2007-12-19

Blogging Holiday

The Fifth Column will be taking a vacation over the holidays. Blogging will resume early in the New Year.

2007-12-18

Guns and Tasers - Then and Now

Then

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

Now

Tasers don't kill people. People die after being tasered.

2007-12-17

Tragedy and Assumptions

Although very few details about the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Aqsa Parvez are known it has not prevented many bloggers from making assumptions and putting forth their own theories.

What is known is that her father told police that he killed her and he has been charged with second degree murder, indicating the police do not believe the killing was premeditated or planned. We also know their was conflict between Aqsa Parvez and her father, possibly relating to his religious beliefs and her not wanting to wear a hijab.

We know that this happened in a suburban community in Ontario. We know that it is common, and even considered appropriate, for Canadian parents to want to instill their own sense of values in their children, and that these values are often based on religious beliefs, We also know that it is common for parents and teenagers, particularly teenage girls, to disagree over appropriate dress as it relates to “modesty”.

Many bloggers have tried to make that conflict the issue. That is not the issue. Parents and children are going to be in conflict. The problem is violence. No cultural or religious group in Canada accepts family violence. It is completely inappropriate and unacceptable for violence to become part of family disputes whether between spouses or between parents and children.

2007-12-14

The Role of the Ethics Committee in the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair

Some people, including Conservative Members on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, argue that the Committee should not be studying the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair because a Parliamentary Committee is too partisan a forum to deal with allegations of wrongdoing against individuals.

However the Committee has a much more important role than simply determining whether people violated the law or ethical standards. They have a duty to recommend to the House of Commons what the laws and ethical standards should be. If the committee finds, as Conservative Members state, that Brian Mulroney did not violate any laws or Codes of Ethics the committee might still find that his behaviour was inappropriate and recommend changes to the ethical codes or legislation.

Indeed, if accepting cash payments of thousands of dollars and then hiding it in safety deposit boxes and not claiming it as income until it looks like you might be caught is not illegal then the law needs to be changed.

The Committee’s most important role may be in recommending stronger ethical standards for public office holders so that individuals could not engage in the type of sleazy behaviour that the Committee is uncovering yet not be in breach of ethical standards, even though it contravenes any common sense interpretation of “ethical”.

2007-12-13

Just Say “No”

House of Commons Debates
VOLUME 142 NUMBER 036 2nd SESSION 39th PARLIAMENT
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

[English]

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister well knows that this side of the House did its duty last night.

[Translation]

Since the Chalk River reactor will now be restarted, can the Minister of Health guarantee that Canadian patients will be the first to benefit from the isotopes produced, before the international markets are supplied?

[English]

Would the minister guarantee that worried Canadians will not be waiting in line for isotopes while other foreign contracts for AECL are fulfilled?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I said last night, each hospital and each clinic has a contract that is sometimes with Nordion, AECL or with another supplier. Those contracts would be honoured.

At this time in the House, I want to give our thanks to the medical oncologists and the nuclear medicine specialists who have worked day and night across this country to ensure this particular situation did not create a medical crisis. I think they deserve all of our applause for doing so.
If the answer is “no” just say so. Don’t try to confuse everyone with bafflegab just because you know the Canadian public will not be happy with your answer that translates to “despite the fact that we are putting Canadian lives at risk we are not going to give Canadians priority access to the isotopes produced while this reactor operates in an unsafe manner unapproved by the nuclear safety regulator”.


PS : I wonder how much this had to do with the government’s decision

2007-12-12

Don’t Fuck Around With Nuclear Safety

Sometimes an “expletive” is required and this is one of those times.

A Three-Mile-Island-type of nuclear accident could occur at Canada's Chalk River reactor unless a backup power supply system, capable of withstanding natural disasters such as earthquakes, is installed, according to an assessment by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

It is “essential” that the safety equipment be installed on two crucial pumps before the reactor, which makes more than half the world's nuclear medicines, is restarted, Linda Keen wrote in a blunt letter to two federal government ministers.
It is frightening that we were placed at risk because Atomic Energy of Canada Limited simply ignored safety directives from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who discovered the fact in a routine inspection.
The situation is all the more worrisome because the country's nuclear regulator specifically ordered AECL more than a year ago to take extra safety precautions if it wanted to continue operating the aging NRU.

But there's more at stake than isotopes.

The technical competency of an industry trying hard to win back public confidence is being questioned, as is public safety, national security and the reputation of a company whose message to Canadians has consistently been: "Trust us."

Yet AECL not only failed to install a key piece of safety equipment on the National Research Universal (NRU), Canada's oldest nuclear reactor. When its mistake was discovered, it matter-of-factly camouflaged it in a Dec. 4 press release as little more than a routine maintenance issue.

In fact, an important safety repair had not been made.

On Nov. 19, a day after what was supposed to be a routine five-day shutdown, safety inspectors with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) discovered a significant and mandated safety upgrade -- connecting two heavy water pumps to an emergency power supply -- had not been done.
It is even more frightening that the government, with the support of all parties, is going to put Canadians back at risk.
The emergency legislation introduced by the Conservatives, which would allow AECL to start the reactor immediately and run it for 120 days, was passed unanimously by all parties after four hours of civilized debate.
As an NDP supporter it troubles me that the only party to oppose this was the Green Party. The NDP should be ashamed.

The Prime Minister has disgraced himself by accusing the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting Canadians safety with “obstruction” for doing it’s job.
"There will be no nuclear accident," Harper answered in the Commons. "What there will be … is a growing crisis in the medical system here in Canada and around the world if the Liberal party continues to support the regulator obstructing this reactor from coming back on line."

The operator of the Chalk River reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., had said it expected the plant to be up and running by the middle of this month, but the safety commission was refusing to allow it to restart production until it resolved a host of safety issues.
So it appears that all we have to protect us from a nuclear melt down is the Prime Minister’s word that it can’t happen here.


References:

Globe and Mail: Ottawa thwarts nuclear watchdog

National Post; Emergency bill to resume isotope production off to Senate

Ottawa Citizen: The major safety snafu behind the isotope shortage

CBC: MPs pass bill to restart urgent isotope production

CBC: Green Leader May slams Tories' handling of isotope shortage

2007-12-11

Is it Going to Be Deja Vue All Over Again

As Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien clings to power after Criminal Code charges were laid against him I have a strange feeling that when the verdict is finally in he will follow the lead of another famous Canadian businessman and it will be deja vue all over again.

With extensive public pressure for the Mayor to step aside till the courts rule, as is the normal practice for elected officials in these types of situations, the Mayor claims he has extensive public support and is clinging to power. In online forums on the Ottawa Citizen and CBC websites, as well as a CBC Radio call in show yesterday the public will was overwhelming that the Mayor should step aside.

City Council have also shirked their duty in this matter by shutting down a council meeting to deal with it after receiving some dubious legal advice. While Council should not discuss the Mayor’s guilt or innocence they have a duty to discuss the ramifications of the Mayor clinging to power after being charged with Criminal offences relating to his election. With the Mayor refusing to do the right thing Council must step in and act to protect the integrity of Council’s future decisions and to protect the reputation of the City of Ottawa.

The Mayor, of course, should not have put them in that position. But nothing he has done so far in his term of office has given anyone any reason to believe that he would have done otherwise.

