Appeals to Guilt and Pity

Auckland’s Phoney Homeless Make $100 a Day on the Streets  

Amanda Saxton
Stuff

[In our public-welfarist society, the avenues and pathways to get help are both numerous and ubiquitous.  For some, living on the streets is a hard-core lifestyle choice.  But it only works if people walking by are moved by guilt and pity.  It seems like plenty of people are. Ed.]

Every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. Half of them aren’t homeless, but they act like it.

Auckland Council has announced it will count the city’s rough sleepers to fully grasp the scale of homelessness. We took to the streets to learn about those on society’s edge in the city’s centre, whose current way of life the council hopes to eliminate.  Before sunrise, every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. They’ve been doing this since before the SkyTower was built in the 1990s. One’s lost a leg in that time.

The quartet make chairs out of bread crates cushioned with cardboard boxes and play Fleetwood Mac via a bluetooth speaker.  Someone always drops off a bag of day-old meat pies just after 7am. Buddies the men consider brothers walk past, getting fist bumps and a pie if they’re lucky. A dishevelled, jittery old fella named Joseph staggers over and slips $20 to one of the seated men.

Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown ...
Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown Auckland, hustling passersby and swigging beer.

Its recipient – Mark Phillip – carefully moves two cans of Kingfisher beer from under his hoody to behind his bread crate, stands up, and sets off for the convenience store across the road.  “Joseph can’t buy beer there ’cause he’s been trespassed,” Phillip explains, upon his return. “So one of us goes, and charges for ‘gas money’.”  When asked if it isn’t a bit harsh to take money from a visibly struggling friend, Phillip winks.  “It’s a tax, it’s one of my hustles – it’s what we do out here,” he says.

By 8.30am the men are wasted.
That’s what time it was when we met them last Thursday, and they told us to come back before 7am the next day if we wanted a sober conversation. Which is what we’ve done.

They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless.  But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening. While they call themselves ‘hustlers’, they could also be labelled professional beggars.  Each has done his share of genuine rough sleeping, though, and the pair figure they’ve now got the best of both worlds.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.  Fifty-three-year-old Phillip gets the sickness benefit due to gout, which he believes was caused by decades of alcoholism.  “Yep, I’ve been a drunk since I was 12,” he says. “And I was kicked out of home at age nine.”

Phillip says his first stint of homelessness followed the familial expulsion, and that he’s mostly lived indoors since 1983.  So why, if he has a home and an income, does he wake up before sparrow’s fart in the middle of winter to beg on the streets?  The answer is simple: he’s doing what makes him happy. When asked how he’d rate his happiness out of 10, Phillip says he’s an 11 “easy”.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.
Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.

“Why would I stay home, doing nothing? I love this, I love being with my brothers, I love hustling, I love speaking with people.  “Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”  On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary.  [Emphasis, ours.]

He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey.  “I make sure I go home about 4pm – have a shower, brush my teeth, and wait for the missus to come home,” he says.  He doesn’t miss sleeping on the street, it’s the streeties’ camaraderie during the day he savours.

Phillip says he’s proud of his lifestyle, but sombre when asked what his 13 kids and seven grandchildren think of it.  He admits his drinking was a problem during their childhoods: “but it is what it is and I can’t change,” he says.  “All they need to know is that dad’s living in a house.”

Some of Phillip’s kids are currently homeless themselves, which he says “is their choice”. He won’t have them hang out on his Victoria St patch, but occasionally lets them spend a night or two at his apartment.  “I ask ‘what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to go to [Work and Income]? Are you going to do something positive?’ And they’re like, ‘aw nah. I just want to rest’.

“And then they go back out there. I tell them that if they’re not going to help themselves, no one else is gonna help them. That’s my attitude.”  The police drive by and Phillip tucks the beer he’s been sipping back under his hoody, exaggerating his already hefty paunch. He waves at the yellow and blue ute and gives us another wink.  “As long as they can’t see our booze, the pigs are our friends,” he says.

Freckle-faced Kenny Dahl is 42 and says he’s slept rough on and off since age 18. At the moment, “anywhere I lay my head is home”. He is quieter than Phillip and has a nervous, gulping laugh.  Four or five years ago – he’s not quite sure – surgeons amputated Dahl’s right leg beneath the knee. Its bones smashed when he jumped off a three metre-high cliff in Takapuna, to win a dare.

“Snap, crackle, pop, it went,” he says. Not a fan of hospitals, Dahl limped out before getting the surgery he needed to fix the leg. Infection set in, and amputation became the only option.  Having one leg doesn’t bother Dahl, he says. His crutches carry him wherever he needs to go, and besides, he’s “seen plenty of folk with worse”.

When asked how he spends his days, the amputee asks whether we’d like to hear a poem. We would, so he recites American poet Dale Wimbrow’s ‘The Guy in the Glass’. He says he memorised it while in rehab on Rotoroa Island for his alcohol addiction.  Dahl writes his own poetry too, and enjoys sharing it with passersby in a bid to brighten their day – and perhaps hear the tinny thud of a coin in his stained paper cup.

A red-jacketed friend of the men, also swigging from Kingfisher beer cans that morning, chimes in: “Kenny makes an effort to help the young, eh.”  Dahl nods: “This ain’t no lifestyle for the up and coming.” He says he tries to engage with youngsters veering towards homelessness. When he spies one on the street, he lends them his phone and tells them to call their parents.  “They need to tell their mums that they’re safe,” he says.

If Dahl doesn’t approve of the street life for others, why does he put up with it for himself, especially given two of his best ‘brothers’ live indoors?  “I’m doing OK for now, I think,” he replies.

Sixty-four-year-old Sole Johnstone ran away from what he says was abusive state care at age 16, and began a three-year stint of sleeping under Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.  That was the first time he felt a sense of community: “when I was on the streets, we looked after each other and we got really close”, he says.  He went on to serve in the army, but has been periodically homeless until 10 years ago when a bout of ill-health got him hospitalised. Since then, Johnstone’s been sleeping in a central Auckland apartment complex he calls Alcatraz.

Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.
Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.

He reckons he’d be dead within six months if we went back to sleeping rough, due to his poor health. Three of the group’s closest mates had died this year already.  “They’d have been sitting here with us now,” he says. “But that’s part and parcel of the lifestyle we live.”

