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.]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Condo Prices ‘Will Take A Serious Hit' If Maintenance Fees Unchecked

For many urban Canadians, the condo has become the only affordable housing option. But with condos come maintenance fees, and the people behind a new analysis say rising fees could threaten the value of many condo owners’ homes.

Average maintenance fees in Toronto, the country’s largest condo market, have been growing at 3.4 per cent per year over the last decade, well above the overall rate of inflation, meaning condo fees are eating an ever-larger portion of household income.

C-51 confusion abounds as Tories rush anti-terrorism bill to committee

Questions about scope, oversight and whether protests are exempt from the government's new anti-terrorism bill remain unanswered as the Conservatives rush C-51 from the House of Commons to committee.

Many of the responses from Conservative cabinet ministers and government MPs are at odds with the concerns raised by legal experts and opposition MPs. At the same time, the government is leaving open the possibility the bill will be amended when it gets to committee — an action it has in the past used its majority to avoid doing.

CSIS, RCMP, National Defence's Lapsed Funds Total $11 Billion Since 2007

OTTAWA - New figures show the country's three major national security institutions were collectively unable to spend $11 billion of their budgets over the last eight years.

The statistics on lapsed funds at National Defence, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP were presented today at the annual Conference of Defence Associations Institute meeting, which also heard a renewed warnings that the military is on the verge of a major equipment rust out.

The numbers stand in contrast to the rosy assessment of the Harper government's defence spending record as presented by Jason Kenney, the newly appointed minister.

Harper announces tax breaks for LNG industry in B.C. to spur job growth

SURREY, B.C. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced tax breaks Thursday for British Columbia's liquefied natural gas industry, though not a single project has yet reached a final investment decision.

Harper, who made the announcement at a technical university in Surrey, B.C., said companies will receive a capital cost allowance of 30 per cent for equipment used in natural gas liquefaction and 10 per cent for buildings at a facility that liquefies natural gas.

Tax relief will be available for capital assets acquired between now and 2025.

Harper said the tax incentives will provide the right conditions for the LNG industry to succeed and compete in the global economy while spurring job growth.

Child-porn policing program suffers from RCMP underspending

RCMP have been holding back millions of dollars from the force's vaunted program to fight online child pornography, partly to help the Harper government pay down the federal deficit.

CBC News has learned that over a five-year period, Canada's national police force Mounties withheld some $10 million in funds earmarked for its National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre and related projects, linchpins of the government's anti-child-pornography agenda.


AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

Is Syriza Retreating?

To use a worn-out cliché, “the times are critical.” In fact, they are more than just that: we are at the edge of a crucial temporal sequence. The whole endeavor of a Syriza government will be judged by its reaction to the unprecedented blackmail and ultimatums it is receiving from its tragically misnamed European “partners.”

And the news from the frontline is not pleasant. To be sure, it is very difficult to have a clear view of the current status of the negotiations — “negotiations” being a oxymoron given the sheer asymmetry in the balance of forces, and the fact that one side has a gun (the European Central Bank’s) pointed at its head. What is clear, however, is that the Greek government has backtracked on crucial aspects, especially concerning its commitments towards the people that brought it into office.

Do Tories Want To Ban Headscarves At Citizenship Ceremonies Now?

OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suggested Wednesday that he does not want Muslim women to wear traditional headscarves during citizenship ceremonies.

“Niqab, hejab, burqa, wedding veil – face coverings have no place in cit[izenship] oath-taking!” the minister tweeted.

@gmbutts Defending indefensible -- a Lib tradition! Niqab, hejab, burqa, wedding veil -- face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking!
— Chris Alexander (@calxandr) February 18, 2015
While the burka and the niqab cover a woman’s face and are not commonly worn in Canada, the hijab is a headscarf that doesn’t cover the face and is worn by many Muslim women.

Federal government commits another $11 million to advertising as year-end nears

OTTAWA - The latest federal spending estimates show that four federal government departments have been given another $11 million for advertising as the current fiscal year-end approaches.

The ad spending splurge comes amid large campaigns promoting Conservative family tax measures that have not yet been approved by Parliament and aggressive Defence department recruitment ads that dovetail with current Conservative anti-terrorism messaging.

In total, the Conservative government has now committed $65 million to advertising this fiscal year, which ends March 31.

Why school strip searches for drugs are legally troubling

If a high school principal suspected a student had a bomb under their clothes, a strip search might be in order.

But if that same principal thought the student was hiding marijuana, forcing the student to strip could fail to meet the legal standard in a country where the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says individuals should not be subjected to "unreasonable search and seizure."

Police officers and corrections staff across Canada can do strip searches in limited circumstances, but several legal experts see little or no justification for school staff to strip search students suspected of carrying drugs, as happened recently with a Quebec teen.

Obama's Trade Deal Rewards A Brutally Anti-Gay Dictator -- And LGBT Lawmakers Are Not Pleased

WASHINGTON -- Prominent LGBT members of Congress assailed the Obama administration on Wednesday for including Brunei and Malaysia -- two nations deeply hostile to gay communities -- in major trade talks.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, five co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus -- Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) -- posed sharp questions about why countries that promote the execution or imprisonment of gay people should be granted trade perks from the United States. Brunei recently imposed a Sharia penal system punishing gay sex with execution, and Malaysian law allows LGBT people to be caned and imprisoned for up to 20 years.

Germany Softens Tone Ahead Of Crucial Greek Debt Talks

BRUSSELS/ATHENS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - European Union paymaster Germany softened its tone on Friday as euro zone finance ministers raced to break a deadlock over Athens' debts.

Hours ahead of the crunch talks in Brussels, a senior Greek official said a deal was close. Germany said Greece's latest proposal was a "good signal" although it did not go far enough in its present form.

Everything’s Harper: C-51 and the unmaking of Canada

Stephen Harper’s not-so-benign dictatorship is picking up speed. Bill C-51 is merely the latest sprint toward the Rule of Steve.

Here we have a piece of legislation that advances the prime minister’s favourite project: undermining the hated Charter of Rights that circumscribes his power and remains a monument to his most hated rival — Pierre Trudeau.

Which is why this PM despises the Supreme Court of Canada, why he continues to bombard it with unconstitutional legislation and provokes personal confrontation with judges. It’s the SCC and not the PM that’s charged with the momentous task of interpreting the Charter — and that’s what frosts his socks. If Harper can’t go through the Charter, he’ll tunnel under it until the underpinnings give way.

Conservatives’ distance from Bay Street part of its anti-elites narrative

The current prime minister used to say often that government should be run like a business.

Stephen Harper made that declaration once, I recall, when he and I were guests on a radio show sometime in the 1990s. Before I could reply, though, Harper’s line to the show was accidentally cut, so that was the end of that conversation.

These days, if Harper were to make the same assertion — that government should look to business for an example, one would have to ask him to clarify. What kind of business? A big bank? A wireless service provider? A pharmaceutical company?