We call upon the Mayor, for once, to do the sensible and honourable thing and step aside until the courts deal with the charges against him.

2007-12-10

What Would Larry Do

Does anyone have any doubt what Larry O'Brien would do if a senior official in his private sector company or a senior city staff member was charged with a criminal offence relating to their position. Does anyone believe those people would still be performing their functions in the company or for the city.

Does anyone believe Larry O'Brien will do the honourable thing.

2007-12-06

The Big Lie About Music Sharing - The Future of Music

We all know the big lie about the impact of free music sharing - that it will kill the music - that no one will make music because they will not be able to earn money doing it.

This big lie is based on two false assumptions - that no one will make music for free and that the only way to make money from music is to sell recordings of it. We all know both of these assumptions are false. People have been creating music since long before anyone was paid for it and people were making money from music long before there was any way to record it.

But the reality is free music on the Internet will not mean people will stop paying for recorded music.

I remember just shortly after CDs replaced records there was speculation on what type of media will replace CDs. Nobody at that time saw that the answer was "nothing". People do not want recorded music that is tied to media anymore. They want music that is portable and that they can use in whatever device they might want to, whether it be a CD player, an MP3 player, their cell phone or simply on their computer. They want to be able to play and use their music any way they might think of, including putting it in custom song lists or slide shows and videos they might create and sharing it with friends.

Music media is obsolete and that scares the hell out of the recording industry. They know that they are a top heavy inefficient way of recording and distributing music and the Internet scares the hell out of them. They know digital music is going to destroy the recoding industry as they know it but they do not know what else to do but circle the wagons and try to fight the inevitable. The fact is they are not needed anymore.

Actual recording costs have gone down with new technologies, and small recoding studios, or artist's home studios, can replace the big industry studios. They also know that the Internet and music fans networking can do a much better job of promotion than the recording industry can. They know that they are obsolete. The only thing they have left is "ownership" of the music and they see that dwindling away as new artists produce and promote their music independently.

With the elimination of the recording industry recorded music will be cheaper due to the elimination of the cost of media and the high cost of recording industry promotion

Ironically one of the things the digital revolution is going accomplish is a revival of live music as the emphasis moves from industry created superstars to more independent fan supported artists, The new artists know that the fans are not just customers but part of the music community. Artists are going to realize they have to make a real connection with fans if they expect them to pay for their music, and that is done through live performances. We already see a trend among young people to freely download music from the overpaid superstars, while at the same time buying music from the new struggling independent artists.

Artists can now deal directly with their fans selling their work at much lower prices and even giving some of it away as gifts to the fans that support them. The music will be out of control of the recording industry, who only see it as a commodity to profit from, and into the hands of the creators and fans who love it.

Artists realize the new reality, that going to war with their fans to get them to buy music is counterproductive and that, fans do, and will in the future, choose to buy music even as they share it with friends.

Governments and regulators need to see that their role should not be to support the obsolete recording industry but to support music creators and fans, who interestingly seem to be on the same side of the legislative/regulatory battles that are taking place now.

2007-12-05

Teddy Bear Blasphemy - The Biblical Punishment

British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, sentenced to 15 days in prison in Sudan for letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammad, was pardoned, as religious extremists called for her execution.

So how would Bible literalists punish someone for the blasphemy of insulting the prophet and the faith.

Blasphemy generally denotes contemptuous speech concerning God, or concerning something that stands in a sacred relation toward God, such as his temple, his law, or his prophet.

The punishment for willful and intentional blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev. 24: 11-16; cf. John 10: 31-33; Acts 7: 58).

Lev. 24: 11-16
11 And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:)
12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.
13 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.
16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

1 Kgs. 21: 9-13
9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
10 And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
11 And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.
12 They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.
13 And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
Biblical Reference: Bible Dictionary

Additional Biblical References: Bible Topics; Bible Law

Background from the CBC:

Toy bear blasphemy case 'overblown': Sudan official

Sudan charges British teacher, saying toy's name incited hatred

Teacher to serve 15 days in teddy-bear blasphemy case

British teacher flies out of Sudan after pardon

British teacher 'sorry to leave' Sudan

2007-12-04

Schreiber Speaks The Truth

IMHO, the most significant statement Karlheinz Schreiber made before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics today was not about specifics but a general statement.

In response to a question on whether he expected to benefit from his $30,000 donation to Jean Charest's Progressive Conservative Party leadership campaign he stated, and I am paraphrasing here: of course, that's the way it is. Mr. Schreiber made what we all know very clear, that businessmen do not contribute money to politicians without expecting to get something in return.

That will be the main lesson to be learned from this when everything is said and done.


For further reference the transcripts of the committee hearings will be available here.

2007-12-03

At Last A Real Reality Show - 4REAL

4REAL is a TV series that takes celebrity guests on adventures around the world to connect with young leaders. Oxfam Canada is working with Direct Current Media, the shows producers to promote these real heroes and to connect Canadian youth with real ways to make change happen. 4Real will be aired in early 2008 on CTV, MTV Canada and internationally on National Geographic TV.

4REAL is an entertaining, fast paced, adventure series that allows viewers to learn about some of the most pressing issues of our time, but most importantly they tune into some of the most inspiring attitudes and initiatives addressing them. This is 4REAL.

Celebrity guests include Cameron Diaz, Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Mos Def, M.I.A., Casey Affleck, K'Naan, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

2007-11-30

Police Tylenol Deaths Raise Questions

After reading this, I have to ask: How many people have died in police custody after being given Tylenol. This goes along with the question of how many people have died from "excited delirium" that were not in contact with police. Oh, and can someone explain how a pacemaker or defibrillator works if electric currents do not affect the heart.

2007-11-29

Much Ado About A "Right" Nobody Wants

Bill C-6 provides that "an elector shall have an uncovered face when the elector is proving his or her identity".

So just what is the problem with this new rule.

Why should we not have our face uncovered when proving our identity when voting, whether we use photo ID or not.

I can think of two reasons, one being medical for which there is already an exemption. The other might be a matter of "reasonable accommodation" for religious or cultural requirements, except that no religious or cultural group has requested that proving ones identity with one's face covered when voting be allowed. The only request has been that Muslim women be allowed to uncover their faces in front of female officials rather than male officials, which has been accommodated in the bill.

This "controversy" all began when the Chief Electoral Officer decided to address a non-problem by issuing a statement clarifying the fact that the existing law did in fact allow the practice of proving one's identity with one's face covered. As it turned out the only people interested in taking advantage of this "right" were people protesting the fact that the law did in fact allow it.

Yes, it is seemingly irrelevant to require the face be uncovered when photo ID is not being checked and I know the motivations of some people supporting this rule might be less than pure, but for whatever reasons there is strong support for this rule, including at least one Canadian Muslim organization.

Perhaps the Green Party and others who so vehemently oppose this rule should focus their attention on important matters of public policy rather than fighting for "rights" that nobody actually wants and that just create a backlash against the recipients of those unrequested "rights"

2007-11-28

This Just In - Hillier to Resign

After months of negotiations the government has reached an agreement in the dispute over the Chief of Defence Staff's refusal to take direction from his civilian masters. The agreement will see civilian control return to the military.

On Friday General Rick Hillier will resign as Chief of Defence Staff and leave the Canadian Forces. On Monday Hillier will be appointed as the new Minister of National Defence. General, oops I mean citizen, Hillier will seek election to the House of Commons in a by-election in the newly created constituency of Kandahar.

