Monday, March 19, 2018


The presidential election cycle seems to begin earlier and
earlier these days.

The White House residence was for rent to either party in 2016
as the then-incumbent was finishing his second and last term.

Think back to those innocent days of 2014 when organizing
and speculation had begun. On the Democratic side, the
contest seemed to be over almost before it began. Former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed inevitable --- just as
she had been in 2006-08 until Barack Obama stepped onto the
political stage. In 2016, it was the unlikely socialist Senator
Bernie Sanders who interrupted the Clinton reverie,and if the
Democratic political establishment, in apparent collusion with
Mrs. Clinton's campaign, hadn’t been so heavy-handed, he
might have been nominated.

On the Republican side, there was a bevy of big-name hopefuls,
including still another Bush --- this time former Florida
Governor Jeb Bush, the early favorite --- and several not so dark
horses, including  Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio
Governor John Kasich, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal,
and eleven other serious candidates. Rumors of a Donald
Trump candidacy were treated only as a publicity stunt.

Oh, those were the days in 2014! The world was in its old order

Now it is 2018. The man in he White House is doing quite a job
of disrupting that old order, and he has already declared he is
running for re-election. He might face some token opposition,
but his renomination is assured --- as it stands now. A few
anti-Trump Republicans are making noises of primary
challenges, or even independent candidacies, but this is only

On the Democratic side, however, it is game-on for more
candidates than I can count. Not formal declarations, of
course, but much activity in staffing, early fundraising, and
inevitably, positioning. If this keeps up, they will need a
vast stage just to hold the Democratic TV debates. I can see
it now --- each candidate gets 60 seconds to talk, and it takes
four hours just for opening remarks!

There are  no frontrunners yet for the liberal nod, but a bunch
of septuagenarian figures, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden,
Elizabeth Warren, (and yes) Hillary Clinton again, are
prominently mentioned --- as are already a veritable slew of
younger and lesser known Democrats, including Missouri
Secretary of State Jason Kander, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of
of South Bend, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, New
Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian
Castro, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Montana Governor
Steve Bullock, California Senator Kamala Harris, and former
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. TV personality Oprah
Winfrey also might run. The list goes on and on.

Usually, presidential aspirants wait for the national mid-term
elections to get started, but many Democrats have already
concluded there will be  a massive blue tide next November,
and that their nominee will win in 2020. So why wait?

I need not remind anyone reading this that incumbent
presidents are tough to beat, especially if the economy is
going well (which it is now). But there have been one-term
presidents before, especially when things are not going well.
2020 is more than two years away. Who knows what  conditions
will then be?

I have specialized in the early presidential prediction business
for four decades. I suggested Richard Nixon might have to
resign before the 1972 election; I called attention to the
unknown Jimmy Carter in 1ate 1975; I wrote that Gary Hart
would be the surprise of 1984; then in 1985, I predicted the
emergence of Joe Biden; and I was early and resolute in saying
Bill Clinton would win the presidency in 1992. I predicted
Donald Trump could win an upset in 2016. All of this is on
the published record.

Those were the ones I got right. I also got a number of
predictions wrong, I did not predict that Ronald Reagan would
become president. In 1996, I did not think Bob Dole would be
nominated. I made no good prediction in 2000, and in 2012, I
thought Mitt Romney would win. In 2015, I did not take
Donald Trump seriously. The presidential predicting business
can be hazardous.

On the other hand, it is addictive. So in this, my first op ed on
the 2020 election, I will offer a few thoughts.

As is obvious, barring the unforeseen, there is little to say
about the GOP nomination.

I will stick my pundit neck out and say: No one over 65 years
old will be nominated in 2020 by the Democratic Party.

That’s it. That’s all I’m going to predict at this very early
state of the 2020 cycle. Call me a coward, but there are so
many younger liberal men and women of some caliber being
mentioned now that I know better than try to make any
political prophesies. I reserve the right, of course, to change
my mind about this at a later date --- and I likely will.

First, I want to get through the coming tumult of the 2018
mid-term elections and the faux physics of determining
whether there will be a blue wave or a red wave hitting the
electoral shore. That voting is less than 8 months away, and
we still have little idea how it will turn out.

But don’t worry, 2020 will not be dull.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I realize that most of my readers seek news and commentary
about domestic politics and public policy when they link to
this website. I think that most of them also expect occasional
posts about history, food and dining out, culture and the arts,
and even a few relevant personal stories from my life. I also
post reports and analyses about events outside the United
States, especially regarding global politics. The world is a
very big place, and with more than 200 sovereign nations,
there are obvious limits to what can be said usefully in a
short essay about foreign matters.

We Americans can be insular about the rest of the world
sometimes, and such indifference does not often work to our
benefit, nor does it contribute to a positive state of global
conditions. You don’t have to read spy thrillers or watch
disaster movie to know that life in the 21st century is full
of dangers from totalitarianism, terrorism, epidemics and
Nature’s assorted problematic vagaries.

There are global political disruptions now taking place,
and most of them began well before President Donald Trump
appeared on the international stage.

In particular, a ”mutiny of the masses” emerged in Europe
decades ago when a grass roots resistance began actively
opposing the attempt to transform the healthy economic
cooperation of the European Union into a single political
unit that would abolish the sovereign states created over the
previous millennium. In recent years, massive refugee
immigration poured into Europe from Turkey, the Middle
East and former colonies. This immigration was intended to
fill EU employment needs, but the refugee communities often
have not integrated themselves into their new host cultures,
and major local tensions have arisen.

The former Soviet Union peacefully disbanded in the early
1990s, and adapted to a more capitalistic and democratic
society ---albeit one reduced in size and population. More
recently, however, the Russian leadership has reasserted
some of its former aggressive and nationalistic behavior,
particularly directed at some of its former satellite nations.

With their huge populations (each now about 1.3 billion
persons) China and India are taking on an increasing
economic role in the world. China adopted many free
market economic strategies, but retained totalitarian
Marxist political rule. Now its former policy of changing
its leadership every ten years has been replaced by a
seemingly permanent one-man rule, and it continues to be
an aggressive player not only in Asia, but also in Africa and
South America. India’s primary conflicts are local, that is,
with Pakistan nd China, but its technological and economic
weight is now being noticed worldwide.

The Middle East, a seemingly perpetual “hot spot,”
continues to be unsettled, although some of the
relationships between its major player nations are now
going through rapid change as the hitherto universal
Arab conflict with Israel is now more complicated as Iran
as emerged as a regional power which threatens Egypt,
Saudi Arabia and several smaller Arab states.

South America’s chronic inability to escape its oligarchal
past, in spite of its tremendous resources, continues as
the major nations of Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina remain
politically and/or economically unstable.

All of the above was happening before Donald Trump came
on the scene with his disruptions of U.S. domestic and
foreign policies. In particular, he has reversed most of the
more passive international policies of his predecessor Barack
Obama, and asserted a much more aggressive U.S. trade

Mr. Trump’s actions have therefore altered the strategies
on both side of the political chess board, and thus altered
many expectations of political, military and economic

The reader might agree with President Trump or disagree
with him. The reader might like or dislike what is taking
place now In Europe, Asia,  and South America. But
regardless of any of our opinions on these places and the
figures leading them, none of us, I think, has the luxury
of ignoring them.

There are no “distant” places on this planet of ours any more.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Election That Disappeared

The special U.S. house election in Pennsylvania just
held was, I believe, unique in the history of U.S. voting

No sooner were votes counted, the congressional district

To make this event even more ludicrous, the tally was a
virtual tie --- so that spinmeisters on both sides have
little that’s credible to spin the day after (although, of
course, they will try).

While this special election was taking place, the
Pennsylvania supreme court redrew the map of the
district. Neither of the Republican nor the Democratic
nominees lives in the district that will be on the ballot
next November, seven months from now.

There’s no point in having a recount, even if one is
merited, because by the time a recount takes place,
one or both candidates will be campaigning in another
district --- races they must file for with the filing
deadline looming in only one week.

To be competitive in this traditional Republican district,
Democrat Conor Lamb ran as a very conservative,
pro-life, pro-gun candidate who never criticized Donald
Trump (who had carried the district by 20 points in 2016).
This strategy might not sell successfully in the new
district Lamb is likely to run in. Reportedly, there are
more traditional liberals ready to run in the new
districts and who might defeat him in the upcoming
Democratic primary even before the November election.

The news story of this election will quickly be
overshadowed and replaced by some “real” news
orchestrated by the master media scene stealer --- and
you know who I mean!

There was a lot of hype, and a lot of money spent by both
sides, in this special election before it took place.

But now its story will be written in ink that almost instantly

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Too Soon Even To Guess?

The paradox of the 2018 election cycle is that the two
houses of Congress present such a different
opportunity for the two major parties to make gains.

In the U.S. house, which the Republicans control
241 to 194, there are about three times as many
incumbent GOP seats than Democratic seats rated
generally as competitive. The liberal party is therefore
hopeful not only to pick up net seats, but is counting
on a “blue” wave to bring them back into control.

In the U.S. senate, which the Republicans control now
51-49, twenty-five incumbent Democratic seats are up
this November, and only ten Republicans. Of these,
10-12 liberal seats are considered to be competitive
against only 3 conservative incumbents rated now as
vulnerable. The GOP is hopeful for several net
pick-ups, and that a “red” wave will give them a
veto-proof senate.

