Monday, 19 June 2017

Toomas Karmo (Part E): Philosophy of Perception, Action, and "Subjectivity"

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the  necessary points to reasonable length. 

Revision history:

  • 20170620T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo was able to upload a fairly polished version. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... .  

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets"  (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

First, an administrative preliminary: I have had to change the previous posting in this (philosophy-of-perception-and-action) series. That was the posting from 2017-06-05 or 2017-06-06, under the heading "Part D". On reflection this week, I find I have to rip out my last two paragraphs. It is not that those paragraphs are untrue. Rather, they are premature, given what I this week realize to be the overall necessary flow of exposition - an exposition requiring, as noted in my "Part C" (2017-05-29 or 2017-05-30) and "Part D" (2017-06-05 or 2017-06-06), first working on some foundational points. I still have to take us through some foundational or prefatory material, being unable as yet to wade boldly into my official topics of perception and action. Worse, within the preliminary, and now rather protracted, foundational work, the two paragraphs just referred to got written a bit too early, and so have for the moment to be chopped out. 

The pair of premature paragraphs should be resurfacing rather soon, perhaps in the next week or so, as the preliminaries get padded out and finished off and tied up. For the moment, I have recorded my embarrassing excision (quoting what I excised from normal-font body text) in the small-font "Revision History", at the top of the now-shortened 2017-06-05 or 2017-06-06 posting. 


With the required amputation performed, the previous ("Part D", 2017-06-05 or 2017-06-06) posting ends simply as follows:

On one of the various possible outrageous Other-Minds parallels to the outrageous Intermittent Furniture and the outrageous Young Universe hypotheses, if I had, counterfactually, asked the sales clerk and the other customer not about pepperoni sticks but about - for example -  east African railways, they would have said the same things, thereupon giving them the air of mere robots playing back mere canned phonemes:

    ME, TO OTHER CUSTOMER: Sir, are you aware that Nairobi
    now has a thrice-weekly service to Mombasa?

    LADY AT CASH, TO ME: I already put your pepperoni sticks into the bag.

    CUSTOMER, TO ME: Yes, these two are my pepperoni sticks.

    ME: I am talking about this year's Nairobi-Mombasa railway launch,
    not about pepperoni, you doofus.

    CUSTOMER TO ME: The same thing.


As I suggested back on 2017-06-05 or 2017-06-06, it is a supposition consistent with all your actual observations that you (the reader) are within the species Homo sapiens the sole possessor of awareness, with all other humans mere mindless, walking and gesticulating, sleepwalkers. My little story from back then, just now reproduced, is a story on which if you were to have said things to your fellow humans other than the many things you have in fact over the course of your life said to them, those humans would have taken on the distressing aspect of mere gramophones, emitting mere canned phonemes. Now I have to look at this general kind of scenario a little further, as I unfortunately neglected to do on 2017-06-05/2017-06-06. 

In so looking, I have to confess a feeling of unease. I have, alas, not only to articulate a position more fully than hitherto, but also to put on public record my worry that my now-more-adequately articulated position may prove, in some way that I cannot now see, inadequate. 


Consider, once again, the 2017-06-05/2017-06-06 robot. 

Suppose first (as "Supposition One") that the cosmos really is rich in causal connections, of the kind affirmed by common sense. In terms of my "Part C" from 2016-05-29/2016-05-30, this is the common-sense supposition that various events do really make other events happen, and that therefore it is FALSE that (to reproduce language from "Part C") for every event E2 supposedly caused by some event E1, E2 would have happened even if E1 had failed to happen. On this "Supposition One", counterfactuals are abundantly supported. To give two common-sense examples: 
  • Had the airship Hindenburg been, counterfactually, filled with helium rather than with hydrogen, the 1937-05-06 explosion which in fact traumatized Lakewood, New Jersey, would not have occurred. 
  • Were the Sun's photosphere to have, counterfactually, a temperature of a mere 100 Kelvins, there would, contrary to observed fact, be no liquid water on Earth. 
Additionally, suppose (as "Supposition Two") that the robot from our "Part D", 2017-06-05/2017-06-06, discussion is so well designed as to render socially plausible not only the conversation you in fact have had with it, but all the alternative conversations you could, counterfactually, have had with it. In that previous ("Part D", 2017-06-05/2017-06-06) discussion I imagined (regretably making things too easy for myself) a counterfactual change in the conversational scenario, exposing the robot as a mere parroter of canned phonemes: 

ROBOT [smiling}: Hi, how are you?

YOU:  Fine, thanks. What is your name?

ROBOT [smile now fading]: Well, yes, this can be depressing.
But I have been getting psychotherapy.

YOU: Don't tell me about psychotherapy: please tell me your name.

ROBOT: I see a lady in private practice.

YOU: "I see a lady in private practice" is not a name.

ROBOT: Oh, on the other side of the Charles River, in Boston.

YOU: That isn't a name either, you doofus.

ROBOT [with a slight narrowing of the gaze, appropriate for the communication ofjuicy social gossip]: Well, as I was explaining just last week to a fine old local family when I got wheeled out to Hyannis Port after psychotherapy, regional accents sound contrived - affected, even - when robots use them.

[and so on]

This week, by contrast, I am imagining not only the entire actual conversation being socially plausible (it started off - to recapitulate - with banter about regional English accents, and morphed into bantering reminiscences of the ancient Rowan-and-Martin television show), but more radically am imagining that any other line of conversation WOULD have proved equally plausible HAD we (counterfactually) ventured on it. So had we, contrary to fact, asked the robot, "What is your name?" things would (so I am imagining this week, in a for-once-properly-radical spirit) have gone on just fine: 

 ROBOT: [smiling]: Hi, how are you?

YOU:   Fine, thanks. What is your name?

ROBOT: Would you like my originally given name, or the appellation that I have now taken as my Name in Religion?

YOU:   Gee whiz, don't tell me you are in Religion?

ROBOT: Well, I must not exaggerate. I am only a Tertiary.

YOU:   You mean, like a Franciscan or Dominican teriary?

ROBOT: Close. I'm a Benedictine Oblate.

YOU [with some irritation]: Oh fine, then. First tell me your originally given name, then your Name in Religion.

ROBOT [frowning slightly, then brightening]: When they first plugged me in here at MIT, I got called Klankton Polymer. But on affiliating myself with the Benedictines at the Archabbey of Saint Vincent in LaTrobe, Pennsylvania, where some nice Opus Dei guys so obligingly carted me in the Opus Dei cube van, I became... oh... er... um...

YOU:   You became what? Don't er and um and prevaricate like that, or I shall begin questioning the reality of mind behind vinyl.

ROBOT [now beaming broadly]: Groccor Buastonius Loquacissimus

YOU:   That's hardly a suitably Benedictine Name-in-Religion. In Benedictine life, one is supposed to become "Willibald" or "Wunibald", or something.  Or maybe "Ansgar".

ROBOT: Well, that's what I said to the Abbot, you know. But he was obdurate ... this was under the rule of the Panzer Pope, you know.... I mean, ai-ai-ai and VOTT can I say? When the Abott goes "Groccor Buastonius" I'm like, totally, Oy vey zmir, oy vey gevalt already - know what I mean?

[and so on]

Under this pair of suppositions, with Supposition One following untutored common sense but Supposition Two radical, is there any longer any logically coherent possibility of doubting that there is a "mind behind the vinyl"? 


Well, in my readiness to duck slings, arrows, and rotten tomatoes, I herewith go on public record as believing that yes, logical room for manoeuvre remains. (At least, I stress, until someone instructs me to the contrary - and being (I stress) admittedly unsure of myself, in these so-dense conceptual thickets.) Even here, I think (tentatively, I stress; being  less than sure, I stress) there remains the logical possibility that no mind is present. I am suggesting, that is, that even on this week's radical supposition regarding the robot's counterfactual capabilities, the meaning our language attaches to the term "mind" is such as to render the no-mind-is-present supposition logically coherent. 

To reiterate this key thesis, in a varying of terminology: although (I) the meaning our ordinary, common, English language attaches to "triangle" is such as to render the supposition of drawing a four-sided triangle logically incoherent, and although the meaning our ordinary, common, English language attaches to "bachelor" is such as to render the suggestion of meeting a married bachelor logically incoherent, nevertheless (II) such is the meaning our ordinary, common English language attaches to "mind" that the supposition of a mindless machine passing not only (as in my writing from the night of 2017-06-05/2017-06-06) all actual but (as in my writing tonight) all counterfactual social-conversation tests is logically coherent. 

