Yesterday, Vladimir Putin finally ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, while trying to put the blame on the U.S., NATO, and the Ukraine government. Putin claimed the troops were for “peacekeeping” purposes, to protect ethnic Russians in two parts of Eastern Ukraine.
At first the Biden administration debated whether to call this an “invasion,” but as of this morning that has changed. Newsweek: Biden Administration Backtracks, Is Now Calling Russia’s Attack on Ukraine an Invasion.
President Joe Biden‘s administration has called Russian troops entering Ukraine an “invasion” for the first time on Tuesday morning after members of Congress from both parties used the term and called for tough sanctions.
The Biden administration had not previously referred to the Russian military action in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” but White House officials have said a further response will be forthcoming and is likely to include more sanctions.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer called Russian military action in eastern Ukraine an “invasion” in remarks to CNN on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees on Monday recognizing the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) in Ukraine’s east as independent states and ordered Russian troops into those regions.
“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” Finer said.
“I think ‘latest’ is important here,” Finer said.
“An invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway, but Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014,” he said.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. There has also been a Russian presence in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014.
Follow the latest developments at CNN: Live Updates: The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis. or at The New York Times Ukraine live updates.
Western nations have begun sanctioning Russia for it’s illegal aggression:
The New York Times: Germany puts a stop to Nord Stream 2, a key Russian natural gas pipeline.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that Germany would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that would link his country with Russia, one of the strongest moves yet by the West to punish the Kremlin for recognizing two separatist regions in Ukraine.
The German leader’s announcement came hours after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered armed forces to the separatist regions, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
Germany’s allies in Europe and the United States had been pressing Mr. Scholz for weeks to state publicly that the $11 billion pipeline, which was completed late last year and runs from Russia’s coast to northern Germany under the Baltic Sea, would be at risk of being blocked in the event of a Russian move against Ukraine.
“The situation today is fundamentally different,” Mr. Scholz told reporters in Berlin. “That is why we must re-evaluate this situation, in view of the latest developments. By the way, that includes Nord Stream 2.”
President Biden signed an executive order Monday imposing sanctions that target two Russia-backed breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine in a swift response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to .
The order bars “new investment, trade and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in” the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, located in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The order also provides authority to impose sanctions on “any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” Psaki said, adding the administration will later “announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
The U.K. has slapped targeted economic sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into eastern Ukraine.
Addressing lawmakers on Tuesday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the first tranche of sanctions would target Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
The measures would also sanction three “very high net worth” individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg.
The individuals concerned will see their U.K. assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the country, Johnson said. All U.K. individuals and entities will also be barred from having dealings with them, he added.
Johnson said the move to sanction Russia had arisen despite himself and several other world leaders giving Putin “every opportunity” to pursue his aims via diplomacy….
He added, “This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.”
Russian stocks plunged and the ruble slid closer to a record low on Tuesday as investors reacted to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops into eastern Ukraine.
Moscow’s MOEX stock index dropped 1.5% after shedding more than 10% on Monday, bringing losses so far this year to about 20%. Shares in Russian oil company Rosneft were hardest hit Tuesday, dropping 7.5%. In total, more than $30 billion has been wiped off the value of Russian stocks this week alone.
The ruble fell toward 81 versus the US dollar on Tuesday, its weakest level in more than a year and close to its record low. The moves prompted Russia’s central bank to announce measures to support banks, including a provision that will allow them to use last Friday’s prices for stocks and bonds when reporting their financial positions.
More pain could be on the way.
“We expect further declines near-term in the Russian stock market,” analysts at JPMorgan Chase wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. The Wall Street bank downgraded Russian equities to “neutral” from “overweight.”
Damage to Russia’s markets and economy would be limited if its troops do not advance beyond the parts of eastern Ukraine that Putin recognized as independent on Monday, according to analysts. But Russia would pay a higher price if further aggression causes the West to respond with punishing sanctions that could cut the country’s banks off from the global financial system and make it difficult to export oil and natural gas.
Analyses of the Ukraine situation:
At The Atlantic, Tom Nichols reacted to the insane speech Putin gave yesterday: Putin Chooses a Forever War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a long speech full of heavy sighs and dark grievances, made clear today that he has chosen war. He went to war against Ukraine in 2014; now he has declared war against the international order of the past 30 years.
Putin’s slumped posture and deadened affect led me to suspect that he is not as stable as we would hope. He had the presence not of a confident president, but of a surly adolescent caught in a misadventure, rolling his eyes at the stupid adults who do not understand how cruel the world has been to him. Teenagers, of course, do not have hundreds of thousands of troops and nuclear weapons.
Even discounting Putin’s delivery, the speech was, in many places, simply unhinged. Putin began with a history lesson about how and why Ukraine even exists. For all his Soviet nostalgia, the Russian president is right that his Soviet predecessors intentionally created a demographic nightmare when drawing the internal borders of the U.S.S.R., a subject I’ve explained at length here.
But Putin’s point wasn’t that the former subjects of the Soviet Union needed to iron out their differences. Rather, he was suggesting that none of the new states that emerged from the Soviet collapse—except for Russia—were real countries. “As a result of Bolshevik policy,” Putin intoned, “Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’. He is its author and architect.”
It is true that Soviet leaders created the 1991 borders. That is also true of what we now call the Russian Federation. Putin, however, went even further back in history: “Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood.”
