Through the atrocities he committed, Anders Breivik put to test our democracy and our legal institutions. The calm and reasoned way in which the Norwegian judiciary, the audience in the court room, and indeed the population in general dealt with Breivik, allowing him to be heard, indicates to me that we passed the test.
Why should we not trust our system when it comes to access to education? Our rules say that an inmate, like any other citizen in this country, has a right to pursue higher education on the basis of merit. The fact that his application is dealt with in accordance with extant rules and regulations does not imply that Norwegians lack passion or that anger and vengefulness are absent. What it demonstrates is that our values are fundamentally different from his.
By sticking to our rules and not clamouring for new ones we send a clear message to those whose misguided mission it is to undermine and change our democratic system.
At the moment, the situation in Egypt is complex, fluid, and it is not at all clear what exactly will be the end result of the ongoing protests.
With demands that President Morsi steps down, and the Egyptian military issuing a 48 hours ultimatum (soon to expire), questions have been raised with regards to the motivations of the military leadership, and the consequences for Egyptian democracy.
Andrew Sullivan, a writer I very much admire, writes that the prospect of a democratically elected government in Egypt being prematurely overthrown by a popular military coup as deeply ominous for Egypt’s democratic future.
Though he is, in my opinion, correct in his assessment, it is vital to understand the role that the Muslim Brotherhood has created for itself in Egypt over the last year.
Democracy falls within a framework that is wider than just the ballot boxes, and the rule of a group that has constantly defied democratic principles cannot be accepted under the pretext of honouring the “democratic process” or “electoral legitimacy”.
Importantly, the Muslim Brotherhood has
positioned itself as an organised force that stands as an alternative to state apparatuses such as the army and the police … case in point is the ongoing anti-June 30 protests being led by the Muslim Brotherhood, allegedly in defence of “constitutional legitimacy” - as if the constitution and the legitimacy derived from it belonged to the Brotherhood and not to the collective Egyptian people.
Listing further examples, Khorshid argues that these, and other examples show that
the 80-year-old movement has been playing a role that would have been otherwise played by the nation state. The fact that state institutions are dominated by Mubarak loyalists who refuse to accept the result of the revolution and accept Morsi’s rule provides no justification for the Brotherhood to fill in for these bodies. It is Morsi himself who refused to restructure state institutions, and has often wooed them, stating that they played an honourable role in the revolution.
In sum, It is difficult to disagree with her assessment that:
Military rule runs contrary to democracy and it should be rejected and overturned by civilian, democratic rule. At the same time, the Brotherhood’s attempt to replace state apparatuses and seize the nation state’s role in society is clearly undemocratic and cannot be justified on the grounds of advancing the revolution.
As the situation in Egypt is currently ongoing, and events are quickly happening in succession, it is difficult to determine the final outcome of these events.
However, one should not conflate support for Morsi as support for Egyptian Democracy, nor underestimate the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming hours, days or weeks.
Here’s what we know about a National Security Agency program that collects vast amounts of data on the electronic activity of Americans: While controversial, a leaked secret document authorizing the collection makes it clear that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has decided that the collection of metadata for every call made in and into the United States is legal under Section 215 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
What we don’t know is why. That’s because the opinion of the FISC is secret.
In an effort to get some kind of answer, we asked legal scholars to interpret the so-called business records section of the post-Sept. 11 legislation to determine what in it could — or could not — justify the government collection of three months’ worth of all Verizon phone calls made in and into the United States.
Here are their answers, with some of our annotations added for clarity and background:
Kent Greenfield, professor of law at Boston College:
By all appearances, the program does not easily fit within the Patriot Act. The provision cited by the court allows the government to petition for access to “business records” that are “relevant” to “an authorized investigation” to “protect against international terrorism.” If the NSA is gathering billions of daily phone records, only a sliver will be relevant to any specific investigation. The gathering of the rest would seem to go too far.
Having said that, I could imagine a reasonable interpretation of the statute that allows for the data dump, especially if bound by so-called minimization procedures that control how the data are actually used. The problem is that the FISA court’s interpretation of the statute is secret. We do not have access to the court’s explanation of how the law allows this surveillance.
So the secrecy of the surveillance is not nearly as troubling as the secrecy of its justification. Democracy can survive the former and could be eroded by the latter.
New York state has passed a bill that sets up a fund that can be drawn upon to run for office in the state.
I think the ways they fund it are creative and wise.
Who says democracy doesn’t work?
War hysteria took out one of the few antiwar voices in the major media as the country abandoned some of it most basic values in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.
In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says.
