Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Monday, July 18, 2011

From $350 million surplus to $774 million deficit in one Ford year?

We’ve heard a lot recently from Mayor Rob Ford and his supporters about how the city is facing a $774 million budget hole. This crisis is used to explain why we need to consider the possibility of slashing snow removal, contracting out garbage collection and stopping the practice of fluoridating the water.

But wait! Here comes Councillor Gord Perks, who sat on the budget committee of David Miller (and alongside Shelley Carroll and Kyle Rae, did most of the heavy lifting of actually writing those last few David Miller budgets) to argue with the math. As he was quoted in Torontoist, without much context, my old friend and former colleague Perks says:

The mayor’s allies are profoundly misleading Torontonians. [...] In 2010 we ran a $350 [million] surplus. I don’t understand how in one year that becomes a $774 million deficit. The important thing is though, that water and garbage are not on the property tax, so none of the cuts to things like environment days or fluoridation or any of that has a single thing to do with your property taxes.

In Rob’s dreams

The mayor’s parallel reality takes a hit – a river of gravy does not run through City Hall
Trick question: What’s the connection between a TTC supervisor (allegedly) urinating in a bush in front of paying customers and the mayor’s office offering buyouts to thousands of city employees in his never-ending quest to save money?

It may require a bit of imagination to tie the two together, but stay with me. At City Hall, that hilarious house of horrors, nothing ever happens in a vacuum. A strange synchronicity is always at play.

How States Could Ban Abortion With Roe Still Standing

For decades, the debate over abortion rights has centered on a single court decision, Roe v Wade, and the possibility of its overturn. Overturning Roe has become the holy grail of the anti-choice movement, and many states have “trigger laws” on the books that would ban abortion immediately should the Supreme Court overturn Roe. Unfortunately for anti-choicers, the justices resist overturning precedent; more importantly, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote on any abortion case before the court, upheld Roe on the basis of precedent in 1992. However, the recent surge in state legislation against abortion demonstrates that anti-choice activists have figured out a new strategy: eliminating legal abortion without directly overturning Roe.

The Supreme Court granting states the power to ban abortion with Roe still standing seemed outlandish even just a few years ago, but the appointment of John Roberts to Chief Justice shifted the equation. Roberts specializes in decisions that reverse the spirit of precedent while leaving intact the letter of it, like when he squashed large chunks of Brown v the Board of Education while claiming to uphold it. To make it legal to ban abortion in the states, all the court needs is a law that eliminates legal abortion while dodging the logic of Roe v Wade.

ALEC Exposed: Business Domination Inc.

In the world according to ALEC, competing firms in free markets are the only real source of social efficiency and wealth. Government contributes nothing but security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed.

This view of the world dominated the legislative sessions that began in January. GOP leaders, fresh from their blowout victory in November, pushed a consistent message—“We’re broke”; “Public sector workers are to blame”; “If we tax the rich we’ll face economic extinction”—and deployed legislative tools inspired by ALEC to enact their vision. They faced pushback, but they also made great progress—and will be back again soon.

U.S. Debt Default Means 'Lights Out' And A New Depression, Treasury Secretary Warns

WASHINGTON -- If Congress fails to hike the nation's borrowing limit by Aug. 2, it will be "lights out" on the government and the economy, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Democrats in their meeting Friday.

Word of that message came Monday from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said in Senate floor remarks that Geithner laid out an extremely grim scenario if Congress does not boost the country's debt ceiling from the current $14.3 trillion.

Geithner has said publicly that the Treasury has been juggling the bills since May to avoid defaulting on an payments, but would exhaust all such measures on Aug. 2.

History doesn’t bear out Harper’s hopes for brief NDP honeymoon in Quebec

To some a honeymoon means the excitement of something new and the knowledge a great and long-lasting relationship is just beginning. To the Prime Minister, it is something to be regretted and forgotten as soon as the formerly happy couple realizes what a horrible mistake they have made – at least when that honeymoon is with the NDP.

“As many provinces know well,” Stephen Harper told a crowd of supporters during the Calgary Stampede, “no honeymoon passes as quickly and as completely as one with the NDP.” According to the Prime Minister, Quebeckers will be seeking an annulment at the first opportunity and it will be his Conservative Party that will reap the benefits of the rebound.

But aside from one infamous example, there is very little to backup Mr. Harper’s claim that provinces, let alone many, have a history of a rocky relationship with the NDP.