By that kind of historical reasoning, few nations in Europe, or anywhere else, are safe. Putin’s foray into history was nothing less than a demand that only Moscow—and only the Kremlin’s supreme leader—has the right to judge what is or is not a sovereign state (as I recently discussed here). Putin’s claims are hardly different from Saddam Hussein’s rewriting of Middle East history when Iraq tried to erase Kuwait from the map.
Read the rest at the Atlantic link. Nichols is genuine expert on Russia.
Another Russia expert, Julia Davis, wrote about the reaction of Ukrainian citizens yesterday at The Daily Beast: Kremlin TV Asks ‘Where’s the Champagne?’ as Ukraine’s Kids Are Prepped for War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the world on Monday when he unilaterally recognized two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, as independent states and ordered Russian troops to conduct so-called “peacekeeping operations” there. The move has sparked widespread condemnation from global leaders who have accused Putin of violating international law and expressed concerns that the latest escalation may soon morph into a full-scale Russian invasion of its neighbor.
In Ukraine, Putin’s decision has only exacerbated the pain and anguish caused by years of bloody conflict, fueled and funded by the Kremlin. Parents across the country have been doing whatever they can to prepare their families for a potential Russian onslaught. “If you want to know how Ukrainians react to Putin’s speech, here’s a glimpse: moms on Facebook discuss putting stickers on their children’s clothes, when they go to school, indicating their blood type,” journalist Olga Tokariuk tweeted on Monday. “Make no mistake: this speech was perceived as a declaration of war on Ukraine.”
For some, the new developments have only deepened their resolve to fight back. “With his speech alone Putin consolidated Ukrainians like no-one else here could. My friends are talking about joining the territorial defense,” Ukrainian reporter Iryna Matviyishyn wrote. “And currently the Kremlin’s madman is the most hated person in Ukraine.”
In contrast, there was joy and laughter on Russia’s state television.
On Monday, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan appeared on The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev ready for a major celebration. “First of all, I don’t understand why there isn’t champagne in the studio,” she said. Beaming ear-to-ear, Simonyan described feeling “an overwhelming sense of euphoria” and added: “I’ve been waiting for 8 years for this… It finally happened. This is true happiness.” Claiming to speak on behalf of the “Donbas’ people,” Simonyan exclaimed: “Thank you, Mother Russia!”
David Ignatius at The Washington Post: Opinion: Surprising cracks, if small ones, appear in Kremlin support for Putin on Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin presented a theatrical justification for war with Ukraine on Monday, but initial Russian military actions along the border were limited — and there seemed to be a few small cracks in Kremlin support for Putin’s obsession with regaining Russian dominion in Kyiv.
Read more at the WaPo.
The New York Times on Biden’s strategy: Wooing Allies, Publicizing Putin’s Plans: Inside Biden’s Race to Prevent War.
In a series of top-secret meetings last October, President Biden’s national security team presented grim intelligence that would soon trigger a fierce effort to prevent what could become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.
Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, was preparing to invade Ukraine, top intelligence and military officials told Mr. Biden. Gathering each morning in the Oval Office for the global threat assessment known as the President’s Daily Brief, they described satellite images of Russian forces methodically advancing toward Ukraine’s border.
Not only did the United States have images of troops moving into position, it also had the Russian military’s plans for a campaign against Ukraine — elements of which had already begun. At one of the morning meetings, Mr. Biden dispatched William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, to Moscow with a message for Mr. Putin:
We know what you’re planning to do.
Stopping him would be a challenge. Many of America’s closest allies were skeptical that Mr. Putin — a master of disinformation — would actually invade. The use of U.S. military force against Russia was off the table, so the allies would have to threaten Mr. Putin with economic pain so severe it would also have consequences in Europe and the United States. And it was far from certain that Republicans in Congress would back whatever the administration did….
The White House acknowledged from the start that its campaign to stop Mr. Putin might not actually prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. But at the very least, White House officials say, Mr. Biden exposed Mr. Putin and his true intentions, which helped unite, at least for now, the at-times fractious NATO alliance.
Over the course of three and a half months, Mr. Biden made three critical decisions about how to handle Russia’s provocations, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior administration officials and others who requested anonymity to discuss confidential meetings. Early on, the president approved a recommendation to share intelligence far more broadly with allies than was typical, officials said. The idea was to avoid disagreements about tough economic sanctions by ensuring that everyone knew what the United States knew about Mr. Putin’s actions.
Mr. Biden also gave the green light for an unprecedented public information campaign against Mr. Putin. With the support of his top intelligence officials — and with a promise to protect the intelligence agencies’ “sources and methods” — the president allowed a wave of public releases aimed at preventing Mr. Putin from employing his usual denials to divide his adversaries.
Read more details at the NYT link.
So that’s where things stand this morning. I’m sure there will be more developments throughout the day today. What are your thoughts on this? What other stories are you following?
The paintings in today’s post are by Suzanne Valadon. Here’s some background about this fascinating artist from The Great Cat.org:
Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), was an illegitimate child of a French laundress and lived a rather rough life in her youth. She performed in a circus on the trapeze until she had a bad fall when she was 16.
After that, she decided to become an artist’s model, a safer profession. Artists such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir used her in some of their works. Renoir even painted her in The Bathers. Valadon began to study the methods and works of the artists she posed for, and started to paint on her own.
