This is breaking about 4 a.m. EDT.

Greece reaches a deal with creditors after all-night summit:

Euro zone leaders clinched a deal with Greece on Monday to negotiate a third bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone after a whole night of haggling at an emergency summit.

“Euro summit has unanimously reached agreement. All ready to go for ESM programme for Greece with serious reforms and financial support,” European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Twitter, referring to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

However the tough conditions imposed by international lenders led by Germany could bring down Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government and cause an outcry in Greece. Even before the final terms were known, his labour minister went on state television to denounce the terms.

The deal would create a fund for repaying Greek debt from privatizing unspecified state assets.

Details now trickling out (via the Guardian, 5:34 a.m. EDT):

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Something noticed in watching Donald Trump’s interview with NBC News correspondent Katy Tur the other night: he rarely closes his lips except to make certain consonant sounds.

Perhaps it’s just to signal everyone that he’s not done talking, as if he ever is. According to Donald Trump, he gets the biggest crowds, he gets the most standing ovations, he gets great reviews, he’s made a lot of money, and he has great relations with other countries. Furthermore, we have leaders that don’t know what they’re doing, we have stupid negotiators, he knows how to negotiate, etc. He’s the last competent man in America.

“Trump makes demagoguery his campaign strategy” reads a later headline at All In with Chris Hayes. He’s an oratorical train wreck from which the public and the press cannot look away.

Two polls this week put Trump at the head of the Republican pack, and with a four-point lead over Jeb Bush in North Carolina.

GOP primary voters will love this guy. He can out-bluster Fox talking heads. When Tur cited Pew research data on illegal immigrants, that they commit less crime than others, Trump trumps with “You’re a very naive person” and “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” The Donald is right. The data is wrong. Full speed ahead.

Which was Dana Milbank’s point the other day. “Trump is the Republican Party,” he wrote:

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Jul
12

Sunday Morning Music

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King Midas with his daughter, from A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne (text author). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The troika didn’t take well to Greek voters telling them where they could stick their austerity. Rebels from the country that invented democracy last week seemed poised to jump into their X-wing fighters and … okay this is really going off the rails. Or maybe not.

Creditors counterattacked and tightened their grip. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now seems ready to accept more austerity with no write-down of his country’s debt, something voters soundly rejected just last Sunday:

“Each one of us shall be confronted with his stature and his history. Between a bad choice and a catastrophic one, we are forced to opt for the first one,” Tsipras said in a speech before his party’s lawmakers, according to local media. “It is as if one asks you for your money or your life.”

It’s just slightly less than Bond-villianish. The Washington Post reports that the deal includes “phasing out a subsidy for poor pensioners and privatizing sprawling state industries.” The voters have spoken and were ignored.

At the Guardian, George Monbiot examines how the financial powers have built a colonial empire that essentially renders democracy moot. (Throughout, I’m citing the referenced version of this piece from Monbiot’s blog.):

Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes. It’s controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and the other means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

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Jul
10

“This is our Selma!”

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On Monday at 8 a.m. EDT, the North Carolina NAACP chapter takes NC Gov. Pat McCrory and the cheerfully nicknamed VIVA voter suppression act to court:

On July 13, a federal court in Winston-Salem will hear North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory, our lawsuit to reverse North Carolina’s unconstitutional and immoral voter suppression law. North Carolina’s law is the first and the worst since the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our voting rights, gained because people stood up despite great consequences in Selma and across the South, have been compromised. Now we must march!

The outcome of this historic case in North Carolina will have an impact on voting rights across the nation. This is a battle for voting rights for all of us. We will not surrender the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. 
 Just like in Selma, we must march!

Join us in Winston-Salem on July 13 at 5:00 p.m. for a Mass Moral Monday March for Voting Rights.  

This is Our Selma!

Activists believe Winston-Salem was chosen as the venue for hearing the case because its small size. Few observers will get inside and no audio or video feed will be available. The NAACP will nonetheless hold a press conference at 8 a.m. at the courthouse, plus other events during the day, prior to the planned march led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the weekly Moral Monday marches.