Greenpeace Report Reveals Congress Members Who Support Pollution, Names Bachmann And Cantor

Greenpeace has released a new report naming the 15 members of Congress who the organization believes have undermined their voters' health by supporting pollutants that come predominantly from coal-fired power plants.

“Polluting Democracy: Coal Plays Dirty on the Hill,” names the congressional members who have tried to prevent the EPA from improving pollution standards for these plants. According to the report, all but one of these members of Congress are ranked in the top 25% of those receiving money from the fossil fuel industry.

Greenpeace reports:

The majority of the aging US coal fleet has not installed readily available technology that could reduce mercury pollution by 90%. Coal combustion is responsible for most US mercury pollution. Mercury contributes to thousands of deaths annually and may adversely affect the development of over 400,000 babies per year. Mercury exposure is a serious problem for the lungs, brain, heart, stomach, kidneys, and immune system. Much airborne mercury often falls back to the ground and waterways within only 100 or so miles of where it is emitted, but it is re-emitted into the air, floats down streams, and accumulates in animals that cannot digest it.
In March, the American Lung Association released a report on the health hazards surrounding coal-fired power plants. The report stated, “Particle pollution from power plants is estimated to kill approximately 13,000 people a year... Coal-fired power plants that sell electricity to the grid produce more hazardous air pollution in the U.S. than any other industrial pollution sources.”

Greenpeace Senior Legislative Representative Kyle Ash said, “The fifteen Representatives named in this report are acting against the interests of the communities that they represent, and the dirty money that they’re taking from the coal industry is taken at the expense of America’s health and safety. We must urge our representatives to let EPA do its job by protecting us from dangerous toxins produced by coal-fired power plants.”

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

Michele Bachmann Marriage Pledge Loses Her a Young Conservative

Michele Bachmann, meet Ben Haney.

In other circumstances, Ben could have been a real asset to your campaign. He's a 28-year-old Republican with experience as a traveling advance man for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008. Ben was born and raised in the critically important suburbs of Philadelphia. Having taught government at a high school, Ben now runs his own real estate investment company and co-owns a bar in Old City. In fact, one of his business partners is Rob McElhenney, star and creator of the TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ben was raised Catholic. He was educated by the Jesuits at St. Joseph's Prep and graduated from Notre Dame after spending a semester interning for Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) in Washington. Ben comes from a great family and I can personally attest to his character. For two summers he interned for my talk-radio program (on a station that then featured conservative icons Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity). I will never forget the day he jumped unsolicited into his car and drove three hours to the nation's capital to stand in line and pay his respects to President Ronald Reagan as the Gipper lay in state -- all while providing my listening audience with live reports.

Tea Party Debt Plan Takes Center Stage, Vote Expected This Week

WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders are giving tea party-backed Republican freshmen the run of the House this week with a plan to let the government borrow another $2.4 trillion – but only after big and immediate spending cuts and adoption by Congress of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

This "cut, cap and balance" plan is set to pass the House on Tuesday but is sure to stall in the Senate, where majority Democrats say it would lead to decimating budget cuts and make it harder to pass tax increases on the wealthy. And even if the scheme could pass, there's no way Congress will adopt a balanced budget amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both House and Senate.

A Big Week for the New Consumer Agency

This is a big week for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Today, the President will announce his intent to nominate Richard Cordray to serve as the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On Thursday, the CFPB makes its transition from a start-up to a real, live agency with the authority to write rules and to supervise the activities of America's largest banks.

Rich will be a strong leader for this agency. He has a proven track record of fighting for families during his time as head of the CFPB enforcement division, as Attorney General of Ohio, and throughout his career. He was one of the first senior executives I recruited for the agency, and his hard work and deep commitment make it clear he can make many important contributions in leading it. Rich is smart, he is tough, and he will make a stellar Director. I am very pleased for him and very pleased for the CFPB.

The DNA of the new consumer agency is well established. Our mission is clear: No one should be tricked in any financial transaction. Prices and risks should be clear. People should be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons. Fine print should be mowed down, not used to hide nasty surprises. And, everyone -- even trillion dollar banks -- should follow the law.

Elizabeth Warren for US Senate

President Obama was never going to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the Harvard professor conceptualized and created.

Wall Street speculators, big bankers and all the other insiders who make money by gaming the system—rather than innovating, creating or contributing anything of value to the economy or the nation—objected to being regulated by someone who would use not just the the rules but the bully pulpit to hold the robber barons to account.

So Obama went with a safer choice: former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. The head of the CFPB’s enforcement division, Cordray was hired by Warren and is a capable and honest player—so honest that he is all but certain to face a confirmation fight of his own before he can take charge of the new agency, which will be up and running on July 21.