When asked to explain this unusual arrangement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said "hey, it worked in Pakistan".

2007-11-27

Facebook: From Networking to Marketing

Facebook began at Harvard University and was soon opened up to all universities, university students and alumni. It was a wonderful networking tool for the academic community.

But it was not to remain so. As it’s income generating potential became known it’s creators positioned it as a marketing tool by opening it up to the whole world, making it just another MySpace, though perhaps more sophisticated and certainly with more business savvy.

The transformation from a networking site to a marketing site came with the policy of allowing others to run applications on top of Facebook, virtually selling you, your personal information, and your list of friends to outside marketers. Thousands of these applications have been implemented on Facebook.

Jennifer LaBorde, of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Advance Titan writes that ”Facebook applications disguise immoral advertising business”.

Between the Lines at ZDNet states that this can be “downright dangerous”.

The newest Facebook application that has raised the most concern is called Beacon and it will tell your friends what you buy online (and it automatically opts you into the application). Simon Barrett of Blogger News Network writes that privacy experts are concerned that Facebook may have crossed the line from being social to being invasive.

But perhaps more troubling are concerns raised by TechCrunch that Facebook is censoring search results for political reasons.

I remember when the Internet was non-commercial and primarily an academic network with public access via Freenets, such as the Cleveland Freenet, the world’s first Freenet, and the National Capital FreeNet of which I was ”one of the first information providers”, as organizations and individuals who provided information via the Freenets and Internet were then called. The Internet was very much a networking tool at that stage - for academics, public interest organizations and individuals.

I remember the concerns being raised when it was first proposed that commercial use of the Internet be allowed, because” in the beginning” business was not allowed on the Internet. As one who shared those concerns I was relieved to find that, for the most part, business use of the net has been positive, providing useful resources to the public and customers.

However concerns have been raised lately about the corporate interests that control the hardware networks that the Internet runs on favouring certain commercial users over the broader public interest. This is a concept known as net neutrality.

I use the Internet for social networking, primarily through mountain biking and photography sites that operate on a membership fee or donation funding basis.

This blog is on a commercial site, but there is no intrusion on the blog itself except for the compulsory task bar at the top. Though advertising options are made available that would provide revenue to me and the service owner (Google) I have not been required to have any advertising on my blog.

It would be nice to see a real social networking site for the academic community - universities, professors, students and alumni. It could be developed by the open software community, hosted co-operatively on the university networks and maintained by volunteers.

With Facebook the original purpose has become secondary to generating revenues for it’s owners. Facebook has become the worst of capitalism on the net and I call on all progressive Internet users to BOYCOTT FACEBOOK.

2007-11-26

Racism in the Context of Time - The Full Story

These words were taken from my Grade 13 history notes from 1968-1969 (Mr. Varpio, LaSalle Secondary School, Sudbury, Ontario). They are from a handout entitled "The Myth of Lincoln - Globe, April 14, 1965, By Harry Pitt, London Observer Service".

These words were stated by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 during the Senate election campaign in response to the incumbent Stephen Douglas:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races - I am not ... in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.

There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
Lincoln, in 1862, while President and prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, stated:
If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also. What I do about slavery and the coloured race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.
I will leave you to come to your own conclusions on whether or not Abraham Lincoln was a racist.

2007-11-23

Racism in the Context of Time

Was the man who said this a racist:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races - I am not ... in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.

There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
I will leave you to ponder these words over the weekend.

2007-11-22

Bill Teron’s Plan to Destroy The Greenbelt

According to the Ottawa Citizen, “Kanata’s founder”, developer Bill Teron, thinks that there are not enough people using the Greenbelt so we should develop it and build another Ottawa inside it. He states “It's a gorgeous place, but very seldom do you see people within it. Here, a million people would connect."

In case you think you did not read this correctly Bill Teron wants to build a city of one million people inside our Greenbelt.

According to the Citizen: “Within the developed land, Mr. Teron envisioned small "villages" of 5,000 to 10,000 people each, which would be developed around roads such as Woodroffe and Merivale”. After all, what good are environmental lands with trails in them when you can have villages instead. And what good is greenspace without roads running through it, as Teron states: “"We would be the only city in the world in which our ring roads were through a green paradise."

As a regular user of the greenbelt I know people use it. They may not crammed together on the trails or lined up to get on them like at a ride at Canada’s Wonderland but they are using the trails, and enjoying them because they are not congested. One can only imagine what putting a city of a million people inside it would do to the Greenbelt. Not being a fan of horror movies I would rather not imagine that

And yes, Teron has some novel ideas about adding to the greenbelt, but that would not make up for destroying what is there now. We all know what would happen if this plan was taken seriously - the negative parts of the plan would be implemented and then it would be discovered that the positive aspects are “impractical and unworkable”.

It is time for us all to stand up for the greenbelt.

2007-11-21

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Complexity and Simplicity

The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be seen in it’s long history, yet it’s solution is a basically simple one.

The conflict started before the creation of the State of Israel following the Second world War (which was no doubt influenced by the treatment of the Jews by the Nazi regime).

Israel was created by the major powers stealing land from the Arabs and Palestinians which led to immediate war and conflicts which have continued ever since. These wars have led to Israel unilaterally stealing more land from it’s neighbouring countries leading to continuous Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

At the moment the Palestinians are divided. Following the death of Yasser Arafat, a moderate Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement, was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority. Following that the more militant Hamas movement won the Palestinian Parliamentary elections, while Abbas remained President. Conflict arose between the two movements leading to Hamas officials being ousted from their positions in the Palestinian National Authority and Palestinian President Abbas issuing a decree outlawing the Hamas militia and executive force.

On the Israeli side there is conflict between those who believe Israel should exist in it’s original borders and these who believe in permanently annexing the lands taken from the Palestinians after the creation of the State of Israel.

At times the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems futile. But one only has to look to Northern Ireland and South Africa to see that the seemingly impossible is possible. In both these cases peace came about because both sides had the courage to talk to each other, rather than invoking the convenient excuse of “not negotiating with terrorists” even if each side considered the other to be terrorists. Who would have thought that black and white South Africans would come together to build a new country,

There is only one ultimate solution and it is essentially a simple one and the sooner both sides accept this the sooner a lasting peace can be established.

The solution essentially comes down to understanding the most and least that each side can accept.

We could argue forever whether the State of Israel should have been created the way it was but, as most Palestinians have come to accept, that is a historical fact that is simply not going to change. It has been a huge and difficult step for the Palestinians to accept that, after all it was their land that was stolen from them. But come to accept it they have. That is the most they can be expected to accept. The least they can be expected to accept is to have their own Palestinian State and have Israel give back the land they stole since the creation of the State of Israel with no exceptions. The original boundaries must be restored, including the status of Jerusalem at the time Israel was created.

The least that Israel can be expected to accept is to have their right to exist accepted by the international community, including Palestinians and Arab states. The most they can be expected to give up is all the land they stole after the creation of the state of Israel, a not unreasonable expectation.

The beauty of this solution is that it provides something that is acceptable to the moderate majority on both sides and thus reduces the ability of extremist to rally support, That is not to say that both Israelis and Palestinians will not have to deal with the extremists within their own ranks. The Palestinians have already shown they are willing to do that and without having to fight an external enemy at the same time, they can be more effective.

