Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Revisions Of Diplomacy

Most Americans are not involved directly, or even indirectly,
in foreign policy. What most Americans know about current
foreign affairs is what they read, watch or hear in the media.

Relationships between nations, regions and various alliances
are complicated matters which like individual human
relationships employ simultaneously two languages. The
first language is a language that promotes images and
deceptions --- and is usually spoken aloud. The second
language is one of self-interests and real intentions --- and is
often unspoken. Real diplomacy is the consequence of the
two languages, just as real individual relationships are the
understanding of the two languages spoken between two
persons.

The timeless difficulty of our species is the difficulty of
distinguishing between the two.

Just in the past century on the world stage, misunderstanding
what major powers really meant with their intentions has led
to unspeakable violence and wars. The Western democracies
mistranslated the Central Powers in Europe in the first decade
of the century, and they misread a German dictator in the
third decade. In the fifth decade, they did not misunderstand
the Soviet totalitarian threat, and a protracted Cold War
ended without global violence.

The latter experience demonstrated that international
communication failure is not inevitable. After World War I,
the Versailles Peace treaty helped provoke World War II.
After World War II, a plan of economic recovery for former
enemies, helped prevent another war. Resisting threats,
instead of ignoring them, proved to be vital to keeping the
peace and promoting prosperity and freedom.

But we are now in a new century. Mired in a series of costly
and seemingly unfulfilling local wars, the world’s democratic
powers grew weary, and a recent period of disengagement
took place.

History has a few constants. One is the endless rising of
new aggressive and violent forces --- arising always in
totalitarian states and groups. Much as the various
democratic states, large and small, might not want to have
to deal with these international pathologies, history
indelibly informs us that these malign forces do not go away
left unchallenged.

However understandable is the impulse in the democracies
not to have to constantly deal with threats, the most recent
period of disengagement in the world has quickly revealed
that new and dangerous threats did not fail to appear and
grow --- whether they came from the Middle East,Venezuela
and Cuba, or from North Korea. Russia has renewed a
certain belligerent series of actions. Even the inevitable
emergence of China (potentially a competitor and not an
enemy) obviously cannot be treated with indifference.

Just as Harry Truman foresaw the early Soviet threat and
Ronald Reagan saw the later Soviet threat, the new American
president is attempting to confront the threats of our own
time. He is employing a new language --- some of which is
unsettling --- but so far it seem to be working better than the
old language. He might not be successful in his disruptions
of the status quo, but even those who dislike him or oppose
his politics, have a vital stake in his being successful.

World movements move at their own speed. It is perhaps
a time for all of us to understand better the real languages
being spoken in our interests.

In our form of democracy,there is always time to change
those who speak for us, if necessary or merited --- at a
proper time and at the ballot box.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Our Oldest Ally Renewed

Before the American colonists successfully completed their 18th
century revolt, and established the United States of America as a
sovereign nation, they had a major foreign power as an ally, the
French monarchy. It wasn’t liberte and egalite that drew the French
to our side then (although they were intrigued and charmed by our
representative in Paris, Benjamin Frankllin); it was our fight against
our British masters that brought our struggle to their attention.‘The
British were then the principle enemy of France on the European
continent, and any defeat for the British king was a victory for the
French king and his interests.

Most historians would agree that ultimately the French alliance
was a critical factor. A few years, and their own revolution later,
the French under Napoleon sold  a lot of what comprises the U.S.
today for a few (but needed) millions of dollars. Still later in the
19th century, many French sympathized with the North in the U.S.
War (most of the British were on the South’s side), and three times
in the 20th century, France was our ally in major wars (WW 1,
WW 2 and Korea). Not to mention the Cold War.

Only in 1956 when U.S. President Eisenhower put the kibosh on
Franco-British attempt to take over the Suez Canal, did relations
cool. Although still bound as allies through the NATO Alliance
since 1949, the French have often taken their own diplomatic and
economic path since and up to the present day.

But a curious development has just occurred: the unpopular in
Europe U.S. President Trump and the maverick new French
President Emmanuel Macron have apparently formed what is being
called a “bromance” by some in the media. This is an unexpected
diplomatic turn when it is considered that the 70 year old Trump
might be the age of the 40 year old Macron’s grandfather, not to
mention M. Macron’s interests in elite French culture while Mr.
Trump is known for his affinity to American working class culture.