Can Science Survive the 'Age of Austerity'?

With budgets across the developed world in mortal danger, Nature's Joerg Heber asks a key question: how can science survive the age of austerity? In the long-term, everyone agrees you need science and technology R&D, but when budgets get tight, research into quantum dots or the fundamental forces that cause earthquakes has a hard time holding the line against health care or tax cuts for the richest Americans.

So, what's a science program to do? Heber suggests that different countries are taking different approaches. Japan is focusing on its most elite researchers, giving up to $50 million to 30 different people. Other countries are just giving up on some areas of research to focus on others; for example, take U.S. particle physicists, who will spend their careers trying to drive from the backseat as our European counterparts run the Large Hadron Collider.

Herman Cain's Big Mistake

On Fox News Sunday, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain took off after his favorite target again. President Obama? Nope. Onerous tax rates? Uh-uh. ACORN? Not even close. Cain was too busy demagoguing Muslims, this time throwing in with protesters who want to stop construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Cain claims that he is driven by a desire to head off the imposition of Sharia law--that phantom menace with which some vanishingly small sliver of the conservative base is feverishly consumed. Cain is their most outspoken champion. (The Muslims in Murfreesboro have worshipped peacefully there for three decades, so whatever nefarious deeds he suspects them of perpetrating aren't much in evidence.)

Elizabeth Warren: Passed Over for CFPB Post, But...

The Sunday afternoon news that the White House would not be nominating Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) certainly has the potential to trigger outrage from progressives who believe President Barack Obama too often declines to confront Republican extremism. Warren, the populist Harvard professor who birthed the idea for a government agency that would protect consumers from tricks and traps perpetrated by banks, mortgage firms, and credit card companies, was the right person for the job. So much so that congressional Republicans have been howling about the prospect of her leading the agency even before the bureau was created last year by the Wall Street reform legislation. Which is why Obama's decision not to fight for her—and it would have been a titanic fight—may disappoint. But there's an up side to the move: the possibility that Warren will end up in the US Senate. And there's this: The fellow Obama picked for the position, Richard Cordray, can be expected to do a fine job pursuing abusive financial firms.

What's Happening With the Debt Ceiling Explained

The Basics: On August 2 (or maybe a few weeks later), the US government will reach the point where it can no longer pay its bills. That's because, earlier this spring, the federal government reached the legal limit on how much money it can borrow—a.k.a., the "debt ceiling." It's currently set at $14.3 trillion. The government borrows money to pay for everything from tax refunds to wars and veterans' benefits, not to mention repaying our creditors, which include China, Japan, the United Kingdom, state and local governments, pension funds, and investors in America and around the world.

A debt ceiling has existed since 1917. Before that, Congress had to provide its stamp of approval each time the Treasury Department wanted to sell US debt to raise money. (Here's a wonky history of the debt ceiling [PDF], courtesy of the Congressional Research Service.) Putting a borrowing limit in place gave the federal government more flexibility to fill its coffers without going to Congress over and over. Lawmakers in Congress have raised the debt ceiling on many occasions, including eight times in the past decade, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said that failing to raise it and allowing the US default "would shake the basic foundation of the entire global financial system."

On the theft and appropriation of Indigenous cultures

A recent discussion over a cup of coffee with friends in Edmonton brought up four very different examples that had me considering how indigenous culture is flagrantly (mis)appropriated and twisted.

They are: a self-proposed, self-described "chosen shaman" of multiple indigenous nations named "Little Grandmother," the deaths and injuries that took place in an appropriated sweat lodge at a "New Age" retreat in Arizona in 2009, a noted pretender who once taught at my Alma Mater in Minnesota, and a "Quantum Healing" business in Saskatoon.

Then there was a fifth experience, one I had personally. On a drive to the west coast in 2009, between Kamloops and Victoria, I had the displeasure of taking a wrong turn and seeing a number of New Age hippies staging a mock pow-wow in tie-dye with Tama bass drums adorned in turkey feathers, shawls made from burlap sacks, and a central arbour that seemed to be purchased at a outdoor furniture store with a cranked canopy. They even used Canada Day sparklers.
These are all very different in many respects, but sharing the same deplorable root.

Over a second cup of coffee with my company, further discussion helped me to consider the implications of how cultural (mis)appropriation and New Age frauds impact the present and the future, and in turn even affects the past by opening up the scars of yesterday -- and fanning mistrust.