It also means Israelis and Palestinians will no longer have a need to fear each other and be enemies but can work towards being partners in the Middle East.

It is as simple (and as complicated) as that.

2007-11-20

Tasing Is Oh So Funny

At least according to Fox News it is. Watch the video and read more about it here.

This whole subject just keeps getting more disgusting and shameful everyday.

2007-11-19

Should Carbon Offsets Be Mandatory

My wife and I are planning to travel to Vienna for our 30th anniversary, which means we will be flying. Although our specific plans are not made yet, I decided to see what the cost of carbon offsets for our return flight would be if we flew via Air Canada to Frankfurt return. At economy the flights would cost about $2700 and the carbon offsets approximately $40 (about 1.5 % of the cost). The carbon offsets would pay for a reforestation project that would supposedly offset the carbon released into the atmosphere by our share of the flights.

The problem with carbon offsets is that they can be used to buy off your guilt and to justify to yourself that your carbon emitting activities are not part of the problem. You can drive the gas guzzling SUV and take the overseas vacations and buy your way out of responsibility.

The other problem is that we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emitting activities at the same time as we undertake the kind of environmental projects, such as reforestation projects, that the carbon offsets finance.

But the fact is that some people are just not going to care and will refuse to limit their carbon creating habits, while those that are environmentally conscious are still going to have to travel by automobile or air at times, even if they consciously limit such travel.

The best way to do our part is to reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible and offset those we cannot reduce with environmental projects such as reforestation. Carbon offsets are one way of doing that, and they should not be limited to the voluntary contributions of the environmentally conscious.

Carbon offsets should be mandatory and built into the cost of air travel, gasoline and other vehicle fuels.

2007-11-16

The South March Highlands - Kanata’s Outdoor Wonderland

I want to preface this by stating that I am a hiker and mountain biker, as well as a cross-country skier, but primarily I am an environmentalist.

On November 10, 2000 the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton announced the purchase of 556 acres of the South March Highlands for $1.6 million at the urging of Kanata Regional councilor Alex Munter who has stated “his biggest achievement would be putting South March Highland into public ownership to keep it protected.“

My attempt to find anything about the plans for the South March Highlands on the City of Ottawa website have been unsuccessful. All I could find were references to the fact that a plan should be drawn up.

However my own sources have confirmed that the process has begun with the city meeting with stakeholders and conducting another environmental assessment on the lands. I understand public meetings will be announced shortly.

Having heard rumours that some “environmentalists” wanted to restrict public access and trails to the periphery of the area I contacted the Kanata Environmental Network who provided this response:

“KEN has a representative attending the City meetings concerning the South March Highlands. The periphery approach is consistent with the environmental studies that Dan Brunton did over 20 years ago. There will be a new environmental assessment done in the next year and it may recommend keeping all human traffic on the edges. KEN is in favour of this approach. There is no other way to protect the heronry and multiple rare plant species in the highlands. KEN's stance reflects Brunton's recommendations until an update becomes available.”

This will come as a shock to the local community associations and activists who used Dan Brunton’s research in their fight to save the adjoining KNL lands from development and protect the trail network. They obviously have a different interpretation of Brunton’s position.

The fact is that this is urban parkland, not wilderness. It is surrounded by roads and the southern boundary is going to be a major roadway - Terry Fox Drive. Treating this land as wilderness with no interior public access simply does not make sense. One only needs to look at the response to KNL’s development proposals to know the public wants access to these lands.

And of course the trails are there and have existed for years and are being used by residents from all over Ottawa.

People can be a great threat to the environment, the biggest impact being from development - bulldozing and paving it over, blasting and replacing forests and meadows with parking lots and buildings.

On the other hand people hiking responsibly through the forest has no greater impact than deer or bears running through the forest, particularly when they are on a controlled trail system. The same applies to mountain biking where the scientific evidence indicates that hikers and mountain bikers and hikers have equivalent impacts on trails. See for example the reviews done by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

The majority of outdoorspersons considers themselves to be, and indeed are, environmentalists. The best way to raise environmental awareness is by getting people out into the environment, enjoying it and learning of it’s importance and the need to protect it. That is where the environmentalists that we need to fight the real threats to the environment - development and habitat destruction, are born.

Getting people out into the environment, onto the lakes and rivers and into the forests builds healthy lifestyles, and healthy lifestyles improve our health and reduces our health care costs. This is important at a time when obesity, and childhood obesity in particular, is at epidemic levels. We need natural spaces and trails to teach our children the benefits and enjoyment that can be had in the great outdoors. Kanata is fortunate that we have a population that celebrates healthy lifestyles and rises up to challenge those that want to take our natural spaces and trails away from us.

Young people need the type of challenges the outdoors can provide as an alternative to spending their time a sedentary lifestyle centered on electronic devices, or other even worse but seemingly exciting activities, like gangs and drugs. Youth can be attracted to these things by the very risks we want to protect them from. Outdoors activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking can provide exciting healthy risks that build character and a healthy body.

The South March Highlands is an ideal location for the people of Kanata, young and old, to discover and enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle.

Fortunately we already have an environmentally friendly trail system in the South March Highlands, with natural, rugged, single track trails that have minimal environmental impact. These are the types of trails that hikers and mountain bikers love. The trail system is currently unofficially maintained by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association according to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) sustainable trail building standards which keeps the trails as natural as possible with some rock armouring used to raise low wet areas and some bridges over wet areas.

So what should the South March Highlands Management Plan propose for the existing trail system.

The trail system should be reviewed in light of the findings of the new environmental assessment, and in particular the identification of environmentally sensitive areas. It should also be reviewed in light of IMBA’s sustainable trail standards. This review would determine if any trail sections need to be rebuilt, closed or re-routed, as well as identifying possible additional trail routes.

Existing and new trails should be designed and maintained in as natural a state as possible, no widening, flattening, or paving should be allowed.

The South March Highlands belongs to all of us. The trails should be open to all users, with the exception of motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles.

In the summer we already have seen that the trails function exceedingly well as shared trails and they have the potential to become a model shared use trail system.

In the winter these rugged trails are ideal for snowshoeing, as well as mountain biking. Cross country skiers should also be welcome but these natural trails should not be altered into wide flat ski trails. There are lots of good wide flat ski trails available for skiing. These trails provide an excellent alternative for other trail users to avoid conflicts with skiers on the cross country ski trails.

The final, but perhaps most important part of the plan, should be public education on environmentally friendly and sustainable trail use, including respect for other trail users - share the trail. The education campaign should stress that trail users should stay on the designated trails. As well it should encourage trail users to avoid wet muddy trails but advise them to use the centre of the trail, not go alongside and widen it, if they do need to go through wet muddy sections. A good place to start with trail education are the IMBA Rules of the Trail

The residents of Kanata fought a valiant fight to try to protect the environmental lands and trail system within the KNL development lands, We still have the South March Highlands. It is time to build a plan that allows us to enjoy this environmental jewel in a responsible way that gets more people out enjoying the great outdoors and protects the environment.

2007-11-15

Royal Canadian Murderous Police Shame


Do we really need another blog stating it's disgust and shame for the murder of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Unfortunately we do. This case is of such significance that I feel I must go on the record. However we all know the facts and have seen the videos so I will not repeat or reference them here.