Indeed, I suggest, the very supposition that all humans other than you, the reader, are eloquent sleepwalkers lacking awareness, despite their passing all actual AND counterfactual social-conversation tests, is logically coherent. 

I look at it in the same way as I look at the supposition that those wicker chairs and that mirror-topped coffee table exist only when inspected (from installment "C" of this essay, on 2017-05-29/2017-05-30). The meanings, I insisted back in installment "C", which ordinary human language attaches to "wicker chair" and "mirror-topped coffee table" are such as to make the outrageous supposition logically coherent, even when we build it up counterfactually: The wicker chairs and glass-topped coffee table exist when and only when inspected, in the sense that for every time t at which nobody is looking into my parlour both (a) the parlour is empty of furniture at t and (b) WERE, counterfactually, some observer x to be looking into the parlour at t, x WOULD in that counterfactual situation find two wicker chairs and a mirror-topped coffee table. 

(I should, to be sure, have written this point more clearly back on 2017-05-29/2017-05-30; I omitted to spell out the importance of considering both categoricals and counterfactual hypotheticals.)

My point is thus that there presently seems to me (I do stress my unease and uncertainty, as I struggle with dense thickets) no reason for treating the existence or nonexistence of Other Minds differently, so far as the space of logically coherent possibilities runs, from the existence or nonexistence of Uninspected Furniture. 


It must be conceded that our discussion is somewhat bedevilled by the primitive state of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. 

Here is a marvel before us - a housefly, a buzzing little specimen of Musca domestica, hairy in leg, loud in wing, and bulbous-red in compound eye. As we approach the fly, it takes flight from its bookshelf perch, only to land on a piece of our lunchtime cheese, four metres away. We stride in stealthy irritation toward the now-immobile creature, alarmed by an all-too-plausible imaginative vision of microbes lodged in leg hairs. The creature remains immobile until the very instant of our trying to detain it, beneath outstretched, slowly and quietly descending, palm. In the last possible hundred milliseconds, it cunningly eludes our ambush, now soaring, now diving, now soaring again - tracing first some geometrically easy plane curve, and then venturing, Spitfire-like, along the space curves which are the proper province not of univariate but of multivariate calculus. As we turn away for a moment, the unwelcome forager is back at our Monterrey Jack, proboscis now insolently extended onto the appetizing creamy-yellow surface. 

Can AI labs create anything like this - even, perhaps, as robots confined to the mathematically easy two-dimensional space of a lab floor, rather than flying about in three-space? I am agnostic. Perhaps the feat still eludes roboticists. Perhaps, on the other hand, it has somehow been accomplished, in some such leading-edge school as MIT. If possible at all, the feat must at any rate lie on the leading edge of what is currently possible. 

When it comes to robot conversation, the labs are (surely) nowhere near success. Although I am happy to be advised to the contrary, I suspect things now to differ in degree only, and not in kind, from the ELIZA psychiatrist-simulators that were amusing everyone a generation ago:  

The year is 1982 or 1983. I have become the proud owner of an Osborne 1, for a mere four or five or six weeks' pay. Here is a marvel before our eyes - an 8-bit CPU addressing 64 kilobytes of RAM! And the absence of a hard drive is amply compensated not by the presence not of one but of two floppy drives, each capable of delivering perhaps around one hundred kilobytes! 

I am showing off the "machine", as one in that era so loftily calls it, to a friend, "VUWX", from the Ukrainian diaspora, with his lady companion. As I expatiate on the "machine's"  "word processor" and its "spreadsheet", VUWX assures me that gee, he is sure glad this is not boring. 

Then, however, I launch the LISP-coded ELIZA simulator. It purports to be a robot psychiatrist. 

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF, says ELIZA, via the tiny CRT screen (not 80 but a mere 52 characters wide - this particular Osborne 1, an early model within Dr Adam Osborne's full production run, forces its operators into lots of horizontal scrolling). My friend VUWX types in response I AM UKRAINIAN. There is now a prolonged pause, amounting to perhaps around 30 seconds, as the valiant little 8-bit CPU chugs and chugs, processing its troubling, putatively mental-patient, input. Finally its output appears, in those tiny glowing CRT letters: HOW DO YOU SUPPOSE YOU GOT TO BE UKRAINIAN? 

Nobody now has, any more than anyone in 1982 did have, any idea how to design a robot to handle the full categorical-and-counterfactual gamut of conceivable social-conversation tests, of the kind partly sketched on this blog in the evening or night of 2017-06-05/2017-06-06 and more carefully (adding duly robust counterfactuals) sketched tonight. 

Whether it is possible in principle for engineers in Homo sapiens to design such a robot, I do not know. 

(1) One possibility is that yes, it could somehow be done, perhaps upon acquiring a bits-and-bytes-level understanding of the Homo sapiens brain. (This would be an understanding dimly akin to, and yet orders upon orders of magnitude more elaborate than, the understanding molecular-biology researchers claim to have of the DNA genetic code.) 

(2) A different possibility is that it could not be done without a kind of cheating - by taking a living, functioning Homo sapiens brain, and without understanding at bits-or-bytes level what the individual neurons are doing, simply reproducing its myriad possible information flows in electronics, bit for bit or byte for byte. It would be somewhat like cheating on a physics exam: when Bertie Balky copies that differential equation from his examination-hall neighbour Alice Astute, he does not really understand the Free Harmonic Oscillator, much though he may wish his professor to think he understands. 

(3) A still different possibility is that it could not be done at all - thanks to the absence, in mere robotic electronics, of a "Soul". 

The "Soul" can be something of a Catholic superstition. One winces just a little upon reading, in the twenty-second chapter of Gordon Thomas's and Max Morgan-Witts's gripping history Pontiff (Granada, 1983, on the three 1978-era pontificates) the following: 

The Camerlengo is faced with a ticklish problem. His question /.../ about when the pope died is linked to Absolution, the granting of the forgiveness of sins. The much-debated theological point is how long after death may total Absolution be granted. It revolves around the vexing question of how durable a soul can be. There are some Catholics who argue that if a Catholic succumbs following a long wasting illness, cancer for example, the soul might leave the body relatively quickly, possibly within thirty minutes of death. But if a person has been healthy before being fatally struck down, his soul could remain in the body three or four hours, perhaps even longer. To non-Catholics the proposition may appear fanciful, but it can afford great comfort to Catholics.

Still, what can be said for sure? Perhaps, for all that is currently  known, it is impossible in principle to endow a robot with awareness, since a "Soul" is lacking. 

I am of course liable here to attract, once again, a derisory shower of slings, arrows, and decaying veggies. But do consider what we find in secular writers, not promoting  specially Catholic agendas. I recall the account of a naturalist who befriended a number of wolves, I think keeping them in a kind of enclosure - in a kind of paddock, perhaps - close to his house. At the instant the ailing wolf-master died, his pack was observed to burst into a howl, physically isolated though they were from the deathbed. - Well, "was observed" provided, to be sure, that the now-forgotten author I was reading, perhaps from some magazine or other, did write the truth. 

And I recall recreational reading just eight days ago in Jim Robbins's The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2012). Here is a report, from what seems a reasonably tough-minded professional science journalist, of forest conservationist David Milarch's 1992 near-death experience. Here is what I suspect, without having much wallowed in supermarket tabloids, to be the usual wearisome stuff - the usual tunnel of light, the usual luminous Beings, I think the et cetera with the et cetera. But I do wonder, on the strength of Mr Milarch's and (perhaps especially) Mr Robbins's credentials, whether we might not be forced, for once, to take such a pop-spiritualism thing seriously. 

In general, a denial of the traditional so-to-speak naive-Catholic-peasant conception of Soul is a bit like the denial that God exists. In both cases, the denial is respectable, and indeed is urged in eloquent - to some duly diligent readers, in compelling - terms by such respectable authorities as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Yet in the end what have we here but another (respectable, worthy) Creed, another (respectable, worthy) Faith? 

