The convoy has been dispersed. Yet Tyler Cowen was clearly correct that this will be a very important event. The story has barely begun.
[Writer’s Note: This post violates some of the usual lines that I set for myself regarding politics, because I do not know how to communicate the situation without doing so, nor does it seem like a situation one can safely ignore. I did my best to keep it to a minimum. As before, I will be staying out of the comments, and ask that related discussions be confined to related posts and conducted to minimize the political component, but I acknowledge that this may not be fully possible in this case and will use discretion.]
Previously in Convoy and Convoy Continued, the puzzle was what was happening and what might happen next in response. Authorities were uncertain what to do. The situation was somewhat out of control. Violence was a distinct possibility, or at least the fear of such violence was informing decisions and rhetoric. There were big disputes over the essential nature of the protest, the protesters, what they wanted and why they were there. As far as I could tell the protests were unpopular but that too was disputed. Every edit seemed like it reflected more information from more sources, but more often that not that only meant increased uncertainty.
Most of that is now resolved. The convoy has been broken up by police without incident and with zero violence (or at least, zero violence that didn’t involve police acting like police usually act), only minor threats to permanently confiscate people’s dogs, in exactly the most basic and obvious way. A few people are still hanging around, but they no longer threaten public order. The three leaders have been arrested. When one engages in civil disobedience and makes oneself intentionally obstructing traffic for weeks, one eventually gets arrested and faces the consequences of being briefly in jail and having a record, and perhaps more if one committed more serious crimes and the state can convince a jury of that. That’s how it’s supposed to work. There were less than 200 arrests and they towed less than 50 trucks.
There’s just one little problem.
Before breaking up the protest, as I noted last time, Prime Minister Trudeau1 invoked the Emergencies Act.
The Emergencies Act may have been a little bit about the need to commandeer towing capacity, but we can now be very certain what it was centrally about.
It was about money.
In particular, it was about giving the government of Canada the permanent power to freeze, without trial or legal recourse, all the bank accounts and other assets of anyone it decides was ‘directly or indirectly involved’ in an ‘illegal protest.’ In practice this translates to ‘freeze the assets of the families of anyone that power or the government dislikes.’
In particular, this clip makes it very clear that it is intended to include anyone who donated to either of their crowdfunding campaigns. If you give the wrong amount of money to support a protest the Canadian government decides it dislikes, they may well freeze your bank accounts and you will have no recourse even if it was in error. In that clip they also say that they are doing this without the Democratic process in part ‘because an opposition party exists to frustrate any government attempt to pass legislation.’
In pursuit of this, they have tasked not only the banks but a wide variety of payment processors and others who handle money, including those handling cryptocurrency, with spying on their customers to determine which ones participated in activities disapproved of by power or the government, and freezing their accounts.
If one’s accounts are frozen and one is both left without resources and without the ability to transact, it is at best extremely difficult to participate in society. One cannot easily hold a job or raise a family, and buying a tomato may prove tricky.
Family members having trouble living their lives is being treated not as a bug but as a feature. The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children, it seems.
This extends as noted above to those who provide financial assistance to those engaging in disapproved activities, and that such retaliation will continue to happen after the activities in question cease, so not only is one without one’s money and other assets, and without the ability to spend what one does have, others may reasonably fear that helping you not end up on the street might land them in the same situation.
Meanwhile, our systems are moving steadily away from cash or any other way to pay for things if one’s accounts are frozen, including the mortgage or the rent. Ending up losing everything is a real possibility.
Again, this is happening in many cases without anyone ever being charged with any crime. Even when crimes are charged, even if the government gets convictions, the punishment here is orders of magnitude out of line and sets the worst kind of precedent. If such folks are guilty of treason or rebellion or terrorism, then charge them with that and see what a jury has to say.
As for those who vote against this policy, here’s what Justin Trudeau has to say, notice what things he totally does not sound like at all, no sir (video is at the link, 38sec).
Freedom to Transact
Without the freedom to transact there is no freedom.
This is the reality that Canada, and perhaps soon the rest of the world, now faces.
This thread is long (thread unroller version here), but it is important. I have never seen a Twitter thread be retweeted with explicit endorsement by so many accounts that I respect, including many that I would not normally expect to understand how toxic and dangerous the situation threatens to become. Here are some examples of what people said when retweeting.
To make damn sure, I will put it here in its entirety. If you have not yet already, please read the whole thing. I would quibble over some minor details as I of course always would, but they matter little. This is the message everyone needs to hear.
I turn the floor over.
They did indeed issue a court order to freeze users’ Bitcoins in self-custodial wallets, giving one of those great opportunities to note that this is not how any of this works.
When 6529 wrote that thread, the convoy was still a going concern. It was still plausible that however awful the precedent set by the financial authoritarianism and disregard for the rule of law, that one could be sufficiently terrified of a physical solution to think that such actions were necessary or at least useful.
I was already confident of quite the opposite. Taking these actions galvanized people’s worst fears throughout not only Canada but the world. However much forceful dissent and distrust of the system was present before, it will doubtless be much, much more present going forward. The only way that is in the government’s interest is if it wants this fight in order to further suspend freedom and democracy and destroy the rule of law that much faster.
To the extent these people are capable of having points at all, the suspension of freedom and democracy and the destruction of rule of law is the point. Setting a precedent that the government can cast out your entire family and anyone helping you on a whim is the point.
How can I be confident that we know this?
The protests were broken up only days later by arresting those present and towing trucks. Those invoking these financial penalties and requirements doubtless knew that this was the plan. Given that this was the plan, the financial measures were clearly completely unnecessary – things would have played out on the ground in exactly the same way.
The financial actions doubtless made it harder to hire lawyers for those arrested, but that hardly seems like a motivation that should make us feel better.