Historically, the party out-of-power (this cycle, the
Democrats) often makes big U.S. house gains in the
first mid-term elections of a new administration, and
gains in the U.S senate.

But 2018 could defy precedent, not only because of the
contrast in competitive seats in the two legislative
bodies, but also because the Trump presidency is so
politically disruptive and seems to break all the rules.

With more than seven months before election day, that
paradox is seemingly very much in play. Democrats
look strong in about three dozen GOP-incumbent  U.S.
house races (and GOP candidates strong in less than five
Democratic seats). In contrast, about six conservative
senate challengers are now appearing strong in serious
contests with Democratic incumbents. Only two GOP
seats appear similarly quite vulnerable.

However, since several senate party nominees have yet
to be chosen (in Wisconsin, Indiana and Montana, for
examples), and U.S. house redistricting in some large
states has taken place --- as well as the national
political mood being so unsettled --- the relative
partisan advantages exist now primarily only on paper.

Much could change over the next seven months.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is seizing the
initiative (albeit in unorthodox ways) in trade,
immigration and national security issues, the stock
market is soaring, and unemployment sinks lower with
each new monthly report.

Preoccupation with gleaning political trends from
various recent special elections, and a few yet to take
place, enables melodramatic headlines and speculation,
but given the circumstances enumerated above, there is
little irrefutable evidence of what voters will think and do
on that still-distant Tuesday in November next.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Euroskeptic Italy

The national elections just held in Italy have turned out to
be an unexpected rout for that nation’s left political
establishment, and a clear rejection by Italian voters of
the status quo of European politics.

There were five major parties (and some smaller ones)
competing in this election, including the current ruling
center left party, an even more leftist party, a center
right party, and two populist parties on the right. The
center right party was led by former prime minister
Silvio Berlusconi who is attempting a political comeback,
but Berlusconi’s pro-Europe views did not help his party
which did poorer than expected. Two distinct populist
parties, Five Star, a party founded a few years ago as an
anti-establishment group on the right; and a more
nationalistic party, the anti-immigrant League, did better
than expected. Five Star was the party with most votes
(more than one-third of the total), and its leader Luigi di
Maio, 31, asserts he should be the next prime minister.
But the center-right coalition of three parties, including
Berlusconi’s party and the League, will actually have the
most seats in the new parliament, and this group is putting
forward League leader Matteo Salvino, 44, as the next
prime minister. This issue might not be decided for some

Although Five Star and the League are both euroskeptic,
and combined, received more than 50% of the vote, their
leaders so far indicate they are not ready to form a ruling
coalition .As happened recently in Spain, the current
government might be left in place, and new elections

It is difficult to draw exact parallels between the Italian
results and U.S. politics, but the strain of nationalism and
populism now active throughout European Union (EU)
nations can be connected to the blue collar “mutiny of
the masses” that upset the 2016 U.S. presidential election
and the victory of Donald Trump. More nationalistic
parties have not been successful in Germany, France and
The Netherlands until now --- although France’s new
president Emmanuel Macron, who defeated a French
right-wing challenge with his new centrist party, has now
initiated new and stringent immigration controls.
Immigration has been one of the major issues of
contemporary EU politics --- with nationalist populist
parties throughout the continent calling for limits and
controls on the recent flood of refugees to the EU
countries. More nationalistic anti-immigration parties
now rule in Austria, Hungary and Poland.

The Italian election will impact all of the EU, but
especially Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel
who has just won another term, but barely. She has
continued to champion unlimited immigration, but that
policy is facing increasing resistance throughout the EU.
The Italian election will also likely boost the effort of
Great Britain to leave the EU after its voters chose to do
so (Brexit). The Brexit negotiations, led by British Prime
Minister Theresa May, have not been going well recently,
but the Italian voters might have strengthened the
British hand.

European elites have done well in the long post-World
War II boom, and so apparently did most citizens. But
recent strains caused by immigration, high taxes, loss of
identity and sovereignty, and unemployment throughout
most of the EU have caused many European workers to
feel left out of the bounty and the decision-making. This
is at the core of the political unrest in Europe --- an
upheaval which apparently is far from running its course.

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Hype, Omens And Errors

I think that a robust skepticism is useful, if not
necessary, in the early conversations about the
outcomes of the 2018 national mid-term elections.

It is especially valid in the current miasma of
media bias, so-called fake news, and an unusual
period of short-term volatility in the moods of a
great many voters.

The political cliche of this moment is to discuss
voter “intensity,” and many commentators have
concluded that the out-of-power Democratic voters
have the most intensity to go to the polls. Cited are
a few recent special elections at the local
and congressional level, and the historical rule that
the opposition party usually makes gains in the
first mid-term voting following a change in the
party that lives in the White House.

An upcoming special congressional election in
southwestern Pennsylvania is being given a build-up
and hype that it will be a harbinger of a Democratic
tide in November, one that returns control of the
U.S house to the liberal party. Friendly liberal media
will predictably conclude that whether or not the
Democratic candidate wins. But who is pointing out
that the district has been redrawn for November, and
that neither major party candidate lives in the new

In fact, Democrats could win back control of the U.S.
house this year, and it is possible that Republicans
could pick up 8-10 U.S. senate seats. But neither
scenario, I suggest, is portended by the omens of
special elections or current polling. Donald
Trump seems to break all the rules of traditional
politics. That could help him break the mid-term
curse, or it could lead to a Democratic landslide,

My counsel to readers is to be wary and skeptical of
politicians and pundits who make sweeping
predictions about 2018 and 2020.

This year, the political tide can turn on a Lincoln
penny or a Roosevelt dime. The future still depends
on small change and the wallet.

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Jeremiads That Have Not Come To Pass

A jeremiad is not, as some might suppose, a disastrous event,
but it is a work of words that predicts disaster. It comes, of
course, from the biblical prophet Jeremiah who saw the
imminent fall of the kingdom of Judah. Soon after Jeremiah
made his prediction, Judah did fall in 587, B.C.

Since that time, self-proclaimed prophets and opportunists
have issued jeremiads to assert coming danger. Most of them,         
especially those who have announced the end of the world at
a date certain, were simply wrong --- to be charitable about it.
Usually, modern jeremiads are made with an ulterior motive.
Often, the false jeremiads are uttered just to get attention. On
other occasions, they are said to manipulate public opinion
to a moral or political course of action. Rarely, jeremiads did
come true, as in the case of the very few who saw Nazism,
World War II and the Holocaust coming long before it was
obvious. But most human-made disasters in history, like most
natural disasters, have been a surprise.

After the U.S. presidential election of 2016, a cascade of
jeremiads were issued by some surprised voters and those in
the media who did not even have pretenses of being prophets.

Among the predictions made then were those that asserted
Donald Trump could never be elected, and when he was, that
he could be prevented from taking office, and when he did
take the oath, he would soon be impeached, and when he
wasn’t, he would not run again in 2020. But the extreme
prognostications were not limited to the Trump personality.
Wars and financial collapses were also put forward.

To be fair, especially-ideological presidents of both parties
frequently provoke prophets of doom.  Franklin Roosevelt
and likewise Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama
each set off political jeremiads from some of their opponents,

Most jeremiads can be summed up in the four words I recall
seeing every time I went to the flea market in London at
Petticoat Lane --- a pseudo-Jeremiah in a white robe carrying
a sign which read: THE END IS NEAR!

But somehow we have survived the proclamations of doom.

The election of Donald Trump was so disruptive that it
produced a great many Jeremiahs wearing business suits and
designer dresses who now said and thought: “The end is now
truly near.”

Yet, fifteen months later, we are in a business boom with a
surging (albeit volatile) stock market, rising industrial
production, dramatically lower unemployment and
increasing economic optimism.

Of course, we live in a very provisional historical moment,
and disasters do occur, large and small, from time to time.
But the hysteria of pseudo-Jeremiahs forecasting imminent
disasters really can be tied to another biblical tale, the one
in the book of Jonah in which the prophet ended up in the
digestive system of a very large whale.

Now that was a fish story worth telling.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Both national political parties have internal ideological
divisions, which is normal. In the recent past, national
Democrats have subordinated most of their differences
to present a mostly united front against Republicans,
their opposition in Washington, DC. For them, however,
their disastrous 2016 presidential election changed all

Clearly, the national Democratic Party then took sides
in the presidential nomination contest, and in the end,
bulldozed Hillary Clinton’s victory at their 2016
convention. The losing faction, led by Senator Bernie
Sanders, has neither forgotten nor forgiven this, and
are determined to remake the party in their own left
populist image.

Signs of implacable divisions are now appearing across
the nation, but the liberal fellow-traveling mainstream
media is attempting to ignore this as much as they can.
Instead, they are preoccupied with the story, a fair one,
that many Democratic voters are energized by their
opposition to Donald Trump --- and are expected to turn
out in heavy numbers in the national mid-terms. Such a
turnout is conjecture at this point, but a reasonable one.

