Playing God isn’t as easy as it seems, there’s a lot of guilt

Playing God isn’t as easy as it seems, there’s a lot of guilt

I’ve been playing God lately.

You know, deciding who lives, who dies. When to end a life, and whether by violent or somewhat more humane means.

And I have to say that, while it’s kind of empowering to play God, there’s a lot of guilt involved. I can’t say for sure if God feels any guilt about letting me live, while my two high school and college buddies died in horrific accidents. But I sure do.

I make most of my decisions about who to kill and not to kill in the spring. Because that’s when the natural world tries to invade my personal space.

This year, for example, I’m killing off carpenter ants by the thousands. Crushing them on sight without trial or remorse. I dispatch carpenter ants to the afterlife simply on sight, and without guilt.

Spiders, on the other hand, I take great care to capture in a drinking glass, under which I slip a stiff paper or or piece of cardboard. I try not to damage their many legs. What is that, 6 or 8, I don’t know.

Then I sentence the spider to the George Relocation Program, sometimes walking them all the way across the front lawn and flinging them into what could possibly be their preferred natural habitat in the neighbor’s yard. I only say to them, “You can’t live in my house,” and “You’re going to love this.”

Wasps die, usually by covering them in what looks like the foam in my Starbucks latte cup. I get too much foam at The Buck, and it kills me, too.

Bees live. I like bees. They aren’t mean like wasps. I think bees only sting you if you’re mean to them first, threaten them in some way. Wasps are like motorcycle gangs. They’ll sting you for no F-ing reason whatsoever, or because they’re drunk after gnawing up all that dried wood off your cedar fence.

Rats die, squirrels live. I kill a rat, there’s no remorse. But raised in a family of avid hunters, I made squirrels disappear by shooting gazillions of them with a 20-gauge shotgun. They would literally vanish. I still feel terrible about that.

Flys are dirty, so they die. Or as a friend of mine put it after a particularly hard day, “I just improved my outlook by washing windows and getting rid of all the smashed fly guts that were darkening my view.” Butterflies and most other flying creatures live.

You get the picture, right? I don’t feel remorse for killing living things that intend to harm my person or my property. But I take extra care not to harm living things that do me no harm.

Maybe that’s how God does it. I don’t know.

But I can say that if B.C. conservation laws allowed, I would gladly put the hit on every last deer wandering around my neighborhood like they own it. Urban deer are pests. They’re just big rats. They wander uninvited into your yard, chew up about $500 worth of plants, drop a pile of brown marbles and fall asleep on your lawn.

Oh, but the deer are so cute. The little deerettes have big doe eyes, and cute little noses. Horsefeathers. I like to think God would have kept Walt Disney around until about age 187 just to make more happy family films. But, no, Walt, had to go glamorize a little pest and named it Bambi. And he was punished.

And don’t get me started on the proliferation of wild bunny rabbits.

It gets serious for me when the B.C. government conducts misguided wolf kills, and allows trophy hunters to kill bears. There’s no excuse for big game hunters — like Donald Drumpf’s two sons — to shoot wild African animals. In fact, I don’t see the sense in most hunting these days, because for most people, hunting is for sport, not a food necessity.

And yet, in the time it’s taken you to read this, I’ve probably taken the lives of several carpenter ants and a few wasps. Is there a difference between what I do and what hunters or the B.C. government are doing? I think so.

Sometimes I justify my killing with the Bambi principle. Wolves and bears are cute woodland creatures. Ants and wasps are ugly … and creepy. But then, how do I make peace with my desire to murder deer? It gets confusing.

All I can say for sure is that if you believe in the afterlife and that you might be reincarnated as some fish or fowl, choose carefully before entering the universe under my omnipresence.

Exposing the misleading spin on the Comox pump station

Comox resident George Le Masurier has responded to a post on the Comox Valley Regional District website. The CVRD post attempts to discredit Le Masurier’s recent op-ed article in the Times-Colonist.

The CVRD has posted on their website a response to my op-ed article in the Victoria Times-Colonist. Unfortunately, parts of their letter are false because they claim I said things that I did not say.

