The EU's bailout deal for Greece was slightly more generous than expected -- $159 billion of refinancing, of which private bondholders, mainly banks, are expected to eat about 20 percent of the loss. However, rating agencies are arguing that this will be technically considered a default, triggering payments under credit-default swaps; and there is still the ticklish matter of persuading banks to "voluntarily" accept the loss.

Still, given the divisions within Europe, the fragmentation of EU institutions, and the residual power of banks and their toxic inventions, it was no mean feat for Europe's leaders to take this first step. There is reason to hope that it will create the necessary firebreak, so that speculators do not continue to drive down the economic recovery hopes of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy by making bets that they will default.

Would that our leaders, facing a totally contrived "debt crisis," do as well.

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