On the other hand, this media seizes every tiny (and not
so tiny) controversy in the Republican Party as evidence
of an upcoming conservative demise in 2018 and 2020.
The spectacle of Roy Moore’s senate candidacy in
Alabama was supposed to reinforce this notion, but many
conservative Alabama voters rebuked this outcome by
refusing to vote for Moore. Extremist and fringe
candidates who attempt to get on the GOP ballot in state
and national 2018 elections receive “page one” attention
by this media --- even though most Republicans reject this
opportunism --- while controversies involving Democrats
are often ignored entirely or downplayed.

Recently, one of the Democrats most significant state voter
ID and GOTV organizations, Wellstone Action in Minnesota,
has gone through a controversial reorganization in which the
late Senator Paul Wellstone’s children and some of his
long-time associates were kicked off the group’s board. I saw
only one local story about this and none nationally --- although
this group has been central not only to Democrats’ recent
successes in Minnesota, but through its formidable training
programs, to successful first-time liberal candidates across
the county. One of Mr. Wellstone’s sons was quoted as
describing the board move as ‘betrayal.” Paul Wellstone was
an authentic and respected liberal hero not only in his own
state, but nationally. One can only imagine the media
attention to a controversy involving an equivalent
conservative political figure!

In fact, in very “blue” California, where Democrats are
expecting to make gains in congressional seats, most media
are ignoring the internal squabbles among Democratic
factions and candidates, including one district, previously
expected to be a Democratic pick-up, where so many liberals
are running that the ballot in November might only have two
Republicans! When long-time Democratic Senator Diane
Feinstein was recently denied re-endorsement at her own
party’s convention, the story was too sensational to ignore,
but for the most part the media turns its attention to GOP
conflicts and anomalies.

Nonetheless, as I pointed out earlier, Republicans, too, have
their divisions and disputes. In Arizona, two fringe candidates
are running against a mainstream Republican to replace
retiring Senator Jeff Flake. Republican office holders, and
Democratic ones, too, are involved in alleged controversies
in many locales.

Some savvy liberal political strategists and figures are
warning their own party leaders and activists not to ignore
the consequences of the recent GOP-passed tax reform
legislation. Historically, the voters of the party out of power
have the advantage in the new administration’s first
mid-term elections, and liberal antipathy to Donald Trump
would seem to reinforce that. Democrats have won some
recent local special elections, and could win an upcoming
special congressional election.

But the long-time self-discipline of the Democrats has
apparently begun to come apart as they position themselves
for the “spoils” of projected victories in November,
including an “almost tasteable” take back of the  U.S. house.
But it might be too soon for Nancy Pelosi to buy new curtains
for her old office.

There is some very curious disruption now taking place in
Washington, DC.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World Is Changing So Fast You Don't Know Where You Are (1978)

[NOTE: Recently, I republished a little parody I wrote
decades ago about a lobster dinner. I received many good
comments about it from subscribers. I just found a little
fantasy I wrote and published 40 years ago on a different
topic. It's also both dated and somehow relevant today ---
"reality TV? YouTube? I hope my readers are amused,]

Most persons aren’t aware of it yet, but the large television
networks are aware of it --- and they’re scrambling to adapt
to it. “It” is the new conditions that will exist after all the
legal dust has settled over access to satellite TV transmission,
and the use of cable TV. Most observers are agreed that the
dust is about to settle now, and when it does, just about any
TV broadcaster, large or small, will have the right to become,
in effect, a national TV network.

The implications of this are boggling. There you are in your
attic with a small array of inexpensive used TV broadcasting
equipment, a broadcasting license, and for a small fee, the
right to relay your TV signal to an orbiting satellite. The
satellite, in turn, transmits your attic-made program
potentially to every American household.

You adjust your tie. You take a sip of water. You look straight
into the camera being held by your wife or your child or a
friend --- and you say, :Good evening, this is Irving L. Shlunk
from our studios in Fridley, Minnesota!”

Actually, the speed of change in our time is so rapid that
almost no one is truly keeping up with it. The shah of Iran
is about to slip off his family’s Peacock Throne, and the
balance of international power altered. Vast oil resources
are revealed in previously poverty-stricken Mexico. The
turmoil in Africa.There are those who are suggesting the
polar ice pack will be melting soon.

After decades of prices in the U.S. remaining essentially the
same, prices now soar continually.  Waiters snatch menus
out of your hands, informing you that since you entered the
restaurant, a 15% increase has gone into effect!

Politicians seem the farthest behind of all. They are so busy
fixing their last mistake (which cost the taxpayers a bundle),
that they have no time to figure out how much that
everything has changed. (But elected officials have found an
inspired solution to their problems: they votes themselves a
large pay increase.)

Meanwhile, back in the attic, you are polishing up your
evening news broadcast to the nation in which you finally
set the record straight on why you didn’t take your wife to
the Rosewood Room for dinner on her birthday.

Does America care about this? Sure America cares. Only
yesterday you were watching the “My Today” show
(broadcast from Harry Nerg’s basement in Erie, PA, and
you were almost moved to tears by Harry’s appeal to all
married couples to sign a liability release form each night
before going to bed --- thus avoiding a national crisis of
conjugal relations provoked by recent court cases. “You
never know what an innocent little love nip might turn out
to be in court,” Harry had said.

“This is madness,” you told your national TV audience
that evening, and I told my wife Sylvia that this evening
just before I went on the air.” After the broadcast, your
phone kept ringing past 3 a.m with reactions from your
viewers. You even got a call from Guam.

It is now 4 a.m. You lie in bed awake. Sylvia snores softly
at your side. “The world is changing too fast,” you say to
yourself. “I don’t know where I am.” They aren’t letting
anything remain itself long enough for me to know it’s there.

Then you remember the nice call from the man in Gallup,
New Mexico. “You tell ‘em, Irving!” he heard shouted into
the phone. Suddenly, an image of the shah of Persia
flashes into your mind. “And I think I have problems,”
you think to yourself.

The phone rings.

It’s the president of NBC. It is 4:30 a.m.

“How much do you want for your attic?” he asks.

Copyright (c) 1978, 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Model Of Poltiical Transition?

There is a particular dilemma for those elected
Republicans who have publicly (and often bitterly)
opposed President Trump, especially those running
this year. That is because, as almost all polls indicate,
the president’s base of support has not only remained
intact, it has appeared, following the passage of tax
reform legislation, to be growing among Republican
voters and some independent voters.

This is not a dilemma for most Democratic candidates,
especially communicating with their base --- a base
which, if anything, is more anti-Trump than ever, and
which apparently will be highly motivated to vote in
November. It is a problem for those Democrats running
this cycle in states, such as Montana, North Dakota,
Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia each of which Mr.
Trump carried by large margins in 2016 --- but these
candidates for U.S. house and senate are relatively few
(albeit critical to hoped-for liberal gains in the 2018

The “never-Trump” sentiment has been, and continues
to be, very virulent in the mainstream media and even
among certain conservative pundits, but they are not
running for office this year.

Two sitting senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob
Corker of Tennessee, both strongly critical of their
party’s president, have already announced their
retirements. Flake especially had no chance for
re-election because of his harsh criticism of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Corker is reportedly reconsidering his withdrawal,
but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has
reportedly told Corker he must make peace with the
president if he wants to run.

There are a few individual congressional districts where
Republicans won while Hillary Clinton carried the
districts by big margins. An example of this was the
Minnesota 3rd district which Mrs. Clinton carried by
double digits, and  GOP incumbent Eric Paulsen, a
Trump critic, carried by a similar margin. But such
districts are few, and depend much on local conditions
and personalities.

The dilemma also involves many GOP gubernatorial
candidates. Donald Trump surprisingly almost carried
Minnesota, and remains popular there. Former
Governor Tim Pawlenty seems poised for a comeback
this year, but he was critical of candidate Trump in 2016.
Otherwise the most formidable GOP candidate in
2018, Pawlenty could not run this year as an
anti-Trumper, and have any hope of winning.

The question is, then: How do those Republicans critical
of President Trump in the past make a transition that is
acceptable to their GOP base?

One answer to that question might now being made by
GOP Senator Dean Heller of Nevada. Senator Heller
supported another Republican for the 2016 presidential
nomination. He was critical of nominee Trump, and
resisted the president’s policy on repealing Obamacare.
He was lumped together with Senator Flake as being the
most vulnerable GOP senator up for re-election this year.

But Mr. Heller and Mr, Flake then took quite different
political paths. Senator Flake became even more hostile
to the president, and even wrote a book denouncing him.
Not surprisingly, his poll numbers took a nosedive among
Arizona Republicans --- and his re-election was hopeless.
Mr. Heller, on the other hand, while disagreeing with the
president on a few issues, strongly supported him on tax
reform --- and adopting the attitude that it’s not what
Donald Trump says, but what he does, he has been
increasingly praising Mr. Trump for his leadership.

Senator Heller’s Democratic opponent this year is a
one-term congresswoman who voted against tax reform.
Nevada has been one of the states that has gained the
most from tax legislation, and is already very popular.
To be fair, Nevada is a “purple” state evenly divided
between Republicans and Democrats. Senator Heller’s
re-election is not a certainty, especially in a state where
more than $100 million will be spent on the senate race
alone. But whereas anti-Trump candidate Heller had
virtually zero chance to win re-election, Trump ally
Heller (even though he continues to disagree with the
president on certain issues) is now a slight favorite in a
toss-up race. His transition was not only pragmatic, but
also the recognition that Donald Trump won the
presidential election skillfully against great odds, and
was now the leader of his party. Most importantly,
Heller says, he agrees with much of what the president
is doing.