I remarked on this blog in the evening or night of 2016-04-18/2016-04-19, under the heading "Essay on Green Catholic Hermits", on some Montréal crutches: How wearisome - baffled non-Catholic people occasionally say, or at any rate in a polite way think - is that repeated Romish fiddling with rosaries and holy water, with incense, with altar cloths, with pilgrimage shrines, with alleged miraculous cures for one ailment and another (one recalls the tens or hundreds of crutches hanging from a ceiling at St Joseph's Oratory in Montreal). The atheist, Dawkins-or-Hitchens, position on the Oratory has to be that of all those tens or hundreds of crutches, each of them - each and every one of them, without exception - is the mute witness to some pious fraud or pious self-delusion: that the number of actual miraculous cures correctly attributable to the prayerful intercession of Blessed André Bessette (1845–1937) and his patron Saint Joseph is exactly zero. It may be so, reply I. But, say I, to affirm it so is to make a leap of faith, no less imposing than the bold leaps Catholics (including me) make on such things as God and the Soul. 

So even hypothesis (3) has to stay in the running, for all we now definitely know. 

Until we can choose on strictly rational grounds among hypotheses (1), (2), and (3), some fog of uncertainty will reduce us to some degree of groping as we work on the philosophical problem of Other Minds. I can only hope that what I have to write in later weeks on this blog, forsaking these present foundational explorations (including the current divagation into philosophy-of-robotics) for my official topics of perception and action, does not turn out to be vitiated by the uncertainties. 

[This is the end of the current blog posting.] 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Toomas Karmo: DDO&P: Handcuffs I Have Known

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 5/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the  necessary points to full length, without skipping anything that seemed potentially helpful to readers.  

Revision history:

  • 20170614T0113Z/version 3.1.0: Kmo added a small discussion of an unresolved orthography problem - does the Sherlockian canon write "Darbies" (which would seem etymologically correct) or "Derbies"? Since he seemed to recall reading "Derbies" in the Canon, rather than "Darbies", he shrugged his shoulders in impatience and stuck to "Derbies". - Kmo reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, ... . 
  • 20170614T0049Z/version 3.0.0: Kmo thought of adding a brief, but key, point: his various handcuffings on dates other than 2008-07-30 were the result not of officials fearing that Kmo might hurt someone other than Kmo, but onlyi the result of officials fearing that Kmo might hurt Kmo. - Kmo reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 3.0.1, 3.0.2, 3.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170613T1635Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo, running roughly 12 hours behind schedule, finished converting his outline into a finished form. He reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170613T0006Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time to prepare the less important part of this as a point-form outline, and the more important part as polished prose. He hoped to finish converting everything into full-sentences prose over the coming 4 hours. 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets"  (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

The two favourite indoor sports of Estonians are chess and the writing of memoirs. It has as a joke been recommended that a monument be erected to those who have been so civic-spirited - who have, in other words, risen to such self-abnegating heights of public activism - as to restrain their pens or keyboards from the composition of memoirs. I can of course claim no place on the eventual national obelisk. My own bulky memoirs, in my capacity as a diaspora Estonian addressing Canada's David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) heritage-conservation file, are already largely uploaded to this blog, as various entries over the past 14 months. The most important of my various postings is from 2016-04-25 or 2016-04-26, under the heading "Essay on Sorrow - Its Anatomy and Its Remedies". This is the posting that covers an undermining of the DDO&P heritage-conservation case on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) "Summation Day" which was 2012-09-10, through unexpected remarks on the part of a lawyer supposedly and ostensibly acting within her retainer, in her supposed capacity as counsel for the Richmond Hill Naturalists, with me the party to be quietly paying bills. It is, again, that 2016-04-25 or 2016-04-26 posting that covers the allegation of ongoing University of Toronto commercial involvement, in respect of the now-sold-off DDO&P, from an observer I am there careful to call merely "Mr or Ms or Dr or Prof. or Sir or Dame I.Seem-Powerful" - an individual I suppose I would have to subpoena if the foes of conservation were to launch legal proceedings in an effort to suppress my blogspot journalism. There is not, consequently, too much that now has to be added by way of memoir composition. 

Nevertheless, this week I ought to spell out the tragicomic story of my 2008-07-30 handcuffing at DDO&P.. 

Two facts of a legal character make it particularly important that I spell things out this week, without further delay: 

  • On 2017-03-21, title in the approximately 40-hectare western portion of the 77-hectare 2008-legacy DDO&P greenspace was transferred as a donation from Corsica Development Inc. to the Town of Richmond Hill, under the OMB-brokered expectation that the Town would make this 40 hectares (along with an additional 5 legacy-DDO&P hectares purchased around 2013 from Corsica for just under 20,000,000 CAD) into a new legacy-remnant municipal park. 
  • In the week of 2017-06-05, the Town, upon my phoning municipal staffer Ms Patricia Young on 905-771-9996x2477, had promised to advise me whether I now could or still could not legally enter the 40-hectare municipal park-intended property. (I had indeed stressed to Ms Young that despite the time elapsed since 2017-03-21, there was no public signage telling anyone what to do - no sign, as I would this week phrase it, saying to the juridically curious "Eventual Municipal Parkland, but Please Keep Out for the Present", or saying "Eventual Municipal Parkland, Public Now Welcome", or saying "Eventual Municipal Parkland, Public Now to Enter at Own Risk".)  

With my spelling out the 2008-07-30 handcuffing particulars this week, the Town will have an appropriate context as it formulates Ms Patricia Young's promised, and surely soon forthcoming, advisory. 


Before starting my narrative proper, I prepend a backgrounder on other applications of the cuffs - in other words, of the "Bracelets" (as I imagine them to be called in some places), or, as they are known to readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the "Derbies" or "Darbies". (The Holmesean term refers to "Darby cuffs", and yet is perhaps spelled in the Canon as d-e-r rather than as the etymologically correct d-a-r. I have not been able to check this orthography detail in a definitive way.) If I do not report my other handcuffings, one or more others not fully sympathetic with forest conservation, and at present unkindly disposed to me, and as my bad luck would have it mindful of confidences I naively imparted years ago, might try doing it in my place. Such others might in the process conceivably get contexts or nuances, or even outright factual details, wrong, thereby harming the public interest.

All the handcuffings, apart from the handcuffing of 2008-07-30 which is the principal topic of this present memoir, were performed by authorities who feared I might harm myself. There has never been any fear within the authorities that I might harm another. I cannot sufficiently underscore, emphasize, and stress this key point. In making it, I further suggest that the reader gain some sense of the ever-present danger of journalistic misunderstanding, by closely inspecting my Web page (one of the upshots in my 2014 out-of-court settlement with municipal politician Ms Karen Cilevitz (from the 2014-10-27 election onward, Town Councillor Karen Cilevitz)). 

I am not sure how many times I have been in the Derbies outside the 2008-07-30 case I have to chronicle this week. But I suspect the count to be around six or eight. Here, at any rate, is what I am at the moment able to recall. I leave out an instance of depression in 1981 or so, when I think there were no Derbies, although I was directed by the authorities to proceed under my own steam to a Melbourne hospital: 