And now, my third coffee is poured while I write this piece. Cheers.

Many of our generation, living on and thriving on partnerships built, cultivated and maintained across once great ethnic and cultural divides and boundaries, speak and aspire to ideals.

We seek these ideals of circumstance, progress and improvement in days ahead, where the fires of justice extinguish the dark dusk of inequity.

However, those placing value and promise on the benefits of future partnerships and collaborations across the cultural rifts in order to create and shape a better world that yields painfully to positive change may continue to find, in these lands and abroad, both intentional (and unintentional) sabotage of our wondrous mechanisms to meet such aspiration together. This sabotage is Theft.

Let us reflect and apply the legacy of memory.

The multi-generational bandit mask (not of heritage or background, I wish to point this out and make this understood, but, rather, of conduct of some) has been passed to a successor many times:

Indian Agents wore the cloak of thievery towards our traditional means to govern, the churches and residential schools stole our children and family legacies, the federal and provincial powers continue to seek to plunder our traditional territories, and now modern times reveal one more pilferer functioning in the same light as the suit and the black robe -- appropriating the most sacred of what we have left.

And what each past malefactor sought to take is this:


The above-described thieves, whether they realize it or not, have assumed the duty to finish what many, such as; residential school priests and administrators, assimilationists in the halls of government fuelling the fires in the engines of colonialism, and those who sought to exploit resources; have sought to do in the past. This is to appropriate, to exploit, to steal, to acquire, to minimize, and to capture a sacred culture.

But now for personal, obsessive, or profiteering reasons.

The issue of "culture vulturing" and cultural appropriation remains one of ethics, decency, and injustice. Likewise, it is a matter where such exploitation continues fanning the flames of mistrust within a great number of our People reaching across the ethnic and cultural line.

It stifles increased progressive partnerships of many due to the unsavoury greed of a few, by this I mean both "plastic shaman" services carried out for profit, as well as personal opportunism and ego taking advantage of others due to inadequacy, a lack of moral compass, or the vain wish to be reborn within an objectifying obsession and fascination.

The same suits and black robes of yesterday adorn bandit masks over the eyes of many today; the self-absorbed tie-dyed hipster invading ceremony to hijack, the New Age appropriating "shamanic healer," the swank "visionary" who fraudulently self-promotes as an elder and a majestic, the rootless fraud who claims self-styled wings as he who is called "Dreams of Eagles", and the profiteering non-indigenous self-nominated "vision quest guide."

This is greatly done by those who live out their romanticized fantasies by minimizing a strong People and a strong culture down to the jewellery one makes and sells, the "Indian at heart" they claim as a "should have been," similar, to a large degree, to those making a fortune off selling the sports team logo upon one's chest while fans adorn themselves with a plastic head-dress, Halloween war paint, and foam tomahawks at game time.

The hippies with the Tama bass drum and sparklers aren't just a North American occurrences, as mock pow-wows take place in Europe -- in places such as Germany and England, jumping aboard the Appropriation Train. Others choose similar appropriation to twist culture and science into new age "quantum" religions or to make quick-dollar-books about impending crystal-and-drum changes foreseen to take place in 2012.

(By the way, on the first morning of 2013, will these sorts finally lose their book deals and speaking invitations? Please?)

Thievery is thievery.

Appropriation is appropriation.

Exploitation is exploitation.

Minimization is minimization.

Objectification is objectification.

Frauds are frauds and facts are facts.

And the radical point I wish to share:

Meaningful partnerships are based in respect, integrity, ethics, and trust.

Meaningful partnerships based on trust, co-operation, and brotherhood have enormous value for all.

We all deserve a future based upon such ideals. If we collectively wish to close the divides rather than doors in the wake of the ethically bankrupt, efforts must be undertaken and responsibility assumed to uproot the mistrust by separating the past victimization and thievery from a future of more of the same conducted by those I've described.

These grave-robbers of yesterday are those that pilfer the mounds of memory today for personal gain. If memory and continuity of culture truly equates survival, then the clumsy digging of open-pit mines into the sacred by the selfish is significant disrespect by those who ‘cling to and drain from.'

Such flagrant opportunism minimizes an entire People and culture, minimizing much from the respective levels of sacred cultural autonomy of protected foundations for our future generations of our People. The opportunists wear mere Halloween costumes of our culture, which sacred ceremonies, teachings, and cultural affinity dress the self-justified, the ignorant, the most well-intentioned, or those who claim they do not know any better.

