01/31/13

The chemtrail conspiracy nonsense


Chemtrail conspiraciesScientists need not apply for membership in the Chemtrail Conspiracy. In fact, scientists will probably be booted out for even walking on the same street where the meeting is being held. That’s because scientists would shine a light into the utter darkness of this nutty conspiracy. According to Wikipedia:

The chemtrail conspiracy theory holds that some trails left by aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed at high altitudes for purposes undisclosed to the general public in clandestine programs directed by various government officials.[1] This theory is not accepted by the scientific community, which states that they are just normal contrails, as there is no scientific evidence supporting the chemtrail theory.

Okay, so does it make sense to you that millions of people are involved in some bizarre worldwide conspiracy that involves every level of government, the military, the medical community, meteorologists, scientists AND private industry in numerous countries simultaneously, and not ONE has ever become a whistle blower? Not ONE has ever gone public with PROOF?

As Skeptoid notes,

Like all conspiracy theories, chemtrails require us to accept the existence of a coverup of mammoth proportions. In this case, virtually every aircraft maintenance worker at every airport in the world needs to be either part of the conspiracy, or living under a threat from Men in Black, with not a single whistle blower or deathbed confession in decades. Or that for all the thousands of traditional media outlets around the world that have the resources and willingness to do solid investigative journalism, not a single one has dredged up as much as a single provable fact that this isn’t just a self-inflicted mass delusion?

Come on – this chemtrail stuff is so wacky it makes creationism and Scientology look smart. But hey, silliness was never a barrier to joining the tin foil hat brigade:

Due to the popularity of the conspiracy theory, official agencies have received thousands of complaints from people who have demanded an explanation. The existence of chemtrails has been repeatedly denied by scientists around the world, who say the trails are normal contrails. The United States Air Force states that the theory is a hoax which “has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organizations, and major media publications.” The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has stated that chemtrails are not scientifically recognized phenomena.

In case you wonder where all those folks who believed in the Mayan apocalypse have gone, look no further. They’re filling the internet with more pseudoscientific-conspiracy drivel about how the government is trying to sterilize you, pacify you, experiment on you, make you sick, control the weather, vaccinate you, infect us with nanobot implants, fight global warming, cause global warming, geo-engineering, or make us mindless slaves to the New World Order – or maybe a combination of them, since no two conspiracy theorists seem to agree on WHY anyone would do this (let alone how).

But the wingnuts are True Believers even if what they believe in is clearly outside the realm of common sense:

So here we are in 2012 and the level of verifiable evidence of Chem Trails and their effect on humanity is staggering, and as more of us become more sophisticated , more awake , more expanded in our ability to see the larger picture , we are starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to “Why” they are doing this.

The reason of course is money , profits, and control , so nothing new here, just more sophisticated control mechanisms to manipulate markets, food sources and ultimately the ability to produce food. It turns out that the main reason for the development of weather modification , Chem Trails, HAARP , is to create a situation that puts normal crops at a sever disadvantage through droughts and other extreme weather.

Every expert in aviation and, weather must be in on the cabal, because they only make statements about how ludicrous the theory is:

Experts on atmospheric phenomena deny the existence of chemtrails, asserting that the characteristics attributed to them are simply features of contrails responding differently in diverse conditions in terms of the sunlight, temperature, horizontal and vertical wind shear, and humidity levels present at the aircraft’s altitude. Experts explain that what appears as patterns such as grids formed by contrails result from increased air traffic traveling through the gridlike United States National Airspace System’s north-south and east-west oriented flight lanes, and that it is difficult for observers to judge the differences in altitudes between these contrails from the ground. The jointly published fact sheet produced by NASA, the EPA, the FAA, and NOAA in 2000 in response to alarms over chemtrails details the science of contrail formation, and outlines both the known and potential impacts contrails have on temperature and climate. The USAF produced a fact sheet as well that described these contrail phenomena as observed and analyzed since at least 1953. It also rebutted chemtrail theories more directly by identifying the theories as a hoax and denying the existence of chemtrails.