  • two occasions from 1990 and 1991, when I was very ill with depression at Ontario's York University upon losing my career in philosophy (on the first of these, I was hospitalized, but left the hospital against medical advice, trying in vain to continue with my classroom duties; the second occasion might perhaps have involved Derbies, but I think did not involve any hospital); 
  • a circa-1999 occasion, involving panic over a war-crimes case from 1940 or so - an occasion chronicled in my essay   "Depression, the Body Politic, and Frankelian Freedom-to-Appraise" (at, with Derbies-or-similar - and eventually a perhaps USSR-reminiscent rectangular metal restraining frame - with an overnight hospitalization, and with rather helpful clinical administration of a sublingual Ativan tablet; 
  • a circa-2000 occasion on which I inappropriately lost my composure upon being treated in a marginal sense  too casually in the Catholic confessional (and was accordingly confined to a psychiatric ward - on this occasion the medical ministrations proved pointless - for 72 hours);
  • a circa-2000 occasion on which I lost my composure upon being mocked by an Acadian Lines long-distance bus driver in Moncton, after I had protested his playing unwanted comedy-routine audio-recording material through the bus loudspeakers, disturbing the silence of all passengers, some of whom would be wanting to read or rest on the journey; to my gratitude, the pertinent Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer simply helped me continue my Nova Scotia-to-Ontario journey on a train (but this officer might at some point have also, just-barely-conceivably, applied Derbies, so I do list the incident this week); 
  • a circa-2005 occasion on which I lost my composure upon being denied absolution in the Catholic confessional (I had explained to the priest that in my administrative ineptitude, I had made impending family obligations coincide with my impending duty to attend Christmas Mass: upon my in response detailing outside the confessional, loudly enough to be heard by many of those awaiting the start of Mass, what I thought of the Church's handling of a then-nationally-notorious Diocese of Antigonish pastoral case, I was arrested and taken in a police miscreant-transport van to the local hospital; the hospital let me out a couple of hours later, on condition that I report the next day to a psychiatrist on its roster; this rostered psychiatrist in turn proved, as a fellow Catholic, comically and robustly critical of our local Church, with the result that he and I spent a pleasant hour together before he let me go);  
  • a 2007-or-2008-or-2009 occasion on which I lost my composure upon first (i) trying in vain to get the attention of a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway ticket agent when experiencing Yonge-at-Bloor turnstile difficulties, encumbered as I was by luggage or parcels, and then (ii) being accused by the suddenly-all-too-awake agent of evading his turnstile (I got the Derbies for sure, but then had a rather agreeable interrogation in a special TTC interrogation room, at Yonge and Bloor; the two constables inspected my pocket cards, among which was fortunately my card from Oxford University, and to my concealed amusement or concealed bemusement conveyed sincere disbelief when I explained that I was autistic; in the end, our case ended well, with the constables explaining to me that (a) if they were to transport me to St Joseph's Hospital for psychiatry, I would no doubt decline the medication those well-meaning authorities would be pressing on me, and that (b) a visit to St Joe's would therefore be pointless, and that (c) I should now simply travel home on my own steam, on the usual TTC and regional bus, to Richmond Hill, without wearing Derbies; 
  • a 2008 (late winter, early spring?) occasion on which I sank into panic upon seeking psychological counselling through the University of Toronto personnel services - suddenly realizing, once in the stress-therapy consulting rooms, that my counsellor might conceivably, as an agent of the University of Toronto, be tempted to communicate (his or her professional ethics vow notwithstanding), with the University authorities on our already-troubled DDO heritage-conservation case (it is possible that the Derbies got put on, although all I remember for sure is that the summoned constables drove me to a rather distant bus stop, on Leslie Street, and then directed me - by that point I was assuredly not in Derbies - to take the bus to the psychiatric ward of a certain hospital on the north edge of Toronto, outside their jurisdiction and I think close to the end of that bus line; the ward proved helpful, not only by not detaining me but also by ultimately confirming that yes, I am indeed autistic)
I do plead in my defence that I do not think the Derbies have been put on since 2009 or so, and that I have now a strong argument with which I generally persuade myself to avoid them. My argument is the following: I suffer (as I now realize more clearly than hitherto, thanks to the last-mentioned hospital, just outside the southern jurisdictional boundary of the York Regional Police) from the Asperger-syndrome variety of autism, and therefore have to take special and unusual care to not lose my composure. The mere realization that special care is in my special medical circumstance needed has, over all the years since 2009 or so, sufficed to make outward composure attainable, however agitated I might from time to time feel inside as I get overwhelmed with people treating me harshly. 

Additionally, I have now a pair of secondary considerations, which might be respectively termed "The Argument from Inutility" and "The Argument from Public Expense". The Argument from Inutility runs as follows: There is no reason for thinking that the hospitals (the sequel in my case to Derbies) can help with autism. The Argument from Public Expense, on the other hand, is this: If I go into Derbies, the taxpayer has to foot a bill, since two or three or four person-hours of policing have been burned up. These hours would be better spent on the more traditional categories of constabulary business (on the banal-and-yet necessary business, that is, of pursuing the underworld, as Inspector Lestrade and the Yard do in the gripping pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). 

With these humiliating preliminaries out of the way, and with the danger of misreporting by DDO conservation-averse parties thereby neutralized, I can proceed to my narrative proper. 


As the University of Toronto continued removing items from DDO in 2008 July, with the DDO staff now relieved of their jobs, I continued documenting and photographing the scene. I was kindly allowed to do this by the University of Toronto outsourced security guards, who indeed allowed to me to stand under the shelter of the Administration Building porch on days that happened to be rainy.

On 2008-07-30, I was feeling low, and the rain was coming down. As I approached DDO&P, I checked in by telephone with Karen Cilevitz, who showed what I am sure was a genuine and sincere concern for my state of mind, urging me to stay away from duty that day. I, however, was insistent on proceeding to operations. This was a mistake.

On arriving at the Administration Building, I found not a University of Toronto outsourced security guard, as I had expected to find, but a staffer from a security firm engaged by Corsica Development Inc. I explained to this unfamiliar staffer, from an unfamiliar firm, that in all my operations hitherto I had dealt with the University of Toronto security-outsource firm, and that that firm had allowed me to stand in the porch if the weather was wet. The unfamiliar staffer said, in a quite unfriendly tone, "You can go stand in the rain."  I think that had I been free of depression on the day, I would have done the clearly correct thing, namely, to stand in the rain, saying little and communicating to the staffer by facial expression and body language that he was inflicting unreasonable discomfort on an individual striving to serve the civic interest. As it was, however, I entered into a dispute.

Neither of us raised his voice. I remarked that I really should be allowed to stand where I had stood before, in the porch.  The staffer said that he would not allow it.

In a moment of supreme idiocy, I then recalled the old lie that children are taught by their parents, namely, that the constables are "on our side" and "ready to help", and I said that I would discuss the matter with the York Regional Police (YRP).  Phoning in with my cellular, I explained the situation, and quickly enough a couple of cruisers pulled up at the DDO Administration Building, a few tens of metres south of the main telescope dome. 

Corsica's outsourced security staffer gave his side of the story, and I gave mine, and I think YRP were initially uncertain how to proceed. YRP consulted someone or other, by telephone. Oddly, I had the impression that the consultation was with the University of Toronto, even though it surely had to be with the then owner, who then must (in view of the change in security staffing) have been Corsica. On the strength of the consultation, YRP said that I would have to leave the property. But, I said, it was my "civic duty" to continue photographing what was going on (there was in fact much activity, with heavy items being taken from the Great Dome that morning). No, said YRP, it was not my civic duty. On the contrary, I said (neither party to this exchange indulged in any raising of the voice), it was my civic duty. No, said YRP, it was not my civic duty. But, I said, the obtaining of photos was my civic duty.

At this point I was put into Derbies, but in what I would regard as a significant kindness had that unwelcome hardware applied with my arms in front of me, rather than, as in a criminal arrest, with my arms behind me. One YRP officer then took me under my armpits, the other under my knees. I offered no resistance. I did retain the presence of mind to pray a Hail Mary in English, very loudly but not in an absolute shout. Under the gaze of the (silent) former DDO Operations Manager, I was put into the rear seat of a cruiser, as the police might load in a dead coyote.

For a few minutes, the gravity of the situation weighed on me, to the extent that my body began a kind of rebellion: my skin tingled all over and felt tight, as  though the circulating blood were being withdrawn to the vital organs. I did not, however, hyperventilate, and I believe that having completed my plea to Mary, I did not do any further significant vocalizing. One thought was uppermost in my mind. Here was my body, behaving oddly. Now my duty was strictly local, concerned strictly with what was happening within my own skin: my duty was to avoid getting any sicker, for instance to avoid fainting or dying.

After perhaps two or five or ten (but I suspect fewer than ten) minutes, the odd tingling feeling went away, and I was somehow sitting in the cruiser rear, rather than sprawling like a coyote corpse over the length of the seat.  Separated from me by a transparent barrier was the front of the cruiser, occupied by a constable. As I took stock of my new and improved situation, my cell phone rang.  My handcuffs afforded me enough freedom of movement to take the call. The call proved to be from a Richmond Hill resident, "PQR", sympathetic to the conservationist cause, and already rather well known to me. I managed to convey the essence of the situation, perhaps falsely adding in my nervous excitement that I was under arrest.

The constables in fact never used the word "arrest", and did not do any of the formulaic Miranda-Rights things that one knows from YouTube or similar sources, such as affirming one's "right to remain silent" and one's "right of immediate access to legal counsel". I now, writing years later (a first drafting on 2013-03-01, a review on 2017-06-12), infer from these failures to Mirandify that no arrest had been made. I sometimes consequently wonder, in a quiet and low-key way, whether there may possibly have been a breach here of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 9 ("Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained /.../") .

