Tuesday, June 21, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Turns


The media preoccupation with Ukraine has caused attention

to be diverted from many other international developments,

many of which are significant to U.S. relationships around

the world.


Most recent were parliamentary elections in France in which

newly reelected President Emmanuel Macron lost his

centrist party’s majority as a coalition of parties on the left

made notable gains to be the largest opposition group in

the parliament, and Mme. Marine Le Pen’s party on the

right also made gains to become the next largest party.

In order to pass legislation, M. Macron will probably have

to work with the fourth largest party, a conservative group,

and legislators from smaller parties. President Macron,

after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent retirement,

had become the leading political figure in the continental

European Union (EU), will likely now have to look more to 

his domestic programs, and renewed unrest in France.


Across the Channel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

recently survived a “no confidence” vote in his parliament.

Although the vote was not as close as the hostile British

media said it was, it was serious enough for Mr. Johnson to

need to attempt internal repairs within his party which controls

the parliament if his government is to survive until the next

election. Plagued by controversies, he has been on the

defensive in the House of Commons over various domestic

issues, but has stepped up to be Ukraine’s most consistent

booster in Europe. He is probably much more popular in

Kyiv than London these days.


The European story, of course, is Russian President Vladimir

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, and still ongoing.

The Russian army’s initial efforts failed when Ukraine resisted

the invasion, and gained, under Ukrainian President Vlodomyr

Zelensky’s charismatic leadership, almost universal sympathy

and support in Europe, including Germany which, like so many

of its neighbors, depended on Russian oil and gas. Putin has

now shifted his military operations, and although the outmanned

and outgunned Ukrainian military is holding on, there is

increasing talk of a negotiated settlement. The impact of this

Russian “special operations” has not been limited to Europe, but

has reached China and India, Africa and the U.S. Support for

Ukraine is not global, particularly not among nations which are

customers of Russian resources The consequences of a

long-term Russian military effort in Ukraine is unknown.


In the Philippines, the son of the former dictator Ferdinand

Marcos was recently elected president.  Ferdinand Marcos, Jr..

(known as “Bong Bong”) Marcos brings back a Marcos family 

member to power after more than three decades.


In Australia, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison lost

his bid for a 4th term to Anthony Albanese of the Labour Party.


In South Korea, People Power Party candidate Youn Sur-Yen

won the closest election in the nation’s history.


BREAKING NEWS: The eight party right-to-left coalition which

has led Israel for a year under Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett

has decided to dissolve the Knesset and call elections (the fifth

time in 3 years). Likely date is late October.  Recent polls

indicate that the current opposition party, Likud (which is led by

former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), leads all other

parties among Israeli voters, but is one vote short of the majority

necessary to form a new government. Foreign Minister Yair

Lapid will now take over as prime minister until the election.

Developing…..

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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Third Parties in 2022


There seems to be, in recent years, an abundance of close

political races at all levels, and an unpleasant delay often

then in knowing who has won.


In the intraparty primary election contests, the cause is

usually a large number of relatively credible candidates

which not only result in close races, but also produce

primary winners with only pluralities — that might turn out

to be a weakness in the ensuing general election, especially 

when challenging an incumbent.


In general elections, the cause often is the presence of 

candidates of one or more minor parties who deflect voters

from either of the two major parties.


Even in presidential elections the phenomenon occurs, as it

probably did in 1968 (George Wallace) and 1992  (Ross 

Perot), and almost certainly in 2000 (Ralph Nader).


In 2020, accumulated new voting rules, including early voting,

expanded absentee voting standards, drop box availability, 

and a highly polarized political environment also produced 

delays in determining election results in some states — and

particularly in the presidential election. This caused partisan

doubt, justified or not, in the outcome not caused by a third

party candidate.


It is not yet clear if third party candidates will be decisive in

many 2022 national midterm elections for major statewide, 

U.S.house and senate races, but the potential is already

visible in some states, including Minnesota where at least

two congressional seats and the governorship appear to be

close races.


In the recent past, five third parties in Minnesota have likely

affected elect outcomes, including the Green Party, Legal

Marijuana Party, and Independence Party on the left and

center-left (presumably diminishing results for Democratic 

(called Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL in this

state) candidates; and the Libertarian Party and the

Constitution Party on the right (presumably diminishing

results for Republican candidates,


This was true in the Minnesota gubernatorial races in 1998,

2002 and 2006 when Independence Party (IP) candidates

changed the outcome —with IPer Jesse Ventura actually

winning in 1998. In the Minnesota 7th & 8th congressional

districts, third party candidates on both the left and right

seem to have affected outcomes in some recent elections.