I suppose people who can readily believe that crop circles are alien messages, aliens crashed at Roswell, or that flu vaccines cause autism, can believe in chemtrails. Once you start drinking the pseudoscience Kool-Aid, it’s hard not to drain the glass and ask for more.

Here’s a quote from one of those crazy Kool-Aid drinker sites:

So, what is the REAL reason for the spraying?

There are 3 reasons:

1) To change the electrical conductivity of our atmosphere so that scaler weapons such as HAARP in Alaska will work. These microwave weapons can be used in conjunction with chemtrails to control the weather, also to trigger off earthquakes and tsunamis.

2) For population control to cull the human herd: weather control = crop control= people control via contrived food shortages such as the huge drought currently driving small farmers out of business in the midwest.

3) Monsanto has a hand in the chemtrails conspiracy, as they have a patent on a genetically engineered seed that will germinate despite the changes in Ph from all the aluminum oxide being sprayed on us, while heirloom seeds are increasingly not germinating.

Agenda 21 is Behind the Chemtrails Conspiracy

This is by design. The 10,000 pound gorilla in the room driving all this genocide is UN Agenda 21, a 40 chapter blueprint for population control which I have read in its entirety. The UN officially considers farming and ranching to be “unsustainable” so I would like to see Weston A. Price Foundation join forces with the bipartisan coalition against UN Agenda 21 that has sprung up nationwide.

Ah ha! So it’s the UN behind it all, out to destroy good ol’ capitalist Mega-Farming (as opposed to good ol’ capitalist Mega-Pharm, which some say is also behind the conspiracy). I’ll bet the UN paid the aliens to make the crop circles, too, and drive the investigators wild!

The Skeptoid notes,

Wow. Where to begin. I read a fair amount of skeptical, paranormal, and conspiracy web sites, but I don’t recall ever reading so much vituperation, anger, and name calling as when I read a few forums discussing chemtrails. If you’re not familiar with the term, chemtrails are what some conspiracy theorists call aircraft condensation trails. Most of them don’t believe that conventional contrails exist, and that when you see one, you’re actually seeing a trail of mysterious airborne chemicals sprayed from the aircraft. Those who do concede the existence of contrails often claim subtle differences in appearance or behavior between a condensation trail and a chemical trail.

Chemtrail theorists, of course, have their own “experts” who contradict their opponents’ claims to debunk the chemtrail nonsense. Of course the chemtrail “experts” are not disadvantaged like their opponents, by having university degrees, years of experience, tons of reliable testing equipment or by not being on any meds or recreational drugs. Mostly they’re people who spend the majority of their time online reading other conspiracy sites and then linking up to form a collective of incredible gullibility.

Dave Thomas –  a physicist and mathematician, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (a lethal combination for an Illuminati shill if ever I saw one) – wrote in a piece about this nuttiness:

Kennedy assassination and 9/11 conspiracy theorists are mere pikers compared to “chemtrail” buffs. You will rarely find a more virulently self-deluded group, anywhere.

The Skeptic Project notes the conspiracy association between alleged chemtrails and the bizarre, but equally delusional morgellon’s disease:

Conspiracy theorists are avid anomaly hunters. Whenever they find something they immediately fail to understand, they try and weasle any correlation they can to fit their beliefs. … to the conspiracy theorist, anything other than what the government tells them will have to do. … The reasoning goes like this. Chemtrails are being sprayed everywhere, morgellon’s disease is still a mystery, therefore chemtrails cause morgellon’s disease… Conspiracy theorists have a long laundry list of secret tactics that Big Pharma and the government utilize to reduce the population. And this list gets so long and ridiculous. Vaccines, AIDs, chemtrails, fluoride, food additives etc. … conspiracy theorists continually ignore and deny any historical or scientific facts that don’t fit in their worldview. Denialism at its finest.

The Rational Wiki is equally snarky about these conspiracy theorists:

Chemtrails are an alleged conspiracy by which cranks claim that aircraft contrails are a form of chemical dispersal through which the government is attempting to poison people from above. This is a relatively recent conspiracy theory, having been first discussed around 1996, and is still going strong despite the evidence for the conspiracy being laughably lacking.

