Big Brother is watching you

“The race to embrace invasive tools underscores a simple dynamic at play during the current global pandemic: Public health concerns are trumping the desire to protect individuals’ privacy online and in the real world, even in the home of the General Data Protection Regulation, Europe’s sweeping privacy rules. …

“Pointing to a wave of new surveillance powers approved nationally and EU-wide in 2015- 2017, following a wave of terrorist attacks, critics argue that regulators are green-lighting practices that will be almost impossible to unwind once the pandemic has passed. …

“According to European Commissioner Breton and other top officials urging telecoms operators to hand over data, privacy can be respected because the data concerned is anonymized and aggregated.

“But that is a little reassurance, according to privacy experts who point out that an individual’s identity can easily be deduced from just a handful of anonymized mobile phone location data points.”

European countries are hollowing out hard-fought privacy standards as they embrace tech solutions to fight the coronavirus.

Another reason why we need universal healthcare

NYT: “But more than rate cuts or bursts of spending, economists say, the best short-term measures to prevent an economic downturn may be “automatic stabilizers” — existing programs or regulations that protect workers, provide low-cost health care or help companies get through a lean period. Some of these measures were adopted during another time of financial stress: the 2008 financial crisis.

“Assurances that many workers won’t have to choose between caring for their health and paying their rent is a crucial psychological factor as Italy and France shut hundreds of schools, Britain unlocks an “action plan” to prevent the virus’s spread and businesses across the Continent cancel trips and meetings to limit their employees’ exposure to the epidemic.”

More importantly, workers with paid sick time are more likely to stay home when sick and people with guaranteed access to healthcare (that won’t bankrupt them) will seek treatment promptly when sick and get the treatment (and quarantine, if necessay) they need. Our lack of universal coverage and reasonable sick leave policies endangers us all.

Europe’s social policies are sometimes seen as overly generous. Yet they may help cushion the economic impact of the virus.

Forty years in the wilderness?

I doubt it will be that long but the Remainers have a long wait. Or perhaps not so long if, as I suspect, the UK will wind up with no deal at the end of the year, thus making Brexit even more painful. One thing is for sure, Boris Johnson isn’t going to accept a deal that leaves the UK close to the EU (à la Switzerland) and the EU isn’t going to give the UK access to a Single Market that doesn’t include free movement of peoples. And you can count on the US to exploit its superior bargaining position in free trade talks. That probably means higher prices in the UK for prescription drugs and letting American agricultural products in, GMO or no GMO. At least, we can expect the EU to keep its doors open to the repentant prodigal.

Having bet it all on stopping Brexit and lost, Remainers now look to keeping Britain as close to the European Union as possible.

But stop it we must

Max Boot in the WaPo: “Yet, despite all the differences between British and American politics, there are too many disturbing parallels to ignore. Like Trump, Johnson was born to privilege and lacks empathy for those who weren’t. Like Trump, Johnson is unprincipled and opportunistic. Like Trump, Johnson lies like crazy and never seems to pay a price for his dishonesty. Like Trump, Johnson harnesses fear and loathing of immigrants among aging, white voters. Like Trump, Johnson weaponizes social media and spreads disinformation. Like Trump, Johnson has received Russian support (the Tory Party has gotten at least $4.7 million from Russian donors in the past decade) and has tried to block the public from learning about Russian political interference. And, like Trump, Johnson was long judged too much of a lightweight and opportunist to lead his nation. …

“Right-wing populists like Trump and Johnson have figured out how to mesmerize voters with their simplistic slogans and spellbinding showmanship. They are political sorcerers — and no opponent has yet figured out how to consistently break their spell. Unless Democrats can crack the code in the next 10 months, the West might never recover. A good start would be to avoid nominating a presidential candidate who — even if less extreme than Corbyn — is still far too left for the mainstream electorate.”

Crossing the line on Greenland

Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution writes in The Atlantic: “It is one thing to float a cockamamie idea that no one believes is serious or will go anywhere. “Let’s buy Greenland!” Yes, very funny. A good distraction from the economy, the failure to deal with white supremacy, White House staff problems, or whatever is the news of the day. It is quite another to use leverage and impose costs on Denmark in pursuit of that goal—and make no mistake, canceling a presidential visit is using leverage and imposing costs. …

“This is the kind of thing the Russians and the Chinese do. It is territorial revisionism—the use of national power to acquire territory against the desire of its sovereign government and its people. The use of leverage would also call into question the U.S. commitment to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which is the cornerstone of stability in Europe. …

“One uncomfortable truth is already inescapable. Free societies and autocracies are at odds with each other—over human rights, the rule of law, technology, freedom of the press, the free flow of information, and territorial expansion. At this particular moment, it is not sufficient to say that the free world is without a leader. He has actually defected to the other side.”

The president crossed an important line when he canceled a meeting with the Danish prime minister.

Pass the popcorn

“To side with America rather than the EU, as Johnson has been showing recently, risks committing the UK to far more than Brexit.

“Johnson is a risk-taker: while his gamble on Trump might benefit him today, it also risks breaking Britain, splitting the four-nation Union, and potentially putting it on the wrong side of emerging geopolitical fault lines.”

This weekend, Boris Johnson is making his leadership debut as on the world stage at the G7 in the French resort of Biarritz.