PQR at any rate became quite excited, going to the unfortunate length (as I learned probably some days later) of telephoning the Mayor.

The attending constable quickly enough relieved me of my cell phone. If I recall correctly - I am 80 per cent certain here - PQR protested over this, from the other end of the connection, and the officer falsely replied that it was necessary to confiscate my cell phone so that I would not harm myself with it.

Time dragged on and on and on. I am not sure how long I was in the cruiser. I think, after allowing for possible distortions in memory, that it cannot have been a short time at all - perhaps twenty minutes, perhaps thirty, perhaps a little more.

Eventually I managed to do what I now, writing on 2013-03-01 and reviewing on 2017-06-12, think was the right thing, in partial compensation for that overwhelming, terrible initial error in judgement which was my phoning YRP.  I embarked on a line of talking-to-myself calculated to play on the constabulary nerves, planting in YRP cerebral cortices the thought that this was a case involving some kind of unusual individual, and liable to lead into a morass of paperwork- involving perhaps even some such document-intensive thing as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or a European consulate.

Paperwork complications are surely unwelcome to the constabulary mind.  Indeed I would suggest, in all candour, that the DDO&P case is liable to lead into exactly the bureaucratic morass I have here adverted to, were it in future to be incorrectly handled: I am, after all, assured by Toronto consular personnel that I am a citizen both of Canada and of Estonia, and in the hypothetical contingency of unreasonable future constabulary action it would be appropriate enough for me to liaise either directly with the Estonian Embassy in Ottawa or with a Toronto Estonian-diaspora lawyer able in turn to liaise with the Embassy.  (I imagine that some disagreeably confrontational and theatrical lawyer might, in particular, ask not only whether my detention was consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 9, but also whether my detention was consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 5.)

Constables reading this narrative are herewith urged to be duly diligent.

Our matter thereupon proceeded as follows (with me soliloquizing, and with the constable in the front seat speaking, in the serious tones of Walter Cronkite, into his cellular telephone):

ME: Noh, siin ma olen, konstaablite küüsis, ja küll see veel on kole.  See on täielik kaa-gee-bee, ehk Kilo Golf Braavo.

CONSTABLE: He is speaking a language we cannot identify. Yes, that is correct. A language we cannot identify.

ME: Je suis auprès des gendarmes. C'est une situation terrible, épouvantable.

CONSTABLE: Now he has switched over to French.  Yes, that is correct, he has now switched over to French.

CONSTABLE: [perhaps after a pause]: ...well, he hasn't done anything. Maybe we should take him home.

It was astute of the constable to say that I had not done anything. For possibly the first time in our Orwellian or Kafkaesque proceeding, the constabulary were the voice of incontestable common sense. I summoned up enough courage to say in response, or rather to croak in response (I think I found the use of English unpleasant at this juncture), "Yes, home."  Almost at once - the distance was just over two kilometres - we were out of the gates and at "home".

On reaching "home" and being relieved of Derbies, I was given a "ticket", this being a paper document of roughly postcard size, indicating that I had committed a trespass and was required to pay York Region (our upper-tier municipality) a certain sum of money. I forget the exact sum, but I believe it was just a little under 100 CAD.

In the excitement, it somehow transpired that not the Mayor alone but also Karen Cilevitz had found out what was going on. Despite my very large reservations regarding Ms Cilevitz's (now, alas, Councillor Cilevitz's) post-2010 handling of the DDO&P file (most notably, of course, from the time in 2011 when she naively entered the trap which was Ontario Municipal Board "Mediation", undercutting the Richmond Hill Naturalists), here I must say that her 2008-07-30 action was appropriate, even noble: I believe that she dropped whatever it was she was doing and headed out of her own home, fully ready to meet the constabulary and bail me out of incarceration.

But, as I say, instead of incarceration there was a "ticket".  Accompanying the "ticket" was a polite, yet firm, verbal instruction not to reenter DDO&P.

I cried for quite a while, both in horror at my stupidity and over the squalid character of the events, loudly enough (as I later learned, in a friendly briefing) to be heard even upstairs in my then landlord's house. Later, perhaps on the afternoon of the day, and trying to act correctly, I wrote out a cheque on my then credit union in settlement of the fine. This I papermailed to York Region.

The experience of being in Derbies not in a mental-health context but in the  matter of something touching on criminal law is oddly transformative, in a bad sense. For quite a few years following 2008-07-30 (long after the month or so that I spent in a kind of quasi-PTSD funk, under the sway of a harsh month on our case, unable to read on anything more scientific than computer hardware) I found myself peculiarly interested in Rumpole of the Bailey, in underworld slang, in crime reports in the press, and in other things of this type. Now, perhaps, in 2017, the sick thrill is at last starting to wear off, to be replaced with my more accustomed interests in trains, monasteries, Latin, bookbinding, bees, John Le Carré, MI6, GCHQ, First Chief Directorate Division "D" (Дезинформация), and the like.

My writing the cheque elicited a strong criticism from more than one of the individuals in the inner circle of conservationists. It was felt that I had made an incorrect capitulation. Karen Cilevitz put it to me that she knew a lawyer who would "get me off". Chastened, and as anxious now to do my duty by the conservationists as I had been anxious to do my duty by the Crown, I phoned my credit union and succeeded in having a so-called "stop" put onto the cheque.

Now, however, the inner circle of conservationists - the then correctly conservcationist Karen Cilevitz, and her then allies in the always-correctly-conservationist Richmond Hill Naturalists -  recanted, finding that our case was in the final analysis too intricate to be worth their pursuing, and urging that I now pay my fine. I did so, eventually writing a second cheque, which was required by York Region to be somewhat larger (something on the order of 120 CAD or 125 CAD).

I do like to imagine my eventual for-real payment triggering some small conversation on the other side of the Pond, in "Buck House". Tortelloni, which figure in the conversation as I imagine it, are a bit bigger than macaroni. They are mildly reminiscent, both in size and in shape, of Derbies. I also add, by way of explanatory reminder, that the man at the very heart of the DDO&P conservation case - already discussed by me in my 2016-04-25 or 2016-04-26 "Anatomy of Sorrow" essay, at - is a property developer, the late Alfredo de Gasperis, Sr:

H.M. THE Q.,  transferring an envelope from red-leather dispatch box to handbag: Philip, now we have that cheque from Dr Karmo in Upper Canada. 

MOUNTBATTEN: Crikey, Liz, how much? 

H.M. THE Q.: We got 125 loonies, Philip.

MOUNTBATTEN: So what's that in money?

H.M. THE Q.,  applying an appropriately strong, pre-Brexit, exchange rate: Eighty quid, Philip, eighty. We can get a caterer to bring a nice lunch to the loading dock. I'll have MI5 look out for their van.

MOUNTBATTEN: Good-o. So what are we ordering, then?

H.M. THE Q.: Philip, dear, you know what we'll order.  Tortelloni, with Alfredo sauce.

[This is the end of the current blog posting.] 

Toomas Karmo: DDO&P: Town Council Work of 2017-06-06 and 2017-06-07 Scrutinized

The Rorman Rockwell painting which I attached to my letter to Mayor and Council  upon getting home from the 2017-06-07 (WED) public meeting, using in my transmission the filename tmp_norman_rockwell__painting_celebrating_free_municipal_speech.jpg. This painting can be found in numerous places on the Web, through  Google Images searching. 

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 5/5. Justification: There was enough time to write out the  necessary points to full length, without skipping anything that seemed liable to help readers.  

Revision history:

  • 20170613T2210Z/version 2.1.0: Kmo made some small but not-quite-cosmetic adjustments, the most important of which was the addition of an affirmation that he had indeed obtained the hoped-for return phone call from municipal staffer (Senior Planner) Ms Mary Filipetto. He reserved the right to make small, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, ... .
  • 20170613T1506Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo, now running almost 12 hours behind schedule, finished converting his point-form outline into full-sentences prose. He reserved the right to make small, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... .
  • 20170613T0006Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time to write only a polished point-form outline, itself lacking the usual kind of polishing which an outline requires. He hoped over the coming 12 hours to convert this into full sentences, in a series of incremental uploads.

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets"  (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

Last week saw not one but two substantive, and adverse, developments in what has over the past decade been Canada's weightiest heritage-conservation file, on the David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P).

