Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Hillary Should Go Back To Arkansas...

...And Become "The Greatest American"

Think about it. What could be the most important policy change for America - universal public health care. Both the Democratic Party candidates appear to believe in it yet neither has put real Canadian style "Medicare" in their platform. Why is that. One can only speculate that it is because they believe it would not be possible to implement in the United States.

Hillary Clinton should step back and read some Canadian history. Where did Canadian "Medicare" originate. In Saskatchewan, one of the poorest Canadian provinces. Hillary should go back to Arkansas and convince the state Democratic Party to run on a platform of implementing real "Medicare", get elected Governor and do it.

I know the American political system is different but for something that important it is worth a try, even if just to put pressure on the federal Democratic Party.

That would be a legacy much greater than being just being another President.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Fifth Column Going Into Intermittent Summer Mode

Biking and kayaking season is upon us and there are just too many outdoor things to be done for me to blog on a daily basis. The Fifth Column is now in intermittent summer mode. Until the fall I will only be blogging when the spirit moves me.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

"I Am Not a Racist ..."

What's the difference between these two statements.

"I am not a racist it's just that I can't hire black staff because most of my customers are racist."

"I am not a racist it's just that we can't pick a black candidate because most of the voters are racists."

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Dion to Liberals: We Don't Tell It As It Is

We knew that before but now it's official.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said he disagreed with Dallaire's choice of words, and hinted the senator could be disciplined.

"This is a matter to deal with the (party) whip, and we'll deal with that," Dion told reporters.
This is about what we have come to expect from the Leader of Her Majesty's Official Abstainers.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Omar Khadr Is a Child Soldier-Period!

If anyone can talk with authority on human rights and child soldiers it is Senator Roméo Dallaire.

The CBC reported that:

Canada has sunk to the moral equivalent of al-Qaeda by failing to treat Canadian Omar Khadr the same way it treats other child soldiers, Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire said Tuesday.

Dallaire, who appeared before a foreign affairs committee on international human rights, said Khadr is clearly a child soldier who shouldn't be prosecuted by an illegal court system at Guantanamo Bay but reintegrated into society.

Canada is heading down a slippery slope by failing to obey the United Nations conventions on child soldiers to which it is a signatory, he said.

"The minute you start playing with human rights, with conventions, with civil liberties in order to say you are doing it to protect yourself … you are no better than the guy who doesn't believe in them at all," he said.

"We are slipping down the slope of going down that same route."
When Senator Dallaire speaks the government should listen and pay heed rather than countering with a political defence of the United States Bush government's illegal actions. Perhaps Stephen Harper prefers to shake hands with the devil.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Submission re: South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan

click on map to enlarge

I am a lifelong environmentalist and outdoorsperson who hikes, mountain bikes, skis and snowshoes in the South March Highlands.

My first comments have to do with the public consultation process.

I was very pleased to see the full colour maps of the protected area at the open house presentation and to learn that more lands than I expected are being protected. In reviewing the maps it appears that more of the existing trails than expected may be included in the protected area.

Afterwards, I immediately went to the City of Ottawa website to see if I could review the maps and other documentation. However, as is usual, whenever I go to the City of Website to look for planning or development information I find it to be woefully inadequate.

It would be very useful if the public could access more details and background information on the City of Ottawa website in order to make better informed comments and suggestions.

One of the things that would be most useful to me in assessing the proposal and making suggestions regarding the trail network would be to see a map of the protected area with the existing trails overlaid. There are numerous trail maps available and I am appending a few that I have acquired to this document.

Before dealing with the trail network I want to address some real concerns I have about the impact of Terry Fox Drive on the conservation forest. Terry Fox Drive is an urban road that serves urban development. It should be routed through urban development land, not through land classified as rural conservation forest. To the extent that it has to cross the western portion of the protected land it should do so using as little protected land as possible.

Terry Fox Drive should absolutely not be bisecting the rural conservation forest in the way that it does. If the city is unwilling or unable to stand up to the land developers and put the road through urban development lands, the least it should do is route it along the southeastern edge of the conservation forest and not bisect the rural conservation forest.