The Rational Wiki goes on to describe some of the homemade remedies these wackos have dreamed up to combat their imaginary chemtrails:

There are an intrepid group of people who have discovered the secret to removing chemtrails: vinegar. There are numerous groups dedicated to it, and despite the obvious stupidity of it all, they seem to believe it. The trick is as follows; simply evaporate a certain amount of vinegar each day in order to disperse clouds and chemtrails and to clear the skies. Depending on how crazy the person proposing this can be, the volumes range from a few litres per day (mixed with extra water) to simply spraying it into the air from a bottle. Yes, that’s right, people believe that clouds and chemicals at 20,000 ft can be dispersed and neutralised by spraying a couple of millilitres of dilute acetic acid in their back yard – presumably the patches of dead grass you can see in the videos these people produce are just a coincidence. For those who can’t quite afford the increase in energy bills associated with boiling 5+ litres of water a day for no reason, other advice includes simply tipping it onto asphalt to let it evaporate naturally. Complaints from neighbours about the smell aren’t usually mentioned.

Vinegar? This site recommends sulfur as a “detox strategy.” Nah – wear magnets and rub yourself with magic crystals. Works just as well.

The nutbars who believe in chemtrails have, on the other hand, done us considerable good by spawning numerous sites, wikis and blogs dedicated to science, reason and critical thinking to contradict this nonsense. We can always use more sites dedicated to logic, science and reason, even if the nutbars never read them.

The Contrail Science Blog is one such scientific site, and offers a good lesson on contrails throughout history, opening with this:

The chemtrail conspiracy theory seems to frequently misidentify ordinary contrails as “chemtrails” – some kind of secret spraying program. This theory comes in many flavors, and there’s a large number of things people bring up as “evidence” to support this theory. I’ve tried to gather all the debunks of this evidence in one place here, for easy reference. This is a work in progress, and will remain on the front page here as I expand and refine it. While the title of this post is “How to Debunk Chemtrails”, the actual debunking depends on what version of the theory needs debunking. There’s a variety of common claims, and variations on those themes. The best approach is to debunk the individual claim (such as: contrails only last a few seconds), rather than trying to debunk the entire theory.

The author clearly and eloquently explains that contrails are condensation, but not like your breath:

Condensation trails from a jet can last for many minutes, even for hours sometimes. So why is there this difference? Why do jet contrails sometime persist, but your breath condensation quickly evaporates? The difference is because a contrail freezes. It’s really that simple. Contrails form at -40 degrees Fahrenheit (which is also -40 Celsius), or colder. At that temperature the tiny drops of condensed water will instantly freeze. Once frozen they can not evaporate. They also can’t melt, as it’s -40. They can however fade away through a process known as “sublimation” – where a solid turns into a gas.

Why anyone thinks releasing anything at 25,000 or more feet would be effective is never answers. Ben Radford, of Skeptical Inquiry notes,

There’s also the question of what possible purpose the contrails (er, chemtrails) would serve. As Bob Carroll notes in The Skeptics Dictionary, “Any biological or chemical agents released at 25,000 feet or above would be absolutely impossible to control, making any measurement of effects on the ground nearly impossible. . . . Such an exercise would be pointless, unless you just wanted to pollute the atmosphere. And where is the evidence of the illnesses being caused by these agents?”

Alas, conspiracy buffs have no answers for these fundamental questions. It’s easier (and much more fun) to just sit back and wonder what secret government experiments we are being exposed to that “they” aren’t telling us about.

Of course, governments are denying that they are doing anything nefarious. One pro-conspiracy site (and not just chemtrails, but a whole bevy of them) loudly proclaimed, “UK Denies Evidence Of Widespread Illegal Chemtrail Aerosol Operations.” The story opens (and this really will make you chuckle):

Following the submission of a report, backed by over 20 signatories from diverse backgrounds, detailing widespread illegal and unacknowledged aerosol spraying from aircraft, UK agencies have ignored or denied the significant data it presented. Copies of the report were sent to UK Greenpeace, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), The Royal Air Force, DEFRA and, sometime after, to the UK World-Wide Fund for Nature, challenging them to investigate the data themselves. Four responses were received and all of them have denied the basic science presented in the report, which was backed up by the clear evidence.