It is my contention that it is not only a slight against our ancestors, against our true spiritual leaders, and against the cultures that are pilfered by such character, but also against the very foundations of our Nations.

Culture and spirituality are thus undermined and again, mistrust caused by few eviscerates much promise of personal and collective investments towards many seeking effective partnerships and valuable progressive relationships; potential is lost; potential we all deserve as we look to brighter futures. Together.

So, Exploiters for personal obsession or profit:

If you truly value progressive partnerships and work towards a more just society for all, built of integrity and respect for many rather than the betterment of few; then hang up The Delusion, The Illusion, and The Thievery.

Plastic Shamans, plunder divides partnerships.

Culture Vultures, stop picking the bones of our ancestors clean. One who appropriates because they "love the culture and respect the Native" neither loves nor respects the exploited any more than the pornographer loves and respects the actress.

No matter how one justifies or pacifies; exploitation is exploitation.

And facts are facts.

Robert Animikii Horton, "Bebaamweyaazh", an Anishinaabe/Suomea member of Rainy River First Nations of Manitou Rapids and from the Marten Clan, has built a reputation as a progressive and outspoken activist and respected orator on an international scale, speaking on topics such as community organizing, political/social/economic justice, and youth empowerment. He is a sociologist, social and political activist, orator, writer, polemicist, and spoken-word poet.


Pass the gravy

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that young children and low income single mothers don't immediately leap to mind when I hear "stop the gravy train." "Stop the gravy train" elicits images of highly-paid executives or well-pensioned fat-cat employees drawing high salaries and not putting in a decent day's work. But for most Canadians, three-year-olds in child care, single mothers struggling to pay the rent and feed the kids, and notoriously poorly-paid early childhood educators would hardly seem to be cruising along on any kind of gravy train, even in the caboose.

Yet Toronto's Ford regime's latest anti-gravy train gizmo -- the City Core Service Review -- has singled out these folks to take the heat for Toronto's putative high-flying public spending.

The Service Review report that will soon come before the City's Community Development and Recreation Committee proposes significant and historic cuts to child care as cost-saving "options." It suggests axing 2,000 of Toronto's already-scarce-as-hen's-teeth fee subsidies, selling off the city's small supply of high quality public child care centres to "cheaper" non-profit and for-profit operators, cancelling the public accountability-strengthening quality improvement process, and reducing dollars paid to already stretched child care programs to care for subsidized children.

The NDP needs to launch a culture war against Harper ideology

Back in April 2010, EKOS pollster Frank Graves got into a lot of trouble in the neo-con blogosphere for advising the Liberal Party to "invoke a culture war" on the Harper Conservatives.

"I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don't like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin."

It was good advice for the Liberals then and it's good advice today for Jack Layton and the NDP. But whether the temporarily triumphalist NDP has the imagination to take on such a fight remains to be seen. It's a higher-risk strategy than the party seems to want to take and the longer they avoid it the tougher it will be. Social democrats and liberals have become far too timid in the past two decades defending what they stand for and what they built in the post-war period.

First Nations make first step towards better future. Ottawa ignores them

A few days ago in Moncton, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo spoke about the need to repeal the Indian Act and abolish the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In the national media there didn’t appear to be much disagreement with his position which is an understandable reaction when one considers the state of the First Nations relationship with Ottawa and the appalling living conditions on many reserves. Essentially Atleo took the first step and laid out his vision of the future. Atleo’s vision included abolishing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and replacing it with two smaller entities, one that would support a government-to-government relationship and the other to provide services to First Nations communities.

The natural tendency of any bureaucracy when ideas such as Atleo’s are floated and end up earning major media coverage is to go into defence mode. It would be interesting to know how much time the department, the minister’s office and PMO spent working on defensive talk points and looking at what is wrong with Atleo’s suggestion as opposed to what are the benefits to both First Nations and the government of his suggestions.

Calling China an ‘important ally,’ Baird turns cold shoulder to fugitive

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in Beijing to warm ties, has signalled the Harper government feels little sympathy for Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing.

Mr. Lai’s case has dogged relations between Beijing and Ottawa for more than a decade, as the Chinese fugitive fought his extradition, arguing he would be executed or abused if he’s returned home.

But after four years of quiet in his case, Canadian immigration authorities opined last week that he would not be mistreated if sent back to China. The government moved quickly deport him until a court order issued last Wednesday stalled the efforts.

Tea Party Republicans to push for huge cuts

Tea Party-backed Republicans will likely dominate the House of Representatives this week, pushing a spending cut plan that stands little chance of passing either legislative chamber even though a potential U.S. default on its debt is just over two weeks away.