The people of Kanata and Ottawa deserve at least an explanation as to why Terry Fox Drive is being routed the way that it is.

The rest of my comments will deal with the trail network.

As an environmentalist and serious hiker and mountain biker my first and primary concern is that the trails be kept in their natural rugged state and be retained as natural surface single track trails.

I understand that as a result of the environmental assessment process some trail rationalization may need to be done - some trails may require work to make them sustainable and some may need to be rerouted. I have no objection to improving the sustainability of the trail network as long as the network as a whole is not degraded. There may even be opportunities to build new trails for environmental reasons or to allow trail users to enjoy natural features in the area.

In particular, one trail known as “Outback”, is very long and can take up to four hours or more to hike. At several points that trail comes very close to adjoining trails. Making a link at one or more of those spots would allow hikers, who otherwise might not hike the whole trail all at once, to hike part of it at a time. Of course this would depend on whether there are environmentally suitable routes to make the links. This would also provide a faster exit for people injured on the trail and would provide faster access for emergency personnel, particularly in the winter when the cold is an added factor

In examining the map of the protected area we can see that it almost forms a circle providing the possibility of a large loop of interconnecting trails. This would require a link from the lands deeded to the City by KNL in the southeast end of the network to Trillium Forest in the northeast end of the network. Including a pathway between those two sections in the subdivision agreement would enhance the trail network in the protected area.

There has also been the possibility of wheelchair access pathways suggested. Despite the potential benefits of this, I do not wish to see the natural ruggedness and wilderness-like nature of the protected area compromised. One possibility is to build such a pathway around the “Beaver Pond”. This would also provide a place for casual walkers to enjoy the forest without ending up on the rugged natural trails in their high heels or sandals.

I understand the management plan will deal with the appropriate location of trailheads and parking facilities. I hope this will be done in such a way that natural features are not compromised. I would also suggest providing outhouses at the parking lots, as is done by the National Capital Commission at many of its parking lots in the greenbelt trail system.

Another issue that has been addressed by many trail users is the lack of signage, particularly due to the complexity of the trail system and the possibility of people getting lost. I trust this issue will be addressed in a way that detracts the least from the naturalness of the trails.

The last issue I want to address is public education. The official recognition of the South March Highlands Conservation Forest as a human-powered recreation area will make possible a more extensive public education program on responsible trail use. This has been something that the organized mountain biking community (OMBA) has been pursuing vigorously among its membership. However their membership does not include all trail users, and does not even include all mountain bikers. I would like to see the City fund an extensive public education program on responsible trail usage in co-operation with all trail user groups.

A good place to start in developing responsible trail use guidelines would be the IMBA Rules of the Trail.

Signage at the trail heads should include large trail maps on the signs along with responsible trail use guidelines. As well pamphlets with a map of the trails and the guidelines should be available.

I would also direct you to my previous comments on the South March Highlands Management Plan, “The South March Highlands - Kanata's Outdoor Wonderland”.

Maps of the South March Highlands and Kanata Lakes Trails

click on maps to enlarge





This has been sent to the South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan project manager and the four councillors representing Kanata on Ottawa City Council.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Tasers Don't Kill People - The Police Kill People

Tasers can indeed kill people, but not as certainly as guns can. That is why, as originally intended, as an alternative to the use of firearms by police, they are probably a good idea, at least in theory. The problem is that they are not being used responsibly by police. This is just the latest example of the irresponsible use of Tasers by police. Fortunately this incident did not end with a death.

How much more proof do we need that the police cannot be trusted to use Tasers responsibly.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Democratic Party Dream Ticket That Could Have Been

Very early in the United States presidential election primary process it became very obvious that there were two clear Democratic Party front runners, both with their own unique appeal to the electorate and both representing a radical change from what until then was seen as inevitable - that the president be a white man. Both leading candidates were highly qualified with good reputations.

What if at that time the leading candidates had seen the opportunity for a Democratic Party Dream Ticket, and decided that whoever came in second would be the vice presidential candidate. This agreement could have been kept private or made public. This agreement would inevitably have required a commitment from the candidates to run clean and positive campaigns, and not only not attack their opponents, but praise them for their qualifications as the best person to replace them as president if the need ever occurred.