Some have used this as an example of why the police should not use Tasers. The police argument has always been that Tasers are used as an alternative to guns and can allow police to avoid shooting and killing people. What that says is about this case is that if the RCMP did not have Tasers they would have shot him instead. This is not a case of whether the RCMP can be trusted with Tasers, it is a case of whether they can be trusted with any weapons. With four officers dealing with one unarmed man (who could not understand them) there was no need for any type of weapon to be used. We can only hope it was not a case of them wanting to try out their new toy.

One might be able to make a weak case that the first use of the Taser was bad judgment but the continued use on the victim, after he was down, was murder, pure and simple.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police must pull the wagons back out of the circle and join the rest of Canada in expressing their disgust and shame for this act of murder.

2007-11-14

It’s Time To Ban Inane Drug Ads

Don't you just love Canadian drug ads. I know they have me hooked, I'm heading down to the drugstore right now to get bottles of "dancing in the street like a fool", "floating through the meadow" and maybe I'll pick up a couple of bottles of "talk like an alien baby".

One of the most interesting is the Viagara retirement speech ad where the retiree is bleeped, apparently for saying, so we are supposed to think, that he is going to have more sex, or some euphemism therefor. Of course, we're supposed to think he's being bleeped because he mentions sex, but actually it is because to do so would come too close to telling the people what the drug is for and in Canada drug ads cannot mention the name of the drug and the disease or ailment it treats. That is why you see all these drug ads that give you no clue what the drug treats, or you see "education" ads about an ailment telling you to ask your doctor about new treatments (in the hopes he will prescribe the drug that is being "advertised").

If the government wants to ban drug advertising why do they not do it directly, instead of taking this approach that forces us to watch these inane drug ads. There is no reason for drug advertising in Canada. Prescription drugs should not be self-prescribed in a country where anyone can see a doctor without personal cost. It is the doctor's role to diagnose conditions and prescribe drugs. If patients want to do research on the Internet or in books and ask their doctors about specific treatments or drugs they can do that. Drug companies so-called "education' ads are only veiled attempts to sell products.

It is time to spare us the suffering and take those inane drug ads off our television screens.

2007-11-13

Religion and Real Estate - King-Priests

I was channel surfing the other day when I came upon a televangelist on the CTS Network. This is not my usual thing to watch but it caught my attention because, although it was obviously a preacher talking, it sounded more like a real estate seminar. Apparently god created the world so that we could own it and where the Bible talks about eliminating poverty it means everyone should buy their own home and real estate.

At the end of the show I realized it was entitled “Washed By the Word' with Dr. Pat Francis. They provided the website address, which I just had to check out.

I found out this organization operates “Education & Kingdom Businesses”, including an elementary and secondary school in Ontario. They also sell “educational material” including an interesting video entitled “Anointed In the Marketplace”.

Anointed In the Marketplace will help to position you for your king-priest calling. As a king you are anointed with power, influence, wealth and wisdom to lead others. As a priest you are anointed to minister to others, pray, intercede and to advance His Kingdom. You are anointed. You are what you believe. His anointed will manifest in you place of work whether it is in the marketplace or at home. You are anointed for influence.

Once you understand your calling you will no longer work for a living but will fulfill your calling to represent God wherever He positions you with more power and influence. Send for Anointed In the Marketplace today and start your full-time ministry as a king-priest servant of God.

I am believing with you.
Maybe this is mainstream out there in the religious community but it struck me as something strange to come across on basic cable that almost everyone receives. That makes it a great marketing tool, and preaching appears to have become the marketing tool of the religion business in the modern age.

2007-11-12

Parliament is Our House - Keep It “Open”

Despite the concerns of Members of Parliament that the Parliament Buildings not become a fortress, the house of Commons security service is again increasing security measures.

According to the Ottawa Citizen NDP MP Yvon Godin and Liberal MP Garth Turner have both expressed concerns over the new measures:

NDP MP Yvon Godin said he has visited legislative assemblies in other countries where uniformed guards carry weapons and he felt it to be intimidating. "Parliament is a place where I want people to come in and feel like home," said Mr. Godin. "I don't want people to come in there and see people with guns."

"I don't know what the threat is," said Mr. Turner. "I don't understand, as a guy who works in these buildings all day like you, why we need people to protect us with sticks and guns."
As one who worked on Parliament Hill for 33 years I have never felt in danger, even before the security measures initiated after “9/11".

Parliament makes decisions to send Canadians into harms way whether as police officers or military personnel, often justifying the decisions on the basis that these Canadians are protecting our democratic way of life or fighting for democracy. They should be willing to take a small risk to keep Parliament democratic and open to the people.

The security services are focused on security and unfortunately they do not seem to understand that Parliament is a special place - it is the Common Peoples House, thus, the House of Commons. The people must have access to their lawmakers and to the lawmaking process. They must be able to freely watch democracy in action and have free access to their representatives without feeling intimidated.

And of course there is the symbolic aspect which should not be dismissed. Symbols are a way for a society to express its values. Armed guards within Parliament can be seen as being symbolic of a police state or military rule. Do we really want to send that message to Canadians.

2007-11-09

A tax cut I can support

Congratulations to the Ontario government for taking a small step that makes an important statement about the importance of health, fitness and the environment. The provincial government has announced the removal of the Provincial Sales Tax on bicycle helmets and bicycles under $1,000.

2007-11-08

Larry O’Brien’s Three Big Ideas

Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien finally laid out his much anticipated , “plan” for a zero means zero tax freeze, and in true Larry O’Brien fashion it turned out to be nothing but more recycled right wing platitudes.

In the spirit of solving the City’s problems by telling everyone else to just “work smarter” he is going to tell City staff to find more administrative savings, again.

He also put forth the standard right wing solution to municipal costs - to reduce wages by back-door union busting, also known as contracting-out or privatization. This, of course, is a solution that would potentially mean more profits for the company whose Board of Directors the mayor sits on, Calian Technologies. Mr. O’Brien thinks the people that provide the municipal services that we all depend on should bear the brunt of the rising costs the City is facing. Better they take a major wage cut than we face a moderate tax increase. Interestingly enough, the example he used to justify privatization was a service that the City makes money off of - parking.

The mayor also trudged up the age old solution used by companies in financial crisis - sell off parts of the company. Of course, in the private sector they usually sell of a non-profitable part of the company to someone who thinks they can turn it around and make a profit. Mr O’Brien wants to sell of Hydro Ottawa, a company that makes a profit for the City.

This is just more of the same non-leadership in a record that will be remembered for proving that the City can function without a mayor.

2007-11-07

Abolishing The Senate - An Easy Solution

New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton has called for a national referendum on the abolition of the Senate, while others, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper want to reform it, while the expert think abolition is unlikely.

Certainly at a time when politicians and political institutions are perhaps at their lowest in public respect, the Senate is the least respected institution and Senators the least respected politicians.

Politically, abolishing the Senate is an easy solution.

The real question is not whether Senators are doing a good job or whether the institution as it is constituted now is useful. The real question is whether our federal government requires two legislative chambers, a bicameral system, when the provinces function fine without them. Do we need a “chamber of sober second thought”.

In many ways the provinces deal with jurisdictions of a more administrative nature, such as health care, education and transportation infrastructure, while the federal Parliament is the one that reflects Canadian values.