Most Democrats, some independents, and a certain
number of Republicans still find Donald Trump
unacceptable to them as president. As a political
disrupter of establishment ways, this was inevitable.
The jury is still out on whether he will be a successful
president, although his first year in office was better
than expected. Whether he will be re-elected in 2020 is

It is clear, however, that his support in his own party, and
especially among rural and working class voters remains
strong enough today that only in very rare and local
instances could a Republican candidate run harshly
critical of President Trump --- and have even a remote
chance of winning in 2018.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Deficiency Of Deficits

[This article first appeared in INTELLECTUAL TAKEOUT -
see link at right]

The issue of ongoing and growing governmental deficits
has arisen once again, as it does from time to time in U.S
politics, but those who are raising the issue most
critically now are liberal Democrats, many of whom
have spent most of their time until this moment
advocating programs and public spending which made
federal debt greater and greater.

John Maynard Keynes was a British economist in
the last century who, after the worldwide economic
depression began in the 1930s, advocated deficit policy
and government intervention as good and effective tools
to meet that crisis. President Franklin Roosevelt and his
administration adopted Lord Keynes’ theories as a
basis for their New Deal programs and strategies for
economic recovery. Keynesian economics subsequently
has been given credit for “saving” the U.S. economy ---
although some commentators now argue that World
War II and the natural business cycle might deserve more

Lord Keynes, however, has partly had a bad rap as an
advocate for permanent deficits. In fact, he had opposed
them in principle. Created an hereditary baron late in life
(he sat in the House of Lords as a member of the Liberal
Party), he first made his mark before World War I. At the
notorious Versailles Peace Conference after the war, he
represented Great Britain, but was shut out of the
decision-making because he was one of the few economists
and statesmen who strongly opposed retaliatory reparation
demands on Germany --- prophesying they would create
economic and political instability in the defeated nation.
Keynes actually advocated high inflation in Germany in the
1920’s as a way to offset the punitive cost of the reparations.
(Unfortunately, this inflation had unintended consequences.)
When the worldwide depression occurred in the 1930s, he
advocated government intervention by deficit spending to
boost employment and revive the economy. Keynes
economic strategies were thus opportunistic and primarily

American economist Milton Friedman argued for lower
taxes to promote growth, and attacked the notion that
permanent deficits and entitlement spending were healthy
and helpful strategies for a free market economy. His and
others’ ideas, including cutting taxes, were adopted by
President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to end the earlier
“stagflation” (and later high inflation), high interest rates,
and high unemployment that dogged President Jimmy
Carter and his administration in the late 1970s.

While most liberal politicians continued to advocate and
promote Keynesian ideas of high taxes, deficits and lots
of government spending programs, their conservative
opponents often have only insisted on lowering taxes while
compromising with liberals on government programs.

Recent Republican presidents have cut taxes, but often
failed to rein in government spending thus ultimately
dooming economic recoveries. “Supply-side” earned a
reputation  among liberals as a “trickle-down” theory and
a failure, but when properly applied, it works.

President Trump could fall into the same economic trap
as his GOP predecessors as he combines the Republican
much-needed tax reform with substantial new
government spending not only on new infrastructure (his
idea) but with liberal entitlement spending as part of his
dealing with the Democrats. (The problem, to be fair, is
that rebuilding public infrastructure is overdue, and
entitlements are almost politically impossible to eliminate
or even reduce.)

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argues that a
balanced budget is not only a good thing, but is possible.
Republicans, when he was the U.S. house leader, initiated
the last balanced budgets in the 1990s. A centrist
Democratic president, Bill Clinton, embraced the idea,
and the two sides compromised and made it a bipartisan
effort. (Many economists now point out, however, that this
brief period of budget surpluses was inherently
compromised by the Clinton-inspired incipient Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac bubbles that later were disastrous
to the U.S. economy.)

Is there a Democrat leader today willing to  make a true
balanced budget possible? Is the Republican leadership
willing to reclaim their initiative on this issue?

Some Democrats today are acting as short-sided as the
politicians did at Versailles a hundred years ago, arguing
for more confiscatory taxation against “the rich” --- as
well as for more and more entitlement programs. This
strategy, applied almost everywhere in post-World War II
Europe had some short-term success in that continent’s
recovery from devastation, but its long-term efficacy was
a failure, even in the much-touted Scandinavian nations
where public policies are now increasingly adopting more
free market solutions.

While “purist economic” conservative congressional
figures and groups have often recently stood in the way
of needed legislation --- and were persuaded finally to
support the key tax reform bill --- their critique of
subsequent “aggravations” of new deficit spending
should not be summarily dismissed or ignored.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2018 Political News Catch-Up 1


There are some reports that Republican U.S. senate
leaders and certain local GOP activists are becoming
increasingly nervous about some of the recruits they
have enlisted to challenge the numerous vulnerable
Democratic incumbents up for re-election in the 2018
national mid-term elections. Conservatives currently
hold a very narrow majority, and given a numerical
opportunity to pick up seats this cycle (but not in the
next one), they fear losing control --- if not in 2018,
then in 2020, the next presidential election. The special
election in Alabama shook their confidence, and they do
face serious challenges to three seats they now hold in
Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee. A good opportunity in
turning-red Ohio was also lost when their strong
candidate had to withdraw for family health reasons.
This leaves about ten vulnerable seats to pick up, but
unlike the 2010, 2014 and 2016 cycles (when they were
able to recruit routinely strong challengers), they feel
recent doubts about some of their likely nominees.
In some cases, they seem to be over-reacting --- in
Arizona and Missouri, for example --- but in other
races --- such as Ohio, Montana, Wisconsin, Indiana,
and the special senate election in Minnesota --- they
do not yet seem to have first-rank candidates. What’s
more, senate campaign fundraising so far trails that
by Democrats who are going all-out in a year they feel
history is on their side.

Public opinion polling, especially in competitive races,
has in recent years become less and less predictive and
useful --- especially those published well before election
day. Even the cliche that a public poll is only a “snapshot
in time” has become quite questionable as the number
of those voters polled, registered and likely, is too small
for a reasonable true margin of error, and many voters
refuse to be polled. Too often, public polls become part
of the “fake news” syndrome now endemic in political
reportage. A case in point was recent “generic” polling
of the Congress. Only a few weeks ago, most polls said
that Democrats had a large lead in double digits. Most
recently, a  major poll has reported that Republicans
now have a small lead in this poll. Such volatility in so
short a time suggests that most public polls, if indeed
they are snapshots, are out of focus (and, if you will,
not suitable for framing). Perhaps an exception to the
published polls. private polling for parties, groups and
candidates usually are more carefully done and probably
more accurate --- but these are polls rarely seen except
by those who pay for them. President Trump’s recent
significant rise in published polls also indicate, as does
the rapid change in the generic congressional poll, how
volatile the electorate is today. We might wish it
otherwise, but until we get close to election day, most
polls tell us little of value.

If history instructs us about budget deficits, it is that
in the long-term, they are unsustainable.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: So Far, No Blue Wave In Minnesota

A resignation by a liberal U.S. senator, the unexpected
retirement of a popular liberal congressman, and the
status quo in two state legislative special elections do not
support a notion of a coming “blue” anti-Trump wave in
Minnesota, a state the president almost won in 2016, and
which had been trending slightly “red” prior to this year’s
mid-term elections.

To be fair, there is no evidence yet of a “red” wave, either.
On the other hand, this typically “purple” state offers
each party some opportunities in 2018. On paper, the
Republicans have more to gain, especially in a cycle that
usually favors Democrats nationally.

Recent developments, including the retirement of
liberal Congressman Rick Nolan and the standoff in
two state legislative special elections, have boosted
conservative aspirations. Democrats (here called
Democratic-Farmer-Laborites or DFLers) had expected to
keep Nolan’s 8th District, and to possibly win a GOP state
house seat in a special election. Now, MN-8 is up for grabs,
they lost the state house race by 20 points, and almost lost
a state senate seat in another special election.

The biggest news is that now the GOP has a serious
voter ID and GOTV organization to match the formidable
DFL Wellstone Alliance. The Republican version is
Advantage Grass Roots, a group active this year in 27
states, and which was notably successful nationally in
2014 and 2016. Their Minnesota operation, and new GOP
Chair Jennifer Carnahan, seem determined to keep their
party competitive in 2018.

While the GOP also stands to pick up another DFL
congressional seat in southeastern Minnesota (now held
by retiring Tim Walz who is running for governor),  the
DFL is hopeful to pick up the congressional seat now held
by conservative Jason Lewis who is running for his first

Republicans are also buoyed by the prospects of winning
back the governorship, now held by retiring DFLer Mark
Dayton who, after two terms, is at the low end of his
popularity. Former GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty is believed
to be on the verge of announcing his candidacy, although
he would likely have to go to a primary election to win his
party’s nomination. 2014 GOP nominee Jeff Johnson and
former GOP state chair Keith Downey are the frontrunners
for party endorsement at the state convention before the
primary. On the DFL side, the recent precinct caucuses
have winnowed the large field to three main candidates,
frontrunner Walz, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, and State
Representative Erin Murphy. There might also be a
competitive DFL primary.

