Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Last Call For Yankees Go Home, Con't

The European Union is considering a travel ban on Russia, Brazil, and the US, all countries that have failed to contain COVID-19. But Henry Farrell at the Monkey Cage reminds us that fractious and messy EU politics almost certainly means the travel bans will never happen, especially for Americans.

The reason the E.U. might want to coordinate is that its current border policy is a mess. When coronavirus hit, the E.U. effectively stood aside as its member states introduced individual policies, including bans on travel from other E.U. countries. Now it wants to have some kind of common policy on borders within the E.U., which perhaps implies a shared policy on travelers from outside the bloc, to prevent people from entering a European country that has laxer controls and then being able to travel wherever they wanted.

However, the problem is that the E.U. doesn’t have much power to coordinate over health emergencies. A key proviso toward the end of the Times article says that “[t]he E.U. can’t force members to adopt it, but European officials warn that failure of any of the 27 members to stick to it could lead to the reintroduction of borders within the bloc.” What that means is that the list is a political set of recommendations rather than a legally binding decision that E.U. member states have to implement. Such recommendations can be politically important, since they set a standard that states can then be assessed by. But they can’t make states do anything that they don’t want to do.

Some U.S. commentators will read the U.S. exclusion from the list as a specific and deliberate political snub. That is almost certainly not true. While the negotiating officials are surely aware of how outside countries might respond, they appear to be more worried about creating unity among Europe’s member states.

As the Times describes the negotiations, they are focused on two lists of countries from which travel might be allowed. One list has countries that have a lower or the same rate of infection as the E.U. The other includes countries with slightly worse infection rates. This implies that the E.U. is basing the list on reasonably objective measures of the risks associated with allowing travelers to enter from different countries. The upside for U.S. travelers, again, is that the list is not binding. The downside is that the United States is in a bad position to press for an exception, as long as its rate of coronavirus infection is high.

Even apart from the problems described above, the list is unlikely to shape European border control policy. Member states such as Spain want to reopen their borders to international tourism as quickly as possible, for economic reasons. Spain recently opened its borders to tourists from most of Europe, including Britain, where the coronavirus is still quite widespread, and is unlikely to want to be constrained by a nonbinding E.U. document. The Spanish government appears to be pinning its hopes on temperature testing and contact tracing to prevent the virus from becoming reestablished. Spain and other tourism-dependent economies may press for more openness.

There are bigger disagreements about travel within the E.U. The reason for continued border controls is that different countries have different rates of infection
. In particular, Sweden has a much higher rate of infection than its neighbors, including another E.U. member state, Denmark. That is why Denmark has kept its border with Sweden closed while opening up its border with Norway, which is not a member of the E.U. This may mean that Sweden would like a list that could allow the reopening of borders but that its neighbors, which have been skeptical about Sweden’s unorthodox policy approach to the epidemic (it has placed only minimal controls on public interaction) will want to push back.

Finally, there might interesting politics in the relationship with Britain, which is still negotiating its departure from the E.U. The United Kingdom has relatively high rates of infection, and much closer ties to other member states than the United States does. It shares a border with one member state, the Republic of Ireland. British politicians might react badly if their country is blacklisted, leading to greater frictions in the negotiations over common border areas. In addition, the Republic of Ireland wants continued travel arrangements with Britain, because of political sensitivities over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Closing that border could hurt peace in Northern Ireland.

So no, not only will the US not be put on the EU travel ban list, the travel ban list won't happen at all, most likely.  Much like the fight playing out in US states, getting the entire EU to agree on openings and travel bans is impossible.  (Well, it would be if we had an executive branch that actually gave a damn.)

The EU doesn't have that at all, so while individual countries may want Americans, Brazilians, and Russians to go away, the rest of the EU will take them in for summer holiday.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Yesterday I told you about our old white supremacist domestic terrorist friends the Bundy clan and their latest armed protest against the government, this time in Idaho.

Under the Idaho Constitution, only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature — but the Idaho Freedom Foundation and an unregistered political action committee are calling one for Tuesday morning aimed at overturning the governor’s executive orders on the coronavirus pandemic, and roughly a dozen far-right House Republicans reportedly plan to participate.

Ammon Bundy says a group of his armed supporters will provide “crowd control” for the event, set to kick off at 9 a.m. at the state Capitol.

“We’re going to make sure that legislators don’t have any trouble and everybody is good and peaceful,” he said, adding that Idaho State Police likely will be there as well. Asked why additional security is needed if ISP will be present, he said, “What if they put their knee on someone’s neck? Who’s going to stop them?”

It turns out that Idaho Republicans don't have much use for Bundy's idiocy when it comes to attacking other Republicans, like GOP Gov. Brad Little.

Legal analyses from the libertarian group Idaho Freedom Foundation the Bundy-affiliated Freedom Man PAC had asserted that the legislators didn’t need the governor’s permission to call a special legislative session if the state was under “enemy attack.” The groups urged legislators to view the COVID-19 pandemic as such under state law, and exercise their authority to call a legislative session and limit the governor’s power.

But the attorney general’s office and a team of lawyers representing the legislature disagreed, and numerous legislators present Tuesday said they’d felt pressure from leadership not to attend.

So, from the start of Tuesday’s proceedings, passing any kind of legislation was off the menu. “This is not a session of the Legislature,” said Rep. Judy Boyle. “We do not have a quorum.”

The right-wing representatives would have needed half of the members of the 70-person state house to show up to reach a quorum. The number who did was far fewer.