Republicans in the legislature appear nervous about the case. After hundreds of citizens spoke against the law at State Board of Elections forums held across the state, the legislature amended the law to loosen the ID requirements just weeks ahead of the July hearing. Think Progress:

[V]oters who lack the an ID will still be able to cast a ballot, but only if they sign an affidavit swearing they fall into one of the acceptable categories of reasons they couldn’t obtain a government photo ID: a lack of transportation, disability or illness, lost or stolen photo ID, a lack of a birth certificate or other documents to obtain a photo ID, work schedules or family responsibilities. The voter would also need to present an “alternate form of identification,” the last four digits of their Social Security number, and their date of birth.

That is, they swapped out some of the barricades against voting for hoops.

Yet the voter ID provision — which does not allow for the use of student IDs — is just one piece of the sweeping voting law overhaul that the state passed just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act. The law also eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precinct, ended straight-ticket voting, and scrapped a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day.

University of California law professor Richard Hasen, of Election Law Blog, described the law in 2013, saying:

It rolls into a single piece of legislation just about all of the tools we’ve seen legislatures use in recent years to try to make it harder for people to register and vote.

On Monday, we’ll see if we can’t roll it back.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jul
10

Friday Open Thread

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So who did The Donald piss off yesterday?

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Wall Street might be licking its wounds after yesterday’s hours-long trading shutdown, but for former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder the future is looking rosy.

Holder has gone back to his old D.C. law firm, Covington & Burling, where he can once again work to keep the rich and powerful from facing justice — just what he did for the Obama administration, but with a better pay package. Covington even held an office in its new building for him. Lee Fang wrote on Monday:

Holder’s critics charge that he made a career out of institutionalizing “Too Big to Prosecute” rules within the department. In 1999, as a deputy attorney general, Holder authored a memo arguing that officials should consider the “collateral consequences” when prosecuting corporate crimes. In 2012, Holder’s enforcement chief, Lanny Breuer, admitted during a speech to the New York City Bar Association that the department may go easy on certain corporate criminals if they believe prosecutions may disrupt financial markets or cause layoffs. “In some cases, the health of an industry or the markets are a real factor,” Breuer said.

In decamping the DoJ for Covington, Holder reinforces how thoroughly socialized Justice has become around business — in the Grover Norquist sense. But with Justice functioning as a kind of training school, DoJ attorneys with higher-paying aspirations learn more than how not to pee on the office furniture. David Dayen writes:

Holder is at least the sixth former Justice Department official who landed at Covington after leaving law enforcement. In addition to Breuer, Mythili Raman, who also ran the criminal division, went to Covington, as did partner Steven Fagell and special counsels Daniel Suleiman and Aaron Lewis. Holder’s Justice Department appears to have been a farm team for white-collar criminal defense, where the money gets made protecting illicit corporate actors.

Matt Taibbi elaborates:

Holder doesn’t look it, but he was a revolutionary. He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world’s richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.

Taibbi details “five pillars” of that revolution, including failing to win “a single conviction in court for any crimes related to the financial crisis,” the concept of “collateral consequences” noted above, and ways to soften punishments for financial crimes:

Holder doubtless seriously believed at first that in a time of financial crisis, he was doing the right thing in constructing new forms of justice for banks, where nobody but the shareholders actually had to pay for crime. You’ve heard of victimless crimes; Holder created the victimless punishment.

All of which allowed the big banks to get bigger, their rich executives to get richer, and “Eric Holder himself to crash-land into a giant pile of money upon resignation.”

Sleazy work if you can get it.

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

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Ted Cruz is bringing in some techsperts. POLITICO (we spell our name in all caps, see?) reports that the GOP’s scary clown has hired an analytics firm owned in part by the family of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who funds several Cruz-supporting, super PACs:

Cambridge Analytica is connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting.

So far, SCL’s political work has been mostly in the developing world — where it has boasted of its ability to help foment coups.

Their secret weapon? “Psychographics.” Makes you wonder why the GOP presidential field hasn’t already gay married Cambridge Analytica.

That last link takes you to a 2005 Slate story about SCL and how, in a pitch sounding “like a rejected plot twist from a mediocre Bond flick,” its “ops center” could spread disinformation through the media to stop a smallpox outbreak. Propaganda, you say? Nah!

“If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that’s going to save lives, that’s fine,” says Mark Broughton, SCL’s public affairs director. “That’s not a word I would use for that.”