Encouraged by Toulouse-Lautrec, she continued and even caught the eye of Edward Degas, who was so taken by her work that he purchased several of her first paintings in 1893. A true Bohemian, in 1883 at age 18, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo, who became a well known artist as well.
Read more about her life at the pdf link above. You may have to go to the Table of Contents and click on her name.
Now on to today’s news.
It’s been another her horror-filled week, as Dakinikat described in her post yesterday. I avoided TV for most of the week, but it’s impossible to completely escape the Trump chaos. I’ve been doing my best though, mainly by reading lotsYo of books. Anyway, let’s see what’s happening this morning.
Trump has asked for help winning the 2020 election from Ukraine, China, and I assume Russia, since he seems to talk on the phone to Putin constantly.
So how many countries has Trump actually asked for election help? Add Brazil to the list.
The New York Times: Lawmakers ‘Alarmed’ by Reports U.S. Envoy Told Brazil It Could Help Re-elect Trump.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday they were “extremely alarmed” by assertions that the American ambassador in Brazil had signaled to Brazilian officials they could help get President Trump re-elected by changing their trade policies.
In a letter sent Friday afternoon, Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel demanded that the ambassador, Todd Chapman, produce “any and all documents referring or related to any discussions” he has held with Brazilian officials in recent weeks about their nation’s tariffs on ethanol, an important agricultural export for Iowa, a potential swing state in the American presidential election.
The committee’s letter was sent in response to reports in the Brazilian news media this week saying that Mr. Chapman, a career diplomat, made it clear to Brazilian officials they could bolster Mr. Trump’s electoral chances in Iowa if Brazil lifted its ethanol tariffs.
Eliminating tariffs would give the Trump administration a welcome trade victory to present to struggling ethanol producers in Iowa, where the president is in a close race with his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The House committee said it was opening an inquiry into the matter.
The State Department denied the reports, but . . .
The O Globo newspaper published a story on Thursday saying Mr. Chapman had underscored “the importance to the Brazilian government of keeping Donald Trump” in office. Mr. Bolsonaro, a far-right leader, has made closer alignment with the Trump administration his top foreign policy priority.
A competing newspaper, Estadão, published an article Friday saying its reporters independently confirmed that the ambassador framed his argument against tariffs in partisan terms. The article said the Brazilian officials who met with Mr. Chapman rejected the appeal, declining to be drawn into the American presidential battle.
Neither article named its sources. But Alceu Moreira, a Brazilian congressman who heads the agricultural caucus, told The New York Times in an interview that Mr. Chapman had made repeated references to the electoral calendar during a recent meeting the two had about ethanol.
Now Trump has helped Putin by ordering the withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Germany.
The US is moving forward with President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, a decision that has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition and roiled key allies who see the move as a blow to NATO.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledged the plan will cost billions to execute when he formally announced the decision on Wednesday from the Pentagon. US defense officials said it will take years to relocate the troops.
The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military’s position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.
Trump defended the decision Wednesday, saying the troop drawdown was taking place because Berlin was not spending the NATO target of 2% of its GDP on defense and because Germany was taking “advantage” of the US….
Defense officials, however, said Wednesday that the decision on where to house the US troops leaving Germany was not influenced by whether the new host country was meeting the 2% target.
Well, I’m sure Putin is thrilled. Will Trump pull us out of NATO next?
At The Daily Beast, Julia Davis reports on Russia’s reaction to Trump’s willful destruction of our country: ‘America’s Dying’: Russian Media Is Giddy at Chaos in the USA.
This week, U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated his intent to move forward with reducing the U.S. military presence in Germany, without any consultations with Berlin. And even as members of the U.S. Congress and America’s allies abroad expressed concerns about the drawdown, the Trump administration’s decision brought joy to the Kremlin and Russian media.
Back in June, 22 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee urged Trump not to go ahead with the move, stating in a letter: “We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment … In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism.” [….]
Meanwhile, when the intent to reduce the U.S. contingent in Germany was first announced, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the Kremlin “would welcome any steps by Washington to scale down its military presence in Europe,” brazenly telling the United States to take home not only its troops, but also its tactical nuclear weapons.
The Kremlin-controlled Russian state media also sensed a precious propaganda opportunity. Sergey Brilyov, anchor of the news show Saturday Vesti on Russian state media channel Rossiya-1, pondered whether the controversial move by the Trump administration could be considered the proof that Russia no longer poses a military threat to Europe.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov used the same rationale today, when he claimed that Russia doesn’t present any threat to European countries and “the fewer U.S. soldiers are on the European continent, the calmer it is in Europe.”
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Don’t miss this must read piece at Vanity Fair about Trump and Kushner’s decision to scrap efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic because it was only affecting blue states: How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air.”
A few choice excerpts:
Six months into the pandemic, the United States continues to suffer the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the developed world. Considerable blame belongs to a federal response that offloaded responsibility for the crucial task of testing to the states. The irony is that, after assembling the team that came up with an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan, Kushner then appears to have decided, for reasons that remain murky, to scrap its proposal. Today, as governors and mayors scramble to stamp out epidemics plaguing their populations, philanthropists at the Rockefeller Foundation are working to fill the void and organize enough testing to bring the nationwide epidemic under control.