It would have changed the whole dynamic of the election process, united and revitalized the Democratic Party and possibly ensured a Democratic presidential victory.

What we have now is more of a Democratic Party Nightmare with the leading Democratic candidates attacking their fellow Democrats with the zeal that is usually reserved for the Republican presidential candidate. Whichever candidate wins is going to face the Republican candidate with his or her reputation tarnished, not by attacks from the Republicans, but by attacks from within his or her own party.

That’s some way to run an election campaign.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Saving the World With Cheap LSD

“LSD acted as a unifying force, an equal opportunity enlightener. It was a bargain at $5 a hit in the 1970s; still is.”

According to an op ed article in the Ottawa Citizen LSD can enlighten and save us all.

Millions of people have experienced transcendence through LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). The creative energy unleashed by Mr. Hofmann's chemical catalyst has had a tremendous impact on our world.

Acid's effect on Western culture was profound, although most of the other associated elements were already in place. The peace movement, ecology, civil rights, changing gender roles and rock and roll - all of these things were well under way by the time LSD escaped the laboratory and hit the streets. There was already a counter-cultural drug scene; Allen Ginsberg had already written Howl. By 1962, when recreational or "street" acid became available in North America, psychedelic research was already causing chaos within the ivory tower.
...

For most, however, it was like pushing a big reset button on the backs of their heads: suddenly they could see life with a childlike wonder again, and be thrilled at the thought of it. LSD made people happier, better at their work, better citizens and parents.

LSD honours, exhilarates, and empowers the majority of trippers by allowing them to see past the patterns of everyday life and into a deeper level of meaning. It clarifies the big concepts such as love, family, and purpose; but also the little things: leaves and fingerprints. The heartbreaking beauty of a smile. LSD is a joyful surprise.
So why are the police not handing it out to solve all our crime and social problems. The United Nations should be distributing it worldwide to finally bring us world peace.

Indeed, the article even states “No one has ever died of an LSD overdose.” This statement is immediately preceded by “Although the odd person still jumps off a building thinking he can fly, that sort of thing is far less common nowadays.” But I guess that’s acceptable because those deaths were not caused by overdoses, but just the normal dose.

The article also states “Some who used LSD did have horrible experiences, or "bad trips." For a few it was the wedge that broke their grip on sanity once and for all.” But a few people going insane is a small price to pay to enlighten and save the planet.
Timothy Leary once said that LSD causes fear and anger - in the minds of people who have not taken it. Today as in Leary's era, most opposition to the use of psychedelics comes from those who have no experience whatsoever of their effects.
With those “wise words” I will leave it to you to judge. After all, only junkies have a right to comment on the effects of drugs.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Banned In China Ottawa

Apparently, if you belong to a persecuted group you are assumed to be protesting, so you are not allowed to participate in Ottawa’s Canadian Tulip Festival “Where Ideas Bloom”.

The Ottawa Citizen reported “Organizers of the Canadian Tulip Festival faced accusations of censorship yesterday for the last-minute cancellation of a performance by a marching band of Falun Gong practitioners during one of the festival's opening ceremonies.” The Citizen article further stated “Organizers claim that had festival staff known the Tian Guo Marching Band were all Falun Gong members, they never would have been booked at the festival.” The article also stated “"We came here to celebrate a cultural event, and our religion should not stop us from participating," band spokeswoman Grace Wollensak said”

One can only wonder if the organizers would have said the same thing about a group of Catholics or Jews or even Muslims.

The only justification given was an assumption that the group was going to protest because they are known to be persecuted by the Chinese government, and the Chinese Embassy is a sponsor of the Festival and had a representative at the event.

I would like to draw readers to the following summary of facts posted on the CBC website by “GraceW”.

I feel obliged to clarify some facts:

1. We just applied to perform at Dow’s lake, not at the opening ceremony.

2. We send the link of the band in the application so the Tulip officer had chance to know everything about the band. http://tianguoband.org/, where the past performances (70 parades in community/cultural events in two years), as well as Falun Gong connection and uniforms are all clearly presented.