Sometimes Johnstone speaks as though he still is homeless.The fact he lives in a proper house seems to cause him a degree of shame – he’s quick to emphasise how he spends more time hustling with his buddies on the street than he does at home.  “I still comes out in the rain, I don’t miss a single day,” he says. “Cause the bros are out here. They’re not in my warm home. So I want to be out here with them.  I’m in town out 5am every morning, wandering around, checking that everyone’s all right. Then we all meet up back here around 7am every day.”

Johnstone doesn’t – quite – romanticise homelessness: “It’s freezing, dangerous, there’s people coming past and kicking you. It can be quite nasty sometimes … The weather can be brutal,” he says.  “The downfall can be drugs, for me it was. I was addicted to synthetics, an alcoholic. Then there’s the getting yourself in debt.”

But he doesn’t evangelise housing to his mates that still face those darker realities.   “I don’t tell them they should do it. It’s a choice [to take organisations such as the City Mission up on housing offers] and it’s their life,” he says.  “Same way it’s my choice to go out hustling, and it’s people’s choice to put money in my cup. It’s my right to put a cup out and it’s been done since biblical times.”

Many of the people walking past the four men enquire after their health, drop off a pie, or question why we’re “bothering the homeless”. Those spoken with say they don’t do any harm, that they feel sorry for anyone spending winter nights on the street.  One of Kenny’s crutches knocks over a Kingfisher can, and its contents trickle down the hill, pooling around Phillip’s feet.  “Oi, don’t waste your blimmin’ beer,” he admonishes, then smiles sweetly at a pedestrian.

Johnstone starts speaking about his love of pedestrians, of his street brothers, and of John Grisham’s 1989 novel The Street Lawyer. It’s a book dealing with homelessness and drug addicts.  “They’re actually nice people out here,” he wants us to know.   “We actually are nice people . . . we’re actually just humans like anybody else. We have feelings.”

As the men drink more, get rowdier, and make less sense, we do a round of fist bumping and leave them to their hustles.
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Appeals to Guilt and Pity

Auckland’s Phoney Homeless Make $100 a Day on the Streets  

Amanda Saxton
Stuff

[In our public-welfarist society, the avenues and pathways to get help are both numerous and ubiquitous.  For some, living on the streets is a hard-core lifestyle choice.  But it only works if people walking by are moved by guilt and pity.  It seems like plenty of people are. Ed.]

Every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. Half of them aren’t homeless, but they act like it.

Auckland Council has announced it will count the city’s rough sleepers to fully grasp the scale of homelessness. We took to the streets to learn about those on society’s edge in the city’s centre, whose current way of life the council hopes to eliminate.  Before sunrise, every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. They’ve been doing this since before the SkyTower was built in the 1990s. One’s lost a leg in that time.

The quartet make chairs out of bread crates cushioned with cardboard boxes and play Fleetwood Mac via a bluetooth speaker.  Someone always drops off a bag of day-old meat pies just after 7am. Buddies the men consider brothers walk past, getting fist bumps and a pie if they’re lucky. A dishevelled, jittery old fella named Joseph staggers over and slips $20 to one of the seated men.

Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown ...
Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown Auckland, hustling passersby and swigging beer.

Its recipient – Mark Phillip – carefully moves two cans of Kingfisher beer from under his hoody to behind his bread crate, stands up, and sets off for the convenience store across the road.  “Joseph can’t buy beer there ’cause he’s been trespassed,” Phillip explains, upon his return. “So one of us goes, and charges for ‘gas money’.”  When asked if it isn’t a bit harsh to take money from a visibly struggling friend, Phillip winks.  “It’s a tax, it’s one of my hustles – it’s what we do out here,” he says.

By 8.30am the men are wasted.
That’s what time it was when we met them last Thursday, and they told us to come back before 7am the next day if we wanted a sober conversation. Which is what we’ve done.

They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless.  But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening. While they call themselves ‘hustlers’, they could also be labelled professional beggars.  Each has done his share of genuine rough sleeping, though, and the pair figure they’ve now got the best of both worlds.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.  Fifty-three-year-old Phillip gets the sickness benefit due to gout, which he believes was caused by decades of alcoholism.  “Yep, I’ve been a drunk since I was 12,” he says. “And I was kicked out of home at age nine.”

Phillip says his first stint of homelessness followed the familial expulsion, and that he’s mostly lived indoors since 1983.  So why, if he has a home and an income, does he wake up before sparrow’s fart in the middle of winter to beg on the streets?  The answer is simple: he’s doing what makes him happy. When asked how he’d rate his happiness out of 10, Phillip says he’s an 11 “easy”.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.
Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.

“Why would I stay home, doing nothing? I love this, I love being with my brothers, I love hustling, I love speaking with people.  “Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”  On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary.  [Emphasis, ours.]

He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey.  “I make sure I go home about 4pm – have a shower, brush my teeth, and wait for the missus to come home,” he says.  He doesn’t miss sleeping on the street, it’s the streeties’ camaraderie during the day he savours.

Phillip says he’s proud of his lifestyle, but sombre when asked what his 13 kids and seven grandchildren think of it.  He admits his drinking was a problem during their childhoods: “but it is what it is and I can’t change,” he says.  “All they need to know is that dad’s living in a house.”

Some of Phillip’s kids are currently homeless themselves, which he says “is their choice”. He won’t have them hang out on his Victoria St patch, but occasionally lets them spend a night or two at his apartment.  “I ask ‘what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to go to [Work and Income]? Are you going to do something positive?’ And they’re like, ‘aw nah. I just want to rest’.

“And then they go back out there. I tell them that if they’re not going to help themselves, no one else is gonna help them. That’s my attitude.”  The police drive by and Phillip tucks the beer he’s been sipping back under his hoody, exaggerating his already hefty paunch. He waves at the yellow and blue ute and gives us another wink.  “As long as they can’t see our booze, the pigs are our friends,” he says.

Freckle-faced Kenny Dahl is 42 and says he’s slept rough on and off since age 18. At the moment, “anywhere I lay my head is home”. He is quieter than Phillip and has a nervous, gulping laugh.  Four or five years ago – he’s not quite sure – surgeons amputated Dahl’s right leg beneath the knee. Its bones smashed when he jumped off a three metre-high cliff in Takapuna, to win a dare.

“Snap, crackle, pop, it went,” he says. Not a fan of hospitals, Dahl limped out before getting the surgery he needed to fix the leg. Infection set in, and amputation became the only option.  Having one leg doesn’t bother Dahl, he says. His crutches carry him wherever he needs to go, and besides, he’s “seen plenty of folk with worse”.