Less likely would be a GOP win in the race against
appointed U.S. Senator Tina Smith, the former lt. governor
replacing Al Franken who resigned. Unlike senior Senator
Amy Klobuchar, Mrs. Smith has a potentially serious race
this year --- although Republicans have yet to come up with
a “big name” opponent. GOP State Senator Karin Housely
could develop into a formidable candidate, but like her DFL
opponent is unproven as a statewide campaigner.

Minnesota is becoming easily the most fascinating and
newsworthy battleground state in the nation in 2018 with
major tests for both parties in statewide, legislative, four
congressional and two U.S. senate races.

What’s more, each week seems to being some new surprise
and political development. It would appear that almost
anything could happen this year in Minnesota.

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "The Strangest Lobster Dinner"

edited and published a Minneapolis newspaper in the
1970s and 80s, I occasionally combined my role as
a ficrion writer, restaurant critic and political
journalist as I did in the fictional parody below. It 
turned out be one of the most popular newspaper
pieces I wrote. I published it in 1977 --- so younger
readers might not recognize some of the details in it
(a very high-end meal in those days cost about $25.00)
but in spite of the four decades that have passed since
then, I think it still resonates, and I hope my readers
still find it amusing.]

It wasn’t too long ago that a lobster dinner with all the
trimmings cost less than five dollars. Remember? And do
you remember how the waiter would tie a paper bib
around your neck for glamorous hygiene --- after all, this
was lobster and not spaghetti!

Then, somehow, everything got out of hand. Or out of
pocket, actually. Six,seven, eight, nine, ten dollars and
beyond. Finally, there was no price. Only asterisks on the
menu. When you looked at the bottom of the menu for the
explanation of the asterisks, it always referred you to your
waiter/waitress for today’s prices.

Today’s prices! Need I say more?

It has been eleven years since I ordered a lobster dinner.
Recently, I reached a kind of breaking point on this.
Everyone has a limit. On my budget, it has been necessary
to do without. But last week, I couldn’t hold out any longer.

I went to one of the city’s best restaurants to break my
voluntary lobster fast. The oak-panel walls and crimson
tablecloths only heightened my anticipation. (All day at
work, I thought I smelled melted butter. Melted butter!)

My dinner companion ordered a conventional prime rib
dinner. (If I was going to wreck my budget, she was going
to do her part.) The waiter nodded his head; he got this
order routinely. The he turned to me. “And what will you
have this evening, “ he asked with a gratuitous smile.

“What is the price of the Maine lobster today? I asked

The waiter smiled again. “Many persons ask this out of
curiosity,” he said.

“I’m not being curious,” I told him. “I intend to order a

His smile evaporated. It seemed that he now looked at me
paternally. “We have a very large menu, sir, with many
entrees I’m sure you’ll be glad you ordered. Take my
advice. Forget the lobster. If it’s seafood you want, try the
pompano en papilotte. It’s excellent.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t think I want pompano tonight. I’ll
have the lobster.”

“Well, perhaps the rack of lamb or the tenderloin tips?”


“You insist, then?”

“I insist.”

“Very well,” the waiter said with a look of great resigned

The he did something very odd. He leaned over and picked
up my spoon. He began tapping the spoon very loudly
against my water glass. It was a very large dining room,
and filled to capacity tht night, so it took several loud taps
before the whole dining room became silent. Everyone was
looking at our waiter.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said solemnly, “the party at
this table has ordered the Maine lobster. The bidding is
now open.”

Immediately, the room became agitated with shouts of
“Fifteen!” “Twenty-two fifty!” “Thirty!” and so on until
after about four minutes of spirited bidding, our waiter
closed the auction at $96.75. At this point, everyone else
resumed their dinners, and the waiter turned to me.

It is our custom to charge our guests one dollar below
the highest bid for the lobster. Your dinner this evening
will be $95.75, and will include your entree, the house
salad, potato, dinner rolls and beverage. Dessert and
tax is not included.

I was so stunned by all this that I didn’t saya word. It
was too late, anyway, because the waiter was gone.

As he placed my salad in front of me a few minutes
later, I attempted to regain control of the situation.

“You know,” I said to him, “I have no intention of
paying a hundred dollars for my dinner.”

“With all due respects, sir,”  he replied, “you insisted
on having the lobster after my fair warning. Your order,
while verbal, is quite binding, I assure you. The
restaurant’s attorney have checked this quite
thoroughly. But I can tell you if there is a legitimate
hardship in your case, you might apply for our Fruit of
the Sea Fellowship.”

“Fellowship? In a restaurant? You must be kidding.”

“Not at all. Just fill out this form in duplicate while I
get your dinner rolls. The maitre d’ will meet with our
comptroller and the sous chef to review your
application. Our policy is to approve or reject a
fellowship application before serving the lobster.”

He put the application form and a ball point pen in
front of me. In addition to questions about my gross
earnings for the past five years, location of any body
scars or tattoos, and whether or not I voted for Ed
Muskie for president in 1972 (do I detect a fish bias
here?), it asked if my state fishing license had ever
been suspended or revoked. With misgivings about
the treatment of my civil rights in this matter, but
now too hungry to care, I quickly filled out the form
and gave it to the waiter who dashed off to the kitchen.

When he returned, he was beaming --- but it was now
with a noblesse oblige smile. “We are always pleased to
make our lobster available to persons such as yourself
who can’t afford it,” he said. “The maitre d’ has asked
me to inform you that your fellowship has been
approved. He was regarding me with a look one
reserves for one’s lessers.

It wan’t long before my lobster dinner arrived. The
waiter presented it with considerable flourish. It looked

Today the tail, tomorrow the claws, I thought to myself
as I plunged my seafood fork into the succulent white
lobster flesh.

A terrible noise occurred as I did this, and raised the
first forkful of lobster to pass through my lips. A harsh
voice yelled out, “Don’t eat that lobster, mister!”

I looked up and abut a dozen men, dressed in work
clothes and carrying signs, approached our table.

This can’t be happening, I thought to myself. My dinner
companion broke into tears.

On reaching our table, the first protestor grabbed my
lobster, and threw it agains the oak-panel wall.

“That poor man’s fellowship,” said an elderly matron,
sitting at a table next to ours.

I stood up and looked at out waiter who had retreated
about twenty feet away to a safe distance.

“I want a New York strip sirloin, medium rare, with
hash brown potatoes,” I screamed at him at the top
of my voice.

All at once, the room became silent. The protestors
noiselessly made their way out of the restaurant. The
other diners went back to their meals. A busboy picked
my lobster off the floor and took it away.

After I sat down, the maitre d’ came over to our table
and told me that, under the circumstances, dessert
would be on the house.

Copyright (c) 1977, 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Pawlenty Makes His Move

Although he has not yet formally announced his candidacy
for governor of Minnesota in 2018, former two-term
governor and 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty
has resigned his position as CEO of the DC-based Financial
Services Roundtable. a non-profit advocacy group for the
banking industry.

The only conclusion that might reasonably drawn from
Pawlenty’s action (he is only 57) is that he has decided to run
again for governor, a quest he had already publicly stated he
was considering.

The timing of his resignation -- just before Minnesota’s
precinct caucuses --- also sent a signal to Republican voters
that it was too early to make commitments in the governor’s

In fact, GOP turnout at the caucuses was less than 1% of the
Republican Party’s voters in the state, and as it has been in
recent years, virtually meaningless. None of the already
announced GOP candidates has yet to develop strong support.
Jeff Johnson, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2014, holds a
lead in most straw polls, but these only measure a tiny number
of party activists, and none of these polls so far have included

Minnesota is almost certainly going to be one of the key
battleground states in the 2018 national mid-term elections.
With a retiring Democratic (here called the Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party or DFL) governor, the Gopher State is one
of the few states where the GOP could make a pick-up. Since
controversial junior Senator Al Franken resigned unexpectedly
at the end of 2017, there will now also be two U.S. senate seats
on the ballot next November. The former Franken seat, now
filed with DFL appointee Tina Smith, could also be won by the
Republicans --- although the party has yet to come up with a
big-name challenger for the seat. DLFers hold five of the eight
congressional seats, but four of the eight (two held by each
party) are competitive this year ---the largest percentage of
close U.S. house races in one state nationally.

Complicating predictions about this cycle is that fact that
Donald Trump almost carried Minnesota in 2016. Although
this state has alternated between being “blue” and “red” in
recent decades, no GOP candidate for president has won here
since 1972.

Recent polling shows that the two party bases, including GOP
support for President Trump, remains mostly unchanged
since 2016.

Some good news for DLFers at the precinct caucuses just held
was that liberal activist turnout was clearly stronger than
conservative activist turnout. But precinct caucuses only
attract a tiny percentage of those who vote in November. Most
competitive nominations in Minnesota are now settled in the
party primaries.The party endorsement process in both
parties is clearly undemocratic and often self-defeating ---
and has been in decline for several cycles.

Mr. Pawlenty, by entering the race after the caucuses, could
easily by-pass party endorsement at the summer GOP
convention, and go directly to the Republican primary on
August 14. In that primary, he would be the strong favorite.