Duh – of course they will deny doing something that NO ONE is doing. And funnily enough, reputable organizations backed by REAL science all call the “basic science” of the claims are mere balderdash. But nonetheless, the report adds with refreshing lack of logic:

It is therefore clear that a wide range of people are aware that the spraying is going on, and basic science proves it is really happening. The question has to be asked, then, how do we proceed and obtain answers to has authorised this spraying and what is its purpose? …The research of many people and the report I compiled proves the issue is real, even though we don’t know who is responsible for the spraying.

We don’t know who isn’t doing this, but they must be doing it because they claim not to be. Gotta love that thinking. Or not thinking. The article concludes by calling for

Anyone who has an interest in protecting our environment should be looking at this issue and asking questions. The official responses I have received so far have done nothing, realistically, to refute or correct any of the data or overall conclusions I included, disturbing though they are.

The official responses could never convince anyone who enters with the mindset that the officials must be lying and covering up. And the conclusions are, well, yes, disturbing – but only in your own rather delusional mind. Why would anyone interested in protecting the environment want to expend energy protecting it from imaginary threats? There are enough real threats to it without worrying about these hoaxes and hobgoblins.

In response, the armies of conspiracy wingnuts have assembled a barrage of doctored images and videos, fake “experts” who can barely string together noun and verb into a sentence, and ominous musical overdubs, doctored photographs, fake “experts” and egregiously stupid pseudoscience to present a chilling image of ongoing government-sponsored terror that features nanobots, secret government agencies, massive collusion by millions of people worldwide, the New World Order. Gosh, no wonder the Mayan apocalypse was sloughed aside for this stuff.

So debunking this nonsense it isn’t exactly a debate… more like a carnival game. Whack-a-mole comes to mind. Sigh. Some days I am convinced the internet is just making us collectively more stupid. Other days that’s the good news…

01/30/13

Musings on public input


Mob rule When I hear a call for a public meeting, my first thought is to ask why we need it. Is the issue something that absolutely needs more public input above and beyond what is already widely available?

Public meetings require considerable planning, advertising and recording. Sometimes they require a large space, which has to be rented. Is the issue big enough to warrant such a process or cost? Is this meeting efficient, or will it delay a process or a decision unnecessarily?

And, of course, I ask: does it serve the community as a whole or just a special interest group?

Political theorist Hannah Pitkin wrote that political representation is a “social relationship, constituted in part by shared meanings.”*

Social relationships are two-way. They require interaction, dialogue and trust to function. But with so many people, so many interests, demands, needs, wishes, agendas, issues and goals in even a small town, the relationship between representative and electorate is naturally uneven. You cannot be all things to all people.

The result of that imbalance is the rise of “informal representation” where special interest or advocacy groups formed to focus attention on their particular goals or demands because they feel under-represented by the politicians or the media.

But while any elected representative can make some claim to be universal and inclusive, special interest groups are, by their nature, particular and exclusive. Council has to worry about infrastructure, the downtown, taxes, industry, recreation, jobs, zoning, the debt, communication, library, museum, bylaws, budgets, signs, staffing – a whole gamut of issues, services and facilities that most special interests ignore in pursuit of their specific goals.

Special interest groups act like acupuncture needles on hot spots of particular focus. They can galvanize their members to bring public attention to themselves and their cause, and to act as advocates and pressure points on council. That attention can be either good or bad – sometimes the attention is warranted and serves the greater good; other times it serves some more limited or even inimical purpose.

Often the informal and unelected representatives see themselves as entitled to the same decision making authority as their elected counterparts, as if on par with them. Trust between formal and informal representatives can then break down into an adversarial relationship when the elected representatives do not perform as the special interest groups expect or demand. But it is not a contest between two governments: only one is the elected authority.

To increase their power, these groups often lobby elected representatives to act as their advocates, or try to create factionalism among the body of representatives to prevent action that is counter to the group’s goals. We’ve seen both, locally. Dr. Mark Cooray wrote,

Pressure groups give rise to special problems. The public choice theorists argue that pressure groups have in fact increased arbitrary government. In the absence of limitations, factionalism leads to the pursuit of separate ends, with the government gaining power to satisfy particular demands.

