, the papers would be confiscated. It probably wouldn’t hurt to let the citizenry of Ottawa to parade peacefully amongst the trucks, chanting, blowing whistles, and beating drums. After all, if the truckers don’t want people to get any sleep, then there’s no reason they should be able to enjoy a nice nap while they freeze.

Because Canadians did get vaccinated in large numbers (83% as opposed to America’s 61%) several provinces are already planning to drop mask and access provisions over the next couple of months, and barring any more surprises from this disease, can do so safely. But border crossings will still be problematic, particular since the Canadians aren’t the only ones who demand proof of vaccination at the border.

This tactic will spread rapidly to America, where the outcomes are much more likely to turn bloody.

If Canadians find a solution that doesn’t get people hurt and opens up the roads again, not only will it be good for Canadians, but it may save many lives in America.

Solstice 2019 – Heikki Lunta

Heikki Lunta

Solstice 2019

December 21st, 2019

In places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, snow dances fall under the category of “be careful what you ask for.” Like Buffalo or the Sierra or the Rockies, it’s a part of the country that can see major dumpage—snow measured by the meter rather than centimeters. Some years, the last thing in the world you want to do is encourage more of the stuff. Nonetheless, they have something called the “Heikki Lunta snowdance song” in Hancock, MI, a venerable tradition dating back to 1970 in which the locals beseech the snow gods for big snows in order to run the snowmobile races.

We got about 1.15 meters of snow (45”) back at Thanksgiving, so I’m just looking at those Michiganders beseeching their Finnish snowblower gods and I ask, “What in the hell are you THINKING?”

When I was a kid in Ottawa, the last thing anyone except us kids wanted was a big snow on Grey Cup weekend. (Canada has a Thanksgiving Day, but it’s at a more sensible time when crops are actually still being gathered and the whole country hasn’t iced up for the winter. You see, it usually dropped below zero about then and stayed there until late February, so any snow that fell was likely to still be there as stubborn patches of berm ice the following April.)

For adults, it was a nightmare season, shoveling and rock salt and “square tires” (the old style automobile tires used to freeze at night, including the flattened portion in direct contact with the sidewalk, resulting in a bump every revolution of the tires that persisted until the tires became warm enough to be malleable again.) They had snow chains back then, but it was usually easier to just use them to hang yourself than to put them on the wheels. There were engine blankets that prevented engines from freezing on really cold nights, but they carried their own risks. Bad enough that you had to get on your hands and knees on a minus twenty-five degree morning to shoo any cats out before starting the car, but you sometimes found yourself poking a skunk with your house broom—with predictable results. I know, because it happened to my Dad one winter. He smelled like the neighbor’s terrier, aka, “the world’s dumbest dog.” Dad’s just lucky Mom didn’t make him set out side that night in a tub of tomato juice. On the plus side, we didn’t have to smell the blood pudding that was his choice for breakfast for a few weeks after that. The skunk odor was an improvement.

Side streets, covered in white ice (very compacted snow) became favored locales for games of shinny, or pick-up hockey games.

Another more dangerous pastime involved grabbing the rear bumper of a bus leaving a stop and sliding along behind the bus for several blocks until it reached a heavily traveled street and the ice got patchy. It was a major bust if a cop saw you doing it. Not for you—for the cop. There wasn’t a cop alive who could catch a 10 year old boy on ice and snow. Most people put on weight in the winter. Not the police of Ottawa—we saw to it that they got lots of exercise and fresh air. Just doing our part to support our local police, ma’am.

Poor cops couldn’t even just shoot you in the back as you ran away. That would have caused talk. Hell, a lot of them didn’t even pack guns.

Ottawa wasn’t as far north as some places I’ve lived, and the longest night was about as long was either of America’s Portland’s. But it FELT more like the Solstice people think of when they think of polar bears eating Vikings and vice versa. You could go out on a dark, cold porch at 5pm, and watch snow dust sweeping across the white ice streets in taunting little eddies, look at the unforgiving and unwinking stars of a polar night, and feel your cheeks beginning to crinkle from the cold, and you knew, in your heart, that winter had finally arrived, and was going to dominate your life for the next three months or so.

It’s changing, of course. Temperatures of 10 and even 20 above are seen in March and sometimes February, the streets are normally free of ice and snow, which is a shame since many of the buses are now electric, eliminating the face-full of Diesel exhaust that was the price we paid for getting a free bus lift.

Still, that doesn’t mean the old style winters are gone. The polar vortex wobbles around more, and as a result, while most winters are warmer than they used to be, if the vortex settles over eastern Canada, then you could get a winter every bit as vicious as the ones we experienced as kids when our biggest concern was avoiding getting caught between a polar bear and his Viking.

For me, it’s the beginning of the countdown to meteorological spring. Officially, that’s March 1st. The calendar says March 21st, and my wood pile says April 22nd. In any case, it’s a turning point: the days have stopped getting shorter, and the weather will start getting warmer, slowly at first but with increasing confidence as the Earth rolls around the sun to the equinox, which is when Vikings balance eggs on the heads of polar bears. That is why there are no more Vikings.

In Australia, it’s the summer solstice, and a nightmare summer awaits. Fires are blazing along the east cost of the land, and extreme heat and winds turn them into infernos. The entire land mass set heat records on consecutive days this week, going from 40.3 on Tuesday to 40.9 on Wednesday to 41.9 yesterday. That’s the average high temperature, 107.5F, for an area larger than Europe. And the seasonal winds are building as the temperatures continue to climb.

Australia isn’t alone, just six months out of phase with the North American west coast, much of Brazil, Europe and much of Russia as the global warming change dubbed the pyrocene spreads like the fires in Australia.

But the seasons turn, and nothing humans do can change that, and respite will come. Hang in there, and be careful and courageous.

And don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.

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