When asked how he spends his days, the amputee asks whether we’d like to hear a poem. We would, so he recites American poet Dale Wimbrow’s ‘The Guy in the Glass’. He says he memorised it while in rehab on Rotoroa Island for his alcohol addiction.  Dahl writes his own poetry too, and enjoys sharing it with passersby in a bid to brighten their day – and perhaps hear the tinny thud of a coin in his stained paper cup.

A red-jacketed friend of the men, also swigging from Kingfisher beer cans that morning, chimes in: “Kenny makes an effort to help the young, eh.”  Dahl nods: “This ain’t no lifestyle for the up and coming.” He says he tries to engage with youngsters veering towards homelessness. When he spies one on the street, he lends them his phone and tells them to call their parents.  “They need to tell their mums that they’re safe,” he says.

If Dahl doesn’t approve of the street life for others, why does he put up with it for himself, especially given two of his best ‘brothers’ live indoors?  “I’m doing OK for now, I think,” he replies.

Sixty-four-year-old Sole Johnstone ran away from what he says was abusive state care at age 16, and began a three-year stint of sleeping under Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.  That was the first time he felt a sense of community: “when I was on the streets, we looked after each other and we got really close”, he says.  He went on to serve in the army, but has been periodically homeless until 10 years ago when a bout of ill-health got him hospitalised. Since then, Johnstone’s been sleeping in a central Auckland apartment complex he calls Alcatraz.

Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.
Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.

He reckons he’d be dead within six months if we went back to sleeping rough, due to his poor health. Three of the group’s closest mates had died this year already.  “They’d have been sitting here with us now,” he says. “But that’s part and parcel of the lifestyle we live.”

Sometimes Johnstone speaks as though he still is homeless.The fact he lives in a proper house seems to cause him a degree of shame – he’s quick to emphasise how he spends more time hustling with his buddies on the street than he does at home.  “I still comes out in the rain, I don’t miss a single day,” he says. “Cause the bros are out here. They’re not in my warm home. So I want to be out here with them.  I’m in town out 5am every morning, wandering around, checking that everyone’s all right. Then we all meet up back here around 7am every day.”

Johnstone doesn’t – quite – romanticise homelessness: “It’s freezing, dangerous, there’s people coming past and kicking you. It can be quite nasty sometimes … The weather can be brutal,” he says.  “The downfall can be drugs, for me it was. I was addicted to synthetics, an alcoholic. Then there’s the getting yourself in debt.”

But he doesn’t evangelise housing to his mates that still face those darker realities.   “I don’t tell them they should do it. It’s a choice [to take organisations such as the City Mission up on housing offers] and it’s their life,” he says.  “Same way it’s my choice to go out hustling, and it’s people’s choice to put money in my cup. It’s my right to put a cup out and it’s been done since biblical times.”

Many of the people walking past the four men enquire after their health, drop off a pie, or question why we’re “bothering the homeless”. Those spoken with say they don’t do any harm, that they feel sorry for anyone spending winter nights on the street.  One of Kenny’s crutches knocks over a Kingfisher can, and its contents trickle down the hill, pooling around Phillip’s feet.  “Oi, don’t waste your blimmin’ beer,” he admonishes, then smiles sweetly at a pedestrian.

Johnstone starts speaking about his love of pedestrians, of his street brothers, and of John Grisham’s 1989 novel The Street Lawyer. It’s a book dealing with homelessness and drug addicts.  “They’re actually nice people out here,” he wants us to know.   “We actually are nice people . . . we’re actually just humans like anybody else. We have feelings.”

As the men drink more, get rowdier, and make less sense, we do a round of fist bumping and leave them to their hustles.
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Appeals to Guilt and Pity

Auckland’s Phoney Homeless Make $100 a Day on the Streets  

Amanda Saxton
Stuff

[In our public-welfarist society, the avenues and pathways to get help are both numerous and ubiquitous.  For some, living on the streets is a hard-core lifestyle choice.  But it only works if people walking by are moved by guilt and pity.  It seems like plenty of people are. Ed.]

Every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. Half of them aren’t homeless, but they act like it.

Auckland Council has announced it will count the city’s rough sleepers to fully grasp the scale of homelessness. We took to the streets to learn about those on society’s edge in the city’s centre, whose current way of life the council hopes to eliminate.  Before sunrise, every morning, a group of men gather in downtown Auckland. They’ve been doing this since before the SkyTower was built in the 1990s. One’s lost a leg in that time.

The quartet make chairs out of bread crates cushioned with cardboard boxes and play Fleetwood Mac via a bluetooth speaker.  Someone always drops off a bag of day-old meat pies just after 7am. Buddies the men consider brothers walk past, getting fist bumps and a pie if they’re lucky. A dishevelled, jittery old fella named Joseph staggers over and slips $20 to one of the seated men.

Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown ...
Mark Phillip, Sole Johnstone, Kenny Dahl and a rough sleeping friend spend their mornings on Victoria St, in downtown Auckland, hustling passersby and swigging beer.

Its recipient – Mark Phillip – carefully moves two cans of Kingfisher beer from under his hoody to behind his bread crate, stands up, and sets off for the convenience store across the road.  “Joseph can’t buy beer there ’cause he’s been trespassed,” Phillip explains, upon his return. “So one of us goes, and charges for ‘gas money’.”  When asked if it isn’t a bit harsh to take money from a visibly struggling friend, Phillip winks.  “It’s a tax, it’s one of my hustles – it’s what we do out here,” he says.

By 8.30am the men are wasted.
That’s what time it was when we met them last Thursday, and they told us to come back before 7am the next day if we wanted a sober conversation. Which is what we’ve done.

They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless.  But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening. While they call themselves ‘hustlers’, they could also be labelled professional beggars.  Each has done his share of genuine rough sleeping, though, and the pair figure they’ve now got the best of both worlds.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.  Fifty-three-year-old Phillip gets the sickness benefit due to gout, which he believes was caused by decades of alcoholism.  “Yep, I’ve been a drunk since I was 12,” he says. “And I was kicked out of home at age nine.”

Phillip says his first stint of homelessness followed the familial expulsion, and that he’s mostly lived indoors since 1983.  So why, if he has a home and an income, does he wake up before sparrow’s fart in the middle of winter to beg on the streets?  The answer is simple: he’s doing what makes him happy. When asked how he’d rate his happiness out of 10, Phillip says he’s an 11 “easy”.

Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.
Former rough sleeper Mark Phillip, 53, has kids currently living on the streets.

“Why would I stay home, doing nothing? I love this, I love being with my brothers, I love hustling, I love speaking with people.  “Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”  On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary.  [Emphasis, ours.]

