Saturday, July 21, 2018

Let Confirmation Bias Be Your Guide: Irregular Immigration Edition

Two dynamics are combining to make Canadian politics unpleasant:
  1. Trump's unleashing of ICE and other agencies against immigrants has created a trickle or a flood (more on that below) of people crossing into Canada from the United States.
  2. There are some on the right wing of Canadian politics that seek to emulate Trump, Fox/Breitbart, and various folks in Europe--focusing more on mostly imaginary threats and using various images to provoke racial animus and xenophobia.
So I tweeted thusly:

I got some pushback, which made me realize that the trickle is not a flood, but a smidge more than than a trickle.  The official statistics indicate that 47k folks have crossed the border to seek asylum in Canada.  Oh wait, that is from 2011-2018.  This year, the number is 9,500 and last year was 11,400.  Is that a trickle or a flood?

It obviously depends on one's priors--those who think that any irregular immigration (illegal is a term that opponents use to demonize these folks, irregular is the government term) is bad will see 9.5k and get most upset.  For those who think that Canada should be haven for those who are oppressed, then 9.5 is not that bad.  To be clear, this is for Canada--1.6k for Ontario where Doug Ford is making a stink.  Can Ontario absorb 1.6k (this year) or 6k (last year) refugees?  Yeah. If they all came to Ottawa or Oshawa, that would be quite significant.  If they all went to Toronto?  A blip. 

While Canada is not a big country population-wise, its current population is roughly the same as California.  California faced much bigger flows of immigrants, and it did spark some xenophobia.  The stances the Republican Party took back in the late 1980s and early 1990s still hurt the party in the state today. 

The question today is whether playing up a minor challenge into a provincial priority will pay off for Doug Ford and pay off for the Conservative Party [CPC] as they ramp up the efforts to defeat Trudeau in 2019.  I don't know enough about Canadian politics to hazard a bad prediction.  I would say that the last election in part turned on the CPC's desperate effort at the end to play up xenophobia.  It worked to hurt the NDP, but that gave Trudeau and the Liberals more room to run in Quebec.  The question this time is where will the xenophobes go?  By picking a Sikh to lead the NDP, the NDP may have given those fearful of any non-Catholic symbols cause to vote elsewhere.  But I am not sure they will go Liberal.  Trudeau has broken promises that mattered to some of those folks--electoral reform being one of them.  However, Andrew Scheer and the CPC right now are not that good at making appeals of their own.  Hmmm.

The larger question is this: will Doug Ford, Rebel media (think Breitbart married Fox and produced a less intelligent kid), and the CPC gain traction via white supremacy?  Given that Ontario is very multiethnic and multiculturalism is something that still has some weight across Canada AND being smugly different from the US is a key to Canadian identity, trying to be Trumpian may produce a backlash.  That is my guess and it might be wishful thinking. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Thanks to Donald Trump, people are now questioning whether it makes sense for the US to be in an alliance with a bunch of European countries (and Canada, too!).  Last week, a tweet went around comparing NATO to vaccines--that preventative measures work so well that people start forgetting why we developed them and then only find out that not investing in such efforts leads to the stuff that they were designed to prevent.  So, let's consider both NATO's intended and unintended benefits that continue to make it a smart investment. 

NATO was formed to prevent yet another war in Europe.  After World War II and with the rise of the Soviet Union, it seemed to make sense to develop a collective effort to deter conflict and to defend like-minded countries in Europe and North America. Rather than developing a series of bilateral agreements with many different countries, the US and its friends in Europe formed a multilateral defensive alliance. The whole "an attack upon one is an attack upon all" is the heart of it.