First, the CVRD suggests in their second paragraph that I stated the pipeline “is failing as stated by Mr. Le Masurier.” It’s a false statement.

I did not use the word “failing.” I said it is deteriorating, and that’s a huge difference.

Of course the pipeline is deteriorating. It’s 35 years old and had an expected life of 50 years when first installed. It has to have deteriorated, but to what degree I did not say. (Nor do I believe the CVRD knows.)

Also, the CVRD plans to replace not only the Willemar Bluffs section, but the remaining section of the pipeline by 2029, and have it in their capital plan to do so. Why would they replace the remaining section if it is as good as new? It’s axiomatic that anything in less than new condition has deteriorated.

It’s a fallacious straw man argument.

Second, in their third paragraph, they said “contrary to the statement made by Mr. Le Masurier, the CVRD completed a Sewer Master Plan for the entire Comox Valley.” Again, putting words into my mouth.

I did not say the CVRD lacked an SMP for the entire Comox Valley. I actually said the CVRD was applying a band-aid approach “instead of creating a NEW sewerage master plan for the entire Comox Valley.”

Again, this is a huge difference. I acknowledge the CVRD has an SMP, and my words indicate so. How could they create a NEW plan if they didn’t have an old one? It’s simple logic.

Another fallacious straw man argument.

Third, in their sixth paragraph, the CVRD says, “Mr. Le Masurier suggests that there has been independent analysis completed to show long-term costs savings by upgrading the Courtenay and Jane Place pump stations. The CVRD did not complete this analysis ….”

This is objectionable and misleading for two reasons. One, it implies there may or may not be an independent analysis, calling the veracity of its existence into question; and, two, it tries to imply that I suggested the CVRD “completed” or solicited this analysis and they deny having done so. Again, I did not say the CVRD had anything to do with the analysis.

A project controller who does cost analysis for a major diamond mine north of Yellowknife — and lives in Comox — prepared a detailed analysis of the potential cost savings if the CVRD upgraded the Courtenay pump station and replaced all the pipe immediately. He presented it to the CVRD sewage commission in person. But a Comox director voted against their staff looking at the analysis because it would complicate things.

And that leads me to a final point. It’s true the CVRD formed an Advisory Committee, but only after (and probably because) the neighborhood protested the Beech Street site. I should have edited out the word “eventually.”

However, the bigger issue here is that the CVRD ignored the committee’s recommendations.

The committee considered five alternate sites. The committee gave its #1 recommendation to upgrading the Courtenay pump station and replacing all the pipe now. It rated Beech Street last. It did so, as the CVRD says in its post, because they found the top recommendation too expensive.

But the truth is, the CVRD doesn’t know for sure because they have not done a comprehensive financial analysis, or an environmental analysis, of this option, to my knowledge. Nor have they bothered to consider the independent analysis prepared for them (see my third point, above.)

(It’s important to note that the committee included an elected official from Courtenay, Comox and the CVRD, and one staff person from each jurisdiction, and three citizens. The citizens were outnumbered 2-to-1, and the committee still rated the Courtenay upgrade as #1.)

I don’t mind a good argument, and the CVRD is entitled to defend its position. But I do mind when someone falsely puts words into my mouth in order to spin the facts in their favor.

What I’ve learned about sex from Trump and Cruz

You know what I like about the U.S. presidential campaign? Sex.

That’s right, we are learning so much about the Republican candidates’ sexual preferences. It’s kind of like the Kardashians, except with angry, middle-age white guys.

Here’s what we know so far:

Donald Drumpf has guaranteed the American public that he has at least a normal-sized penis. This is important for the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth. Sometimes, the U.S. president has to stand toe-to-toe with bullies like Vladimir Putin and compare the size of their nuclear arsenals. How could Drumpf dominate the little shirtless Russian if he’s sporting a genital comb-over?

Drumpf also has a hotter wife than challenger Ted Cruz, which he proved in a “hot-or-not?” national ad campaign showing a side-by-side comparison.

The First Lady in a Drumpf White House would not waste time trying to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, supporting military families, encouraging national service, promoting the arts and arts education, or starting conversations about how working women can balance their careers and families, as Michelle Obama has done. Drumpf’s First Lady will make America great again by just standing behind The Donald and looking hot.