To attempt to be as inclusive as possible, council always tries to involve the public as much as is both practical and effective.

Public input is ubiquitous in our system. Council meetings are open and public, and we advertise the subjects under discussion beforehand. The debates and votes are held in public view, covered by local media and available online. Public input is accepted by email, letter, or delegation, and every member of council has his or her contact information published to facilitate access. Almost every document or piece of correspondence is available for public reading. Plus there are mandated meetings where public input is actively solicited, such as zoning changes.

Councillor Hull’s recent motion demanding the town “hold further public dialogue to engage the citizens of the Town of Collingwood for their input and comments on the various opportunities identified by Council & Staff to ensure that the proceeds of this public sale are being used in the best interest of the taxpayers and residents of the Town of Collingwood,” strikes me as mere political opportunism. It is both inefficient and unnecessary (and a trifle wordy).

Why?

  • Because we already held a public session late last year, hearing delegations and taking written submissions from residents;
  • Because we have been receiving suggestions and comments from the public ever since we got the Collus money, as recently as an email sent to council Sunday. We received a request for a delegation about this just last week;
  • Because it has been reported in the media for months and as a result, the public has participated by providing comment during that time;
  • And because we have already given staff the task to collate all those suggestions and present them to council for discussion in the near future;
  • It also discredits the considerable amount of public input and engagement already received, as well as presupposes staff’s pending report will be inadequate;
  • Asking to do it again before we even have the opportunity to read the staff report is redundant and a waste of staff time and energy; it will direct staff away from other, more immediate tasks (like completing the 2013 budget);
  • Adding more ideas to the two dozen or more already collected will not make decision making easier, faster or more efficient – it will only confuse and delay the issue.**

The argument that some people didn’t comment initially because they thought the money was already allocated, and thus need a second chance, is a canard. The issue has been raised too often and for too long in the media, on social media and at council for anyone not to know about it. We have received comments and emails about it before and since the public meeting, indicating that the public has not felt shy about commenting. A second public meeting only delays the decision.

Further, you don’t keep doing and redoing a thing simply because you don’t like the answer the first time around.

Municipal politics isn’t a card game where you keep pulling cards from the deck to see if this one is the one, and if not, pulling out another until you get the answer you wanted. One point of our procedural bylaw is to keep issues from being dragged back to the table every time someone doesn’t agree with the vote.

We represent the entire community, not just a special interest. We have to consider all the possible uses for the funds; examine all the suggestions and their financial implications, and pick those that will ultimately benefit the entire community – not just serve the needs of the few.

A public meeting should be called only when it serves the greater good, not to foster personal or special interest agendas.