To be clear, it is a defensive alliance so if the uppity Montenegrins (jeez, Trump is dumb) try to start a war, there is no compulsion for the US or anyone else to fight.  Yes, alliances have twin challenges--fears of entrapment and fears of abandonment. That an ally may suck you into a war you do not want to fight or may not help you if war comes (Glenn SnyderPatricia Weitsman).  NATO, unlike Trump's fever dreams, mitigates the first problem--that NATO operates by consensus, so if an ally wants to suck you in, you can say no.  And, thanks to the key clause in Article V, "each country responds as each deems necessary," even if you go along with a declaration of Article V, any/all countries can opt out.  See the Dave and Steve book. Also, we have plenty of practice at not getting sucked into wars started by members thanks to Greece and Turkey (however, the other members may point to the US sucking them into unwanted wars--Iraq and Afghanistan).*

The first big question is easily answered: is it in American interests to invest in peace in Europe?  Hells yeah.  WWI and WWII were very expensive enterprises, and war has only gotten more destructive.  While Trump thinks of these countries as rivals and competitors, the reality is that European countries and Canada have contributed greatly to American interests via preventing war in Europe--that American firms have a secure market to sell to, to invest in, and so on. 

The multilateral nature of the alliance--each country agreeing to the collective defense of all members--has benefits that can be best illustrated by looking at East Asia.  Japan and South Korea cannot agree with each other on very much, so instead of an East Asian alliance system, the US had a much harder time and a more expensive effort.  The US has to work to separate relationships again and again and again, and the level of ROK/Japanese interoperability is mighty low as a result. 

Ok, that's the obvious NATO is a collective effort to defend stuff argument.  The second and unintended aspect is that Robert Keohane was right--that once an organization exists, countries will maintain it as it continues to facilitate cooperation.  NATO has not just been helpful for the United States in preventing war in Europe, it has also facilitated American interests in other ways.  Let's listicle, shall we:
  1. NATO ended one civil war that the UN and EU failed to manage (Bosnia) and stopped ethnic cleansing (Kosovo) that could have destabilized an entire region.
  2. Despite my criticisms of NATO conditionality, it is the case that NATO helped the transition of East European countries to democracy by encouraging/developing the civilian control of their various militaries--note that whatever movements being made to autocracy are not being led by anyone's armed forces in the region (Vachudova, Epstein).
  3. Flying AWACS planes over American cities in the aftermath of 9/11
  4. NATO has had fleets doing counter-terrorism and counter-piracy work.  We don't hear much about them, but they have been pretty effective.
  5. NATO held the fort in Afghanistan while the US was distracted by its Iraq adventure.  The allies were very much doing the US a favor at the costs of more than a thousand lives of their soldiers (many private contractors as well, but their lives don't count) and billions of dollars, Euros and other currencies.  That the war was complicated by caveats (see Dave and Steve book) does not mean that allies did not contribute and did not pay for it, yes, even the Germans.  That Afghanistan hasn't worked out that great is much less about caveats and allied contributions and much more about American bad decisions and, well, third party counter-insurgency being really hard (Simpson)
  6. Stopping a mass killing before it happened, and, yes, doing a smidge of regime change in Libya.
  7. Providing a market for American arms manufacturers.  Oh yeah, that whole technical interoperability tends to mean buy American.  Nice coincidence, right?
I am sure I am leaving stuff out.  The general point is that after the end of the Cold War, NATO didn't disappear.  Instead, its members found other uses for it, since it had a handy set of capabilities (managing an air campaign over Libya illustrated that).  It also made for very cooperative relations that spilled over to other areas.  Yes, being part of a multilateral alliance meant compromises--that the US didn't always get what it wanted, but it has always been very much a force and power multiplier--the US had more influence, not less, in Europe and beyond. 

It would be dumb to throw it away, especially when its original purpose--defending against the enemy to the east--is now quite relevant again.  But Trump is dumb and speaking of being compromised ....  Anyhow, NATO has an instrument of American influence and power.  If one tosses it aside, well, it is because one is either too dumb to see it or uninterested in having the US remain influential.  Which one is Trump?