The authorities said that they would be imposing these measures retroactively on people who left voluntarily and thus avoided being arrested.
That is the opposite of what you do to break up a protest, because you withdraw the motive to go home. I can’t help but notice the penalty for lateness is death when they intend to actively hunt after the protestors who leave without any need to arrest them.
The authorities said after the protests were broken up that the situation that required the Act was still present. What else in the world could this be referring to? Is this a permanent emergency because people might try something again at some point in the future? Or was the thing that required the act the institution of these financial measures on a permanent basis?
Part of my explanation for this is motive ambiguity. One shows one’s dedication to the cause by intentionally inflicting maximum harm, thus proving one is not going to be distracted by worries about morality or what third parties might come to harm. The more damage one can do, the better the demonstration – the cruelty is the point, not because one values cruelty, but to show one is not against cruelty or not supporting freedom, the best proof of which is to go as far as possible in the other direction.
I say ‘to the extent these people are capable of having points at all’ because they importantly have lost at least some and perhaps all ability to have points. This is important.
Three Sides to Every Story
The counterargument is presumably some form of ‘they know not what they do’ where those involved are so lost they have no ability to think or reason on such levels, and they are doing things of the form ‘convoy bad, people no like convoy, what tools we have to hurt convoy’ without any model of why such actions would accomplish anything or much care about whether they do. Slash perhaps the idea that one must Take Action and this is action, demands by various enforcers for More Power and More Authority to Do Something, with or without the general instinct that fear will keep the local systems in line without thinking that anything will slip through their fingers.
In that model, these dynamics need not involve much agency or intent. The thing ramps up continuously on its own through people following local incentive gradients, resulting in a state that no one especially wanted, but also that they did not concern themselves much with avoiding until it was far too late and the frog was already boiled to death. On my stack is writing the post Policy Debates Should Appear One Sided (the flip side of this), but (and also because) there is still always (at minimum) another side to the story.
I noted last time that the reason Trudeau and the Canadian Government seemed to be so taken by surprise, had so much paralysis in terms of getting together a physical response and ended up flailing around with financial assets was because such people have often lost the ability to reason at all about underlying physical reality.
Thus I frame the heart of the conflict between different simulacra levels. The fight is between those who live primarily in simulacra levels one, where they interact with and attempt to model and alter physical reality, and those at simulacra levels three, where one cares mostly about signaling group memberships and loyalties, and often also level four where they end up using vibes and associations of various level three moves in an instinctual way that they have learned is associated with success, and lose all ability to reason or make plans in a coherent way at all, let alone model the physical world.
An alternative framing of a similar divide by The Upheaval is ‘the Physicals versus the Virtuals.’ In this divide, The Virtuals deal with information and effectively form a ruling class, but because they still depend on physical reality they must continue to rely on the Physicals, and we all know how such science fiction tales usually end.
But have a little sympathy for them: they do this not just because it is cynically convenient (though it is), but because this is literally the only way they know how to navigate and influence the world. The post-modern fish swims in a narrative sea, and their first reaction is always to try to control it (through what the CCP calls “discourse power”) because at heart they well and truly believe in the idea of the “social construction of reality,” as Lasch pointed out in the quote at top. If there is no fixed, objective truth, only power, then the mind’s will rules the world. Facts can be reframed as needed to create the story that best produces the correct results for Progress (this is why you will find journalists are now professionally obsessed with “storytelling” rather than reporting facts).
That Trudeau’s government would choose to jettison any remaining illusion of Canada still being a liberal democracy just to harm their political class enemies isn’t too surprising. It’s their method of doing so that is particularly striking: control over digital financial assets is pretty much the ultimate leverage now available to the Virtuals. We should expect more use of this tool around the world anywhere the Physicals continue to revolt against their masters.
The Physicals must be concerned with non-socially-constructed Truth because otherwise reality will bite them in the ass. The Virtuals have their asses covered, so they are unconcerned.
There is a lot of merit in this framing, but it still seems important that those who are concerned with Truth and who do not wish it to be socially constructed should then side with the Physicals, even if in their world they deal with information. And indeed, the first reply to the person who linked me to this says ‘I am a Virtual yet still side with the protesters.’
Another recent version of the same thing was, yes, wordcels and shape rotators. Shape rotators concern themselves with reality, wordcels only with symbols.
And mysteriously, despite information being what most of Twitter and everyone I know do all day, everyone wants to think of themselves as a shape rotator.
The rotator ↔ wordcel axis also happens to map to some other common ones. I might expand on these later but I’ll just list them for now.
spacing guild v. bene gesserit
autism v. schizophrenia
san francisco v. new york
intuition v. formalism
empiricist v. rationalist
deep learning v. crypto
capitalists v. socialists
apolitical v. political
geometers v. algebraists
I am confident that the person who wrote that list thinks of the lefthand shape-rotator side as ‘the good side’ and the righthand wordcel side as ‘the bad side.’
Here’s one of them as text, by the author of the piece above:
The list is a broad-based statement of values and world models. It is a claim that empiricists make the important discoveries and build great world-changing capitalist companies using their intuition to work on geometrically-based deep learning algorithms while all having autism and living in San Francisco and staying apolitical. In their spare time they read Dune and root for the spacing guild.
Whereas when Vitalik saw this he said ‘wait crypto is shape rotation,’ the same way I see it and think ‘New York and rationalist (and also empiricist though) are shape rotation and San Francisco is wordcel.’ And if you ask a socialist familiar with the terms, I predict most of them will claim socialism is shape rotation and capitalism is wordcel.
Who is a ‘real American’ versus whatever the other option is? I’ll tell you who isn’t not one, it’s whichever American is speaking. You know who is ‘out of touch’? Not my friends and allies, that’s who. There is a right amount of touch to be in, it isn’t maximal, but that is never what people are debating. Same principle.