But their obvious differences belie more significant affinities.
Both are political outsiders who shocked their nations’ political
establishments, both are non-politicians who made their previous
successes in the business world, and both are disrupting national
bureaucratic orthodoxies. President Macron, it should be noted, is
fighting French labor unions and just established immigration rules
far more restrictive than any suggested by President Trump.

So once again U.S. interests and French interests coincide to bring
about cooperation and mutual benefits.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister
Theresa May are also leaders of nations allied in general with the
U.S., but they have apparently not yet discovered enough common
interests with Trump foreign policy to overcome their not-so-hidden
personal dislike of the American president.

It might prove costly for them not to do so --- and quickly. Only
France now has a friend in the White House.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 16, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Town Witness

The most recent American “new town” movement took place
in the 1970s and 1980s, but it is almost forgotten now as urban
centers are growing even faster today --- and with little of the
innovative planning and design impulses that were at the heart
of that episode of social demographic problem-solving.

Known as Title IV new communities, there were about twenty
of them, each a public/private collaboration whose private
developers’ loan financing was guaranteed by the federal
government under the stewardship of the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development. They were located near large
metropolitan areas across the nation.

They didn’t last long -- as most critics of federal bureaucratic
projects might have predicted. An unexpected economic
downturn in 1974, only five years after the first new town was
opened in Minnesota, upended the movement when the fragile
economies of these communities could not make their  loan
repayments, and the Nixon administration threw in the
towel precipitating bankruptcies and stalled development.

The idealism of the new town movement was also. on occasion,
opposed locally for imposing certain design and planning
standards that faced some disagreements on political and
environmental grounds. The first “new town-in town” (called
Cedar-Riverside near downtown Minneapolis) was such a case,
with serious grass roots protests about high-rise, high density
housing. The existing new town complex today serves primarily
as home to a significant number of Somali refugees who have
recently settled in the Twin Cities. Other Title IV new towns
have been assimilated into the suburban communities near
where they were located.

The first Title IV new town, Jonathan, has been integrated into
the city of Chaska, Minnesota --- Jonathan had been, prior to
1967, farmland within Chaska’s boundaries. Today, Jonathan
retains much of it new own planning design and a certain
amount of its original identity, but the earlier innovative
spirit has been mostly replaced with more traditional
suburban growth patterns and standards.

The new town movement is a global phenomenon, however,
and centuries old. All cities, it must be remembered, were
once “new” --- although in practice, modern new towns
have been planned and designed. Notable examples of this
include Brazil’s new capital Brasilia and Australia’s capital
Canberra. The U.S. capital of Washington, DC was a
planned new town in 1800. Prior to the Title IV program,
there were several U.S.new town experiments in the 19th and
20th centuries. Columbia, Maryland and Reston Virginia
are perhaps the most well-known, and still exist. Many new
towns were created in Europe, and the new towns are springing
up worldwide,

I moved to Jonathan when it was very new, and ended up
publishing Appleseeds, the first independent Title IV
new town newspaper. Later, I published and edited the
Cedar-Riverside newspaper Many Corners, a pioneer Twin
Cities community publication. (Many of the neighborhood
newspapers begun then survive to this day, covering local
news ignored by the daily establishment media.)

I was a witness to the growing pains, controversies,
innovative spirit, excitement and disappointments of these
early Title IV new towns. Its basic purpose of bringing
rational planning to urban and suburban growth has been
largely set aside.

Another attempt to accomplish this locally was the creation
of a “metropolitan council” that would oversee the
seven-county Twin City growth through coordination of
transportation and sewers, and later, zoning and housing.
But this, too, after initial successes, has become mired in
controversies and citizen protests against high-handed
regulation and planning.

In the 1970s, growth saw the continuation of the post-war
flight from the cities to the suburbs, and even to entirely
new communities in the exurbs. In 2018, that trend seems to
be reversing, with substantial new condo and apartment
construction in the cities bringing back suburbanites to
city centers.

But the dull architecture, randomness and high prices of 
new housing has little of the excitement and innovation that
was intended and begun by new towns. Combined with
increasing downtown traffic congestion, disappearing
on-street parking, heavy urban taxes of all kinds, and a
plethora of rules and regulations penalizing local stores,
restaurants and other businesses, this trend intended to
revitalize inner cities might be more short-sighted than
now imagined.