Inside the White House, over much of March and early April, Kushner’s handpicked group of young business associates, which included a former college roommate, teamed up with several top experts from the diagnostic-testing industry. Together, they hammered out the outline of a national testing strategy. The group—working night and day, using the encrypted platform WhatsApp—emerged with a detailed plan obtained by Vanity Fair.
Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.
But it never happened. Why?
By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.
But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.
Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.
That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.
[Emphasis added.] This is a mind-blowing article. Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
The New York Times: Trump Halts TV Advertising as He Struggles in Polls Against Biden.
John Avlon at CNN: Trump’s election tweet shows a frightened narcissist afraid of losing.
Yahoo News: Exclusive: CDC projects U.S. coronavirus death toll could top 180,000 by Aug. 22.
The New York Times: Lobbying Intensifies Among V.P. Candidates as Biden’s Search Nears an End.
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Why would Biden pick a human lightning rod as VP?
That’s it for me. Have a terrific weekend everyone!
Yesterday, Dakinikat highlighted this article at The Independent in which the owner of a tanker that the Trump administration claims was attacked by Iran says the Trump folks are lying.
The ship operator said “flying objects” that may have been bullets were the cause of damage to the vessel, rather than mines used by Iranian forces, as the US has suggested.
Yutaka Katada, chief executive of the Japanese company operating the ship called Kokuka Courageous, one of two vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, said the damage could not have been caused by mines or torpedos that are shot underwater, since the damage was reportedly above the ship’s waterline.
Now Germany has chimed in. Newsweek: Germany Joins Chorus Casting Doubt on Trump Administration Claim that Iran was Behind Attack on Oil Tankers.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
The attack on the two vessels, one Japanese and one Norwegian, took place as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran to try to calm tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran’s culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran.
“The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” Maas told reporters during a press conference on Friday. The boat’s Japanese owner also cast doubt on the theory that a mine had been used to attack the ship, telling journalists that members of his crew had witnessed a flying object.
Iran has denied any role in the event, and some observers have raised questions about whether the intelligence was being used as a pretext for the U.S. to escalate conflict with the country.
Peter Baker writes at The New York Times: As Trump Accuses Iran, He Has One Problem: His Own Credibility.
For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting.
For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said “he’s a liar” and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.
Fact-checking Mr. Trump is a full-time occupation in Washington, and in no other circumstance is faith in a president’s word as vital as in matters of war and peace. The public grew cynical about presidents and intelligence after George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on false accusations of weapons of mass destruction, and the doubt spilled over to Barack Obama when he accused Syria of gassing its own people. As Mr. Trump confronts Iran, he carries the burden of their history and his own….
The task is all the more formidable for Mr. Trump, who himself has assailed the reliability of America’s intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview.
That’s an important point. Trump has been attacking the findings of the U.S. intelligence community since he was a candidate. He has repeatedly said he believes Vladimir Putin over his own FBI and CIA.
Again following up on Dakinikat’s post yesterday, here’s a brilliant essay by Virginia Heffernan at The Los Angeles Times: All the president’s lying ladies — Hicks, Sanders and Conway — make news.
The Trump White House is a bit like Shakespeare summer camp: not enough substantial parts for the girls. The female roles at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are for craven ladies-in-waiting who are allotted very little moral agency, let alone opportunities for heroics. They subvert their ambitions to their overlord’s; they lie, in short.
Yes, there’s a Lady Macbeth, portrayed in Trumpworld as a waxen blonde sleepwalker, a ghostly daughter-wife whose veins are certifiably free of the milk of human kindness. (Ivanka’s understudy, the creepy Melania, has skipped so many rehearsals she’s been written off.)
A shrewd, unholy trinity has settled for lesser roles: the liar-handmaidens Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway. The president, according to Michael Wolff’s latest book, “Siege,” likes to see these three in a “cat fight,” in which each undermines the others as she competes to lie most robustly on his behalf.
The melancholic former White House Communications Director Hicks, choleric counselor Conway and splenetic Press Secretary Sanders aren’t just complicit in the president’s depravity. They have managed to advance it.
But the advantage this trio has over Lady Ivanka is that they can leave.
To further tempt you to read the whole thing, here is Heffernan’s characterization of Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
Sanders is known for her never-ending mendacity and her near-religious devotion to Trump, who, according to Wolff, calls her the “Huckabee Girl.”
Indeed, Trump has often treated Sanders as if she were the possession of her father, Mike Huckabee, on loan to him as a scullery maid. Scullery for Trump includes, above all, mendacity. Sanders is featured in the Mueller report for her “slip of the tongue” — the claim that “countless” FBI agents disliked former FBI Director James Comey.
Not only was this fabrication part of Sanders’ tireless effort to make it seem as though Trump is a normal law-and-order Republican (and not a carnie thug with well-documented contempt for the whole FBI), it was also an effort to obfuscate Trump’s reason for firing Comey. We all know it: to kill the Russia investigation.
Go read the rest. You won’t be sorry.
At Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson explains how the trial of a border patrol agent could expose the “toxic culture” of his agency: ‘Guats,’ ‘Tonks’ and ‘Subhuman Shit’: The Shocking Texts of a Border Patrol Agent.