* No, 2003 did not involve NATO, but members of NATO faced great pressure to join that effort and many did so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Implausible Deniability: Trump Tries

One of the things I have been thinking about for about four years has been this: how implausible can a claim be and still be politically useful?  Is implausible deniability a thing?  Of course, it is the master, Vladimir Putin, who got me thinking about this.  What, Russians in Ukraine?!  Can't be.  The whole winking and nudging while saying that Crimea voted freely for annexation and from then on, all kinds of stuff.

Well, yesterday, Trump tried--changing one sentence from his disastrous press conference with his the master. The problem, of course, is that Trump didn't just say one time that the Russians didn't hack the election--he said it multiple times at one press conference.  One minor changing in wording does not erase the rest of press conference nor the rest of his statements before or since.

However, it seems to provide Republicans with just enough cover to try to put this behind him, which reminded me of the Duck and Cover video where the US government recommended that people use newspapers or picnic blankets if caught out in the open during a nuclear attack.  That is, it might provide some reassurance, but that reassurance is based on an entirely false claim. But wishful thinking is a thing, and cowardice in the GOP is definitely a thing.  Yeah, they would be risking their careers if they took a stand... so what?

Whatever peace Trump thought he would get from his minor adjustment to his Helsinki comments has been erased by his interview with white supremacist Tucker Carlson.  Trump concurred with Carlson that he doesn't see why Americans should put their lives at stake in the defense of NATO countries.  This should not be surprising from Trump, who dodged the draft, and who has been a committed isolationist.

Mrs. Spew and I got into an argument, as she is not surprised by how awful all of this is.  I said, as I have said here, that my imagination simply was not good enough.  That some of the stuff Trump does and says is shocking and appalling even if we should know better--that he will always go lower (like saying that Europe has diminished itself by letting in immigrants--not that he has paid much of a price for that).  Then again, my wife edits mysteries and thrillers and aspires to write some--so her imagination may be darker than mine.  After all, when we moved to San Diego, she could not help but note that the canyons of the area were handy places to dispose of bodies.... which is why I never invested much in life insurance..... Joking.

Anyhow, I am sure that Trump aides will dismiss the anti-NATO stance, but the members of NATO will not forget it as it is very much in line with his performance at the NATO summit.  American leaders had to spend a great deal of effort over the years reassuring European allies that the US would follow through on its commitments because those promises were, indeed, costly.  Why sacrifice Chicago for Berlin?  Because European peace is in American interests, it isn't charity.  However, all that work by Democratic and Republican Presidents is now being eroded very, very quickly by an unqualified President who has more in common with the leader of Russia than the leaders of the west.

All it takes is for the US to not show up when needed just once to do irrevocable damage to the alliance.  Does Putin know this?  Yes.  Am I worried?  Hells yeah.  Would a modest word change reassure anyone?  Not at all, although Marco Rubio would surely find a way to weasel out of it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Living in an Age of Rage

I am in the midst of doing CBC syndicated radio across Canada this afternoon.  I am talking about the Trump-Putin summit, and well, ...:

So far, so good, no cursing, but also no equivocating or balancing.  Just speaking the truth:
  1. That Trump sold out a precious commodity--recognition of Russia as an equal--for nothing.  Not even a bag of magic beans.  During the Cold War, the Soviets desperately wanted to be seen as an equal.  Nixon and Kissinger finally gave them this recognition via detente--and got stuff from it--arms control, Helsinki Accords (which the annexation of Crimea trashed), and other stuff.  Sure, there were problems and contradictions, as the US did not think it was giving the Soviets carte blanche to invade Afghanistan and parachute troops around Africa.  Anyhow, when the USSR collapsed, so did its parity.  This is something Putin was desperate to reverse.  Today, he got it--as Trump recognized Russia and Putin as partners in guaranteeing international peace and order.  What did Trump get? Today, nothing. Well, a soccer ball.  
  2. That the concerns about the private one on one are legitimate.  Trump is an unreliable narrator so his staff will have no idea what they talked about for two hours.  Putin probably has it taped and could certainly come up with a falsified account if needed.  So, no, we will never really know what they talked about.
  3. Trump basically said that he believes Putin (don't see why Putin would intervene in the election) over his own intel agencies.  Talk about a crisis in civ-civ relations.  What will the intel community do?  I have a guess: leak like a sieve.  I am not saying that the indictment of a Russian who worked with the NRA is a leak.... but do watch the newspapers over the next few days.
  4. What else did they talk about?  Who the fuck cares?  No deliverables, no progress on any file.  
  5. What did each leader walk away with?  If Trump had the capacity for shame, well, he'd at least have that.  Not much else.  Putin?  He got to appear as an equal, and he got to divide the west.