(A) On the evening of 2017-06-06 (TUE), our Town Council held a "Special Meeting". The concept is a technical one, regulated by Richmond Hill's Procedure By-law (from 2012-10-01, formally By-law 74-2012 or "74-12"):

6.1.7 Public Notice of Special Meeting

The Clerk shall provide notice to the public of a Special Meeting called for /.../ any purpose other than an Emergency or Time Sensitive Matter by posting to the schedule of Meetings on the Town's website not less than one (1) clear day in advance of the date of the Meeting /.../

6.1.8 Public Notice - Saving

If by oversight or otherwise notice of a special Meeting is not provided in the manner prescribed in subsection 6.1.7 (Public Notice of Special Meeting), the Meeting of Council shall not be void or voidable by reason of such failure to give notice or the insufficiency of any notice and no proceeding at that Meeting shall be void or voidable by reason of such failure to give notice or the insufficiency of any notice.

Since (as I will explain in a moment) the Special Meeting dealt with a specially serious matter, the redrawing of a Cultural Heritage Landscape boundary contrary to a hitherto (in large part - or even, for all I can now recall, fully?) accommodated 2009 Conservation Review Board recommendation, it is specially important to examine whether advance public notice was given. At first I thought I heard a scrap of talk in the community to the effect that the meeting had been called at very short notice indeed, contrary to the 6.1.7 "one clear day" requirement, around 08:30 on the morning of the actual day it was held (namely, 2016-06-06). On discussing this further with my community informant, "XYZ", I realized that I had misheard what XYZ had told me, and that in XYZ's opinion public notice had in fact been given at 08:30 or so on the morning of the day before, namely 2017-06-05. Still, the question is a grave one - with its gravity not negated by the presence in the Procedure By-law of the "saving" clause which is the just-quoted 6.1.8. 

On 2017-06-08, I asked our Clerks for particulars on the public notice. Here is the relevant part of my correspondence (an e-mail to, with subject line  Clerks: qn-4-u for LATER this wk: Mayor breached by-law 2017-06-06 (inadeq pblc notice??). My cryptic-looking reference to "Amberley Gavel" is a reference to our municipality's Integrity Commissioner: 

/.../ having examined some pertinent parts of the Procedure By-Law as forwarded by you to me, I have a query (which you might have to answer LATER in the week): on what date and at what time, and in what manner, was the public given notice of the Special Meeting held on the evening of 2017-06-06 (TUE)? It would be helpful here if Clerks could give me some appropriate documentation - for instance, by forwarding an e-mail with its full SMTP headers intact, establishing that notice was promulgated with correct regard for the Procedure By-law. (SMTP is the standard internet mail-transmission protocol, in Internet law terms promulgated as RFC 4021. (RFC is "Request for Comments" - a misleading term, in reality meaning simply "Internet-regulating international agreement".))

It is important that we have an audit trail, since a story is going round (I had it this morning, on the telephone, one might say from another analyst of civic procedure) that notice was given only around 8:00 am on the day of the meeting - in other words, in contravention of the Procedure By-Law.

Your team may later this week want to advise me how we establish a rigorous audit trail, ideally in the SMTP/RFC-4021 framework, or alternatively advise that no easy audit trail exists and that I therefore should seek an opinion from Amberley Gavel (who might, for all I know at the moment, eventually rule that the Mayor was in breach, by calling a meeting with inadequate prior notice).

It is of course already worrisome that the meeting was called for a night early in the week: can adequate notice have been given easily, if the meeting was on a Tuesday as opposed to (for instance) a Thursday or a Friday? The Procedure By-Law, awkwardly, requires "at least one clear day" of advance notification.

I am concerned to cross every legal t and dot every legal i because the Special Meeting performed something large. It in effect redrew the boundaries of a Cultural Heritage Landscape, giving DDO either the exact same narrowed CHL DDO had been offered in 2009 by the Town, or something very close to that same narrowed CHL. That narrowed CHL was itself defeated at the Conservation Review Board in 2009, with the Town eventually, in 2010, trying to respect CRB by adding a "buffer".  It was that buffer-enriched CHL that the 2017-06-06 meeting trimmed back (the buffer is gone now), in effect taking the Town back to the CHL concept it had unsuccessfully attempted to defend at the 2009 CRB.  I may eventually have to argue publicly - you can see now how the stormy legal seas begin to rise - that the Mayor, by calling a swift and poorly publicized meeting, has undercut the Ontario Heritage Act and the CRB, and has therefore helped weaken the rule of law in Ontario.

If, of course, we can rigorously establish, with or without the technical assistance of Amberley Gavel, that the Mayor acted in full conformity with the Procedure By-Law, my worries do go away.

wondering what we shall find out as our week progresses,

Tom Karmo

I still await Clerks' response. 

Public criticism - or, I could even without exaggeration say, public condemnation - of the 2017-06-06 development has been impressively swift and clear. On 2017-06-07, the Town received a condemnatory petition from residents, carrying 94 signatures as of 19:00 EDT (and with my own signature added, as entry 95, just before the petition got submitted, around 19:30 EDT).

One of the residents active in this petition initiative expressed to me, privately, the opinion that a real public movement was only now beginning. I do piously hope, without myself seeing a juridical way forward, that this well-intentioned, and optimistic, resident proves right.

(B) On the following night, on 2017-06-07 (WED), came a Council "public meeting" - a meeting of a category designed not for the taking of municipal decisions but for the hearing of public views. Input was sought on a Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) application, under which the aspiring DDO&P developer, Corsica Development Inc., would be allowed "secondary suites" above various garages in the 32-hectare subdivision its bulldozers have been carving out of the 77-hectare legacy DDO&P. The subdivision was, according to the much-criticized, and yet supposedly determinative, 2011 Ontario Municpal Board (OMB) Minutes of Settlement (upheld, in the teeth of conservationist counterargument, at 2012 and 2014 OMB hearings), to comprise 533 or so units of housing, In the ZBA application, an addition of potentially 74 secondary suites was envisaged, with the total potential number of housing units therefore rising to 607 (the sum of 533 and 74).

My submission to the Town, as a written accompaniment to my podium remarks on 2017-06-07, is largely self-explanatory. I do regret an "of of" typo, and my misspelling of "Garry Hunter" as "Gary Hunter", and my misquoting the staff report SRPRS 17.101 as "recommendation that all comments be referred back to staff for discussion" when what is in fact written in SRPRS 17.101 is "recommendation that all comments be referred back to staff for consideration". Further, the municipal staffer (Senior Planner) Ms Mary Filipetto, whom I politely mention in the letter as owing me a communication, did just some minutes after I transmitted my letter return my phone call, confirming my belief (expressed in my letter) that stormwater-sump ownership and management would in a normal case in due course pass from developer to  municipality:

[Letter from Toomas Karmo, 406 Centre Street East, Richmond Hill for circulation in advance of the public Town Council meeting of 2017-06-07 (WED), and for inclusion in the post-meeting public record.]

0. Preamble

Thank you, Mr Mayor and Council, for this opportunity to communicate with you on what has over the past decade emerged as Canada's weightiest heritage-conservation case.

In discussing the case tonight, I follow with modifications the language of the 1932 Deed of Indenture between Jessie Donalda Dunlap and the University of Toronto. This Deed prescribes the name "David Dunlap Observatory and Park" for Mrs Dunlap's land donation. I shorten the term to "DDO&P". Further, I apply the terms "David Dunlap Observatory and Park" and "DDO&P" not strictly to the 1932 72-hectare donation, but rather to its 1950s enlargement, to a total of 77 hectares. (The enlargement was a consequence of a 1950s 5-hectare donation or bequest from the Observatory's founding director, Prof. Clarence Augustus Chant).

The original 72 hectares, from 1932, are commonly known as the "Trapezoid". The 5 additional hectares, from the 1950s, are commonly known as the "Panhandle".

To help not only the general public but also the pertinent officers at Queen's Park (notably in the Ministry of Environment) orient themselves, I add a bare-bones history of the pertinent land transfers:

(A) In 2008, the University of Toronto sold all 77 hectares (i.e., both Trapezoid and Panhandle) to Corsica Development Inc. - a subsidiary of an entity then known as Metrus, and since 2014 April known as "DG Group". DG Group is privately held.  The directors of Corsica were, when I checked a couple of years ago, from the DeGasperis and Muzzo families.