With the stalemate continuing and time growing short, House Republicans were gearing up to push even harder on their plan that dramatically cuts spending, rules out any tax increases and calls for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

However, such a plan is unlikely to be passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. That makes the effort primarily an opportunity for House Republicans, particularly dozens of new lawmakers elected with the support of the small government Tea Party movement, to symbolically show their steadfastness in demanding huge cuts in government spending, opposition to higher taxes and ideological purity in balancing the budget.

As he introduced 3-year-old Emily to the cherished rural oasis, where sheep bleats drown out highway hum, Justin Sampson paused to consider a Toronto without Riverdale Farm.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old. My mother used to bring us here all the time. Now I can bring my daughter here, and it’s free,” he said. “It blows my mind that (Mayor Rob Ford) could think of closing it down.”

As Torontonians digested the latest city consultant’s report, which also suggests closing zoos at High Park and Centre Island, and the Toronto Environment Office, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday asked them to keep an open mind and tell councillors what needs to survive.

Activist claims Doug Ford bullied him

The city's compliance audit committee will meet on Wednesday to consider allegations that four right-leaning councillors broke elections law. The stakes are high, and so are tensions.

The committee ordered an audit of Mayor Rob Ford's campaign financial statements in May after assessing a complaint by library board vice-chair and left-leaning activist Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler. A new group fronted by Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Fair Elections Toronto, filed additional complaints in June about the financial statements of conservatives Doug Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, James Pasternak and Michael Thompson.

U.S. Default Would Likely Cause Stocks, Bonds, Dollar To Collapse

NEW YORK -- Time is running out for Washington to raise the country's borrowing limit and avoid a default. Wall Street isn't panicking yet. But if the unthinkable happens, a default could strike financial markets like an earthquake.

"If we just get higher longer-term interest rates, we'd be lucky," said John Briggs, Treasury strategist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

What might markets look like after a default?

The tremors from even a short-lived default could take unpredictable paths. Stocks, bonds and the dollar would likely plummet in the immediate aftermath.

Winds of Change in the Prairies

Its monopoly may be ending, but the Canadian Wheat Board is still crucial to farmers.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper really cares about free choice for farmers, he should first try to save the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

or many Prairie farmers, this may very well be the last harvest season in which they are required, by law, to transact with the CWB. Come fall, they may be able to sell their barley and wheat to whomever they want without risking jail time. Historically, market volatility in the Prairies has been managed through wheat pooling and the international sale of wheat solely through this overriding legislative board. The Conservatives have made it clear that they intend to reform, as soon as possible, how we sell wheat and barley for human consumption to the world.

Twentieth-Century Laws for 21st-Century Tech

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is part of the U.S. code that was enacted in 1986 with the stated goal of striking a balance between privacy rights associated with new forms of electronic communication and the need for law enforcement to have the tools necessary to do their jobs effectively. Though it may have been avant garde for its time, this law is now out of date and hopelessly out of touch with the realities of computing in the internet age.

Digital Due Process (DDP) is a coalition of major online entities, privacy advocates, educational institutions, etc., that have a common objective:
To simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances, and protect the public.

The Debt Limit Ought to Worry Canadians, Too

If you have been following the U.S. debt-limit negotiations, you will undoubtedly have heard U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s repeated warnings that failure to raise the debt limit would have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. economy: The credit rating of the United States would be downgraded, interest rates would rise, the safety and security of the dollar would be questioned, and the American economy would plunge back into a deep recession.

Yet, readers might be interested to learn that the effect of not raising the debt limit could have a nasty impact on the Canadian economy as well – perhaps worse than what followed the recent financial crisis. After all, the Canadian economy is inextricably linked to that of its southern neighbour, and bad economic news for the United States can spell bad news for Canada.

Immigration to Canada drops by 25 per cent

Canada let 25 per cent fewer immigrants into the country in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2010, raising concerns the Conservative government is embarking on a bold plan to restrict the country’s immigration levels.

The number of permanent resident visas issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada between January and March fell from 84,083 in 2010 to 63,224 this year, according to figures obtained by the Star.

The latest department numbers show a decline across the board, with visas for skilled workers down 28 per cent, family-sponsored relatives down 14 per cent, and refugees dropping by 25 per cent.

The significant drop in visas comes on the eve of public consultations Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is holding on the country’s immigration levels and classes of people that should be allowed in. The first meeting was held in Calgary last week, and another is scheduled in Toronto Wednesday.