He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey.  “I make sure I go home about 4pm – have a shower, brush my teeth, and wait for the missus to come home,” he says.  He doesn’t miss sleeping on the street, it’s the streeties’ camaraderie during the day he savours.

Phillip says he’s proud of his lifestyle, but sombre when asked what his 13 kids and seven grandchildren think of it.  He admits his drinking was a problem during their childhoods: “but it is what it is and I can’t change,” he says.  “All they need to know is that dad’s living in a house.”

Some of Phillip’s kids are currently homeless themselves, which he says “is their choice”. He won’t have them hang out on his Victoria St patch, but occasionally lets them spend a night or two at his apartment.  “I ask ‘what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to go to [Work and Income]? Are you going to do something positive?’ And they’re like, ‘aw nah. I just want to rest’.

“And then they go back out there. I tell them that if they’re not going to help themselves, no one else is gonna help them. That’s my attitude.”  The police drive by and Phillip tucks the beer he’s been sipping back under his hoody, exaggerating his already hefty paunch. He waves at the yellow and blue ute and gives us another wink.  “As long as they can’t see our booze, the pigs are our friends,” he says.

Freckle-faced Kenny Dahl is 42 and says he’s slept rough on and off since age 18. At the moment, “anywhere I lay my head is home”. He is quieter than Phillip and has a nervous, gulping laugh.  Four or five years ago – he’s not quite sure – surgeons amputated Dahl’s right leg beneath the knee. Its bones smashed when he jumped off a three metre-high cliff in Takapuna, to win a dare.

“Snap, crackle, pop, it went,” he says. Not a fan of hospitals, Dahl limped out before getting the surgery he needed to fix the leg. Infection set in, and amputation became the only option.  Having one leg doesn’t bother Dahl, he says. His crutches carry him wherever he needs to go, and besides, he’s “seen plenty of folk with worse”.

When asked how he spends his days, the amputee asks whether we’d like to hear a poem. We would, so he recites American poet Dale Wimbrow’s ‘The Guy in the Glass’. He says he memorised it while in rehab on Rotoroa Island for his alcohol addiction.  Dahl writes his own poetry too, and enjoys sharing it with passersby in a bid to brighten their day – and perhaps hear the tinny thud of a coin in his stained paper cup.

A red-jacketed friend of the men, also swigging from Kingfisher beer cans that morning, chimes in: “Kenny makes an effort to help the young, eh.”  Dahl nods: “This ain’t no lifestyle for the up and coming.” He says he tries to engage with youngsters veering towards homelessness. When he spies one on the street, he lends them his phone and tells them to call their parents.  “They need to tell their mums that they’re safe,” he says.

If Dahl doesn’t approve of the street life for others, why does he put up with it for himself, especially given two of his best ‘brothers’ live indoors?  “I’m doing OK for now, I think,” he replies.

Sixty-four-year-old Sole Johnstone ran away from what he says was abusive state care at age 16, and began a three-year stint of sleeping under Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.  That was the first time he felt a sense of community: “when I was on the streets, we looked after each other and we got really close”, he says.  He went on to serve in the army, but has been periodically homeless until 10 years ago when a bout of ill-health got him hospitalised. Since then, Johnstone’s been sleeping in a central Auckland apartment complex he calls Alcatraz.

Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.
Former rough sleeper Sole Johnstone, 62, spends more time on the streets than he does at home.

He reckons he’d be dead within six months if we went back to sleeping rough, due to his poor health. Three of the group’s closest mates had died this year already.  “They’d have been sitting here with us now,” he says. “But that’s part and parcel of the lifestyle we live.”

Sometimes Johnstone speaks as though he still is homeless.The fact he lives in a proper house seems to cause him a degree of shame – he’s quick to emphasise how he spends more time hustling with his buddies on the street than he does at home.  “I still comes out in the rain, I don’t miss a single day,” he says. “Cause the bros are out here. They’re not in my warm home. So I want to be out here with them.  I’m in town out 5am every morning, wandering around, checking that everyone’s all right. Then we all meet up back here around 7am every day.”

Johnstone doesn’t – quite – romanticise homelessness: “It’s freezing, dangerous, there’s people coming past and kicking you. It can be quite nasty sometimes … The weather can be brutal,” he says.  “The downfall can be drugs, for me it was. I was addicted to synthetics, an alcoholic. Then there’s the getting yourself in debt.”

But he doesn’t evangelise housing to his mates that still face those darker realities.   “I don’t tell them they should do it. It’s a choice [to take organisations such as the City Mission up on housing offers] and it’s their life,” he says.  “Same way it’s my choice to go out hustling, and it’s people’s choice to put money in my cup. It’s my right to put a cup out and it’s been done since biblical times.”

Many of the people walking past the four men enquire after their health, drop off a pie, or question why we’re “bothering the homeless”. Those spoken with say they don’t do any harm, that they feel sorry for anyone spending winter nights on the street.  One of Kenny’s crutches knocks over a Kingfisher can, and its contents trickle down the hill, pooling around Phillip’s feet.  “Oi, don’t waste your blimmin’ beer,” he admonishes, then smiles sweetly at a pedestrian.

Johnstone starts speaking about his love of pedestrians, of his street brothers, and of John Grisham’s 1989 novel The Street Lawyer. It’s a book dealing with homelessness and drug addicts.  “They’re actually nice people out here,” he wants us to know.   “We actually are nice people . . . we’re actually just humans like anybody else. We have feelings.”

As the men drink more, get rowdier, and make less sense, we do a round of fist bumping and leave them to their hustles.
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20180716

Psalm 1:6a Because the LORD knows where the righteous ones are going.
He knows the end of our road. That is what makes the difference. We can only take our future by faith. There is no question in God’s mind. He has already seen us enjoying him and reigning with him. All we do in this life is try to catch up and keep up with our destiny.

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Shuffling The Diplomatic Cards

NATO Is Sick

Trump Is The Best Doctor It’s Likely To Get

[This is the best piece we have read on “explaining Trump” that we have read thus far. Ed.]

If you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning require a bit of scrutiny and reform? Obviously so.

Paul Bonicelli
The Federalist

NATO is needed and always will be as long as threats to the West exist in the form of Russia and state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran, whose utmost desire is the weakening if not destruction of Western civilization. But support for NATO, just like support for free trade, does not mean that the status quo must be protected and left unchallenged.

Not much in life escapes the need to be questioned, probed, and reformed. Now, if you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning almost 70 years after its birth require a bit of scrutiny and reform?