In the days before he allegedly struck a 23-year-old undocumented Guatemalan man with a government-issued Ford F-150, Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen sent a text to a fellow agent. In the exchange, which federal prosecutors now claim offers “insight into his view of the aliens he apprehends,” Bowen railed against unauthorized migrants who’d thrown rocks at a colleague as “mindless murdering savages” and “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” The text message also includes a plea to the president: “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”
Two weeks later, on December 3rd, 2017, Bowen was on patrol near Nogales, Arizona, when he spotted a suspected unauthorized border crosser. Identified as Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar in a federal affidavit, the man had been hiding but took off running back toward the Nogales point of entry, “in an apparent effort to avoid apprehension,” the affidavit states.
Instead of pursuing Lopez-Aguilar on foot, Bowen chased after him in his federal vehicle, known as a “Kilo Unit” in Border Patrol lingo. As caught on camera, Bowen maneuvered “the front grille of the truck directly behind Lopez-Aguilar,” according to the affidavit. With the F-150 bearing down on him, Lopez-Aguilar reached back “to ‘push off’ of the hood” before Bowen “accelerated the… Kilo Unit directly into the back of Lopez-Aguilar’s body, knocking Lopez-Aguilar to the ground,” the document states. The Ford’s tires came to a full stop “within inches of running Lopez-Aguilar over where he lay on the ground.”
Bowen, now 39, was indicted in May 2018, on two counts — one, a civil rights crime, for what prosecutors call Bowen’s choice to use “deadly force against a person who was running away from him and posed no threat,” and the other, an obstruction charge, for his alleged effort to “cover up his crime.” Bowen has pleaded not guilty to both counts. (Lopez-Aguilar was scraped up, but not seriously injured according to court documents, and reportedly sentenced to 30 days for the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the United States.)
Bowen’s trial is due to begin in August. But the case is already shining a spotlight on a troubled culture at Border Patrol, the law enforcement arm of Customs and Border Protection, at a moment when both agencies have been grappling with a surge in migrants, and faced allegations of widespread wrongdoing, ranging from physical and sexual abuse of minors to housing migrants in substandard shelters, including one likened to “a human dog pound.”
Read the rest at Rolling Stone.
At The Washington Post, David Von Drehle examines the differential treatment given to rich men in the U.S. justice system: Jeffrey Epstein’s scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system.
When rich people are credibly accused of crimes, does the public have a right to know? Should multimillionaires be allowed to silence their accusers with cash?
According to superlawyer David Boies, “dozens” of women who could give testimony about being sexually assaulted as girls by mysterious financier Jeffrey Epstein are silenced by settlements they reached with their alleged assailant. The exact number is yet another secret in this least transparent of criminal cases. “Three dozen or eight dozen, I don’t know, but there are dozens,” Boies told me recently. He himself represents two alleged Epstein victims bound by “non-disclosure agreements” (NDAs).
Because Epstein can afford to buy silence, he may succeed in shuttering the window of accountability pried open in a South Florida court back in February. U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that federal prosecutors — led by the current labor secretary, Alexander Acosta — broke the law by entering a secret sweetheart deal to allow Epstein to serve a cushy sentence without facing evidence that he assaulted more than 30 underage girls in Palm Beach.
That ruling may prove hollow, however, if the alleged victims are now gagged by their settlements with Epstein. What a galling next chapter that would be in this appalling story.
Epstein, whose enormous and unexplained wealth attracted a circle of friends that included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, actor Kevin Spacey and Britain’s Prince Andrew, travels from mansion to mansion while poor men accused of lesser crimes rot in prison.
This scandal of secrecy points to a creeping rot in the American justice system. Too many cases involving potential felonies are resolved through civil settlements that include ironclad NDAs. Once the money changes hands, witnesses can no longer testify to crimes; indeed, penalties for telling the truth after a settlement often run to the millions of dollars — ruinous for most crime victims. It’s a short step removed from silencing witnesses with cement shoes.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice weekend!
Here’s some good news for a change: a judge in the Southern District of California will allow a lawsuit by the ACLU challenging the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border to go forward.
The Trump administration failed to kill a legal challenge to its practice of separating undocumented parents and children who seek to enter the U.S. to flee persecution at home, with a judge handing an early victory to civil rights activists who say the policy is unconstitutional and cruel.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the suit, in which the American Civil Liberties Union argues that splitting up families at the border violates their due process rights.
The practice, spearheaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, caused widespread outrage after images of children in detention centers circulated on social media. The government argues separations are necessary to properly prosecute adults who cross into the U.S. illegally, while activists say children are being used as pawns in an informal policy intended to deter migrants.
“These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child,” the judge wrote. The conduct, if true, “is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” [….]
Sabraw said the ACLU’s claims are particularly troubling because the plaintiffs in the case had allegedly come to the U.S. seeking asylum out of fear for their well-being in their home countries. The suit applies to migrants who formally present themselves at ports of entry as political refugees as well as those who seek asylum after they are apprehended during illegal border crossings.
“The government actors responsible for the ‘care and custody’ of migrant children have, in fact, become their persecutors,” the judge said.
Read more at the link. The entire filing can be read here.
More good news: a new NBC/WSJ poll found that voters are much more likely to support candidates who stand up to Trump.
By a whopping 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on President Donald Trump, according to a new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
And by a similar margin, they say they’re less likely to vote for someone who has supported the president on most issues.
Despite that economic optimism, however, the poll shows that Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage on congressional preference, with 50 percent of registered voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled one.
Now if national Democrats would just wake up and realize that standing up to Trump is the best mid-term strategy!
The summit with North Korea is coming up next week, but Trump isn’t listening to advice from experts on how to proceed, according to Politico: Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning.