(It is important to note that third party voters cannot 

automatically be assumed to be votes lost to a major party.

Some of them would not vote at all if they did not have a

third party choice.)


Particularly in MN-1 and MN-2 congressional districts this

cycle, a Legal Marijuana Party candidate has already filed

ahead of the May 31 deadline, and could boost the 

November prospects for the GOP nominees.The race for

governor, according to the most recent polls is likely to be

close, and could be significantly affected by third party

nominees on either the left, right or center.


If current voter attitudes, as indicated by polls across the

nation, persist until November, the 2022 elections might

be a blowout, and third party candidates might not affect

many outcomes, but the recurrence of very close elections

in recent years, and the increase in third party choices,

should not be underestimated.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

 

Friday, April 29, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Sooner Rather Than Later in Ukraine?


The current crisis precipitated by Russian dictator Vladimir

Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is turning into a surprise 

standoff as the vastly outnumbered and under-equipped 

Ukrainian armed forces are proving to be’ courageous,,

stubborn and ingenious defenders of their young democracy

under attack from its much larger and more powerful 

neighbor.


This has many observers wondering how this crisis and

invasion ends, given Mr. Putin’s reputation for not retreating,

his rationale for invading in the first place, and his 

determination to restore the boundaries and power of the 

old Soviet empire that was assembled during most of the 

last century.


Putin’s new strategy of shifting his invasion effort

from taking Kiev, and concentrating on controlling more

territory in the east have left in his army’s retreating wake

horrific evidence of war crimes. Despite Russia’s military

superiority, the plucky and resourceful Ukrainian army has

stalemated the Russian invaders who have evidently

treated Ukrainian civilians with unacceptable brutality.


Warfare has been profoundly changed not only by military

technology, but by communications technology as well.

The 19th century invention of the camera enabled Matthew

Brady to convey the horrors  of the U.S. Civil War 

battlefield to the public. Subsequent inventions of the

motion picture and television brought the devastations of

the 20th century wars soon after occurrence to the public.

Now, the internet and smart phones bring the images of’

war to public view as they happen. War is ugly, violent

and frightening —  gains on the battlefield can be at the

same time nullified in the global communications arena.


This is what has happened to Vladimir Putin’s “special

operation” in Ukraine.  No matter how much territory he

has temporarily conquered, he has acquired the reputation

of being one of contemporary history’s bad guys — and 

that is likely to be permanent. 


His presumed quest to reassemble the old Soviet and

Czarist empires is a backward-looking mirage which has

cost him any legacy of statesmanship that two decades in

the public eye might have otherwise provided.


The weakness of his army’s performance in Ukraine, the

West’s sanctions against his already troubled economy

and regime have also changed his leverage in his

relationship with China, his ally in the competition against

the Western democratic market economies.


in spite of its still-large land area, 160 million inhabitants,

and major natural resources, the Russian Federation today

is not a first-rank economic power as the U.S., European

Union, China and India are. The reputation of its hitherto 

vaunted military capability has been diminished in the 

Ukraine episode.


Mr, Putin has some strategies and some allies with which 

he can deal with the stalemate in Ukraine and the growing

diplomatic and economic sanctions, in the short term, but

there are long-term limits to what he and the Russian 

Federation can endure, and already his new strategy in

eastern Ukraine is encountering some of the delays and 

obstacles which thwarted his initial strategy.


Sooner rather than later, Putin will have to reconsider

his goals in Ukraine, or he can try to outlast Western resolve.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.



 

Monday, March 14, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Global Reapportionment And Redisricting

 


Unlike the U.S process of reapportionment and redistricting of

congressional seats that follows a formal national census

every ten years, and is limited to population patterns, a global

reapportionment and redistricting takes place with an 

irregular timetable, and is based primarily on economics and 

military power.


This global reordering has occurred constantly throughout

history, and often takes decades or longer to settle. This 

appears to be happening now as the U.S., Europe, Russia,

India and China attempt to assert their various roles and 

claims to territory, power and influence in the post-pandemic

world now forming.


The current crisis in Ukraine is only one of several episodes

of the international challenge to the latest state of global

order already traumatized by an historic pandemic experience.