The initial dialectic tactic was to take a superficial division between one simulacra-3/4 alliance of wordcels/virtuals/politicians/whatevers and another that is also that, and frame it as your side being spare rotators/physicals/outsiders/whichevers, and that everyone has to pick a side or the awful other side full of wordcels/virtuals/politicians will win.
The new tactic is to deny that there were ever any meaningful physical reality at all.
Framing this as a battle between teams, of course, is playing into the whole idea of socially constructed reality and virtual wordcels operating on Simulacra-3, whereas the whole point of noticing the divide is to do the other thing. Putting more of the right people in your coalition or having the right symbolic associations does not make one right – or if you think it does, then you have already chosen your side.
In this context, we can revisit the Tyler Cowen concept of looking for the strong analytical thinkers.
Look for strong analytical abilities, and if you don’t see it, run the other way.
Now it makes more sense, although it risks continuing to play into the underlying problem by looking at coalitions and choosing sides on that basis.
In that light, it is important to note that this principle has now reversed itself.
When one looks at the original convoy, one indeed struggles to find strong analytical thinkers.
Yet the same can be said for Trudeau and the rest of the government response. In no way does it reflect strong analytical thinking or thinkers.
The Canadian government, not the convoy, is the relevant actor here. It no longer much matters how it started, only how it’s going.
In the early stages, the strong analytical thinkers had a wide variety of reactions to the situation. But you know what all the strong analytical thinkers are doing now, after the freezing of bank accounts?
As far as I can tell, at least in the informational world I have constructed for myself, all of them stand united. I have not seen a single attempt, however weak, to defend the actions taken or even to claim they are of minimal importance.
Including people whose views mostly differ strongly from most others in my orbit. Whatever they think off arresting the protestors and of the original convoy, everyone’s reaction to the freezing of accounts is the same, and looks like some version of these examples.
It might be time to run the other way, and perhaps shout it from the rooftops.
What To Do Now?
There are two categories of things to do, the general and the personal, with some amount of overlap.
The general would involve political action, with some combination of education, persuasion, awareness raising, voice raising, lobbying, working with those who set such policies in various capacities, academic work, voting, lawyers and so on to combat the rise of such authoritarian policies and protect the freedom to transact, the rule of law, the right to due process and so forth. Hopefully without getting your accounts frozen. Others can speak better than I can on this, but I will note that I consider this policy debate sufficiently one-sided that I would support it being what the EAs call a ‘cause area.’
The personal involves protecting yourself and those you care about against the threat of such actions coming for you. At some point in the future, this could happen to you. What is acceptable now may not be acceptable in the future, in a ‘first they come’ kind of way, and such winds can change quite fast. Or at a minimum, the need to ensure that this does not happen will constrain your behavior and your freedom and cause you much stress.
It need not be about taking explicit political or other action. Sometimes this will be a pure misunderstanding or other error. People get frozen out because of mistaken identity or an ‘abundance of caution.’ A very good friend of mine had it happen due to a tax dispute in which the government was neither correct nor communicative and it caused tons of trouble, although this has since been cleared up.
Thus, the value of taking actions to minimize one’s vulnerability to such actions was already important, and seems that much more important. Think about what would happen if your assets, and those of your family, were frozen right now. Your bank accounts are gone, your credit cards do not work. You can’t get new ones. What would you do? How would you keep a roof over your head and pay for food?
Ensure that you have answers to those questions. There are a variety of ways to at least partially protect yourself, including self-custodial cryptocurrency and cold hard cash or other physical assets, especially ones that travel.
I’ve seen a bunch of ‘guess it’s time to get into crypto’ sentiment recently, and I am surprised it was not reflected more in prices. For example:
(Nothing here is ever investment advice and that goes double for crypto, but in case anyone was confused about this, such posts are Not The Way. Asking the internet in general is definitely not the way to get good information or advice on such matters. Find someone you trust who knows their stuff and can walk you through it or point to a trustworthy guide.)
One additional important way to deal with this, that is a complement to your own safe assets, is to have people you can trust to come to your aid, despite the situation. Having true friends and family at your side is one of the best defenses.
At Substack the site has expressed a strong commitment to resisting censorship, but they use Stripe as their sole payment processor, and Stripe has made it clear they play ball. Getting cut off from writing income is not the same as having one’s bank accounts frozen, but it is a clear point of vulnerability especially if Stripe was told to cut off the entire site until the disapproved content was taken down. It needs to be fixed.
Is it a pain to have three distinct copies of every post in different places? Yes it is quite the pain especially when I need to edit to fix mistakes. Yet I do not make one or two of them into link posts, because this way provides a robust backup system. In order to take me down, one would need to take down all three copies.
Additional Convoy Links and Thoughts
Same as it ever was, the Canadian Parliament delayed their session evaluating the invoking of the Emergencies Act due to the emergency the act was invoked against.
Rather than decry such moves, instead mainstream media has joined the move against those who donated money.
Good to see Representative Ilhan Omar standing up for the obvious even with rolls reversed, which is sadly a rarity these days. Such principle is not by default rewarded. Replies are full of demands that she do things such as ‘stay in her lane.’ Getting praise from Fox News does not exactly make her life better.
The journalist in question moved her tweets to protected before I could write this post, losing us a number of details, which is my fault for not getting the screenshots right away.
There is also the obvious, which is that the word ‘freedom’ has now been associated with the convoy, and has always meant freedom, from the Washington Post editorial page:
The logic in the post, as far as I can tell is:
- Canada (and the USA) restricted the freedom of non-white people.
- Thus, freedom is white.
- Thus, a claim of entitlement to freedom is white supremacy.
