“Nice mail room ya got here,” Professor Plum said as he walked in. “Be a real shame if anything happened to it.”

He read the mail…. (More)

Professor Plum then left with Ms. Scarlet to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar library, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

In the staff poker game, the Professor of Astrology Janitor tried to protect a pair of red Kings by opening with a pot-sized raise. The Squirrel pondered for a moment and called, and Chef called behind … exactly what the Professor of Astrology Janitor did not want.

The flop brought the Ace of Hearts, Queen of Spades, and Seven of Diamonds. The Squirrel and Chef both checked and, sure that at least one of them had an Ace, the Professor of Astrology Janitor checked behind. The King of Spades on the turn gave him a bit of hope. The Squirrel led with a half-pot-sized bet. Chef paused for a long moment and called. The Professor of Astrology Janitor offered a pot-sized raise to protect his three Kings and the Squirrel folded, but Chef said “All-in.”

Had she called his opening raise with a Jack-Ten and now held an Ace-high straight? Surely she would have raised pre-flop with a pair of Aces, but might she have called with Queens and now think three Queens were good? Then again, the Professor of Astrology Janitor didn’t think Chef would push all-in with on trip Queens with a potential straight on board … unless she was trying to make him fold a higher three-of-a-kind, which he had, in fear of that straight.

Would she be that devious? Well, yes, she could be.

“I call,” the Professor of Astrology Janitor said. “Three Kings.”

“Broadway,” Chef said, turning over the Jack and Ten of Spades to show her Ace-high straight. “Plus a straight-flush draw.”

The Professor of Astrology Janitor began his plaintive mewling, until the Seven of Hearts on the river gave him a full house. Chef tapped the table and said “Nice hand.”

The Squirrel rapped at his Blewberry. “I folded the two red Sevens. Dammit.”

“I can teach you how to mewl,” the Professor of Astrology Janitor offered.

“The news taught me how to do that,” the Squirrel texted. He tapped at his Blewberry again. “MEWWWWWLLLLLL”

Chef chuckled and went to the kitchen to make Cinnamon-Raisin Pancakes, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

One of the things I was referring to during my speech on NATO was the fact that, yes, they haven’t paid what they should be paying now, but for many years, they haven’t been paying. So I said, do we ever go back and say, how about paying the money from many, many years passed?

Now, I know no President has ever asked that question. But I do. And we’re going to make NATO very strong. We need the money to make it strong. You can’t just do what we’ve been doing in the past. So I did say, yes, you haven’t paid this year, but what about the past years, the many past years where you haven’t paid? Perhaps you should pay some or all of that money back.

The President of the United States, Chief Executive, Commander-in-Chief, and Leader of the Free World

Dear God-King,

Sigh. We’ve explained this before, but once again … no, this time we’ll let Josh Marshall explain it:

There are several things going on here. It’s worth picking them apart. No under-spending NATO member owes the US any money. These aren’t fees owed to the US. In 2014, in the aftermath of the Russian annexation of Ukraine, NATO members agreed to work toward a goal of spending at the 2 percent level over the next decade. The theory is that if each country has spending at that level it will be able to mount some level of defense on its own and not be entirely dependent on NATO. Having each member funding a robust military also makes each country more valuable in joint operations. Whether the 2 percent goal is high or low or arbitrary, the concept is straightforward. But none of this is about making payments or being behind on payments to the United States. Indeed, since the agreement was to reach that goal over a decade, no one is really even behind.

But there’s something deeper going on here. It was good to see President Trump state his support for Article #5. But with this riff on back payments, Trump is making a nonsensical demand which none of these countries will, should or even can agree to. It’s not even clear how they would agree. There’s no mechanism or formula to pay anything. There’s no amount owed. It sounds much more to me like Trump is simply trying to up the ante, make demands which by design cannot be met.

We’re confident that, by this time, someone in your staff has explained that NATO is an alliance to which the U.S. is bound by treaty, and not a country club that the U.S. owns. NATO members do not owe dues or fees, to the U.S. or anyone else. And as Marshall notes – under a 2014 agreement negotiated by President Obama – NATO members pledged to increase their defense spending to 2% of GDP by 2024. And while Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued an ultimatum for members to meet that target immediately, his ultimatum does not alter the terms of that 2014 agreement. Thus, no NATO member is currently “behind” in its pledge to meet that 2% target by 2024.

NATO is also not a U.S.-run protection racket. Peter Layton explains that all of this hullabaloo is about pushing NATO members to share the cost of America’s global strategy. But NATO members are not vassal states that owe tribute to the U.S. They set their defense spending levels to match their own strategic goals, within an alliance to defend Europe. NATO members have no legal or moral duty to support U.S. global hegemony.

Thus, Marshall concludes:

Whether this move is driven by ideology or hostility toward NATO or simply Trump’s personality, the constant need to dominate and lash out, I’m not really sure. Either could explain it. Indeed, whether there is a corrupt bargain with Russia involved, I do believe President Trump is hostile to NATO and seeks to weaken it to curry favor with Russia. Set aside the ‘why’ though and focus on the ‘what’. President Trump is upping his demands in response to signs Europeans are willing to move more quickly to hit the 2 percent goal. It seems clear that he plans to keep upping his demands to keep the alliance off balance and, most likely, finally force a refusal which can justify some future act against the alliance.

Small wonder, then, that the post-Brexit European Union is moving toward a coordinated EU foreign policy and defense strategy and working to integrate their military resources … so they can pursue their own strategic goals, independent of the U.S.

We conclude that, at that point, NATO truly would be “obsolete,” and that may not benefit the U.S. The post-Brexit EU population of 506 million is greater than the U.S. population of 320 million, and the post-Brexit EU GDP of $16.6 billion is almost equal to the U.S. GDP of $18 billion. Thus the EU, not the U.S., may become the largest world power … and nationalists like you and your Brexit buddies will have made it so.

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

I’m actually not upset by the notion that the EU may displace the U.S. as the largest world power. Maybe they’ll avoid some of our mistakes.

But what I really need to know is, are Chef’s Cinnamon-Raisin Pancakes okay for squirrels to eat?

Curious About Breakfast in Blogistan

Dear Squirrel,

Chef says squirrels can have raisins in small amounts. But gardeners often use cinnamon as a squirrel repellant, so you may not like the Cinnamon-Raisin Pancakes. She uses Karly Campbell’s recipe from Stack Happy, which you can find at the link below. Bon appétit!

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

God-King; James Mattis issued an ultimatum; pushing NATO members to share the cost of America’s global defense strategy; coordinated EU foreign policy and defense strategy; integrate their military resources; post-Brexit EU population; post-Brexit EU GDP.

Cinnamon-Raisin Pancakes.

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Happy Sunday!