Not a great deal for democracy and the west.  If only I could have bet on Trump mentioning the electoral college during the press conference, then I could have been a winner.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

That is What the Money Is For!

I have spent the past two days very frustrated.  Why?  Because NATO is not an organization aimed at standards for how much money one should spend on defense, but rather it is an alliance aimed at producing... peace and prosperity in Europe via security guarantees.  In the past, its purpose was to deter the Soviet Union and then to stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and then support the US in its war in Afghanistan.... and now, back to deterring Russia and fostering stability.  That is NATO's day job.  Burden sharing is a process question--how do we make sure that countries share in the effort?

The 2% standard--that countries will aspire (try, maybe) to spend 2% of their GDP on defense annually  2024.  The idea of this standard is to get countries to spend more money on their defenses so that they have more capabilities, and, when needed, NATO can deliver more capability as members volunteer their stuff (remember, force generation is begging--see chapter 2).

SACEUR approaching the stage,
not going to say much interesting stuff
So, the story in Canada (and is probably replicated in many allies) is that Canada signed onto the communique, which has the 2% figure in it BUT Trudeau has said that Canada is going to continue with its plans to spend a bunch more money to modernize its Navy and Air Force, as promised in the Strong Secure Engaged Defence Review doc.  Which means that Canada will approach 1.5% of GDP in 2024 but not go beyond (unless the economy tanks, but then the military budget is likely to be cut in such circumstance).  So, Canada falls short of the 2% metric (but does well by other metrics that focus on spending on new equipment, or kit as they call it up here) BUT will be following through in the spirit of 2% by developing the capabilities that will allow Canada's military to play a positive role in future NATO ops. 

Thus, Trudeau is fudging things (as have other pols), but actually is doing .... the right thing.  IF, IF, IF they actually deliver on their deliverology and build the ships and acquire the planes.  The real  uber-question in Canada is not 2% but can it actually procurement what it is trying procure?

Folks back home are wondering if Trudeau is lying or being deceptive.  I don't think so.  Yes, it is a contradiction to sign the document that promises 2% and then be quite clear that Canada isn't going to spend 2%, but it is more honest than gaming the numbers.

Speaking of dishonesty, Trump lied and lied and bullied.  2% by January?  4% instead? He is just playing with numbers.  If he really cared about the alliance, he would be less focused on a blunt statistic and consider both investments and contributions.  But that would require him caring and paying attention to reality.   Not his strengths.  

So, instead, he threw a hissy fit, raised questions about whether the US would stay in the alliance and then had a press conference that made little sense (yes, he invoked the electoral college win but confused Minnesota and Wisconsin).  My basic line on Trump is this: yeah, we can pander to him as I advised long ago, but don't sell out your soul or, more importantly, give too much room for the Trump-hating opponents in one's political system to outflank you.

I implore folks to focus more on the doing and less on the burden-sharing debate.  The money metric is aimed at NATO doing more stuff and doing it more capably.   Let's focus on that, and not a silly number that is not actually anything but a convenient metric.  As we learned with body counts, just because you can measure something does not mean you are measuring something meaningful.