- Freedom is slavery, and presumably ignorance is strength.
The response to this was the stage-1-clown-makeup that no one actually believes this, it’s some sort of ingroup virtue signaling cascade causing such words to be written, but somehow that does not bring me comfort. It brings up the question a commenter asked me a while ago about why New York Times is on the banned list but other places like Washington Post are acceptable. I’d like to say it’s a matter of degree and that I’ve found Washington Post’s news reporting to mostly be acceptable, and also editorials mostly don’t count it’s fine to air different points of view, but ‘Scott Alexander was my friend and it is personal’ is doubtless doing a bunch of work.
From January 10, Unheard lets some participants talk. Big ‘and you can’t make me’ energy combined with ‘well actually sure you can, I need my truck.’
Pirate Wires covers the situation before the full ‘freeze all the bank accounts’ plan became clear, is mostly already there anyway.
Common Sense was there a while ago, and is here to remind us.
The Canadian government put this out on February 18, after doing all this and while they were breaking up the protests with arrests.
We also have this video with his remarks now versus his remarks regarding the Farmers’ Protests in India. Again, straight face.
I guess the faith in freedom was all in the beard.
Justin means ‘just, upright or righteous.’ I checked for nominative determinism regarding Trudeau and no one knows the origin but to me it seems to be obviously ‘true water’ from the French ‘tru’ and ‘deau’ from which here clearly represents the righteous filtering out of the undesired or impure.
“The convoy has been broken up by police without incident and with zero violence”
You must have a really, really unusual definition for “violence”. That doesn’t involve things like, oh, beating people up, or trampling them with horses.
He means zero violence from the protestors, which implies that the Canadian government doesn’t need broad new powers to deal with them.
Ah, probably. Still worth noting that there was plenty of violence. It was just virtually all on the government’s part.
“(or at least, zero violence that didn’t involve police acting like police usually act)” Did he add this part after your comment?
Though zero is an exaggeration, there was remarkably little violence…from either side.
The police did not shoot protesters or crush them with tanks.
The protesters did not storm Parliament, and attack police with improvised weapons.
Neither protestors nor opportunistic criminals looted stores or committed arson.
I watched a lot of the televised coverage, and this is what I saw;
– ONE horse charge into the crowd, knocking down (NOT trampling) two protestors. Police claimed a protester threw a bicycle at a horse – I couldn’t make that out in the footage. Parties unknown tried to claim that someone was trampled, and later died in hospital.
– ONE 5 second burst of pepper spray from the police
– protestors setting off fireworks into the air – not at police
All in all, both sides showed remarkable restraint. The police used proportionate force to restore order. The protesters used passive resistance techniques, but did not really attack police or resist arrest – Gandhi would have been proud.
It was actually quite civilized. Gives me some hope that we may just muddle through this.
I keep being puzzled by the lack of violence in the protest. If a convoy is deployed in the U.S., as I keep hearing, I am completely sure it will be infiltrated by bad actors from the other side who will attempt to poison it by engaging in arson, assault, and so on. How did that not happen in Ottawa?
> I am completely sure it will be infiltrated by bad actors from the other side who will attempt to poison it by engaging in arson, assault, and so on.
I keep seeing these claims of “false flag” actors whenever certain groups (particularly in the US) misbehave, and I keep NOT seeing any evidence that it actually happens.
Some anti-convoy people did troll Convoy social media, but it was with intent to disrupt (routing vehicles around imaginary police roadblocks) or mock (links to Ram Ranch videos, etc).
– nominative, not normative;
– I very much did not expect that check.
>> “they don’t trust the government to make incredibly momentous and important decisions”
Exact Words. There is no mention (at least in the clip we get to see) of the decisions being *good* ones.
> The initial dialectic tactic was to […] The new tactic is to […]
The rest of the “three sides to every story” garble is marked as an intentional example of what not to do, but this pair of sentences isn’t.
The premise of much of the post, that the Canadian government is going after donors, does not seem to be true.
>The RCMP, banking sector and federal government said Monday that account-freezing powers bestowed by the Emergencies Act to deal with convoy protesters do not affect donors, despite unsubstantiated claims by a Conservative MP that a constituent had their bank account frozen for a $50 protest contribution.
>The RCMP issued a statement soon after, clarifying the extent of law enforcement’s financial tracking since the Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14. “At no time, did we provide a list of donors to financial institutions,” the statement read. “We are now working with the banks to build a process to address the accounts that were frozen.”
>As of early Monday afternoon, the federal Department of Finance said the move froze 206 bank accounts and $7.48-million, while $1.2-million in cryptocurrency assets were affected.
If they were going after donors, I’d expect significantly more than 206 accounts to be frozen and journalists to be able to find at least one person with a frozen account.
https://blockade.rcmp.ca/news-nouvelles/ncr-rcn211130-s-d-en.html statement from RCMP directly:
>Under the Emergency Economic Measures Order (Emergencies Act), the list that was provided to financial institutions included identities of individuals who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area impacted by the protest. At no time, did we provide a list of donors to financial institutions.
Honestly it isn’t any better if the financial freezes only go after protestors, and not donors. I’m happy that the truckers were fined, towed, arrested, and will see their day in court if they want, but freezing assets of nonviolent protestors without due process is unacceptable. I have protested in the past and would not want the chilling effect of “hey maybe we’ll keep you from being able to pay your bills for the next month because we don’t like you” to overhang the next protest I go to.
There’s basically never a justification for freezing assets, unless there’s substantial reason to believe they’re the fruit of theft, and you’re trying to preserve them for return to the rightful owners.
It’s just extrajudicial punishment and an effort to make sure the truckers can’t afford good lawyers.