Although health care administration is under provincial jurisdiction it was when the federal Parliament adopted Medicare as a national program that it became the most sacred of all Canadian values, along with national social programs.

As I type this I cannot help but think of the major role the New Democratic Party has played in establishing Canada’s national values, from inventing Medicare in Saskatchewan to opposing capital punishment, which recent polls indicate has become entrenched as a basic Canadian value.

As with the capital punishment decision, it is the federal Parliament that decides what we as a society consider to be right or wrong, in its responsibility for the Criminal Code. It decides who our friends and enemies are and what Canadians are willing to fight and die for, in it’s responsibility for foreign and military policy. It decides who we let immigrate into the country and become Canadians. It decides, on behalf of all Canadians, what our responsibilities are in the world in protecting and promoting equality, human rights and a sustainable environment. It is the level of government that ensures Canadian values are entrenched in our laws and public policies.

The Fifth Column proposes, for purposes of discussion, that we consider establishing a New Chamber with a more focused role.

That role would be to ensure that legislation complies with Canadian values, and in particular, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The New Chamber would also retain the “sober second thought” role of identifying flaws and unintended effects in legislation before it is passed, and sending it back to the House of Commons, basically saying “did you really want to do that”.

The New Chamber would be different. It would not be appointed. It would not be elected. It would be selected randomly from the population similar to the jury selection process. It would not be made up of politicians and it would not be divided by party allegiances. It would be an attempt to represent the people directly, rather than indirectly through elected representatives.

The New Chamber would not initiate legislation. That would be the role of the politicians that we elect on the basis of their policies and personal character. It would, as previously stated, provide an oversight role in ensuring that legislation complies with Canadian values and it would undertake studies on matters of public interest and policies and present non-partisan reports to the House of Commons for consideration.

This proposal would definitely not be an easy solution.

2007-11-06

Twelve Thousand Words on Why We Should Preserve The Greenbelt

The Ottawa Greenbelt, or as it is officially known, The National Capital Greenbelt has been in the news lately due to the musings of the new Chair of the National Capital Commission (NCC), Russel Mills. Fortunately, if not surprisingly, the Minister of the Environment, John Baird thinks otherwise.

Today I want to share with you some of my photographs taken in our favourite place to spend our time, The Greenbelt:

Click on the photos to see larger images.

























More of my photos of The Greenbelt and other locations can be found in Richard's Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 Photo Galleries @ Fotopic.Net

2007-11-05

Privacy Rights – Where Do We Draw The Lines - Questions

Are we too concerned about privacy. Has the concept of privacy gone too far. Do we really have a right to anonymity. When is it acceptable for authorities to ask us to prove who we are. These issues arise in all sorts of social and political contexts.

Do people who work for public agencies – people who work for us – have a right to refuse to let the public know what they are being paid on our behalf.

What about complaints by drivers about red light cameras that catch them in public breaking the law. Do they have a right to be concerned about people finding out where they were, when they were in a public place. Do people have a right to “freedom from embarrassment”.

If we can be freely seen in a public place is being videotaped or photographed in that place an invasion of privacy.

Should police be able to stop all black men and request identification if a black man has committed a crime in that area. Do police ever stop all tall men when a tall man has committed a crime in the area. How do we differentiate between racial profiling and stopping people that match the description of a suspect.

Would we all be better off if authorities could use the best technology available to identify people, such as fingerprints, Iris scans or DNA (can we separate medical from identifying information in a DNA sample). Should we all have our identification data on the public record.

If travellers are subjected to inappropriate treatment due to misidentification, or having similar names to other people, are more accurate identification methods such as fingerprinting or iris scans actually less intrusive than comparing names or photographs.

Should we worry about Internet financial transactions but freely give our VISA number to anyone working in a restaurant or gas station.

Should we require photo identification to vote. Does it matter that many poor and disadvantaged people don’t have photo ID because they don’t vote anyway.

2007-11-02

Bus Business Butt Ban

Well actually it's a "OC Transpo transit property smoking ban" but "Bus Business Butt Ban" alliterates better.

It's a little late for me now that I am retired, but I remember waiting at the bus stop and how annoying it was trying to avoid smokers. If I can smell the stuff I'm breathing it and and suffering the health consequences.

Indeed, The Canadian Cancer Society reports:

January 2006 - A new study by Canadian Cancer Society researcher Dr Roberta Ferrence may make it more difficult to smoke in outdoor public places.

The Toronto-based researcher is studying the behavior of smokers and non-smokers in outdoor public places in order to encourage new legislation and new designs that will limit outdoor smoking.

“The fact is that there are substantial health hazards from second-hand tobacco smoke exposure outdoors as well as indoors,” says Dr Ferrence, who is also the director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. “This means that we must start thinking about how to protect people from second-hand smoke when they’re in outdoor public places.”
Credit goes to OC Transpo for increasing its protection of transit users from second hand smoke.

2007-11-01

The State of the Blog

I am very happy with the progress of the blog. It has been 9 months since I created The Fifth Column, two months of that was the development and testing stage, 7 months with actual new blog posts and the last two months with posts every weekday.

From April 1 to October 31 there have been 1852 visits by 1293 unique visitors with 2832 page views. The blog took its biggest jump in traffic when I started posting daily during the week. Being “syndicated” on Progressive Bloggers and Blogging Dippers also helped a lot.

This may not be a lot by the standards of the big mainstream blogs but I certainly feel that it is enough to make the effort worthwhile, especially as I do appear to be getting some regular visitors to the blog. I am also very pleased to be receiving votes on Progressive Bloggers, yesterday’s blog receiving 5 votes. I look forward to growing the blog further.

I am however disappointed in the low number of comments being posted, one of the main goals of the blog being to initiate discussion. So if you do have any general comments on The Fifth Column please post them in response to this blog posting, and please let me know if you are a regular reader of The Fifth Column.









2007-10-31

From Opportunism to Abstinence - Stéphane Dion and the Liberal Party

The Liberal Party has long been known to have no original ideas of it’s own, simply stealing policies from the Conservatives or New Democrats depending on the public mood.

When Stéphane Dion was elected party leader many thought he would be a leader that would not be remembered for anything. Little did they know he would take the party to new heights of opportunism as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Abstainers.

The Liberal Party has apparently decided that since it does not agree with the policies of the Conservatives who form the government, nor with the policies of the New Democrats who oppose it, that their only option is to abstain from voting on all matters of confidence.

But they take their role as official abstainers seriously, these are not simple abstentions but ”whipped” abstentions on the government’s overall policy, as well as it’s financial policy.

Perhaps someone should remind Stéphane Dion and the Liberals that the role of the official opposition is to oppose the government and provide an alternative government in waiting. The Liberals have made it clear they are not ready to form an alternative government because they believe that they would not receive a mandate from the people to govern if an election was held at this time.

Perhaps they would have a better chance of winning an election and forming a government if they actually did their job as the official opposition by voting against the government’s policies that they claim to disagree with and putting forth alternative policies of their own, rather than being official abstainers.

If they are not prepared to do this the should call on the Speaker of the House to request Jack Layton and the New Democrats to take on the role of official opposition, in addition to that of effective opposition that they have already undertaken.