Yes, this whole thing is driving me to drink.  Good thing there is good beer here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Brussels Summit, 2018: A Toddler Tantrum

Heaps of helos flew over--at least five of these squadrons
This picture also shows the big NATO building and
how not so close we are to it.
I spent today at the NATO Engages Expert Forum that was near but not at the summit.  We were in a building/tent beyond the parking lot, so they had to shuttle various leaders from NATO's big shiny new building that we were not allowed to besmirch.  Like the last time, we had a bunch of panels--many with politicians and officials, some with experts.

What was different this time?
  • The room was not nearly as deep blue.
  • The room was set up like theatre in the round, which meant I mostly saw people's backs.
  • Instead of the "cool, let's see how much progress we make vibe," we had a "$Q@#$@$, do we have to focus only 2% and burden-sharing, as opposed to NATO doing stuff" vibe.  Oh, and a kind of exhausted parent of a toddler kind of feel.  
  • The panels were different from the past (see below)
Because, yeah, Trump colored everything.  He started his day ranting about Germany and being mean to the super nice (and surprisingly humorous Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg).

So, how did it go?

The first panel was far more interesting than expected: German Minister of Defense von der Leyen was feisty and dynamic as she had to put up with a pretty hostile Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Cavusoglu with the Polish MFA Czaputowicz being pretty meh.  Things got hot when the Turkish MFA explained that Turkey bought Russian missiles since Germany abandoned Turkey and said that Italy was a real ally, indicating Germany was not so much of one.  So, not the political niceties and superblandness I was expected.

Closest I have ever been to PMJT
The second panel was super-Canadian: PM Justin Trudeau, enthusiastic head-nodder MFA Freeland and dry MinDef  Saijan came out and were wildly popular.  Why?  Because here were folks who loved NATO in a crowd of NATO lovers.  Trudeau announced a "new" Canadian mission--leading a NATO training mission in Iraq with 250 or so troops and helos.  It was "new" and not new as Canada already had that number of folks there doing training.  The difference? Training the Iraqi trainers of the next generation of Iraqi army rather than training Kurds to fight.  So, probably less Special Ops types.  Oh, and to lead the NATO effort.  Canada has much experience in training the trainers from Afghanistan.  So, a contribution but not a radically new one.  The three of them were mostly boringly nice for the first 25 minutes, particularly as they got softball questions from grateful Latvians (for the Canadian persistent presence there, that was part of the Warsaw Summit agreements).  Then the Macedonian Foreign (might have been Defense) Minister asked if Macedonia could be a member, and the Canadians were enthused.  It finished with Trudeau doing a very enthusiastic and dynamic call for countries to focus more on the doing (which Canada does) than the spending (which Canada doesn't do as much) and making a difference.  The Germans loved this since they have a similar "enough with the 2% crap" message.  The crowd loved JT.  He is, like Obama often was, more popular outside his country than in.  I felt kind of proud to be Canadian, but probably not as strongly felt as my embarrassment for being an American with Trump tantrum-ing nearby.

The third panel had the surprisingly humorous Jens Stoltenberg, NATO SG, getting grilled by CNN reporter Barbara Starr.  He joked that Trump paid for breakfast (the one where Trump yelled at him).  It was not that informative, but still pretty interesting.

The final panel before lunch was on Inclusive Security.  This mostly referred to women in a variety of ways, and had three speakers---one American LTG Shepro, Isabelle Arradon of the International Crisis Group and Lima Ahmad, an Afghan from NATO Defence College.  It was pretty good, but was light on specific policy recommendations--that my pal Stefanie Von Hlatky pointed out the initiatives regarding women in the NATO communique were thinner than she had seen in previous drafts.  Still, it was well done and interesting.

The spotlight panel on technology was, well, when I was hungry so I didn't pay much attention.  Hangry Steve!