Perhaps another, and more creative, new town movement
is in order.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Paul Ryan Takes A Leave

Wisconsin Congressman and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
will deserve the indelible thanks of the nation when he departs
from Congress next January.

Democrats, of course, often opposed him, as did some of his
Republican colleagues, but he was the indispensable figure at
a very critical moment. His subsequent leadership during a
volatile time revealed that he was often one of the few adult
persons in the political room. His frequent selflessness and
constant integrity took the U.S. house through turbulent times.
It should not go unnoticed that, under his guidance, his body
has passed much legislation that remains unacted on by the
U.S. senate.

A former Republican vice presidential nominee, Mr. Ryan had
to have his arm twisted to take the speakership. He did take
the job which proved problematic and often thankless.

Some are interpreting his retirement as a concession that his
party will lose control of the U.S. house next November. There
is no dispositive indication yet that this will happen. It could
happen, but so far it remains wishful thinking by Democrats.

Kevin McCarthy is the likely successor to Mr. Ryan as speaker,
and Steve Scalise will likely take Mr. McCarthy's post as
majority leader. With a new majority whip  (Mr. Scalise's
current postition), this leadership team will faee daunting
challenges in the months ahead.

It seems entirely reasonable that Paul Ryan, a truly devoted
family man, would leave public life --- at least for a while ---
to spend much more time with his wife and children.

I don’t think we have heard the end of the political life of
this still relatively young man who has accomplished so
much with distinction in such a brief time.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2018 U.S. Senate Campaign Update

With 26 Democratic incumbent senate seats up for election in the 2018
mid-term cycle, and less than 10 Republican seats, these contests will
be a major political battle ground in November.

With some retirements and resignations, and several challenger 
nominations unsettled --- as well as the volatile voter mood and the
uncertain prospects for the economy, this battleground landscape is
changing with some frequency. Here’s an update:

MONTANA: Incumbent Democrat Jon Tester is vulnerable, but his
GOP challenger is unknown. Trump carried this state easily in 2016,
but Tester could be formidable. NET CHANGE: Slightly better for
Tester.


ARIZONA: This is an open GOP seat (Jeff Flake retiring). This looked
like a sure Democratic pick-up, and could still go that way, but two
off-the-wall GOP contenders now face Congresswoman Martha
McSally, a more electable conservative. NET CHANGE: If McSally
wins the primary, much better chance for the GOP
.

NEVADA: Another likely previous Democratic pick-up, but GOP
incumbent Dean Heller has moved away from earlier anti-Trump
rhetoric, and his major potential primary opponent has withdrawn.
His strong role in the tax reform legislation is in stark contrast to
his likely Democratic opponent’s opposition to it in the U.S. house.
NET CHANGE: This race will be close, but clear improvement for
GOP incumbent.


MISSOURI: State Attorney General Josh Hawley is one of the
brightest new figures in the national Republican Party, and his
opponent, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is one of the
most vulnerable incumbent this cycle. A scandal involving the
GOP governor might cloud this race, and McCaskill always plays
hardball. NET CHANGE: Hawley remains a slight favorite.

NORTH DAKOTA: Republicans finally recruited their strongest
challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer (the state’s sole U.S. house
member, he also runs statewide). President Trump carried the
state in a landslide, and incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi
Heitkamp is very vulnerable. She is also popular in the state and a
strong campaigner. NET CHANGE: Still a toss-up, but slightly better
prospects for Cramer,


MINNESOTA: Unexpectedly, this state has two senate races in
November. Incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar is a shoo-in for
re-election, but recently appointed Democratic Senator Tina Smith
(she was picked to replace Al Franken who resigned) has a contest on
her hands from GOP State Senator Karon Housely. Mrs. Smith has
seemed uncertain in her first few months, and Mrs. Housely is
beginning to impress earlier skeptics. NET CHANGE: Senator Smith
is still favored, but better prospects for her challenger.


WISCONSIN: Incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is
vulnerable, but recent developments seem to improve her chances.
First, she still has no clear GOP opponent, and it is not yet clear if
either of her two likely opponents can mount an effective campaign,
Second, Democrats have done well in recent off-year or special
state elections. NET CHANGE: A possible GOP pick-up, but now
looking better for the Democratic incumbent.