The recent NATO summit in Brussels underscored how much the United States’ relationship with European powers is under considerable stress. It is so because the United States elected a businessman, not a traditional politician, much less a traditional diplomat. Each thinks differently, speaks differently, and seeks different outcomes. That above all is causing the turmoil, not simply the president’s blunt messaging.

Business People Want Results, Not Static

Business people like Trump see whatever and whoever is on the other side of the table primarily as means to an end. It is not that they dehumanize them or put no stock in having good relationships. Rather, they don’t see any arrangement as permanent because the bottom line is outcomes, not comity.

Politicians, on the other hand, tend to seek permanence in relationships if they can achieve it because they like stability.
True, politics spawns reformers and revolutionaries, but they tend to seek stasis as soon as they get the position they want; ruptures are exceptions and not the rule. As for traditional diplomats, they are at the far end of the spectrum seeking permanence in relationships: comity and quiet are the coin of the realm.

So whether it is trade, foreign policy, Supreme Court appointments, or just plain old political campaigning for votes and legislation, Trump is bound to disrupt every day and in every way until he gets the deal he wants.  . . .

There should be no surprise that he governs the way he campaigned for office, so he’s having success with the public as well. If the rattled establishment and scandalized diplomatic corps would spend time talking with average Americans, they’d find that many find Trump’s MO refreshing and valuable, even if most would say, “Well, I wouldn’t have said it that way, but…” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that when I do my informal polling around the country, I’d have a lot of dollars.

It’s Not Helpful to Hide the Truth

The way Trump is going about his job disconcerts the diplomatic corps here and abroad, the politicians who must make sense of where he is going, and even the cabinet officials who surely are sitting in summit meetings the likes of which they never dreamed they’d be a part of. Having served in the executive branch in foreign policy positions, I am well aware of how careerists of all stripes are experiencing Trump. . . .

But let’s put aside for the moment that Trump is being harsh and undiplomatic, because he has hit upon some real problems that everyone agrees are problems, and they have agreed on these points through several presidencies: European states are not paying a fair share of the burden of defending the West.

The typical politician, especially the long-serving, is slow to bring up a problem between allies, refrains from bringing it up very often, and is cautious in articulating it. Ultimatums, blunt demands, and criticism would likely be off the table unless an imminent threat were present. The traditional diplomat would likely never bring up problems unless the political leadership requires it, and even then there would be weeks and months of wrangling over the language of communiqués so that above all there would be no risk to the stability and comity of relations among the parties.

Not so for Trump. There’s a problem? Then go on and name it and be clear about requiring a change as we head into negotiations. This bluntness will produce a backlash? Well, so what, maybe that is what is needed to get everyone’s attention. George W. Bush and Barack Obama rightly called out Europe, but to no avail. Bill Clinton, Bush, and Obama rightly confronted North Korea, but without doing so in a way that made the Kims and the Chinese regime appreciate that the United States really means to effect a change in a status quo that endangers our security and that of our allies.

Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Diplomatic Talk

Let’s remember that this is not the first time that Trump has focused on the problem of European defense—not just European powers’ lack of spending for defense, but also the dangers of allowing Russia to control the energy supplies of important states like Germany. He covered this in his Warsaw speech in 2017 that was nothing if not a call for the defense of Western civilization. He clearly meant what he said.

What is truly rankling his critics here and abroad is not that his facts are wrong. Let’s set aside the complaints that he is conflating NATO contributions required by treaty with the contributions each NATO member agreed to as long ago as 2006 and especially in 2014, when they did so in formal terms. Such critics are technically correct regarding some of the president’s tweets and public statements, at least so far as they call him on the lack of clarity of his statements.

But he knows what he is saying, they know what he is saying, they know that he knows what he is saying, and he knows they know what he is saying. I suppose we will have to get used to four or maybe eight years of the president’s critics pretending they don’t know what he is saying or demanding. That’s odd because in politics and diplomacy officials often say one thing when they mean another in order to let the other side save face. So if you can figure out what people mean when they are being vague, surely you can figure out what people mean when they are being blunt.

When President Trump is not being precise about the exact outcome he demands, it is obvious he is pointing the other side in the direction he wants the deal to go. And he wants to go further than his predecessors in solving problems.

Sure, Trump brings a new approach: bluntness, over-demanding, relentlessness, over-the-top praise one moment and trolling and gaslighting the next, but he is not being unclear. His goal is to get the other side’s attention so he can frame the discussion in the United States’ favor.

This will not change. It is time to get used to it and come to terms with what the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation in the world is negotiating for. He won’t stop because critics call him a brute. He’ll revel in that, go up in the polls, and press on.

Consider This Applied to the Russian Energy Deal

The lead-up to the NATO summit, the bilateral meetings, and the press coverage give us a great many quotes to draw from to illustrate the value of Trump’s approach to solving this problem of European defense. I’ll choose just one: the German-Russian energy deal, because it underscores how well his method can play with the American public, the rest of the U.S. government, and perhaps some on the other side of the table as the president negotiates with them.

In discussions with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the president pressed the point that while Germany fears Russian designs, it nevertheless spends only 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, far below the 2 percent it agreed to years ago. Thus it is letting the United States carry most of the burden for defending Germany. Yet Germany wants to make a deal with Russia that makes Germany dependent on Russia for much of its energy needs. How can this be? the president asks.

Said the president: “They pay billions to Russia for energy and then we have to spend billions to defend Germany from Russia. It doesn’t make sense.” You can’t have it both ways, is in effect what the president is saying. He raises an important question. It doesn’t help the German strategy in the president’s mind when they have an energy need now that they turned their back on nuclear power generation. You want to embrace Paris climate change accord thinking? Don’t ask the United States to pay for it.

We Want Defense, But Not to Pay for It

So NATO is ill, and the president has put his finger on a primary problem. The members want defense, but all but four seem uninterested in paying for it, rich though almost all of them are by world standards. They have been content to let the United States bear most of this burden, not to mention the fact that the United States—and only the United States—keeps the sea-lanes open. That is, we do a lot more to defend the West than simply paying our NATO dues and not being a burden to others.

So I return to my first point: NATO is needed, troubled though it is. No less than Henry Kissinger has answered the question “What is NATO needed for?” It is needed to restrain the centuries-old Russian desire to intimidate and conquer its neighbors out of both a sense of insecurity as well as “destiny.”