“Let me be clear: although Donald Drumpf is a rat, I have no desire to copulate with him.” But doesn’t this raise more questions than it answers?

We have not yet determined with any certainty whether Ted Cruz had an affair with one of this campaign staff, as Drumpf has alleged. It’s possible this is true, given the number of God-fearing anti-gay Republicans caught soliciting sex in airport bathrooms or flying to South America for extramarital affairs while supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail.

But this is also Drumpf, who alleges President Obama was born in Kenya and is a devout Muslim, and that most Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists.

Ted Cruz appeared to come clean about his sexual preferences, stating in a news conference, “Let me be clear: although Donald Drumpf is a rat, I have no desire to copulate with him.” But doesn’t this raise more questions than it answers?

Would Cruz copulate with other rats, just not one that turned out to be Drumpf? Would Cruz copulate with other animals? Isn’t this illegal in most states, outside of the South?

How does a human copulate with rodents? Was this a comment on Drumpf’s penis size?

Cruz did, however, clarify his position on sex toys, to the relief of many Americans.

As the former Texas solicitor general, he argued to ban the sale of vibrators and other “obscene” sex toys, equating them to “hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy.” But on a radio talk show, Cruz stated emphatically that he won’t ban the sale of sex toys if he’s elected president.

It was a clever political strategy to win over women — I may want to control your ovaries, but I won’t take away your vibrator.

And, finally, we have the third wheel, John Kasich, whose comments don’t matter all that much, except maybe to young women voters attending college.

In response to a woman concerned about rape on college campuses, Kasich said, “don’t go to parties with a lot of alcohol.” So that means pretty much no parties. Or, maybe  it means don’t go to parties where there are predatory, hormonal men emboldened by booze to act without respect for the dignity of other human beings?

It’s good that the Republican presidential candidates have talked about the “birds and the bees” so candidly. They have given American voters real substance upon which to cast their votes.

Illegal to take driftwood from Goose Spit Park

Illegal to take driftwood from Goose Spit Park

By George Le Masurier —

During the years following WWII, the logging industry boomed on the B.C. coast. Tug boats pulled massive log booms down the Strait of Georgia every day, hauling millions of board feet of prime timber from northern Vancouver Island to lumber mills up the Fraser River..

Because of rapidly changing weather and stormy seas, it was a common occurrence for logs to bust loose from their booms and wash up on the shoreline. Those tangled logs, piled on top of each other, some with their root balls intact, have given a unique beauty to our beaches.

But it’s a fragile beauty. Today, tugboats rarely pull log booms down the coast, so there’s a small  supply of new wayward logs. Beachcombers and private citizens have already stripped some beaches of the most spectacular driftwood.

Fortunately, it’s illegal to remove driftwood from Crown foreshore land within or adjacent to ecological reserves or federal, provincial, regional or municipal parks. It’s also illegal to take driftwood from private land or First Nations reserves. This law preserves a piece of B.C. coast history, and creates a natural museum of the important role that coastal waters played during the heyday of raincoast logging.

Goose Spit sign

While on a walk through Goose Spit Park on B.C. Family Day, I was shocked to see some local residents stealing driftwood from this protected area. In the middle of the day, they brazenly loaded — and had perhaps cut — large pieces of driftwood with the dramatic pedestal of roots intact into their trucks parked near the public restrooms. One of them was a well-known local person.

At every access point to the beach from Goose Spit road, there’s a prominent signage pole that states, among other things, not to burn, cut or remove driftwood.

I reported these people to the Comox Valley Regional District’s community services branch, and shared photographs that identified them. The CVRD’s bylaw department sent each individual a warning letter. I would have preferred some harsher disciplinary action.

It’s disheartening that among all the people enjoying Goose Spit Park that day, I was the only person to report this crime. Many people may not know that it’s illegal to take driftwood. But, for kids and adults alike, It’s partly the large accumulation of driftwood that makes a visit to Goose Spit Park so much fun and attractive.