How can you possibly know that? The decree explicitly bypasses due process. In a free country, one can prove a negative by, say, reading through all the warrants/court orders/arrest records and noting that a particular name doesn’t ever show up. Here, though? There’s no centralized repository, just an order to banks.
“rolls reversed” -> roles
Also there’s some weirdness going on with a footnote immediately after “I guess the faith in freedom was all in the beard.”
Absurd that you can’t get good sweet rolls in this skeever hole of a city!
Zvi, I appreciate your posts, both COVID and Convoy. I’m also proud of myself that I picked such an intelligent fellow to follow years ago, who saw the truth through the propaganda before many wrt Convoy. And even a life-time ago, I used to read your posts on Magic, although I started reading this site when linked via Scott Alexander.
Hmm, no mention of “these mandates are useless and everyone knows it, but no one in the gov’t cares.” Ok. Transport Minister Omar Alghebra (sp?) said they’re thinking of extending the quarantine period for unvaccinated truckers crossing the border.
I hope this put paid to the idea that “the protestors have a core fringe of street thugs and brawlers there to fuck things up,” and that their lack of previous violence was all part of their devious plot to fool Canadians into letting their guard down. No (almost no) violence happened during three weeks, and the break up was mostly police going around and telling people to leave, and arresting those who didn’t. And closing the roads so no one could get back downtown, or return downtown once ousted. No siege tactics necessary.
Confidence vote in Parliament today. If it fails we have a new election. Actually called by Trudeau and his minority gov’t, so he must have the votes. All parties seem set to vote against the Liberals except the New Democratic Party (left-wing socialism-ish party) which is backing them for some crazy reason. Even the communist party of Canada has come out against the emergency order, rightly seeing that their own protests will be de-banked. Assuming they ever have enough supporters to have a communist protest.
Trudeau was asked today how long he’d have to keep his new powers, and he said no longer than necessary, but he’s worried there will be more protests. Let me ask you… when will he be satisfied protests will never occur again? He’s also said he will need to keep some of the new powers indefinitely- more financial control, reporting from crowd-funding sites, and something about needing to fight misinformation and disinformation. I assume by this he means gov’t censorship.
Tyrannies always rule by fraud and intimidation. Once they run out of fraud, they’ve only got intimidation – Orwell (well, he said something like that).
All the best.
Regarding the “Freedom is white supremacy” thing, the logic is all insane but the interesting part is exactly what is being signaled. Supposing for the sake of argument that freedom *is* white supremacy, the Washington Post is saying that it’s more important to align with anti-whiteness than freedom. That they think this is very bad and that they feel comfortable announcing it is terrifying.
In other news the official vote on the Emergencies Act just passed tonight 185-151 (Liberals + NDP in favour), despite the “threat to national security” already being dispersed. Spineless cowards confused about the meaning of “support” said that they didn’t support the Emergencies Act but were voting for it anyway because it’s a confidence vote. It is unclear to me why anyone would trust this government to make any decisions at all.
Zvi, your comment about where the deep analytical thinkers were reminded me – did you see the courtroom exchange with one of the protest organizer’s husband?
He said something like “I thought protesting in that way was my first amendment right” and the judge said something like “what first amendment, what are you talking about?”
(Epistemic status: Pedantic sarcasm.)
Perhaps he’s attempting to reference the “Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983”? At least, that’s the first amendment to Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982. Going by Wikipedia’s one-sentence summary, it might conceivably be relevant if he’s a First Nations person.
Though it is rather silly, I think that we have to get used to people from outside the US referring to their rights to speech and assembly as “First Amendment rights”.
Obligatory TV Tropes link: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EaglelandOsmosis
The worst part is when kids in countries where there is no Halloween suddenly run around demanding candy from people in October. :-D
“The Emergencies Act may have been a little bit about the need to commandeer towing capacity, but we can now be very certain what it was centrally about.
It was about money.
In particular, it was about giving the government of Canada the permanent power to freeze, without trial or legal recourse, all the bank accounts and other assets of anyone it decides was ‘directly or indirectly involved’ in an ‘illegal protest.’ In practice this translates to ‘freeze the assets of the families of anyone that power or the government dislikes.’”
This is categorically false.
Will probably have a few more comments later after taking more time to digest. A few points for now.
Regarding Trudeau’s comments, that those voting against confirming use of the Emergencies Act “don’t trust the government to make incredibly momentous and important decisions.” This is parliamentary system talk. He was specifically addressing whether or not this was a confidence vote. He was in fact saying it did amount to one, without quite explicitly saying so. This is not an insignificant point. Trudeau only enjoys a minority government. Had the vote to confirm the use of the act failed, the government very likely would have failed, triggering an election. Without saying, “Yes, it is a confidence vote.” He was saying, “Look, obviously if parliamentarians vote against this, they don’t have confidence in the government.” This was not some bizarre comment on the virtue of government or the lack of virtue in those who don’t trust the government. This was 100% in response to being asked if it was a confidence vote. (It was also a not-so-veiled threat to the NDP in particular, in effect saying, “Do you really want to trigger an election over this, how do you think this will go for you?”) The NDP ended up voting with the government, confirming the act. Explicitly, in part, because it amounted to a confidence vote that would have triggered an election if it failed.
As Avraham points out, they are not going after donors. Don’t expect people outside Canada to know this, but NEVER trust anything Ezra Levant says.
I am not defending the financial aspects of how they have broken the siege, I don’t particularly agree with them, but I feel like I need to steel-man it a bit. Again, the targets of this were much much narrower in scope than just anybody who donated. In the first days of the Emergency Act measures I think they may have been a bit ambiguous in their messaging on that, quite on purpose, to discourage further donations. As far as I understand it, they have been targeting the key organizers and those who insisted on keeping their trucks in the red zone after they were fully warned that this could end up being the consequence. The key objectives being two-fold. 1) Starve the protest of its funding by preventing organizers from continuing to funnel money to it for fuel and supplies, and 2) a great big stick to motivate people to drive their trucks out of town, right now. There is an argument to be made that this only targets the more definitive criminality associated with the events unfolding, in particular those continuing to occupy Ottawa after the Emergencies Act was activated, in order to help put an end to that criminality.