(B) The 2008 sale was contrary to Mrs Dunlap's 1932 Deed of Indenture, which provided for a reversion to the Dunlap family in the event that the University of Toronto ever in future terminated its observatory operations.  In selling, the University proceeded on the legal theory - not, however, ultimately tested in a court trial - that the sale-blocking language in the 1932 Deed of Indenture was now not legally binding.

(C) Some years after 2008, Corsica sold the 5-hectare "Panhandle" portion of DDO&P to the Town.

(D) On 2017-03-21, Corsica conveyed approximately 40 hectares (the western half, or so, of the "Trapezoid") from DDO&P to the Town, for use as parkland. The Town envisaged that the 5-hectare Panhandle, and the 40-hectare Trapezoid remnant, would together comprise an entity to be called the "David Dunlap Observatory Park". Corsica envisaged that the eastern half, or so, of the "Trapezoid" would become a subdivision. The subdivision was to comprise a lane, 14 streets, 520 or 530 homes, and - this is central in what I have to communicate to Town Council tonight - a stormwater sump, under the name "Observatory Hill". (A little confusingly, there is or has been a separate entity, called the   Observatory Hill Homeowners' Association, representing the interests of residents immediately south of DDO&P, notably on Fern Avenue.)

1. SRPRS 17.101 and Question of Oak Ridges Moraine Aquifer Breach

Your discussions tonight turn in large part on the staff report SRPRS 17.101. A key passage in the report reads as follows (under the heading "Town Department and External Agency Comments):

The TRCA /.../ has requested the applicant [sc Corsica Development Inc.] to demonstrate that the pond [sc the "stormwater management pond", namely the sump for receiving precipitation runoff] has adequate capacity to provide excess storage. At the time of the writing of this report, a response has not been received from the applicant in response to the TRCA's comments.

The TRCA's question is one facet of a wider question: has the developer breached the Oak Ridges Moraine Aquifer cap?

If the cap were to be breached, the question of of stormwater-sump capacity would take on extra significance. With water flowing in from below, estimates of pond capacity based on the calculated volume of surface runoff would be misleading.

Further, a question of sump-floor erosion would arise in this hypothetical scenario. With inflow from below, might it be (I ask) that the sump floor would eventually degrade, with a small breach becoming eventually larger, and with the volume of inflow therefore eventually increasing?

The question of an aquifer breach was raised by my friends the Richmond Hill Naturalists at the Ontario Municipal Board DDO&P hearings of 2012 and 2014, by the hydrogeologist Gary Hunter, in the course of my friends' at-that-time unsuccessful efforts to conserve the full 77-hectare DDO&P. I would recommend all parties to now revisit my friends' OMB casework and to make correct public citation of it.

The wide question of an aquifer breach in turn raises a still wider question, regarding legal liability.  I believe - though I have not so far had this morning's call returned by Mr Mary Filipetto (Senior Planner, Subdivisions, Town of Richmond Hill) that in the long term - over the coming decades, as opposed to the coming months - it is the Town that is legally responsible for sump maintenance, and who can be sued by property-injured residents in the envisaged Observatory Hill subdivision, or by property-injured residents on the existing streets (most notably on Fern Avenue) adjoining the envisaged subdivision.

2. Aquifer-Breach Question as on 2017-04-15 (Ministry of Environment)

On 2017-04-15, I wrote the Ontario Ministry of Environment about the breach-of-aquifer question, thereby continuing a line of inquiry that I had pursued with the Province of Ontario in two 2016 letters (with, in 2016, a papermail response letter to me from the Minister for Municipal Affairs, the Hon. Bill Mauro). Particulars on my 2017-04-15 communication, and on the earlier 2016 communications from and to me, and on pertinent press coverage at (Richmond Hill Liberal, 2016-11-16, under headline "Richmond Hill neighbours furious with David Dunlap land developer's 'mountain'") are in my blog posting of 2017-04-15, in an entry viewable by scrolling downward on the page

I am today communicating again with the Ministry, to remind them of this 2017-04-15 material from my desk.

As I documented the 2017-04-15 casework at, so I also am proposing, perhaps a few days from now, to somehow document tonight's casework at

3. Aquifer-Breach Question as on 2017-06-07 (Perimeter Inspection)

On the evening of 2017-06-06 (TUE), I carried out a 45-minute perimeter inspection of the DDOP&P site, walking along Bayview from Hillsview Drive to Fern, and walking along a small part of Fern, and walking on the grass of the vacant lot at Bayview and Fern, and walking Hillsview Drive from its Bayview termination to its railway-crossing termination.  This gave me a full view of the DDO&P eastern and northern edges.

Two points relevant to the question of aquifer breach arise from my inspection. The points render the question of aquifer breach still more pressing than it was when I communicated with the Ministry of Environment on 2017-04-15:

(1) A firm active in the management of construction-site water, AquaTech, had as of 2017-06-06 parked various pieces of equipment, including a tank for diesel (possibly used in running a generator), piping, and a pump, by the kerb on Fern Avenue. Rather prominent in this equipment, as I viewed and photographed it, was an auger, which I estimated to be capable of boring soil to a width of 10 cm or 20 cm, to a depth of 5 m or 6 m. This equipment was not present in the DDO&P vicinity when I prepared my 2017-04-15 letter to the Ministry. It was, on the other hand, present within DDO&P itself (and plainly visible from Bayview, and I think photographed by me hastily from a bus window) some days prior to 2017-06-06.

What, I now ask, has induced the developer - who was already running other equipment, in my belief for pumping, but not marked with the AquaTech logo, at or near the sump bank around 2017-04-15, and over some weeks prior to that date - to resort to AquaTech? Has there, I now ask, been some kind of aquifer-breach emergency?

(2) The colour of the sump water, as I viewed and photographed it against a late-evening, partly cloudy, sky on 2017-06-06, was blue rather than brown. Is the blue colour (quite unlike the muddy brown of mere surface runoff), I now ask, possibly an indication of aquifer breach?

4. Recommendation: No Approvals until Aquifer-Breach Question Answered

It is helpful that SRPRS 17.101 concludes not with a recommendation for the passing of a zoning by-law amendment, but merely with (I quote) the recommendation that all comments be referred back to staff for discussion. I applaud this recommendation.  Concern for the Town's conceivable legal liability - a problem to which I referred under my heading "1." above - requires that until the question of aquifer breach has been answered, both to the satisfaction of the Town and to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Environment, a zoning by-law amendment would be premature.

5. Concluding Remark: Subdivision Is Contrary to Public Interest

I reiterate my overall, guiding, consideration: any subdivision development at all on the 77-hectare DDO&P undercuts a potential UNESCO World Heritage List conservation case, and therefore runs contrary to the provincial and national public interest. Now, as at all previous points in this casework, I consider the public interest to be best served by Corsica's abandoning its "Observatory Hill" project, and thereupon allowing others (for instance, ordinary tree-planting citizens, among whom I recruited around 2012) to embark on reforestation along Hillsview Drive and Bayview Avenue.

On proceeding home from the meeting, and reflecting on an adverse experience that night in the Chamber, I felt it advisable to send Mayor, Council, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the community newspaper, and some conservationist or private community figures a follow-on e-mail, which again is largely self-explanatory:

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20170608T020319

Dear Mayor Barrow and TRCA (, planning&,

with cc to the rest of Town Council,

and also with cc to community paper (,,

with possible subsequent forwards to other
conservation-interested parties:

Thank you again, Mr Mayor, for the opportunity (a) to address Council tonight, and (b) to submit to Council the letter which I attach, once again, under filename


I am now safely back at my desk from the Council chamber, having obtained a lift from a fellow voter for all but the last 3 kilometres of my journey, and having greatly enjoyed the summer air in those final 3 kilometres. 

You will recall interrupting me at the podium tonight. On pondering your actions during my 3-kilometre stroll, it seems to me that you were not driven by malice, in other words that you were not heckling.  You were, as I appraise your action, genuinely concerned for the good of Council, and were genuinely worried that I was not addressing the specific business before us. 

At this instant, being safely back at my desk, I spell things out a little more explicitly than I perhaps succeeded in doing at the podium. I do this partly for your benefit, Mr Mayor, and partly to ensure also that the full DDO situation, with its potential problems of municipal legal liability, is grasped at TRCA.