Some revelations from the report by the always-consistent Democracy Now:
-Chris Matthews claims ignorance that Donahue was fired over politics when Amy Goodman confronts him
-Donahue says MSNBC’s decision was based on a Republican focus group, when in fact he had top ratings
housands of Hungarians took to the streets on Saturday to protest against proposed changes to the country’s constitution that they believe will take away important democratic rights. The vote is set to take place in the parliament in Budapest on Monday.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government hope to introduce restrictive measures affecting unmarried couples including those in same-sex relationships. Changes in higher education are also proposed. Students receiving state grants would be required to stay and work in the country after they finish their studies. The defense of the poor and homeless is also of concern to the opponents with a ban on sleeping in the streets among the proposals.
Election campaigning would also only be permitted on state media, a change that critics say would damage Hungary’s democracy.
The European Commission, the Council of Europe and several human rights organisations have expressed concern over Monday’s vote.
Letter from the editor
The Vision Driving Free Arabs
By Ahmed Benchemsi
After founding Morocco’s best-selling magazines, I had to quit and leave my country. Free Arabs marks a fresh start—for me and for liberal journalism in the Middle East. — Ahmed Benchemsi
Combine The Daily Beast, The Village Voice and Comedy Central. Sprinkle it with vibrant democratic and secular activism. Now transpose the whole mix to the Middle East… That’s the vision behind Free Arabs: a unique combination of investigative journalism, trendy reporting, arty activism and impertinent satire —all enshrined in the site’s slogan: “Democracy, Secularism, Fun.”
As the founding editor of this new venture, I want to welcome you to Free Arabs. The web-magazine is very much a team effort, relying on the creativity and talents of dozens of next-generation writers, activists, and artists. But it also marks a milestone in my own journey as a media professional from the Arab World.
So with your indulgence, here is my story—and thus, my perspective on how Free Arabs came to be, and what it aims to become.
Who we are?
A group of free-minded bloggers, journalists, activists and creators, we are dispersed throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world. Keen on perpetuating the spirit of the Arab Spring, we confront both oppressive autocrats and religious zealots with audacious reporting, candid whistle-blowing… and ferocious derision ;)
What do we stand for?
“Democracy, Secularism, Fun”— that’s our motto. We fight authoritarianism and corruption, advocate free elections and open government, and champion individual freedoms—from religious to sexual. As for the ‘fun’ part… it’s just us :) Intellectual curiosity, creativity, and humor are the staples of the “Free Arabs” generation. Join the club!
Who supports us?
Launched with financial support from a small group of independent Arab journalists, Free Arabs is—and vows to remain—totally independent of any government or political party, group or institution. We do not—and will not—pursue any other agenda than defending Freedom and advancing our core values: Democracy, Secularism… and uninhibited creativity.
Well, here’s an example of that ‘radical left’ and what happened to them. And this is in a democracy with a Labour government. Dame Thatcher was worse.
Nice people, eh?
This is what goes through my mind every time I think of Dame Thatcher.
Votes Behind Bars: The United States is the only advanced democracy that disenfranchises citizens for criminal convictions.
Nearly half a century ago, Isaiah Berlin delivered an extraordinarily influential lecture called “Two Concepts of Liberty.” The negative concept consists in freedom from—“warding off interference” from external forces. By contrast, the positive concept consists in freedom to—to be “a doer—deciding, not being decided for.” Democracy requires both forms, but current constitutional doctrine adopts an unduly negative approach.
This is especially the case when it comes to political voice. The Supreme Court has resisted attempts to constrain the political impact of money, most notoriously in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). But just as telling is Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011), where the Court hobbled the states’ ability to construct public financing systems. Adjusting the funds available to candidates who accept public financing somehow burdens privately financed candidates’ freedom, according to the justices.
The Court’s rationale in campaign finance cases calls on protection of free speech, which invokes a negative concept of liberty because the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is largely exercised without government assistance. Political speech, the Court points out, is “an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people.” True enough.
Yet voting is surely an equally essential mechanism of democracy, and arguably a more direct means for holding officials accountable, but the Court has upheld laws that burden casting a ballot, a positive liberty. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008), the Court rejected a challenge to an Indiana law requiring already-registered voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls. (Disclosure: I helped to represent the plaintiffs in the case.) The justices did not agree on every element of the case, but they accepted Indiana’s argument that ID prevents fraud (after recognizing that Indiana could not point to a single example, ever, of impersonation that an ID requirement would have stopped) and enhances “public confidence” in the election process, a rationale the Court has essentially rejected in the political-spending context.
Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists on Saturday in a second round of balloting expected to approve a charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected in June, say the constitution is vital to moving Egypt towards democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular uprising. It will help restore the stability needed to fix an economy that is on the ropes, they say.
But the opposition says the document is divisive and has accused Mursi of pushing through a text that favors his Islamist allies while ignoring the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.
As polling opened on Saturday, a coalition of Egyptian rights groups reported a number of irregularities.