Delinquent Countries

Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant Photo / Polaris/Newscom
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Trump spouts off about Russia and NATO: On Saturday, at a campaign rally in South Carolina, former Republican President Donald Trump recalled a hypothetical that he said he'd entertained with another head of state.

If that country had not paid up for its defense, and was attacked by Russia, Would NATO still protect it? the head of state purportedly asked Trump.

"'You didn't pay? You're delinquent?'" Trump recounted saying. '"No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.'"

Trump seems "gripped by the stubbornly ignorant belief, even after four years in office, that NATO is some sort of protection racket, in which our European allies come to Washington like quivering shopkeepers and make an offering to the local mob boss from their weekly receipts," writes The Atlantic's Tom Nichols.

"NATO funding doesn't work that way, of course, and while European leaders no doubt had their arguments in private with Trump while he was president, it is highly unlikely that the leader of a major power 'stood up'—as if in some sort of audience with Trump—to ask him if he'd stop a Russian invasion of a country 'delinquent' in its accounts."

Nichols' take—that it's unlikely that this conversation happened at all, or at least that it went the way Trump told it—seems correct. But the most notable takeaway here isn't whether his anecdote really happened; it's that Trump felt comfortable signaling his disloyalty to NATO, and that he did it this way. A careful, well-informed critique of NATO this was not.

Movement in Trump cases: It's going to be a big week for Donald Trump. On Thursday, Judge Juan M. Merchan is likely to schedule the criminal trial for Trump's alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, meaning the former president's team will now know exactly how it may interfere with their campaign schedule. (Merchan may dismiss the case altogether.)

Then, on Friday, a ruling is expected in Trump's civil fraud case, issued by Judge Arthur F. Engoron. The civil fraud case deals with whether Trump misrepresented his net worth to banks and insurers.

Also on Thursday, "the Georgia prosecutor who accused Mr. Trump of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election will face a hearing about her romantic relationship with a lawyer she hired to work on that case," reports The New York Times. Trump may attend that hearing as well.

Scenes from New York: This past September, Local Law 18 went into effect, which in essence banned most short-term rental Airbnbs from being able to operate legally within the five boroughs. (I covered Local Law 18 here.) This has resulted in massive demand growth for listings in Jersey City and Newark—less convenient for tourists, unless they are visiting to avail themselves of Portuguese food. It has also been a huge handout to NEw York City's hotel lobby, which supported the 2022 passage of the law.

A November report issued by the group RHOAR, Restore Homeowner Autonomy & Rights, found that more than 90 percent of former Airbnb host respondents are now struggling with paying mortgages and utility bills, which they attribute to the dried-up rental income and vacant rooms. Almost a third reported that they've been delaying important repairs because they cannot afford them right now.

The New York Times has found that the city's Office of Special Enforcement, the permitting authority that can allow people to continue renting out rooms in their homes, is allowing very few short-term rentals: "Of the 5,661 applications received by early February, 1,387 have been granted and 955 have been denied."


  • Naturally, the Biden campaign has joined TikTok to try to curry favor with the young.

  • Some commercial ships that must go through the Red Sea are making their crews all-Muslim to try to protect against Houthi attacks.

  • More than you ever needed to know about death masks, from the BBC.

  • "In Alberta, kids under the age of 16 will no longer be eligible to receive puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones, while sex-change surgeries will be limited to those 18 and older," reports the Calgary Herald.

  • Other Super Bowl ad takes:

  • And President Joe Biden released a strange video about how snack portions have gotten smaller while prices have stayed the same:

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