2007-10-30

The City of Ottawa Website Sucks

Today I'm going to rant about the City of Ottawa Website. It may be fine for finding out when garbage day is and even for finding the cycling map but whenever I am looking for important information it is almost impossible to find. The most difficult information to find is the most important information - information on development proposals and planning. Sometimes if you know which council or committee meeting discussed the subject you can find it in the meeting minutes, but try looking for something based on the subject.

My most recent experience was trying to find information on the South March Highlands Management Plan. I understand public meetings are to be held on it soon, but there was nothing under Public Consultation or Environment or any other relevant website sections I could think of. The website search function only found a few passing references in documents to the fact that the city was going to draw up a management plan for the South March Highlands.

The website appears to be large and extensive but a lot of it is fluff and whenever I look for concrete information and documents I am completely unsuccessful.

2007-10-29

Quitting Smoking Can Kill You and Global Warming is a Myth

Yes it is true - “giving up smoking can kill you”, and not only that, not smoking causes “neurotic depression, violent irritability, and obscene weight gain”, not to mention the fact that increased tobacco consumption is responsible for longer life expectancies.

Who would claim that - David Warren, writing in the Ottawa Citizen citing an article in Medical Hypotheses a non-peer reviewed journal in which authors pay to be published.

He also states:

“There is one more hypothesis with which I would like to leave my reader. It is that the kind of quack "science" that was used to ban smoking has now mutated into the kind that is used to flog global warming. It should have been resisted then; it should certainly be resisted now.”

It appears that Mr. Warren thinks that if he can convince us that smoking is good for us we will also believe that global warming is a myth.

And, just for the record, the Canadian Cancer Society states:

Health benefits of quitting

All kinds of smokers – men and women, young or old – can get health benefits from quitting. The minute you stop smoking, your body begins to clean itself of tobacco poisons. Here’s how:

* Within 8 hours, carbon monoxide levels drop in your body and oxygen levels in your blood increases.
* After 2 days, your sense of smell and taste begin to improve.
* Within 2 weeks to 3 months, your lungs work better making it easier to breathe.
* After 6 months, coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness and shortness of breath improve.
* After 1 year, your risk of a smoking-related heart attack is reduced by half.

The younger you are when you quit the greater the health benefits.

Quit and reduce the risk of cancer

Quit now and reduce the risk of developing cancer. In general, the longer you don't smoke the more you lower your risk.

* Within 10 years of quitting, the overall risk of an ex-smoker dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
* After 10 years, the overall risk of an ex-smoker developing cancer approaches that of a non-smoker.

2007-10-26

Why I Like Bike Lanes

The first thing I should make clear is that I am not a hardcore roadie or commuter. I am more of a recreational cyclist who, when not riding dirt trails on my mountain bike, prefers to ride dedicated pathways on my hybrid. That being said, I still have occasion to ride on the roads and when I do I try to act as a vehicle following the same rules of the road.

I realize that many cyclists, as well as Citizens for Safe Cycling, are not big fans of bike lanes.

One of the reasons I am a fan of bike lanes is because, like it or not, bicycles and cars are not equal on the road. For one thing cars are faster, larger and heavier, and more importantly can do much more damage than bicycles. Read that to mean they can kill people.

Bicycles are also not equal legally and are required to move to the right to allow motor vehicles (and horses) to pass. The Highway Traffic Act states:

“Every person on a bicycle or motor assisted bicycle who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the vehicle or equestrian to pass and the vehicle or equestrian overtaking shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (6).”

Sharing the same roadway may be fine in theory but can be very scary in practice. I really appreciated having dedicated bike lanes when I was travelling down Hunt Club Road in heavy traffic with cars and big trucks whizzing past me at high speeds within one or two feet of me. However because I was in a dedicated lane, so that both myself as a cyclist as well as the car drivers had our own clearly dedicated space, I felt safe.

On the other hand travelling over the Queensway on Moodie Drive while it is under construction and the bike lanes are removed is a lot scarier than taking the same route with the bike lanes.

I realize that bike lanes are not perfect. My biggest complaint about bike lanes is when they disappear at intersections, creating a situation that can create real havoc as cyclists are almost pushed off the road where four directions and multiple lanes of traffic are converging. But let us fix the design problems, not eliminate bike lanes.

If we want more people to cycle we have to make it comfortable for them to cycle. While hardcore roadies and commuters may feel comfortable fighting with automobiles for a piece of the road, the average person we are trying to convince to use their bike instead of their car will be scared off of the road unless we make them feel safe on the road. In my humble opinion, dedicated bike lanes are an important way of making riding on the road safer for the average cyclist.

2007-10-25

Cycling and Mountain Biking in the Gatineau Park

A few weeks ago I was driving home from mountain biking along the Gatineau Parkway when I noticed just how little room there was for cyclists and motor vehicles to share the road. If I wanted to pass a cyclist I had to hug the yellow line, a dangerous thing to do if traffic is approaching me and only possible if the oncoming traffic sees the cyclist on my side and moves over to give me room, and impossible if there are motor vehicles and cyclists on both sides of the road. At one point I just had to follow behind the cyclist till it was safe to pass, fortunately he was moving at about 40 km/hr.

This can create very dangerous situations, especially if there are impatient drivers. Drivers should, however, be aware that, although used as such, the parkway is not a commuter route, it is a scenic route for tourists and residents to use to enjoy the park scenery and has a speed limit of 60 km/hr.

In many ways the Gatineau Parkway is a wonderful route for cyclists, scenic, winding and hilly. It could be a world class cycling route and a major tourist attraction and economic benefit to the region, if the safety problem was solved.

The answer of course is simple - put dedicated bike lanes along both sides of the parkway. Yes, it will take up some green space but only along the parkway corridor, doing much less damage than building superhighways through the park which the National Capital Commission (NCC ) thinks is appropriate. These bike lanes should be double lanes, not to encourage riding double which cyclists do now adding to the safety problem, but to allow faster cyclists to pass slower ones without having to enter the motor vehicle portion of the parkway.

Perhaps if the NCC undertook a project such as this it would divert their attention from turning single track trails into gravel roads. Which brings me to the other aspect of cycling in the Gatineau Park - mountain biking.

The NCC, in it’s wisdom, has decided that mountain bikers should be second class citizens in the park. If they want to ride single track trails they are relegated to a small section of the park (Camp Fortune) run by a private operator where fees are charged. Meanwhile hikers and trail runners have free reign over all of the public trails in the park at no charge, including the wide trails designated for mountain biking.

I appreciate having the wide gravel trails to ride, they are fun, but mountain bikers, like serious hikers, love rough natural technical single track trails, which are a lot more environmentally friendly than widened gravel roads, which the NCC loves to build and call trails.

There are two arguments for keeping mountain bikers off single track trails - user conflicts and environmental damage. However, neither of these arguments holds up to scrutiny.

In various places, including the NCC’s own greenbelt (where bicycle use is against NCC regulations but the regulations are not enforced), hikers and bikers regularly share the trails with each other with few problems. I can personally attest to never having had a conflict with hikers on the greenbelt trails while riding them regularly (several times a week). I can also attest to hiking and mountain biking in the South March Highlands and always having other trail users treat me with respect, whether as a hiker or a biker.

As to the environmental impact, the overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that hikers and mountain bikers have equivalent impacts on trails. See, for example, the reviews done by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

For more information on mountain biking see the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) website and the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) website.