Confronting other enemies of the West like Iran is also NATO’s purpose. The united power of the world’s richest and strongest democracies is necessary to defeat those who despise and are jealous of our way of life. That is why President Trump’s diagnosis and prescription, blunt though they may be, and delivered with a bedside manner that shakes up the status quo, are in order.

Trump is not trying to divide the West, unless one thinks that blunt talk among rational adults about real problems that everyone acknowledges is “divisive.” He is trying to reform thinking and strategy in a dangerous time by insisting on fixing NATO’s problems. He values NATO, but not our grandfathers’ NATO.

Bonicelli served in the George W. Bush administration. His career includes a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation as assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development; as a professional staff member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives; and as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Tennessee.
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Shuffling The Diplomatic Cards

NATO Is Sick

Trump Is The Best Doctor It’s Likely To Get

[This is the best piece we have read on “explaining Trump” that we have read thus far. Ed.]

If you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning require a bit of scrutiny and reform? Obviously so.

Paul Bonicelli
The Federalist

NATO is needed and always will be as long as threats to the West exist in the form of Russia and state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran, whose utmost desire is the weakening if not destruction of Western civilization. But support for NATO, just like support for free trade, does not mean that the status quo must be protected and left unchallenged.

Not much in life escapes the need to be questioned, probed, and reformed. Now, if you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning almost 70 years after its birth require a bit of scrutiny and reform?

The recent NATO summit in Brussels underscored how much the United States’ relationship with European powers is under considerable stress. It is so because the United States elected a businessman, not a traditional politician, much less a traditional diplomat. Each thinks differently, speaks differently, and seeks different outcomes. That above all is causing the turmoil, not simply the president’s blunt messaging.

Business People Want Results, Not Static

Business people like Trump see whatever and whoever is on the other side of the table primarily as means to an end. It is not that they dehumanize them or put no stock in having good relationships. Rather, they don’t see any arrangement as permanent because the bottom line is outcomes, not comity.

Politicians, on the other hand, tend to seek permanence in relationships if they can achieve it because they like stability.
True, politics spawns reformers and revolutionaries, but they tend to seek stasis as soon as they get the position they want; ruptures are exceptions and not the rule. As for traditional diplomats, they are at the far end of the spectrum seeking permanence in relationships: comity and quiet are the coin of the realm.

So whether it is trade, foreign policy, Supreme Court appointments, or just plain old political campaigning for votes and legislation, Trump is bound to disrupt every day and in every way until he gets the deal he wants.  . . .

There should be no surprise that he governs the way he campaigned for office, so he’s having success with the public as well. If the rattled establishment and scandalized diplomatic corps would spend time talking with average Americans, they’d find that many find Trump’s MO refreshing and valuable, even if most would say, “Well, I wouldn’t have said it that way, but…” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that when I do my informal polling around the country, I’d have a lot of dollars.

It’s Not Helpful to Hide the Truth

The way Trump is going about his job disconcerts the diplomatic corps here and abroad, the politicians who must make sense of where he is going, and even the cabinet officials who surely are sitting in summit meetings the likes of which they never dreamed they’d be a part of. Having served in the executive branch in foreign policy positions, I am well aware of how careerists of all stripes are experiencing Trump. . . .

But let’s put aside for the moment that Trump is being harsh and undiplomatic, because he has hit upon some real problems that everyone agrees are problems, and they have agreed on these points through several presidencies: European states are not paying a fair share of the burden of defending the West.

The typical politician, especially the long-serving, is slow to bring up a problem between allies, refrains from bringing it up very often, and is cautious in articulating it. Ultimatums, blunt demands, and criticism would likely be off the table unless an imminent threat were present. The traditional diplomat would likely never bring up problems unless the political leadership requires it, and even then there would be weeks and months of wrangling over the language of communiqués so that above all there would be no risk to the stability and comity of relations among the parties.

Not so for Trump. There’s a problem? Then go on and name it and be clear about requiring a change as we head into negotiations. This bluntness will produce a backlash? Well, so what, maybe that is what is needed to get everyone’s attention. George W. Bush and Barack Obama rightly called out Europe, but to no avail. Bill Clinton, Bush, and Obama rightly confronted North Korea, but without doing so in a way that made the Kims and the Chinese regime appreciate that the United States really means to effect a change in a status quo that endangers our security and that of our allies.

Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Diplomatic Talk

Let’s remember that this is not the first time that Trump has focused on the problem of European defense—not just European powers’ lack of spending for defense, but also the dangers of allowing Russia to control the energy supplies of important states like Germany. He covered this in his Warsaw speech in 2017 that was nothing if not a call for the defense of Western civilization. He clearly meant what he said.

What is truly rankling his critics here and abroad is not that his facts are wrong. Let’s set aside the complaints that he is conflating NATO contributions required by treaty with the contributions each NATO member agreed to as long ago as 2006 and especially in 2014, when they did so in formal terms. Such critics are technically correct regarding some of the president’s tweets and public statements, at least so far as they call him on the lack of clarity of his statements.

But he knows what he is saying, they know what he is saying, they know that he knows what he is saying, and he knows they know what he is saying. I suppose we will have to get used to four or maybe eight years of the president’s critics pretending they don’t know what he is saying or demanding. That’s odd because in politics and diplomacy officials often say one thing when they mean another in order to let the other side save face. So if you can figure out what people mean when they are being vague, surely you can figure out what people mean when they are being blunt.

When President Trump is not being precise about the exact outcome he demands, it is obvious he is pointing the other side in the direction he wants the deal to go. And he wants to go further than his predecessors in solving problems.

Sure, Trump brings a new approach: bluntness, over-demanding, relentlessness, over-the-top praise one moment and trolling and gaslighting the next, but he is not being unclear. His goal is to get the other side’s attention so he can frame the discussion in the United States’ favor.

This will not change. It is time to get used to it and come to terms with what the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation in the world is negotiating for. He won’t stop because critics call him a brute. He’ll revel in that, go up in the polls, and press on.

Consider This Applied to the Russian Energy Deal

The lead-up to the NATO summit, the bilateral meetings, and the press coverage give us a great many quotes to draw from to illustrate the value of Trump’s approach to solving this problem of European defense. I’ll choose just one: the German-Russian energy deal, because it underscores how well his method can play with the American public, the rest of the U.S. government, and perhaps some on the other side of the table as the president negotiates with them.

In discussions with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the president pressed the point that while Germany fears Russian designs, it nevertheless spends only 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, far below the 2 percent it agreed to years ago. Thus it is letting the United States carry most of the burden for defending Germany. Yet Germany wants to make a deal with Russia that makes Germany dependent on Russia for much of its energy needs. How can this be? the president asks.