Once we have read the staff report, and discussed the suggestions already in it, we can decide if we need to have another public meeting. But I will always keep in mind that we are elected to make decisions, not to find ways to duck them or delay them.
~~~~~
* The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
** After this long, and with this many ideas already presented, does anyone actually believe some exceptional, new and unconsidered idea will be brought forward?

01/30/13

Musings on representational democracy


Representational democracy, says Wikipedia, is

“…founded on the principle of elected people representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. All modern Western style democracies are various types of representative democracies…”

And so is Canada, and by extension so is the Town of Collingwood; small cog it may be in the great machinery of democratic government. We elect people to represent us, to make decisions for us, to debate the issues for us.

Some people mistake the point of this system. They believe we elect people to do what they’re told, to act as their delegates and represent solely their own interests rather than those of the whole electorate. We’ve seen that reaction locally.

Edmund Burke, that great critic of unrestrained democracy, was adamant that the duty of a representative was not simply to act as a rubber stamp for the wishes of the electorate, turning every demand or grumble into legislation or votes. Burke said, in a speech in 1774, that representatives owed the electorate the duty of both their conscience and their judgment – even if their views ran counter to those of the majority:

“…it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France

Burke believed representatives should be a trustee, not merely a delegate. He never advocated acting without consideration for the electorate, but he believed at the end of the day, you were elected to make decisions, and for everyone’s best interests.

While good in theory, Burke was also skeptical about how it worked in practice because democracy is fraught with challenges. As Wikipedia notes, he believed,

“…government required a degree of intelligence and breadth of knowledge of the sort that was very uncommon among the common people. Second he thought that common people had dangerous and angry passions that could be easily aroused by demagogues if they had the vote; he feared the authoritarian impulses that could be empowered by these passions would undermine cherished traditions and established religion, leading to violence and confiscation of property. Thirdly, Burke warned that democracy would tyrannize unpopular minorities who needed the protection of the upper classes.”

Things have not changed as much since Burke’s day as we might imagine. In fact, we need even more knowledge today than ever before to govern effectively. Thanks to the advent of social media, everyone is empowered to rise to the level of demagogue, and passionate – often authoritarian and intemperate – impulses rule internet forums, blogs and social media. We see some people using those tools to “tyrannize” and bully others by the sheer volume and anger of their attack.

Perhaps the difference is that today you can more easily tyrannize the majority with these methods, not simply the “unpopular minorities” Burke wrote about.

Some people … believe we elect people to do what they’re told, to act as their delegates and represent solely their own interests rather than those of the whole electorate. We’ve seen that reaction locally.

Representational democracy exists because the “direct” democracy of the Greek city states is impractical today. You simply cannot convene a meeting where every citizen has a say and a vote for every issue and you can’t have a referendum for every vote. If we did, we would still be debating the palette of colours for the heritage district, or the size of A-frame signs, and nothing would ever get done.

One hundred percent participation may be democracy by strict definition, but it would veer uncomfortably close to anarchy and mob rule. The loudest voices would top the rest. That’s why we choose representatives to manage our interests: it avoids the decline into mob rule. And that means the representatives have the responsibility of listening to all voices, not just the loudest.

To prevent representational democracy from becoming a dictatorship of the elected, various laws are in place to act as checks and balances on the process and on how power is wielded. This works relatively well here in Canada, especially in our non-party municipal politics; it works rather poorly in the USA where lobbyists easily buy votes and favourable legislation. No system is perfect.

~~~~~

* The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

01/29/13

The mayor sets the record straight about the PRA


PRA dome conceptThe following is a statement made verbally by Mayor Sandra Cooper, at Collingwood Council, Mon., Jan. 28, 2013. It explains the timeline of events between the Pretty River Academy and the Town of Collingwood. It should set the record straight and clear up the misinformation around this issue:

JANUARY 28, 2013 – MAYOR’S STATEMENT ON THE PRETTY RIVER ACADEMY

As noted at last week’s Council meeting, as Mayor, I agreed to provide an update to the community about the facts surrounding the erroneous and misleading statements regarding the Town’s past and present dealings with the Pretty River Academy, that have been alleged in the press, social media and a recent letter mass-mailed to Collingwood residents.

Fiction vs. Fact

1. FICTION: A public private partnership (community use agreement) was signed on November 30, 2009.
FACT: Council authorized entering into an agreement on November 30, 2009. That was signed only by the Town. The Academy did not agree to the terms and conditions and suggested revisions. After ongoing discussions with respect to the community use agreement, a letter from the former CAO, dated October 12, 2010, was sent to PRA to confirm that the original intent of the agreement as approved by Council had not been maintained. The Town would not be in a position to repay or finance the capital investment of the private asset. If the original intent of the agreement was not maintained, then the Town would be unable to support this initiative. An agreement was never finalized.

2. FICTION: On the date the Dome was completed (December 19, 2012), with no forewarning, we (PRA) were handed a letter from the Town stating we could not rent the facility and the zoning was wrong.
FACT: Representatives from the Academy had been advised of the limits of their current zoning since the consideration of the Community Use Agreement (2009), Site Plan Amendment application (2010), and prior to issuance of the temporary permit on December 6th, 2012. The Academy applied for the rezoning on December 14, 2012.