I don’t like the use of these powers and the precedent that they set. At all. But I think the scope of how they used will end up being quite narrow when the final accounting is done. (And there will be a final accounting, the Act has built into it an automatic public inquiry to investigate its use.)
63 (1) The Governor in Council shall, within sixty days after the expiration or revocation of a declaration of emergency, cause an inquiry to be held into the circumstances that led to the declaration being issued and the measures taken for dealing with the emergency.
Report to Parliament
(2) A report of an inquiry held pursuant to this section shall be laid before each House of Parliament within three hundred and sixty days after the expiration or revocation of the declaration of emergency.
Well, that’s a prediction, and the nice thing about predictions is that they get tested.
My own study of history suggests that emergency powers are seldom given up gladly, and almost always abused. And so it’s my prediction that Trudeau will hang on to as much of these emergency powers as he’s permitted, and will use them rather more indiscriminately than you would like.
And probably with the approval of the Canadian media, based on Convoy news coverage to date.
My prediction, which I’ll make public here so I can be held to it, is the same as Graham’s. I believe the scope will turn out to have been quite narrow and targeted.
That being said, I’m also absolutely terrified about the long term implications of the Emergency Act having been invoked, and my reason for that is Doug Ford.
For any non-Canadians, Doug Ford is the Premiere of Ontario (similar to a state Governor, roughly). Early in his term of office he broke political norms by invoking the Notwithstanding Clause, something of a nuclear option that allows provinces to ignore our version of the American Constitution on a specific issue, simply to pursue a personal vendetta against the Toronto city council that gave him a hard time. If politicians have signaled that they are willing to take the nuclear option for the most insignificant of issues, then I’m willing to bet that they’ll start invoking the Emergencies Act any time an indigenous group demands clean water or an environmental group tries to stop fracking in a national park or whatever.
My prediction is that Trudeau will not use these powers against any cause or movement that Graham Blake considers legitimate and justified, and therefore Graham will not to object too strongly to the fact that these powers will continue to exist, or the uses they will be turned to. Those who benefit from a system of power assume that they have nothing to fear from it, and history shows they are usually correct.
If you think I am not essentially terrified by the implication of these powers getting put into practice, you are sorely mistaken. Throughout my whole adult life I have been in or adjacent to active political protest movements. I have been arrested and stood trial for charges brought against me for participating in a mass protest. (Technically, at the moment, I was arrested for merely walking down the street about 6 blocks away from a mass protest.) A mass protest that was violently repressed in less than 12 hours. My trial was in a French court, and I only speak English. That was a surreal experience. You’ll forgive me if I don’t have a tonne of sympathy for people who were tenderly walked away after WEEKS of occupation with days of notice that arrests were coming. I am however quite sympathetic to those who find themselves on the receiving end of abuse by the state for the crime of dissent. Been. There.
I remain aligned with or connected to a variety of movements that I see as directly threatened by these additional powers that the government has assumed for itself. I see MYSELF as directly threatened by them, in actual point of fact. Do not mistake my ability to consider these matters objectively and rationally as evidence that I consider myself safe from government overreach in general, or by these kinds of powers in particular.
Emergency Act powers have now been revoked after 9 days. It appears the use of financial powers were indeed limited in scope, affected accounts have in most cases been unfrozen or are in the process of being unfrozen, and claims that they were used against donors appear to have been false. Certainly there is a robust debate to come about whether the use of the Act was necessary and justified, and examining the implications of opening this Pandora’s Box. There will be an inquiry into the use of the act convened within 60 days, as required by law where these questions will hopefully be examined in detail.
I have not seen any evidence that any protestor bank accounts were frozen nor that they ever intended to just freeze any account. All I’ve seen evidence of is attempts to stop them from receiving fundraised funds and the threat of freezing bank accounts (which would be necessary if the fundraised funds already made it there).
In short, this seems like a lot of slippery slope pear clutching about what might have been, instead of what actually happened or was planned.
And yet, precedence matters. Political norm erosion towards totalitarianism is a real thing.
I assume you meant “Slippery slope _pearl_ clutching”, but think it’s a very good take on much of the commentary here.
And whenever I see “tyranny” bandied about willy-hilly, it’s usually a red flag.
Are you disputing that the Trudeau administration gave itself the legal power to freeze accounts of demonstrators? If not, are you actually willing to defend the general principle of allowing governments to freeze the accounts of dissenters without due process? Because regardless what words we call it, that seems crazy illegitimate to me.
I believe everyone should be sitting up with alarm at the precedent this sets, and the “political norm erosion” it constitutes. It’s also important to examine its actual application and the practical reasoning for taking this step that authorities are asserting. It seems rather imprecise to describe this as freezing the accounts of mere dissenters. This is absolutely something we should fear! However, I do not believe this is an accurate or honest description of what has happened here.
Convoy organizers had access to literally millions of dollars. After the occupation was declared illegal, organizers continued to actively counsel people to break the law, and used this money to continue funding the illegal occupation of Ottawa. This continued even after the powers of the Emergencies Act were exercised, and after people were given clear warnings about the consequences of continuing what had been declared an illegal occupation. Seen only through the lens of freezing funds that are actively being used to fund criminal activity, there’s nothing really that extraordinary here. Of course there are other implications, chilling implications, and we should examine those carefully, but I don’t think it’s really that far beyond the pale that the government has moved to turn off the tap that was funding the occupation.