Since there are no reasons to treat them differently from other trail users, what should the NCC do to ensure that mountain bikers receive equal treatment and trail access in the Gatineau Park.

First they should enter into an agreement with the operator of Camp Fortune to replace the cross country trail fees paid by individuals with a fee paid by the NCC. I suspect the impact of this on the NCC budget would be minimal. This would ensure that mountain bikers do not have to pay access fees that other trail users do not have to pay.

The next thing they should do is to provide mountain bikers access to the rest of the single track trails in the park. This may require a short transition stage for public education and signage and perhaps some trail maintenance. There may even be a few trails that for specific reasons should not have mountain bike access. The NCC should take advantage of OMBA and IMBA’s sustainable trail building expertise during this process. In the interests of equality, this process should be expedited.

The NCC has an opportunity to make the Gatineau Park an internationally acclaimed location for both road cycling and mountain biking. Let us see if they are up to the challenge.

2007-10-24

Torture and Apple Pie

Last night's Law and Order SVU episode (Harm) took on the United States military torture techniques resulting in a backlash and attacks on the producers and actors as being traitors for presenting a show that opposed torture.

Some of the comments included:

"That was the most anti american propoganda episode I have ever seen. I am actually offended that NBC would air that. Our poor soldiers out in Iraq fighting for our lives and freedoms and NBC airs an anti torture episode to gain points politically. That is pretty low NBC."

"This was the most biased anti american show I have ever seen.NBC should be declared a terrorist tool."

"I consider this episode anti-American and the Prodcers, Actors and NBC Traitors. Until this episode it was one of my favorite shows. I will not watch it again. It was one of the few reasons I ever tuned into NBC. I have stopped watching the news on NBC because of its left wing bias."

Is torture as American as apple pie now, requiring that it be defended by patriotic god-fearing Americans.

2007-10-23

The Danger of “Stranger Danger”

Stranger Danger is rearing it’s ugly head again as A-Channel NEWS airs a three part series Oct. 24, 25, 26, 2007.


Once again we are focusing on a minuscule threat and avoiding the real issues.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states:

Is "stranger danger"—that dangers to kids come from strangers—really a myth?

Yes. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family.

We have learned that children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might; therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp. It is much more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be "on the look out" for a particular type of person.

For decades, parents, guardians, and teachers have told children to "stay away from strangers" in an effort to keep them safe. In response to the on-going debate about the effectiveness of such programs, NCMEC released the research-based Guidelines for Programs to Reduce Child Victimization: A Resource for Communities When Choosing a Program to Teach Personal Safety to Children to assist schools as they select curricula aimed at reducing crimes against children.
The Missing Children's Network Canada states:
The Stranger-Danger Myth

Did you know that the majority of abductions and aggressions against children are committed by someone the child knows and trusts?

The Missing Children's Network has removed the use of the term "stranger" from its safety literature for the following reasons:

# It just doesn't work! Children need a clear and concise description in order to be able to properly recognize a stranger in their neighbourhood.

# Adults often send contradictory messages when saying "Don't talk to strangers!" When we walk on the street, how often do we tell our children to say hello to people who are walking by?

# In case of emergency, children may need to ask help from someone they don't necessarily know or have never met. Children need to be reassured that most people are well-intentioned and sincerely care about them.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that you constantly reinforce the following fundamental principle:

Your child always has the right to say NO! to anyone including family members, neighbors, close friends, teachers, coaches or in any situation that leaves him feeling afraid, uncomfortable or confused. If at any time he finds himself in these circumstances, he must say NO!, get away from the situation and immediately confide in an adult whom he trusts.
So why do the media continue to pound away at this myth. Probably for the same reason discrimination and racism exists - it is far easier to see people we do not know and understand as being dangerous than those we have been taught to trust, who are a much greater risk to our children.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we actually live in very safe communities in a very safe country (where crime rates are declining but crime reporting by the media is increasing), we live in an age of fear. We do not let our children walk even a few blocks to school. In the past it was children that used to be afraid of the bogeyman. Now we live in a society that is afraid of the bogeyman.

We develop many of our attitudes in life at an early stage. If we teach our children to needlessly fear strangers what will that do their social development. What will that do to their ability to trust others and build communities together.

I prefer to think of a stranger as a friend I have not met yet.

2007-10-22

Why We Need FPTP

As the FPTP supporters would tell us we need FPTP so that candidates are nominated democratically at the local level and not just put on a list by the party leadership.

After all, we wouldn't want something like this happening.

2007-10-19

Are Gyms and Fitness Clubs a Sign of an Unhealthy Lifestyle

Is going to the gym the epitome of a healthy lifestyle or is it just another example of a compartmentalized life. For how many people, is going to the gym the one hour a week or day set aside for fitness, where they get in the SUV drive to the gym and put in their allotted fitness time and get back to their compartmentalized lives.

Lifestyle is not about allotting time. It is about doing what comes naturally. In primitive time a healthy active lifestyle was not only natural but necessary for survival. We had to hunt to eat. Even after the agricultural and industrial revolutions most people where active in their jobs with farm or industrial labour being dominant.

The word activity implies being active but for the majority in today’s information society work and other activities now rarely involve actually being active so we slot the gym or fitness club into our schedule as our healthy lifestyle time.

A true healthy lifestyle does not involve setting aside time for “healthy things” because you have too. A true healthy lifestyle involves doing things you love because you enjoy them. The health and fitness benefits are a side effect. A true healthy lifestyle is not compartmentalized but naturally built into all your daily activities

2007-10-18

Is Garbage Obsolete - Ottawa Green Bin Program

On October 11, 2007, Ottawa City Council gave the green light to curbside organics collection. Beginning in March 2009, Ottawa residents will be able to set out green bins on collection day alongside their blue and black boxes and regular garbage. Items that will go into the green bin include food scraps, meat and dairy products, soiled paper and cardboard, fireplace ash, kitty litter, wood chips, sawdust, and leaf and yard waste.

This is still about 18 months in the future, but could it be the beginning of the end for garbage. With organic waste, paper products, and all glass, metal and plastic containers being recycled there will not be much garbage left.

But what will be left will be the remnants of the worst of our wasteful society. The biggest item will likely be unnecessary plastic packaging waste. Does everything we buy really have to be bubble wrapped. The other big item will be broken cheap stuff of our throwaway society. Why make things that last when it is more profitable to make cheap stuff that is cheaper to replace than repair - much of it of course being toxic electronic waste products designed to be obsolete within 18 months or less.

Perhaps when we see these items sitting alone in our garbage we will finally see the light.

2007-10-17

Bossership vs Leadership - Part II of The Larry O'Brien Saga

On Wednesday, September 12, 2007 I stated in: Bossership vs Leadership - The Failure of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien:

"Ironically many voted for Larry O’Brien because he was not a politician, but his lack of political skills have been his downfall. He may, or may not, be a great private sector boss, who is used to making the decision and telling everyone else what to do, but he obviously lacks the political skills necessary to build the consensus and coalitions necessary to get things done in municipal government."

Apparently he has finally figured this out as the Ottawa Citizen reports that: Mr. O'Brien, a former CEO, said he's realized that the autocratic approach often taken in business simply doesn't work in municipal government. "The one thing I never had to do in business was compromise to get ideas through," he said. "It's not like that here."

I wonder how long someone with such a slow learning curve would last in his private sector company.