The Town became aware that the School was aggressively advertising the rental of this facility. Staff contacted the school to reiterate that renting the facility was not in compliance with the zoning by-law until it is approved by Council. The matter was reviewed with our solicitor, and it was agreed that a formal letter be forwarded to the school to confirm that the Town would forebear enforcement of the zoning by-law until the zoning application was received and processed. The school was advised of this prior to receiving the formal letter. The letter never stated that they could NOT rent the facility.

3. FACT: The School is not legally allowed to rent the facility at this time.
However as noted above, the Town has formally advised the School that we will not enforce the zoning by-law until Council has considered the School’s Zoning By-law amendment application that, if approved, will permit the school to rent their facility, similar to other public schools in Town.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the Town has been, and continues to work cooperatively with the Academy to achieve their goals, and expand opportunities.

Timeline

The Town has been working cooperatively with Pretty River Academy since it was constructed in 2006.

Discussions with respect to a sports dome commenced in 2009 after the school was successfully awarded government funding. Concern was raised with respect to a private school being awarded public funding. Council, at that time, also had an appreciation for the benefits that a year round sports facility could have for the community and offered to partner with the Academy for community uses that are permitted by a public authority (being the Town).

Council authorized entering into such an agreement in November 2009 (it was signed by the former Mayor and Clerk). However, the Pretty River Academy was not satisfied with the terms at that time, and the agreement was never finalized. The Academy committed to revising the agreement to terms that would be mutually acceptable.

In May 2010, the PRA submitted an application to amend the site plan that would provide for the construction of a sports dome. A site development meeting to review the application was held in June 2010, together with representatives of the PRA. The internal comments submitted to the PRA expressly addressed the zoning and permitted uses.

Council authorized executing the amending site plan agreement on August 2010 to allow the construction of a sports dome. Unfortunately, in a staff report, it was incorrectly noted that an agreement for the community use had been executed, as approved in November 2009.

In October 2010, after ongoing discussions with respect to the community use agreement, a letter from former CAO was sent to PRA to confirm that the original intent of the agreement as approved by Council has not been maintained. The Town would not be in a position to repay or finance the capital investment of the private asset. If the original intent of the agreement was not maintained, then the Town would be unable to support this initiative (community use agreement). An agreement was never finalized.

In September 2012, the PRA was now in a position to proceed with the construction of the dome and apply for a building permit. Upon issuance of a building permit the respective development charges for the Town, County and School Board become payable. The PRA was not aware that changes in 2009 to the development charges by-law required the PRA to pay (development charges) in excess of $278,000. Following a deputation from the PRA in October 2012, staff has been continuing to work cooperatively with representatives to identify any mechanism available that would allow the Academy to construct the dome, with no impact on our taxpayers or infrastructure, and be economically viable for the school.

At that time, it was also suggested that if the Academy was able to manage their own bookings they would also be able to retain the 15% fee that was to be provided to the Town for the service.

The amicable solution was to proceed with permitting the dome as a temporary structure.

PRA’s zoning amendment application seeks to revise the limitation of the current zoning maximum 120 days that the dome could be erected. In addition, they requested that the use provisions be changed to allow them to rent out the facility on their own – without the involvement of a “public authority” similar to the zoning rules for public schools. The Academy filed their application on December 14th, 2012.

As earlier noted, they could continue to use their facilities as they were, and the Town would forebear enforcement until the rezoning was decided. A public meeting is scheduled for February 4th, 2013 on this matter.

01/28/13

Forgery!


ForgedForgery. It’s something that one normally associates with criminals; passing counterfeit bills, scammers, online pirates, people selling fake relics or fake ID. It’s something I would not normally associate with religion. But it’s a significant problem in the book millions of people cherish as infallible, perfect and absolute: the Bible. At least that’s what Bart D. Ehrman contends in his latest book, Forged.

If you are not familiar with Bart D. Ehrman’s writing, then you are in for an intellectual treat. He writes about a fascinating subject: the development of early Christianity, including all the fringe groups, challengers like the Gnostics, docetists, Marcionites and others, their alternate beliefs; about the development of the canon and the fight to establish orthodoxy.