(A) Central to tonight's deliberations, on the proposed Zoning By-Law Amendment at DDO, was staff report SRPRS 17.101.

(B) Central to SRPRS 17.101 are questions of infrastructure capacity, in the context of the proposed DDO "Observatory Hill" subdivision under the proposed zoning by-law amendment. 

(C) One of the central themes in SRPRS 17.101 is the question of stormwater management pond capacity. (Admittedly, there are other central themes too, among them the theme of sewer capacity. But pond capacity, I respectfully insist, is **ONE** of the central themes.)

(D) SRPRS 17.101 correctly notes that TRCA has queried stormwater-management-pond capacity, with TRCA seeking an assurance from the developer.  (As I reported from the podium, I have just learned that TRCA has received a response from the developer, and is at this instant analyzing it to see whether it is adequate.) This TRCA query, I would respectfully submit, duly documented in SRPRS 17.101, was **ONE** of the central points in tonight's business.

(E) In my tabled letter under filename


I noted the possibility of aquifer-cap breach. Water can enter a stormwater management pond not in one way but in two - from above (as when stormwater runs along the ground or along shallow storm-management piping into the pond) and from below (in case an aquifer cap is punctured, with water under pressure now free to rise).  If, speaking hypothetically, the stormwater pond were to have a breach in its floor, accidentally connecting it with the aquifer pressure, the capacity figures so far available to TRCA - assuming, as they do, that the only source of incoming water is from above - will prove unreliable.

In view of these five points, I continue to insist, politely but firmly, that I was not deviating from the topic of our meeting, but was on the contrary selecting one of several issues central to it.

Do please, Mr Mayor and TRCA, write me if any of my reasoning in this present letter needs amplification, or if I can in any other way help diminish the Town's risk of legal liability, or indeed if I can in any other ways assist.


Toomas Karmo
406 Centre Street East, Richmond Hill

PS: I would like to thank two of my cc'd parties, Councillors Chan and Muench, for clearly communicating, in their own Chamber remarks, their correct grasp of the municipal legal-liability problem that would be posed if the stormwater pond floor were to breach the aquifer cap.

PPS: I underscore the rights of citizens in municipal deliberations by herewith attaching not only my own letter under filename


but also the celebrated Norman Rockwell painting of municipal deliberations, under filename


This follow-on e-mail elicited no response from the Mayor, but did elicit a favourable, supportive private e-mail to me from my own Ward Councillor, Mr Tom Muench.

I was only one of several DDO&P discussants at the 2017-06-07 podium. From the now-somewhat-misleadingly named "DDO Defenders" there spoke Ms Gloria Boxen and Dr Ian Shelton. Both criticized aspects of the envisaged ZBA. Dr Shelton kindly greeted me upon taking his seat in the Chamber, surprising me with a small, friendly hand gesture invisible to all but the vigilant. In the wake of his remarks, and of his unexpected gesture, I find it advisable to now compose an open letter to the "Defenders", admittedly with some degree of unease and apprehension. In composing my open letter, I proceed in the light of this weeks already-posted "remarks in lieu of analytical philosophy": how (I ask myself) would those good-humoured Cistercians, or the Pluscarden Benedictines, or Pope Saint John XXIII, or Pope Francis, or the author (with her or his heavenly audience!) of the 2017-06-12 Laudes Matitutinae prayer, or the shades of Aemilius Papinianus and the other pagan Roman jurists, play my ever-so-sticky wicket? Clearly I must accentuate the positive, while also paying a due sympathetic regard to Dr Shelton's past human weaknesses. The weaknesses need not be dissected here, since I have dealt with them (I like to think, definitively, finally, once and for all) at Within that perhaps-definitive Web page, it suffices to start from the passage /../ I privately checked with Dr Shelton /.../ . What has been done there need not, I stress, be repeated here.

I do, however, remark for the possible convenience of the more inquisitive among my various readers that the red-marked parts of the cited Web page are what I had to change in the wake of legal action brought by Mrs Karen Cilevitz in 2014 March (since the municipal election of 2014-10-27, alas, Town Councillor Karen Cilevitz). The inquisitive, should there be any, can check the text as I originally worded it, before the red-letters revisions, at

Mindful of the upliftingly comedic Cistercians, of the Pluscarden Benedictines, of Good Pope John, and the like, I seek herewith to avoid what it would this week as a matter of political practicalities be possible to pull off, namely the imposing of a large fresh humiliation on the much-buffeted Dr Shelton. I accordingly offer Dr Shelton simply the following (here at, and also in a private e-mail transmission),  in what I hope is a correctly irenic spirit:

Dear Ian,

You will recall that I founded the (now somewhat misleadingly named) DDO Defenders late in 2007, as an informal community grouping; that Karen Cilevitz took control of it in the spring of 2008, and incorporated it in 2011 to make possible her, your, and your community colleagues' participation in an Ontario Municipal Board closed-doors mediation process; and that you became head of this incorporation upon Karen's getting elected, on 2014-10-27, to Town Council.

You will recall that when (a) Karen asserted at, in perhaps 2014, my exclusion from the DDO Defenders, (b.a) I in 2014 or 2015 explicitly gave you public opportunity to confirm Karen's assertion publicly, whereupon (b.b) you had the kindness to refrain. I therefore continue to assume, subject to written correction from you, that I remain a DDO Defenders member.


Your Town of Richmond Hill podium remarks of 2017-06-07 are significant. For the first time since 2011, the DDO Defenders are, and now under your leadership, explicitly criticizing Corsica Development Inc. The criticism remains significant even once it is admitted that you criticize Corsica only on some details, continuing to maintain a broad diplomatic silence in your mission statement at - at any rate as I inspect it at or within a couple of minutes of UTC=20170612T185119Z:

The DDO Defenders are deeply committed to preserving 
the David Dunlap Observatory, surrounding Lands and 
the Dunlap Legacy. Our mandate is to ensure that the 
campus continues to operate as a world-class 
astronomical and astrophysical research facility and a 
centre of excellence in public Outreach, Education 
and Experiential Learning regarding all aspects of  
Science and the Natural World.

This material of UTC=20170612T185119Z is still, I think, the wording your organization introduced in 2012 or so, I suspect from its various stylistic features as a composition from Karen. Your organization introduced it as an unfortunate revision of your pre-2012 mission statement, which - laudably and correctly, in my own (pro-forest) judgement and the judgement of my (pro-forest) friends in the Richmond Hill Naturalists - urged conserving the full (77-hectare) DDO&P terrain. In particular, I believe (subject to written correction from you) that your podium words of 2017-06-07 mark the first time the formally incorporated, i.e., the post-2011, DDO Defenders have publicly raised questions of light pollution in a manner critical of Corsica.

Your protest cannot in strict fairness be called forceful. The envisaged "secondary units" of housing, whose stairway lightbulbs are the substantive topic of your light-pollution protest, lie hundreds of metres away from the housing units that most matter, namely the Hillsview-near-Donalda McMansion lots (or, in the more courteous language of urban planing, the Hillsview-near-Donalda "R6" lots). It is these Hillsview-near-Donalda R6 lots, not the outlying lots you addressed at the podium, that conservationists would be specially hopeful in protecting through such actions as my (ultimately futile) financing of the 2012 and 2014 Ontario Municipal Board cases fought by my friends from the Richmond Hill Naturalists.

But public advocacy for a right cause, however limited, remains public advocacy.


In now directly opposing Corsica in the public forum, you provide an opening for talks between you and me. Could you and I now meet, say over tea or coffee at my new place of residence (406 Centre Street East, near Bayview), to clarify our respective positions, in terms that I can in the interest of civic transparency later publish at


I have composed this present open letter quite carefully, and (as I remark in the earliest of this week's three postings, headed "Remarks in lieu...") with some soul-searching,. I therefore hope that I have been fully civic-minded and fully accurate. If I have strayed into impropriety in anything I am putting into this present open letter, do please advise me in writing, in terms suitable for reporting by me (for example, by some combination of paraphrase and direct quotation) at Should you wish to write me not privately but by way of a world-readable comment, do please do so, checking my blog-posting rules of 2016-04-14, and noting that those rules guarantee your freedom from censorship,. You can find my rules at, under the heading "Background FAQ, regarding purpose and conduct of this blog".

hoping that this letter does not bring you undue angst,
but instead helps both of us work in the civic interest, 


[This is the end of the current blog posting.]