On the DFL side, retiring Congressman Tim Walz from
southern Minnesota had a strong lead at the recent DFL
precinct caucuses, unexpectedly so in the Twin Cities. He
might be able to avoid a primary contest, but he has several
well-known DFL officials competing with him. In any event,
he is now the clear favorite to be the DFL nominee.

With Pawlenty appealing to suburban and some urban
voters, and Walz appealing to some exurban and rural
voters, each party would be trying to expand their base.

A Pawlenty-Walz gubernatorial contest next November in
Minnesota could be the marquee statehouse race of the cycle
in the nation.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Monday, February 5, 2018


We are going though a period when so-called partisanship
is provoking widespread allegations that virtually everything
being communicated is “fake,” a lie, a misrepresentation,
false --- and even worse, a calumny, a conspiracy, abusive
or defamatory.

“Fake news” is the trendy phrase of the moment, as is the
assertion “all politicians lie.”

What do we, as individuals and consumers of so much
contemporary communications in the conventional media,
social media and internet, as well as face-to-face discourse
and conversation, make of this?

I suggest  it might be useful to step back and re-examine
just what communications, media, political discourse and
our ubiquitous private conversations about public life
truly are.

To begin with, "the media" is a relatively young institution.
Newspapers and books didn’t exist until about a little more
than half a millennium ago. All early newspapers were little
more than crude propaganda tools --- hyper-fake news, if
will. Until only a few decades ago, newspapers remained so.
(Some assert they continue so to the present day.)

Broadcast media are less than a century old, and films
only a bit older then that, but neither any more provably
“honest” than any other form of communications. The
sudden appearance of the internet and social media only
meant that the means of reaching many more persons was
increased. If anything, the original manipulative motive of
news communications was only intensified and expanded.

The bottom line is that virtually all communications, by
whatever means, have always been intended to persuade,
manipulate, and yes, sometimes intimidate.

But, having asserted that, I do not suggest that we must
despair or necessarily be dragooned and bullied by the
news communications around us.

There are, as it is said, “facts on the ground.” Yes, the
manipulative aspect of news communications even tries
to undermine these “facts” with various techniques
(most notoriously the selective use of so-called statistics).
Even visual and photographic facts can be, and are,
routinely distorted.

So what is to be done?

The answer, as I see it, is to decrease one’s dependence on
the claims of others, especially sources and authorities
who have an “axe to grind,” and to rely more and more on
one’s own powers and reources to verify and interpret.

The end-result might not be “truth” (in a very pure and
ultimately impossible sense), but if we are to advance from
the falsity and insincerity which so dominates public life
today, we need to significantly increase the transparency
of public life with a wise and useful restoration of some
(always accountable) privacy.

The real fake dichotomy is that public life must be either
completely transparent or completely secret. The tension
between these extremes is the natural ally exploited by the
pandemic of fake news today. This abstracting human
behavior into verbal paradigms is the enemy of doing
“the right thing in a right way.”

I will no doubt be labelled “naive” for suggesting each and
every citizen increase their personal vigilance for receiving
“news.” But what is the alternative? At the threshold of an
age of artificial intelligence and even more unprecedented
communications techniques, it’s still the best, and perhaps
the only, defense we have.

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

Thursday, February 1, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Democrats' Big Blunder At S.O.T.U.

I have consistently avoided making predictions about
who will win the 2018 national mid-term elections. I have
suggested that both national parties have opportunities
to do well, and I have conceded that Democrats have much
better prospects in U.S. house races, and the Republicans
have much better prospects in U.S. senate races. Democrats
might also have better prospects to make net gains in
state legislative races and governorships. I think that is
a fair and non-partisan assessment.

I have also consistently suggested that that the current
strategy by Democratic leaders in the party apparatus
and in Congress to obsess on what President Trump says
and not what he does is short-sighted and self-defeating.
This strategy reached its apparent apotheosis at Mr.
Trump’s state of the union (S.O.T.U.) address to Congress
during which the Democratic members performed like
spoiled children and disgraced themselves before a large
national TV audience. Did Democrats think that sitting.
grimacing, or avoiding clapping during the non-partisan
moments, including when it was announced that black
and Hispanic unemployment had reached recent historic
lows, or when the president reaffirmed the respect of
standing for the American flag, made a positive
impression on most voters in the TV and other audiences?

I continue to withhold predictions about November, 2018,
but I will say that IF Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the faces of the
Democratic election effort , and IF the strategy of
shutting down the government by liberal senators, and
disrespecting political news that they themselves have
clamored for, are good strategies for electing Democrats
in 2018, the liberal party is in for a VERY unpleasant
surprise on election night, 2018.

It will not be a “blue” night in that case --- but Democrats
will likely be exceedingly blue.

Democrats had to endure just such a surprise on
election night, 2016.

Have they learned nothing from that experience--- and
the year that has followed?

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Period Of Adjustment

As the political calendar goes into February,  a certain
period of ticket adjustment takes place prior to the
November mid-term elections. This adjustment will
continue to a decreasing degree until April and May
when many filing deadlines for state and federal offices
will have been passed. This cycle, it will be followed
by some key and possibly serious primary contests.

Most incumbents who will be retiring or will run for
other offices have already publicly stated their intentions,
but some in potentially critical races have not. Most
challengers in likely competitive races have already
declared their candidacies, but others have held out until

Races for the U.S. house and senate usually require more
lead-time because these races, when competitive, require
substantial fundraising.

A case in point recently took place in Minnesota where
unexpectedly Democratic Senator Al Franken resigned,
and his appointed successor will be required to run for
election this cycle instead of 2020. This seat could become
a competitive race, but state Republicans lacked few
“name” figures  who could credibly raise in a relatively
short period the tens of millions of dollars required for
such a contest. One such figure, former governor and
presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, was immediately
sought after by local and national Republicans to run in
this race. But Pawlenty had been known to be considering
a comeback (he had retired in 2010 after two terms) as
governor. His senate decision would have to be made in
weeks instead of the months he could wait before a
gubernatorial announcement, and, despite assurances
probably made to him by the national GOP senate
campaign committee and others, necessary fundraising
in a year with so many other GOP challengers in
vulnerable Democratic senate races would have been
problematic. Pawlenty chose to pass on a  difficult
senate race, but remains considering the gubernatorial
race where so far announced GOP candidates have not
produced a clear frontrunner.

Another case in point is Ohio where GOP State Treasurer
Josh Mandel had, more or less, cleared the field for his
party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic
Senator Sherrod Brown who had been considered
vulnerable in 2018. Unexpectedly, with only abut a month
before the filing deadline, Mr. Mandel announced his
withdrawal from the race because of a serious family
health crisis. Ohio Republicans have not yet been able to
recruit a “name” figure, and a  key “pick-up” opportunity
might be lost.

In Arizona, where incumbent GOP Senator Jeff Flake is
retiring after open conflict with President Trump, it was
thought the race to fill his seat might be a replay of the
recent GOP loss in Alabama (where an off-the-wall GOP
nominee lost a special election). But now, Congresswoman
Martha McSally, a respected conservative, has entered the
race, and if she survives the primary, could salvage the
seat for the GOP.

In contrast, senior GOP Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah
waited until very late to announce his retirement, but
former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was
always available in this heavily Republican state, and is
now running (as a heavy favorite) for the seat.

It has been widely noted that an unusual number of
senior  conservative U.S. house committee chairs
have announced their retirements so far this cycle.
This is partly an intended outcome inasmuch as the
GOP term-limits committee chairs who usually have to
wait many years to achieve top committee positions,
and then have an inducement to retire after their
chair terms are up. Unlike previous eras when most
chairs held their positions for decades and remained
in Congress in their 80s and 90s, this brings in a new
generation of members in a much more timely manner
(although it can, in some cases, result in unexpected
competitive contests in a given cycle.)

As I have suggested in recent weeks, any predictions of
a “blue” or “red” electoral wave in 2018, are premature,
especially with so many tickets in key races not yet
determined, and the state of the economy next
November not yet clear.

But after the period of political fine-tuning now taking
place, the paths to the political outcomes of 2018 will
become clearer.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018


To their credit, Democrats in the U.S. senate have kept
routinely a solid front for most of the past decade, both
when they had a majority and when they were in the
minority, as they are now.

The architect of this solid front was former Senator Harry
Reid of Nevada who often applied Draconian methods to
senate rules and procedures. He was succeeded as party
senate leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who
in the minority has faced new challenges as Democrats
attempt to recover from their shocking upset defeat in the
2016 presidential election --- and in the prospect of
defending many more vulnerable senate seats than
the Republicans will in this year’s mid-term elections.

That solid front more or less collapsed recently when the
Democrats abandoned a brief government funding
shutdown. Realizing that the  party held responsible for a
shutdown invariably takes a big hit in public opinion,
almost all the vulnerable liberal senators, and many not
even running this year for re-election, voted to pass a
continuing funding resolution. It will be necessary to vote
again in February, but it seems clear that the Democrats
now realize that shutting down the government is not a
winning strategy.