If we allow people to steal the remaining driftwood from one of the last protected areas, this little piece of B.C. coast lore and beauty will disappear forever.

Please don’t allow this to happen. Politely remind people attempting to take driftwood that it’s illegal to do so. Point to the sign posts. Take photographs of those that steal it anyway and report them to the regional district.

Victoria isn’t the only battleground on sewage

Victoria isn’t the only battleground on sewage

By George Le Masurier —

While the Capital Regional District slowly moves toward consensus on where to locate one or more sewage treatment plants, another wastewater infrastructure battle is just beginning further up Vancouver Island.

In the Comox Valley, strong disagreements have arisen over how to replace a deteriorating 35-year-old sewer pipeline that was unfortunately constructed through the foreshore of the Courtenay River estuary, under a regional park and along the foot of the iconic Willemar Bluffs.

Neither controversy should surprise anyone: siting a public facility within a developed urban area presents unique technical and political difficulties that can only be overcome by extraordinarily skillful political leaders solely focused on the greater good.

But in the Valley, a questionable siting process has led to a short-sighted plan that harms both taxpayers and the environment.

It’s remarkable that provincial agencies allowed the City of Courtenay and the Town of Comox to build a pipeline that carries raw sewage along the foreshore of several environmentally sensitive areas enroute to a treatment plant. Concerns about climate change and sea level rise were only beginning then, but someone should have seen the potential for an environmental disaster.

A 2005 engineering report recommended abandoning the section of the pipeline that runs along the base of the Willemar Bluffs, where it is vulnerable to winter storms. But the rest of the pipeline also needs to be replaced. In a few years, the main pump station in Courtenay will be inadequate to handle the volume created by one of the province’s fastest growing regions.

Instead of creating a new sewerage master plan for the entire Comox Valley, the CVRD is poised to apply a band-aid for Courtenay and Comox. It proposes to replace only the last half of the sewer pipeline with an overland route. But instead of upgrading the existing secondary pump station in Comox, the CVRD proposed a new pump station on Beech Street, a dense neighborhood outside the Town of Comox boundaries. This may violate the CVRD’s own bylaws.

After protests from the Beech neighborhood, the CVRD abandoned the site. But it foolishly choose another site on an intact K’omoks midden within one of the few remaining salt marshes in an Environmentally Sensitive Area Development Permit Zone, which would have also blocked a popular beach access.

It’s astonishing that the CVRD didn’t step back from these blunders and re-examine its process. They did eventually form an Advisory Committee, but it ignored the committee’s recommendations and has returned to its original Beech Street location, which the committee ranked as the worst option.

It’s unfair to site this facility in the Beech neighborhood because it has no representation on the sewage commission. Courtenay cast its three votes to oppose the Beech Street site, but a CFB Comox vote helped the three Comox representatives win a 4-3 decision.

This is unfortunate. It’s undemocratic, and dismisses public sentiment. It sets up a political and legal battle. And it creates unnecessary conflict despite having a ready solution that would receive wide public support — and which could potentially qualify the project for federal infrastructure funding.

The CVRD’s Advisory Committee gave its top recommendation to rebuilding the existing pump station in Courtenay. An independent analysis shows the CVRD could save between $7 million and $12 million in the long term if it upgraded the pumps at Courtenay and replaced the entire pipeline now. This would eliminate the need for a second pump station and eliminate the exposed section under the Willemar Bluffs.

But the remaining old pipe has to be replaced eventually, so it would be even better to reroute all of the pipeline overland. This would prevent an environmental catastrophe because a burst pipe today could pour raw sewage into the estuary.

A more ambitious plan would also prevent other battles. It’s unlikely that Environment Canada, Fisheries and the K’omoks First Nation will ever allow the CVRD to replace the pipe that runs through the estuary. The CVRD has no such agreement with agencies or the K’omoks First Nation, who recently won an award for the protection and restoration of the estuary.

It’s curious why the CVRD has not considered this win-win option. It saves long-term money. It avoids serious conflict now. It heads off future lawsuits. And it would surely score political points for the regional directors who finally correct a 35-year-old mistake.

This article was originally published in the Victoria Times-Colonist.