National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks.
For decades, top presidential advisers have used a methodical process to hash out national security issues before offering the president a menu of options for key decisions. On an issue like North Korea, that would mean White House Situation Room gatherings of the secretaries of state and defense along with top intelligence officials, the United Nations ambassador, and even the treasury secretary, who oversees economic sanctions.
But since Trump agreed on a whim to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on March 8, the White House’s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation almost exclusively on his own, consulting little with his national security team outside of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Senior officials from both the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations called the absence of a formal interagency process before such a consequential meeting troubling. Peter Feaver, a former National Security Council (NSC) official in the George W. Bush White House, said his colleagues would likely have held “quite a few” meetings of the so-called Principals Committee of Cabinet-level NSC members in a comparable situation. A former top Obama White House official echoed that point, calling the lack of top-level NSC meetings “shocking.”
Trump has also not presided personally over a meeting of those senior NSC officials, as a president typically does when making the most important decisions.
On the other hand, Trump has given serious thought to whether he should invite Kim Jong Un to play golf with him in Florida if the summit goes well. The Daily Beast reports:
Trump has floated hitting the links with his counterpart as he considers a secondary charm offensive to complement the diplomatic tête-à-tête. The president has already told those close to him and advisers that he is open to inviting Kim to a follow-up summit at Trump’s famous Mar-a-Lago estate and private club in Palm Beach, Florida, as Bloomberg first reported this week.
“He has also discussed [possibly] golfing with Kim,” a senior Trump administration official said.
It is unclear if such an outing would or could occur during a potential follow-up meeting or the one planned, then canceled, then planned again for Singapore. The site of the upcoming Singapore talks, a five-star hotel on Sentosa Island, is located near a theme park, resorts, and—as luck would have it—multiple golf courses.
The article says no one actually know if Kim even plays golf.
I suppose Kim would agree with Trump on this though. At The Washington Post, Josh Rogin writes that Trump still wants to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea.
For almost two years, President Trump has been talking about withdrawing large numbers of U.S. troops from South Korea, where there are currently around 28,000 stationed. The president’s advisers have repeatedly argued against a large-scale reduction, but he remains unpersuaded. And after his upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump will have another big chance to push the issue.
Less publicly, but still privately, Trump continues to say he doesn’t agree with the argument that U.S. troops in South Korea are strategically necessary, and he thinks the United States gets nothing back from paying to keep them there, according to administration officials and people who have spoken to Trump directly about the issue. He often asks his generals to explain the rationale for America’s deployments in Asia and expresses dissatisfaction with their answers.
At Trump’s direction, the Pentagon has taken a hard line in ongoing negotiations with the South Korean government over a new cost-sharing agreement for U.S. troops there. If those negotiations fail, Trump could have another excuse to move forward with large reductions….
Inside the administration, top officials have been trying — and failing — to convince the president of the strategic value of the South Korea-based troops since the beginning of his administration. In February, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly reportedly talked Trump down from starting a withdrawal.
Trump has picked fights with most of our allies at this point. Now he’s whining about having to to the Canada on Friday because he’s mad at Justin Trudeau.
The president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. He has mused about finding new ways to punish the United States’ northern neighbor in recent days, frustrated with the country’s retaliatory trade moves.
And Trump has complained to aides about spending two days in Canada for a summit of world leaders, believing the trip is a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with Trump’s views.
In particular, the president said Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit in rural Charlevoix, Quebec, may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts — and does not want to be lectured by them.
Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say.
Awwww . . . poor baby. BTW, have you heard that State Department spokesperson and former Fox and Friends host Heather Nauert thinks Germany was our ally during World War II? Rachel Maddow discussed this at the beginning of her show last night.
Please watch the video–even if you already saw it last night. These are the people who are running our foreign policy!
Politico reports that many foreign leaders are beginning to wake up to Trump’s insanity: Foreign leaders who embraced Trump now feel burned.
Trump calls Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who visits the White House Thursday, his “good friend.” French president Emmanuel Macron is a “great friend.” And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “great friend, neighbor, and ally.” All have sought to butter up Trump through friendly face time, recognizing that the quickest way to the president’s heart is through his ego.
But all, to varying degrees, are exasperated with Trump.
The president is moving ahead with a June 12 summit with North Korea despite Abe’s grave concerns about its wisdom. He has also threatened to slap tariffs on imported Japanese cars and metals. It’s hardly what Abe expected when he became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the November election or when he flew with Trump on Air Force One in February 2017 for golfing at his Mar a Lago resort.
Macron treated Trump to a military parade in Paris last summer. He and Trump also exchanged hugs and handshakes during an April visit by the French leader, during which Trump said of his guest: “He is perfect.” But a few weeks later, Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite French pleas, and shows no sign of heeding Macron’s request that he rejoin the Paris climate accords, which Trump rejected last year.
Trump has also threatened trade sanctions on the European Union, and is already slapping them on Canada — prompting Trudeau to call Trump’s tariffs on steel imports “insulting and unacceptable.” That’s a change of tune from the early months of Trump’s presidency, when Trudeau avoided criticizing Trump, and even took Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to a Broadway play in March 2017.
All have paid a domestic political price back home for their efforts to make nice with a highly divisive U.S. president. One French parliamentarian fumed after Macron’s visit that France had “prostituted” and “humiliated” itself.