SVH did not say anything that to be bleeped
I missed the first panel of the afternoon, which was a bummer since I wanted to see Julia Ioffe in person (a very good journalist to follow on twitter) because I was scrumming!  I had to reject a bunch of media invites in Canada because I was at the event, but a bunch of media folks were at the event looking to talk to me and Stefanie.  So, it was fun, especially when I said something about "Trump talking out of his ass." I doubt they will use that on TV.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur as jet lag and conference fatigue hit me pretty hard.  The one panel that made an impact was with the Prime Minister of Macedonia (Republic of North Macedonia), which, fresh off of making an agreement with Greece about the name thing, is now in line to become NATO's next new member.   We then saw a movie dedicated to the retiring Jamie Shea, an institution at NATO.  It was roast-ish and funny.  And then he talked and was funny.

the dinner-less reception
Dinner was a lie.... that is, the reception was supposed to include a buffet which didn't happen.

So, what are my big reactions to the news of the day and how did I answer the various questions hurled in the scrum:
  • Despite the efforts of Trudeau to brand Canadian efforts as big and super special, they are mostly branding and not much that is new AND Trump doesn't care anyway.
  • the 2% thing was just Trump's way to rant at NATO and try to flip tables, which was underlined by his brainstorm to suggest spending 4%
  • that in our room and probably the big room, Trudeau won more fans than Trump, but the relative power meant that Trump was still more influential.  Still, Trudeau did do a good job of carrying the banner of the rules based

    international order, something folks were desperate to see.
  • the NATO communique identifying the areas of agreement came out late in the day (a day earlier than the last summit) and was about half the size of the last summit.  Not a lot of super initiatives, but notable stuff--Macedonia being officially in line for membership, heaps of hostile text towards Russia, the new NATO training mission in Iraq, and some other stuff.  Nothing as important as the enhanced forward presence in the Baltics like last time.

EU Tour and then Some

I got to Brussels a day ahead of the summit, and I got a chance to see Brussels and tour the EU.  I have been to Brussels a number of times, so it is not new to me, but I always see something different.  Alas,  I saw much sadness after Belgium lost to France in the World Cup.  It was kind of exciting to be walking the street with gasps and ooos emanating from all of the bars.  Of course, there is one element of Belgium I appreciate the most....

This time I went to a small beer museum that is right on the Grand Market.

Map of breweries in Belgium--yep, a lot.
EU Commission was across
the street from where we toured
A former student of mine now works for the President of the EU Council--tis the body consisting of the leaders of each member, so it is more political than techocratic.  If I remembered my lessons well. 

The Ikea conference room
Yeah, like someone would put me in a position of power.

Happy to hang with former student Helena H. 
She reminded me of all the super-sharp undergrads and how
fun it is to see them become super responsible adults.
 Then some random shots on the way back--the standard coffee pic

The standard wacky building pic

Sunday, July 8, 2018

NATO Summit Approaching!

Two years ago, I got to go to the NATO Summit side party in Warsaw.  The blue of the expert forum's tent is still in my eyes.  That summit, among other things, presented the new commitment to send a "persistent [can't use Permanent due to respect for a dead treaty] presence" to the Baltics.  Which leads to the question du jour: what is the next NATO summit going to produce?  Again, I am going to the expert forum side party--this one will be at NATO headquarters instead of tents at a soccer football stadium.

Last time, much of the focus was on anticipating what would be in the communique that would represent what was agreed on.  I remember that it was enumerated, and it had something like 140 or more pieces to it (ok, 139).  This time? Um....  I think people will mostly be wondering if there is a communique, given what happened at the G-7 Summit or even if there is a NATO.