Said the president: “They pay billions to Russia for energy and then we have to spend billions to defend Germany from Russia. It doesn’t make sense.” You can’t have it both ways, is in effect what the president is saying. He raises an important question. It doesn’t help the German strategy in the president’s mind when they have an energy need now that they turned their back on nuclear power generation. You want to embrace Paris climate change accord thinking? Don’t ask the United States to pay for it.

We Want Defense, But Not to Pay for It

So NATO is ill, and the president has put his finger on a primary problem. The members want defense, but all but four seem uninterested in paying for it, rich though almost all of them are by world standards. They have been content to let the United States bear most of this burden, not to mention the fact that the United States—and only the United States—keeps the sea-lanes open. That is, we do a lot more to defend the West than simply paying our NATO dues and not being a burden to others.

So I return to my first point: NATO is needed, troubled though it is. No less than Henry Kissinger has answered the question “What is NATO needed for?” It is needed to restrain the centuries-old Russian desire to intimidate and conquer its neighbors out of both a sense of insecurity as well as “destiny.”

Confronting other enemies of the West like Iran is also NATO’s purpose. The united power of the world’s richest and strongest democracies is necessary to defeat those who despise and are jealous of our way of life. That is why President Trump’s diagnosis and prescription, blunt though they may be, and delivered with a bedside manner that shakes up the status quo, are in order.

Trump is not trying to divide the West, unless one thinks that blunt talk among rational adults about real problems that everyone acknowledges is “divisive.” He is trying to reform thinking and strategy in a dangerous time by insisting on fixing NATO’s problems. He values NATO, but not our grandfathers’ NATO.

Bonicelli served in the George W. Bush administration. His career includes a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation as assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development; as a professional staff member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives; and as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Tennessee.
Go to Source to Comment

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Shuffling The Diplomatic Cards

NATO Is Sick

Trump Is The Best Doctor It’s Likely To Get

[This is the best piece we have read on “explaining Trump” that we have read thus far. Ed.]

If you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning require a bit of scrutiny and reform? Obviously so.

Paul Bonicelli
The Federalist

NATO is needed and always will be as long as threats to the West exist in the form of Russia and state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran, whose utmost desire is the weakening if not destruction of Western civilization. But support for NATO, just like support for free trade, does not mean that the status quo must be protected and left unchallenged.

Not much in life escapes the need to be questioned, probed, and reformed. Now, if you don’t like the messenger or how he messages, fine, but don’t miss the real issue: Does NATO as it is functioning almost 70 years after its birth require a bit of scrutiny and reform?

The recent NATO summit in Brussels underscored how much the United States’ relationship with European powers is under considerable stress. It is so because the United States elected a businessman, not a traditional politician, much less a traditional diplomat. Each thinks differently, speaks differently, and seeks different outcomes. That above all is causing the turmoil, not simply the president’s blunt messaging.

Business People Want Results, Not Static

Business people like Trump see whatever and whoever is on the other side of the table primarily as means to an end. It is not that they dehumanize them or put no stock in having good relationships. Rather, they don’t see any arrangement as permanent because the bottom line is outcomes, not comity.

Politicians, on the other hand, tend to seek permanence in relationships if they can achieve it because they like stability.
True, politics spawns reformers and revolutionaries, but they tend to seek stasis as soon as they get the position they want; ruptures are exceptions and not the rule. As for traditional diplomats, they are at the far end of the spectrum seeking permanence in relationships: comity and quiet are the coin of the realm.

So whether it is trade, foreign policy, Supreme Court appointments, or just plain old political campaigning for votes and legislation, Trump is bound to disrupt every day and in every way until he gets the deal he wants.  . . .

There should be no surprise that he governs the way he campaigned for office, so he’s having success with the public as well. If the rattled establishment and scandalized diplomatic corps would spend time talking with average Americans, they’d find that many find Trump’s MO refreshing and valuable, even if most would say, “Well, I wouldn’t have said it that way, but…” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that when I do my informal polling around the country, I’d have a lot of dollars.

It’s Not Helpful to Hide the Truth

The way Trump is going about his job disconcerts the diplomatic corps here and abroad, the politicians who must make sense of where he is going, and even the cabinet officials who surely are sitting in summit meetings the likes of which they never dreamed they’d be a part of. Having served in the executive branch in foreign policy positions, I am well aware of how careerists of all stripes are experiencing Trump. . . .

But let’s put aside for the moment that Trump is being harsh and undiplomatic, because he has hit upon some real problems that everyone agrees are problems, and they have agreed on these points through several presidencies: European states are not paying a fair share of the burden of defending the West.

The typical politician, especially the long-serving, is slow to bring up a problem between allies, refrains from bringing it up very often, and is cautious in articulating it. Ultimatums, blunt demands, and criticism would likely be off the table unless an imminent threat were present. The traditional diplomat would likely never bring up problems unless the political leadership requires it, and even then there would be weeks and months of wrangling over the language of communiqués so that above all there would be no risk to the stability and comity of relations among the parties.

Not so for Trump. There’s a problem? Then go on and name it and be clear about requiring a change as we head into negotiations. This bluntness will produce a backlash? Well, so what, maybe that is what is needed to get everyone’s attention. George W. Bush and Barack Obama rightly called out Europe, but to no avail. Bill Clinton, Bush, and Obama rightly confronted North Korea, but without doing so in a way that made the Kims and the Chinese regime appreciate that the United States really means to effect a change in a status quo that endangers our security and that of our allies.

Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Diplomatic Talk

Let’s remember that this is not the first time that Trump has focused on the problem of European defense—not just European powers’ lack of spending for defense, but also the dangers of allowing Russia to control the energy supplies of important states like Germany. He covered this in his Warsaw speech in 2017 that was nothing if not a call for the defense of Western civilization. He clearly meant what he said.

What is truly rankling his critics here and abroad is not that his facts are wrong. Let’s set aside the complaints that he is conflating NATO contributions required by treaty with the contributions each NATO member agreed to as long ago as 2006 and especially in 2014, when they did so in formal terms. Such critics are technically correct regarding some of the president’s tweets and public statements, at least so far as they call him on the lack of clarity of his statements.

But he knows what he is saying, they know what he is saying, they know that he knows what he is saying, and he knows they know what he is saying. I suppose we will have to get used to four or maybe eight years of the president’s critics pretending they don’t know what he is saying or demanding. That’s odd because in politics and diplomacy officials often say one thing when they mean another in order to let the other side save face. So if you can figure out what people mean when they are being vague, surely you can figure out what people mean when they are being blunt.