3. After the review of our materials, the program coordinator invited the band to play at the opening ceremony: O Canada and Maple Leaf Forever

4. The band accepted the invitation as an honor, not intent to ‘hijack’ the event as organizer claimed.

5. The appearance of the band at the Tulip Festival has no difference from the photos in the link that we sent to the Tulip Festival program coordinator. In another words, the band dressed up exactly the same as they did in the St. Patrick parade in Ottawa earlier this year and won the award of ‘Best Band’. Nobody accused of the band as ‘political’ or ‘protest’. http://tianguoband.org/News/2008/2008-03-15-St.Patrick-Ottawa.html

6. The fact is that we were removed on the basis of our name being shown. What political messages could be carried by playing O Canada and Maple Leaf Forever.

7. The band represents a cultural group that wants to participate in Canadian activities as ordinary members of this multi-cultural society. The identify of the band members should not be judged or discriminated.

8. Falun Gong is not a protest word. It is the name of our group. The fact that we are persecuted, and protest the persecution, it is not our fault and does not mean our name must be hidden from public view. If that were true, then no one should be allowed to use the words "African-American," "Jewish," etc., in a community event. In fact, suggesting such is already siding with the persecutor, accepting that there is something wrong with this group.

9. The band has performed in over 70 community events and has won numerous awards. To say the band's effort to join this community event was a "stunt" is insulting.
I think all governments, federal, provincial, and municipal should rethink their funding of this event in relation to the organizers disregard of Canada’s constitutionally entrenched policies of freedom of religion and multiculturalism.

And the organizers should be ashamed to call themselves Canadians.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Tour Nortel 2008 - Hardest Tour Nortel Yet

Every year I participate in the Tour Nortel as part of a team of mountain bikers raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). For the last few years I have rode on a team sponsored by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA).

(click to enlarge)

After a couple of nice sunny years, this year it was raining, evident by the smaller number of riders that seemed to be there for the start of the tour. They also raised the length of the long route from 70 to 80 kilometres. But I have rode in the rain before, the first two years I rode were rainstorms, and another 10 kilometres is no big deal, as I have ridden up to 120 kilometres in one ride. Something else would cause my struggle this year.

I started out riding with the main OMBA group and soon realized that perhaps I should add more layers, as the cold and wet was becoming noticeable, but I didn’t want to leave my group. However, I ended up dropping behind the group going up the infamous Corkstown Road Hill, which was probably a good thing, since I now had no reason not to pull over and add more layers. This year I was wise enough to carry extra clothes in my backpack.

I found the rest of the start a real struggle and was contemplating turning around at the 35 km turn around point and just doing the shorter route. But I was revitalized when I got to it and met up with the rest of the OMBA riders who encouraged me to keep going. At that point I joined Cat and Mario and Gabrielle’s group as they were going a slightly slower pace than the main OMBA group. I seemed to get my second wind and the ride to the 80km turn around point was a “breeze”. The group stopped just prior to the turn around point and we got to share “OMBA baker” Chris’s goodies that he had baked for the group and were in my backpack.

When we turned around I then realized the “breeze” that was at our back was a brutal headwind that was now facing us. I ended up having to slow my pace and drop back from the group for the rest of the ride, which, at this point, was a real struggle. But, finally the wind was at my back again when I got to that first section that had caused me problems and I realized that it had been a headwind that caused my original struggle.

Revitalized I was on track again, at least until myself and a few other riders came to an intersection back in the urban area without a Tour Nortel direction sign. One of the riders used his intuition to take what I later realized was a bit of a shortcut to get us back on the official route.

I ended up getting back at 1:15 after all the festivities were over and headed home for a warm bath and rest. Despite all the struggles I never had to walk my bike, not even up the killer Huntmar Hill.

(click to enlarge)

It was another great day of riding with my OMBA friends. I rode a total of 82.7 kilometres in four hours and nineteen minutes with an average speed of 19.1 kilometres an hour and a maximum downhill speed of 54.4 kilometres an hour. At least that is what my GPS says.

I raised $625 and the three OMBA teams raised $6, 441 for the Tour Nortel and CHEO.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Rabble

Unfortunately I did not have time to blog today so I will point you to a web site worth checking out.