INDIANA: Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly was a surprise winner
six years ago, and is quite vulnerable in this usually GOP state. But
the Republicans don’t yet have a certain challenger to him, and it is
not yet clear that the GOP primary will produce a strong opponent.
NET CHANGE:  Donnelly still very vulnerable, but his prospects have
recently improved.


OHIO: Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown was rated as very
vulnerable at the outset of the cycle, and  State Treasurer Josh
Mandel (who ran against him last cycle) was a strong challenger,
A family health crisis prompted Mandel to withdraw, NET CHANGE:
Brown will still have a major challenger, but a formidable campaigner,
he is now the clear favorite for re-election.


TENNESSEE: After the GOP incumbent unexpectedly resigned, this
was expected to remain a conservative seat, but the Democrats have
recruited a popular former governor, Phil Bredeson, to run against
GOP Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. In a recent poll, Bredeson
is ahead. NET CHANGE: A possible Democratic pick-up.

WEST VIRGINIA: Perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the U.S.
senate, Joe Manchin is highly vulnerable in this state that went
overwhelmingly for President Trump. The only statewide Dtemocrat
left, Manchin is a former governor and personally popular. The GOP
primary outcome is not clear. NET CHANGE: Manchin is vulnerable,
but don’t count him out.


FLORIDA:  Aging Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is very vulnerable,
and Republican Rick Scott will be a strong challenger. NET CHANGE:
A close race, but Scott has now some momentum.


Other states were initially thought to be competitive, including
Michigan and Pennsylvania, have not yet materialized. A retirement
in Mississippi was unexpected, but there is no indication yet of any
pick-up in this conservative state.

All of the above is only an update. As we have already seen this year,
dramatic changes can occur. Republicans clearly have the
mathematical advantage, but it is far from clear how many seats
they will be able to gain in November.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Extremes At Work

An unsettling factor in this year’s mid-term elections
is the presence of extreme candidates in both parties
for competitive U.S. house and senate seats.

It is by no means unprecedented. These kind of
candidates appear with some regularity at all levels
of local, state and national campaigns. Some are
perennial candidates, and others run as third party
or independent office seekers.

In recent cycles, some of these candidates actually
won their party nomination --- and inevitably went
down to defeat in November even though their party
usually won their races.

Republicans particularly have paid a political price
for these candidacies. Most recently, a safe GOP
senate seat was lost in Alabama to a Democrat
because the Republican nominee was not acceptable
even to many conservative voters. But in the past decade,
conservatives have also lost likely wins in Nevada,
Missouri, Delaware, Indiana and elsewhere because
they did not nominate their strongest candidates.

This cycle, some Democrats with apparently more
extreme views, following the populist outburst of
2016, are seeking their party’s nominations in
house and senate races. On the other hand, as
happened in a recent special congressional
election, Democrats nominated a moderate and
atypical candidate --- and picked up a seat.
This is being repeated in other congressional
races where Democrats are running left-center
candidates in districts where more radical
candidates would fail.

In the senate races, Democrats are defending
about a dozen seats with vulnerable incumbents.
In many cases, Republicans are  putting up
attractive challengers, as they did so effectively
in 2010 and 2014, but in a few contests, their
potential success is muddled by more extreme
candidates. Two examples of this are Arizona
and Mississippi. Two extreme candidates are in
the Arizona race, and this might enable a third,
and excellent candidate, to win the nomination.
Otherwise, the Democrats will pick up a seat.

It’s a free country, and we hold free elections.
Anyone qualified to run can run, no matter
what views they hold. That is as it should be.
It is the responsibility of the political parties
to make sure that they put their best candidates
on the ballot. When they do not, as has been
demonstrated so often, they do pay a dear price.

Within liberalism and conservatism, there is a wide
range of views that have the potential of succeeding
with voters. Outside that range on both the left and the
right, it is far more difficult to assemble a winning
majority.

One of the reasons it is premature to assess
what will happen in November is that the names
of the candidates in so many competitive races are
still unknown.

The two major parties should be paying special
attention to their nominees this cycle.