Minority Leader Schumer is now a man in the middle of
two opposite directions pulling his party apart. On the one
hand, the Democratic Party’s left wing, led by Senators
Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts, as well as more radical groups want to
insist on policies and programs which cannot now become
law. On the other hand, the mainstream Democrats, who
range from former vice president Joe Biden to Senator Joe
Manchin of West Virginia, want to appeal to moderate
and independent voters with a message that might compete
successfully with the one now advocated by President Donald
Trump and his party.

There is a lot at political stake in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Democrats have recently been optimistic that a “blue wave”
will bring them back control of the U.S. house and keep most
of their vulnerable senate seats.

But the brief government shutdown, forced by senate
Democrats, highlights how fragile this optimism might be.
Faced with a challenge to their political survival, most of the
vulnerable liberal senators chose prudence over a “solid
front.” Senator Manchin now has also declared that he
agrees with President Trump about building a wall. Another
shutdown confrontation is unlikely.

Like his fellow New Yorker, President Trump, Senator
Schumer is someone who can make a deal. Beginning with
the tax cut legislation at the end of the year, Mr. Trump has
begun to unite his party in Congress behind his programs.
Mr. Schumer must now do the same for his party, but the
presidential ambitions of some of his senate colleagues,
and the pull to the left by groups and individuals in the
party’s radical base, has loosed a "conflict genie" into the
Democratic political conversation, and made his job much
more difficult.

Liberals and their media friends chuckled and smiled
when  conservatives broke into factions (as the GOP has
done so often in recent years). Now division has broken out
in their own camp, and no one is laughing.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Schumer's Shutdown Delayed?

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is
well-schooled in public relations tactics, and the first
thing he did when negotiations failed to keep funding the
government was to call it the “Trump Shutdown.”

A clever try, but it is obvious to everyone not part of the
ongoing partisan game in the nation’s Capitol that it is
Senator Schumer’s party. led by himself, that precipitated
and insisted on partially closing government activity in this

As long as the senior New York senator is putting labels on
it, he should admit the truth, that is, it was really “Schumer’s

That didn’t make it inherently wrong, but Mr. Schumer
knows well that if public opinion blamed him, it could have
been a political disaster. In fact, when Republicans were
perceived as responsible for the government shutdown in
1995-96, it was such a public relations “black-eye” for the
conservatives that it was brought quickly to an end.

This time, the Republicans are in charge of both houses of
Congress and the White House, but the law requires a
a super-majority of  60 votes to pass s continuing funding
bill. There are only 51 GOP senators, so, in reality,
Democrats control the situation for the time being.

Republicans felt that they had legitimate reasons in
1995-96 to shut the government down, and Democrats, in
their continuing quest to thwart President Trump and his
program for an economic recovery, have what they feel are
good reasons to do so now.

But it is the shadowy contest for public opinion, and not
political expediencies, where this outcome will be
determined. Senator Schumer wants it both ways --- to
shut the government down and blame the other side.
But he will have to win this contest with the shutdown
in his own name.

After only a weekend “flash” shutdown, the U.S. senate
has now agreed to temporary funding to keep the federal
government open until February when the confrontation
will reappear.

Vulnerable Democratic senators facing their electorates in
November clearly want to avoid another shutdown, and
noticeably played a role in keeping the “flash” shutdown

Let’s see what happens in the next round.

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Surprising Minnesota

I continue to write about Minnesota politics not only
because I live there, but also because it provides such an
interesting variety of political characters and electoral

In its early days, it was reliably Republican. Between the
world wars. it went in at populist direction. After W.W. II
it became a liberal bastion led by Hubert Humphrey, and
later Walter Mondale, each of whom were elected U.S. vice
president and subsequently were unsuccessful Democratic
presidential nominees.

In 1978, Republicans staged a surprise comeback winning
the governorship and two U.S senate seats.

Since that time, the state has gone back and forth between
the “red’ and the “blue.”

Then in 1998, centrist populist Jesse Ventura won an upset
race for governor as an independent.

After Ventura retired in 2002, the Republicans won back a
U.S. senate seat and the governorship. A few years later,
the Democrats (here called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor
or DFL) hold both U.S. senate seats and the governorship.
In recent years, the DFL and GOP have divided the eight
U.S. house seats, with the DFL usually having a slight edge.

In presidential elections since 1976, the state has voted for
the Democratic nominee. This enhanced  Minnesota’s
national image as a blue state, but in 2016, state voters
almost gave the state’s electors to Donald Trump in a very
close election in which outstate Minnesotans voted heavily
for the surprise GOP candidate.

Today, the state seems evenly divided. The GOP controls
the legislature. There is a DFL governor who is retiring at
the low point of his popularity. DFL senior Senator Amy
Klobuchar seems headed for re-election, but the sudden
and controversial resignation of DFL junior Senator Al
Franken has put a second senate election on the 2018

The incumbent 1st district DFL Congressman Tim Walz
is retiring from Congress to run for governor. He is widely
considered the early favorite in a large DFL field. The race
almost certainly will go to an August primary. Walz’s house
seat might well be one of the few GOP pick-ups nationally.

The DFL’s best hopes for a pick up are in the 2nd district
where a first-term Republican is running for re-election. He
barely won in this swing district in 2016 when a third party
liberal candidate diluted the DFL vote. Both the 3rd district
(Republican incumbent), and the 8th district (DFL
incumbent) could become competitive. Interestingly, Hillary
Clinton carried the 3rd by a clear margin, and Donald
Trump carried the 8th district by a big margin.

If there is a wave election, either party could make
dramatic changes in this state. So far, the Minnesota
electorate is severely divided along rural-urban lines, with
President Trump, polls indicate, holding on to his outstate
base that almost swept him to victory here in 2016.

Appointed DFL Senator Tina Smith has been an experienced
behind-the-scenes organizer, but this will be her first real
test as a candidate. Other DFLers wanted the appointment,
but the governor clearly wanted to reward his trusted aide.
A primary contest is not likely, but might be a problem for
Mrs. Smith if a prominent liberal decided to run against her.

On the GOP side, the big recent news was the decision by
former GOP governor and presidential candidate Tim
Pawlenty. not to run for the suddenly available Franken
seat. Mr. Pawlenty had been strongly urged to do so by
prominent Republicans in the state and Washington, DC.
Already in the race is Karin Housely, a two-term state
senator, former TV producer, and married to a hockey
legend, Former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has
expressed interest in the race, but she remains too
controversial to be competitive in November. The GOP’s
strongest candidate likely would be Tom Emmer, the 6th
district congressman, who after barely losing the
governorship in 2010, has made an impressive comeback
in Congress. He now has a safe seat, and many think he
will pass on the senate contest, but many consider that he
would be the most formidable opponent to Senator Smith
in November.

Nor has GOP heavyweight Tim Pawlenty removed himself
for the 2018 campaign. The senate option only appeared
unexpectedly and briefly, but Pawlenty has been mulling
over another run for governor for some time, and should he
run, would quickly be the favorite for his party nomination
and the strongest Republican in November against
whomever the DFL nominates. Unlike a U.S. senate race,
Pawlenty would not have to worry about raising twenty-plus
million dollars for the campaign. Since none of the already
announced GOP gubernatorial candidates have “taken off”
in their campaigns, the much better-known former governor
can wait until March or April to announce his intentions.
After eight years of a very liberal DFL governor, state
conservatives might be eager to choose a likely winner as
their standard-bearer in 2018, especially if his victory would
almost certainly insure that Republicans would continue to
control the state legislature.

Without a strong top-of-the-ticket figure in November, the
Republican prospects dim significantly. The DFL has long
had the superior GOTV organization, and the GOP default
in the liberal Twin Cities (and thus over-dependence on their
majorities outstate) would then seem to give the “blue” party
the advantage in 2018, even if there is a “red” wave elsewhere
in the nation.

Voters in Minnesota are more complicated than stereotypical
labels. They like to split their tickets, and they like to do the

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


[NOTE: Nothing in this article should be interpreted as
a recommendation to buy or sell any individual stock, or
to invest or disinvest in the stock market or any speculative

I have been “playing” the stock market since I was a young
teenager. I invested in common stocks and used techniques
such as puts and calls. At one point, and relatively briefly,
I was in commodities, I had an excellent technical economic
education in the time I attended the Wharton School of
Finance and Commerce. But please believe me, I am not an

I did learn a few things over the years. One was the value of
being a “contrarian” --- that is, the general technique of
doing the opposite of what most others are doing. It’s not
infallible, but it’s a very useful tool in investing --- and in
political commentary, as I have learned. In fact, it’s an
important insight into human behavior in general.

We are now in a very “bull” (upward) moment in many of
the major stock markets. Those who think a “bear”
(downward) market is imminent are issuing dire warnings
of either a major downward “correction” or an apocalyptic
market collapse. Whom are you to believe?

Let me go back to my very first class in finance at the
Wharton School many years ago. The professor opened
that first class with the statement:

“You will learn a lot at Wharton about the details of
economics, but I want you to remember this simple rule:
The price of a stock is the anticipation of future earnings,”

Since those days in the 1960s, public investing has become
very complicated with various new market techniques such
as derivatives, cryptocurrencies (e.g., bitcoin), new
commodities, etc. There were no computers, no cell or
“smart” phones, no cable TV programs. But my Wharton
professor’s simple rule still holds as a fundamental truth
in free market investing.