Angela Merkel knew who she was dealing with from day one, evidence that we need more women in leadership positions around the world.
That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?
Sorry that this post has been taking so long. My computer is having a complete meltdown. I’m on my old one right now and it’s reallllllyyyyyy slowwwwww.
I want to spend a little time with the meltdown in Greece which is a complex situation. The most interesting source that I’ve found to date is an interview with French Economist Thomas Piketty with Germany’s Zeit Magazine. Last night, I read a good translation of the piece here. It’s been removed–temporarily hopefully–from the medium site so you’ll have to struggle through the bad German-English translation at Zeit’s site. The most interesting part of the interview is that Piketty explains the history of nations having to repay their debt after losing wars or under other circumstances. He explains that the European fixation with austerity and punishing Greece denies how German debt was handled post WW2 and the reality that forgiving German national debt helped Germany become what it is today. So, why are the Germans not extending the same courtesy to Greece?
Piketty: When I hear the Germans now say that they maintain a very moral dealing with debt and firmly believe that debts must be repaid, then I think: That’s a big joke! Germany is the country that has never paid his debts. It can be obtained in other countries no lessons.
TIME: Do you want to try the story in order to portray States who do not repay their debts as a winner?
Piketty: Just such a state is Germany. But slowly: The story teaches us two options for a highly indebted country to settle its arrears. One has fooled the British Empire in the 19th century after the Napoleonic Wars expensive: It’s slow method, which today also recommends Greece. The UK division at that time the debt through rigorous financial management from – although it worked, but took extremely long. Over 100 years the British relatives two to three percent of its economic output on the debt, spending more than they for schools and education.That must not be and should not be today. For the second method is much faster.Germany has it tried in the 20th century. Essentially, it consists of three components: inflation, a special tax on private assets and liabilities sections.
TIME: And now you want to tell us that our economic miracle was based on debt cuts that we deny the Greeks today?
Piketty: Exactly. The German government was in debt after the war ended in 1945 with more than 200 percent of its gross national product. Ten years later it had little choice but the national debt was less than 20 percent of the national product. France succeeded in that time a similar feat. This tremendously rapid debt reduction but we would never have reached with the budgetary resources that we recommend Greece today. Instead, our two countries turned to the second method, the three mentioned components, including debt restructuring. Think. To the London Debt Conference in 1953, canceled on the 60 percent of Germany’s foreign debt and also the domestic debt of the young Federal Republic were restructured
TIME: This was from the realization that the high repayment demands on Germany after the First World War on the grounds of the Second World Warincluded. They wanted this time forgive the Germans for their sins!
Piketty: Nonsense! This had nothing to do with moral insights, but was a rational economic decision. It was recognized at the time correctly: According to major crises which have a high debt burden result, there comes a time when you have to turn to the future. We can not expect to pay for decades for their parents’ mistakes of new generations. Now the Greeks have undoubtedly made great mistakes. By 2009, the government in Athens have forged their budgets. Why not the younger generation of Greeks now bears more responsibility for the mistakes of their parents as the young generation of Germans in the 1950s and 1960s. We must now look forward. Europe was founded on forgetting the debt and investing in the future. And it is not on the idea of eternal penance. We need to remember.
The Guardian similarly argues that what was good for Germany in 1953 is good for Greece today.
The arguments being used by the Greek government to secure debt relief can be traced back to a little-reported speech made to the students of Harvard University on 5 June 1947.
It was there that George Marshall, the then US secretary of state, floated the idea of a European programme of economic reconstruction. The Americans saw thatEurope was on the brink of economic collapse. Industrial capacity had been wiped out. Trade had ceased. People were going hungry and, in Marshall’s view, at risk of turning to communism.
Despite being the turning point for Europe’s economies after the second world war, Marshall’s speech was not considered as especially important at the time. The State Department did not bother to tell anybody in Europe about what he was about to say and the British embassy in Washington did not think it worth the cost to send a cable with an advance copy of the speech to London.
But the speech was covered by the BBC’s Washington correspondent and, by luck, his report was heard by the then UK foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, in a wireless set he kept by his bedside. Bevin seized on the opportunity provided by the Americans, who said the Europeans had to organise their own plan for disbursing the money. “It was like a life line to sinking men,” he said later. “It seemed to bring hope where there was none.”
Lessons had been learned from the mistakes made after the first world war. Then, the victorious Allied powers had imposed a punitive peace on Germany, demanding heavy reparations that bred resentment.
Marshall tried a different approach. Over four years, the US pumped $13bn into Europe (the equivalent of more than $150bn today) in the hope that it would rebuild economic capacity, enable countries to trade with each other, and rebuff the threat from Stalin’s Soviet Union. It was not an entirely selfless act. The US at the time accounted for 50% of the world’s output, and needed to find markets for its exports. The lack of demand in countries such as France, Italy and Germany in 1947 meant this was not possible.
Britain was the single biggest beneficiary of Marshall aid, receiving more than a quarter of the total. Germany took $1.4bn (11% of the total), four times as much as Greece received.
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. A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the “no” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.<
But how can such an escape be managed? Is there any way for Greece to remain in the euro? And is this desirable in any case?
The most immediate question involves Greek banks. In advance of the referendum, the European Central Bank cut off their access to additional funds, helping to precipitate panic and force the government to impose a bank holiday and capital controls. The central bank now faces an awkward choice: if it resumes normal financing it will as much as admit that the previous freeze was political, but if it doesn’t it will effectively force Greece into introducing a new currency.