There are other motives for freezing certain accounts that are coming into focus, and those should also be debated on their merits. Specifically, at least some of the reasoning was to coerce truck operators to voluntarily exit the red zone under threat of severe financial consequences. Additionally, there are class action suits moving forward on behalf of residents of Ottawa and against the protesters and the argument has been put forward that these funds should be held against any future claims by residents and the City of Ottawa itself. I am not arguing these motives do in fact justify the powers employed here, but they do constitute some of the rationale.
So far at least it does not appear these powers have been used against garden variety protesters nor donors to the convoy. This will have to be examined and verified carefully. As will the extent to which this circumvented due process. It’s one thing to proactively take control of accounts associated with criminal activity when criminal charges are laid and those moneys were material to the crimes, it is entirely another to freeze accounts when no criminal charges are filed and/or those funds are not material to the crime alleged.
Good points, Graham. Thanks.
You may not have seen it, but it’s out there. Not sure I can include links here, but Freeland said 76 accounts were frozen two days ago. More were frozen since then. (Freeland said protestors can have their accounts restored by leaving the convoy, but as there is no more convoy, that’s obviously a politician saying nothing).
Mendicino (minister of public safety) described the new powers as “powerful financial disincentives” that can put pressure on protesters without the use of physical force, according to CTV news.
And now the crisis is over, but the powerful financial disincentives remain.
I saw a report on the BBC that 76 accounts had been frozen.
Not only has the government itself claimed to have already frozen hundreds of accounts, they explicitly stated that they might freeze the account of “someone who donated $20”.
If you haven’t seen any evidence, I doubt you have been looking for it.
See, I’ve been saying this because I used to read hardcore libertarians. (My politics at least respect legitimate authority, unlike them)
Financial crackdowns like this Steelmans the case for anonymous crypto applications like Monero, wallets, etc., and a bunch of libertarian/agorist ideas about “resisting” state “coercion” thru financial and economic secession, and why you should “never trust” liberal democratic politics again. This will become the big thing in parts of the US & Canada with strong Sovereign Citizen/Exitist/crypto DeCen movements.
nunchuk_io’s final remark in their reply might inadvertently become a prediction – Since fiat currencies are built on the currency users’ trust in the banking sector, central bank, state institutions, etc,. and such a trust is critically breached by this particular action, fiat currencies’ value will be damaged and potentially trigger a flight from them. (I am not a “Goldbug” myself, but any working exchange or financial system requires a sufficient level of trust)
Trudeau might not know it, but he is accelerating the Randian-Libertarian transformation of the world.
Zvi, thanks as always. I also enjoy the comments, thanks everyone. Besides all the political over reach, two things really bother me.
1.) The press has totally lost it’s way. It’s all story telling and propaganda. Telling it’s audience what they want to hear. I know this has been going on for years, decades. I think it’s worse than ever, but maybe that is just me.
2.) The hacking, release, and ‘illegal’ publishing of the donor list from GiveSendGo, and the subsequent harassing of any donors. This seems to be a continuing theme in our society, one side not only wants to win, but then punish the other side. This seems similar to the idea of having hospitals triage covid patients on the basis of their vaccination status. It’s hard to express how wrong this feels to me. Don’t we all agree that the Golden Rule, (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.) is part of the bedrock of our morality?
I think these both stem from too much tribalism.
I want to note that using financial system as a weapon was happily happening before, in USA as well, just not on the individual level. Payment processors and banks would stop working with whole categories of businesses (or specific ones, if they step out of line too far).
The actual story that Rep. Ilhan Omar was referencing was in fact reporting on the harassment the shop owner had received as a result of the donation list becoming public. It was not a hit piece on them for making the donation in the first place. It is sympathetic to the shop owner, and critically highlights the abuse they were subjected to as result of her donation becoming public. The since-deleted Tweet that Omar quoted was by another journalist altogether who was sharing a link to the piece. That quoted Tweet did highlight the only shade that was (rather gently) cast on the shop-owner:
“Giuliani made her Feb. 5 donation on the second weekend of the demonstration, when Ottawa police were describing it as “volatile and dangerous” and lawyers were seeking a court injunction to silence the constant blaring of air horns in the downtown core.”
That’s it. That’s about the sum total of the criticism levelled at the shop owner in a piece that otherwise is earnest, evokes compassion for the shop owner, and frames her intent in a good light.
Here is the article, judge for yourself.
Given some of the questionable assertions in this post, and since simulacra levels form part of its basis, I have to sincerely ask: What simulacra level are we dealing with in this post? Are there really lions across the river?
On an object level, I believe these claims reflect reality:
1) The use of the Emergencies Act – and especially the financial powers assumed under the Act – to deal with civil disobedience should be treated with a genuine sense of alarm. For a litany of reasons.
2) Journalists in mainstream media are too often too focused on serving a narrative and acting as public prosecutors against those accused of wrongthink.
In a general map of reality sense, these are most definitely potential lions. It would be most unwise to assume the absence of lions across yonder river.
On an object level, I believe these claims do not reflect reality:
3) The financial powers of the Emergencies Act have in fact been used to target donors to the Convoy protest
4) The article cited by Rep. Ilhan Omar was an example of #2 above
These are false lions, and arguably are not even tigers.
It is an object level fact that the Convoy protest organizers had access to millions of dollars in donations that were continuing to fund the occupation after it had been declared illegal. To the best of my current knowledge, the primary application of the financial powers assumed by the government was to starve the occupation of these dollars. The secondary application of these powers was to coerce cooperation by those who were refusing to disperse, in particular the operators of trucks that were blocking streets. The tertiary application appears to have been deliberate ambiguity in the earliest days about how widely these financial powers would be applied, to create a chill over further donations to the Convoy and further participation in the occupation.