So, instead of taking legislative action, the group of 15 Republicans sat in the well of the chamber and traded statements about the state of the state.

“We are an equal branch, we shouldn’t have to beg the executive branch to do our business,” said Rep. Judy Boyle.

“We have become, um, almost non-essential in this particular thing,” chuckled Rep. Tim Remington, who sported an American flag tie. “It’s scary when you feel non-essential.”

Eventually, the talk grew more heated.

Contact tracing “is the most unconstitutional thing I’ve ever seen or heard of in my life,” asserted Rep. Christy Zito, speculating that the state would separate parents from their children if they’d been exposed to COVID-19.

“I truly believe a Civil War is coming if we do not put an end to what we’re seeing,” said Rep. Heather Scott, known as a fringe character even in crimson red Idaho, a few minutes later.
Toward the end of the event, Rep. Priscilla Giddings compared Idaho under the governor’s COVID-19 orders to Afghanistan, where she served as an Air Force fighter pilot.

“The absence of freedom is fear, and that’s terrorism,” she said. “We’re being terrorized in our own country.”

If the speechifying made the event feel like a typical day at the Capitol, Bundy’s crew — doing “crowd control” outside — made clear that it wasn’t

On the building’s steps, Bundy said the state was risking violence if it continued with its emergency orders, reported Heath Druzin of Boise State Public Radio News.

The communications director for the state’s Democratic Party, Lindsey Johnson, told TPM that the intra-GOP divide was “just a mess.”

“It should make Idahoans really question their leadership,” she added.

Idaho Republicans went too far even for Idaho Republicans.  And these guys, sitting, elected officials mind you, are slavering whackjobs who openly despise the entire concept of government to the point of being fundamentally hostile towards it, despite being employed by voters to run it.

And yet Bundy and his friends aren't done.  Not by a long shot.  Idaho Republicans will continue to support his terrorist insurgency in order to score points with voters.

Not much has changed since 1865, huh?

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Senate Democrats see right through GOP Sen. Tim Scott's "police reform" bill and will block it, giving Mitch McConnell exactly what he wants, a roll call vote against the lone black Republican senator's legislation being used as a cudgel to discredit Black Lives Matter.

The Senate's police reform debate is on a trajectory to crash and burn this week.

Top Democratic senators told Mitch McConnell on Tuesday that the Republicans’ policing overhaul is “not salvageable” — the latest sign that Democrats will filibuster the GOP bill on Wednesday and that the Senate is headed for deadlock on the issue.

In a letter to the majority leader, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) demanded that McConnell bring “meaningful legislation” to the floor and argued the GOP plan is not enough as even a starting point for negotiations. Republicans were immediately incredulous that after demanding a debate for days, Democrats were now ready to shut it down before it truly started.

McConnell says if Democrats want to amend his proposal, they need to cough up the seven votes needed to get to 60 and break a filibuster. Yet Harris, Booker and Schumer said they need a bipartisan negotiation at the outset rather than simply taking up a partisan police bill — and that even amendments can’t save the legislation written by GOP Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Schumer said there is "overwhelming opposition" to the legislation among Democrats.

“We will not meet this moment by holding a floor vote on the JUSTICE Act, nor can we simply amend this bill, which is so threadbare and lacking in substance that it does not even provide a proper baseline for negotiations,” the three senators wrote to McConnell.

The debate comes amid a national reckoning on race and police violence after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and nationwide protests.

Republicans’ proposal creates incentives for local police departments to reform their policies to stop misconduct; Democrats want to establish stiffer federal standards against the use of force and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Scott's bill currently has no Democratic supporters in the Senate and was brought directly to the floor rather than through the Judiciary Committee, where it could have been amended and negotiated by committee leaders. Republicans had not planned to hold a vote in June, but scrambled to restructure their agenda after the wave of protests as well as statements by Scott that the party needed to seize the moment now.
The note from the Democratic leader as well as its two Black members demonstrates that most other Senate Democrats are ready to block the GOP proposal absent new negotiations. Schumer said that "Leader McConnell is leading the Senate into a cul-de-sac: A process designed to fail."

It's designed to fail and always was, but a lot of voters aren't going to see it that way.

They're going to see the two Black senators, especially Kamala Harris, in the running for Biden's VP slot, voting against "police reform" and it's going to hurt, if not wreck, Harris's chances.

Which is precisely what Mitch McConnell wants and will get.  I'm upset that Senate Democrats fell for the trap again, but it's Kamala Harris who will pay dearly for this. The other half of the trap is already in play.

This was always how Black Lives Matter was going to be destroyed, by using it as an excuse to convince Black voters to leave the Democratic party.

I'm angry as hell that the Dems are walking right into this "Blexit" bullcrap.

Meanwhile in Alabama, the FBI is saying that the noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage stall had been there since October of last year and there was no hate crime involved against NASCAR's only black driver.

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, the FBI has concluded after completing its investigation at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, NASCAR announced in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall,” NASCAR’s statement read. “This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps is expected to address the development Tuesday evening in a conference call with reporters.

Wallace, 26, who is NASCAR’s only African American driver on its elite Cup series, had called for the sport to ban the displays of the Confederate flag at its tracks earlier this month, and the sport did so June 10, triggering outrage among a subset of fans.

In other words the FBI's story is that it wasn't a noose, and it was pure coincidence that Wallace had been assigned the stall with the rope pull in the garage that happened to look kind of like a noose.

Sure. I guess.

Good job, NASCAR and the FBI.


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