Candidates matter.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Playing To Win

Like so many 2016 Trump campaign themes, the notion that
“America should win again” was largely ignored, or treated
as jingoism by most Democratic strategists, activists and
those in the liberal media.

Among many middle class elites and their establishment
educational/psychological values, the natural social impulse
to win at games, sports, business, and war had increasingly
been played down. “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how
you play the game’ was now a standard cliche expressed ---
at least verbally --- in certain circles. “Winning isn’t
everything” was another.

Since it’s genesis in the 1780’s, the United States was a nation
that usually won, and except for the grim tragedy of 1861-65,
the nation grew, prospered and increasingly played a winning
role in hemispheric and global affairs.

In the second half of the 19th century, there began to appear
a number of mostly indigenous competitive athletic events
that were played at all levels, but became what we today call
“professional sports.” Baseball soon became the national
pastime, and championship boxing was widely popular, but
American football, basketball, tennis and ice hockey also
drew large and passionate audiences. With television and
cable, even more sports drew more fans. In every sport,
teams that won aroused pride and celebration in their home
cities or in their schools and universities.

Individuals who won in their sports became national figures,
usually exceedingly well-paid.

The passion for local sports teams and star athletes remains
a staple of U.S. public culture --- as does popular fascination
for entertainment stars, colorful successful entrepreneurs, 
charismatic elected officials and assorted celebrities who ply
their trades through various public relations.

All of them have something in common -- they are winners in
what they do. Losers need not apply for public adulation.

Until the Korean War of the 1950s, and Viet Nam a few years
later, the U.S. was accustomed to winning as well.

A mood of anticipating disappointment and loss soon
developed thereafter, as America’s post World War II
global economic and military dominance began to deteriorate
into stalemate or apparent defeat --- first challenged by Soviet
Russia in a Cold War, later by terrorists, and now by a surging
aggressive China.

In 2008, recoiling from a mortgage banking crisis, and weary of
seemingly endless military excursions in the Middle East and
Middle Asia, U.S. voters elected Barack Obama president. It
was Mr. Obama’s intention, formed by his personal
background, to reverse U.S. foreign policies of previous
administrations, both Republican and Democrat, to play a
visibly active role  in much of the world.

The global community was so pleased by the prospect, Mr.
Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize even before he took
office. He did not disappoint them. The U.S. gradually, but
unmistakably, withdrew from many points of global conflict,
altered relationships with allies and competitors,  and turned
from acknowledging deteriorating trade relationships. U.S.
military readiness and capacity was, at the same time,
reduced --- although there was a clear build-up of military
force and activity by numerous potential adversaries.

Meanwhile, those who esteemed these policies were not
playing politically to lose. Forces allied with Mr. Obama,
seemingly indifferent to winning on the world stage, were
quite aggressive about winning politically on the domestic
stage. Their biggest legislative victory, healthcare reform
or Obamacare, proved not to be a winner, however, for
many Americans. This issue led to conservative victories
in the 2010 and 2014 national mid-term elections, and set
the scene for the 2016 presidential election.

That election seemed set to be a classic contest between
the liberal and conservative establishments, and their
well-known figures. What happened, however was that
insurgent figures in both parties stole the show. One was
socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders --- who very
nearly won the Democratic nomination from the early
presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton by speaking to the
populist base of the liberal party. The other was a real
estate developer turned celebrity TV show host who kept
shattering “political correctness” and talking about the
forbidden subject of America winning again.

Today, more than a year after his taking office, Donald
Trump is actively seeking a winning streak in U.S.
foreign policies. He has set in motion a military
build-up, as Ronald Reagan did after 1981 (which led to
the end of the Cold War), and more controversially, in
U.S. trade policy, he threatens tariffs to bring what he
considers unfair trade policies by our trade partners to
an end.

Recently, in the wake of President Trump’s controversial
trade policies and statements, his popularity suddenly
rose noticeably --- even to 50% in one major poll. This has
occurred in spite of relentless attacks on him by the major
media on both the left and the right, and of endless
negative stories about investigations into his past.

Yet predictions of his downfall continue to appear daily,
and a political wave is often forecast for his and his party’s
defeat next November.

Anything is possible, of course, especially in mid-term
elections, but Mr. Trump seems to be doing his own thing,
once again against the odds, and playing to win.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.