Whether any or all of those objectives of assuming these financial powers were justified and/or necessary should be the subject of significant debate. As should the mere act of opening this Pandora’s Box in the first place, with the obvious implication that these powers could be used again in the future and used more widely than they appear to have have been employed here.
My personal view is that starving the occupation of funds was justified, but it’s not clear the Emergencies Act powers were necessary to achieve that end. The government claims they were. They claim they could not turn off the pipeline of crowdfunding -> organizers -> occupation without them. I lack the legal expertise to resolve this question on my own. My view is that using the financial powers to coerce compliance and then punish non-compliance among truck operators or other protesters that refused to disperse is less justified, if not entirely unjustified. I recognize that some could reasonably argue that it was hard but fair, and that individuals were given appropriate warning, but yikes. Weighing the pragmatics against the chilling effect there, I do not feel like the pragmatics justify the chill. On the matter of deliberately leaving people with the impression that the mere act of donating to or at any point participating in the protest could lead to frozen accounts – even if this was never intended or carried out – totally unjustified for whatever pragmatic end it may have served. Though it did bring into focus the potential dangers of these powers!
So I think I am going to say the simulacra archetype of this post is Trickster. It recognizes the that there is a real danger of lions eating people further down this road, and wants to sound the alarm about that, but it uncritically repeats false claims that lions were already witnessed to be eating people in order to serve this end. Even if this was the result of being innocently misinformed, there seemed to be a readiness to accept these claims because they fit a pre-existing model, and did not need to be verified or falsified. Their actual basis in reality was secondary to sounding the alarm about lions, whether or not these were in fact the lions we should be concerned about.
“On an object level, I believe these claims do not reflect reality:
3) The financial powers of the Emergencies Act have in fact been used to target donors to the Convoy protest”
I agree that this does not seem accurate for the simple reason that if it had, it would instantly be an enormous story. A politician did in fact claim to have a case of this, but when pressed for identifying details she declined to give them, citing the alleged person’s prviacy. Seems fake.
However, the government has taken an alarming stance on the *possibility* of freezing a donor’s bank account. From the deputy finance minister: “Although not impossible, that someone who donated $20 be captured and have their bank account frozen, I find that scenario … I think that would be in rare circumstances”. She is conspicuously not stating that they would never do it, or that it would only occur by mistake, which is to say that the government is explicitly claiming the right and intent to do it.
This seems an awful lot like a lion.
I am certainly not disputing that the government intentionally left the possibility hanging in the air, and I explicitly describe this as totally unjustified in my view. I also don’t dispute that the danger of all this is real. I specifically call it a lion too! :)
What I was getting at was that that it does not appear these particular lions were actually witnessed to be eating anyone, but the premise of much of Zvi’s post is that they were. I am labouring under the perhaps too optimistic delusion that it should be possible to both address how severe the dangers and implications of these assumed powers are without relying on false claims about how they are being applied. I am not asserting that it is only important how these powers were used, and it’s unimportant how they could be used. But I do think both are very important. Or I think it is at least important that people not have a completely incorrect object level view of how these powers were in fact used, whatever the fears of how they were going to be used. We shouldn’t need to lean into misinformation to amplify how scary it is.
It should be noted that we can in fact start talking about what the government did or did not do with these powers in the past tense, as the Emergency Act measures have now been revoked. The most immediate threat of further expansion in the use of these financial measures is behind us.
I did not read Zvi as making the claim that it has happened (although upon reflection the Ezra Levant tweet reads ambiguously between proposing a hypothetical and making a concrete claim), the jumping off point for his reaction was Freeland dodging the question of whether the government would target individual donors. It was arguably excessive to interpret a dodge as an unambiguous plan on the government’s part, but once the government did state that intent explicitly I think the reaction is appropriate and maintains a framing of “the government wants to X, that is very bad”.
For pedantry’s sake I will note that the state of emergency is not planned to end until tomorrow evening but as of a couple hours ago we have a pretty firm upper bound on how much dystopian stuff the government is going to do with emergency powers and it is not the very bad case Zvi was reacting to.
I agree with your point on 4) entirely. The obvious reading of that Washington Post email is that they are doing the ordinary journalistic work of A: verifying the list’s accuracy and B: trying to interview people relevant to the story. It is not clear to me whether Zvi is being intentionally misleading or if this is just the sort of conclusion he naturally jumps to. I would confront him, but he’s staying out of this comments section.
To Zvi’s credit, even as someone on a street that is currently still closed due to the now rescinded emergency measures, I find this whole situation extremely confusing. I think he’s done a fair job summarizing the situation. There’s a substantial amount of misinformation being spread from all sources at all levels. So, being generous, I think that Zvi is identifying a valid threat, just with impure information.
Fair enough. This whole thing has been a Rorschach’s Protest. I mean, everyone brings their biases into how they view everything, but I have never seen a singular event perceived in so many completely different ways. It is really challenging to disentangle reality from people’s biases, to say nothing of our own biases.
I’d like to say that typically in Canada, we have laws that are passed by the legislative branch and written down, then interpreted by a court who publishes their decisions. And penalties are also written into the laws, not made up by the executive branch. This is none of that, and leaves us with a lot of guessing about what’s a bluff from a politician, a threat, a plan, a misinterpretation, the police misunderstanding their own authorities.
“This protest is illegal, and banks must suspend the credit cards of those who indirectly support it” as a statement from the pm… well that’s bad news bears, man.
“Rorschach Protest” is a nice summation. Along with “slippery slope pearl clutching”.
Though, after reading your thoughtful comments, I’ve updated to believe that a small amount of pearl clutching might be justified.
Why would algebra be wordsell? I mean, because geometry deals with shapes? WTF?
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