Over the years, I have also learned that stock markets
almost always over-react in the short term on both the
upside and the downside. I remember speaking with my
savvy stockbroker on the afternoon of Friday, November 22,
1963 after the market had been prematurely closed and had
taken an enormous tumble. “Buy on Monday morning,” he
told me. I was too shocked by Dallas, and too young, to do
anything, but sure enough the market quickly recovered on

On the other hand, stock markets in the intermediate term
(six to nine months) are often good predictors (barring
shocking events) of the general economy. The problem is,
of course, that we live in a time of frequent shocking events.

When Donald Trump stunned the nation’s pundits, and the
world, in November, 2016, the markets went briefly down.
But when the stock markets realized that President Trump
and the Republican Congress were likely to provide relief to
the economy and unemployment, the market recovered.

Until the tax bill was passed and became law, the market
hesitated. Once this legislation was in place, the market
has been soaring. The sum of investors now had concrete
evidence to believe that future earnings would go up.
Numerous companies promptly gave out bonuses to
employees. Corporate earnings held abroad (to avoid U.S.
tax penalties) began to return, There are expectations
that most U.S. employees will be soon receiving larger
paychecks. Unemployment continues to go down.

Does this mean the stock markets will continue to go up?

The markets now await new corporate quarterly earnings
reports. If those reports show increased earnings, barring
the unforeseen, bullish individual stocks will likely go up
(and stocks that do not show increased earnings will go
down). It’s a game of expectations. Corporate earnings
might go up, but if they are less than analysts and the
companies themselves predict, the stock might go down.
Earnings for the current quarter might be as good or even
better than expected, but these days, corporations also
make public predictions about future quarters (based on
sales or other projections), and if those are not what is
expected, a stock might actually go down despite the
short-term good news. Some industries or sectors also are
more or less favored by many investors, and multiples of
earnings per share can very widely for those stocks or
other investments which reap the attention of speculative
favor or disfavor. Some high-tech stocks have higher
earnings-per-share multiples because investors see higher
earning coming likely later, while some other stocks have
lower multiples because notable growth is not expected.

Peter Drucker, the wizard of management, wrote a book in
1976 called The Unseen Revolution in which he was among
the first to recognize the growing impact of pension funds
on the economy. He argued that the total investment of
workers’ pension funds in the stock market was so large
that it represented a kind of socialism, but he did not fully
take into account the distinction between stock ownership
and corporate control. Nor did he then know about the
immense  growth of personal IRA and 401-K funds that
would make up a major part of most individuals’ net worth.
Corporate pension funds have since declined. Government
and public sector worker pension funds, in many cases, have
became alarmingly underfunded. It is a very serious and
ongoing crisis. But the IRA and 401-K funds continue to be
the basis for most Americans' net worth.

The stock markets have not only an economic impact.
they have a political impact as well. Major advances in the
stock market create economic and political confidence
through increased individual net worth; major declines
disrupt that confidence.

There are many other critical factors is the movements of
markets. Supply and demand, inflation, emotions, stock
buy-backs, net asset value, impact of taxes and regulations
are among them. But the fundamental factor remains investor
anticipation of what the investment will earn.

For the moment, most investor sentiment is generally
positive. But, as we know from economic history, that can
change, and if investors think future earnings will go down,
the impact on the stock market could be dramatic.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018


I think it might be a good time to take a brief break
from the politics which will soon enough again fill our
news venues with heated headlines and speculation.

Perhaps a good alternative, and a topic always of some
interest, are the places we go to dine out.

Many years ago, I published a local newspaper in the
Twin Cities. I put my best efforts in reporting about local
politics and in writing serious editorials about the issues
of the day. One afternoon, after having written occasional
articles about food and local restaurants. I received a
phone call from one of the local daily papers inquiring if
I would become their regular food critic. Initially flattered,
I gave it some thought, but concluded that if I were to write
about dining, I should do it for my own publication. My
restaurant column turned out to be much more popular
than my editorials.

I thus began a decades-long pen name pastime of writing
about food.

Today, the restaurant industry is a major part of
American commercial and cultural life. No longer limited
to the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami,
Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco,
serious dining out in the U.S. now reaches every city and
even many small towns.

The dining out “boom” of recent years, however, is now
going in new directions. Non-professionals often have a
romantic view of opening and running a restaurant, and
many did just that --- only to discover that preparing and
serving food to the public is a very tough and demanding
occupation. Even restaurants run by great chefs and savvy
food professionals usually have a limited life span. Most of
the great dining rooms of the recent past no longer exist.

I noticed just in the past year or so, several new Twin Cities
dining establishments opened --- and closed --- within a few
months. The demand for fresh and high quality meat and
produce has kept food costs very high, and the old model of
restaurant employment has often become untenable as
mandatory minimum wage, paid leave and other employee
benefits have exceeded the capability for many restaurateurs'
ability to make a profit.

So now many new restaurants now opt for large spaces,
communal seating, and counter food ordering with a reduced
wait staff delivering counter-ordered (and paid-for) food items
to the table. These are mostly relatively high-end restaurants,
not of the fast-food variety. Very high-end new restaurants
which attempt to maintain the traditional hospitality
amenities and services simply have to charge very high prices,
but their audience is limited to expense accounts, special
occasion diners and the very affluent. 

In addition to large spaces serving many diners at the same
time, an additional economic solution is to make a restaurant
more than just a site for a meal but also a destination for
a variety of food experiences.

This variety is usually idiosyncratic --- as is the case of three
Twin Cities restaurants, two in Minneapolis and one in St.
Paul that I will discuss as emblematic of contemporary
restaurant innovation.

In Minneapolis, LYNHALL recently opened as the vision of
attorney Anne Spaeth on a main thoroughfare in a southside
neighborhood where many other new popular bistros have
appeared in recent years. It also is very much a residential
area with many younger tenants and homeowners who are
likely to go out to eat with some frequency, and who live at
walking distance. Lynhall has a very large space with lots of
communal tables. It serves breakfast , lunch and dinner with
counter service only. Ms.Spaeth has hired top local chefs for
her kitchen. Lynhall has its own bar, bakery and coffeehouse,
and serves well-made imaginative breakfasts, soups, salads,
appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, side orders and lavish
desserts. It does much takeout business.  Uniquely, Lynhall
has its own state-of-the-art video recording studio with
tables and seating that can be leased by chefs, groups and
companies for presentations, videos, food training and
private parties. The quality of food preparation at Lynhall is
quite good, with prices slightly on the high side, but it has
its own parking lot, on-street parking is plentiful, staff are
friendly, and no special taxes are added (as they are in
downtown and other near-downtown areas). Most of the
food items, including a variety of rotisserie meats, are
displayed, and portions are generous. The result is often a
friendly, delicious, affordable and original dining experience.

Across the river from downtown Minneapolis, chef-owner
Alex Roberts has created his own version of the new dining
destination at Restaurant/Cafe/Hotel ALMA in a university
residential area. Chef Roberts is a James Beard award-winner
for his outstanding culinary work at Restaurant Alma, a prix
fixe dinner-only kitchen featuring innovative local fresh foods
and fine wines. It has been consistently rated one of the top
dining rooms in the state and the region. It is also predictably
expensive --- a dinner for two with drinks, multiple courses,
wine, desserts. taxes and tip will likely cost more than $200.
Chef Roberts  is also an entrepreneur who wanted his kitchen
to be more than fine dining for a few, so he took over his whole
corner building --- converting the second floor to a charming
boutique hotel with seven rooms, and replaced a local
coffeehouse on the corner by converting it to an adjoining
cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at more affordable
prices. The Cafe Alma menu is not large, but all the items  on
its menu are distinctive and have the touch of a James Beard
chef. Prices, as they are at Lynhall, are slightly on the high
side, but significantly less than in the main dining room
Service at Alma is among the best in the Twin Cities, with
the wait staff and baristas always welcoming and
well-informed. The hotel is the perfect spot for visitors
with a car who want to avoid the traffic, hassle and expense
of downtown, Room rates come with a delightful breakfast
from the Cafe. The location is central to all the Twin Cities
sights, and the pro sports stadiums are nearby. Excellent
municipal buses service stops in front of the Alma building.

In St. Paul, Italian food impresario Dave Cossetta took his
grandfather’s tiny Italian grocery and transformed it over
time to a near-downtown location --- and one of the largest
food destinations in the state, featuring a popular Italian
cafeteria, its own Italian bakery, the most lavish pasticceria
between New York and San Francisco (and rivaling ones in
Rome, Milan and Florence), a high-end sophisticated
Italian steakhouse, and the largest Italian deli in the area.
A third-floor open air patio is a busy summer watering
hole. Nearly all the foods are prepared in-house, often from
recipes of well-known chefs brought over from Italy to train
COSSETTA’S kitchen staff. The restaurant has its own large
parking lot. Cossetta’s is a very memorable experience.

These are three very original versions of the new restaurant
as destination. What isn’t new about them is the high quality
of the food preparation and service. Changing economic
conditions and food trends demand new ideas in dining out,
but great food well-served is still the very bottom line.

[NOTE: In full disclosure, one of the three restaurateurs
above is a total stranger, one a neighbor acquaintance, and
one someone I’ve known for many years.]

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