[snip]

If SCL weren’t so earnest, it might actually seem to be mocking itself, or perhaps George Orwell. As the end of the smallpox scenario, dramatic music fades out to a taped message urging people to “embrace” strategic communications, which it describes as “the most powerful weapon in the world.” And the company Web page offers some decidedly creepy asides. “The [ops center] can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis,” it says, alluding to work the company has done in an unspecified Asian country.

Of course, Cambridge Analytica is not SCL Worldwide, and that sort of thing sounds so un-American.

Cambridge Analytica has also done campaign work for Republicans Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, as well as for the North Carolina Republican Party. And for Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who would never advocate a coup.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Presidential Race
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Jul
07

One can only hope

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In his post-Greek referendum analysis, Howard Fineman sees echoes of the past:

It’s a new echo on a global scale of the politics of a much earlier, but in some ways remarkably similar, era in the U.S. As the U.S. became a continental economy in the late 19th century, with vast new hordes of wealth built in railroads, coal, electricity and communications, a political backlash arose. The new “money power” was judged too big and uncontrollable: an engine not of prosperity, but of inequality and corruption. The backlash launched America’s Progressive movement, which among other reforms pushed laws to rein in the power of big corporations in the interests of ordinary people.

Now that the planet’s economies have essentially become one, and the world’s top dozen banks control $30 trillion in assets, the callous demands of a new and even larger “money power” is starting to spark a worldwide backlash.

The International Monetary Fund, writes Fineman, has become since its founding “something akin to a collection agency” for private banks. Still, it is not clear yet whether the backlash Fineman sees is real or apparent.

The corruption of democracy by this system (or perhaps the subjugation of democracy to it) is beginning to filter into the public consciousness. When TV stations in Georgia start doing investigations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), opinion is beginning to move. The ugliness of this system is becoming ever more apparent to the public at large.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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The final tally was a 61-39 landslide for the No’s. The Wall Street Journal and other outlets called the Greek referendum “divisive.” Like Bush’s 2000 win was a mandate.

All I could think of all day was Iceland. A big middle finger to creditors. Throw a few bankers in jail. It was as bracing as Iceland’s winters. Less than a decade later, Iceland is doing fine, thank you, said
President Olafur Ragnar Grimmson in 2013:

“Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and telecommunication companies and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? The theory that you have to bail out banks is a theory that you allow bankers enjoy for their own profit, their success, and then let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run.”

But Greece is not Iceland, as the Washington Post noted on Saturday – even as the authors’ prediction on the vote went awry on Sunday:

The stakes are high. They are perhaps higher for Greece than they were for Iceland. While at the time the cost of accepting the repayment terms was quantifiable for Icelanders (calculated as approximately $17,000 per person), there’s no easy way to know what voting either way will mean for Greeks. The choices being put to them are costly either way and, sadly, Greece’s economic woes seem unlikely to be resolved anytime soon — even if voters say yes in the referendum. Icelanders said no to their creditors and seem now, four years later, on a sure enough economic footing again that they deliberately withdrew the application for EU membership they submitted in the midst of the Icesave crisis. Yet Greece faces a much larger, longer economic battle, even if it yields to the current bailout conditions.

Well, Greek democracy stood up to the central bank technocrats. Democracy — governance by the people — is so inconvenient for “Merkantilism” that way. The bankers, thus, have behaved like loan shark enforcers with Greece. So in a performance worthy of a Republican presidential debate, the Troika demanded the poors of Europe pay their debts in a way they wouldn’t expect big banks to. Almost as if they learned that from watching Wall Street banks insist homeowners with underwater mortgages keep paying, while the banks themselves received bailouts. For me, but not for thee. Gotta keep the poors and their democracy in line or they get uppity, like Iceland, dontcha know.

Early moves in Asian markets do not indicate any panic, according to the Financial Times.

This morning, Paul Krugman responds to what the financial press (naturally) describes as a “Greek tragedy.” He writes that Europe actually dodged a bullet:

Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it. Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

But the campaign of bullying — the attempt to terrify Greeks by cutting off bank financing and threatening general chaos, all with the almost open goal of pushing the current leftist government out of office — was a shameful moment in a Europe that claims to believe in democratic principles. It would have set a terrible precedent if that campaign had succeeded, even if the creditors were making sense.

What’s more, they weren’t. The truth is that Europe’s self-styled technocrats are like medieval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients — and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding.

Greek voters’ answer to another round of bleeding was a big middle finger.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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