Gripping stuff, if you are a history buff. But even if not, if you have any interest at all in faith or religion, it is well worth the read. As a lay historian, I find the history of Christianity fascinating. It’s a rich story; replete with politics, murder, armed insurrection, sex, violence, intellectual and philosophical challenges, forgers, liars, cheats, madmen, cults, deception, secret agents, assassination, sorcery and war. Its threads run through all of Western history.

While reading the whole history of Christianity may be a bit much for some folks (but if you’re up to it, start with Diarmaid MacCulloch’s 1,000-page tome, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years), Ehrman’s books break down some of the more interesting bits into more digestible chunks. The early bits, that is – Ehrman’s focus is on the first three or four centuries of Christianity. But it is easily the most important period for the development of what we know today as Christianity: he delves into how it developed, how the beliefs were established, what challenges the early church faced, what groups were contending for the upper hand in the battle for orthodoxy, and –  perhaps most critically – the creation of the canon we know today as the New Testament.

I’ve been reading some of the alternate texts and books that either never made it into the Bible or were later cast out, since the early 1970s. Then I came across an odd title called, Lost Books of the Bible and Forgotten Books of Eden. It was first released in 1926, and remains in print today. The description at Amazon.ca says

This is the most popular collection of apocryphal and pseudepigriphal literature ever published.

It was certainly influential for me. It led me to read about and the texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, and various collections of apocrypha and Gnostic writing – books that still fill my shelves today. Some of this stuff is amazing. Some of it is crazy. Some of it seriously challenges existing beliefs; and some of it contradicts the canon in remarkable ways. Some of it is beautiful, some awkward. And some of it is simply too odd and wacky for comfort.

Ehrman’s books (26 in all), along with a few others about the same topic*, answered many questions I had wondered about: who wrote the books of the Bible and when? Who chose what books were included? What books didn’t make it and why? And the answers were sometimes astounding. (NB: You can also get his lecture series called Lost Christianities from The Great Courses – among other related courses – good audiobook stuff!)

I had realized long ago that many of those biblical books were not written by the people whose names they were associated with. In the Old Testament, for example, the books of Daniel, Isaiah and Ecclesiastes were written not by Daniel, Isaiah and Solomon, respectively, but a few centuries after they lived, by now unknown authors.

Most of the “pseudepigrapha” and wrongly attributed works are in the New Testament.** Some of these are deliberate forgeries, Ehrman contends (his blog has even more controversial claims).***

Ehrman’s latest book confronts the issue of authorship and he clearly states that many NT books were forged in the name of apostles or Paul. While that’s not really new, Ehrman is the first I’ve read to call these fakes forgeries, rather than find some philosophical or theological excuse for them. He makes it clear that they were written to deceive readers about theological or liturgical issues. And he both defends his position and dismantles counter-arguments from apologists.

What’s fascinating – for me at least – is the question: who knew? Did the early church fathers who accepted and rejected various books and created the canon (Irenaeus, for example) know or suspect that some of these books were forgeries? And what does that mean to the Bible and its followers today?

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* Barrie Wilson’s book, How Jesus Became Christian, Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ among them, both highly recommended.
** Authorship is questionable even in the synoptic gospels, and scholars argue about who actually wrote them. The attribution to the apostles is from early church fathers and based on tradition, rather than evidence.
*** One of the problems for people like me when trying to follow these arguments is that I have never read the Bible. I have, like most of us, read a translation (or rather, several translations) of it, but in order to claim to have read the Bible, one has to have read the actual books – in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

01/26/13

More construction at Centennial Pool


Centennial Pool building, Jan. 25
Here you can see the additional aluminum supports that have been erected to hold up the fabric covering. Only a small area at the north has had some of the fabric installed (visible at the lower left of the photo).
Centennial Pool building, Jan. 25
Workers were doing some maintenance jobs, Saturday. You can see how tall the centre of the building is. It will feel spacious and airy, inside.
Centennial Pool building, Jan. 25
Checking the struts and supports. Nice to see the company working on a weekend.
Centennial Pool building, Jan. 25
This gives you an idea how big and roomy the final building will be. A view from the intersection at Spruce and Third Streets.
Centennial Pool building, Jan. 25
All 14 of the main support struts have now been erected. Looking good!