When President Trump is not being precise about the exact outcome he demands, it is obvious he is pointing the other side in the direction he wants the deal to go. And he wants to go further than his predecessors in solving problems.

Sure, Trump brings a new approach: bluntness, over-demanding, relentlessness, over-the-top praise one moment and trolling and gaslighting the next, but he is not being unclear. His goal is to get the other side’s attention so he can frame the discussion in the United States’ favor.

This will not change. It is time to get used to it and come to terms with what the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation in the world is negotiating for. He won’t stop because critics call him a brute. He’ll revel in that, go up in the polls, and press on.

Consider This Applied to the Russian Energy Deal

The lead-up to the NATO summit, the bilateral meetings, and the press coverage give us a great many quotes to draw from to illustrate the value of Trump’s approach to solving this problem of European defense. I’ll choose just one: the German-Russian energy deal, because it underscores how well his method can play with the American public, the rest of the U.S. government, and perhaps some on the other side of the table as the president negotiates with them.

In discussions with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the president pressed the point that while Germany fears Russian designs, it nevertheless spends only 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, far below the 2 percent it agreed to years ago. Thus it is letting the United States carry most of the burden for defending Germany. Yet Germany wants to make a deal with Russia that makes Germany dependent on Russia for much of its energy needs. How can this be? the president asks.

Said the president: “They pay billions to Russia for energy and then we have to spend billions to defend Germany from Russia. It doesn’t make sense.” You can’t have it both ways, is in effect what the president is saying. He raises an important question. It doesn’t help the German strategy in the president’s mind when they have an energy need now that they turned their back on nuclear power generation. You want to embrace Paris climate change accord thinking? Don’t ask the United States to pay for it.

We Want Defense, But Not to Pay for It

So NATO is ill, and the president has put his finger on a primary problem. The members want defense, but all but four seem uninterested in paying for it, rich though almost all of them are by world standards. They have been content to let the United States bear most of this burden, not to mention the fact that the United States—and only the United States—keeps the sea-lanes open. That is, we do a lot more to defend the West than simply paying our NATO dues and not being a burden to others.

So I return to my first point: NATO is needed, troubled though it is. No less than Henry Kissinger has answered the question “What is NATO needed for?” It is needed to restrain the centuries-old Russian desire to intimidate and conquer its neighbors out of both a sense of insecurity as well as “destiny.”

Confronting other enemies of the West like Iran is also NATO’s purpose. The united power of the world’s richest and strongest democracies is necessary to defeat those who despise and are jealous of our way of life. That is why President Trump’s diagnosis and prescription, blunt though they may be, and delivered with a bedside manner that shakes up the status quo, are in order.

Trump is not trying to divide the West, unless one thinks that blunt talk among rational adults about real problems that everyone acknowledges is “divisive.” He is trying to reform thinking and strategy in a dangerous time by insisting on fixing NATO’s problems. He values NATO, but not our grandfathers’ NATO.

Bonicelli served in the George W. Bush administration. His career includes a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation as assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development; as a professional staff member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives; and as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Tennessee.
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Monday quote

Individuals—the ultimate in diversity.
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Daily Meditation

Looking up to Heroes

When I was a boy I thought like a boy. I behaved like a boy. I understood like a boy. I was deeply impressed by heroes. Mostly, they were figures from the sports world. There was Doak Walker, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, Sammy Baugh, Bob Waterfield, Felix “Doc” Blanchard, Johnny Lujack. I hoarded and traded baseball cards.
As we grow older, our heroes change, but we don’t stop having them. Enter into my home today and it will not take long for you to see who my heroes are now. You can’t miss the portraits of Martin Luther, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. You’ll see the fading photographs of my father and my grandfather. You’ll see the works of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Jonathan Edwards. You’ll hear me speak of John Gerstner. These names are readily apparent in my office—though perhaps a bit incongruous next to the framed portrait of Arnold Palmer.
Strange, isn’t it? We need models. We need leaders who inspire us, real people of flesh and blood who embody character traits we admire, for in that admiration and inspiration comes emulation. I know that I shall never be Martin Luther. God and all my golf teachers know I’ll never be Arnold Palmer. I cannot be these men. But I can try to be like them. I can imitate their courage as I face life’s challenges. I can be strengthened by their examples.
Though the “cloud of witnesses” cited in Hebrews 11 is a list of heroes and heroines, they are, nevertheless, people of real flesh and blood whose lives are set forth for us in sacred Scripture. Their portraits are painted there for us, warts and all. We even find something praiseworthy, something worth emulating, in the life of the harlot, Rahab.
Let us never grow up so far that we can no longer look up.

Coram Deo

Who are your heroes? What positive examples do they provide for your spiritual life?

Passages for Further Study

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Daily Meditation

Looking up to Heroes

When I was a boy I thought like a boy. I behaved like a boy. I understood like a boy. I was deeply impressed by heroes. Mostly, they were figures from the sports world. There was Doak Walker, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, Sammy Baugh, Bob Waterfield, Felix “Doc” Blanchard, Johnny Lujack. I hoarded and traded baseball cards.
As we grow older, our heroes change, but we don’t stop having them. Enter into my home today and it will not take long for you to see who my heroes are now. You can’t miss the portraits of Martin Luther, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. You’ll see the fading photographs of my father and my grandfather. You’ll see the works of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Jonathan Edwards. You’ll hear me speak of John Gerstner. These names are readily apparent in my office—though perhaps a bit incongruous next to the framed portrait of Arnold Palmer.
Strange, isn’t it? We need models. We need leaders who inspire us, real people of flesh and blood who embody character traits we admire, for in that admiration and inspiration comes emulation. I know that I shall never be Martin Luther. God and all my golf teachers know I’ll never be Arnold Palmer. I cannot be these men. But I can try to be like them. I can imitate their courage as I face life’s challenges. I can be strengthened by their examples.
Though the “cloud of witnesses” cited in Hebrews 11 is a list of heroes and heroines, they are, nevertheless, people of real flesh and blood whose lives are set forth for us in sacred Scripture. Their portraits are painted there for us, warts and all. We even find something praiseworthy, something worth emulating, in the life of the harlot, Rahab.
Let us never grow up so far that we can no longer look up.

Coram Deo

Who are your heroes? What positive examples do they provide for your spiritual life?

Passages for Further Study

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