It seems like Trump only cares about one thing, and it is not what NATO is doing to foster peace and stability in and near Europe.  Nope, he only "cares" about whether enough countries are paying for NATO... which, of course, he is entirely confused or deliberately ignorant about how the whole 2% expectation works.  To remind folks, here is the burden-sharing bit in a nutshell:
  • NATO agreed in 2014 (the Wales Summit) that countries should aspire to reach spending 2% of their GDP on .... their own defense in 2024.  The idea is that if they have better (more, higher tech) armed forces, then NATO will be more capable.
  • Most countries have not reached 2% (again, the goal was to reach it by 2024), although nearly all members have increased defense spending.  Not to please Trump as most of this was in the works prior to his win, but in reaction to Putin/Russia/Crimea/Ukraine and a realization that the military cuts had been too deep.
  • The 2% metric is simple but deceptive since Greece scores really well (if the denominator is GDP, well, there you go) but Greece's armed forces have not played a meaningful role in a NATO operation since...., um, .....   Yeah.  Maybe the Cold War?
  • Trump rails about this as if the core value at stake--peace and stability in Europe--is not something the US would want even if it had to pay for it on its own.  
  • Even if the other members hit 2%, Trump would be upset at the US spending more, forgetting that the US is spending more on defense because (a) it has other priorities around the world; (b) it chooses to do so.  
Anyhow, there is no doubt that the burden-sharing debate will have center-stage, so much so that it is likely to drive all other agenda items to the margins or beyond.  Indeed, there is not really much of an agenda for this summit.  Why?   Because the US usually helped to push the agenda forward, and it no longer has either the interest to do so or the ability since the upper levels of State are still barren.  Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo made much of a dent at previous ministerials to advance any particular goals beyond folks spending more.

There will be major initiative akin to the 2016 summit's Enhanced Forward Presence.  There will be discussion of Russia, but probably nothing major to initiate--certainly not reviving the NATO-Russia Council.  There will be discussion of making it easier to move troops across national borders within NATO--there is no Schengen borderlessness for military units.  The need for this is obvious as exercises have shown how hard it is to get stuff from West to East, but I am doubtful that much will actually happen on this issue. There will be more talk of NATO-EU cooperation, but action?  I tend to doubt it.  Promises of NATO doing more training of Iraqi military and the like?  Probably.

But the show will be Trump and how much of NATO can he burn down.  Because his priority is to burn down any multilateral institution--anything that treats other countries semi-equally is something Trump opposes.  Plus anything that ties the US to other countries is a bad thing in his eyes.  The 2% thing is an excuse.  Yes, other countries should spend more on defense (and mostly spend better, yes, Germany, we are talking to you), but the consistency in Trump's stances towards international organization is hostility, not burden-sharing concerns.

So, I am headed to Brussels this week to watch a trainwreck up close.  The good news is that there is no NATO disco party scheduled this time.  Phew. I am sure that SVH is relieved she doesn't have to see me dance this time (she and I both went to Warsaw and are going to Brussels).

Old TV?

So, this came along on twitter:
My first thought was, yeah, I have heard that Netflix has renewed interest in Friends.
My second thought was: hey, Friends is much further away from day's kids (first run was from 1994-2004) than damn near everything I watched when I was growing up in the early to mid 70s?:
  • The Monkeys was on from 1966-68
  • Star Trek was from 1966-69
  • Hogan's Heroes, a personal fave, was from 1965-1971
  • McHale's Navy was from 1962-66
  • Gilligan's Island was 1964066
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is from 1964-1968 (I just found its first season on DVDs, so looking forward to that bit of nostalgia.
  • Dick Van Dyke was from 1961-1966.
Hmmm, I guess I didn't watch many 1950s TV shows deep into the 1970s (Mrs. Spew mentioned I love Lucy), but definitely early 1960s. To put it in some perspective, when Happy Days came out, it was closer to the 1950s than we are to when Friends came out in the mid 1990s.  Indeed, we are further away from Happy Days than the mid-70s was from the Great Depression. 

In short, we are getting old.  That whole stat of the Berlin Wall being down longer than it was up should give us a reality check, but we are much better at grasping the passage of other people's time (the history books we read and lessons we got in school) than time flying by in our lifetimes.

Why blog about this?  Because I watched way too much TV in my entire life the 1970s? That and because it helps put the passage of time in perspective.  As I am on the "wrong" side of 50, I could use that and also this bit of distraction sauce given the awful mess and regression that is 2018