This week, we discuss:
- The military coup in Guinea
- The recent developments in Britney Spears’ conservatorship case
- The vaccine mandate debate in the U.S.
Another military takeover
The President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, has been overthrown in a military coup after being captured by soldiers on Sunday. The leader of the coup, Commander Colonel Mahamady Doumbouya, confirmed the military takeover on state TV and promised a unity government in the coming weeks.
What does it mean?
The coup – the fourth successful military takeover this year after Myanmar, Mali and Afghanistan – marks the end of President Condé’s troubled presidency. The 83-year old spent his career building democracy in Guinea and, as such, both citizens and commentators alike had high hopes for ‘Guinea’s Mandela’ after his historic election victory in 2010.
But in the years following his victory Condé chipped away at Guinea’s embryonic democracy: he manipulated the constitution in order to extend his term and undermined key institutions along the way, whilst his third election victory in 2020 was widely disputed and met with international condemnation.
Thousands took to the streets to protest the result, resulting in dozens of deaths, hundreds of arrests and the end of the country’s experiment with democracy. After the violence, many anticipated that the President would fall victim to a popular uprising or military coup, with the latter having now transpired.
Unfortunately for Guineans, a military dictatorship is no better than a corrupt resident and is just as unlikely to deliver freedom and prosperity. Commander Doumbouya may intend to hand the reins of power over eventually but, like his predecessor, may well have already developed his own taste for power by then.
Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, has filed to end the controversial conservatorship that has controlled his daughter’s life for the last 13 years.
What does it mean?
Britney’s conservatorship has received considerable attention over the past few months, following a high-profile documentary on the pop star that aired earlier this year. Since then, the unusual legal arrangement has come in for intense criticism from both the public and Britney herself. The singer has now attempted to remove her father from the conservatorship twice in the last two years.
At the end of June, Britney appeared in open court for the first time to speak out against the legal agreement that she called “abusive”, and described her father’s treatment of her as “cruelty”. Then, in July, she told a judge that she wished to file charges against her father for “conservator abuse”. As a result, the case has increasingly drawn the attention of women’s rights activists and groups.
Yesterday, Jamie Spears submitted that his daughter “is entitled to have this court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required”. He cited that recent events and changing circumstances have called into question whether a conservatorship for Britney is still needed.
Britney’s conservatorship finally appears set to end in the coming months, but without social media and the legions of fans who have continued to shine a light on her tragic situation, it is likely she would still find herself under the control of her father.
ACLU supports vaccine mandates
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) declared its support for vaccine mandates, arguing that “far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties”.
What does it mean?
Renowned American economist Thomas Sowell once said: “There are no solutions. Only tradeoffs”. So, it’s not particularly noteworthy to favour public policy compromising bodily autonomy for the common good.
What is newsworthy, however, is for an organisation – historically defined by an absolutist commitment to civil liberties – to advocate for something so inimical to its modus operandi. And moreover, to garb the concession in the claim that a clear infringement of civil liberties is, in fact, the opposite.
But this is only a continuation of the ACLU’s transformation in recent years. Indeed, post-Trump’s ascension to the White House, there has been a noticeable drift from its traditional non-partisanship. Most glaringly when it poured $800,000 into campaign ads for Democrat Stacey Abrams, but also when it actively opposed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
As culture wars have gripped America, the ACLU has felt compelled to wade in – and no doubt it will continue to do so. With a new crop of activist-lawyers at the ALCU – following a huge hiring drive after the 2016 election – expect civil liberties to fall even lower on the agenda in place of political posturing.
This Week’s Must Reads
- ‘China and Big Tech: Xi’s blueprint for a digital dictatorship’ by James Kynge & Sun Yu for The FT
- ‘Hurricane Ida drowned 11 New Yorkers in their own homes. The climate crisis is here’ by Ross Barkan for The Guardian
- ‘We have learnt the wrong lessons from 9/11’ by David Aaronovitch for The Times
- ‘Legislating in the Name of God’ by Linda Greenhouse for The New York Times