Specifically, if the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt (the headquarters of the central bank), Greece will have no choice but to start paying wages and pensions with i.o.u.s, which will de facto be a parallel currency — and which might soon turn into the new drachma.
Suppose, on the other hand, that the central bank does resume normal lending, and the banking crisis eases. That still leaves the question of how to restore economic growth.
In the failed negotiations that led up to Sunday’s referendum, the central sticking point was Greece’s demand for permanent debt relief, to remove the cloud hanging over its economy. The troika — the institutions representing creditor interests — refused, even though we now know that one member of the troika, the International Monetary Fund, had concluded independently that Greece’s debt cannot be paid. But will they reconsider now that the attempt to drive the governing leftist coalition from office has failed?
The European Central Bank (ECB)--which is akin to our FED for those countries in the EuroZone–has stated it will continue Emergency Liquidity Assistance to Greek Banks. However, they are imposing higher “haircuts”.
And the ECB has maintained the cap on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) at €89bn, but crucially it has “adjusted” the haircuts it applies to the assets which Greek banks hand over in return for funds.
In simple terms, that probably means the ECB is treating Greek government bonds as riskier, and valuing them as such when it calculates how much liquidity it can provide.
It’s another tightening of the screw on Greece – meaning some banks may find it even tougher to qualify for emergency liquidity assistance.
This is from Robert Reich as posted to his Facebook page.
Five things you need to know about the Greek debt crisis as of now:
1. The Greek people voted correctly yesterday in rejecting more tax increases and spending cuts. They’ve already been punished too much by their creditors — mostly big banks, as represented by the IMF, European Central Bank, and European Commission.
2. Austerity was the wrong medicine to begin with. It put Greece into a death spiral of economic woe that worsened its debt crisis.
3. Now it’s up to the rest of Europe to respond. It’s in its interest to offer Greece easier bailout terms, and then help Greece get to work on what Greece has already agreed to do — reform its tax system so that wealthy Greeks can’t escape taxation, and reform its budget process to avoid political payoffs.
4. But if Europe doesn’t respond, the best of the worst cases to follow would be for Greece to withdraw from the euro. That will happen automatically if Greek banks issue IOUs instead of euros (cash is already being rationed), and those IOUs become, in effect, a different currency.
5. There could be “contagion” to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy if creditors fear future defaults and the incapacity of the eurozone to govern itself economically. That would hurt the United States, especially Wall Street, whose exposure to European banks is still considerable.
Varoufakis was sidelined a week or so ago, not because of the “disrespectful” style of his jackets, but because of the directness of his argument. As the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said, he speaks the language of economists better than they do.
He has always insisted that the responsibility for the Greek recovery did not lie with Greece alone, that there had to be realism in the conditions demanded by Greece’s creditors, as the sheer human cost was too much to bear. He showed how financial issues had become politicised, how the old paradigms were broken. Worse, he spoke to Eurocrats as equals.
He spoke to the rest of us as human beings, describing what Europe had laid on the shoulders of Greece as “fiscal waterboarding”. He railed at the birthplace of democracy being turned into what he called “a debt colony”.
As his heroic people last night rose up against “debt-bondage” he gave a press conference in a grey T-shirt and today announced his resignation, explaining that some Eurogroup participants don’t want him in the discussion. He says he does not care for the privilege of office but for collective support for Tsipras.
He is a man who walks like he talks, and that talk is open. This is so unlike the secretive deals usually made in airless rooms in Brussels. Here is a politician acting on his beliefs. He will be remembered not for his style, but for his substance. He faced down the automatons by insisting the Greek people should no longer be punished. And his people were with him. He refused the Eurocrats’ parameters and secrecy. He spoke with decency, and not in code. He is not afraid of the word “collective”. Nor is Syriza. Tsipras has said “negotiation does not belong to one person, it never did”. It is possible that Varoufakis was pushed rather than jumped, to smooth a deal, but whatever the case, he will not disappear, even as he revs off into the sunset. He knows, above all, that real style is substance. He saved his best look for last when he said, “I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride”.
I’m going to close this post with a quote from Lenin who wrote about the role of banks at the highest stage of capitalism which is supposed to lead to collapse from his viewpoint. I just always find it an interesting read whenever I see how concentrated the banking sector has become. I’m not a Marxist but I always love a bit of insight when it’s so, well insightful.
As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments, the banks grow from modest middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and sources of raw materials in any one country and in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous modest middlemen into a handful of monopolists is one of the fundamental processes in the growth of capitalism into capitalist imperialism; for this reason we must first of all examine the concentration of banking.
…These simple figures show perhaps better than lengthy disquisitions how the concentration of capital and the growth of bank turnover are radically changing the significance of the banks. Scattered capitalists are transformed into a single collective capitalist. When carrying the current accounts of a few capitalists, a bank, as it were, transacts a purely technical and exclusively auxiliary operation. When, however, this operation grows to enormous dimensions we find that a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society; for they are enabled-by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations—first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate, determine their income, deprive them of capital, or permit them to increase their capital rapidly and to enormous dimensions, etc.
Greece never met the convergence criteria for legitimate membership in the EuroZone. That’s an interesting story in itself. Now, the question is will they stay or will they go and how will all of this impact the EURO monetary union?