There are now more than 200 sovereign states in the world.

Some are tiny in area, others are very large; some have only

a few thousand residents, while two nations have populations

of more than a billion each. Some are islands; others have no

access to the sea. Most were once kingdoms, or were colonies

of kingdoms; today most of those with monarchs give their

royals little or no power. Many today are representative

democracies, but others have various forms of dictatorship.

Many nations are capitalist, others have a socialist structure.


This variety in size, number, and form is accommodated by 

global trade, transportation, communications, and tourism.

Very few nation states today are as isolated as often

occurred in the past, including relatively recently the examples

of Albania, Cuba, Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, various African

countries, and Pacific Ocean island nations.


As long as history has been recorded, the “reapportionment

and redistricting” of global borders, sovereignty and power

has occurred primarily by armed force, violence and war,

climaxing in the 20th century with two horrific world wars.

This was then followed by localized conflicts, “cold” wars,

and international religious jihads, but the consequences of

weapons of mass destruction have restrained the scope of

these confrontations, especially between the major 

national nuclear weapon powers.


Technology has always played role in the dynamic of global

power. The internet, as well as new military weaponry, is 

very much is part of the new strategies of warfare. 


The expansionists seem always with us. Putin is only the

latest version of geopolitical avarice. Russia’s very brief

attempt at democracy following the collapse and

dissolution of the Soviet Union has been followed by an

increasing dictatorship guided by old dreams of its

previous empires.


As former U.S. Senator and U.S. Ambassador to the

United Nations Human Rights Commission Rudy

Boschwitz likes to point out, no two true democratic states

ever went to war with each other. Representative 

democracies try to settle their differences by economic, 

political and diplomatic means.


After Putin, there wiil be, and already are, others who

want to reset the boundaries and forces of global power. 

Violent disruptions, like earthquakes and volcanos, occur 

in irregular intervals.


Those who now direct and oversee global power must be

prepared to defend it, and nourish the democratic spirit,

or they will lose it.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: History's Events, Like Trees, Have Roots

I was speaking with a European friend recently, and we were

lamenting the world’s numerous political crises, and the

seeming inability of the various global democratic leaders to 

resolve these crises.


It occurred to me in the midst of this conversation that part of

the dilemma in such a discussion is our natural inclination          

to assume that the events of history can be turned from their

course in a matter of a few days, months, or even years  — or

that elected political leaders can easily, except in relatively rare

instances, alter or resist history’s most malign conflicts.


In the past, I have illustrated history’s negative longwindedness

with the example of the protracted consequences of World

War i. This war technically began in 1914, and formally ended

in 1918, but the upheavals and disruptions it caused or

provoked have endured over more than the past century in

new wars, violent conflicts and other aggressions.


(I have always marveled that this enduring event in history

had its immediate cause in a chauffeur’s wrong turn in a

crowded Sarajevo street. Perhaps if he had made the correct

turn, and thus no assassin would  have shot the archduke,  

history would  have found another event to begin that

calamitous war. or perhaps then the kaiser and his fellow

warmongers would have simply found another excuse to go

to war.)  


Democracy, as Ben Franklin and others have pointed out, is 

seemingly a fragile form of government — although our U.S.

version of it has survived and flourished through a variety of

crises and challenges from the War of 1812, the Civil War and

its aftermath, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold

War, and 9/11. 


But as Japanese Admiral Yamamoto so presciently

observed after he launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor

1n 1941, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

Democracies, including our own, live passively until they

face danger.


Malign totalitarian regimes, on the other hand, are inherently

aggressive, and seek to intrude on political vacuums 

democracies allow to fester.


Neo-Marxists, certain religious fundamentalists, and others

today seek to challenge and replace democratic governments 

with totalitarian authoritarian regimes. Where democratic    

states are new, they are especially vulnerable to these efforts.

The 1930’s saw a similar phenomenon, and it took decades

to put down antidemocratic regimes — only to have new ones

appear.


For over 300 years, this political wrestling match has been

taking place.


There is no guarantee, of course, that the sleeping democratic

giant will awaken in time to renew and refresh itself in time to

meet the internal and global challenges it now faces. 


These challenges and threats have contemporary issues and

a new  cast of characters, but it should not be forgotten that

the national entities, in most cases, have had historical

experiences going back centuries which also instruct us about

the present. 


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.